I remember the worst night of my life. I was in my friends’ hostel room in the student residential area by the University of Buea, Cameroon. I planned on having a sleep-over at her place. Little did I know that I was in for a sleepless-over. My friend called me to say I must leave her room immediately. She was a member of the student union and the students of the university were on strike. She heard that armed forces were planning on visiting the rooms of members of the student union to create havoc that night. So to keep her life safe, she chose not to return home and called me to run for my life.
It was the most confusing thing I ever heard. I heard gun shots so close to her room that I felt a step outside, will send a bullet right into my head. With each sound of the gun I died inside. I could not leave and I could not sleep. I spent that night in great terror knowing I could take my last breath any moment.
I remember what that season was like for students of the University of Buea at the time. Gun shots. Tear gas. Rape. Running. All stores locked. No place to buy food. Wounds. Beatings. Conflict between the students and armed forces ensued.
I remember how my pot of Jollof Rice decayed because I ran away from my room in my hostel to go seek solace in my pastor’s house for many days. That’s because police men invaded my hostel on a cool evening when I was trying to keep my room clean.
I remember seeing a lot of blood. Blood on the cheek of my neighbour who met face to face with military men. Blood on my neighbour’s head because armed forces broke into his room while he was asleep and he jumped from his balcony upstairs to the ground downstairs and as a result, broke his head.
I remember how I had to graduate in April 2007 instead of December 2006 because the strike delayed everything.
I remember how some students lost their lives in the fight and the student community had to declare a “Black Friday” to mourn them.
I remember that this began as a protest from students who wanted the school administration to look into their grievances. I remember how it deteriorated into a bad situation between students and armed forces that came into Buea in big trucks.
I have relived all of this today as I watch on social media, videos of students being tormented in like manner in the recent strike at the University of Buea.
I have read and watched in sadness as on October 21 2016, a train carrying people from the country’s capital city Yaounde to the economic capital, Douala derailed at Eseka in the centre region of the country. This derailment resulted in what has been described as the deadliest accident in Africa after the Benaleka train accident in August 2007 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over 70 people lost their lives and over 500 were injured. People in my country, Cameroon.
I have watched as lawyers and teachers in the English speaking section of the country protest against the dominant use of the French language in their institutions.
I have watched how Anglophone (English-speaking) Cameroonians are pained by the system. How we feel marginalised. How we feel used and abused. How we are filled with anger against a system that has repressed, suppressed and oppressed us.
And I’m thinking, this is NOT the Cameroon I want.
I do not want a Cameroon where protests, strikes, arguments, tear gas and gun shots, blood shed are the order of the day. I do not want a Cameroon where one partner in the union between the English and the French constantly feels cheated. And I do not want a Cameroon where hate reigns.
Hate is too big a burden to bear. Hate doesn’t drive out darkness. Hate is evil. I want a Cameroon where all God’s children, regardless of their ethnic differences or the languages they speak can dwell together in unity. A Cameroon where we celebrate our diversity from Foumbot to Foumban. A Cameroon where there are equal opportunities. A Cameroon where there is zero tolerance to corruption. A Cameroon where God dwells. A Cameroon that is truly a “land of promise” as the national anthem stipulates.
That’s the kind of Cameroon I want.
In our quest to be free, we must not allow our anger turn into hate and bitterness. We cannot overcome evil with evil. We must overcome evil with good. We must not feed the blood thirsty. We must fight for what we believe in but we must fight while upholding the values of dignity and discipline.
This is not a time to buy guns. This is not a time to resort to barbarity. This is not a time to throw insults at each other. Our anger must not be turned to hate.
I want a Cameroon where we speak the language of justice as we speak the language of love. Because nothing is as strong as love.
I want a land of promise and glory.
God bless Cameroon.