INTERVIEW WITH PATRICE NGANANG
By Celestin Ngoa Balla, US Africa News. Updated 2014-07-15
The political opposition has never been established in New York …. Making noise in front administrative buildings will not change the dynamics of Cameroonian history.
USAFRICA NEWS: Beginning next month, President Barack Obama welcomes the first US-Africa Summit to the White House. In your opinion, is this summit necessary?
PATRICE NGANANG: Yes, and at many levels. First, because Barack Obama, a president who is himself a product of African emigration to the US, needs to finish the dialogue with Africa that he began on taking office with two historic speeches in Cairo and Accra; and second, because the United States needs to maintain its interest in Africa. It does not escape our attention that Africa is, essentially, a land which so far has not really seized its historic initiative, so that it is still the only continent whose presidents are invited sporadically as a group in Europe and the United States, while Asian Latin American presidents are beyond such a call en masse. A ritual of allegiance, then, for an Africa that today sports fewer hard-headed leftists like Gaddafi in power, than tyrants a là [Cameroonian President] Paul Biya.
USAFRICA NEWS: In any case, Barack Obama is on the way out, leaving people like Paul Biya, Mugabe, Idriss Déby, Sassou N'Guesso in place... Is this a disappointment to you and all early supporters of Candidate, and then President, Obama?
PATRICE NGANANG: Certainly, but this is not new. With over thirty years of power, Biya has seen many American presidents come and go, as have Deby or Mugabe. Apart from Mugabe, whose tyrannical trend is leftist-- which today is really rare in Africa-- it must be said that the tyranny we have at home is the result of Western countries seeking stability in places where they have strong interests. In principle, democracy, with its periodic changes of power, makes them more afraid than tyranny, which offers a continuity that Biya even refers to as 'peace.' What’s at stake for the forces of change has always been to change the narrative; to show that democracy does not amount to disorder, and it is an equation that a Laurent Gbagbo does not understand, because nothing at bottom is as detestable as war to install the democratic concept as a no-brainer. The taking by the people of their historic initiative, which is in its most pragmatic form democracy, must not be torpedoed by those who rightly call themselves democrats, otherwise they create the conditions for an unprecedented historic retreat. My disappointment is therefore not so much against Obama as with the progressive African leaders who have not yet understood that democracy-- which in its essence is based on the greatest possible change at the head of the State in order to enable the people to express themselves as much as possible in their diversity of opinions—must, at all costs, combine with stability to make our country attractive.
USAFRICA NEWS: How would you judge Barack Obama’s overall record on Africa?
PATRICE NGANANG: I would say that on the one hand, Barack Obama is not an African president, and on the other hand, the time has not yet arrived where a citizen of an African country will be president of the United States. That said, with Barack Obama, we arrived at the closest we could, to a transition between these two historical impasses. This means that his record, with two years left to the end of his career, can still only be viewed with a negative eye, because the historical perspective is missing, and worse, is supplanted by the partisanship and legal wrangling that are certain to take its place. These things distort the analysis. Let us not forget in this constellation, that when Nelson Mandela left power he was not universally celebrated; forces on his left wanted to do battle with the whites, and, failing to get their hands on the State apparatus, had an outlet in the progressive media, not giving him free rein. Things have changed since then, and this is not surprising. Africa has over 50 countries, each of which are witness to the US’s and Obama’s African policy. But among their trajectories under Obama, I believe that ending the Ivorian crisis, which closed the chapter on a State without a constitution in Africa; and in Libya, opening a little more hope of change in the Maghreb--these are excellent things in my opinion.
USAFRICA NEWS: Some African intellectuals have called on African leaders not to attend the summit set up by Obama, who was, moreover, designated the worst American president of the past 70 years in a recent poll. Do you agree with this appeal?
PATRICE NGANANG: I am not part of these intellectuals. I believe, however, that if African presidents met as a group with the French President, it would be the pure stupidity not to show the same courtesy to a President who is a son of Africa.
USAFRICA NEWS: If he makes it to the US-Africa Summit, Biya will be leaving behind him a country where he just signed an increase in the price of fuel and gasoline at the pump. Is there a reason we haven’t heard your voice among those who oppose this rise in prices by the Yaoundé regime?
PATRICE NGANANG: No, on the contrary. I think that Cameroonians forget, that by their own will in 2011 Cameroonian politicians agreed to on a four year holiday. They forget the most important thing in what happens to our country: Cameroon is on political vacation, by common accord between the president of the Republic and all the leaders of the opposition. For me, the policy according is defined by the agenda calendar, and which political actors control the master calendar. This is the matrix of political power here. And how good is a claim trumpeted against the increase in prices, when opinion and political leaders do not know that in a second gesture the president will increase the salaries of civil servants, even if a small amount, and will decrease the amount of certain taxes, thus cutting off all of their protests? It’s an old question, because how good is an Electoral Code which was once used as a battle cry, when the electoral calendar goes on vacation, the politicians as well as the people, for four years? What is the value of an action against the tyrant when he lives in a world without a term limit? In reality it would be a pity to see what characters politics produces in Cameroon, but in reality, a fundamental analysis always shows us that the political initiative lies entirely in the hands of the tyrant who holds that calendar and transforms it into a political weapon, even if the historic initiative lies in the hands of the Cameroonian people.
USAFRICA NEWS: "Boko Haram on the right, threats from Seleka fighters on the left, increases in the price of super, diesel and gas, certainly of kerosene also; all this is a recipe for a time bomb which can be fatal for our social stability. Fuel increasing almost 500 Frs for 12kg bottles, the super going to 100 Frs more, all this foreshadows the imminent increase in the cost of urban, inter-urban, and national transport, with consequences for several other activities as well. I doubt very much that the Government has really taken the full measure of the monstrous implications to be let loose by this decision, which, as a whole, will be very hard to for people to bear. " So says Oumarou McMichael of the Northern Rainbow Youth. What is your take on his remarks?
PATRICE NGANANG: Oumarou Moktar obviously does not have any control over the calendar, which is the matrix of political power in Cameroon. It will suffice to settle this pressure with salary raises and tax increases to create discord among the working population, and thus within the general population. The mathematical difference between price increases and salary increases leaving room for the possibility of rage that, however, is part of negotiation. Political stability in our country will only be put in play when the agenda calendar is ripped from the hands of the tyrant, because then he will have lost his one true power, political power to set the rhythm of life. At that moment, the forces of change will be able to move quickly or slowly, and topple him. They are politically insignificant, these forces of change if they don’t take control of the calendar and don’t have the mobilizing force to impose their own schedule on the tyrant; their invective in fact become recommendations to the president of the Republic, warnings, incentives in sum, because in reality, even the trade unions can not respond to this power of the president with a consistent organization, torpedoed as they are by their own weakness as much as by violence. The fact that the forces of change have not mastered the totality of the scene of social action is caused precisely by the fact that they are not in control the calendar, and then because they have been unable to snatch it from the hands of the tyrant.
USAFRICA NEWS: What do you think is the significance of the recent visit to Yaoundé of Guillaume Soro, president of the Ivorian National Assembly?
PATRICE NGANANG: So far, Guillaume Soro has been traversing through one of the most difficult corridors to maneuver in politics, that of the heir apparent. This passage, to establish his political future in the hope of becoming the next president of Côte d'Ivoire, is difficult for him to maneuver because it is located in institutions who that have a commitment to democracy. Only a son of King, like the son of Hassan II, has passed brilliantly through this training ground for the Presidency, and this in front of the whole world, with a media presence that was orchestrated by his father. The other heirs apparent that we know, and who have had success, only had it really because they took advantage of the surprise created by presentation of their claim. To be considered presidential material, without being a King's son, in a presidential system, this is the tactic for Guillaume Soro. Not ideology, because there is still no advantage to show his true colors which, in my opinion, are obviously left-wing, while Ouattara is right-wing. Guillaume Soro’s visit to Cameroon was therefore another of his tactical actions whose purpose is now clearly calculated towards each of us, since his accession to the head of the National Assembly of his country: to endear himself. I do not believe that his career may be exemplary wherever it is, because it is truly unique. But that is also why it fascinates. It was fundamental for me that he has shown his youthful face in Cameroon, which sinks under a tyranny of old men, because that alone can arouse people. It is time indeed to shake the coconut trees in our complacent country. If it takes Guillaume Soro to do this, so much the better.
USAFRICA NEWS: A case currently the full swing in the American press: a Cameroonian living in New York, Boujeke Kenmoe, killed his eight year old son with his own hands and attempted suicide. You knew Boujeke Kenmoe; what was your reaction when you heard the news?
PATRICE NGANANG: Incomprehension. I do not believe that there could be any way to understand a father strangling his own son, even more his only son! What Devil got into this boy, a member of parliament to boot, that he sank into such violence? There are thousands of questions that remain open, and I believe answering them will help give a little peace to the bereaved family, the Cameroonian community, and the little angel who was so viciously killed. And yet we Cameroonians, it seems to me, must also one day to face this demon that makes us, caught in the vise of tyranny, always turn against each other. At some point, we really need to be able to reflect on this violence which already grips the country—where funerals are ceremonies unthinkable without conflicts, baptisms barely escape from this internal, intimate violence that is transported along overseas as well. It would be well if one day we realized the impotence of Cameroonians in the face of the tyranny that has held our country for nearly sixty years, that turns us into monsters because we are too intelligent not to understand our condition, but incapable in reality to face it. One can not take people’s political initiative from them, without having them turns on themselves, and the case of Boujeke Kenmoe, the parliamentarian, dramatizes this situation.
USAFRICA NEWS: A dirty business which Cameroon did not need more of on American soil at this time, really?
PATRICE NGANANG: No, not at all. But by itself, it also a dramatization of the Cameroonian condition in tyranny.
USAFRICA NEWS: a crime which, for once, you don’t hold the Biya regime responsible for?
PATRICE NGANANG: Quite the contrary. I usually analyze Cameroonian politics from its matrix, and here too, the story is there that one cannot obliterate. Boujeke Kenmoe is one of the leaders of the Parliament who was ousted from the universities in 1994 by decision of Titus Edzoa, then Minister of Higher Education. It was before Edzoa himself was crushed by the structure that he believed to control the network. What was it that life held in store as miseries for Boujeke Kenmoe, this young Cameroonian, the youngest leader of the Parliament, to transform him into a monster? Here is a question that the route of his exile after 1994 in Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, and the United States, could perhaps help us answer. But already I can say that we must work for a country in which never again will one of its sons or daughters be expelled because they have requested an improvement for the common good.
USAFRICA NEWS: You understand that some say it is no surprise that such criminal and violent acts came from someone who was in the ranks of Parliament?
PATRICE NGANANG: The history of the Parliament, as indeed that of the Upecistes [members of the UPC, the original nationalist party in Cameroon] is not yet written. Here is what makes the orthodoxy of tyranny transform the victims into executioners. Moreover as usual, it misrepresents all the concepts produced by the intelligence of children in this country. But we lose nothing in waiting, because more and more Members of Parliament understand what I have always said; that we are a fortunate and historic generation. Fortunate because we were born citizens, and historic because it is we who have consciously transformed the Cameroonian tyranny by arousing the historic initiative of the people, to force the tyrant to accept the plurality of individual voices as a foundation for our future peace and stability. This means that more and more Members understand that it is also our duty to tell the story after the fact, and it is a work which we implement, step by step, each in our own way.
USAFRICA NEWS: In your opinion, can this sad event can help recall the Parliament?
PATRICE NGANANG: The Parliament has never been dissolved. Therefore, I do not think there needed to be a tragedy to recall it.
USAFRICA NEWS: On the other hand, the awakening of political opposition which seems reborn in New York in particular, will it take a fatal blow, and will Paul Biya’s very next stay in the US be without protests against his regime?
PATRICE NGANANG: The political opposition has never been established in New York, and my point of view has always been that making noise in front administrative buildings will not change the dynamics of Cameroonian history. More and more people are starting to work on shining a light on the depth of the hostage taking of our country by tyranny, and those people who are in Cameroon and abroad do not need to shout in front of windows to show the presence of Diaspora opposition to the tyrant, but rather, above all, to create an alternative for our country. An opposition that does not control the agenda of its political life is castrated, whether within the country or abroad, and it is a lot more besides than the Cameroonian people who of course go about their business. But worse: an opposition which has no formulation of an alternative to the status quo has no legs. There is an opening there, because even if the political initiative has been taken hostage by the tyrant, the historic initiative remains in the hands of the Cameroonian people. The intellectual initiative is a vast field that gathers together the wisdom of all the sons and daughters of this country, wherever they may be.