Francophones, Anglophones, Charles Manda & 2035

Charles Atangana Manda
Charles Atangana Manda

Cameroon Journal, Washington DC, Sept. 9 – Last week, our editor missed a phone call – an important one – so to say. The

call came from Charles Atangana Manda, Director of Media Observatory and Public Opinion in the Ministry of Communication,

Yaounde.

Of late, Manda has been in the news triggered by a frivolous charge he made against Anglophones in his department in a story first published in the Journal. In the story, he made a generalized statement, though he meant to direct it to Anglophones working under him, he referred to all Anglophone Cameroonians as “incompetent and lazy.”

After the Journal and some local media published the story, Manda got agitated and somewhat feisty after it went viral online and reactions began to flow in. When he called, he left a message for Chris Fobeneh – the editor, in which he politely indicated he is a friend, a brother – a dear brother, as opposed to an adversary. He left his number and requested a return call.

When Chris returned the call the following morning, he (Chris), was a little surprised that the call had come from the director of Media Observatory and Public Opinion in the Ministry of Communication since he didn’t know who had called in the first place. When Manda picked up the call, he immediately recognized – perhaps per the foreign code, that it was Chris calling, and jovially, like in a person about to lobby for some favour, began once more by introducing himself as a friend and brother. (And being a Francophone, Chris was pretty impressed with his good grasp of the King’s language).

In the exchange that ensued between the two, centered on his recent conjectures about English-speaking Cameroonians, Manda didn’t come across as repentant or apologetic and neither did he come across as arrogant or an over bearing bossy bigot. Rather, he came across as a boss who feels insecure in his position; he’s put in so much and risen so high but his career appears to be under threat from invisible jealous superiors out to get him through his English speaking co-workers.

None of the arguments he advanced vindicated him of the charge that English speaking Cameroonians are incompetent and lazy. If Cameroon was a country that practices meritocracy and zero tolerance to every form or attempts at exclusion, Charles Manda would have been long fired from his position. But that’s still a long way to come – if it will.

We at the Cameroon Journal are waiting and watching to see how Issa Tchiroma, Minister of Communication, who is Manda’s boss will handle the situation. He told our reporter that once back in town,  he was going to investigate the incident and levy punishment where it’s due. However, from the look of developments, from the last interview accorded us by Manda, it appears that Tchiroma himself is an accomplice in the discrimination that took place in his office against Anglophones.

Manda stated in the interview that he recommends bonuses for the staff that serve under him and his boss – the Minister, approves them. So isn’t it but fair to suggest that Tchiroma was aware that while Francophones in his office were receiving 200.000 FRS each as bonuses, Anglophones were receiving a meagre 30.000 FRS each? The Minister cannot claim ignorance to what was going on because he was the one approving the bonuses. And whether he knew about it or not, such gross injustice shouldn’t be allowed to continue in a country that wants a clean sweep for a more just society come 2035.

It’s surprising that the labour movement and civil rights NGOs in the country have remained mute in the face of such grave injustice. They ought to be at the throat of the Minister demanding compensation for the affected staff.

If the staff failed to perform as argued by Manda, it is our belief that in a work place as huge as a ministry, there are set disciplinary measures whereby unproductive staff are brought to order. To treat them as second class citizens and withhold bonuses from them on the ploy that they didn’t perform is a flimsy excuse – it holds no water, in fact, it comes across as vendetta and it should not be tolerated at any work place in this day and age.

 Words such as those used by Manda to describe his co-workers of the English extraction cannot be redeemed – no matter what. What can be redeemed, however, is the amount of bonuses the workers were cheated and we at the Cameroon Journal think that Minister Tchiroma can do justice by settling the aggrieved with same amount of bonuses as paid to their Francophone colleagues.

We did like to acknowledge Charles Manda’s gesture to reach out to us to explain his position even though we don’t buy it. His reaching out, however, tells that gone are the days that officials did things with impunity and thumped their chest as if they were lords. If Cameroon will change, there is such need for such responsible behavior by people put in positions of responsibility. Paul Biya cannot be the scapegoat for every stupid thing that irresponsible people in gov’t offices do.


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