Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Preparing an Exam under Gunshots: My Experience with Inter-tribal War

That day was February 13, 2007; a day my memory has deliberately decided never to divorce with.  It was just two days after we had celebrated Cameroon’s National Youth Day on 11 February in total joy and tranquillity. One day after the Youth Day celebration, some women from our village went to their farms around Ibal-Ansang, Ansang, Adongtang and Ambikui’i. They were suddenly attacked by some armed young men from our neighbouring village, Oku, which has been laying claims over portions of one of most fertile forests in that area since 1892. The reckless young men chased our women, collected their farming tools such as hoes and machetes and set their farm huts (known in Mbesa as mentoa ma gveinse) ablaze. There were a few skirmishes here and there that day, but our women felt somehow unsafe without our men so they decided to return home and keep the latter informed. The young men from the other village also went home and rallied their men and women. Men and women from both villages met at the fighting field early on February 13, and began by exchanging insults which forced tempers in both camps to mount until a man in our opponents’ camp pulled the trigger of the gun whose shot roared across our village that day.
For the next three weeks or so, thunderous gunshots kept yelling across the skies of our village. Locally-made and imported guns alike continued to mess our airs with galaxies of smoke, as we locked horns with our neighbours in fierce, bloody battles. Our adversaries soon discovered that their gunshots were always lousy because they persistently missed their human targets. They then resorted to bringing down our corn farms with well-filed machetes, setting countless houses—both grass-thatched and zinc-roofed houses—ablaze, looting our animals and other valuables such as aluminium roofing sheets, sofas, carved wooden chairs, sewing machines, among others.
In the midst of all this chaos, schools were still operational in our village. My classmates and I were in Form Five that year (fifth grade in secondary school), preparing to write the Cameroon General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE O Level). Our classes were disrupted every now and then as some villagers fleeing the escalating intertribal war to neighbouring villages like Akeh and Ajung sometimes ran through our school campus at Government Secondary School (GSS) Mbesa.  I still remember one father, Babe Simon Feyufe alias Takekuf who narrowly escaped bullets from the enemies’ camp, fled out of his Ntimati compound, ran through Asuh and Adom, and found himself right inside our school campus, and could never explain when and how he ran up the Fetatinyim hills below the school campus at Ibal. Mr Chia Philip Yemeh, one of my teachers then, and I helped remove a bullet from the skin of his head! The war kept on heightening as days went by, with many women and children escaping with some of their most valuable belongings to neighbouring villages and safer quarters of Mbesa like Njinagwa. However, in spite of the huge numbers of our people fleeing the conflict, my friends and I in school did not seem to be much affected. One day, while people were escaping other parts of the village through our school football pitch to hide in Njinagwa and Akeh, I peeped through one of the windows of our class and saw Ba’a Manga’a, walking slowly across the field with his third leg, his walking stick. That is when I cried out to my classmates that the war had reached its peak because old Ba’a Manga’a was believed to be a very strong man in terms of traditional medicine who could not run away from whatever form of threat. We had been told as toddlers that when war broke out for the first time between our two tribes in 1982 he did not run. He only hid himself along the banks of one small stream near his compound; then some men from the enemy camp searched, found and inflicted numerous wounds with machetes all over his body. When our people discovered him beside that stream, it was days after the incidence and his wounds were already rotting. So nobody believed he could live again, but he surprised everybody as he healed himself and survived the almost-incurable wounds. So I could not see him fleeing danger and I dare stay!
Three of my classmates, Cornelius Ngum Ngong aka Jagua, Liberty Songang Nshom aka Song and Conrad Guo Nsom, and I decided immediately to escape to Fundong, the headquarters of our division and personally narrate our ordeal to the Senior Divisional Officer (SDO) and the Divisional Delegate for Secondary Education in Boyo Division. All other students and teachers in our school took to their heels, prematurely ending classes.  We passed through my family compound at Njinagwa where we took along some women and kids to hide at Laikom (the Kom Fon’s Palace) on our way down to Fundong. As we took the Laikom direction, others fled to Akeh and Ajung. It took us more than six hours of trekking—climbing and descending hills and walking across the Ijim Mountain Forest and Plain with children fastened on our backs and heavy loads on our heads—to reach Laikom.
When we arrived at Laikom, we met many other Mbesa refugees already lodged at the Guest House of the Palace, mainly old women, nursing mothers and children. There was no mediatisation of our refugee status and conditions, probably because we were victims of an intertribal war, which for some is not a major conflict. But, don’t we know that conflict is conflict? Another reason for the absence of mediatisation is that as soon as the war broke out I called the CRTV severally and in vain. I would call and inform them that there was an on-going and escalating war between our two villages. And they would not send any journalist on the field and would equally not inform the public. Perhaps the CRTV did not want to react because our village does not have big people in government and again because our adversaries initially thought they would give us a crushing defeat in the war. But once they noticed that things were getting sourer and sourer on their side, our adversaries quickly informed the CRTV and it reacted promptly. Before doing so, they had attempted to kill our brothers and sisters who were in Government High School (GHS) Ilak-Oku, since we did not yet have a high in our village by then. Thank God that the Divisional Officer for Oku Subdivision and his gendarmerie company commander came to their rescue and before the end of that year GSS Mbesa was raised by the government to Government High School (GHS) Mbesa!
Given my status as a Mbesa prince, we entered Laikom from a special backdoor where only princes and princesses are allowed to pass when they want to meet the Fon (traditional ruler) of Kom. We narrated everything to the Fon who had begun receiving other Mbesa refugees since morning. And when we brought in all the refugees to him, he became emotionally upset at the sight of trembling old women, nursing mothers and children who have walked all the way through the extensive and dangerous Ijim Mountain Forest. The Fon quickly walked down memory lane, recalling similar situations involving land grabbing from Oku in Mbesa in 1982 and 1988. As the Paramount Fon for Boyo Division, the Fon, His Royal Highness Foyn Vincent Yuh II, cursed the Oku and vowed before us that never again in life should a Boyo (Kom) man have something to do with an Oku man. That Oku has given Mbesa enough of their trouble and it was time to publicly declare them enemies of Boyo Division. He ordered for two cocks to be slaughtered and cooked with some corn fufu for us. He served some of us drinks, especially palm wine and we stayed in his company and continued to lament the deplorable state of affairs back in Mbesa. Arrangements were made for some of the Fon’s many wives to accommodate those refugees who would not have space in the already-full Palace Gest House. My classmates and I spent one night there.
The next day, we took off very early in the morning for Fundong to meet the SDO and the Delegate. We trekked for about two hours and when we reached Fundong, we were told the SDO had gone up to meet with the SDO for Bui Division (where Oku belongs) at Mbesa via Belo the previous day while the Delegate was out of town. What a disappointment for us! We felt cheated by fate! Nevertheless, we understood that the presence of the two SDOs in the village meant things will soon return to normal. Back at Laikom, we further learned that some people had arrived from Mbesa just after we left to announce that the two SDOs have come to Mbesa with some gendarmes and things were somehow calming down. So we took some of the refugees with us and a few belongings and returned to Mbesa to gauge the situation before sending word to others to return too. The following day, nearly every refugee was back in the village, but the heavy presence if gendarmes did not only create an atmosphere of unease but was also unable to keep things totally under control.
Despite the presence of the gendarmes from Boyo and Bui, the conflict persisted and the North West Regional Governor deployed two trucks of gendarmes to Mbesa, and not in Oku, because the Oku come and fight over our land right inside our village. The gendarmes however were overtaken by the bloody nature of the intertribal war and the dexterity with which our people handled guns and were crushing our enemies. Some of our women were even more active in the war than men; a woman would run after and catch an enemy or pull away a wounded or killed one. Some of them were shot at, but only a few bullets would penetrate parts of their bodies. Then they would stop, squeeze out the bullets and continue fighting to the grand surprise of the armed forces who on their part were falling down to avoid stray and targeted bullets from the Oku.  But fortunately for us, no Mbesa person was killed; only a few people sustained heavy injuries. This frightened the gendarmes and surprised the villagers more and more!  
The year 2007 marked the fifth year of my part time photography job which was helping me meet some of my school needs. One day, the Divisional Officer (DO) for Belo Subdivision Patrick Pelopo wanted to visit the battle fields around Ibal-a-Nsang and invited me to come along with him as a photographer. While taking photographs of his tour of the battlefields, we picked some bullets from the enemy camp and the DO identified them as military bullets. He noted that in his book and promised to send his report to hierarchy so that the Oku should explain to the government where they were getting military bullets from. The story however just ended like that and we were not surprised because we know that there are numerous sons and daughters of Oku occupying top military and penitentiary positions in Cameroon, including at the time a regional governor and a minister of state! Given the chronic corruption and tribalism that has eaten deep into the fabrics of national life in Cameroon, it could not surprise anybody that our adversaries were exercising the law of might is right. Some of their people we shot and identified in the war were uniformed people currently in service. This, particularly the strong presence and influence of our enemies in government, also explains why since 1982, our government has not been able to render us justice in the land dispute in question.
Sometime in April there was an exponential increase in the number of daily gunshots in the village. This made it impossible for us to concentrate and study for upcoming our GCE exam in June that year, 2007. This really disturbed and traumatised some us. Some of my friends and I who were residing at Itinikum for daily evening prep classes at the St Agnes Catholic Parish Mission premises gathered in Jagua’s room to ponder our fate and decide what to do in order to continue preparing for the fast-approaching GCE exam. It was a very sad moment of our lives as students, in an examination class for that matter! It was a veritable mourning mood for us! So we decided to immortalise it in a photograph.
With my mates in mourning mood, Credit: Nsah                                   Nsah and Nshom studying at Njinagwa, Credit: Nsah
  Thereafter, I suggested and Jagua and Song agreed that we escape to the calm plains of the Ijim Mountain Forest and find shelter among the cattle Fulani (Bororo) there where we could study well for the exam. Once the three of us agreed on the suggestion, we set off for Ardo Musa’s compound at Ijim on the road to Fundong, passing through my native quarter of Njinagwa. We were on the move again, just like many other people in the village. Given that Ardo Musa had been my father’s friend and later on my own friend, he warmly received us, offered us a spare room in one of his numerous houses where were staying and studying. He also offered us two brand new blankets and instructed his three wives to serve us food whenever we needed to eat. We spent about one week there. Sometimes we studied in our room and sometimes we went out and laid to study on the soft, green, carpet-like, cattle-pasture grass around his compound. From time to time, we would come to the hills above Mbesa and listened to the roaring gunshots from the battlefields. Sometimes, we would come down to Njinagwa to find out if our people were all safe and whether or not the war was getting over.
The armed conflict soon subsided thanks to the continuous deployment of armed gendarme officers.  We left Ijim, came down to the village and resumed our classes just like any other pupil or student and teacher. Makeshift classrooms were rapidly built for the primary school pupils of the Catholic Mission Primary School (CS) at Ntimati because the enemies had burnt down the church and other buildings that were hosting their school until that time. At Government Primary School Fetongle, a new Cameroon national flag was bought because the same enemies had torn the one they met hoisted in the school campus when both teachers and pupils had fled for their dear lives the day the enemies used petrol and matches to set more than 300 Mbesa houses ablaze! Our enemies were lawless troublemakers who did not respect any restricted areas at wartime! Theirs was more or less of guerrilla warfare, with much focus on the looting and destruction of property given that they could not shot any of us to death because that piece of land rightfully belongs to us. Does the Bible not say that, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free?”
By the time we were writing the GCE examination that year, a majority of the armed gendarmes were no longer in the village since the war had considerably subsided. But two gendarme officers were instructed to secure all students writing the GCE in the lone accommodation centre of the village at GSS Mbesa. The presence of these uniformed officers, though to our advantage, also kept some students in a state of uneasiness. Some people naturally fear the gun and people in uniform! On the day we finished writing the exam, in my capacity as our school senior prefect, I was assigned to carry the sealed carton containing the written scripts to our school principal’s private residence, at Fetongle, from where his Toyota land rover would transport the scripts to the GCE Board regional office in Bamenda town. When I carried the carton, I was accompanies by the GCE Board-send Superintendent, our school Principal and some discipline masters and the two gendarme officers. I also decided to immortalize this occasion in photographs.

Two gendarmes and others at GSS Mbesa, Credit: Nsah                          Nsah carrying GCE scripts in middle, Credit: Nsah

I wrote eleven papers in the GCE Ordinary Level that year. When I was registering for the eleven papers in September 2006 I was sure of obtaining eleven ‘A’ grades in the exam. However, once war broke out on February 12, 2007, my hopes started oscillating.  I however remained optimistic and hardworking despite the chaos caused by the war. In spite of our numerous displacements and interruptions of lessons, when the GCE results were proclaimed in August that year, I still did well in the exam; I passed in all my eleven papers, scoring a total of 25/33 points. I hope no one will ask me where the other eight points went to. The obvious answer is in the war. Then how would one expect me to forget such experiences?

Nsah, Ngong and other friends celebrating tGCE success in a palm wine parlour in Santa, Credit: Nsah                                                                   
By February 2016, exactly nine years after the third phase of this war erupted, things had not yet completely returned to normal. After 2007, the Mbesa people took the issue to the Bamenda High Court and till date there has never been a hearing, only adjournments after adjournments! And there have been occasional, light confrontations between the two villages. This got heightened in February 2016 to the extent that about three hundred Mbesa women decided to stage a trekking but peaceful protest from Mbesa to the Regional Governor’s Office in Bamenda. These women, accompanied by our village Fon His Royal Highness Foyn Gilbert Njong III, trekked a distance of close to 100 kilometres in two days, without any sleep, from Mbesa through Belo to Big Banbanki (Kijem-Keku) en route to Bamenda town to meet the Governor. The Fon of Big Babanki, noticed the marching women and out of pity and concern for their security—as they were heading towards uninhabited parts  of his village at night en route to Bamenda via Bambui, pleaded with them to spend a night in his palace. The women hesitated but finally agreed and he ordered enough food to be cooked by his many wives and servants and served to the Mbesa women. He also informed the Governor of the situation and the latter finally came over to Babanki, met and discussed with the women. He listened to their cries for an end to be put to the persistent attacks they have been receiving from their Oku brothers and sisters since 1982 so that peace may reign. The Governor listened to them and promised to visit the disputed area in Mbesa within two weeks. He ordered the SDOs for Boyo and Bui, Dos for Belo and Oku and Paramount Fons for Boyo and Bui to organise peace consultation visits with the Fons of Oku and Mbesa in view of finding lasting solutions to this age old conflict between two brotherly villages. The visits were organised accordingly. Although close to two months afterward, he finally came to Mbesa accompanied by the SDOs and Paramount Fons of Boyo and Bui as well as the DOs of Belo and Oku for an on-the-spot evaluation of the problem. But unfortunately, no agreement was reached in the presence of the Governor whose intention was to demarcate the boundary between these two communities once and for all. The Oku continued to lay claim to Mbesa land, violating all boundary pillars that have been erected between us since 1988. The Governor could not proceed amidst such behaviour. So he left with the two conflicting maps that the two communities had presented to him, promising to come back in the nearest future once he has studied the maps in order to indicate the right boundary. Since then, visits have been intensified between our two Fons, with each of the two Fons now having set foot in the palace of the other after more than 30 years of no visits! We only hope and pray that lasting peace will reign between us in the days ahead!
While we hope that this conflict comes to an eternal end, I would like to conclude here with some of the numerous lessons I have learned from it so far, especially since 2007. War is not good and we should all fight to end war, including terrorism. War affects all aspects our lives: it causes deaths, destroys property, injures people and causes unwanted displacements; it contributes to poor performance in education, among other effects. There are many internal refugees due to intertribal wars in Cameroon and elsewhere whose voices are often neglected as global attention is focused on crises like those of Syria, the Central African Republic and terrorist activities like those of Boko Haram and ISIS (see my publication in Stories for Humanities: FrontieresWalls, 2016). Women and children suffer a lot from armed conflicts and women have a great potential to ending conflicts. The Trekking protest staged by Mbesa women has sparked off many positive actions which are most likely going to bring an end to the Mbesa-Oku land dispute. My personal experience with war has increased my love for humanity as can be seen in my writings and commitment to world humanitarian activities. I have written on why continuous production of arms brings about war, on the Syrian war, on the Mbesa-Oku war, on illegal immigration, to name but these. I am a digital advocate of the World Humanitarian Submit and an online volunteer at World Pulse where I have joined global female leaders in solving global problems such as ending war and hunger. I am also a Focal Point at the World Youth Foundation and a Fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiatives (YALI) Regional Leadership Center (RLC) West Africa Dakar 2016, currently working to legalise my NGO which aims at empowering vulnerable people, promoting innovative education and combating clandestine immigration in Africa. Above all, I want to preach peace wherever I go in the world!
© 05 August 2016, Nsah Mala (Kenneth Toah Nsah)

Saturday, 6 June 2015

A Review of Bites of Insanity by Dr Yvonne Ngwa

An accession to a higher rung of the ladder of social criticism, Bites of Insanity portrays its author as a topical writer who beholds and ponders on the contemporary occurrences of his society and of the world at large. In 57 poems, subdivided into 10 different parts, Nsah Mala variously gazes at the negative and the positive in his society. The nascent Mbesa bard lambasts power abuse in a society that could be his but is also a prototype of any African nation; decries the lost glory of the African tradition sacrificed at the altar of ingratiation and materialism; makes a wry commentary on the insalubrities of the capital city of Cameroon; satirises the uninformed Cameroonian’s ignorance that exposes him/her to the lethal blows of malaria (cholera and other diseases); deplores the ambient ecological destruction, man’s moral depravity as well as depicts human frailty in the face of accidents and deaths.
Though virulent in his representation of these ills, the poet has obviously not given up on humankind. Hence, he enjoins society to value relationships; he also celebrates the people who positively impacted his life, and hails successes achieved and creativity. New-Age Muse or End-Time Literary Prophet? Nsah Mala resorts to a rich repertoire of poetic devices, vivid description, wacky terms, dark humour, and scatology—among others—to raise critical issues about modern man’s condition. After Chaining Freedom, this second collection of poems progressively establishes this budding writer.

Yvonne I. NGWA, PhD

Lecturer, ENS Yaoundé

Visit the following link to grap a copy:


I don’t want to be
I just want to be

But assured
That any Resident
Can become President;
That any President
Can become Resident.

I don’t envy
Your Presidency;
I do admire
My Residency.

Like the village town crier,
My mission
Is to envision
Freedom for all and sundry
And to uproot all thorns on path to Presidency.

I don’t want to be
I just want to be

But confident
That all Residents
Are embryo Presidents;
That all Presidents
Are egg-shell Residents.

(Bastos, 29 May 2015)

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Republican Parasites (Poem)


In this plantain Republic,
Human parasites and rubbish
Are scattered and spread everywhere
Like wild locusts on green fields.

While we chock in smelly vapours of rotting dirt,
These voracious human parasites are busy sucking
Our banana Republic to anaemic and epileptic levels.
There is no pity in Republican business!

Our national blood is sucked into endless parasitic intestines
As white-agbadaed and black-coated parasitic zombies parade streets,
Preaching country love, exhibiting latest cars, spacious mansions...
Lousily flattering the Boss, they secretly backbite and siphon.

These parasites sprinkle sandy dust on disappearing national cakes
And spread political fog and clouds on eroding national hills
And press thirsty engine saws on whithering national baobabs
And handpick all fresh buds sprouting on quaking national fields.

Land of gory! Land of parasites!
Thou of death and sorrow, our only bar.
Thine demotion, thine be hunger,
And deep embezzlement forever more.

(Mbankolo, February 15, 2015)

Friday, 28 June 2013


My uncle, BabeAmbroseToah, who  was working at CDC Tiku,  told me—or it was guessed at the civil status registry in those days—that I was born in the month of Christmas on the 30th day in nineteen hundred and thirty eight. In those days, our fathers’ memories were mighty libraries that could store as much information as possible, especially facts, figures and dates. But unfortunately enough for me, I barely saw my father. He died when I was just about four years old. Since my father succumbed to death as early as 1942, as I was told too (did I know years and dates by then?), my exact date of birth remained a fertile ground for guess work. But one thing that everybody knew or still knows squarely well about me is my name—Nkainbi Richard Bangsi.
                                             In 1954, sixteen years after my father’s death, I started schooling. I was compelled by circumstances to combine schooling and business in order to provide for my school needs given that my father was no longer there. I was dealing in castor oil. I would buy it in and around Mbesa and export it to British Nigerian markets such as the Onitsha Market. That fetched me fabulous sums of British pounds; pounds because Nigeria and the Southern Cameroons at the time were still administered by Great Britain…
                                             “Richard, you better go to school now.” That was DonatusGwedji advising me. Excuse me, did I say Donatus? No. That is not how I used to call him. I called him “Good Friend” because he was indeed my best and most−trusted friend. Even now, I still call him like that, although I only refer to him now in past tenses. The Lord called him back home before the year 2011.
                                             “I was still thinking about going to school, Good Friend”, I told him while wondering who was going to pay my school fees.
                                             By then Good Friend was in Standard Five in Nkar, in the Nso area. It would appear that he read the verses of disturbance and hesitation on my face like a soothsayer reading cowries on a mysterious mat. Then he explained to me that the colonial authorities in Nigeria had made it clear that education between Infants One and Standard Two was free of charge. That meant that should I start schooling I would only begin to bother about school fees after Standard Two. By that time I would already know how to write my name, at least. I quickly made up my mind to go to school, especially as the idea had come from, or was strongly supported by, a very good friend of mine.
                                             Thank God that the lone school in Mbesa at the time, Catholic School Mbesa, ran from Infants One to Standard Two. I therefore enjoyed free education at the same time with the joy of studying right at home, in my own native village. That gave me the possibility to plan for studies in the senior classes which did not exist in Mbesa. Four years came and passed like a flash of lightning.
                                             Then I left for Djottin, in the Noni area, to enroll in Standard Three on self−sponsorship. I used to earn some money there by doing petty jobs such as clearing farmlands and carrying goods on the head for traders. I still continued the castor oil business while there, but at a minimum level.
                                             When I completed Standard Six, there was nobody to sponsor my studies in secondary school. The needs of secondary education—including fees, books, rents, transport faire to and from the school site, etc.—were far above my limited means now. I gave up all the dreams of going to secondary school. All my attention and aspirations were now shifted towards becoming either a uniform man or a successful and renowned farmer.
                                             I tried in vain on several occasions to be enrolled into the army. And I finally gave up the idea of becoming a soldier. Farming then became an unavoidable path for me to take to the land of success. I then got into farming with my entire mind, soul and strength. That is how I embarked on planting coffee—both the Robusta and Java species—in my compound, in Anyuoeh. I also planted some coffee in my farm at Anda’ang. In all, I planted close to two acres of coffee. And when my coffee wanted or wants to bear, it hits its chest in doing so.  Fully involved in farming the way I did, I have never been ranked among idle fellows in Mbesa. 
                                             In 1969, I decided to find my left missing rib. The search took me down to Njinikom where I found my lovely Theresa Mbu. In strict Roman Catholic tradition, Theresa and I tied the knot of our love on September 17, 1969. That day! I will never ever forget that day. Our wedding was one of the best in Mbesa. It was more than just marvelous, so to speak…
                                             Before the year 1969 ran out, I began my political career. I joined the lone Cameroon National Union (CNU) of Ahidjo in the capacity of Branch Secretary for the Mbesa Branch. Five years later, I became Branch President for that party and stayed in that capacity for long. Later on I became the Subsection President and maintained that position for long too. Presently, I am the Deputy Officer for CPDM Boyo II Section, in Belo.Meanwhile, I keep on playing politics and still occupying many posts of responsibility.
                                             My love for personal development eventually spread like cypress branches into collective development. After all, what does it profit a man if he becomes a millionaire in a poor and inaccessible village?
                                             “They say they need you in the palace on Kfééfèè. Have you heard, Babe Richard?”That was Nawain Susana Jenkuo delivering His Royal Highness Foyn Thomas Toah Njong’s message to me. In Mbesa we address the Fon—Foyn or traditional ruler—as “they” which is an expression of respect. 
                                             In reply I told her: “Yes, I have heard, Nawain Susana. Thank you for bringing the palace message to me. But I hope they need me for something good…”
                                             “Well,” said her, “I suppose it is good, but just go and hear from the palace”.
                                             When I got to the palace, I was told that they have called me to make me the Secretary General of the newly−created Mbesa Traditional Council. I later on occupied the positions of president, vice president and simple member within the same council. Each time I attempted to resign from the council after having served in it for so many years my attempts were foiled. Eventually Foyn Toah got missing—passed away—and Foyn Gilbert K. Njong III was rubbed to replace him. The new ruler too has never allowed me to take leave of that council. I’m however happy, very happy, that I’ve never fought for any post there. All the posts I’ve been holding there have been offered to me.
                                             The development of Mbesa was intricately linked to mine in one way or the other, given the posts I held in that council. That is why I spearheaded the creation of the Mbesa Area Development Association (MADA) between 1963 and 1983. The Mbesa Action Committee (MAC) which was created in 1982 was re−christened Mbesa Area Development Association one year later.  Even before the 1980s, Babe Gwedji Andreas Nshom (alias Ba Malase) and I had already conceived the idea of a development association for our dear village. The first seeds of the association were the Mbesa Social and Development Groups I had created in major quarters of Mbesa before 1982. These groups were formed in the following quarters: Ibal−Ichim, Soalam, Fetongle and Ntoh.
                                             Babe Andreas and I had been sent with some money to DO Geoffrey’s Office in Bamenda in 1963 to negotiate a serious land issue concerning Mbesa and Oku. DO Geoffrey looked into the matter—because we were naturally right in it—, but did not accept the money. We brought back the money and decided with Foyn Toah to use it and construct the Mbesa Inner Palace—the Nsaang. This money had been contributed by all the inhabitants of Mbesa the way Christians contribute offertory in church.  Although the people of Mbesa accused Babe Andreas and me of having embezzled the money, we had brought it back. In fact, Babe Andreas and Foyn Toah had used the money to makeplanks to be used in constructing the Nsaangwithout informing the people of Mbesa. They did this while I was in Limbe at the time. And it was in 1982 that I came back from Limbe, correctedmy friend`s and Foyn`s error and apologized to the people of Mbesaon their behalfbefore proceeding to create the Mbesa Action Committee, MAC. This money was not ours and so we could not use it by any means. The good use of this money in constructing the royal palace taught us the lesson of collectively contributing for the development of our community.  This is how the idea of MADA sprang up and was materialized in 1983. By popular acclamation, I was made pioneer president of MADA.
                                             I served as MADA President General for four years and it was during my reign that MADA realized the Health Centre project. When it was time to hand over the control of the MADA Health Centre to a missionary body, I organized a vote between the Catholics and the Baptists and the Catholics won. That is why that Health Centre is run today as part of the Saint Martin de Pores Catholic Hospital at Njinikom. Thereafter, I was elected MADA treasurer and I held this post for four years too. I was also the Chairman of the Health Centre until it was fully integrated by the Catholics and duly authorized by the state of Cameroon.
                                             In the 1980s, I rose to the highest level in my political career. That was when the Cameroon National Union was transformed into the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) by Paul Biya in the early 80s. I was elected as a CPDM Municipal Councilor for the Fundong Rural Council, in the then Menchum Division, before the creation of Boyo Division. I served in that capacity until when FruNdi’s Social Democratic Front (SDF) won over the love of a greater majority of Mbesa following the events of the early 90s.
                                             When happiness visits you, you must start preparing to receive the sorrow it has come to announce. While I was prospering in politics and making much more money in the 1980s, especially out of my business and farming produce, another sad event added onto my father’s death in my life. This time around, my mother,Nawain Martina NdoasakVitoin, suddenly passed away…
                                             My development tentacles also grew towards the church. Together with people like Babe DonatusGwedjiNgong, Babe Christopher ChimseFinji and others, I worked hard to help the Mbesa Roman Catholic Community to disjoin the Djottin Parish in Noni and to join the Fuli Parish in Kom. Later on, the Archdiocese of Bamenda raised the Mbesa Roman Catholic community to a parish, St Agnes Catholic Parish, Mbesa, in 2002. This was during the reign of late Archbishop Paul Verdzekov of the BamendaArchdiocese. In the same vein, I was the pioneer president of the Roman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission for Mbesa for a period of nine years. Presently, I am an adviser in that very commission.
                                             Seven years after the creation of the parish, the saddest event of my life then occurred. I saw the cold hands of death wrap up my dearest Theresa and put her into the never−satisfied mouth of the earth. She finally surrendered to death after visiting so many hospitals. The story leading up to her death went thus: In 2008, she went to attend a Catholic Women Association meeting at Fuli, Kom, and got sick while there. From Fuli, she went to visit some children of ours who reside in Bamenda and used that occasion to consult in a hospital at Bali. She came back from Bali and the sickness continued thereby making her go for consultation at the Saint Martin de Pores Catholic Hospital, Njinikom, where she wasreferred to the Catholic Hospital in Shisong, Banso. She spent a month in Shisongwhere she underwent a surgical operation. The sickness persisted and she went back to Saint Martin de Pores Hospital where she gave up the ghost on 02 June 2009. She just died like that! However, she left behind twelve children to mourn her and eventually mourn me when my own turn comes to finish my pilgrimage here on earth.  These children, two boys and ten girls, continue to make some traces of joy crisscross the ringlets of old age and sorrow on my forehead. Two of the girls have chosen to serve in the Lord’s vineyard as reverend sisters. The first of them is Bertha Yafi Bangsi, or Reverend Sister Bertha, if you like. And the second of them is Sister Emma ItanghiFebunevi Bangsi.
                                             Will posts of responsibility ever allow me to take a rest? When will I ever go on retirement? May be, only in Heaven, if God does not appoint me there too. You cannot imagine that I’m still serving in that traditional council. The council was recently transformed by the Boyo Senior Divisional Offer into the Mbesa Crown Council. And once more I have been appointeda member of it. After all, I have always felt optimistic and capable of handling all posts assigned to me by whosoever and wherever.
                                             My life, as you can see, has been a busy one. I’ve been working like a waterfall, working for the church, working for the world, working for Mbesa and working for my family and myself. I am, I believe, one of those who are born to serve, and not to be served….
(c) January 2013 Nsah Mala
(I wrote this short story based on an interview I conducted with him (Babe Richard B. Nkainbi) on Monday July 16, 2012.)
Author’s Contacts
Tel: (+237) 7429-1746

                                         BIOGRAPHY FOR BABE NKAINBI RICHARD BANGSI


          The Republic of Cameroon is located between the Central African and the West African sub regions of the African continent. Between January 1st 2010 and October 1st 2011, the country will clock 50 Years of liberation from colonial bondage. On January 1st 1960, the country began her Independence process when the French-speaking part of it, east of the River Mungo, was granted Independence by France under the watchful eyes of the United Nations Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld. This portion of the country adopted the name “La Répulique du Cameroun”, translated into English as The Republic of Cameroon, under Alhadji Ahmadou Babatoura Ahidjo as President. The Independence of the whole territory known today as the Cameroons took a further step on February 11th 1961, when the English-speaking part of the former German Kamerun, West of the Mungo, voted in their majority to acquire Independence by Reunifying with their brothers and sisters from East of the Mungo.
This was during the February 11th Plebiscite of 1961. This decision was concretised on October 1st 1961. This was the day on which the two parts of the country got reunified, to look like what the country was during the German Colonial era known as Kamerun. The two Cameroons thus adopted a new name known as THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF CAMEROON, with Ahidjo as President and J.N.Foncha as Vice-president.
       Today is almost half a century since all these events occurred. The issue at stake is that the country which seemed to be very prosperous shortly after Independence is today paradoxically found amongst some of the worst countries of the world in terms of corruption, poverty and the mismanagement of public funds. This paradox finds an explanation in almost all the basic functional units and circles of the country’s existence such as Politics, Economy, Education, Religion, amongst others. This brings to mind the whole idea of the purpose of this discourse. This work will concentrate on the role of the various Political Party systems in Cameroon since Independence on the present situation of the country.
      In fact, since independence, Cameroon has been fluctuating between Monopartism and Multipartism. Between 1961 and 1966, the country operated on Party Pluralism which ended in 1966 with the formation of the Cameroon National Union (CNU) by President Ahmadou Ahidjo and his close collaborators. Amongst the numerous reasons Ahidjo raised in favour of Mono-party politics, some were valid while others were not. When he plunged the country into this party system, it later on turned out to be “Presidential Absolutism”. This explains why Multi-party politics was reintroduced in the 1990s, though at the price of “bloodshed”. Today Cameroon is standing somewhere between Monopartism and Multipartism as it will be seen later in this essay. In this kind of situation, we need to revisit our past so as to adjust in the present and be able to confront the challenges of the future. In this regard, therefore, this work will focus on the periods 1960/1961 to 1966, 1966 to 1990, and 1990 to Present without failing at any available spot to state how the future of the country should look like.

Multipartism in Cameroon between 1960/1961 to 1966

 When the Federal Republic of Cameroon got full Independence on October 1st 1961, she was placed under Ahmadou Ahidjo as President and J.N.Foncha as Vice-President. These two statesmen had been the brain behind the Federal Constitution for Cameroon which was adopted at Foumban between the 17th and the 21st of July 1961. The Constitution had authorised the functioning of Multipartism in Cameroon at the time. In the State of East Cameroon, which was French-speaking, there were many Political Parties operating, among which one can name the following:  Union Camerounaise (UC) of Ahidjo, Mouvement d’Action Nationale Camerounaise (MANC) of Charles Assalé (Premier of East Cameroon), Parti-Socialiste Camerounaise (PSC) of Charles Okala, Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC)—the legal wing led by Theodore Mayi Matip, Democrats Camerounais (DC) of André-Marie Mbida, Front Nationale Unifié (FNU) formed by Mbida, Okala, Matip and Bebey-Eyidi in 1962, etc. In the State of West Cameroon, politics was orchestrated by political parties such as the Kamerun National Democratic Party (KNDP) of Foncha, the Cameroon People’s National Congress (CPNC) of Dr E. M .L. Endeley, the Cameroon United Congress (CUC) of  Solomon Tandeng Muna, the One Kamerun (OK) of Ndeh  Ntumazah , etc. Although these parties played politics between 1961 and 1966, Ahidjo had begun as early as September 1960 to express his desire for a “Grand National Party” in Cameroon. He began a play with the expressions “Grand National Party” and “Parti Unifié”. In order to make Cameroonian politicians buy his idea, he took them aback in November 1961 when he changed the first expression in favour of a “Parti Unifié”.
        The reasons President Ahidjo and those who supported his One-party idea advanced were varied. To begin with, there was the feeling by Ahidjo that the Monopartism was going to foster national unity amongst Cameroonians. This was because he thought that the various political parties in the country either operated on tribal or regional tendencies. That his UC, for example, was only popular in the Northern parts of the country while Foncha’s KNDP was mainly interested in the affairs of the Bamenda grasslands where it was popular. Thus, Ahidjo argued that the coming together of all Cameroonians under the canopy of a single political party will be a visible step towards the promotion of national unity in the territory. Ahidjo also argued that the one-party scheme was going to put an end to the so many political infightings that were common within the different political parties. Between 1963 and1965, the KNDP of Foncha was shaken by sagas such as the one between Muna and A. N. Jua on the one hand over the post of the Vice-chairman of the party and that between Ekah-Nghaky and E. T. Egbe on the other hand over the post of the Secretary General of the party. Similar to the argument based on national unity, Ahdjo also insisted that the one-party regime was going to promote a spirit of patriotism amongst Cameroonians. Another reason was the fact that Ahidjo wanted to emulate the example of some other newly independent African countries such as Ghana (with the CPP of Nkrumah) and Tanzania (with the TANU of Julius Nyerere) which had adopted the one-party system. Also, in the President’s opinion mono-party politics was going to promote economic growth in the country through the implementation of a common economic policy void of opposition.  However, it became clear, especially after the introduction of Monopartism in 1966, that Ahidjo had used it as a means of consolidating his stay in power. This was because he felt threatened in his position as President by some influential Cameroonian politicians such as Foncha, Jua, Muna, Assalé, Okala, etc. He was afraid that some political parties could form a coalition in the event of any presidential election in the country and will succeed to outdo him. Thus, with a single political party under his command as the party chairman, he was going to remain the “natural candidate” of the party in the event of any election.
     Motivated by such factors and/or reasons, Ahidjo embarked on the use of a variety of strategies to bury Multipartism in Cameroon. He began by playing over the use of the expressions “Grand National Party” and “Parti Unifié” as used in September11960 and in November 1961 respectively. Politicians who opposed the scheme were threatened, intimidated, and arrested such as the “Gang of Four” in 1962. These four were Mbida, Okala, Matip and Eyidi, who had addressed a manifesto to Ahidjo in which they strongly rejected the one-party scheme. In April 1962, Ahidjo and Prime Minister Foncha issued the Ahidjo-Foncha Communiqué in which they made it known that a “United Front” will be formed between their two political parties in the House of Assembly. This convinced the “Gang of Four” who saw the scheme as a fait accompli and, thus, after their release, they pledged their full support for the scheme. Newspapers which expressed anti-one party ideas were all banned so as to stop them from intoxicating Cameroonians who will oppose the project.  There was also the use of persuasion by Ahidjo and other members of the Executive Bureau of the UC. In this light, Ahidjo paid an official visit to Buea in West Cameroon in 1963. The main aim of the visit was to hold persuasive talks with leading politicians such as Endeley and Muna. Endeley’s CPNC supported the idea of the one party regime and Muna’s CUC did same as soon as it was formed in 1965. It is also of prime importance here and now to mention the “Train Affair” of 1962. In this year, Ahidjo had ordered for the arrest and imprisonment of some 30 Cameroonians in Douala who were mainly objectors to the one-party scheme. He later ordered that they should be transferred from Douala to Yaoundé. Between Douala and Yaoundé, 25 out of these 30 detainees died mysteriously while on-board a train. This incident became known as the “Train Affair”. It was clear that Ahidjo knew how and why the 25 detainees had to lose their lives. Such an inhuman act strained relations between Cameroon and the Papacy and some other international bodies. Then, the final straw that broke the camel’s back came in June 1966 with the organisation of the Yaoundé Meeting by Ahidjo. The meeting was attended by politicians from the two federated states. There were 8 members from the UC, 2 from the KNDP, and 1 each from the CPNC and the CUC. There should be no surprise that only one party came from East Cameroon. In fact, before 1966, Ahidjo’s political manoeuvres had forced politicians on the opposition bench in the East Cameroon Houses of Assembly to cross-carpet and join his UC. After deliberations in the meeting, representatives of the four political parties in attendance agreed on the formation of a single party in Cameroon. This decision was followed by the dissolution of their parties. Muna’s CUC was the first to be dissolved, that is, on August 6th 1966. Foncha’s KNDP followed suit on August 13th, while Ahidjo’s UC was the third to be dissolved on August 21st 1966.  Endeley’s CPNC was dissolved on August 27th 1966. Meanwhile a committee had been put in place during the Yaoundé Meeting of June 1966 to draft the status of the new party that was soon to be created. The committee finalised its work and handed it over to Ahidjo. Thus, on September 1st 1966, Cameroonians waved adieu to party pluralism when His Excellency President Ahidjo announced the birth of a single political party in the country known as The Cameroon National Union (CNU). This only meant the addition of the French adjective “Nationale” to Ahidjo’s former Union Camerounaise, thus, baptising it under its French name as the “Union National Camerounaise” (UNC). In fact, Ahidjo had successfully absorbed all other parties in the country into his own party. Consequently, the one-party dream which he had had as early as 1960 was now a reality. 

 Monopartism in the Federal Republic of Cameroon between 1966 and 1990

In persuading Cameroonian politicians to put all their hands on plough of the one-party project, Ahidjo had painted a very attractive image of the system. From the strength of the arguments he raised in its favour, one would have expected the period 1966 to 1990 to be a kind of “Political Paradise” for Cameroonians. But paradoxically, the era of Monopartism was an era in which all such apparent hopes were shattered down. In fact, it was an era in which the one party regime lived to disprove the validity of almost all the reasons for which it had been put in place.
     For instance, far from achieving the much desired national unity, the one party regime worked in favour of tribalism and nepotism. From 1966 to 1982, Ahidjo surrounded himself with untouchables consisting of family relations and fiends all from Northern Cameroon. When Paul Biya took over power in 1982, he too filled in almost all the government positions with people from the South, thereby frustrating Cameroonians from the West and other regions of the country who were kept in the periphery of national life. Therefore national unity and patriotism which were used as convincing points in Ahidjo’s campaigns for monopartism remained far-fetched dreams.
     Instead of fostering economic development, Monopartism bred socio-economic crises and/or hardships in the country. This was because it encouraged the mismanagement of public funds, unemployment, social unrest, lack of transparency and accountability.
     Monopartism was also noted for gross violations of Human Right. For example, critics of the Biya regime usually described his Human Rights records as being deplorable. In reaction to this situation, Western Countries often reminded the regime of its poor human rights records and decided to link all their financial aid to Cameroon to an improved Human Rights record and good governance.
      West Cameroonians lived to regret their loss of the semi-parliamentary democracy which they had practiced before 1966. In addition, corruption began eating into the fabrics of the Cameroonian society. After 1982, Cameroon experienced unprecedented capital flight, corruption, and embezzlement of public funds from both low and high quarters. There was also over centralisation of power. When Paul Biya ascended to power in 1982, he preached the doctrine of “rigour, moralisation, and democratisation”. But as soon as he assumed power, all these principles became a theory whose practical aspect was blowing in the wind.
   The one party system of government coupled with the Federal Constitution of October 1961 made the two heads of states between 1961 and 1990 become dictatorial and imposing. For instance, most Cameroonians of the former British Southern Cameroons origins argue rightly that it was the one party regime that gave way to the introduction of Unitarism in the country in 1972. Ahidjo was the national chairman of CNU and his voice was always final on any national issue. He exploited the absolute powers infested on him by the Federal Constitution to dismiss from his government all West Cameroonians who posed as obstacles to the project of the Unitary System of Government. Such persons were in favour of Federalism. In 1968, Augustin Ngom Jua was dismissed from the post of Premier of West Cameroon in favour of S.T. Muna who was in favour of Unitarism. Two years later, that is, in 1970, despite constitution prohibition, Ahidjo dismissed J. N. Foncha as the Vice-president of the Federal Republic of Cameroon and replaced him with Muna who now held cumulating functions. This was because of Foncha’s pro-federalism inclinations. Still in that light, it is important to mention that the use of the “List System” for the election of the members of the various Assemblies in the country also worked in favour of the change to Unitarism in 1972. This was a strategy instituted by Ahidjo and through it he successfully filled in all the Assemblies in the country with politicians who supported the idea of the Cameroon becoming a unitary state. The Political Bureau of the CNU also pledged its full support for the Unitary State. More of Ahidjo’s dictatorship and wickedness got exposed through the way he intimidated, arrested, imprisoned, and maltreated some of the opponents of the unitary state. A case in point was the arrest and imprisonment of Albert Mukong (Author of the novel Prisoner Without a Crime) because of his opposition to the Unitary system. For fear of arrest, Ndeh Ntumazah (May his soul rest in perfect peace!) went on self-exile to England where he died in 2010. In the end, since the Referendum of May 20th 1972 was organised under such conditions, there was bound to be no opposition to it. The electorates of the Unitary Constitution in the Referendum were shown only the shiny side of the coin. In fact, there was nobody or group of persons to sensitise the electorates on some of the demerits of Unitarism. Thus, on May 20th 1972, by a vote of 99.9 percent, both West and East Cameroonians voted to become a Unitary State. The name of the country changed from “The Federal Republic of Cameroon” to “The United Republic of Cameroon”, followed by changes in the country’s National Flag and Constitution.
       On his part, Paul Biya used presidential absolutism embedded in the spirit of Monopartism to change the name of the country from “The United Republic of Cameroon” to “The Republic of Cameroon” in 1984. The French-speaking portion of the former German Kamerun had adopted the name “La République du Cameroun” translated into English as The Republic of Cameroon at independence on January 1st 1960. Thus, most English-speaking Cameroonians argue rightly that the change of name was an expression of “assimilation” or “colonisation” of the former British Southern Cameroons by the former French Cameroon. The Bill bearing the proposal of the change of name by Biya in January 1984 had gone through the Assembly without meeting with any opposition. This was because the country operated under the one-party system and all those who were against it did not have any legal political platform on which to voice out their opposition. In the end, the country went home with the name that ignored the rich historical past of its constituents and this could be blamed largely on Monopartism and “presidential absolutism” or call it dictatorship. However, no matter what name the nation bore, there was still a very long future that lied ahead of her.
       From the foregoing paragraphs, one could say that the Federal Republic of Cameroon which had changed its system of party politics at an infant age of about 5 or 6 years was not going to maintain the system. In fact, she was going to be changing political party systems just like a menstruating woman changing her sanitary pads. Thus, before the last years of the 1980s everything pointed out that Cameroon was still going to undergo a metamorphosis in the domain of her regime of party politics. Actually, a change of regime in the future was going to be unavoidable given that Ahidjo and Biya had championed the one-party regime with “personality cults” and a greater majority of Cameroonians, both the young and the old, were now sitting on the “Complaining Bench”.

 The Return to Multipartism in 1990

Multipartism which was re-launched in Cameroon in 1990 at the expense of bloodshed was a process which had begun a few years before 1990. Though the general conduct of CPDM militants in the late 1980s vis-à-vis the re-launch of Multipartism contradicted the fact that this was a process, it will be necessary to recount the countdown to it. One would not be totally wrong to state that the process of the re-launch of Multiparty politics in Cameroon began in 1982 as reflected in President Paul Biya‘s policies of “rigour, moralisation, and democratisation” which formed the bases of his policy speeches as the new President of The United Republic of Cameroon. In November 1983, one would not also be completely out of track to mention the Constitutional amendment which gave room, though in theory, for multi-candidates in presidential elections. Article VII of the Constitution now authorised other candidates other than the chairman of the CNU to stand for presidential elections, though through a number of conditions that no one of the candidates could ever fulfil. For instance, the candidate had to have at least Five years Residence in Cameroon, had to provide 500 signatories from important Cameroonian personalities such as Members of Parliament, Traditional Chiefs and/or Fons, Governors, Divisional Officers, Municipal Councillors, and other Members of the Central Committee of the CNU. These 500 signatories were to be constituted of 50 each from each of the 10 Provinces of the country. In fact, this constitutional provision could be compared to a situation of giving one’s fowl corn enclosed in a transparent container. However, one counts this as a step towards real democracy because such an idea as a whole, though theoretical, would have been a taboo in the days of Ahido’s CNU. In 1987, a Multi-candidate list was introduced at the level of Municipal Elections. These elections were held in November of the same year, that is, 1987. In the 1988 Parliamentary Elections, the “Khaki” and “White” lists were introduced. This also gave room for political competition, though still within the context of One-Party Regime. All such gestures served as a clear indication that the CPDM’s monopoly of political power was going to be shaken in the future. As a result, between February and March 1990, thousands of CPDM militants and sympathisers marched throughout the country in protest to the eminent re-introduction of multiparty politics despite the fact that the county’s constitution provided for it. Amongst those who marched were retired and/or sacked government ministers, ministers in government, provincial governors, top government officials, senior district officers, district officers, mayors, top military officers, and of course, high ranking officials of the CPDM. Motions of Support were fired to the Head of State against the reintroduction of Multipartism. In response to such actions, Paul Biya told his Militants and supporters of the CPDM on 9th April 1990 that “Je vous ai compri” (I have understood you). He went on to caution them to be prepared for political competition. The Head of State was acting under both internal and external pressures. The internal pressures included the following: Those who wanted to create political parties argued rightly that the Constitution of Cameroon provided for multipartism; Biya was also blamed for having failed to concretise his principles of “rigour, moralisation, and democratisation”; instead of fostering the much desired national unity, the one-party system had bred nepotism and tribalism in the country; the socio-economic crises in the country were blamed on the one-party especially by leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Cameroon; newspapers and radio programmes also demonstrated the nakedness of Monopartism (for instance, “Le Messager”, a newspaper published  by Pius Njawe, and “Cameroon Calling”, a National Radio programme run by Anglophone journalists), etc.
      The external pressures on their part included the following: The influence of the collapse of the Soviet Union and Mikhail Gorbatchev’s policies of “Glasnot” and “Perestrioka”; the influence of the IMF and the World Bank; the influence of the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s; the influence of France—Cameroon’s highest financial donor by then; and the influence of the Harare Declaration of the Commonwealth of Nations on Democracy and Human Rights, amongst many others.
    Meanwhile Barrister Yondo Black was so courageous that he openly called for the creation of other political parties in Cameroon and he made an attempt to form one. He was arrested and detained in Douala. The Bar Association of Cameroon led by Barrister Bernard Muna (son of S. T. Muna), a baron of the one-party regime, supported Black’s ambitions. In defence of Black, the Bar Association pointed out that constitutionally every Cameroonian had the right to form and/or belong to a political party. At this point, it would appear that the supporters and sympathisers of the lone CPDM must have regretted why they had forgotten to amend the Constitution so as to reverse such a clause! However, they must have embarked on finding out a way of solving this seeming problem, though the present situation was vibrating and trembling like an earthquake.
     The trembling situation did not come to an end until when another daring Cameroonian dealt a serious blow to the One-party political regime that had existed in the country since 1966. This was when Ni John Fru Ndi launched the Social Democratic Front (SDF) party in Ntarikon, Bamenda (Headquarters of the thence North West Province) on May 26th 1990. The launch of this party was an event which can be referred to as “The City Chemist Roundabout Massacre” given that Six (6) Cameroonian civilians were killed and others wounded there by the National Forces of Law and Order that President Paul Biya had dispatched to prevent the party launch from taking place. However, supporters of the thence one-party regime argue that these six died in the course of a stampede which occurred within the dispersing crowd. Should it be so, the next question will be: Who caused the crowd to be dispersing and why, if not the dispatched forces? Whatever the case was, a goodbye had been waved to Monopartism and the new-born baby known as Multipartism had received the baptism of blood. Thus, the long awaited multipartism, though bought at the price of bloodshed, had come to stay or so. 
            In the midst of the political turbulence that followed the May 26th 1990 event, the thence government of the former CPDM political party authorised the already existing Multipartism. This was when a Law was signed in December 1990, re-introducing multiparty politics in Cameroon. Apart from the so many political parties which were created thereafter as a direct consequence of this law, some other important things happened in the country. There was the “Operation Ghost Town” organised by opposition leaders to demonstrate their bitterness in some major cities in the country. Presidential elections were organised in 1992 and the CPDM won, though the SDF argued that its victory had been reversed in favour of the former. In 1996, a new constitution was introduced in Cameroon which distinguished between the three arms of the government for the first time: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary. The constitution also provided for the respect of Human Rights. It extended the Presidential term of office from 5years to 7 years, RNEWABLE ONCE. From 1996, to present, another problem has been that of knowing whether truly Monopartism was abolished in the 1990s and whether the Multipartism that exists in the country is within correct limits.

20 Years After 1990: Is it Monopartism or Multipartism that operates in Cameroon?   

 After the re-introduction of party pluralism in Cameroon in 1990, the one funniest thing on the Cameroonian political landscape is that one cannot for certain say which political regime is functioning in Cameroon. What really obtains in Cameroon at the moment is “exaggerated multipartism” and on the other hand “monoparitism”. If one says that multipartism in Cameroon is exaggerated, he would not have been faulty at all. Shortly after 1990, the country counted more than a hundred and fifty political parties. By 2008, there were 207 political parties in Cameroon. Such a number is alarming and causes a lot of inconveniencie in the country. In fact, Law No 90/56 of 19th December 1990 that governs party politics in Cameroon allows for an unlimited number of political parties in the country. This phenomenon is termed in French as “Le Multipartisme Integral” and I dare call it “exaggerated multipartism”. The problem at hand now is that of answering the question of why such an alarming number of political parties in Cameroon.
    One of the reasons for the existence of so many political parties in Cameroon is the role of the ruling CPDM political party. In fact, in his essay titled ”Cameroon: Why so many Political Parties (207)?”, Dibussi Tende holds that
“The CPDM is routinely accused of sponsoring the creation of dummy political parties whose role is to muddy the political waters, serve as relay points for the government’s so unpopular position issues of the day, and dilute the strength and the votes of the opposition”.
 Such an assertion is true when one remembers that it was the MDR (Mouvement pour la Défense de la République) of Dakole Daissala that teamed up with the CPDM in 1992 to give the latter a majority in Parliament. Again, a few days to the presidential elections of 2004, there was a party that surrendered its electorate to the CPDM. Some political analysts consider so many other parties such as Issa Tchiroma Bakary’s FSNC as a branch of the CPDM. On his part, Francis Nyamnjoh in “Africa’s Media: Democracy and the Politics of Belonging” opines that “The Multiplicity of parties [in Cameroon], most of which had no existence outside the personality of their founders, can be explained by the government’s interest in dissipating real democracy.” In this way therefore, the exaggerated multiplicity of parties in Cameroon will never allow for any real opposition or its victory.
    It is also plausible to argue that the so many political parties in the country have emerged from the love of money, self-centredness, and the unwillingness to form a coalition of opposition political parties. For instance, some of the so-called “mushroom” parties in the country are interested in generating money from campaign money and filling the pockets of the party leaders with. Some of the parties are formed due to intra-party wranglings and the unwillingness to cede certain positions in the party to others and even for a good chunk of opposition parties to form a coalition or a united front. In this vein, one can cite the Alliance of Progressive Forces (APF) of Barrister Bernard Muna which was formed after some power struggle within the SDF. There are many party leaders in the country who are accused of having huge financial accounts in foreign banks, a sign that party money is directed into private pockets.
  At this point, it is important to list some of the political parties amongst the 207 that exist in Cameroon presently, though the number might have increased since 2008. Amongst the about 207, one can cite the following: the ruling CPDM of President Paul Biya, the main opposition SDF of Ni John Fru Ndi, the UPC of Augustin Frédéric Kodock, the CDU of Dr Adamu Ndam Njoya, the UNDP of Maigari Bello Bouba, the ADD of Garga Harman Adji, the MP of Jean Jacques Ekindi, the APF of Bernard Muna, the MDR of Dakole Daisala, the FSNC of Issa Tchiroma Bakary, the UDP of El Hadj Lawan Bako, etc.
    On the other hand, one is not completely out of the rails to say that from 1960 to present it is Monopartism that is operating in Cameroon. It must be recalled that the CNU of Ahidjo which was born and baptised on September 1st 1966 was re-baptised as the CPDM during the Fourth CNU Congress that held in Bamenda from 21st to 24th of March 1985 following the Abortive Coup d’Etat of April 1984 in Cameroon. For the new-born CPDM, though its chairman preached “rigour, moralisation, and democratisation” in the early 1980s, its militants protested against the re-launch of Multipartism in the country before 1990 and it was only after the “Ntarikon  Bloody Event” of May 26th 1990 that Paul Biya signed the law providing for Multipartism in Cameroon. These were early symptoms that the party did not like to lose its monopoly of power to some other political party or parties. True to its thoughts, it has maintained this monopoly of political power for close to half a century, that is, from 1966 to present.
    In order for this lone ruling party since Independence (remember that the CNU of 1966 was just an “enlargement” of Ahidjo’s former Union Camerounaise), it has adopted a good number of strategies in order to stay in power including the sponsoring of the creation of so many other political parties in the country. As already discussed earlier in this write-up, these numerous parties help weaken the strength of the opposition as its votes are shared by many parties, some of which even sell theirs back to the ruling CPDM.
Another strategy is the use of money and the linking of governmental projects to party politics. For instance, it is argued, rightly or wrongly, within political circles that the CPDM uses money to stimulate the writing of “Motions of Support” to its chairman since 2008 or even before. In fact, it looks like it has been planned that before the 2011 Presidential Elections in Cameroon, sub sections of the CPDM all over the country shall have written at least a motion of support to the national chairman of the party. There is rarely a news edition over CRTV television or Radio wherein a motion of support-writing ceremony is not presented. This means that the party is not planning to vote a new candidate who will represent it during the 2011 eminent elections. History has proven that Paul Biya is an “indomitable” candidate for the CPDM and by maintaining him on the top list of the party means that Cameroon will continue under its monopoly of power for quite a long time. In fact, for as long as its national chairman lives (and they can rig elections).
      Moreover, some of the opposition parties argue rightly and or wrongly that the CPDM is using the policy of manipulating and rigging of elections in order to stay in power. For instance, the SDF argues that its victory was proclaimed in favour of the CPDM following the 1992 Presidential Elections. Indeed, in spite of the introduction of transparent ballot boxes in the electoral process in Cameroon there has never been an election in the country, be it council, parliamentary or presidential, without the SDF and some other opposition political parties complaining of fraud on the part of the CPDM. If this is true, then, it will be truer if we consider that the usual majority of the CPDM in the House of Assembly has often given the party undue advantage. It was thanks to this majority position that the CPDM and its national chairman amended Article VIII. ii (Eight point Two) of the Cameroon Constitution in 2008, thereby giving Paul Biya the room to contest in the 2011 Polls. The opposition, especially the SDF, also argues that the Executive Bureau of ELECAM, the new body in charge of organising elections in the country, is only made up of barons of the CPDM. It is therefore believed that in this way, ELECAM will always twist the results of elections in favour of the CPDM. Also, the Head of State, Paul Biya, has expressed a lot of reluctance to redress the situation in ELECAM and, thus, such arguments are very near to the truth.
    In fact, if care is not taken the CPDM and its militants will plunge the country back into Monopartism. When this shall have been done, it will only mean that it has removed the veil under which it now hides given that the UC of Ahidjo was transformed into the CNU and eventually into the CPDM of Paul Biya which has maintained an unbroken chain of “victories” in all elections in the country since 1960. The question now is: What does the future hold for us? Monopartism or exaggerated multipartism?

 The Way Foreword

     This section of my essay is going to focus on my personal proposals as to how to maintain a balance vis-à-vis the question that ended the foregoing paragraph. The only way for Cameroon to avoid “exaggerated” multipartism and or monopartism is by heeding to advice from within and without. To begin, I believe that one of the ways will be to limit the number of parties, however not constitutionally lest it not look like dictatorship, but by burying egoism, the love for money and forming opposition coalitions. Why not have two political parties like the USA and Great Britain, the two models of democracy in the world?  I know that some of us will like to talk about “African Democracy” or “Consensus Democracy” in order to foil my point. If that be the case, then since we have tried both Monopartism and Multipartism and have seen how and what they stand for, why can’t we reduce them to about four or six? By so doing, Cameroon could be setting the pace for other African countries and, thus, become the model of “African Democracy”.
    Again, I think that Cameroon should emulate the examples of South Africa and Ghana. Despite all odds, the democracy practised in these two countries, both in terms of number of political parties and the rotation of power is not very far away from the Western models of the “government of the people, for the people, and by the people”. There are no two definitions of democracy. Thus, we are either democratic or we are autocratic. So, let’s beware!
    In addition, it will be quite helpful for Cameroonians to stop certain mentalities such as relating government projects to party politics. For instance, if leaders were to be changed because they do not work well, then American leaders might never have been changed. Democracy preaches the alternation of power and we all also know that too much of anything is a disease. It is the duty of a government to cater for her citizens. Thus, after elections, we should bury party sentiments and talk development. The government is people and not parties. And so, if the government constructs, say, a road in any part of the country, that is its duty and the appreciation is due her and not the party or parties that make up the government.
    Equally, it will not be completely out of place if the Cameroon Constitution is amended so as to limit the number of political parties in Cameroon to something around four or six or so in order to avoid the so much financial expenditure of the government on sponsoring electoral campaigns for the hundreds of parties in existence. This will also go a long way to facilitate the rotation of power. It will be making Cameroon play the role of a model of democracy in Africa, thereby living up to the full expectations and meaning of her name as “Africa in Miniature”.
      At this junction, my whole work is drawing to its end. Before it really ends, I will like to conclude as follows: Fifty years after Independence, Cameroon has been bouncing between Monopartism and Multipartism. It has been proven that Monopartism is quite bad as it gives room for the abuse of Human Rights, nepotism, dictatorship, etc. Exaggerated multipartism too is not quite good because it drains and wastes the financial resources of the country and creates confusion amongst voters when it is time for Elections. In this way, it will be advisable that the future of Cameroon should be focused on striking a balance. This implies arriving at, and maintaining, a kind of “limited multipartism”. If this is done, the country will rise, before the end of the next 50 years and/or before 2035, to the rank of a “Developed Country” in developing Africa.

Abraham, Tangwe et al. Cameroon History since 18800: Advance Level Approach. ----- 2009
Francis, Nyamnjoh. Africa Medias: Democracy and the Politics of Belonging. South Africa: UNISA Press, 2005.
Joseph, Nfi and Paul Ninjoh. Advance Level Cameroon History: New Approach. ------2008.
Pierre, Sobguong. “Je Connais le Cameroun”. Yaoundé, 2007.
Tende, Dibussi. “Cameroon: Why so many Political Parties (207)?”----2008 (
Victor, Julius Ngo. History of Cameroon since 1800. Limbe: Press Book, 1996.
Kenneth Toah Nsah (Nsah Mala)
Author of:
Chaining Freedom (published collection of poems)
Mandela (a play)
Incest in Nyonghasum (a play)
Mounting the Stairs of Challenge (non-fictional essay)
Do You Know Mbesa? (non-fictional documentary of Mbesa)
Taku (a play)
The Burden of my Daughters (a play)...
nsahmala[at] (+237) 7429-1746