« Keep Aside Political Affiliations, Look At National Interest”
Professor Victor Julius Ngoh, Historian, Department of History, Faculty of Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences of the University of Yaounde I.
How do you appreciate the Head of State, President Paul Biya’s message to the nation in which he announced a National Dialogue mainly to solve the crisis in the North West and South West Regions?
It is important to point out that the President’s speech was long awaited. I will like to believe that it came after he must have thought about it very well, analysed the causes of the crisis and the measures which he thinks should be put in place in order to address the crisis. The message was very good, well calculated and he was very composed. He was very conciliatory, provided the roadmap of what is expected. Just the fact that he made it clear that there is a problem and that he has received proposals from various sources. The Prime Minister, His Excellency Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute visited the North West and South West Regions, held a series of meetings with various leaders across the board to get the actual feelings of those who are feeling the brunt of the crisis. On the field he told the people that the President has sent him to come and find out what the problem was. He was able to come back and give his report to the President. It was a well delivered speech giving the way forward as far as the solution to the crisis is concerned.
A few days after the message to the nation announcing a Major National Dialogue, how do you appreciate the reactions of the national and international communities?
As far as the international and the national communities are concerned, it is normally agreed that a military solution cannot be used to defeat an ideology. It is better to convince somebody or a group of people with a particular ideology that it cannot succeed and give reasons why it cannot succeed. This is because you can defeat a group militarily but you cannot defeat the ideology. So, in this particular instance, the President has done a fantastic job and on the whole, the national and international reactions have been very positive. I say this based on the reactions from the UN Secretary General and also reactions from the various national stakeholders who are concerned. Almost every class of the Cameroonian society has supported the move. Of course, you should quickly recognise that in every community you cannot have a 100 per cent approval of any project or statement that somebody makes. You are not only a lecturer of History but a historian considering that you have written on Cameroon History.
What do say concerning the form and the nature of the national dialogue the Head of State announced to start at the end of this September?
I strongly advise that a cross section of the population of the North West and South West should be involved. I mean representatives of various groups. I will find it very uncomfortable and I am sure most Cameroonians, especially most Anglohones will also find it uncomfortable if politicians in Yaounde decide to tele-guide those who should represent the various groups. Let people on the ground propose those to come for the consultations and dialogue. It should be a bottom-top approach so that the man on the streets should really feel involved that whatever their representative is saying is really representing him. This is important because since the eruption of the crisis in November 2016, I think Cameroonians should understand this, the local population in various subdivisions, villages have been expecting their leaders to have at least gone down to the ground to call meetings and explain what the crisis is all about, what the government is doing and try to debunk some of the information which some Cameroonians in the Diaspora and some here at home have been saying. Information that is trying to distort actually what the situation is. Without a solid, honest, accurate information, the crisis will just be accentuated.
Concretely, what do you propose can be done for the dialogue to be effective and to produce the desired results which is the return to peace, security, stability and normalcy in the North West and South West Regions?
First of all, we should recognize the intensity and complexity of the crisis in the North West and South West Regions. At the end of the day the solution cannot only be restricted to the two affected regions. You should bear in mind that the crisis has affected the totality of Cameroonians from the political, economic, social and cultural points of view. Those to be involved should be those who have felt the punishment. Take for instance CDC and PAMOL that are completely grounded and workers redundant. It will take years and billions of CFA francs to revive these companies. Government should ensure that those corporations are represented because they will be able to give a direct experience how they have felt the impact of the crisis. They will have proposals which a straight -jacket politician might not have. Therefore groups that should be represented should be the industrial plantation workers, businessmen, religious leaders, traditional leaders, parliamentarians, teachers groups, lawyers, taxi associations, public transport associations and motorbike associations. Because you have to understand that the crisis has been fuelled by the active participation of motorbike riders. Cameroonians in the Diaspora should be invited and should participate. It should not only be restricted to those who are calling for secession or independence because in the Diaspora there are three groups of Cameroonians. There are those who support the federal structure, those who want secession and others who want decentralization. As such, delegations government will be sending abroad should have this in mind. For a successful dialogue, the chairperson of the organizing committee, the Prime Minister should ensure that those who are involved should not wear their political party caps because the crises are not those of a particular political party. The delegates and participants should keep aside their political ideologies, affiliations and look at the issue from the point of the national interest of the country.