Cameroon: Startling Revelations following the killing of Six Defenseless Kumba School Kids
This reflection is inspired by the fact that although the unspeakable killing of the six defenceless school kids in Kumba originally sparked national and international outrage, prompting global anger and condemnation that never again should such a thing be allowed to happen under the sun, it seems disturbing that no sooner was the outrage and condemnation expressed than the killings are simply becoming part of the statistics as the blame game over which of the parties in conflict committed the abomination continues.
It is the more informed by the fact that although the despicable incident is now looking like a new normal in the four-year prolonged conflict over who owns the land and people in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons, it has nevertheless brought back to the forefront of public consciousness long-drawn disputes, which in the first place have been at the origin of the current deadly conflict, over the symbols of statehood in the Cameroons.
It is also inspired by the fact that the only way Cameroon as a nation, and Cameroonians as individuals, however they conceive the country to be, can pay homage and honour to the memory of these six innocent and defenceless Kumba, School kids would be by sitting around the table and not only putting a definitive end to such a senseless conflict, but also agreeing on remodelling or redesigning the symbols of statehood as out of the 10 symbols that define Cameroon, nine have been in dispute and at the very origin of social unrest, for quite some time now.
Come to think of it: Princess, Telma, Cindi, Jennifer, Remma, Victory, and others, could have as well been your child(ren). For no fault or crime of theirs, they are brutally mowed down by yet to be identified gunmen. And this because someone somewhere has not done his/her own assignment. The unspeakable nature of this international war crime was more than compounded by the fact that unlike other similar incidences since the outbreak of this conflict which took place on the way to or from school, October 24 Kumba town incident happened inside the classroom where the innocent children were armed only with their books, pens, pencils and rulers, ready to drink from the fountain of the kind of knowledge that overcomes ignorance and bestiality.
If the piecing together of the details leading up to the incident of October 24, 2020, were anything to go by, to the effect that some none-state-actors had prior to the incident questioned the school authorities on the visible presence of a Cameroon flag on campus, which flag is a powerful symbol of statehood, then the one sure way to pay tribute to these innocent kids would be to quickly work towards resolving the long-standing disputes over the country's symbols of statehood.
In the case of the Republic of Cameroon where the UN Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons decided in 1961 to become independent by joining the greater union, the symbols of statehood had remained: 1) the Country's name; 2) the National Anthem; 3) the National Colours (flag); 4) the Coat of Arms; 5) the Seal; 6) the Motto; 7) the Official languages; 8) the National Day, 9) the Currency and, 10) the International (ISD) telephone dial code.
Although there has over the years and, especially with the outbreak of the minority Southern Cameroons conflict, been real discussions and anger over the representativeness or not of symbols of statehood in the coming together of the otherwise two Cameroons, things were again quickly brought to the forefront of public consciousness following the ruthless and merciless killing of the six innocent school going children in Kumba.
Beginning from the protesting women and youths in Bamenda who first despised the Divisional Officer for Bamenda II and later refused to sing the national anthem on the instructions of Governor Lele l’Afrique, through the protesting women and youths in Buea who jeered at Governor Okalia Bilai for suggesting they knew the killers of the innocent kids in Kumba, to the prophetic voice of the woman in Kumba who issued an objection to Minister Paul Nji Atanga, leader of the intermenstrual delegation for authoritatively affirming that 87 years President Biya's authority came from God and that whosoever defied that authority was cursed by God.
If one were to start with the first assumption that before the fateful Kumba killings on October 24, some 'boys' had pressed the school authorities at the Mother Theresa International School in Kumba over the visible presence of the country's flag, a symbol adopted in 1975 after the two-star flag of 1961 was abolished, it only goes to demonstrate in triumphant details that the flag is in dispute and that common sense requires that a referendum be organized, as has obtained in other countries, to clarify the sticky issues at stake. Needless to remind ourselves that the one star on the present flag has over the years been a real source of division rather than unity, even as the star lying on the yellow is referred to as the 'star of unity'. Regrettably, the dispute over the swallowing up of the one star by another soon led to competing flags with as many stars as one would imagine, as if to say if the Cameroon government was stingy with stars, theirs were not in short supply.
As stated earlier, the refusal of Bamenda protesting mothers to sing the Cameroon national anthem after the killing of the Kumba, kids was a marker of the fact that the national anthem had for quite some time ceased to be the rallying song or 'chant de raillement', as it no longer symbolizes the dreams and aspirations of Cameroonians as citizens of an independent Republic. It was forcefully a protest and disapproval of the fact that current leaders of this country have failed in what they have done and in what they have failed to do, to harness the sacrifices of the nation's forefathers as they have not delivered on the pledge to restore the peace and unity of the country for ages to come. Oh, cry our beloved Cameroon, 'thou cradle of our fathers'. If our leaders had respected the pledge made since independence and reunification to restore the peace and unity of the country for ages to come, Princess, Telma, Cindy, Jenifer, Remma, Victory, and others, couldn't have lost their lives in such reckless abandon.
A deeper of the startling revelations following on the demise of the Kumba School Kids is the brutal fact that even the one man, President Paul Biya who incarnates all the other symbols of statehood, is himself in dispute. This fact was brought out in triumphant detail by his Interior Minister, Mr. Atanga Nji, who on a first of a series of condolence visits to Kumba had taken a good chunk of his time to preach on the necessity for Cameroonians to understand that the President's authority, beyond being conferred on him by the Cameroonian people, came directly from God and so shouldn't be questioned, not even by the woman of God who saw in that message an unbearable dose of provocation and blasphemy towards the God she diligently worships and hopes to live or die in him with neither fear nor fervor.
Hear Minister Atanga Nji quoting from Romans 13:1-5: “Everyone must obey the state authorities because no authority exists without God's permission, and the existing authority have been put there by God. Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God had ordered; and anyone who does so will bring judgement on himself. For rulers are not to be feared by those who do good, but by those who do evil. Would you like to be unafraid of those in authority? Then, do what is good and they would praise you because they are God's servants working for your own good. But if you do evil, then be afraid of them, because their power to punish is real. They are God's servants and carry out God's punishment on those who do evil. For this reason, you must obey the authorities-not just because of God's punishment, but also as a matter of conscience”.
And many are those in this part of the country whose consciences tell them that the name of this country, which is also a symbol of statehood is not all-inclusive and all- englobing. They believe, and with God on their side, that a more encompassing name as a symbol of statehood for Cameroon would have either been United Republic of Cameroon as obtained prior to 1984 or Federal Republic of Cameroon as obtained prior to 1972. And since there is no short supply of historical arguments and facts as to a return to such nomenclature, frustrations since set in and the more radical thinkers and activists took flight to the Republic of Ambazonia, now still a state of statelessness, but with a shot at independence.
The same could be said of other symbols of state that continue to be in dispute like the motto, official languages, the national day, and of course, the CFA F currency. Why would, say the motto of the country, be 'Peace, Work, Fatherland', rather than
'Fatherland, Work, Peace', given that it is only love for fatherland that makes citizens work for the progress of their country with peace being a natural result of love for fatherland and hard work without seeking to ask what the country has done for one?
Back to the basics: that the fundamental symbols of statehood such as the name of the country, the national anthem, the national day and the national flag or rallying song are in dispute to the extent that some citizens decide to take up arms against the state and, in the process putting in harm's way the lives of thousands of innocent civilians without the internationally recognized government doing something substantial to address the root causes of the malaise can only go a long way to fertilize the germs and theories of a failed state.
The ineffectiveness of government over the years to rally Cameroonians around the symbols of state and today maintain control over territories it claims to own remains problematic and raises the central issue of statehood. As De Visscher has noted: “L(es) effectivites tiennent une place de premier plan dans la theorie de la personalite des Etats et par consequant, dans les conditions d' etablissement de l'ordre Etatique”.
The reasoning here is that, either by commission or omission, the government of Cameroon is responsible for the death of the six defenceless Kumba School Kids, and if the school and affected families were to take the government to court for failing to ensure the security they promised at the beginning of the school year, it would have to pay dearly in much the same way the Banjul Court ordered it to compensate CPDM militants whose properties were destroyed in Bamenda in the aftermath of the1992 presidential election as militants insisted they relied on government's promise of security before risking to go out to vote for President Biya.
And since by international law, a country can only claim independence or control over its territories if it possesses 'la capacitée réele d'exercer toutes les fonctions Etatiques, y compris le maintien de l'ordre et de la securitée a l'interieur, et l'execution des engagements extérieurs', the management by the government of Cameroon of the conflict in the UN Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons raises more questions than provides answers.
I drink Nantang Yoh that just like the Soweto massacre of school children in 1976 and the Ngarbuh killings on February 14, 2020, the last word has not been heard on the Kumba School Kids massacre of October 24, 2020.
Colbert Fulai Gwain who also goes by the name The Muteff Boy, is Executive Director of The Colbert Factor.