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Biya’s Regime: A Gerontocracy That Hates The Old 

By Peterkins Manyong

Throughout human history, old age has been associated with wisdom. The idea  of magistrates and lawyers wearing wigs in court stems from this age-old belief that wisdom comes with age. Traditional African society particularly upholds this concept because it is believed that the longer a person lives, the more experience that person has.

That is unfortunately not the case with modern governments. While it is true that the judgment of some elderly persons surpass those of some young people, it would be pernicious to entrust governance entirely in the hands of persons "tottering on the bounds of senile decay". (Courtesy, Gerald Durrell: The Bafut Beagles)

That is the unfortunate situation of Cameroon. Cameroon is a gerontocracy, a government led by old people (Biya is 76) not old people selected on the strength of their wisdom, but persons raised from the dust on the basis of their loyalty to the head of state. Last year’s February strike demonstrated the invincibility of the youth. The regime’s insiders are still writhing from the pain of that uprising.

Again, thanks to modern technology, what a young man can see surfing the Internet, an old man, can’t, seated on Mount Everest. For this reason our gerontocrats would naturally have courted the friendship, or lobbied for the camaraderie of the country’s elderly. On the contrary, there are very few countries in the world where the elderly are neglected to the same degree as what happens in Cameroon.

If the list and accounts of elderly persons who die while pursuing their pension were compiled, the collection would equal an encyclopaedia. Many old people who served the regime faithfully are supposed to spend the rest of their days in bliss. Yet, they can’t get their papers through because of the greed of people who forget that they themselves would one day go on retirement.

What pains most of our elderly is that while their own children reach retirement having never owned a matricule number, or earned a salary, they see many a Biya loyalist still in active service "approaching his grave the way a hyperbolic curve approaches a straight line"
Simply put, the Biya regime is very comfortable with the fact that while thousands of youth roam the streets, persons old enough to be their grandmothers and grandfathers are still in active service because they hail from a particular ethnic group.

This explains the radicalism of many retired persons, especially ex-service men of Anglophone Cameroon origin. The activism of most irredentist movements like the SCNC and the SDF results from the frustration caused by this psychological torture. And what is the regime’s reaction? Repression. Its  inability to suppress the SCNC stems from such irresponsible acts like detaining Chief Ayamba and fellow Southern Cameroons activists.

It is perhaps in recognition of this neglect that Catherine Bakang Mbock, Minister of Social Affairs, decided to visit the Northwest Region recently and stopped by at the headquarters of Cameroon Development Volunteer for Technical Assistance, CDVTA, on Friday, June 12 where she had cordial exchanges with the staff led by Francis Njuakom, its CEO and the elderly.
Njuakom seized the opportunity of the Minister’s surprise and fascination at what she encountered to brief her on the plight of old people in the country.

He also told Bakang Mbock that he was engaged in improving the lives of children living with the old. The Minister promised working with CDVTA to better the welfare not only of the old, and children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, but also of all street children. THE CDVTA Director expressed regret over the ill-treatment of the elderly in most African countries, including Cameroon. This ill-treatment include banishment or even lynching on accusations of witchcraft.

Bakang Mbock, The New Deal Nightingale

Good will is a product of a healthy mind. People of genuine good will are so not because it is their duty, but because it is their nature to be so. Bakang Mbock demonstrated goodwill by not ending her Northwest visit at the Social affairs Delegation. She was also in Ndop. If she also decided to pay attention to the disabled and the blind, she would be doing a great deal to give the Biya regime a human face, or at least, a semblance of it.

The Biya regime, like the Prophets of Baal, has for too long been deafened by the drums of panegyric played from CRTV, to hear the ones of suffering Cameroonian children. Bakang Mbock may well be the lady with the lamp to light the way for the regime to see  since it can’t hear the cries of the old.

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