By Arison Tamfu, Dec. 13 2016
Cameroon Journal, Douala – In his first interview since the ongoing uprisings in Southern Cameroons started about a month ago, Cardinal Christian Tumi has said he is well aware there is an Anglophone problem in Cameroon – that of marginalisation. Speaking to Cameroon Journal’s Arison Tamfu exclusively in Douala, Monday, the Cardinal lamented that Anglophones “are always Assistants” when it comes to important positions in the country. EXCERPTS:
Let’s begin with the big question; is there an Anglophone problem?
Cardinal: Yes, I believe there is an Anglophone problem. And if somebody says he has a problem, you have to listen to him. I was asked that question many years ago, it was put in another way; do I think Anglophones are marginalised? So my answer was that I do not know whether they are marginalised, but I know for certain that they are always Assistants. They are certain very important ministerial positions, like education, finance, defence, secretary General at the Presidency and so on that an Anglophone has never occupied. That alone indicates, there is a certain degree of marginalization. One has the impression that they occupy secondary positions. Therefore, they seem to be regarded as second-class citizens. So in my opinion, they are marginalised and it is a problem.
You have been following recent events in the country regarding the Southern Cameroons problem, are you surprised it has degenerated this far?
Cardinal: That is a difficult question to answer. When there is problem between two persons and you do not sit down to dialogue, one day it will burst out physically. When a problem is not solved the day will come when it will start again because man is a rational animal and he is always thinking of how to solve problems. And when he is not often listened to, one day he will say I am ready to die for my rights.
So these events, these demonstrations and violence have been a long time coming?
Cardinal: Yes I think so because these problems and SCNC have been there for long. The SCNC attacked me once because I told them that I believe in a federal system and not the creation of a separate country. I have always believed in a federal system and I think that the change Ahidjo brought about was not a good one. Our bodies are not made up of hands and head, there are all different parts of the body to make one body- unity in diversity.
Why do you think the federal system is best for Cameroon?
Cardinal: We have so many differences and these can only be handled in a federal system. I met President Paul Biya when I was Bishop in Garoua, I told him, Anglophones think he does not like them.
And what did he say?
Cardinal: He was shocked and I told him that there was a letter written by the Prime Minister Hayatou at the time, asking the general manager of CRTV to discipline
Anglophone journalists because they were too outspoken. I don’t know whether he was aware of the letter or not but he showed a bit of surprise.
And said nothing?
Cardinal: And said nothing.
What did his silence imply to you?
Cardinal: Well that he was not aware of the problem
Do you think he was not really aware?
Cardinal: Well he, as the head of a country made up of Anglophones and Francophones, has services and people who should inform him on what is happening in the country at any moment. I believe quite a number of things happen and he is not told the truth by those who should have the obligation to do so.
So you think some of his collaborators are not telling him the truth?
Cardinal: I believe so and would not be surprised that they have not told him the truth of what is happening in Bamenda.
Do you think his reaction towards the crisis so far is the best? Pupils and students have not been going to school for one month and he has not spoken and some have been badly treated and raped.
Cardinal: He does not have to go personally for a problem to be solved. He sent the prime minister to Bamenda to dialogue with the people, but the PM I am sorry to say, has been contradicting himself. In Bamenda he recognised that there is a problem and later
organised a march to contradict what the people were asking for that he himself had earlier admitted it existed. They have to sit down to dialogue and when you go to dialogue you should be aware that the other person could be right and you are wrong. So when the cap fits, wear it, and we need intellectual honesty in dialogue
Don’t you think the president himself should speak?
Cardinal: I think that the president should make a statement. Now that we believe he has the facts he should address the nation.
The demonstrations in Bamenda that led to the death of people were intended to interrupt the CPDM rally. Do you think it was correct for them to hold rally on the same day?
Cardinal: The moment was miscalculated. It was wrong. In Bamenda the party in power became an opposition. To a certain degree they provoked the killings in Bamenda. Why at that particular moment when there was tension in the air.
Do you think this regime is ready for frank dialogue?
Cardinal: Anybody should be ready for dialogue if he wants peace and if there is no dialogue there will continue to be tension and violence.
Do you think there is a francophonre-anglophone problem?
Cardinal: Not at all, I myself I did everything possible with the permission of my bishop to do everything I could to become bilingual because I wanted to feel at home anywhere in Cameroon.
Will you accept to be a member of a commission that could be set up in Cameroon for dialogue?
Cardinal: If people want me to be a member, why not? It is not a political or civil responsibility.
What is your message to the Anglophone Community?
Cardinal: We should avoid violence at all cost and they should continue to call for dialogue. No problem has ever been solved by violence and I am old enough to know it and say it.