Contributed by Nkafu Gabriel
In our last article on the Cameroon Major National Dialogue, we profiled the eight commissions where all the deliberations happened and in this article, we discuss some of these key deliberations.
We begin with the Commission on Decentralization and local development where the deliberations were most intense. Before the dialogue, many had hoped that a commission will be setup to look at the form of the state. That was not the case and thus, they thought this was the commission where they could have such discussions. The core issues that were discussed in this commission were Effective decentralization and Federalism.
It was reported that almost every Anglophone in the commission stood for federalism irrespective of their political parties. It was surprising to many to see Anglophone CPDM frontline militants argue and hit the table to defend their stance for federalism. However, their francophone brothers had a different opinion. To them, effective decentralization was all the country needed.
Discussions even got more heated and the chair of the commission tried to restrict discussions to decentralization alone as renowned Historian and Writer Prof. Victor Julius Ngoh wrote “It is hot in the Decentralization Committee. The Chair of the committee has been trying to restrict on discussion of decentralization. It got to a point where some Anglophones especially Agbor Balla threatened to walk out and Minister Garga met me outside and we talked to him and we came back and zeroed in on federalism. Several members are on federalism and don’t want the chair to derail the point”
Talking about Bar. Agbor Balla, his stance was clear, he wanted a federation. “We cannot leave here without looking at the form of the state. We believe in a one and indivisible Cameroon but decentralization will not solve the problem, we have to get to a federation. Some of us have put our reputation on the line to be here. I am not imposing but we have to ensure that this problem is solved.” Bar. Agbor Balla said.
Some persons even walked out before deliberations began. According to Bar. Akere Muna, he walked out because he noticed everything was staged and discussions on the form of state were not allowed.
For three days, over 400 Cameroonians deliberated in this commission and finally settled on a Special Status to be granted the North West and South West regions. However, the content of this special status was not defined. It was also agreed that regions, divisions and councils be given more autonomy to elect their leaders and manage their affairs by themselves.
At the Educational system Commission, deliberations were focused on upholding the unique and rich angloxazon system of education that many had decried its adulteration. Reacting after deliberations, the minister of higher education and Chancellor of Academic orders, Prof. Jacque Fame Ndongo said his ministry has always done its best to uphold the angloxazon system of education and cited public exams where Anglophones have been given equal opportunities. The commission finally resolved that educational reforms should recognize the specificities and uniqueness of the two sub systems.
At the Judicial System commission, members agreed that the Common Law Section of the Supreme Court be upgraded into a full flesh legal bench. This was one of the things that Common Law Lawyers had clamored for years. Members also agreed that all legal documents should be translated into both languages. The members also proposed that rather than going to Nigeria for training, a Law School should be opened in Cameroon for the training of lawyers and legal practitioners. And then, there was the issue of sending Judges who do not master the English language to the North West and South west regions. Members deliberated and agreed that mastery of language should be taken into consideration when appointing judges.
At the commission for the return of Internally Displaced Persons and refugees, most of the members reacting after deliberations said discussions were free and fair. Members suggested that for IDPs and refugees to return, all arrested in connection with the crisis should be freed.
Deliberations were also intense at the Role of the diaspora in the crisis and contribution to the country’s development Commission. Some members of the Diaspora present at the MND complained of not being allowed to participate in drawing up the structure of the dialogue. A core issued here was Dual nationality and after several deliberations, it was agreed that dual nationality be granted to Cameroonians living abroad. They also proposed that a Ministry for the Diaspora be created.
At the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Commission, members had enormous deliberation on how to disarm combatants and reintegrate them into the rehabilitation centers. Some ex-combatants who participated in the dialogue also joined the commission to propose strategies on how their peers who are still in the bushes could be made to lay down their arms as well. Most of the ex-combatants complained of not receiving adequate care at the DDR centers, stressing on poor feeding and lack of clothes. More interestingly, over 30 more combatants dropped their weapons and joined the dialogue process. According to Dr. George Ewane, Spokesperson of the MND, it was one of the landmark achievements recorded by the dialogue.
Members of the bilingualism commission kicked off deliberations like in every other commission on October 1 with the full knowledge that the task they had was a daunting one; a task of coming up with strategies to ensure that both official languages coexist together with non absorbing the other. This was more important because Anglophone have always decried the second fiddle position attributed to the English language. After three days of heated deliberations, the men and women in this commission recommended that both languages be used in all areas of national life and all official documents be translated into both languages.
At the commission in charge of Reconstruction and development of areas affected by crisis, the key proposal was that destroyed areas including burnt villages, hospitals, and markets should be reconstructed. A major contribution of 2.7 million FCFA was donated by the Diaspora for the realization of this purpose.
The Major National Dialogue has come and gone but normalcy is still expected in the North West and South West regions. Many like His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi who participated in the process are hopeful that the recommendations, if well implemented, will go a long way in solving the Anglophone crisis. However, to the likes of Kah Walla and many others who boycotted the process, it was a monologue and the recommendations cannot solve the problem. Well, only time will tell.