By Mwalimu George Ngwane
The Post newspaper of Monday April 13 2015 carries on its major headline “All Anglophone Lawyers’ Conference to hold in Bamenda”. The date of the Conference is supposed to be “in the weeks ahead” which means sooner than later. The article further quotes the “Conveners” of the conference, Barristers Eta Bissong Jr and Harmony Bobga as saying that “the struggle of the lawyers is to preserve the Anglophone identity from being completely being wiped out” hence urging “legal practitioners to understand the current drifts in the legal system and the need for a common front”. Seen within the ambit of a professional association this move is very laudable as it seeks to consolidate the gains Anglophone lawyers made in preventing submissions in Anglophone courts to be done solely in French even if the appointment of strategic legal practitioners in Anglophone backyard is still deliberately francophonised.
But before other Anglophone professional bodies take a cue from this laudable initiative, before we start hearing of an All Anglophone Educationists Conference, an All Anglophone Engineers Conference, an All Anglophone Medical Practitioners Conference, an All Anglophone Footballers Conference, an All Anglophone Truck Pushers Conference, before an holistic identity discourse gets drowned in the ocean of parochial atavistic advocacy, let us rethink the role of legal practitioners in any society.
Simply put lawyers have always been regarded as the voice of the voiceless or preferably those who amplify the voices of the silent. Imbued with the sterling qualities of scientific and rational arguments, gifted with the pearl of Mark Anthonian oratory, shielded by the virtues of independence and immunity and rooted in the worldview of facts and logic, lawyers have been known to walk where ordinary professionals fear to tread and to push the courage and candour of human qualities beyond the frontiers of professional limitations. Theirs is a coveted profession of values, views, voices and vision and it is therefore they who “stand the risk of their bones being exhumed from graves and roasted for failing to address problems” confronting the people and their society.
The protection of a common law system which is the legitimate justification for an All Anglophone Lawyers Conference cannot be dissociated from the safeguard of the statehood that embodies the common law system. Indeed the gradual or complete erosion of Anglophone structures and values in Cameroon and for this matter the common law system is as a result of the destruction of the cradle in which those structures and values were born. To focus therefore solely on the by-product without addressing the state and future of the whole Anglophone body-politic is tantamount to treating the symptoms rather than applying the curative therapy of the disease. It can be likened to the gradualist narrative of the Monrovia bloc in the early 60s towards a United States of Africa. Time has proven that this narrative of gradualism has been as blurred and anti-developmental today as it was more than fifty years ago when Kwame Nkrumah’s lone voice of immediate continental unity was one in the political wilderness.
True, the gradualist and isolated gains of the Anglophone struggle have produced some benchmarks like the creation of the “Anglo-saxon” Universities in Buea and Bamenda, the creation of the GCE Board, the establishment of Higher Teachers Technical Training Colleges in Bambili and Kumba all ostensibly to protect the Anglophone educational system from francophone adulteration. But what has been the endgame? Virtually all the gradualist gains made through the Anglophone struggle have by omission or collusion slid back into a francophone hostage syndrome at best or at worst aggravated by the innate Anglophone character of fickleness, gullibility, treachery, vulnerability, the intellectual confusion over identity nomenclatures cast against the mould of individual or aggregate revisionist history, nationalistic overzealousness, elite power scheming, grassroots docility and what Charlie Ndi Chia calls tenacity and fatigued leadership.
Hence the questions “Why do Anglophones clamour for values and structures which always end up in “back to sender” phenomenon? The answer is the lack of an overriding political sovereignty and systemic safeguards to hold tenaciously to the minimal yet incremental gains of Anglophone identity. This is what a lawyer called Fon Gorji Dinka saw in the 60s with his lone-ranger’s vision of Ambazonia, this is what the legal trio of Elad, Munzu and Anyangwe saw in the 90s with the All Anglophone Conference and this is what lawyers of this generation need to see with their All Anglophone Lawyers Conference in the days ahead.
They need to recognize the fact that once a disease is treated the symptoms disappear, they need to understand that no political party no matter how “Anglophile” will use its party platform to discuss the Anglophone problem, yes my learned brothers and sisters, the agenda of your conference cannot afford to bask in the sunshine of professional protectionism while eclipsing the ominous clouds of statehood atrophy. The agenda cannot be so monolithic or inundated as to rejoice over the birth of the baby while the pangs and screams of motherhood still reverberate in the maternity. It will therefore be a labour of love to protect both the baby and the mother.
In contemporary conversations on Peace studies, attention is being shifted from the thorny and bloody path of armed secession at all costs to the peaceful avenues of constitutional referendums by all means. The Referendum experiment was exercised by Eritreans to opt out of Ethiopia in 1993, by South Sudan to opt out of Sudan in 2011, by Quebec to stay in Canada in successive trials, by Scotland to stay in the UK in 2014 and by the Catalonians who are still restive about such an experiment in Spain. Memos, open letters, scientific presentations, Conferences and Banjul court cases have made vital strides in awareness raising, boomerang diplomacy and appreciative inquiries but have fallen short of taking the political agenda a notch higher to the realm of a much needed Reunification referendum in Cameroon.
Whether the results of such a referendum shall culminate in opting out or staying in is another kettle of fish but surely it shall in the short and long term help in redefining and renegotiating the contractual terms of a bicultural, bijural and bilateral existence. Like you lawyers are wont to say “with this I rest my case”.
Photo reprinted courtesy of Cameroon Journal.