As dialogue continuous on how well genuine concerns raised by teachers and lawyers of English expression could be handled for the mutual benefit of all and sundry, government appears resolute to ensure that no one takes advantage of the prevailing situation in the North West and South West Regions to tamper with the laws of the land.
Pessimists on government’s law-enforcement ability may need to revisit the January 17, 2017 outings of two Cabinet Ministers in line with the worrying situation to either sit up or face the wrath of the law. While Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary came out to explain the path government has covered in separate negotiations with striking English-speaking teachers and Common Law lawyers, his peer of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, Rene Emmanuel Sadi out rightly outlawed two pressure groups - Southern Cameroon National Council and Anglophone Civil Society Consortium.
The ban, it must be said, came at a time many were already wondering the direction the strike was taking. Confusion had set in and it was difficult, if not impossible, to know where to tackle the problems. Even when government almost wholly gave in to all the requests of the teachers; going by teacher’s spokesperson after the end of the second inter-ministerial ad hoc committee meeting (from the initial 11 to over 20 points at term), the latter declined budging on their strike action.
They refused to suspend the long-drawn strike that would have paved the way for schools resumption in the two parts of the country. This comforted many in their positions that the teachers were simply dancers whereas drummers where elsewhere. The two banned groups, which could not on their own lay claims whatsoever, took advantage of the already began strike to push through their views of either two States federation or outright separation. This greatly compounded solutions to teachers’ and lawyers’ concerns. And solutions could not be easily found in such confusion especially where the rule of law was almost sold to the dogs.
Cameroon’s unity, although challenged by socio-cultural differences, is constitutionally based. The Head of State has hammered on it time and again in separate outings. The latest was on December 31, 2016 when he said the country enjoys political and trade union freedoms but guided by the laws of the land. Inasmuch as the freedom gives citizens room to rightfully speak out on any aspect of national life, including through duly declared peaceful strike action, transgressing this constitutional right to indulge in acts that lead to lose of life, destruction of public and private property, talk less of desecrating the most sacred symbols of the nation, is to say the least, unlawful.
Apologists of the prevailing situation seemed to have gotten drunk with their rights, even excessively, to a point of forgetting what their responsibilities were. Exercising their rights as they did but prohibiting others (pupils and students) from enjoying theirs to education is inadmissible!
In the face of the disturbing situation, government couldn’t help but hit the hand on the table. The rule of law must be given pre-eminence in everything. And no one or no group should feel above this law. Governors, Divisional as well as Sub divisional Officers have an uphill task to ensure that not only is the ban respected to the letter but equally that defaulters are brought to book. Anything short of this would be setting a dangerous pace for national life!
At the same time, efforts would need to be stepped up in socio-economic development and respect of cultural values in such a way that all Cameroonians feel important and useful irrespective of their cultural or linguistic backgrounds. Balanced development and total respect of existing legislation can greatly strengthen Cameroon’s much-needed national cohesion!