It was not too long ago that we wrote a similar Editorial on Ethiopia, calling on the Amharic people, that country’s ruling ethnic group, to listen to their Omoro brothers and sisters who were complaining of being marginalized. It took a while, but the Amharic majority listened. Today, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister is an Oromo.
We praise God for that and pray that the Omoros will not take this as a sign of weakness on the part of the Amhara, but rather as an act of faith in the future of one of Africa’s oldest peoples and country, Ethiopia, which was for a very long time the Ethiopian Empire.
Today we are uttering the same prayer for Cameroon and its President, Paul Biya. It was by an act of faith in the Cameroon Republic’s future that the English speaking part of that country voted in a referendum in 1961 to join the French-speaking Republic of Cameroon. We see it imperative to intervene with this editorial because Liberia and Cameroon have a long history of a mutually beneficial relationship that has been solidified over the past seven years by his Excellency, Ambassador Beng’Yela Augustine Gang.
We recall that in the 1980s Ambassador Carlton Karpeh served as Liberian ambassador to Cameroon during which time, George Weah, our current President, played semi-professional football in that country. For years during our civil conflict, the Cameroonian government played host and surrogate parents to Liberian diplomats who, by no fault of their own found themselves virtually stranded in that sisterly country.
Further, the Cameroon Embassy in Monrovia, over the years, has been very instrumental in facilitating many Liberians to travel to Yaounde and other cities for training in health, diplomacy, forestry, agriculture and agronomy and research. This mutually beneficial relationship compels us to not sit and watch evil beclouding this great country.
On May 22, during the observance of the National Day of Cameroon in Monrovia, we tearfully watched and listened to Ambassador Gang when he said, “Regrettably, Cameroonians now face the deep pain of our national security forces being compelled to quell internal armed dissidence at great cost in men and materials; the sad prospect of self-inflicted erosion of its long reputation as a haven of mutual tolerance of its rich and complex diversities, a melting pot of diverse sub-culture”.
He further declared that the ongoing internal conflict involving the Anglophone Cameroonians is also hampering the solid education system that has existed there for decades. Liberia is no stranger to these seemingly intractable problems now being faced in Cameroon. When some segments of the population in Liberia felt marginalized, aggrieved or oppressed without reasonable chance of having their voices heard, they resorted to armed conflict which regrettably turned out to be the worst alternative ever.
Our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and children including friends lost their lives as well as their properties to the war. The damage to infrastructure was extensive and so severe and is one from which Liberia is still struggling to recover. Liberia, like Cameroon, was once a country where our African brothers and sisters once came in search of educational opportunities.
But owing to the negative effects of the prolonged civil conflict, Liberia’s educational system has degenerated into what former President Sirleaf described as a “mess”. These cited instances are intended to warn about the adverse consequences of war and instability, as a similar situation now looms over Cameroon. Arresting and jailing Anglophone activists as reported will not help to address the situation, but only exacerbate it.
We call on President Paul Biya to save his country from the fate that befell Liberia by engaging in dialogue to address claims of marginalization instead of clamping down on the Anglophone people of his country. Because not doing so will only play into the hands of separatists and very likely jihadists also.
We recall that when Cameroon observed its National Day in 2016, Ambassador Gang and his fellow Cameroonians here in Liberia displayed images of developed infrastructure and other human developments that were taking place in that country. Being impressed by the images displayed in the reception hall of the Golden Gate Hotel during the celebration, the Daily Observer published a story titled, “Cameroon Celebrates Progressive Years of Independence.”
And so, will President Paul Biya allow conflict and instability to overtake the tremendous progress his country has made over the years?
We pray that reason will prevail over sentiment in Cameroon and that President Biya will act without delay to bridge the gap between his English and French-speaking countrymen through dialogue, reconciliation and reciprocity to keep his country from falling apart at its seams.