Thursday, October 29, 2020
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State Of Uncertainty 

By Clovis Atatah In Vienna, Austria

Last week, I wrote the draft of this week’s column which centred on President Paul Biya’s imminent visit to Bamenda, presuming that he would respect his November 29 schedule. There were, of course, a few i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but basically the column was ready for bed, to use insider print media parlance. After reading through the draft column, I nodded my head in satisfaction, like the proverbial lizard, and decided to reward myself with a glass of wine.

No sooner had I savoured the wine than I noticed an article in the online edition of The Post in which Yerima Kini Nsom reported that the Presidential visit might not take place on November 29 and 30 as earlier announced. In exasperation, I rushed to, the official website of Cameroon’s Presidency of the Republic, believing that it will carry a communiqué to that effect, if in fact Mr Biya had changed his mind about the date of the visit. Not finding any communiqué on the website, I was convinced the visit will go ahead.

But as the weekend wore on, I continued to get information from Cameroon that it was almost certain that the visit had been "unofficially postponed". I continued to dutifully check the website of the Presidency until Sunday. Then I recalled that we are dealing with a regime that breaks all the rules; a regime that does not hesitate to bring the nation to a standstill whenever the one "who incarnates" so and so feels like using the loo.

And as I painstakingly write a new column to avoid the embarrassment of presuming that President Biya will keep the November 29 rendezvous, there has still been no official statement from the Presidency of the Republic either confirming the initial date or announcing the rescheduling of the visit.

This uncertainty surrounding the President’s visit to Bamenda is symptomatic of the staggering clumsiness that has become one of the hallmarks of le renouveau, and once again offers us a cursory peek at the workings of the Cameroon government machinery. In fact, "government machinery" is a misnomer because a machine by definition works on predictable rules. But the system Mr Biya has sustained in Cameroon for the last three decades is one that thrives on mind-boggling chaos.

Mr Biya announced his trip to Bamenda at the graduation ceremony of cadet military officers in Yaounde on December 4, 2009. That announcement was followed by months of speculations about the date of the visit, including within so-called government circles. Now, when the populace was just about certain for once about something, the date of the visit appears to have been secretly moved forward. Just like that! And the hapless population of Bamenda must endure perhaps another week or two of the trigger happy presidential goons claiming to be ensuring security.

What obtains in Cameroon, in the name of governance, is disorder gone wild. It is much worse than a state of emergency, which Cameroonians experienced during the entire 22-year reign of the late blood-thirsty dictator, Ahmadou Ahidjo. During Ahidjo’s state of emergency, some things could be achieved because there were rules and these rules were respected. Everybody therefore knew what to expect.

But since November 6, 1982, a State of Uncertainty was instituted in Cameroon. The State of Uncertainty is similar to the state of emergency with respect to repression and brutality, but it thrives on disorder because there are no rules. Only the leader of the regime, "who incarnates" so and so, makes and knows the rules.

In the State of Uncertainty, the Cabinet Minister, who generally sees the President only on TV, just like the man in the street, quickly learns that the best way to have a long stay in government is not to take initiative.

The politician of the so-called ruling party realises fast that his only way to salvation is to work against the interests of his constituency and to stab his brothers and sisters frontally without batting an eyelid. The young civil servant learns soon that those who work hard are sanctioned while layabouts get promoted. The General Manager discovers that returning profits for the corporation is a sin; lining personal pockets is the height of achievement. We could go on and on.

However, if these were consistent, Cameroonians would have known what to expect and how to act to achieve success. But it doesn’t work that way. There are Ministers who get sacked for not taking initiative; backstabbing politicians who don’t get expected rewards, civil servants sanctioned for lazing about; and General Managers jailed for helping to stuff the coffers of the ruling party. Because Mr Biya decided so!

That is the point of the system. Mr Biya is the State and the law. He is the Almighty. When he decides to bring things to a standstill, so be it. When he decides that he is riding the nation in "reverse gear", so be it. Until such a time that a critical mass of Cameroonians muster the courage to "unreverse".