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Analysis: Nyos, 1992 Election Victims -The “Criminality” Of Being Anglophone 

By Peterkins Manyong

Hate is not inborn. What is inborn is fear. The snake is first feared by other creatures because of its peculiar physique before hated because of its venom. Hate is, therefore, the offspring of fear, which itself is born out of suspicion.

The history of Francophone/Anglophone relationship in Cameroon is a history of suspicion, hate and fear. These emotions manifest in practically every aspect of the Cameroonian socio-economic and political life. A practical demonstration would better serve as illustration than the longest philosophical exposition on the issue.

In 1986, a hitherto harmless body of water in the Northwest called Lake Nyos, emitted poisonous gas snuffing life out of at least 1,700 people and thousands of other animals. The reaction of any responsible government to such a disaster should be spontaneous. After evacuating the survivors, the next logical step is to make provisions for them so that they should easily overcome the sense of loss brought about by the calamity.

The very opposite happened in the case of Lake Nyos. Not only was the Regime lackadaisical, Lake Nyos became another Eldorado to derive pecuniary benefit from. Food like frozen chicken, blankets and other lifesaving items from philanthropic organisations became marketable commodities in the streets of Yaounde.

Till date the victims are still languishing in misery.
In 1992, post-election violence occurred in the Northwest. This followed the proclamation of the results of that year’s Presidential Election. The Regime’s security operatives stood at akimbo, enjoying how missiles were being unleashed on the homes of well known CPDM cohorts.

Alhadji Tita Fomukong, Chairman of the CNP, a satellite party to the CPDM, was burnt to death while a military helicopter hovered overhead. When the regime was satisfied that enough damage had been done, a state of emergency was imposed on the Northwest. Those who were not shot and killed in cold blood in the streets or tortured to death, died silently in their beds .The majority of the population bore their emasculation in silence.

One group of people, however, refused to let the regime get away with it. They were those who exposed themselves to risk by openly belonging to the CPDM and voting President Biya. After many futile attempts to get compensated, including the deposition of a case file at the country’s Supreme Court, they took the matter to the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights, ACHPR.

For the victims and their lawyer, Barrister Anthony Amazee, the missions to the African Court turned out to be a series of dangerous odysseys from one country to another. But to those sent to represent the regime it was a moment of glory and relaxation.

It provided top regime’s legal officials the opportunity to view a good portion of Africa (which is a curious sight and very unlike what people see on TV or hear on radio). It also enabled them to relax and earn-fabulous out-of-station allowances. Despite the spirited defence of the regime, the Court finally ruled in favour of the 1992 Election victims. Their argument was quite simple: the victims didn’t organise the election.

The regime did. The same regime knew and made public its knowledge that there was impending mayhem. But for some unexplained reason, decided not to protect the victims. The fact that Government compensated victims of the Nsam Fire Disaster in the Centre Province at the time and those affected by elephant destruction in the North, they further argued, means the problem was not the lack of means but the lack of will.

The case of the Nsam Fire Disaster is more provocative because the victims were people who went to steal petrol and got burnt. By compensating the survivors and families of those who perished, the regime was, therefore, giving moral support to those who loot and pillage the national till. In effect, the regime is one which rewards the guilty and punishes the innocent.

The question the victims, therefore, felt obliged to ask was: is it because they are Anglophones? If, as some of the 1992 victims suspect, the regime has given the money, but it ended in the pockets or bank accounts of some of its trusted supporters, those supporters should be obliged to "cough it out".

Within the period that the matter was being examined by the African Court, the victims suffered a lot of persecution not at the hands of the regime itself, but from some of its loyalists. For instance, Francis Nkwain, a former member of government, once likened the victims to the notorious "coupeurs de route" (highway robbers). Some of the victims who were given contracts as a mode of pacification, openly tried to coerce those persisting with the case to withdraw it. At one time the victims planned a protest trek to Yaounde, but like the builders of the Tower of Babel, the project collapsed.

The latest development in the matter is that the victims are planning to welcome President Biya to Bamenda. Whether they will turn out with smiling faces, singing songs of panegyric, or with songs of woe brandishing protest placards, depends on whether the regime compensates them before the President comes or continues to give them the cold shoulder. A protest march with placards is certainly the least desirable course of action when Biya visits Bamenda.

Suppressing such a demonstration through its tradition of brutality would only dent the image of the regime further as it would be a case of "he-goat’s head falling into he-goat’s bag"
Recently, the regime succeeded, through lobby, to get one of its magistrates admitted as a judge in the African Court. It would be an unpardonable act of embarrassment for her if her own country continues to ignore the decisions of the Court whose member she is, as it has done in the SCNC /SCAPO case.

The ruling called on La Republigue to hold "constructive dialogue" with the two Southern Cameroons liberation movements. Biya certainly needs as many votes as any contestant in the 2011. He still needs votes from the victims of the 1992 Presidential Election in the Northwest Region.

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