Thanks giving service at Presbyterian Church Buea station yesterday 24 September 2017, in honour of released Anglophone political prisoners.
LETTER OF THANKS
My brothers and sisters in the Good Lord who never fails his own,
If it were not for the Good Lord and the faith of good people like you, I will not be here with you today.
I stand today in humility and gratitude to thank the Almighty God for his love towards us.
I thank you for the support, sacrifice and prayers extended to all persons who were arrested and detained in pursuit for justice, equality and the respect for minority rights. Our detained and incarcerated brothers and sisters through my voice owe a huge debt of gratitude to you.
Over the last 3 weeks, I have had time for reflection, consultation with my colleagues, family, other leaders, former and current detainees, and all stakeholders. Thank you is too little to say.
My deepest condolences to all those who were shot and killed on Friday, September 22nd, 2017. I extend my heart to your families during this time, your sacrifices will never be forgotten.
Our deepest thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends who have lost loved ones during our rightful struggle for recognition as a people with a distinct and unique heritage.
The past 11 months have tested us and been very challenging to us as a people, a community, and a nation. But we as a people have stood firm. You have demonstrated unrelenting steadfastness and resolve because you believe in what is just and right. Our cause is morally right and our thirst for justice is insatiable.
As a lawyer and in my capacity as President of FAKLA my focus has been to use these platforms to fight against injustices in our judiciary system and the systemic and sustained marginalization of the Anglophone minority in Cameroon. With the support of the Common Law Lawyers we took that determined step to protest against injustices in the Justice sector in Cameroon. We were later joined by the teachers in a coalition of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium to address the issues plaguing the justice and education sectors. What started as a trade union protest evolved into a generalized movement of civil disobedience; our people have been hurting and quickly identified with the issues raised. Our peaceful demonstrations were met with high-handed military and police action. Things quickly got out of hand and on 17th January 2017, Dr. Fontem and I, respectively Secretary General and President of the CONSORTIUM, along with other members of our community, were wrongfully arrested and detained and the disconnection of the Internet ordered in the SW and NW Regions.
While some of us have been released, others are still languishing in jail. We must never forget them in our prayers and we owe them an endless duty of care and the responsibility to secure their release. I will not relent in this regard. Having been in detention with my courageous brothers and sisters I am totally mindful of its implications.
I can assure you that the time spent in jail has reinforced my beliefs and quest for justice and fairness and I remain more than ever before committed to stand alongside my community and my people in the face of adversity. Despite all efforts to shut us down through incarceration and technological means, you have instead raised your voices. We cannot underestimate a people when they decide to raise their voice. As you know in biblical times, the walls of the great city of Jericho fell down when the children of Israel praised God through their voices because the voice of the people is the voice of God.
Through your voices the walls of oppression, marginalization and injustice are beginning to develop cracks and will eventually fall down in our nation as you build the foundations for greater recognition and respect of the Anglophone minority in Cameroon.
The essence of this communication is simply to extend thanks. I understand the importance of communicating on very specific issues in relation to our common and shared plight as the Anglophone minority in Cameroon. Rest assured I will be doing this exhaustively and in good time.
To all parents, children, students, businessmen and women, I sincerely thank you for all your prayers and your enormous and invaluable sacrifice.
I commend the church and leaders of many religious communities for their sterling and invaluable contribution.
To the lawyers and teachers, you once again demonstrated through your sustained support that you remain the rightful custodians of our common heritage. And to our indefatigable defense team of the detainees, I salute you and especially thank you for the sacrifices and support, as we continue to seek the release of the remaining members of our community.
To Cameroonians in the diaspora, your deep and continued interest to address inequality and marginalization in our fatherland has been instrumental in informing the international and national community on events back home which was critical in mobilizing international support and attention. We thank you. My deeply felt gratitude goes out to all leaders, both in exile and at home, who have worked tirelessly, to ensure we achieve justice, freedom, fairness and equity now and into the future.
I also salute those within the political class of Cameroon who upheld the flag of justice and demanded freedom for all detainees.
We equally thank all journalists who stood by us, especially those who were locked up for doing their job.
To our Francophone brothers and sisters, especially those who showed solidarity and sympathised with us, we remain grateful and assure you that our message has never been and will never be that of hate or violence, but is one filled with the need to be recognized as a people with a unique heritage. Your collective resolve strengthened the model of the Cameroon we ought to fight for and to build.
To each and every one who made any little positive contribution to keep us focused in the face of the trials and tribulations brought on by the crisis, I express my heartfelt gratitude. Our release is a result of collective action.
We acknowledge the support and contribution of the international community including inter alia, the United Nations, African Union, University of Notre Dame, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists, The African Bar Association, The Law Society of Upper Canada, Front Line Defenders, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales as well as many organisations who monitored, observed and reported on the court trial and urged for the release of all detainees. Let us not forget that some of ours are still in jail.
We equally thank other member states both within the African continent and beyond who through quiet diplomacy, have been advocating for our release and the resolution of this crisis.
Incomplete will be my salutations without expressing my deep appreciation and admiration for the strength given to me during these months in prison by my family and friends. I believe that your pain, suffering and hurt was much greater than my own. On a personal note, my family will forever remain indebted to you all for the care and love you extended to us during the funeral of our father.
To each and every one who made any little positive contribution to the current crisis, I express my gratitude. The half-victory we celebrate today is a result of collective action.
Unfortunately, we cannot engage in any celebration of sorts because a good number of our brethren are still in jail and others in exile. I know the ordeal they face because I went through that myself. It is our utmost priority to do everything in our power to ensure their release from jail and their return from exile. We will do so as we pray that they remain strong in mind and steadfast in spirit. For we collectively have a nation to build, and build it we must – with all hands on deck!
We are mindful that over the last 11 months, various conditions have caused us to be angered, disappointed, frustrated, misinformed and in some cases this had led to violent acts. Consistent with our approach, we have and will continue to urge you all my brothers, sisters and parents to exercise restraint, and to work towards preventing all forms of violence. As one of my idols Martin Luther King Jr once said, “ In our quest to seek our rightful place, let us not drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” Let us abscond violence because love always trumps hate.
We have a collective responsibility to prevent the burning of our private and public buildings especially schools. I have had the opportunity to read, meet and hear from some of you about your experiences and aspirations. We can assure you we have heard your frustrations loud and clear. Whether I have met with you or we agreed on the same opinions or not, I learned from you and it helped me become a better man.
Even though we may differ in approaches we must respect each other’s opinions. We can disagree without being disagreeable. It is a hallmark of a democratic society to have divergent views and opinions. Government has the responsibility to take steps to ease the tensions within our communities so as to reduce the likelihood of conflict. We call on all our youths, religious leaders, community leaders, opinion leaders to work towards addressing all potential signs of violent conduct and to stand up and speak up against violence. The solution must be political. This is a time for leadership and statesmanship which we will provide.
I look forward to the Head of State to call for a dialogue forum to address the root causes of the Anglophone crises and to find sustainable solutions to them. I urge the military to remember that their primary duty is to protect civilian lives.
You have all shown that you have the resilience, the will and the courage it takes to work towards change as a people. These are qualities we uphold and will need as we strive towards a better society. A society where the rights of all peoples are respected and protected. A society where minority rights will be respected and there will be no marginalization, suppression and oppression of the minority by the majority. A society in which fundamental human rights will be respected. A society where you can practice your faith without intimidation by the state. A society where repressive laws are abrogated and where laws are made to serve the people and not the rulers. A society wherein merit is earned and not determined by corruption and nepotism. A society where the youth is trained to be job creators and not only consumers. A society where the rights of women will be respected. A society where our youth can be prepared to compete in the global workforce. A society where prosperity is shared, people have access to good healthcare, infrastructure and jobs. A society where each successive generation enjoys a higher standard of living. A society in which we will collectively take upon our civil responsibilities and not hesitate to fight against bad governance. There is distance to be covered and we know we can count on you.
Today, we are seeing an increase in resistance across our nation. The road ahead will be challenging, but given what we have overcome since our independence, we are up to the task of building a fairer nation that represents our better ideals and aspirations as a people. It will require that we exercise good judgment, refrain from violent actions and focus on how best we can build a nation of our dreams and fulfill our responsibility as global citizens. We are where we are today because the status quo is unacceptable. A new generation has now come of age and is prepared to seize control of its destiny. Leaders on all sides have a moral obligation to come together and address the people’s grievances so that we can forge a new dispensation that allows all of us to live in freedom, peace and prosperity.
Once again, while we are fully appreciative of what lies ahead, our immediate concern remains getting our brothers out of jail and ensuring that those in exile for fear of their safety return home to their loved ones. So, today, my brothers and sisters, I am not only doing a thanksgiving service but more importantly I am offering prayers for those in jail, those in exile and those lives lost in this conflict.
Once again I believe fighting injustice and marginalization of the Anglophone minority is right. And this is the time to do right. I have never been more committed.
Thank you and God’s richest blessings.
Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla