MY HEART BLEEDS FOR MY COUNTRY: FIVE STEPS AHEAD TWENTY-FIVE STEPS BEHIND There at the City Chemist roundabout we stood. May 26th 1991 was the day and I was eleven years old. I heard our parents shout: power, freedom, equal opportunity. Soldiers descended on the demonstrators and at the end of all six persons were dead – amongst them a young girl of less than 18 years old. This was exactly one year after the main opposition party – The Social Democratic Front was launched in Cameroon. Several challenges had been surmounted and people could freely express their views. From that moment Cameroonians began to enjoy some ‘’freedom of speech’’. Musicians sang what they wanted, social activists cropped up, many political parties and trade unions emerged. Tales of riots, gun shots and mass arrests were like a dream since we thought we had won the battle and democracy was with us. We knew we could enjoy the provisions of our constitution of peaceful demonstrations in case the people had a grievance or grievances. Over the years different groups have expressed different worries through memoranda and street demonstrations. For the past two months the two regions of North West and South West (former Southern Cameroon) have been trying to enjoy their constitutional right of peaceful protest against an injustice. It started with Common Law lawyers seeking to uphold the respect of the bi-jury nature of Cameroon as enshrined in the constitution. They went on a strike action boycotting the courts and calling for reforms of the judicial system. After a few weeks of the strike, they took to the streets when government would not bulge. They were tear-gassed and brutalized under the pretext that bike riders had infiltrated their ranks. Drawing inspiration from the lawyers strike teachers of the two Anglophone regions who have been on a long drawn tussle with government for the establishment of an educational council to protect the Anglo-Saxon heritage notified their intention to also go on an indefinite strike from November 21st 2016. Considering the fate that had befallen the lawyers, the teachers called for a sit in strike to avoid any confrontation with the forces of ‘’law and order’’. November 21st came and seemed to have been long awaited not only by the teachers but by various sectors of the population. Bike riders, and unemployed youths took to the streets decrying the poor state of the roads chanting anti government slogans and calling for the departure of the appointed government delegate to the Bamenda City Council. A hitherto hushed call for the outright secession of the two Anglophone regions from the rest of Cameroon became very prominent on the placards angry baton and stone throwing youths were carrying. These became defiant of the soldiers firing warning shots in the air to scare them from the streets. Oh oh oh how my heart bleeds? Where has democracy gone to? Is protecting her citizens no longer a priority to Cameroon? Surprisingly the head of state as at this moment made any statement on this state of unrest in beautiful Bamenda and other areas. I watch with pain how young people run up and down following menace from the police and soldiers. Things have gone out of hands. Nobody seems to know who is leading what. The present state of affairs is indicative of the fact that the Anglophone disgruntled group are very oppressed just like culture oppresses women in my community. My night was a blank night. Questions like what has happened to dialogue, freedom of speech, and human rights as a whole? Is it right to place Cameroon under the list of countries that practice democracy? There is the vision 2035 in the government’s development plan which makes me wonder how we will emerge with such level of insensitivity towards the problems of the masses. Ironically this morning November 22, 2016 instead of the government calling on trade union leaders for dialogue, they have instead deployed troops in this region. Every junction or street corner is filled with soldiers or police officers making the atmosphere very tense. My greatest worry at this moment is the vulnerability of women and girls in this situation. The next thing we will be hearing will be rape, sexual harassment, unwanted pregnancies and many more. Secondly the presence of young people who were suppose to be in school will increase the risk involved since innocent children will follow the angry mob without any knowledge of the danger they are exposing themselves to. What then happens to child protection? Can this government not consider these huge damages and solve their people problems? I strongly uphold that if not for anything Cameroon government should solve this problem for the sake of vulnerable children and women.
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