Ngwane, George. 2012. The Cameroon Condition. Kansas, Missouri: Miraclaire Publishers. 240 pages. Available online at Createspace. ($20.00)
Preface by Chief Charles A.Taku:
I am pleased to provide this preface to ‘The Cameroonian Condition’ which is a collection of previously acclaimed publications by George Ngwane, that include, ‘The Mungo Bridge' (on the West and East Cameroon divide), The Anglophone file (on the North West / South West Regions relations) and Fragments of Unity (on the problem with the South West Region of Cameroon).
The publication of ‘The Cameroonian Condition’ is informed by popular demand as much as by the need to put the reality of the issues succinctly explored in the publications within their rightful perspective. The Question then arises, why is there a popular request for a compendium of these publications and at this point in time? Why a desire to place the issues raised in these publications in their rightful perspective? I respectfully provide the answers hereunder.
The Mungo Bridge, the most popular of the publications, was a serious indictment of the tenuous relations between the Republic of Cameroon and the Southern Cameroons. With this publication, George Ngwane became one of the very few committed writers to make a serious attempt at initiating a civil and dispassionate debate on the failed state of the union between the Republic of Cameroon and the Southern Cameroons which many saw at inception as a model for Africa unity. The writer raised not only hard questions but provided critical solutions.
George Ngwane followed through by proposing to a group of committed intellectuals in Buea the convening on the 2nd and 3rd April 1993 of an “All Anglophone Conference” to debate the future of the Southern Cameroons component territory within the union. Yes indeed, the idea was that of George Ngwane. Bate Besong, Francis Wache, Vincent Anu and my humble self adopted it unreservedly. It is then that a decision was made to approach Professor Carlson Anyangwe, Dr Simon Munzu, Barrister Sam Elad and the Hon. Benjamin Itoe who graciously accepted to bring it to the political mainstream through the then constitutional debate that led to the ill fated ‘Tripartite talks’ in Yaounde. These distinguished personalities, articulately presented the collective position of Southern Cameroons at the said talks and defended it valiantly. Unfortunately, it was ignored with the consequences that are evident in today’s Cameroon.
The widely acknowledged admission of the ‘Anglophone Problem’ by President Paul Biya implicit in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the independence of Southern Cameroons and unity with the Republic of Cameroon so-called ‘unification’ although belated, in some ways vindicate the popular position taken by George Ngwane in ‘The Mongo Bridge ‘at a time when it was simply dangerous to do so.
The publication “The Anglophone File” based on the Anglophone regions of Cameroon to wit the North West/South West divide generated unprecedented controversy not because of its content but because that divide in itself is the very heartbeat of the politics of divide and rule that have more than anything perpetrated the subjugation of the two people. This publication was motivated by a desire to seek a solution that would take away a portend weapon of division and intrigue that kept the people permanently in a state of mistrust while both are exploited, humiliated and marginalized. The writer was misunderstood and criticized even by the victims of this form of exploitation, humiliation and marginalization for daring to raise the problem.
I travelled to Rwanda where ethnicity on the basis of Hutu/Tutsi ethnic identification is banned and criminalized and Burundi where it is allowed and encouraged. The Rwandan legislation has led to tyranny and that of Burundi has led to a robust public discourse about race/ethnic relations that has strengthened social cohesion and a wider democratic political space.
The Anglophone File aroused popular conscience and opened the eyes of the emergent leaders, particularly the intellectual class and the civil society to the mistakes of the past and the necessity of conceiving sustainable and enduring values that promote and protect the interest of all. In this, the writer is vindicated by Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere in an address to delegates of the Tangayika National Union in 1964 when he said that for a better formulation of present day policies and the planning for the future, the leaders must question and evaluate the past critically and dispassionately. In so doing, the leaders must make sure the mistakes of the past are used as a rationale to detract or inhibit the charting of a better future for ourselves and posterity.
The publication “Fragments of Unity” concerns the then South West Province and now South West Region of Cameroon. Here the writer reserved the strongest criticism on his Southwest people and political class. Dr Simon Munzu, it was, who described the Southwest as a mere geographical expression. This indeed is the hard fact. It is simply unacceptable that due to the political opportunism of a few, the region is simply not only the least developed but stands the threat of losing its identity altogether. The people of the region must therefore be assertive in their demands for socio-economic and political needs and free themselves from the docility of Presidential praise singing to which they have been relegated with nothing to show for.
Ever since George Ngwane set on the journey to raise national and international awareness on the situation and condition of his people, he like most committed writers elicited support and criticism. This is to be expected, in particular, when one writes about evolving political events.
George Ngwane has suffered serious prejudice in his career pursuits and undergone all forms of deprivations and detention for his critical publications. This is to be expected of most significant critical works in despotic regimes. On this, Wilfred Cartey writes in the African Reader: Independent Africa, Random House Inc. Newyork 1970 P 11 that “Any Education, any growth of awareness demand its proper sacrifice. Such is its nature: to create a contrast so startling that the past must be abandoned in favour of the future it promises or the reality it so starkly reveals”. Neither George nor his people and posterity for whom he writes can escape this reality.
I therefore unreservedly recommend this publication to policy makers, academics, researchers, lawyers and the public at large to read in one volume ideas that shaped our destiny as a people and as a nation.
Arusha Tanzania, 30 March 2012.
Chief Charles A.Taku, a traditional ruler, and international lawyer is Lead Counsel at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights and the International Criminal Court.
Reviews and comments of the three works that make up this book
In The Mungo Bridge Ngwane penetrates the cloak of official secrecy: breaking down this anti-people system lies in its being asphyxiated; in liquidating the old mystification once and for all. For a retrograde and ferocious oligarchy opposes the legitimate aspirations of the people. Thus the people must defend foot-by-foot what is theirs. True, Ngwane has shown in The Mungo Bridge that we all may be accomplices to this fragmentation of the national psyche but we were not responsible for it. Those who were responsible for this Pyrrhic triumph in "brotherhood" were those who sold us like Eyumojock men-sized yams at a bazaar. Bate Besong, Cameroon Life magazine, March 1991
The North West/ South West divide is considered a very serious issue by all Anglophones of goodwill. We have seen George Ngwane in his book The Anglophone File speaks out frankly and publicly on the issue without fear or shame; we have admired his intellectual honesty to publish well researched facts. Ewumbue Monono Churchill, Weekly Post newspaper, 1993
Present day nations worldwide and particularly so in Africa are indeed conglomerations of nation states or tribal units seeking unity in diversity. I believe that such unity may be more easily discovered in a less centralized administration, which permits each unit to take care of its specific problems yet ensuring that the whole holds together. The whole can only hold together in a fair and just system by which the nation provides a save homeland for its citizens. To me this is the crux of the book Fragments of Unity. Albert Mukong, 25th April 1992
About the author:
George Ngwane is author of eight publications and feature essayist in National and International newspapers. He is currently Chairman of the National Book Development Council, Cameroon, and Executive Director of AFRICAphonie (www.Africaphonie.org), member of the Advisory Board of the African Book Publishing Record, Columbia, U.S.A and former recipient of the Scholar at Risk Fund Fellowship (U.S.A) in 2004. He was a Chevening Fellow 2010 studying Conflict Prevention and Resolution at the University of York (UK). His blog is gngwane.com.