Understanding mass psychology should be the strength of any leader striving to alleviate the pains and miseries of the masses, especially in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nation like Cameroon.
Bamilekes, Bamilekes. Looking at Bamilekes with the eyes of those non-Bamilekes who have never understood them, Bamilekes are sometimes subjected to suspicion, envy and to a point hatred. To most of the non-Bamilekes who came close to Bamilekes and understood the pattern of their collective psyche, they are perhaps Cameroon's most trusted or one of its most trusted and reliable ethnic groups, the people most of the nation's other ethnic groups can turn to first in times of difficulties and find solace. Bamilekes easily relate.
But what are Bamilekes to themselves in the complex political arena that is Cameroon? They are a traumatized people; still traumatized by the UPC war against French and Ahidjo forces. In a partisan war of liberation under the UPC leadership of Ruben Um Nyobe, an ethnic Bassa (1948-1958), they were steadfast in their commitment to the struggle; when Felix Moumie, an ethnic Bamoun (1958-1960) took over the UPC leadership after Um Nyobe's assassination, the Bamilekes continued fighting with most of the other Francophone Cameroonian ethnic groups; when Ernest Ouandjie-Bamileke took over in 1960 after Moumie's assassination by thallium poisoning in Geneva by William Bechtel, an agent of the French secret service, the Bamilekes stayed on course. By 1962, most of the leaders of the other ethnic factions of the UPC had either been defeated, killed, exiled or had reneged and joined the French puppet Ahidjo government, leaving the Bamilekes continuing a war where they lost more than half of their population in the Bamilekeland. A bitter lesson, which culminated in the execution of Ernest Ouandjie in 1971 after he gave himself up to the Ahidjo regime in order to stop the massacre of his people. During 1960-1970, was born a stereotype that haunts Bamilekes and other Cameroonians until today, a stereotype effectively planted into the minds of Cameroonians by the French-imposed system and the Ahidjo regime (They-the Bamilekes have economic power, and now, they also want political power).
Many Cameroonians failed to understand that the Bamilekes got involved in the genuine patriotic or nationalist cause for the liberation of Cameroon under Um Nyobe at the time because they believed in Cameroonian union-nationalism (Kamerunism) and stayed on course after others had deserted because they are steadfast by nature and consider surrender to a right cause as undignified, dishonorable and a betrayal.
The mass Bamileke psychology: They know what they do not want, but know less how to get what they want in the general Cameroonian context. True they are the most nationalistic or patroitic group in the country. True that despite having about 30% of the population, they have shown their preparedness to massively back any broad-based national endeavour even if it is not led by a Bamileke, especially if the endeavour rallies other ethnic groups to the national goals of the Cameroonian struggle.
It has been observed with clarity that the Bamileke masses know that they do not want the Biya regime. Still, there are Bamileke elites in the French-imposed system which is France’s biggest political mafia setup in Africa. These Bamilekes are like other collaborators that you will find from all the ethnic groups of this land. Yes, collaborators are to be found in every retrogressive system, and in Cameroon, we have them from all the ethnic groups.
It has also been observed with clarity that the SDF leadership under Fru Ndi betrayed the all-embracing ideals of Cameroonian Union-Nationalism which Bamilekes joined the SDF believing that the Fru Ndi-led SDF shared. And truly, the national agenda of the struggle espoused by most Cameroonians and most Bamilekes dominated the SDF from 1990-1997, making the SDF a historic party during that period. During the difficult years of the struggle, some three quarters of SDF's funding came from Bamilekes, with figures like kadji Defosso leading. But Fru Ndi's mafia in the SDF betrayed the all-embracing trust built in the party as the clique started pursuing an exclusive agenda that many of the first founders had in mind before the party got swamped by Cameroonian nationalists late in 1990 and 1991, thereby leaving the Union-Nationalist faction of the SDF where most Bamilekes belonged exposed. It became clear that the difficult path to realize the change of the system was no longer possible under Fru Ndi's idea of the SDF that he had deceived most in the Northwest province and the rest of Cameroon to believe in. And like a slap in the face, the memories of the 1962-1970 genocide came to mind.
Some say the vast majority of the Bamileke population has matured politically and knows that their best interest rests in a New Cameroon where all the ethnic groups have a stake in it; that this majority knows that they have to work with other ethnic groups to realize that change. But then, a dilemma looms. They had followed unbending and genuine nationalists like Um Nyobe and Felix Moumie who were not of Bamileke origin and were inspired by them; They followed Fru Ndi who later proved that he was not genuine in his intentions and betrayed them; They know that the French-imposed system and the Biya regime does not have their interest at heart and should never be supported; and yet they know that the last time a Bamileke leader (Ernest Ouandjie) led the struggle, some of the leaders of other ethnic groups(following machinations by France) convinced their populations to desert the historic UPC of 1948-1970 through lies that Bamilekes stand to completely dominate the country if the UPC were to make it to political power because that would add on top of their economic lead. This divide-and-rule strategy was of course devised by Jacques Foccart, French president Charles De Gaulle’s strategist on Africa who did an amazing job of presenting the national revolt by the UPC as a 1962 ethnic revolt by the Bamilekes.
My conclusion is that this country will never change unless Cameroonians come to terms with their brainwashed past and reject the stereotyping that was created by the system on the Anglophone and Bamileke populations especially. During the good days of the SDF, most Cameroonians came to terms with the Anglophone factor, which saw Fru Ndi deriving more Francophone support than any other political leader. But the sad thing is that when Fru Ndi and his clique were cornered to account for the party's derailment, they stirred Bamileke phobia as a way out of his failures, thereby undermining the struggle and misinforming the population, which has resulted in the rising anti-Bamilekeism in some political circles within certain parts of the Anglophone population. The consequence is that it has destroyed the trust that had been built over the years in the grand West of Cameroon under the banner of the SDF.
Janvier Tchouteu-Chando August 2004
In this fourth phase of the struggle that began in October 10, 2011, Cameroon risks spending more years in the political, economic and social wilderness while less privileged African nations with a sense of direction forge ahead in the race towards progress, democracy, human rights and higher living standards. Cameroon as a nation will be stuck in inertia if we as individuals or collectively fail to reject the stereotypes perpetuated by the evil system and if we fail to embrace one another in the collective struggle to create THE NEW CAMEROON. It is impossible to do that without killing the anti-Bamilekeism within some of us.