A secret memo by Bernard Fonlon to Ahmadou Ahidjo

Patrice Nganang

Patrice Nganang

In a Facebook group “Cameroon Vision”, i came across an article shared by Patrice Nganang titled “A secret memo by Bernard Fonlon to Ahmadou Ahidjo”. Patrice hails from Yaounde in the centre region of Cameroon but resides in New York USA. He was actually passing a a message to one of the politicians in Cameroon by using Prof. Bernard Fonlon as the Icon to the politician “THE TIME IS NOW! – BY BERNARD FONLON [AND NOT KAH WALLA

(A secret memo by Bernard Fonlon to Ahmadou Ahidjo)
Professor Bernard N Fonlon

Professor Bernard N Fonlon

In 1964, barely three years after the unification of the British Southern
Cameroons and the French Cameroons and the creation of the Federal
Republic of Cameroon, cracks began appearing in the edifice. Dr. Bernard
Fonlon, then Chief scribe of the K.N.D.P. (the ruling party in the former
Southern Cameroons), wrote a secret letter to President Ahidjo informing him that the KNDP was disillusioned with its marginalization within the federation. This letter, which was made public after Fonlon’s death, was definitely a precursor to many other secret and public letters, memos, books, articles, etc., that would be written about the marginalization of the institutions and people of the former Southern Cameroons within the bilingual Cameroon Republic:

We of the K.N.D.P. know the fervour and the determined will that animated the struggle of our people for reunification, and the high hopes that fired this struggle. We have also come to see what this enterprise means to Africa. We are, therefore, firmly determined never to betray unification. We are firmly committed to the federation and we here pledge ourselves solemnly to work for its success. But we know that for it to survive it must live and grow according to definite principles, principles which are not chosen arbitrarily, principles which arise, by themselves, from the very nature of this our national enterprise.

A traveler on the road stops from time to time to look back and see the ground he has covered; merchants close shops at intervals to take stock; users of machines are bound to service and overhaul them now and again. Thus it is the most natural of things for the people engaged in an enterprise such as this to halt, once in a while, to see how much ground has been covered, to draw up their balance sheet, to service or overhaul, if need be, the machinery of the State.

There can be hardly any other moment more self-offering, more natural, more opportune for such a thorough reappraisal than this time, when the transitional period of our constitution is drawing to a close and we are bracing ourselves to launch into the more permanent final stage.

It is therefore categorically imperative for us now to focus the searchlights of an objective, implacable and critical mind on the past three years; it is imperative for us to pass action for that period beneath a powerful microscope, as it were, to see whether we have been building according to the principles inherent in the nature of the enterprise itself.

But before going into that, I would like to stress and make it abundantly clear, in the name of the Central Working Committee of the K.N.D.P., that our desire to get this done is inspired in no way by bitterness, it is not a challenge; our overriding concern, as we have said, is the success of reunification, the health of our Federation. We are moved to this by our profound love for this country, by our deep; concern for its welfare. There is no place here, therefore, for angry recriminations, not to talk of dishonest motives. This is a family gathering; it is not a court of law. Our one concern shall be to state facts as they are, or at least as we see them.
But our seeing may be faulty. There may be other facts which have escaped our observation. We lay no claim to a monopoly on knowledge and wisdom. But we do assert, categorically, that our motives are pure and sincere. Therefore, if our conclusions are proved wrong or exaggerated, we will be prompt to abandon or correct them. All we ask is that in this discussion no question whatsoever should be considered taboo.

As one who wants to rip an abscess open, let us get out the knife and do the job, however delicate the part of the body affected may be. As men intent on a good job of cleaning, let us shake out the carpets; let us probe into every corner. Nothing should be considered too delicate or too sacred to touch.


This said, let us go back to the question of whether our building thus far has been based on principles demanded by the nature of the work. It is an important question; for success in dealing with things demands that each shall be treated according to this nature. This brings us once again to the principle of the four causes on which each and everything depends for its being.

First the builders: in this enterprise there are two sets of them, two communities, two political parties divided in background, mentality and methods. If the builders that stand addressed to one and the same task are so different, how can they work in concert, how can they ever begin at all except if they first list down and discuss and agree on the purpose of the building, on the materials to use and on the form the house should take? Unless building is preceded by discussion and agreement, one of two things will happen. Either each party will try to work according to his own ideas and we will have the confusion of Babel re-enacted once again, or the stronger party will usurp the enterprise and reduce the weaker partner to a passive onlooker. When this happens, there can be no other outcome but discontent and frustration.

In fact, this second thing is what has happened and is happening.

Since we came together, the K.N.D.P. has hardly done more than stand by and look on. For, talking sincerely, can we name one single policy in any field – economics, education, internal affairs, external affairs – that has been worked out jointly by the two parties? Can we point a finger at one idea that took birth in the K.N.D.P. and was welcomed and implemented by this Government? There is disillusionment; discontent and frustration are sinking and spreading. There is nothing so calculated to wring and crush the human spirit, before a lofty enterprise, as to know what should be done and yet to have to stand by impotent and see the opposite taking place. This desperation has become explosive.

The K.N.D.P. demands to take a genuine part in the making of this country. Discussion and agreement first on theoretical principles, on doctrine or policy, that is, and then on a definite practical programme based on that policy are absolutely necessary in this coalition, as they are in any other, anywhere, at anytime. They belong to the nature of the thing. Examination shows, as I have stressed above, that there is hardly one single idea contributed by the K.N.D.P. to federal Government policy since we came together. The two parties have never met to define a general policy as a framework for all Government action, or to agree on particular policies in definite fields of activity – economics, money, foreign affairs, defence, education.

Furthermore, when you share in a Government, you share full responsibility for its actions; you share the credit for its achievements, the blame for its blunders. Thus, it cannot be a matter of indifference, to you how this Government is constituted or what policy it espouses. Any Chief of Government or of state picks his team as he judges best; but thus surely does not exclude consultation with his partners in coalition to hear their views about his choice.

Indeed, arguing logically from the premises enunciated above, the K.N.D.P claims it as a right, on principle, as a partaker in this coalition, to have say not merely in the choice of the members which it supplies to the Government, but also in that of those put forward by its partner in coalition. The K.N.D.P claims its say, more especially, over what seats should be given to it in the Government in order that it may be able, thereby, to make a fitting and honourable contribution to the building of this nation. There is nothing extraordinary in this demand: whenever there is a coalition Government, negotiation on ministerial portfolios is an absolute prerequisite.

What then do we want exactly?

In order to close with proposals practical and precise, I will spell out dearly the claims of the K.N.D.P. We demand:

1) That discussion, negotiation and agreement should become the rule in this coalition as from this day, in order to ensure for the K.N.D.P a dignified participation in this Government and an effective contribution in the lion, the elaboration and the implementation of all Government policy;

2) That a general framework policy and particular applications of it in the diverse fields should be defined and adopted jointly by the two parties to give coherence and direction to ail Government action; and that concrete programmes should be drawn up to embody these policies;

3) That a machinery should be set up at party and Government levels for the efficient and effective carrying out of the above proposals; at the party level a permanent committee should be set up where representative from both sides shall meet regularly to draw up Government policy;

4) That the constitution should be revised to provide, inter alia, for a Council of Ministers in which Government projects from all ministries shall be fully, freely and frankly debated before they are submitted to the Head of State a nature in other words, we call for the reinstallation of the principle, we respect the nature of things, we would be: that all Government decisions should be taken in council;

5) That an ad hoc committee should be set up right away to work out the details of these suggestions;

6) That these proposals should be studied, worked out and put into effect before the final dose of the transitional period, that is , before the forthcoming presidential elections.

Such then are the proposals of the K.N.D.P; we hope they are clear and precise.

We shall call upon you, therefore, brothers and co-builders, to hear us with sympathetic understanding. As I have said, again and again, we are not making this appeal in a fault finding spirit. We are making it because of our love for this country, because of our faith in its destiny, because of our concern for this welfare and prestige. We make it because we are mindful of the solemn words of practical wisdom addressed to all builders in the Sermon on the Mount. For, taking heed of that warning, we know for certain that if, in accomplishing the task that history has set for us, we respect inherent, basic laws, if we respect the nature of things, we would be:

like a wise man
who built his house
upon a rock;
and the rain fell
and the floods came
and the winds blew.
and beat upon that house
but it did not fall; for
it was founded upon a rock

But if we shut ear and eye to fundamental principles, if we refuse to do things as they should be done, if we despise and reject the elementary canons without which no partners in coalition can work like a team, we would be:

like a fool
who built his house
upon sand;
and the rain fell
and the floods came
and the winds blew
and beat upon that house,
and it fell;
and great was the fall thereof.

It is by working with these words ringing ever in our ears, it is by keeping them always in mind, that we will be able to raise in this corner of Africa an edifice and a name that will stand the test of time. It is only by fortifying ourselves with the sure and solid wisdom inspired by this solemn warning, and nourished by deep meditation and by an unbroken, fruitful dialogue, that we of this coalition can go forth afresh, and go forth with confidence, to govern and to guide.

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