A Portrait by Dibussi Tande
I have known George Ngwane in both a professional and personal capacity for close to 15 years, during which we have been comrades in arms in the search for possible solutions to Cameroon's socio-political challenges. In the 1990s, we both were regular contributors to leading English language newspapers and magazines in Cameroon such as Cameroon Life Magazine, Le Messager, and the Cameroon Post. We were also at the frontline of the struggle to protect the rights of Cameroon's Anglophone minority through events and organizations such as the All Anglophone Conference (AAC) of April 1993.
For over a decade now, George Ngwane has stood out as one of Cameroon's foremost political analyst and social activist.
An unapologetic and uncompromising drum major for peace and democracy in Cameroon, Ngwane, unlike many of his contemporaries, has sacrificed his personal comfort and professional ambitions to take up causes - respect for human rights, implementation of true democratic reform, protection of minority rights, etc., - that have earned him the opprobrium of the Government of Cameroon. One of the brightest and most enterprising of his generation, Ngwane could easily have become a key member of Cameroon's ruling party if only he had been willing to discard his deeply-held convictions on the altar of personal ambition. This has not been the case. And, after a decade-long attempt to co-opt him into the ruling party, the Cameroon regime has finally concluded that he is an enemy of the State who cannot be redeemed.
Ngwane, a rare intellectual
Even more than his political activism, what has separated Ngwane from most Cameroonian intellectuals is his willingness and ability to go beyond his "natural comfort zone" to expertly write and speak about a large range of public issues, not necessarily directly connected to his original field of expertise.
The holder of a graduate degree in English Literature from the University of Yaounde, Ngwane is best known not for his literary prowess, which is impressive in its own right, but for his immense contributions to the understanding of the complexities of African political systems and their impact on the democratization process; and for his ground-breaking work on conflict resolution in Africa. Coming from a country and continent where intellectuals are not taken seriously when they "stray" from their field of study and expertise, Ngwane has become a symbol of something much larger. For example, his book on indigenous methods of conflict resolution in Africa, along with his other publications on the same topic, have been used as required text in many universities around the world. Ngwane himself has served as a lecturer in the Political Science Department of the University of Buea - an impressive feat for one with a literature background.
Ngwane a committed activist
Nowhere has Ngwane's commitment to social causes been more manifest than in the civil society organizations that he has either founded or been involved with particularly AFRICAphonie (A pan African organization that promotes African Unity, democratization and demilitarization of Africa, and indigenous solutions to Africa's problems) which he founded in the mid 1990s. With little or no external resources Ngwane has succeeded in transforming AFRICAphonie into a premier Pan African organization in Cameroon and has won praise and admiration from actors on both sides of that country's generally unbridgeable political and linguistic divide.
A tireless scholar
Beyond all his activism, however, George Ngwane is an indefatigable scholar with an avaricious thirst for knowledge; one who is quite at ease with the rigors of high level intellectual analyses and research. Given his wide breath of knowledge on a plethora of issues, his organizational skills and intellectual discipline, Ngwane is a scholar who will be at home in any leading academic or research institution in the world. Not only does he bring a totally different and challenging perspective on African and World issues, he also has a lot to contribute to the development of a new corpus of knowledge for Africa in line with the continent's 21st century aspirations.
An endangered species
Anyone who is remotely familiar with the workings of African political systems will quickly realize that people like Ngwane who stand outside of political institutions and actively challenge the status quo are an endangered species, which is either hunted down or hunted out by those in power. Thus, after failing to woo Ngwane into its camp with incremental enticements (the latest being his appointment to the influential position as Delegate of Culture in the Southwest Province in 2004), the Government has finally realized that Ngwane is not for sale. Less than six months after that appointment, Ngwane was fired because of a paper he wrote for the African Research group, CODESRIA, which was deemed subversive. Anyone remotely familiar with the workings of African regimes knows that this is just the first round in what will be a long war of attrition
Without doubt, George Ngwane's best is yet to come in spite of the Herculean obstacles on his way, and this weblog is just a small window into what he has to offer.
Sit back and drink deep from the Mwalimu's fountain of knowledge that never runs dry!!