This is an interview with Senfo Tonkam, a former Cameroonian student leader exiled in Germany, in which he discusses issues affecting Black people in the world including linguistic divides and tribalism among other problems.
An activist of the Black Community, Senfo Tonkam has participated, organised, led and supported numerous actions, organisations, movements and projects for the liberation and unification of Africa and Blacks around the world. He is the founder of a new Theory of African Liberation and Reconstruction of Africa.
In this second interview to our magazine, he tackled the problem of tribalism and the Anglophone-Francophone problem in Cameroon and Africa, he presents his model of an African state and explains how it will help resolve the problems undermining Africa, especially tribalism and foreign imperialist domination. Lastly, as Pan-Africanists commemorated 60 years of the All Africa People Conference organised by former Ghanaian President Nkrumah in Accra, Ghana in 1958, Tonkam takes position on the crisis of Pan-Africanism.
Resolving tribalism and the Francophone-Anglophone conflict in Africa: Lessons from Cameroon
Pambazuka News: Mr. Tonkam, thank you for granting us this interview. Before we start, I would like to inform you that more than 6000 people read your last interview, congratulations!
Senfo Tonkam: Waoh! True? Amazing! Thank you for having published the interview. It is great that we, Africans, have with Pambazuka News, a progressive platform to exchange from an African-centred perspective on African issues without any apology, as ancestor Marcus Garvey would put it. Through my analyses and positions, I hope I could help my people to better understand the issues we are facing and to be more effective in addressing them. Me too, I am a passionate reader of your online magazine and I learn a lot from the contributions published there by the many brilliant scholars and committed activists publishing in Pambazuka News. But, you shouldn’t congratulate me, my Sister; instead, let us congratulate and give thanks and praises to the ancestresses and ancestors for inspiring us and for creating the conditions for such constructive exchanges and mutual empowerment. Ashe.
PN: Ashe, you are welcome, Mr. Tonkam. But how to explain that, while you are liked and read by many thousands all over Africa and the Diaspora, you are so much controversial and hated in your own country, Cameroon?
ST: What!? You are kidding me, right?
PN: No, Mr. Tonkam, I am serious: you are a long-time hunter of President Biya whom you never miss a chance to destroy, you bash the opposition leader Kamto, you criticise the other opposition parties and leaders, you expose the opportunism of your former fellow student activists, you dismiss the Francophones and the Anglophones (calling them “Francofools/foolish” and “Anglofools/foolish”); you don’t even recognise and accept your country’s official name Cameroon and anything Cameroonian or Ambazonian, as you label those claiming these identities “Cameroonofools/foolish” and “Ambazofools/foolish”). Finally, as tribalism-loaded speeches and statements are flourishing in your country, you equally bash and denounce both the followers of Biya (Betis and Bulus) and Kamto (Bamilekes) who are claiming the right to stand for their own ethnic groups, calling them “Bamilekefools/foolish, Bulufools/foolish, Betifools/foolish”, etc. In this context, you should not be surprised that everyone hates you, right?
ST: (Laughs). Fortunately, you clarified the situation yourself, my Sister. Indeed, those you are talking about are not the great and brave African masses, but our neo-colonial bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie, the very comprador and power-hungry elites who are taking the country hostage of their egoistic, tribalistic and reactionary agendas. I cannot care less about these sell-outs, stooges and quislings of the imperialist and barbarian foreign predators who are plundering and destroying Africa. As far as I am concerned, the Cameroonofoolish elites can do and say what they want. And to be frank with you, I am happy that these problematic characters hate me, because it speaks to my integrity. No, seriously, my Sister: why should I be concerned over the hatred of a bloody criminal like Uncle Biya and that of Uncle Kamto, his former sycophant, accomplice and mentee before turning the opponent of the 25th hour?
For those who might not know, both Biya and Kamto were in the same government that slaughtered thousands of African youths in February 2008, among whom my Comrade in struggle and Brother Tiwa “Nkrumah” Ngnintedem. Knowing this, it makes no sense that people are abusing, attacking, and want to kill each other for the sake of the sinister power ambitions of these two marionettes of foreign interests. That is why we are calling on the people of Kemet [land of Black people often referring to Egypt] not to give their blood and lives and not to take that of other fellow Africans for these two sell-outs. “Neither Biya, nor Kamto; neither Francofool/ish nor Anglofool/ish; neither Cameroonofoolishness nor Ambazofoolishness” is our motto for this country, and we hope its brave people will come back to their senses and leave Uncle Biya and Uncle Kamto to die alone in their madness.
PN: So, are you informing us that Kamto, the opposition leader claiming victory at the last presidential election in Cameroon was in President Biya’s government?
ST: Oh, yes, my Sister. Uncle Biya is Uncle Kamto’s mentor and teacher in political trickery and lack of scruples. And Kamto was one of Biya’s worst sycophants. For instance, while he and his followers are complaining over their so-called “stolen victory” at the October 2018 presidential elections, your readers should know that in October 2004, this very Kamto betrayed the opposition and stabbed in the back other opponents who were protesting over Biya’s electoral fraud. Indeed, instead of supporting them, Kamto wrote a chronicle in his magazine in which he arrogantly and paternalistically asked them to shut up and accept the decision of the constitutional court declaring Uncle Biya winner. He even went as far as to compare that court with the Pope, pretending its decisions are sacred and unquestionable as those of the pope. Two months later, he entered Biya’s criminal government and stayed there as Deputy Minister of Justice seven years long, keeping silent and endorsing the crimes this regime was committing on the African people. In view of this, it is ridiculous and disgusting to see him and his followers opportunistically posturing today as “freedom fighters”, talking big and teaching lessons in political struggle to long time activists and freedom fighters.
PN: In your last interview, you spoke in length on the betrayal and opportunism of former student activists. So, we can leave this point now. But, why are you so virulent against the Francophones and Anglophones, the Cameroonians and those who define themselves as Ambazonians?
ST: They are all the same products and epitomes of mental slavery. Indeed, for people to define themselves through the mis-identities forged by the foreign bloody criminals, perverse barbarians and monsters who have abducted, deported, tortured, enslaved, raped, mutilated, amputated, castrated, sterilised, and committed genocides on your own mothers and fathers, grand-mothers and grand-fathers, ancestresses and ancestors and are still committing the same crimes on your children today, they must really be mentally sick. And for them to claim and use such mis-identities in order to exclude, ostracise, oppress and slaughter fellow Africans, that is the height of mental slavery. Hence, no surprise that you never see such sickness happening the other way round, that is, you never have white Europeans, Arabs, Jews, Asians, etc. defining themselves as Zuluphones, Buluphones, Bamilekephones, Fulaniphones, Himbaphones, Mandingophones, Sawaphones, Igbophones, Luophones, Kikuyuphones and using such identities to exclude, oppress and mass murder other fellow white Europeans, Jews, Arabs and Asians. In conclusion, if mentally enslaved and morally bankrupt neo-colonial elites hate you, you should be happy, as it reassures you that you are on the right side of history.
PN: But, what is wrong with celebrating one’s tribal heritage and supporting political leaders from the same ethnic groups? Everyone does so, even the Europeans!
ST: Everything is wrong with that! To start with, “tribes” do not exist in Africa; it is a racist invention, an imperialist imposition and a neo-colonialist curse. In the current context of frontiers imposed by Western invaders, we must talk about “micro-nationalities and communities”. Secondly, what the neo-colonial elites are doing is not to celebrate their group heritage, it is to misuse it to claim and exercise political power at the expenses of a) the neo-colonial elite of other communities, b) the working class and the poor of their own community, and c) the working class and the poor of all the other communities. That is what tribalism is about, i.e. a capitalist and criminal agenda imposed by foreign oppressors and reproduced by their local bourgeois and petty-bourgeois quislings to divide the African people in order to dominate, exploit and control us more easily. It is the worst form of psychopathology affecting the mentally enslaved African bourgeois and petty bourgeois in the service of foreign predators.
So, we must clearly tell all the Bamilekefools behind Uncle Kamto and all the Bulufools and Betifools behind Uncle Biya as well as all the Hausafools/Fulanifools behind President Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria or all the Kikuyufools behind President Uhuru Kenyatta in Kenya, etc. that, they don’t represent the Bamilekes, the Bulus, the Betis, the Hausas and Fulanis, the Kikuyus; as such, they must stop misusing and manipulating our communities for their power struggle. Lastly, Europe is not my measurement of things. You cannot strive for healing, freedom and excellence by referring to the most corrupt, morally bankrupt, oppressive, criminal, cruel and inhumane continent on earth. I am aware that Europe is still fascinating to many people among us, especially our neo-colonial elites, but let it be their problem, not ours.
PN: You have mentioned Nigeria, Kenya. And indeed, this tribalism problem is not only a Cameroonian issue, but it affects all African countries. See for example your Nigerian, Congolese and Central African neighbours, Rwanda, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Namibia, South Sudan almost collapsed as a result of ethnic war, etc. How do you think we can resolve the tribalism problem in Africa once and for all?
ST: The thing to do is to make sure that professional politicians have no more power to take our nations hostage of their tribalistic agenda. To achieve that goal, we must liberate Africa from their foreign imperialist masters, as they are nothing but their local neo-colonial stooges. If you chase away the foreign oppressors, their local marionettes are nothing no more. Then, we must get rid of the state structure that they have imposed upon us and replace it with a political system based on our ancestral principles and traditional values. That is why we are proposing a new model of state in which the African masses will exercise power themselves and directly. We call it NubiaKemet, in reference to the two oldest civilisations in human history, which were African. In this new political system, the African masses will be organised in social groups representing the most productive and creative forces of our countries.
We have identified nine such social forces: children and youth, women, men, employers / investors, workers / employees / wage earners, continentals, historic Diaspora, communities / micro-nationalities, peasantry – breeders – fisherwomen/men. And to play their role and accomplish their missions, the NubiaKemet Constitution will grant and guarantee each of them, extended administrative prerogatives, police powers, judicial powers and a veto right. And as one can see in our institutional chart, micro-nationalities and communities will also exercise power directly. Thus, no one originating from those communities will be able to pretend talking and acting on their behalf, take them hostage and mislead them into fighting and killing other communities.
NubiaKemet, the new concept of state and the new political system for tomorrow’s Africa
PN: How effective would your proposal for a new political system in Africa be, considering that Africa is not a single homogeneous state, but composed of 55 sovereign countries?
ST: This won’t be a problem. Indeed, the model of state that my Comrades and I are proposing can and will work in any country, regardless of what is going on in others. And as it will prove stable, strong, people-centred, and bring prosperity and the wellbeing to the people, other countries will emulate this model until it is applied in the whole of Africa and the Black Diaspora.
PN: In a global context in which Africa is still dominated by major powers that are clearly hostile to Africa’s true independence, how will your concept of a new African state prevent imperialists from bribing and manipulating our leaders and from imposing their agenda on Africa?
ST: In our political system, the power is disseminated within the society and jointly exercised by the nine social groups that embody the nation’s sovereignty, with each having enforcement capacity and a veto right. In this context, if foreign predators succeed in bribing, intimidating some of us and force them into serving their interests, it will not work because the group to which they belong will stand against the move of their colleagues turned collaborators and quislings and stop their unilateral deal and scheme with their foreign masters. And even if, by extraordinary, the entire group yields to the bribes or threats of foreign oppressors, you can be sure that all or at least five of the nine other groups will certainly stop whatever deal the traitors would have made with the imperialists.
PN: It sounds too good to be real, Mr. Tonkam. Could you be more specific and give a concrete example to our readers, please?
ST: Sure. For example: if the historic Black Diaspora is fully empowered to pass laws and legislations, to co-manage African affairs and to co-rule Africa, do you think that they will ever accept the kind of exploitative deals, oppressive agreements and unbalanced treaties that currently exist between Africa and the European, Asian and Arab countries? Come on, my Sister! Tell me seriously: do you think our people who were deported, enslaved, raped, tortured, mass murdered, genocided, and who are still being treated as non-human beings and fourth class citizens in Babylon would for instance, ever accept that we be part of things such as the Francofoolishness, the Commonfoolishness, the Arabofoolishness, the Germanofoolishness, the Spanishfoolishness, etc?
Do you think our Diaspora can ever accept that under the guise of fighting insecurity and making peace, Western and United Nations troops intervene in Africa, killing our people, bringing all kinds of diseases designed to exterminate the Black race, plundering our natural resources, raping our children, making their dogs to rape our children, and getting away with their crimes in total impunity? [1. In the Rastafarian language, Babylon is the Empire of evil, i.e. Western and other foreign countries where Blacks are oppressed, kept in captivity and held in bondage. 2. Mr. Tonkam uses the suffix “foolishness” to express his rejection of international gatherings/organisations known as Francophonie, Commonwealth, Arab League, etc.).
PN: What are your answers, Mr. Tonkam?
ST: The answers are “no, no, and thousand times no again”, of course! And you know why? Because unlike many continental Africans, especially our unwise and white-washed rulers and neo-colonial elites, the Historic Diaspora knows better than anyone how wicked and bad European, Arab and Asian foreign predators are. Indeed, for surviving and struggling in the belly of the beast, the Black Diaspora knows exactly how these people see us, hate us, prey and feed on us, manipulate, brainwash, confuse, undermine, maltreat and destroy us. The historic Diaspora knows how our European, Arab and Asian oppressors think, breathe, eat, walk, seat, run, piss, vomit, shit, stink. In short, The Black Diaspora knows everything that we need to know in order to effectively protect ourselves from the foreign oppressors and successfully keep them out of our affairs. The same concept applies with other groups in regard with other issues of national interest.
For instance, our working class and our business people and economic entrepreneurs will never accept labour laws and international trade agreements and economic treaties that will favour foreign interests to their detriment, and they will use their skills and experience to give the Black nation the most progressive laws and policies on matters affecting them directly. Another example: our women will not accept sexist, phallocratic, misogynic family, labour, economic, education policies and legislations, and they will use their skills and experience to give the Black nation the most progressive laws and policies on matters affecting them directly.
Lastly, our children and youth will never allow ageist and gerontocratic policies and laws and they will use their skills and experience to give the Black nation the most progressive laws and policies on matters affecting children and youth. In short, this system empowers the African masses to use their skills and experience to build and defend the Black nation. Your readers may learn more about tomorrow’s African State (NubiaKemet) in the following links: www.nubiakemet.org and https://www.facebook.com/NubiaKemet-329723414477846/
The All Africa People Conference, 60 years later: Does Pan-africanism still have a future?
PN: December 2018 marked the 60th anniversary of the All Africa People Conference (AAPC) of 1958, which was convened by Ancestor Kwame Nkrumah to bring together African anti-imperialist movements in order to unite their forces and achieve the total liberation and the unification of Africa. But 60 years later, we are forced to admit that Africa is far from being free, and even the Pan-African Movement itself is more divided and weak than never before. What went wrong, according to you?
ST: (Long silence). I don’t know if I’m the right person to answer this question. Indeed, remember that in my last interview, I spoke about some of the weaknesses and contradictions, which are undermining Pan-Africanism and I deplored the flaws, confusion and lack of seriousness of many of its most vocal prophets and prophetesses. These are some of the (too) many things that have led me to make the decision to leave this ideology and movement in order to develop a new Theory of African Liberation and Reconstruction. Unfortunately, the circumstances of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Ancestor Nkrumah’s call has proven me right again and confirmed the crisis of Pan-Africanism.
PN: How? What happened?
ST: For instance, while Pan-Africanists keep preaching unity and togetherness, even for this commemoration, they couldn’t put their ideas, resources, structures, time and forces together to organise a single event. Thus, in the same location, two of the numerous leading Pan-African organisations each hosted their own event, with almost overlapping schedules. And that is unfortunately the state of Pan-Africanism today. The more its advocates speak about unity, the more they are divided. The more they preach the virtues of togetherness and synergies, the more they compete against each other for acknowledgement, visibility, fame, resources, followers, etc.
PN: But, Mr. Tonkam, unity does not mean ignoring the differences, suppressing diversity and condemning plurality! Isn’t Pan-Africanism so dynamic and vibrant precisely because of the plurality and diversity of approaches, movements, styles, strategies and tactics that characterise this ideology and this movement?
ST: Sorry, my Sister, but I see nothing dynamic and vibrant in the posturing of the panafri-showmen and panafri-showwomen who currently inundate the antisocial media with their self-aggrandising gossip and sometimes megalomaniac rants. I don’t even mention the panafri-lazy ones, the panafri-sexists, the pan-Obamanists, the panafri-wakandists, the panafri-renegades, the panafri-tribalists, etc.
PN: What do you mean by panafri-tribalism?
ST: I have coined this word to describe such people who, despite their Pan-Africanist rhetoric, are deeply tribalist, regionalist, chauvinist, and jingoist. For instance, some would always want you to support their actions aiming at changing the situation in their country; but they never show up when other countries are concerned. The only anti-racist demonstrations they take part in, are those in relation with themselves or their fellow countrymen/women, never when other Blacks are victimised. And when you work together in an organisation, they always want all the attention, resources, energy, and time to be dedicated to their own country and people, others come second or never at all.
Others are so much comfortable in the culture of their historical oppressor that they never try and learn other African languages or colonial dialects in order to be able to communicate with other Blacks. Lastly, still others are proud to define themselves with the colonial and neo-colonial mis-identities imposed upon us by the white rapists, torturers, enslavers and genocidaires and they claim and use those mis-identities to fight and kill or justify the killing of fellow Africans. Example of the Anglofoolish and Francofoolish, the Bamilekefoolish and Bulufoolish Pan-Africanist elites in the country of Cameroonofoolishness and Ambazofoolishness.
PN: Hence your disappointment over statements issued by some famous Pan-Africanists over the Anglophone and Francophone conflict in Cameroon? Can you elaborate on this point, please?
ST: Yes, this is another example of the crisis of Pan-Africanism. Indeed for Pan-Africanists to even use the mis-identities “Francophones” and “Anglophones” and not to make a class and neo-colonialism analysis of what is going on in the Cameroonofoolishness and Ambazofoolishness, it shows the confusion still prevailing in this movement and the lack of readiness of its advocates to live up to the ideals of our ancestors and ancestresses, at least on this identity and tribalism issues. You cannot liberate and rebuild Africa with an ideology and movement having such flaws.
PN: Can you, please, tell us who and what are the people and organisations above mentioned?
ST: No, no, no, my Sister! Sorry, but I have enough problems like that, I don’t want more fights with no one. The people and organisations concerned will recognise themselves, and I hope they will understand the need and urgency to question certain ways of approaching, understanding, analysing, and addressing African issues.
PN: In your last lecture in Paris, France you said the worst form of this Panafri-tribalism is in the overall attitude of continental Africans towards Diasporan Africans. Can you please, explain for our readers?
ST: Yes! It is a scandal that the Diaspora has to beg for everything when they want to come back to Africa. Visas, residence permits, citizenship, etc. Even Haiti had to beg our unwise rulers to be admitted in the African dis-Union (and was denied). I am talking about tribalism here because it is a clear case of some of us (those born and living on the continent) taking advantage of historical circumstances to exercise power to the detriment of fellow Blacks who were victimised by these same historical circumstances. The height of the perversion and mental sickness is reached when continental African Pan-Africanists and governments classify the Diaspora into two categories: a) the so-called “good” Diaspora (the one that can “invest”, i.e. the bourgeois and petty bourgeois, the elites, the scholars, artists, actors/actress, and the famous) and b) the working and poor class Diaspora (the anonymous, no-names, etc. who have no financial resources). The “Joseph Project” and “NEPAD” epitomise this worst form of Panafri-tribalism that targets the class of the rich and wealthy Diasporans to involve them in and make them co-sponsors and endorsers of the neo-colonial system, while poor Diasporans are excluded.
PN: How could this be resolved?
ST: There are two levels here. First, as you can see in the institutional chart of NubiaKemet, in the new theory that we are proposing, based on the concept of ancestral right, Blackness is our only principle of citizenship. As such, we automatically grant full citizenship to the entire Diaspora and they are fully empowered to co-rule Africa, together and on equal footing with their continental Sisters and Brothers.
PN: Don’t you think that many people will resist this kind of system, especially when the issue of land distribution will pose itself? Indeed, where will you accommodate the billions of Black people who, according to your theory, will automatically all be citizens of this country? Aren’t you a bit utopian here, Mr. Tonkam?
ST: No, my Sister, the right question is rather: why is it that, when Europeans, Arabs, Asians, Martians, Jupiterians, Saturnians, white, yellow, red, lila, purple, green people settle in Africa (often after stealing the land and murdering our ancestresses and ancestors), we don’t mind? But, as soon as it is about bringing back home our own people who were deported by these very foreign predators, all of sudden, we see the alleged “problems”, we find the idea so-called “utopian”, “unrealistic”, we raise all kinds of questions, etc.
PN: What is the second level of your theory on the relations between continental Africans and Diasporan Africans?
ST: Secondly, considering that we are suffering an undeclared but very real war from foreign oppressors and predators, we must revolutionise the relations between continental and Diasporan Africans. Concretely, as I once said to one of your colleagues, this means that continental and Diasporan Africans need each other to rise to the level of political consciousness, and acquire the revolutionary skills and social competences which are necessary to successfully liberate and rebuild Africa. But this coming together should take place around a visionary project and a revolutionary agenda, not sentiments or the mere pleasure to reunite and enjoy each other. If one group fails to support the other, then this is nothing but treason. Consequently, those who have been betrayed are entitled to deal with the traitors like it is proper and recommended to deal with traitors in any revolutionary process. This means that, we must question the traitors, expose them, criticise them, challenge them and if necessary neutralise them as part and agents of the oppressive system.
PN: What according to you could be the solutions to revitalise Pan-Africanism?
ST: Again, it is not my role. It is up to those who are still identifying with this ideology and movement to resolve their home-made crisis. But I sincerely wish the genuine among them to succeed. For, Pan-Africanism was a great vision that has inspired, nurtured and empowered millions of freedom fighters throughout the world over many centuries, me included. As such, I will always be thankful to the ancestresses and ancestors for having brought that vision which has made of many of us good persons and good freedom fighters. It would be a great loss to see it dying like that.
Unfortunately, it is not sure that the genuine revolutionaries among the Pan-Africanists will have the understanding, courage, strength and the determination necessary to address the many contradictions of their ideology, and more importantly to debunk, get rid of and neutralise the panafri-confused, the panafri-opportunists, the panafri-renegades, the panafri-sexists, the panafri-lazy, the panafri-toms, the panafri-cons, the pan-Obamanists, the pan-Wakandists, and the panafri-tribalists in their midst. In NubiaKemet, thanks to the Maat Revolution, we don’t have these problems, as a) our principles, paradigms, vision and agenda are clear and coherent (for instance, we have no in-fighting between panafri-Christians and panafri-Muslims, etc.); and b) only those who truly live up to the moral and ethical standards of our ancestral s/heroes and are really committed to the complete liberation and the reconstruction of Africa are admitted in our ranks.
PN: Thank you, Mr. Tonkam
ST: Thank you, my Sister. On this day of the 215th anniversary of Haiti independence, let us give thanks and praises to the ancestresses and ancestors who fought and made this successful revolution. Let us ask them to inspire, protect and bless us, so we can emulate them and become better warriors, and succeed in liberating and rebuilding Africa and bringing back our Diaspora back home.
* Senfo Tonkam is a former Cameroonian student leader exiled in Germany. Sarraounia Mangou Tete is a correspondent of Pambazuka News.