By Colbert Gwain
This reflection is inspired by the fact that as British Consul, Hewlett took all his time dragging feet in Lagos rather than quickly coming over to Douala to sign agreements of ownership of Cameroon with the Douala Kings and by the time he arrived the Germans had already done the deal. Government’s feet dragging over inclusive and genuine dialogue with agitating Anglophones has made any initiative for dialogue now too late and too little.
It is the more informed by the fact that by nature, dialogue seems to be more efficient in preventing conflict than in resolving it and now that the crisis escalated into an ‘I will show you that I am more than you level’, only negotiations rather than dialogue can be an appropriate tool in putting an end to the crisis.
It is also inspired by the fact that although dialogue has become the buzzword in Cameroon since the start of the Anglophone crisis, what we have seen more, has been what Peterkins Manyong of The Independent Observer newspaper, in his Dictionary of New Deal terms, refers to as ‘dialog’ instead of dialogue and that even the dialogue as propanded today cannot, and I mean, cannot carry the burden of conflict resolution.
Point is, if inclusive, genuine, and frank dialogue was actually called at the time the UN recommended, this crisis would not have escalated to this level. Since Cameroon authorities, in their usual lacklustre manner, mistakenly thought things would just work out as has obtained in the past, they toyed around with the idea. They spent time talking about how all problems can be resolved by dialogue rather than actively dialoguing. All the power of action was lost in the energy of the resolve.
When government ministers went to the North West and South West regions for what they called ‘dialogue’, they spent time doing ‘dialog ‘, that is, a situation where government functionaries drive in from Yaounde in their posh cars, take up rooms in Ayaba hotel; invite one group of like-minded people after another; bring them greetings from the Head of State, tell them violence is not good and that they need to show patriotism now more than ever before; read out a final communique they prepared from Yaounde; and finally request each of the participants to pass through a certain room and collect brown envelopes for transport. Yaounde ‘s understanding of dialogue is that they speak and you listen, no room for debate. At the end, when they announce that each participant would have some transport, that’s when they pretend to ask whether anybody had something to say, knowing fully well that nobody would want to compromise his/her transport.
Truth be told. Since the start of the crisis in 2016, the government of President Paul Biya has exhausted all its dialogue or dialog strategies and initiatives. Nothing more is left of it. That’s why the new narrative now should be about Negotiations no longer dialogue.
Dialogue is generally defined as an exploration of an idea, a concept, or a goal by a group of people that is aimed at gathering information, not necessarily coming to a decision of any kind. Those who have been watching what Cameroon government since termed dialogue trips to Bamenda and Buea respectively would conclude that their aim was just to gather information and present to someone somewhere. All what the Prime minister and other members of his government who have made trips to the South West and North West regions, has been what could be called internal dialogue, that is, a situation where they spent time talking to themselves about themselves.
Negotiations Or Meditation
Although linguists would quarel about the intertextuality of dialogue and negotiations, I make bold to declare that at this stage of the conflict, dialogue cannot carry the burden of the conflict. Only Negotiations or mediation can do.
Unlike dialogue that has just outlived it’s usefulness in the resolution of the Anglophone conflict, experts in conflict resolution would tell you that only Negotiations or mediation can put an end to the Anglophone crisis. Why? In negotiations, parties agree to work with one another in the resolution of the conflict. Sometimes, talking to one another directly is not the best solution. In this case, mediation, no longer negotiations, is preferred. In mediation, parties agree to work together but under the guidance of a trained mediator, I mean, trained mediator. Why dialogue can no longer work in the resolution of the Anglophone crisis is because communication between the two conflicting parties have been seriously, I mean, seriously impaired. A trained mediator in the manner of the late Koffi Annan, can be really helpful in guiding the conversation in a positive manner.
Like The Abu & Muteff Of Kom
Take me as a fool for saying it’s too late Hewlett to dialogue as a solution to the Anglophone crisis. Recall that it was the same arrogant thinking Abuh village in Fundong Subdivision had when Muteff, then a quarter under the larger Abuh requested it’s share of respect. By then, Muteff only wanted Abuh village authorities to grant them a junior section of the Primary school on grounds that the lack of a solid bridge linking Muteff to Abuh resulted in their children drowning when going to school.
Like Yaounde authorities in the case of the Anglophone crisis, Abuh traditional authorities out rightly and arrogantly refused to dialogue, claiming that Muteff was too small to have a voice. Muteff parents originally reacted by withdrawing their children from Abuh CBC school for three years. When it dawned on them that Abuh was adamant, they went ahead to create a community school. Abuh still saw it as a big joke and continued to toy with the urgency of dialogue even when neighbouring villages and other concerned Kom elites advised to the contrary.
Since it was a tradition in Kom that each village hunts game annually for the Fon, the self proclaimed autonomous village of Muteff went ahead to organise their own annual hunt for the palace. Instead of countering the move by joining in the annual hunt, Abuh village insisted to stay back thinking that since the Fon does not know any village as Muteff, the hunt would be registered on the count of Abuh. When the Fon summoned Abuh authorities to explain why they did not participate in the annual hunt, no explanation was volunteered by Abuh 2nd Class Chief. As if that was not enough, and given that each autonomous village in Kom had an obligation to construct or maintain its village house in the Palace, when Abuh village noticed that Muteff was constructing a house in the Palace, they still concluded since Muteff was a quarter under them, the house would count for theirs. To their greatest surprise, when Muteff completed the structure, they went ahead to encrypt the name Muteff Kom to it.
The Fon summoned Abuh authorities for explanation and they did not care to volunteer any. That angered the Fon and he allowed the Fundong D.O to grant Muteff autonomy from Abuh. It was only when the D.O wrote to the Abuh village head that he was coming to install a traditional council in Muteff that scales fell off from their eyes and they started rushing helter-skelter for dialogue with Muteff but it was too late.
Not that the same could be said of the current Anglophone crisis. Only that one thing leads to another as obtained in the Muteff situation: Schools boycott; self declared autonomy; armed groups; curfews, and you name them. I drink Natang that if negotiations are not engaged and fast, many more unpleasant surprises can befall Cameroon the same way they be fell Abuh in the 70s.
Like The Abu, Muteff Of Kom