What to a Marginalized, Suffering, and Homeless Anglophone is the meaning of May 20

The Colbert Factor

This reflection is inspired by the fact that Cameroonians are this week celebrating national unity day. While others are calling simply for deep reflection following the escalation of violent extremism in the English speaking parts of Cameroon that threaten the very foundations of national unity, others seem so insensitive to the point that they are just interested in celebrations, that is, wining and dining, in the pure sense of it. This, on grounds that what unites Cameroonians is more important that what divides them and also that; there is nothing wrong with Cameroon that cannot be corrected with what is right with it.

It is the more informed by the fact that while only a year ago, Anglophone activists were simply insisting that Cameroon must celebrate its diversity, the government in Yaounde was insisting and, at the top of their voices, that Cameroon had since become a homogeneous society given that we have simply become Cameroonian, no Anglophone, no Francophone.

It is also inspired by the fact that although government has since moved from denial to acceptance of the existence of an Anglophone Problem, the denial and reluctance to accept dialogue on the form of State as a sure solution to the crisis since led to violent extremism and consequently, killings on both sides with no end in sight. Such escalation in violence which has resulted in many wounded and others fleeing the homes, defeats the very purpose and significance of May 20 celebrations.
As a kid, I looked forward to every May 20. For me, it was all about campfire, the eating of ‘benye’ or puffpuff, sugar cane and assorted sweeties. For me, 20th May was all about travelling from Muteff, the local village kaleidoscope, to Fundong, Divisional headquarters, matching past top administrative authorities and meeting new friends. I was as unreflective about the meaning of this national day as anyone could possibly be.
Consequently, just as I remember where I was when I learned of the resignation of President AmadouAhidjo and the swearing-in of his constitutional successor, incumbent President Paul BIYA, so too do I remember where I was and what I was doing when the first opposition political party, SDF, was launched with the primary objective of righting the wrongs of the Yaoundé regime on Cameroonians in general and Anglophones in particular.
Now I have come of age. I have heard and read a lot about May 20, 1972. Since that reading, I have never thought of May 20 in the same light. To me, this national holiday is more of a day for reflection rather than a day for celebration. Reflection on how far we, as a country and people have come, and where we must now go.
I need not enter further into the events that led to the putting in place of May 20 as a national day. Many of you readers understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in that regard. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your humble writer. Suffice to say that the causes which led to the controversy in Foumban in 1972 that led to May 20 as our national day, have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in schools, from primary to university. They have been narrated at your firesides, unfolded from your protest marches, and thundered from newspaper rooms and newsstands. They are as familiar to you reading me now as household words. They form the staple of your national poetry and eloquence.
So, what to a marginalized, suffering and homeless Anglophone is May 20? May 20 to many an Anglophone is the day they lost their identity as a people and have been struggling tooth and nail since 2016, to reassert it. It is the day their claim to a federated state was lost. To a marginalized Anglophone May 20 is the day Anglophones in Cameroon were abused, marginalized and their cultural identity erased.
Arrested, detained and later released Ayah Paul Abine, while arguing that since no people are stateless, and since Anglophones have no option at moment, they should continue to celebrate May 20. But that the greater Cameroon should not see in Anglophones joining in the celebrations the fact that Southern Cameroons was not raped, for as he puts it, the fact that somebody reaches ecstasy or orgasm during rape does not obliterate the act of rape.
Nwachang Thomas, the dissident researcher and historian argues that 20th May 1972 was an invention to replace the treaty which the Republic of Cameroun did not sign with Britain on Southern Cameroons, just like Britain signed with China over Hong Kong. To Nwachang, when Yaoundé authorities painfully found out that without a treaty, the Union with Southern Cameroons was illegal, they improvised the Referandum to justify that in spite of no treaty, Southern Cameroonians voted in a referendum to join La Republique.
The dissident researcher and historian concludes that the inescapable challenge for Yaoundé authorities is to explain whether it was 1st October 1961 that was Independence and Reunification Day or May 20, 1972, that was referendum and reunification day, or both. He wonders why after indoctrinating our children in primary and secondary schools with such history, the government still went ahead in 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Reunification in Buea, where President Paul Biya recognized Buea, as once the capital of both Southern Cameroons and German Kameroun.
To an Anglophone therefore, May 20 can only mean marginalization, suffering, extra-judicial killings, maiming, poor infrastructural development, second class citizenship and political subjugation.

That was the Muteff Boy’s take.

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