By Larissa Kojoué and Rose Ndengue *
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Cameroon´s presidential election last October 7 was an open door to prolonging and worsening the Cameroonian ailment. Finally, the elections that commanded such public attention in recent weeks and some even termed historic, produced results of no surprise. Paul Biya once again takes the helm of the State, a clear sign that the state of social and political tension in the country is a permanent reality. This is clearly so, also owing to the advanced age of the president, which inevitably poses the issue of succession to the head of state.
During the man’s 36 years of reign, the rate of deterioration of material and moral living conditions of Cameroonians has been quite disturbing. Access to water, electricity, health and education are still a challenge in both urban and rural areas. Looking at the aspect of politics and security, the stability of the country is rather shaky. Cameroon has to reckon with the incursions of Boko Haram in the North, and worse still, the war that has been raging for several months now in the English-speaking regions of the country.
The overview on Cameroon is a disaster! We are on the brink of collapse!
Yet, this fundamental issue in topic was not brought to the discussion table during the election campaign! No chance was given to take a meticulous look at the endemic failures of the state! To further push those 36 years of neglect under the carpet, the country’s oligarchy started playing the card of intimidation and looked for scapegoats among social groups such as the Bamilékés, and going on ad nauseam spreading hate speech on identity. They are thereby reactivating one of the matrices of the colonial management of African populations. This strategy has equally obscured the exclusion of political participation of citizens residing in English-speaking regions, which represent about 20% of the population, and is responsible for the marginalization of women in the political arena. National cohesion is jeopardized with the complicity of a part of the local intelligentsia, and some elements of the diaspora who enjoy media visibility and / or use social media to spread and infuse hatred for other tribes.
The result of the October 7th presidential election in Cameroon is irremediably tainted with an original vice.
We are not fools! The social, economic and political situation of Cameroon concerns us as much as all Cameroonians .We are fully aware that this end of reign period, which is backed by the exacerbation of social and political tensions, is a spark that can set the country ablaze. In order to assume our responsibility as young academics and players of civil society, and with the hope of maintaining ablaze the flame of political thought, we hereby write to fellow country men and women, to promote fruitful thinking that can be useful to the country, as was advocated by Fabien Eboussi Boulaga.
We call on the public to together stand, as young people and women whose voices have once again been stifled, and all those carving their speeches and actions on a dynamic of genuine change, to team up with us for an intellectual and practical work consisting of:
1 – Decolonizing without fail, our minds, and de-ethnicise the State. Cultural diversity is the foundationof our identity, but should in no way be a political resource, as this would:
– reinforce the current regime and perpetuate a detestable colonial memory
– insult the nationalist memory, and all those who sacrificed their lives for a dream Cameroon.
2 – Recognizing that the solution to social tensions is eminently political! In this light, repression only opens the door to chaos, as the crisis situation in the North-West and South-West regions has shown! It is urgent to redefine the contours of the relationship between the state and its representatives on the one hand, and citizens on the other. In order to put a final nail on the dispute about form of the state, the topic has to be brought to a table of sincere discussion without taboos. Regional autonomy, or even federalism, based on the principle of the election of local leaders and assemblies, is one of the desirable ways out.
3 – Facing the fact that it is impossible to obtain a transition, or at least an effective change through the current institutions and electoral process, whose undemocratic dimension has been confirmed. The election and post-election period will be remembered for the bullying, manipulation, and fraud and other such actions that went unchallenged by the bodies responsible for overseeing and validating the elections. And although they have the election period as time to revive the people’s fervour for politics it is still unfortunate to note that those who are fiercely opposed to these institutions today are not always exempt from the same suspicions.
4 – Laying the foundations for an alternative and truly inclusive citizenship. This election demonstrated to those who doubted it, that the Cameroonian people are still mobilized and determined to take part in the making of our young nation. Although the concerted efforts observed seem to settle with those expected in the context of registration on the electoral lists, it is because they reflect a reality: citizenship is partial when it expresses only an institutional dimension! It is therefore essential to develop the kind of citizenship that takes the entire social body into account. Hence, re-establishing the insurrectionary potential of citizenship is an imperative! This is all the more so since such potential is often activated by the social categories that are reduced to the status of subordinates (young people, women, popular classes, opposition activists …), and to whom we owe independence, its reunification of the territory, and the yet imperfect opening of the political space.
* Larissa Kojoué, political scientist, postdoctoral researcher, SESSTIM / INSERM / IRD / AMU, Marseille / Yaoundé
* Rose Ndengue, political scientist and historian, University Paris 7 – Diderot
* Félicité Djoukouo, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Association des acteurs de développement, Yaoundé
* Brenda Ngum, PhD student in sociology, University Paris 7 – Diderot
* Monique Eleanor Tangah, Doctoral Research Fellow, University of the Free State, South Africa
We want to adress our warm thanks to Eugene Nku for translation.