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Analysis: Biya’s Bamenda Visit: A Question Of Security 

By Peterkins Manyong

The will to rule is a passion superseded only by the desire to rule. If there is somebody with more than a fair share of both passions, it is President Paul Biya. "L’homme courage" may not be as courageous as he wants the world to see him; but he is certainly more daring than he appears to be. John Fru Ndi and all those who have dared him for twenty years cannot dismiss him with a wave of the hand. However, courageous Biya is a human being and, like all humans, has a tendency to fear what he does not understand.

On Friday, January 15, Hon. Simon Fobi, SDF MP for Bamenda and Bali Constituency, made a declaration that rattled the nation and there is every reason to conclude that Etoudi was not left indifferent. Addressing fellow militants at the Bamenda Municipal Stadium, he said President Biya, who is planning to visit Bamenda, risks assassination there. According to him, Biya’s "Operation Epervier" has so infuriated the President’s Beti clansmen that they could assassinate him in Bamenda so as to give the town the name usually ascribed to a dog in order to hang it.

Hon. Fobi substantiated his fears by recalling a rumour which circulated in Bamenda at the height of anti-Biya protests in the 90s; that Chantal Biya was to visit Fru Ndi’s village and that there were plans to assassinate her there and it was blamed on the SDF. When we consider that Hon. Fobi made this declaration at a massively attended public occasion, it would be an act of unpardonable negligence to dismiss it as a joke.

The security of every head of state is a serious matter. History students would easily recollect that the immediate cause of the First World War was the assassination of Prince Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by a Bosnian student. The reprisals against Bamenda should such a mishap occur is better imagined than described.

Fobi’s declaration followed previous ones by Fru Ndi, his party’s National Chairman, and Henry Kum Itchu, Northwest SDF Chair, questioning the relevance of the visit. Fobi spoke of a town that suffered gross human rights violations during the state of emergency in 1992 and would not like a repeat of it. Unfortunately, he was addressing a regime, which, like quacks in the medical field, is often more preoccupied with the symptoms of a disease rather than the cause.
Biya knows more than anybody else what Bamenda wants from him. Bamenda wants genuine democracy which will usher in a free, just and equitable society.

It wants the tarring of the much-talked about Ring Road, a university, a referral hospital and employment for its youth. It is not interested in seeing Biya dead. Bamenda people love peace, but not at the expense of justice. To achieve true democracy, its inhabitants braved bullets, teargas and water canons to fight for the return of multiparty democracy. The killing of six youths during the launching of the SDF on May 26 was provocative enough to push them into embracing the dreadful alternative proposed by Zachariah Siga Asanga: "If you think the solution is war, buy guns early enough and go into the bush".

No. Bamenda people, like fellow Cameroonians, love football, beer and the comfort of their homes. Although they have been accused, abused and misused, Bamenda people, in their vast majority, uphold the pacific late John Ngu Foncha that insults do not stick on the body. The Bamenda man is one who, rather than stomach an untruth because a neighbour has given him delicious palm wine, he would pour the wine away and speak his mind. The Freudian concept "Talking Cure" is, to date, the best therapy for psychological ailments: a patient gets relieved when given the opportunity to say all what is burdening him/her.

Biya understands this thinking of the Bamenda man more than his collaborators who seem to derive a peculiar form of delight from misinforming him on the situation on the ground. Paul Nji Atanga is undoubtedly doing it for selfish reasons, but he certainly spoke some truths about Biya and Bamenda. Atanga said Biya has a special love for Bamenda.

But Atanga has never been sincere enough to explain that the President’s preference was not inspired by love for its people, but by his understanding that if Bamenda is at peace, so is Cameroon. Bamenda’s capacity for opposing injustice is the reason why Francophones see it as a reference point; "les gens de Bamenda ne peuvent pas accepter ca", (Bamenda people can’t accept it) is the most common phrase they use to convey the information that a decision is unfair. To Francophone musicians like Lapiro de Mbanga, Longue Longue and even the enigmatic Petit Pays, Bamenda signifies freedom.

Those who portray the Northwest as a terrorist town are mainly top security and military personnel who want to reap economic capital from false propaganda. The terrorist attacks of 1990 were propagated by the regime’s ‘agents provocateurs’ who wanted to becloud Biya’s mind on the Anglophone problem. If not, how could a gang of supposed brigands sustain a hit-and-run attack on so militarized a zone as the Northwest for three days running? There is, therefore, more of self-interest than truth in the literature pandered about the Northwest.

Hon. Fobi’s declaration should be taken in good faith. It should be seen as a call for more caution than a threat to the President’s security. Of course, Biya’s security operatives didn’t need that in order to ensure his safety in Bamenda. More than half a dozen generals were here last December 18 to choose a suitable venue for Biya’s reception and there is no reason to think they didn’t make a suitable choice. Once more, Mr. President, welcome to Bamenda.

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