Between the lines, President Biya bent over backward and made concessions to Anglophone demands in his 2016 end of year speech.
His tough talking, fist-banging and protesters-bashing, you guess right, were just a veil to pretend Anglophones hadn’t arm-twisted him into submission?
Anglophones are succeeding in the struggle and pushing the frontiers of dialogue and change. Missing these points means they expected to see Biya practically on his knees to know he was begging and conceding.
Here are three easy to miss concessions Biya made, which might take the struggle in a whole new direction:
Biya admits there is an anglophone problem. “All the voices that spoke have been heard. They have, in many cases, raised substantive issues that cannot be overlooked,” he said in Paragraph 20. The admission shames Atanga Nji, Fame Ndongo, Laurent Esso, Issa Tchiroma and other Anglophone stooges, who have either denied the problem or reduced its scope and significance.
Biya suggests federalism may be discussed but not secession.
In paragraph 23 (C), he says, “Like any human endeavour, our experience is not perfect. There are aspects that can be improved. We should therefore listen to each other. We should remain open to constructive ideas, to the exclusion, however, of those that would affect the form of our State.”
Biya says besides the teachers’ and lawyers’ specialized ad hoc committees, his government is ready to concede even more to discuss the wider Southern Cameroons concerns in yet another committee like prior to the Reunification (Foumban II).
Paragraph 24: “Besides the bodies that I instructed the Government to set up and which are already at work, we are ready to go an extra mile. We are willing to move in the footsteps and spirit of the architects of Reunification, and put in place a national entity which will be tasked with proposing solutions aimed at maintaining peace, consolidating our country’s unity and strengthening our resolve, and our day-to-day experiences of LIVING TOGETHER. And this should be done in strict compliance with our Constitution and our Institutions.”
If these are not concessions, what are they? Go back and read your conflict resolution notes. I’m checking mine. These are olive branch signals. They are not made from a position of strength. Neither are they made lying down flat to show total surrender.
If Anglophones are in this thing to make gains (albeit step by step) and not just to conjure outcomes like magicians or Alice In Wonderland, these are moments to seize. But as concessions are not a surrender, negotiating parties can rebound, capitalizing on the weaknesses and blunders of the opponent.
This battle is Anglophones to lose. They can only spoil it for themselves, that is, if they “make erreur”.
This is the people’s struggle; no one should dare to own it. Anglophones must organize themselves, realistically sizing up the opponent.
Truth that shows us the height of the mountain we face and arms us for the challenge is greater than sweet dreams that may wake us to nightmares.
Franklin S Bayen is a journalist and political analyst