Prioritise the Essentials

In only three days, the historic national dialogue President Paul Biya announced in his nation address on September 10 will commence. Monday, September 30, 2019 will therefore open the road to the Yaounde Conference Center where participants, invited and even uninvited, will stream in with ideas in mind and some packaged in suitcases to see how they can sail them through to bring solace to their compatriots of the North West and South West Regions. The foretaste of what could likely happen at the Conference Centre could already be measured from the medley of requests put on the table of PM Dion Ngute, the dialogue chairman. Whereas some are tailoring their proposals within the realm of the issue at hand, that is, the crisis in the North West and South West Regions as indicated by the Head of State in his speech, others want to take advantage with addendums containing other problems, which are however important but unfortunately ill timed. As stated by the Head of State, the dialogue in question will « mainly concern the situation in the North-West and South-West Regions. » However, since it will focus on issues of « national interest such as national unity, national integration and living together, it is obvious that it will not concern only the population of these two regions. »

The contours of the confab are clear; the President wants discussions to centre on the crisis in these two regions and that this should be done by Cameroonians of all the ten regions of the country. The reason for bringing in the rest of the regions to the dialogue table is because the consequences of the crisis go beyond the North West and South West Regions. Having said this, it would be important that the genesis of the problem be identified a priori. This will certainly lay a solid foundation for whatever will be discussed during the five days scheduled for the talks. The good thing about the whole issue is the determination in every heart openly declared to the media as to the sincerity of the talks. But human nature is complicated and we are talking about an issue which has a lot of political colours. That is why the President took time to clearly define what could be handled as topics during the debate. He however did not draw any definite line when he ended with « etc ». The topics already identified for various committees to examine are drawn from the speech of the Head of State, any other things to be brought in out of this will be because of the « etc » which the President used. The National Dialogue is not an opportunistic affair for politicians to position themselves, neither is it an opening for people to present problems that do not concern the two regions that have been placed under the microscope. Perhaps, it will be important to recall the following as stated in the President’s speech. This will certainly serve as a guide to the talks. « The dialogue will therefore rally all the sons and daughters of our beloved and beautiful country, Cameroon, to reflect on values that are dear to us, namely: peace, security, national unity and progress. It will also focus on issues that can address the concerns of the population of the North-West and South-West Regions, as well as those of the other regions of our country such as bilingualism, cultural diversity and social cohesion, the reconstruction and development of conflict-affected areas, the return of refugees and displaced persons, the education and judicial system, decentralization and local development, the demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, the role of the Diaspora in the country’s development, etc. »

Again, for better results to emerge from the Yaounde dialogue table, participants must revisit the genesis of the problem failure of which the results could likely be mitigated. As someone said, the Anglophone problem that can be traced back to the Foumban Conference of 1961 if not well handled remains a serious threat to the country’s much valued national unity.

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