INTERVIEW WITH WRITER PATRICE NGANANG
By Celestin Ngoa Balla, US Africa News. Updated 2015-02-04
“Cameroon has the Distinction of Having a President who does not Respect Cameroonian Soldiers”
USAFRICA NEWS: Do you believe, along with some observers, that the fate of black Africa is at stake in next month's presidential elections in Nigeria?
Patrice Nganang: Yes. Nigeria is probably trying to strengthen its democracy, which is a new experience for it, but for us, the fate of Africa is at stake every day that an African is unfairly weaned of the gift that God alone gave him: life. A democratic Nigeria, it must be said, is a breath of fresh air for all of Africa, but as we are aware, democracy does not mean paradise because it comes with new problems. I remember those cold days of marches against the tyranny of Sani Abacha [Nigerian former Army General and de facto Head of State]. Certainly Nigeria became the most prosperous African country before South Africa because it is democratic, but it still has to deal with the threat of Boko Haram, which is making much of its area inhabitable.
USAFRICA NEWS: After the election in Nigeria, there will be a flood of presidential elections throughout Africa over the next two to three years. And the outcome of each election sparks fear of a risk of popular uprising or counter-revolution. Why does Africa always end up in that place?
Patrice Nganang: Because we have a new generation of Africans who were born as citizens and who do not intend to live as slaves. It is perhaps necessary to imagine that the success of Nigeria, for example, be measured by the birth of this dynamic class of young entrepreneurs who have a fundamentally civic spirit, and know that the future is made of possibilities. To tell them that their future will be taken hostage by gerontocrats or the military, or else by kleptomaniac families, is an aberration. I often meet Ghanaians, Kenyans, South Africans of my age, and I am never surprise by them, by our extraordinary optimism. It's that generation that rocked Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and will doubtless shake Cameroon and other countries.
USAFRICA NEWS: What do you think of the message the head of Boko Haram Shekau just addressed as a direct threat to Cameroon and its president [Paul Biya]?
Patrice Nganang: The client always knows the road that leads him to his banker. It must be said in fact that Paul Biya has committed what no African president had done until now, transform the presidential palace at Etoudi into ABT, the African Bank of Terrorism. The payment of ransom to terrorists had become so routine that Boko Haram terrorists knew that they only needed to capture the French or the Chinese, to wait for the cash to come from Yaoundé. Extraordinary all the same, for Niger and Chad had never fallen into such a trap, although they too are French-speaking countries, and France was the Western country paying the most ransom to terrorists. However, the appetite comes with eating. This is what is happening here. One should rather ask what happened in Biya’s head to use his Deputy Prime Minister, Amadou Ali, to pay the terrorists; and to use his wife and his brother in such a bloody and shameful transaction! One day we will know, and because of actions like this it is high time that the system was monitored.
USAFRICA NEWS: Chadian troops have joined the Cameroonian army in the Far North to deal with Boko Haram. Knowing that you denounced abuses by Chadian soldiers in CAR a few months ago, should we be afraid?
Patrice Nganang: Exactly! But it must be said that the Chadian troops are entering a field that had been given to the BIR [the Rapid Intervention Brigade of the Cameroonian Army], to the detriment of the Cameroonian Army. My point is that the elite unit, which is in fact Biya’s tribal militia, was so convinced that it could go up against the terrorist threat, having been blinded by its own brainless propaganda, that it was caught short by the exponential evolution of violence. Some time ago, apologists for the tyranny of Yaoundé rejoiced in Biya’s policy, which they called wise because it linked the carrot to the stick--the payment of ransom to set the BIR in motion. But we see that on both those fronts the defeat was stinging. After the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France was forced to abandon its ransom payout policy, the policy of appeasement, for which it used the Etoudi palace, and with the emergence of Chad and soon also Niger, it becomes clear that the campaign of the stick also failed. The BIR could not do battle with Boko Haram! The BIR bears the blame for failure, which automatically has repercussions for the already under-equipped Cameroonian armed forces. The rout was in fact so extraordinary that the Minister of Defense, Mebe Ngo'o, should be removed from office; because someone has to be responsible for the situation that only the people in Kousseri have understood well enough; so much so that they applaud the Chadian soldiers in front of the noses of BIR soldiers!
USAFRICA NEWS: We had not seen the Russians appearing in the front ranks of armed conflict in Africa. How, then, do you feel about the recent announcement that Russia will equip Cameroon militarily against Boko Haram, and would you ask them to get physically involved on the front?
Patrice Nganang: No. Paul Biya is putting in motion the plan B he has; because France, which is linked to Cameroon by defense agreements renewed in Yaoundé in May 2011, has refused to act on them. He is knocking on all doors--Niger, Chad, soon China, and why not Angola--all countries that, if his regime was endangered, would not move a muscle to save him. A president who did not care about the world because France was supporting him, is suddenly begging for friendship! We have seen this elsewhere: Mobutu in Zaire, Mengistu’s Ethiopia, for example, when the jig was up. We must consider this: France, whose president is a Cameroonian sub-prefect, has refused to assist Cameroon in a battle against violence that would automatically involve the French army in our country, even more because terrorism is an international threat! The problem here however, is that France does not want to intervene in any action that would politically aid Paul Biya, who for more than ten years has not received any French president in Yaoundé. This disavowal, which manifested itself first in a symbolic manner, is here more visible and expressed. The post-Compaoré [former president of Burkina Faso who was forced out of office in October, 2014] era lives dramatically in Cameroon, and the price is very high for a country like ours to be held hostage by one soon-to-be bedridden tyrant.
USAFRICA NEWS: The US, China, France, and the European Union may also get involved in the conflict. In your opinion, is Boko Haram facing a real challenge of such a deployment?
Patrice Nganang: No they are not. This is what is called “lip service.” The US could set in motion their drone program so that terrorism would have a real adversary in Cameroon. But this is not the case. Even Nigeria has not given Cameroon the right to pursuit on its territory, or does so only sparingly. But the cause of the disaster, the heart of Boko Haram, is not in Cameroon and is in fact far from the reach of Cameroon and Chad, or Niger. Will Chad and Niger now secure Cameroon’s borders for it? In the absence of an international force as we see in CAR and in Mali, who has authority over the Chadian forces now Cameroon? And we're talking 2,500 Chadians! When Biya goes on holiday as he always does, will [Chad’s President] Idriss Deby take command in northern Cameroon? This is a key point, because the usual response to internationalizing the conflict is to go to the UN for an international mandate, which is not the case here. Why? Because nobody wants Paul Biya. The price of tyranny is very high for Cameroonians. It is measured in each of the dead Boko Haram, and the fact that everyone looks at what the Cameroonian tyrant will do to maintain power.
USAFRICA NEWS: Cameroonian communities in Canada and France have recently organized events to speak out against Boko Haram and support the Cameroonian army. No event of this kind has happened in the USA. Why is that?
Patrice Nganang: Cameroon has the distinction of having a president who does not respect the Cameroonian soldiers; who in 31 years has never bowed over the coffin of a Cameroonian soldier who died on the front lines, who has never even gone to a front in Cameroon. Cameroon has a defense minister who has never gone to the front to rally Cameroonian soldiers. What is happening in Cameroon is serious, and showing no regard for these obvious things, which are done for American soldiers when they go to the front, is to show little intelligence. Cameroonians in the US are as intelligent as those of other dysfunctional countries, and those who are Kousseri are applauding the arrival of Chadian soldiers. We know that another country that had been in a similar situation, Mali, saw its state collapse, and its president, ATT [former president Amadou Toumani Toure], flee before the reconstruction of the state took place. The collapse of the Cameroonian army was embedded long ago in the politics which backfired on the BIR, which was to benefit the ambition of the defense minister, Mebe Ngo'o. The situation is quite grave. The farce that turned the Etoudi palace into the African Bank of Terrorism, ABT, must end, because it is the Cameroonian president who has been the most reliable financier for terrorists. Paul Biya became Boko Haram and Boko Haram became Paul Biya. US Cameroonians should march en masse to end this bloody farce.