Participating in Positive Change

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Lessons from North Africa: Rising up for ourselves and counting on ourselves

February 4, 2011

By Aloysius AGENDIA

The current wave of events in North Africa indicates that true freedom can only come through a genuine popular revolt and not tele-guided by some external forces who claim to love us more than we love ourselves. The streets spoke and the Tunisian dictator, Ben Ali, a hitherto darling of those who claim to speak for the international community fell. The streets again are speaking in Egypt and another dictator who has oppressed his people and supported by the same group of external forces is about falling. These two events if totally successful in bringing about radical changes in the most facets of the Egyptian and Tunisian society according to the wishes of the people, would be in no way different from the Iranian 1979 Revolution that brought down the “international community” backed dictator or again the revolts could be likened to the 1879 French Revolution that transformed France.

In view of the popular unrest in Tunisia and Egypt  some leaders/rulers of other Middle Eastern /Arab countries like Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Algeria and Quatar are making some cosmetic changes to please the population.   Which country could then follow after Tunisia and Egypt?

My stand on the events in the North Africa is that for any meaningful change to take place in my own country Cameroon or any other country in Africa, South of the Sahara, it must be genuinely led by compatriots who will count only on fellow compatriots. It must not be compatriots conniving with external forces to bring down the current dictators. Such moves will only postpone the greater bulk of our worries.  Against that background, and in relation to seemingly disorganised civil society in Cameroon, I would urge that Cameroonians hold their peace and wait for the next polls.

My take is that we encourage those in Cameroon to massively register and vote. I strongly believe that elections have been continuously easily rigged because participation has been very poor. When people massively register and vote, then in occasions where they feel that their votes have been tempered with, they can then take measures to defend their votes.

So far, Mr Biya has refused to create an Independent Electoral Commission. But should we just fold our hands because he has not done so? I don't think so.  The pressure will continue. Meantime.....

I would have suggested that the largest opposition party campaigns with other parties and organisations for mass civil actions/disobedience and a total boycott of all government activities and institutions. Such a popular move would have been the best strategy to bring about genuine change. However, a similar spontaneous but disorganised move was tried in February 2008 and the reaction from the government was swift. It repressed it and killed about 200 Cameroonians within 3 days of unrest.

 It therefore seems that a popular uprising led by the opposition and civil society seems difficult, unlikely but not impossible. This principally because the opposition and most civil societies in Cameroon operate in very dispersed ranks.  For such a move to succeed in Cameroon, it must be well planned and taking into consideration the religious, party and most of all, ethnic divides that are killing the country. This again adds reason to why I urge Cameroonians at home to massively register, vote and defend their votes if they feel cheated.

The wave of events in Tunisia and Egypt is also an eye opener for those who think that they will continue rigging elections or oppressing their own people with or without external support. Unconfirmed and highly suspicious reports say in reaction to the events in Tunisia and Egypt, President Paul Biya of Cameroon is suggesting to his entourage that he may not take part in the next election. However, most people fail to understand that even if Biya does not take part in the elections and ELecam ( electoral body)  fails to organised transparent election, pre Biya would just be as post Biya, ie, suffering, corruption, injustice, impunity etc.

Impact of the Situation in Cote D Ivoire on Cameroon and Africa.

The outcome of the current situation in Cote D Ivoire may likely shape sub Saharan African politics either in the right or wrong direction for the next decades.  There is incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo whose support overwhelmingly lies with Ivoirians and a few nations. On the other hand is Alasane Ouatara whose diplomatic connections and offensive has lined a great number of organisations and foreign countries on his side.

Both men claim to have won the November 28. 2010 polls after which the Electoral Commission declared disputed result which showed that Alasane Ouatara won by 54 percent against t 46 for Gbagbo. However, the Constitutional Council which has the final say on electoral matters in the country said Alasane Ouatara‘s supposed victory was shrouded in fraud and with a cancellation of the fraud, he lost his to Gbagbo by 48 to 51 percent of votes cast.  Since then, the battle for final victory is no longer played in Cote D Ivoire given that Africans vote but do not decide.

Linking the Ivorian situation to Cameroon, my take is that any candidate who wants change in Cameroon must prioritise working with Cameroonians and not certainly with USA, Britain, France, UN, EU, IMF, World Bank etc.  I am not saying that the latter are not important. However, this is because supposed future president or leader is not going to lead these institutions but Cameroonians.

If the above mention institutions propel you to glory, it is not because they support democracy or want the development of your country. It is because they think you may represent their interest. So, real change must be in Cameroon and with Cameroonians.  When we propel ourselves to power through popular vote or popular and genuine uprising, we could then look for our partners which may include the institutions i mentioned above.

Most of us had been rightly or wrongly thinking that it was far better in Tunisia or Egypt. But Tunisians themselves were in hell and they decided to start their liberation from hell without any direct external order or influence. They could not bear it any longer.

Against that background, i say that the change we want is in Cameroon and it belongs first to those in the country. Those of us out of the country can contribute in ideas on how to effect the change. I will not support someone who thinks that because Biya has rigged elections, France, Nigeria, Cemac, UN etc should bring troops to remove Biya and in the process kill Cameroonians and again, worst of all, if our "victory" over Biya is said to have been overshadowed by fraud. That is certainly not the way out for us.

 I count on the ability of that person be in political party of candidate to mobilise Cameroonians themselves to bring about the change they want. If that person is not able or, if Cameroonians are not able, it implies that they (Cameroonians) are not ready for change or that they have not yet developed the best strategies to bring about the change they want. Change/freedom taken by ourselves is different from change/freedom brought to us by our oppressors or those who have been covertly and overtly supporting our oppressors.

It is said that people can be fooled sometimes but not all the time.  Most Africans continue to be fooled all the time up till now because they believed so much in those who claimed to be fighting for their human rights, economic development, political empowerment etc. On the contrary, these people are the ones conniving and abusing the continent directly and indirectly. I strongly believe that if we are allowed in the hands of the dictators, it will come a time when the people will be fed up and revolt themselves. At that juncture, it will be true freedom. What i am saying is that any country should mine it business. Africa does not need hypocrites. So, Africa must count on themselves and no one else.

Go Back

Why might these lessons from North Africa be lost in places like Nigeria? There are several reasons, but the most important one is that most segments of the society, outside some notable elite circles have been fully co-opted into the ethic of the loot. As long there is a chance that some official from ones ethnic group will throw some crumbs, from some corrupt scheme in the public sector ones way, there is a level of satiation with the status quo that radiates from the individual to the ethnic group, from the ethnic group to the state, and the nation at large.

"Rising up for ourselves" is always possible, because ultimate power resides in the people. However, there will be no popular uprising, when major segments of the population are fully subscribed to the idea, that wealth is ultimately created by some form of nefarious deal, which transfers public funds into individual bank accounts.

We might note that a lot of people in Nigeria go into politics with the objective of taking advantage of those available deals. The kind of public finance in place, which for the most part involves moving massive amounts of cash from the center (the Federal Government) to the states, local governments and other politically connected entities encourages that subvertion of public service.

The EFCC has been working hard to eradicate that idea, but its ultimate success also depends on the willingness of Nigerians at all levels of society, to repudiate the values that prop up the entire architecture of corruption, and moral agnosticism that permeates the nation.

I thank you.

Fubara David-West.

Biya's rigging starts at the level of voter registration. People register to vote and then their names get missing on voter rolls, especially in places where the opposition is popular. How do you prevent that from happening when there is no independent electoral commission?

The introduction of divide and rule principle in Cameroon politics by the Biya government has blinded many people from making rigth pollitical decisions. He puts people against each other, region agaist another and ethnic groups against one another by using state money. Most Cameroonians do not think they can make Cameroon a better place for all. The only way forward for most Cameroonians is to participate in corruption, betray your brother pretend to support the ruling government and wait for the crumbs.
Until they realise that they cannot keep on living like this before we can talk of readiness to make a significant and sustainable change in our nation.

Big Boy
The President and all those around him as shown in Egypt, Tunisia, Lybia etc are the enemies of the nation and should be thrown out and brought to trial

The President and all those around him as shown in Egypt, Tunisia, Lybia etc are the enemies of the nation and should be thrown out and brought to trial

Unfortunately the mind of ALMOST all Camroonians have been tilted such that tey tend to condemn more of the opposition than those in power.The real problem lies with those in power or the least with cameroonians.All have to stand at the peril of those in power and ask for change.Egypt is a good example.



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