Senfo Tonkam still retains his anti-imperialist militancy and radical outlook after two decades in exile. The liberation of Africa, he insists, is not yet complete. The struggle continues. And no African will ever be free until all Black people everywhere in the world are free
Back in the 1990s, political repression and persecution in Cameroon had reached a climax under the Paul Biya regime. Mr. Senfo Tonkam was at the time one of the leading student activists who had launched a successful nationwide mass movement to challenge the regime to introduce competitive pluralistic politics which respected the fundamental guiding principles of human rights and democracy. Under his leadership, the Cameroon student movement succeeded in rallying the masses to fight for a better system of governance but for this to succeed, they were convinced that another key priority was to free Cameroon from the neo-colonialist stranglehold of France.
For the freedom of their country, Tonkam and his fellow student activists paid the price, as the Biya regime retaliated with repressive measures. Tonkam and his colleagues were arrested, tortured, banned indefinitely from the university, persecuted and eventually forced into exile in 1993. Many students were brutally raped and killed by the security forces. Since then, Tonkam has lived as a political exile and refugee in Germany. He spoke to me about a number of issues in Cameroon, Africa and the world.
Cameroon’s “Anglophone problem”
Like several other African countries, Cameroon faces severe internal challenges that risk undermining the stability of the nation as testified by the recent developments in the so-called Anglophone parts of the country. What do you think about that? And what solutions could you propose for this problem?
TONKAM: First, starting with the victims of Biya’s killings and repression in the North West and South West regions as well as in other parts of the country including the Eseka railway tragedy caused by Uncle Biya and his imperialist master Bolloré in 2016, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences and my deep sympathy to the victims of these new displays of Uncle Biya’s cruelty and to the bereaved families. They should know that the sacrifices they have made and the blood they have shed were not in vain. In fact, they are another of the many seeds upon which the Kemetic Liberation will grow and acquire a strength so devastating that will sweep Uncle Biya and his western masters in an irresistible landslide and throw them all into the very hell of which they are the creatures.
Now, to answer your question, I should say that I never identify and I never define my people with or through the misidentities that have been imposed upon us by our rapist enslavers and imperialist oppressors! Unfortunately, the way things have happened has confirmed that, as long as our struggles will not be articulated and carried out by the deprived masses, progressive social forces and grassroots communities and revolutionary activists with an unshakable passion for African liberation and a clear understanding of world politics, they will always be hijacked by bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elites to advance their class interests.
Thus, it is almost certain that, one day or the other, the country’s Francofoolish elite will compromise with, make concessions to or yield to the demands of their fellow Anglofoolish elites. Both will share their blond wigs and celebrate their allegiance and alienation to the dialects, symbols, (anti)values and interests of their common western masters. So, when the people will relaunch the struggle to end western imperialist control and neocolonialist oppression of the country once for all (i.e. achieve true and complete liberation), you will see both the Francofoolish and the Anglofoolish comprador elites fighting together alongside their western masters to eliminate the Kemetic progressive masses and revolutionary activists. But, if the Francofoolish elites do not compromise with their Anglofoolish fellow bourgeois, the tragedy of the country is that, there is no organized force now that can stop Uncle Biya’s bloody madness and his determination to maintain his corrupt and bankrupt regime at all costs.
In other words, Mr. Tonkam, are you suggesting that what is going on in Cameroon now has nothing to do with the stability, integrity and unity of the country, but it is a mere conflict of interests among the country’s elites?
TONKAM: Exactly! That’s why I’m shocked by the blindness, naivety (or stupidity?) and fanaticism of some Francofoolish intellectuals who, in the media, aggressively dismiss their Anglofool counterparts and who keep asserting boldly and arrogantly that, “We will never accept that Cameroon be divided”. By doing so, they are legitimizing Uncle Biya’s criminal and bloody crackdown on our people and he is very thankful for that. Yet, this lazy, stupid, dictatorial and corrupt character has never showed any interest in the affairs of the country, only to mass murder our people, steal our money, embezzle our public funds and hide them in western banks! And once he will deal away with the Anglofool elites, he will turn against the very Francofools who would have been stupid enough to legitimize and support his crackdown on the Anglofool elites.
These are issues that should have been articulated and brought forward; for, they would have mobilized more people and revitalized the struggle to free the country. Unfortunately, blinded by their class interests (the Anglofool petty-bourgeois elites) and blinded by their reactionary nationalism (the Francofool petty-bourgeois elites, and both badly lacking a progressive mindset and a revolutionary agenda, all those who in the country had a stake in the end of the system, completely missed yet another opportunity to build a strong coalition that could have freed the country from Uncle Biya and his foreign masters.
If we understand you well, Mr. Tonkam, are you suggesting that the Anglophones and Francophones should have united against President Biya and they should have agitated for his departure?
TONKAM: No Francofools and no Anglofools, my Sister, but the Citizens of Kemet should have come together, joined hands, united and worked together to chase out the western oppressors and their local stooge Uncle Biya. Yes!
So, in other words you are saying that Cameroonians must start the liberation struggle again, like the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) in the 50s and 60s?
TONKAM: Exactly, my Sister. That’s the eternal obligation of peoples who fight but don’t finish the fight with a successful outcome. Ancestor Bob and Sister Rita MARLEY say it very well: “Rise, Fallen Fighter! Rise and Take Your Stance Again! ‘Cause He Who Fights and Runs Away, Lives To Fight Another Day!”. Until and unless we understand that, we will never be free!
A last word on this matter, Mr. Tonkam. After the obvious incapacity of the opposition parties and the civil society to impose themselves as protagonists in the debate between the regime and the Anglophones, in view of what you have called the bankruptcy of President Biya’s regime, the contradictions of the Anglophone and Francophone bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie, and the betrayal of former student activists, who can address this serious problem which might become a serious challenge to the survival of Cameroon as a nation?
TONKAM: The people. Yes, the citizens of Kemet, coming together, will certainly resolve this issue and all the other issues affecting this country and Africa.
No, Mr. Tonkam. I mean leaders, groups and organizations. Because even if the people can resolve a conflict, it takes leaders and facilitators to bring everybody around the table, work out solutions and broker agreements.
TONKAM: Since you are insisting, I would say this. The following historical leaders would have been helpful in finding a solution had they still been alive: Mongo BETI (writer and essayist), Hugo CHAVEZ (President of Venezuela), Ndeh NTUMAZAH and Ekemeyong MOUMIÉ (respectively Chairman and leader of the Cameroon liberation Party UPC). May they all rest in perfect peace. In their absence, I would strongly recommend the following personalities: Bayyinah BELLO (Ancestral Priestess, Ayiti), Mother JAH (Family JAH/Embassy of the Diaspora in Ouidah, Benin), Mamadou COULIBALY (Former Minister and Speaker of the Parliament in Ivory Coast), Nomzamo MANDIKIZELE, Mother of the Azanian Nation (Editor’s note: Winnie MANDELA, South Africa), Assata SHAKUR (former Black Power activist, political exile in Cuba), Kah WALLA (Chairwoman of Cameroon People’s Party), Eboussi BOULAGA (philosopher), Moukoko PRISO, (scientist and activist), Mbombog Mbog BASSONG (scholar and cultural activist), Comrade Affiong LIMENE (scholar-activist and community organizer), Chinweizu IBEKWE (scholar-activist). As a political party, I would recommend the true and historic UPC (Union of Cameroon Populations) and as an all-round organization I would recommend the SCNC (Southern Cameroon National Council). The only thing is that, to succeed, this gathering would have to undergo a healing process to free itself from the Pan-Obamanist curse, first.
Are you aware that the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) was banned by the Cameroon government? And that Assata Shakur is still a fugitive under US laws and is wanted by the US government and security agencies?
TONKAM: Yes, and so what? A good revolutionary does not care about the legality or illegality of individuals, organizations, institutions, structures, or movements existing and operating in the context or in the environment in which she/he operates her/himself. The only thing that matters to a revolutionary is whether those individuals, organizations and structures are friendly, unfriendly, or neutral; allies or opponents; strong or weak; competent and effective or incompetent and ineffective.
And what about President Biya, the man in power?
TONKAM: The only meaningful thing this lazy, incompetent, corrupt, and criminal character can still do for this country is to take himself, his family and his foreign masters and go to hell with them all. (Laughter).
The Campaign to abolish the French colonial currency, Franc CFA
An international campaign is underway against the Franc CFA, the currency used in former French colonies. You were among the first to publicize this campaign across Africa and all over Europe and North America, but surprisingly as the campaign is attracting more Pan-African celebrities, you have not been participating in the various panel discussions and public events on this issue.
TONKAM: The French neo-colonial currency called Franc CFA epitomizes western economic enslavement of Africans. The campaign to abolish it actually started under the motto “NO TO FRANC CFA”, an the initiative of young activists from Benin. These are brave and committed activists who started a very good grass-roots mobilisation and a very commendable people-centered approach and mass-oriented vision for this campaign. But, as it was gaining momentum, it was suddenly hijacked by opportunistic Panafri-celebrities who changed the original motto into "ANTI-CFA” Campaign. And from there on, it has become a matter of showing off and parading, and posturing, what I call "Panafri-showmanship".
While the initiators of the campaign came to the realization that it would take regime change and revolution to succeed in abolishing the Franc CFA, these Panafri-elites have announced that they will draft a road-map to be submitted to the very neo-colonial dictators and rulers who serve and uphold the very same Franc CFA. In other words, we have here a typical example of such historical situations whereby revolutionaries have launched a movement, only for it to be hijacked by opportunistic reformists from the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie. Thus, the Pan-Africanist bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie took control of a peoples’ struggle to market it as a bargaining tool with the very anti-people regimes and rulers that the masses are rejecting.
In fact, with the “NO TO FRANC CFA” campaign, the youth and the masses were out to confront and get rid of these unpopular pro-western puppet regimes and incompetent, corrupt elites. But the opportunistic, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois Panafri-elite is diverting, distracting, confusing, disempowering and halting these progressive youth and masses. The Pan-Africanist petty-bourgeois celebrities have misled and fooled the African progressive youth and masses into believing that there is a conjunction, similarity, community and commonality of interests between African peoples and African puppet regimes. In this manipulative fairy tale, our puppet rulers are (misre)presented as mere victims of western imperialism themselves, and the masses are asked to feel sorry for them and urged to stop fighting them; instead, they should reach out to them, support them and empower them so that they can allegedly resist the western predators.
In this game of Panafri-fools, the Pan-Africanist petty-bourgeois intellectuals and activists take central stage as key actors by imposing themselves as mediators between the masses and the regimes in power. Indeed, on the one hand, the masses think they are genuinely committed to African liberation; on the other hand, the neocolonial regimes are happy and thankful that the Panafri-elites are helping to stop the angry masses from overthrowing them. Nowadays, there are even media outlets, organizations, movements, intellectuals, writers, artists, and other celebrities who have become specialists in spreading this Panafri-confusion. Thus, they have been propagating, among other nonsense that, neocolonial bloody puppets like Uncle Biya, Uncle Derby, Uncle Obiang, Uncle Sassou are so-called “Pan-Africanists”. (Laughter) This is how the revolutionary demands of the progressive youth and masses were diluted and their campaign was transformed into gatherings to draft a roadmap at the intention of African puppet regimes and rulers. Yet, the first aim of a revolution and of revolutionaries is to defeat foreign oppression and get rid of their local stooges, not to be their technical advisors or their redeemers.
Our Pan-Africanist petty-bourgeois intellectuals and activists have misused and betrayed the struggle of our progressive youth and masses to transform it into a bargaining tool that they are now using to reconcile with the ruling comprador bourgeoisie by marketing themselves as technical advisers and consultants on monetary policy issues. And this is very, very sad, and terrible for Africa.
Is there no way to reverse this situation?
TONKAM: I am afraid, no! Because, to stop these reactionary drifts and slips of the Pan-Africanist petty-bourgeoisie, the youth and masses would need to be empowered. Yet, the Pan-Africanist petty-bourgeoisie overpowers them with the ageism argument, its capacity to get more visibility through media exposure and its global networks of friends and colleagues, its superior financial and material capabilities, its contacts and connections in the ruling circles in Africa and Europe, its intellectual reputation and scientific expertise that it keeps using to claim the leadership of the campaign (pretending that it is the condition to be ‘taken seriously’ by the public opinion, African regimes and western powers), etc.
Personally, I foresaw this mayhem coming, as I began to see many Pan-Obamanists appear all of a sudden in the campaign. Some of these are people who have lied, fooled, and betrayed the African masses in the last eight years; and now that their presidential hero is out of office, instead of keeping a low profile, repenting and apologizing to our people, they seize the first opportunity to hijack yet another struggle of our masses, hoping that people will not expose their contradictions and weaknesses and question their hypocrisy. If African progressive youth and masses do not quickly re-take control over the agenda, that will be a very serious setback for the struggle for African liberation.
There are also reflections underway among the anti-CFA activists to call for the boycott of French products. But many will remember that, it was under your leadership in the early 1990s in Cameroon that the student movement launched the first campaign to boycott French products in Africa ever.
TONKAM: Oh, yes! I remember this period very well, indeed! And it’s a pity that those who so bravely fought in those years have now turned into opportunistic, egoistic petty-bourgeois. The lesson then and now is that: in politics, it’s not enough having good ideas and the best plans; without the right people who are genuinely committed to work on them, determined to implement them, and if necessary ready to die for them, you will fail.
Mr. Tonkam, with regard to your rejection of Pan-Obamanists who have taken control over the anti-CFA campaign, I would like to point out that some of them are not Pan-Obamanists (as you put it). There is even one of the most famous among them, namely Kemi Seba, who, just like you, was harshly criticized for rejecting Obama by fellow Pan-Africanists. What is your comment on that?
TONKAM: I appreciate the fact that Kemi Seba and those you are talking about have maintained ideological coherence while most of our fellow Pan-Africanists were buying into the Obama hallucination. It proves that they are genuinely committed to the African liberation. But, it is precisely because of this ideological coherence that they should have understood that these progressive youths who launched the “NO TO FRANC CFA” campaign should have been supported and empowered to carry forward the struggle, instead of they (the Pan-Africanist Elite) coming and hijacking it. Celebrities and other veterans of the Pan-Africanist Movement should have remained in the background as supporting, advising and empowering elders to the young. Secondly, any genuine African freedom fighter should know that, in order to succeed, a revolution must be conceived of, planned and led by revolutionaries only. Thus, if the achievement of your revolution depends on people who have shown their moral weakness, political contradictions, and ideological incoherence by supporting paradigmatic enemies of the African liberation, then your revolution is doomed to fail.
Is that the reason why you left the Pan-Africanist Movement and are now proposing a new theory for African liberation and reconstruction?
TONKAM: Yes! For me, Pan-Africanism died when its most brilliant advocates endorsed Obama. If an ideology such as Pan-Africanism fails to prevent its key proponents from endorsing paradigmatic anti-African figures, then this movement and the ideology on which it rests has a serious problem. Thus, instead of fighting with my former Comrades over what is true Pan-Africanism and who is a genuine Pan-Africanist or not, I preferred leaving this chaos of contradictions behind me. So, we don’t need fighting each other anymore. Each movement does its things without others messing up with it. And should anyone succeed in freeing Africa, we will all be happy and enjoy.
Political quarrels within African diasporas in the west
Some Cameroonians in the diaspora have raised criticism of your lack of involvement in the Cameroonian diaspora politics. For instance, you are not seen intervening in Facebook, WhatsApp or any internet platform and social media and you don’t take part in their meetings. Why not?
TONKAM: First, I find it worrisome that everybody is now reducing politics to the petty-bourgeois agitation and self-aggrandizing posturing that one observes on internet and in the antisocial media. But not having much time to expand on it, I will leave this aspect out now. Many friends have just put my name in their forums without asking my permission, even as they know that I don’t share the views of most of the people on their platforms. I have not complained or withdrawn. But it’s true that I’m not an active member of these forums because they reflect the confusions, contradictions, weaknesses, reactionary turn, and anti-African direction that African politics has taken in the last decades.
Can you be more specific, please?
TONKAM: In short, in almost all African countries and their expatriates abroad, activists and intellectuals are divided into two groups. The first group champions democracy, human rights, civil liberties, civic rights, and are staunch critics of African regimes. They fight primarily for freedom from local dictatorial and incompetent rulers. In Kemet, for instance, their motto is “All but Biya”. They are pro-western and Eurocentric to the point that, if you didn’t know that they are Blacks, you sometimes would think these are whites spitting their imperialist venom on Africa. They would usually brag with their western passports and speak and misbehave as if they were given a mandate by western countries to defend Europe, western stolen ‘welfare’, and western culture against fellow Africans. Thus, they usually go as far as to call for the deportation of other Africans from their European heaven and arrogantly ask those who criticize European racism and imperialism to leave western (‘their’) countries if they are not happy with western policies.
The second group is made of culturally-conscious Blacks who argue that westerners are the primary causes of the African suffering through their racist actions and imperialist policies. Thus, they fight for African independence, with emphasis on the spiritual and cultural liberation as first steps and conditions to achieve complete liberation. They tend to see African dictators as mere victims of western imperialist powers. As such, they often speak and act in a way that tend to make trite, ignore and forgive the crimes of African regimes and they would argue and justify the repression of human rights activists in a cynical way that sounds like complicity with or support to African neocolonial and dictatorial rulers. When you hear them speak, you could think it’s the spokesperson or information minister of one of these dictators who is spitting his neocolonial venom on opponents. Their motto: “Rather than having another puppet of westerners, we better leave Biya in power!”. Thus, they usually go as far as to pretend that the fellow Africans who have naturalized and got western passports are no more Africans, and they should shut their mouth when we discuss African affairs. They call for their deportation from the African paradise and arrogantly ask those who criticize African regimes and leaders to leave African (‘their’) countries if they are not happy with the policies and the situation there.
So, where do you stand? What do you think?
TONKAM: In my view, both groups are reactionary and hypocritically dangerous, as the outcome of both stances is the status quo of oppression and enslavement of our people. Indeed, you cannot seriously pretend to be fighting dictatorships in Africa without confronting the very western imperialists who have imposed these dictatorships upon us after committing horrible genocides on our populations. On the other hand, you cannot seriously pretend to be fighting western imperialism by tolerating, being complacent towards or being reluctant to overthrow the Uncle Toms and puppet regimes that these very western imperialists have imposed upon us. In fact, the two groups know this very well; simply, their class interests being linked to or depending on either western interests or Uncle Tom’s regime, they are not willing to jeopardize the interests by attacking the very patron who grants and safeguards these class privileges. The first group is made mainly of the African cosmopolitan/globalist bourgeoisie and universalist petty-bourgeoisie, while the second group comprises mostly the reactionary nationalist bourgeoisie and the chauvinistic/jingoist petty-bourgeoisie. The opposition between both groups is only cultural and spiritual, the one being reactionary Eurocentric while the other is reactionary Afrocentric. As such, they represent no threat either to western oppressors or to the lackeys and Toms whom these western predators have imposed in power in Africa, as both groups are their parasitic appendices.
In African history, these two groups represent and embody three of the worst forms of collaborationism that have harmed our nation most badly in the past and today, on the continent and in the diaspora. The first one is the classical Uncle Tom (epitomized by Uncle Biya, Uncle Ouattara, Uncle Nguesso today, like Ahidjo, Bongo, Houphouet-Boigny, Eyadema, etc. yesterday). The second is the Mandela Syndrome (Uncle Mandela, Uncle Soglo, Uncle ATT yesterday, Uncle Gbagbo, and African opposition parties today) and the Obama Curse (Uncle Obama and what I have called the Pan-Obamanists today, i.e. those Pan-Africanists – liberal, leftist, nationalist or/and afrocentric who have endorsed Uncle Obama).
In this situation, it is obvious that as people who have dedicated their life and are determined to completely liberate Africa (meaning: defeating her foreign oppressors and their local neocolonial stooges), we have no place between these two groups. On the contrary, since we are equally rejecting and fighting their patrons, sponsors or masters, there is the serious risk that both groups could ally to fight us. Indeed, as they belong to the same bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie, they know each other very well to understand that they represent no serious threat to one another. On the contrary, they need each other and they feed each other to survive, while the triumph of our struggle (the end of western imperialism and the end of Uncle Biya’s and other puppet regimes) would mean their mutual end as parasitic and profiteer classes.
So, what will your relationship with those fellow Cameroonians be in the next months?
TONKAM: Oh! You know, after I’ve survived the criminalizing and demonizing campaigns launched against me by my former Pan-Africanist and Afrocentric friends for rejecting their presidential hero Uncle Obama (the Pan-Obamanists). I’ve imposed upon myself a new policy in my relations with Sisters and Brothers who have different/opposing views. I don’t argue with them anymore, I don’t fight with them, I leave them alone to do their things and I don’t allow them to intervene in my things. If they need me and they invite me to assist them or exchange views with them, we set clear conditions for the cooperation, I do my thing and I leave. I don’t interfere with nobody’s business and I don’t meddle in nobody’s agenda. Thus, I hope our relationships will remain cordial, respectful, friendly as usual.
But, Mr. Tonkam, as we are living in the IT-age, please allow me to insist on this matter. The Cameroonian diaspora in various parts of the world is perceived to be one of the most vibrant and dynamic as well as the most enterprising. Many Cameroonians in the diaspora also hold high positions in global business, communications and media outlets, and academic institutions such as universities among various other domains. Thus, they are opinion makers/shapers that could help advance your vision for African liberation. By staying away from such forums and platforms, are you not concerned that you will not get your message through to the Cameroonians and in the end, you might be forgotten?
TONKAM: Don’t worry, my Sister. My fight is not about not being forgotten. We want the liberation of Kemet and the liberation of the whole of Africa (Nubia-Kemet). This is what we should not forget. Our individual fate is nothing and it is senseless if it’s not put in the service of our People and our Great Continental and Global Nation.
I seize the opportunity of your question to pay tribute to the hard-working Kemetic diaspora and other African diasporas and to congratulate them for their outstanding socio-economic achievements and academic and cultural successes in these hostile Babylonian Western, Arab and Asian countries. They are a living proof of the fact that we are a resilient, strong, hard-working, successful and conquering people, and nothing or nobody can prevent us from achieving what we want for ourselves and our loved ones. Let’s put the same skills, energy, resilience, stamina, and determination in our struggle to free Kemet and our entire continent from their foreign oppressors and their local stooges and rebuild them for the benefit of our children.
In this regard, my only message to our people (diasporan and continental) will be this one that I posted months ago, in one of the Kemetic forums you are certainly talking about. It’s a call to avoid the artificial divides that our foreign oppressors and their local stooges create among us to weaken us and maintain their domination upon us and their control over Africa. It reads:
“The blessing of being a Black (Nubian-Kemetic) is an Ancestral Right that nobody can deny or take away from another Nubian-Kemetic citizen in any circumstance and under any excuse whatsoever. This is all the more important since one knows the history and the actuality of the oppression of our people by these western criminals, genocidaires, rapists, predators, and barbarian enslavers. On the other hand, we must never forget that the invention, the use, misuse, and abuse of the passport argument is a form of what is called “reactionary nationalism.” Indeed, it was the weapon of our worst anti-African rulers (forged under the guidance of their Western masters) to exclude our true leaders and heroes/sheroes from the affairs of our countries, as they were persecuted and forced into exile for fighting uncompromisingly for the true independence of Africa. This proves that the best Daughters and Sons of Africa are not necessarily those with African passports, and those with foreign passports are not automatically bad Daughters and Sons of Africa. So, by embracing the jingoistic / tribalistic passport rhetoric today, we put ourselves in the worst side of history. Our Sisters and Brothers and their Children who possess western passports (no matter whether by birth or naturalization) are as much African citizens as you with your Kemetic passports and me with my refugee passport. As such, they have the right to monitor, judge, criticize or approve, reject, or support the situation and the policies in place in Africa and to involve themselves in the local affairs of the Continent. In the liberated Africa that is about to rise out of the multifaceted struggles of our valiant people against our external enemies and their local stooges, we will enjoy the same rights (and of course we will also have the same duties) regardless of the color of our passports, the colonial dialects, and the African languages we speak.”
The crisis of African education: the Cameroon case
Mr Tonkam, to talk about your country’s educational system, we have chosen three topics on which our readers would like to hear your comments. The first one is President Biya’s so called “gift” to students of the tertiary education sector in the form of 500000 computers. What do you say about that?
TONKAM: The dictator and his surrogates think that they can keep fooling the people as usual. Fortunately, despite the regime’s televised propaganda, our people have understood this maneuver and nobody will be thankful to him. In fact, the whole thing has flopped due to the bureaucracy and endemic corruption of his system. They promised to deliver these computer “gifts“ between February and March this year. The Kemet masses (Cameroonian masses) are aware of the dangers of a deceitful promise and megalomaniac action that will cause more foreign debt to the country. But the worst is the issue of the protection of our personal data.
What do you mean by that?
TONKAM: There is a serious risk to our national security because the foreign power who will manufacture these computers has a unique chance to prepare them in a way that will allow this external power to steal the personal data of millions of Kemetic youth and their families, hence jeopardizing the safety and the economy of the country. This is another reason for us to speed up the removal of this sell-out dictator. Fortunately, the time is coming when Uncle Biya will have to explain where he got all that money for this so-called “gift”.
The results of the GCE Advanced Level examination of last year have just recently been published and it appears that the best performing students were from the Western province; that is, they are Bamileke. Some observers have presented this as yet another piece of evidence showing that the Bamileke are smarter than the rest of the country’s population. What do you think about that?
TONKAM: I respond that this tribalistic rhetoric is a reactionary behavior recurrent among the African bourgeois and petty-bourgeois as they fight each other for power, privileges and resources. Convinced that they cannot reach the allegedly superior level of their white masters, they turn against their fellow Blacks, using any achievement whatsoever for self-aggrandizement at the expenses of others. It is typical of alienated and enslaved minds to make such comparisons that allow them to claim that they are allegedly superior than other fellow Blacks. Note that they never dare comparing with the white oppressors, because they have internalized their inferiority so much so that, in their mind, whiteness is the highest limit and greatest measurement of all things, as well as the model to emulate and the ideal to live up to. What we must tell these reactionary characters is to leave African children alone to enjoy themselves and perform, without their performances being misused for the sake of tribalistic propagandas, reactionary class interests and artificial divides. Lastly, if we should make comparisons, we must show our children that they are much better than the white oppressors. First, it is factually true that African students perform better than Westerners, Arabs, Asians, and Jews especially when they are put in the same learning and studying conditions. So, they should cast away their inferiority complex and take pride in themselves, their parents, and their heritage. That’s how they can become excellent soldiers of the African Revolution.
You are certainly aware of the power struggle that is currently undermining the private university called “Université des Montagnes”. Can you give us your views on this?
TONKAM: I know the Université des Montagnes, but I’m not part of it in any capacity whatsoever. In fact, I was approached and asked to support the project when they started putting it in place, but I refused to participate for many reasons: a) to me, education is a public good; as such it is the duty of the state to provide it, especially higher education; b) private university reproduces class inequalities and worsens social injustice, as not all students can afford to pay the required fees to study there: c) lastly, in a neocolonial dictatorship, for a private university or school to exist and survive, the owners, teachers and students must be silent or accomplices of the ruling regime. Indeed, should they raise their voice against the government’s policies, they run the risk of being persecuted and their university shut down. Period.
Thus, it is no surprise that private universities operating under a neocolonial system have never taken a critical stand or issued a critical statement or made an action in condemnation of the abuses and crimes of the regime in power. So, it is no surprise that Kemetic private universities have never supported the victims of Uncle Biya’s crimes, even if they are youth, students, intellectuals, and scholars fighting for academic freedoms and better living and working conditions for pupils, students, and academicians. In fact, private universities (it includes religious ones) groom the prototypical coward, lawless, faithless, opportunistic and comprador elites who expect others to sacrifice and die for them and their families, and they will come and enjoy the fruits of other people’s martyrdom.
Does that mean you are against private schools and universities in Africa? In the absence of a functioning public education system, are you saying that private entities or people should not be building schools and universities to provide a good education to children?
TONKAM: The first problem is that these private schools do not offer an African-centered education that will transform our children into proud African Princesses and Princes who will love their Blackness, celebrate their African heritage and who will be committed to fight and are determined to sacrifice to free Africa from foreign predators and their local stooges. On the contrary, they promote an alienated, elitist, and anti-African miseducation aimed at white-washing our children, hence grooming comprador elites who will continue to serve foreign masters tomorrow, like their parents are doing today. Indeed, private schools are privileged spots and exclusive zones from which the children of the rich look down upon their disadvantaged brethren who cannot enjoy similar elite education, and this makes them think they are special and that their destiny is to rule over the poor under the pretext that they have an allegedly ‘better education’. This cannot be allowed to continue in Africa.
In fact, the essential point is that our intellectuals and activists who advocate private education are afraid to confront the state, as they are aware that this might be dangerous and lethal. They are not ready to give up their petty-bourgeois privileges and to die for ensuring universal education to all African children. They therefore implement projects in a way that will not pose any challenge to the neocolonial regime in power and its western masters. Thus, they can pretend to have contributed to the education of the children while in actuality they are making good money, as this type of private education is costly and only the wealthy parents can afford it for their privileged children. It is nothing about philanthropy and national interest: it’s all about business and domination of the very bourgeois class which is responsible for the collapse of the state and of the failure of the public education system. In this context, what will then happen to the immense majority of families who cannot afford these private universities? Are they not entitled to good education also, as citizens of this country? What type of society do we want to build if we ensure education just to a privileged few and not the majority?
Lastly, let’s make something clear: Education is a public good, even the most sacred good in a nation, as it is the value and institution that binds all the citizens together, regardless of their socio-economic status, gender, linguistic and geographical background. It is only through education that you bring everybody together as one and make them share the same set of values and principles on which the nation is built. Thus, you ensure the continuity and eternity of the nation. It is therefore no surprise that, to oppress a people, foreign powers always distort, weaken, destroy, and take control of their education system. It’s about controlling our minds and spirit, as this will make it easy to control our culture, our bodies, our labor, our lands, our resources, and our riches. As Brother Lerone BENETT rightly said: “He who controls minds has little or nothing to fear from bodies. This is the reason Black people are not educated or are miseducated” (Lerone BENETT, The Challenge of Blackness, 1972). He continues thus: “An educator in a system of oppression is either a revolutionary or an oppressor (…) The question of education for Black People … is a question of life and death. It is a political question, a question of power (…). Struggle is a form of education –perhaps the highest form.” In other words, education is a matter of national sovereignty and national defense. In fact, education is the first line of defense in any war. For, if your education system fails, then your nation will fail. But if your education stands, the nation will stand. Better, if your education prevails in the minds and heart of the people, then, no matter what happens, the nation will eventually prevail over her foreign oppressors. It is about the future of a nation; as such, education cannot be left in the hands of private interests.
The crisis of African student leadership
Mr. Tonkam, some of your former colleagues of the Cameroon student movement are saying that you are no longer interested in the affairs of your country. Apparently, whenever they try to get you involved in activities and actions to bring change back home, you always turn them down.
TONKAM: (Sarcastic laughter) Did these former comrades tell you how they came to Europe? Did they tell you who helped them escape police, military and secret police hunting them? Did they tell you who helped them get asylum status, resident permits in various West African, European countries, and the USA? Did they tell you who secured them scholarships, grants, accommodation, etc.? Now, can they show you a single activist whom they have helped the way I helped them? Can they tell you of any successful action, activity, or project that they have carried out alone or together to advance the liberation struggle back home or in any other African country or to advance the rights of Blacks in these western hells where they enjoy golden exile?
It must be known that when I arrived in Europe, I immediately and consistently fulfilled my mission, which was to assist my Comrades on the continent and help them in every way possible (financially, materially, logistically, socially, academically, diplomatically, etc.). With the help of committed diaspora Sisters and Brothers, I succeeded in securing asylum status, resident permits, scholarships, grants, accommodation, resettlement schemes for hundreds of them and student activists from other African countries. But no sooner had they arrived in western countries (in golden exile), they showed their true face of opportunistic, egocentric, treacherous, mean, sneaky and traitor characters, as some of them verbally attacked me and my diaspora friend who helped bringing them to Europe. They even went as far as threatening to murder me in my own house where I have welcomed and lodged them until they could get their own accommodation. They did all this just because I had reminded them of their duty and promise to also assist other persecuted student activists and the student movement back home.
These ungrateful characters have been in exile for over 20 years but have done nothing to assist other politically persecuted comrades and the student movement back in Kemet (Cameroon). Generations of student activists, human rights activists have been persecuted all over the continent but what I did to assist them, they never reciprocated by helping others in return. From time to time they would create phony organizations, issue press releases, parade in the media, organize one or two demonstrations just to make the people back home think that they have remained politically active; but in fact, these gesticulations are just publicity stands. Nothing serious or substantial in the struggle to free Kemet from western imperialist oppressors and Uncle Biya’s dictatorship. Even when they were bored and decided to come together to spend time, it never worked due to their lack of commitment and seriousness and their big egos, their ethical weaknesses, and their material and financial greed. It was only when they wanted to attack me that they could work together.
Why do you think your former colleagues of the student movement are slandering your name?
TONKAM: I think it’s because by making the people believe that I have abandoned the struggle, they appear as the true freedom fighters. In their mean and sneaky mind of opportunistic traitors, they think that to embrace and celebrate them as ‘heroes’, the people must reject me as ‘quitter’. Thus, they prevent the people from knowing that the true reasons why Senfo TONKAM is not with them anymore is because they are opportunists, careerists and traitors. For, if it’s true that I have abandoned the struggle, then it’s clear that the people would not trust me anymore. As such, the people will not waste their time asking me (the alleged quitter) about them (the alleged “freedom fighters”). In other words, for these opportunistic, manipulative, disloyal, and deceitful characters to occupy the stage and parade as the so-called ‘Great Combatants’, Senfo TONKAM must be erased from the memories and the hearts of the people.
I’m fed up with these lies and slanders, now. So, I thank you for this opportunity to set the record straight once and for all. I can no longer accept that such petty characters slander me and malign my reputation. I want to let my people know that Senfo TONKAM has not changed. On the contrary, if it had not been for the betrayal by my former comrades, I would have been back home long ago to finish the struggle we began more than 20 years ago. I’m deeply sorry that the agenda for the complete liberation of our country has been delayed due to such opportunistic, careerist, egoistic and mean characters. But, one day I will be back home and together, we shall free our Ancestral Land and rebuild it for the well-being and prosperity of our Great People.
Mr. Tonkam, I can understand your anger, but you cannot deny that your former colleagues have asked you many times to join and help them in some of their actions and campaigns
TONKAM: (Laughter) Sorry to laugh, my Sister. But this is so ridiculous that I couldn’t help. It’s true that many former Comrades came to beg me to support their fight in many occurrences, but it was only after they were outmaneuvered, overpowered and crushed down by Uncle Biya and/or western oppressors, or after they realized that their allies they counted on were not reliable. But since they had slandered my name, they were embarrassed to call upon me in the first place. But when they realized that they badly need me to succeed, then they came to me.
However, being mean-spirited and arrogant as petty-bourgeois opportunists are, they don’t even think that, in view of their opportunism and betrayal of the previous years and decades, decency commands that they first prove to me that they have become genuine while politeness obliges that they apologize for abusing me and my friends who helped them enjoy golden exile. Lastly, honesty commands that they tell the truth to the people back home over their abandoning the struggle and betraying me. Of course, they are not ready to do that because they are afraid to lose their fake reputation, the trust and the esteem of the masses and the members of their movements back home.
A good example in this respect is this former student activist and his friends who have tried to get me involved in some political struggle back home, and they arrogantly brag that "we are trying to bring Senfo back to the struggle". I would have laughed if people had not been arrested, tortured and murdered by Uncle Biya. I have been fighting since I was forced into exile in the 1990s, while he has been enjoying his golden exile and sleeping, with no concern whatsoever about the suffering and struggle of our people back home. Yet, today he comes and pretends he can teach Senfo TONKAM how to fight, just because in the meantime, he has awakened from his opportunistic sleep to ‘discover’ his new mission as a Eurocentric guru and human rights advocate. The most revolting thing about this case is that, he is one of those former comrades that I helped come to Europe, get asylum and rebuild their lives in Europe, but who turned around and insulted my friends and me, and threatened to kill me in my own house where I was accommodating them.
Today, the other one who also turned against my friends and me, insulted us and also threatened to kill me in my own house, has also awakened from his opportunistic sleep to ‘discover’ his new mission as an Afrocentric guru and anti-Franc CFA campaigner. But when demonstrations erupted in the South-West and North-West provinces of Kemet, they both publicly displayed an acrimonious enmity and mutual hatred, missing no minute to insult and abuse each other publicly in anti-social media, with their supporters often calling on me to settle the conflict between them.
But, I’ve no time to waste meddling in the rearguard fights that are opposing two opportunistic renegades and I’m not stupid to ever work again with such sneaky quitters, wicked traitors and opportunistic ‘freedom fighters’ of the 25th hour. I really feel sorry for the people who, back in the country and abroad, have put their trust in them and are looking up to them as representatives, spokespersons or leaders.
What has become of your former colleagues of the student movement of the 1990s onwards who came to Europe and which lessons do you draw from this experience?
TONKAM: Most of my former comrades are all over Europe, Canada, the USA, etc., enjoying a comfortable golden exile, forgetting what we have done for them in terms of assistance and help to escape persecution, survive hardships, and rebuild their lives. They have violated their promise and shamelessly betrayed their pledge to help other persecuted student activists back home and to advance the struggle to free our country and our continent. Today, they are wealthy businessmen, professionals, academics, workers and all are enjoying a good life. But, unlike me who dedicated all my resources and energy to support them (as well as hundreds of other fellow student activists from other African countries) they have worked only for themselves and their families.
In fact, their behavior has made me realize that it is not because people are young and fight oppression that one should think they are beyond ethical flaws and less morally bankrupt than the neo-colonial and gerontocratic ruling clique that is mismanaging our countries and selling out Africa today. The fact that, after benefiting from the struggle to achieve petty-bourgeois status, my former comrades of the student movement have systematically used their newly acquired resources and class privileges for their own selfish ends and egoistic interests, proves that, had they been in power, they would have lacked the commitment to public interest and they would have been as nepotistic and corrupt as the ruling elites that they were fighting.
To conclude on this topic, I would like the Kemetic and African people and media to know that I’ve mandated none of my former comrades from the student movement to be my spokesperson! Thus, next time you want to speak with them, please ask them to tell what they are doing themselves, not Senfo TONKAM. Why are they spending so much time, spitting so much venom, and wasting so much energy slandering my name? Let them show you what they have done or what they are doing themselves for other persecuted student activists, for their country and for Africa. Only when each of them would have done the 1/100th of what I’ve done for them, for our country and for Africa and the diaspora can they dare pronounce my name. And only when all of them together would have done 1/50th of what I’ve done for them, for our country and for Africa and the diaspora can they dare talk to you about me.
Beyond this conflict with your former colleagues, there is something that you cannot deny Mr. Tonkam: Research on your commentaries shows that you never speak only about your country of origin, Cameroon, but you always talk of Africa in general. What comment can you give on this?
TONKAM: First, one should question all those who seek to malign me for putting the focus on the whole continent. One should ask them what they have achieved in focusing on their individual country? Nothing! How successful have they been with this chauvinistic way of looking at the Black condition? Complete failure! Our people should clearly understand that, there will be no peace, no stability, no freedom, no justice, no well-being, no prosperity, and no happiness for Kemet, unless and until Africa as a whole enjoys peace, stability, freedom, justice, well-being, prosperity, and happiness!
One of the weaknesses of the Pan-Africanist struggle in the last decades has been that progressive forces have not been able to build a strong network of progressive organizations and movements fighting at the continental and global levels. This explains why it has been easy for the western predators and their local puppets to weaken, dismantle and crush any resistance in each African country. Yet, had we build such networks on the continent and in the diaspora, the imperialists and their local stooges would never have had enough resources and capabilities to crush us all down everywhere at the same time. This is an important lesson for the future of our struggle: please, let nobody fool you by making you believe that what is happening in any given Black country (be it in Gabon, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Uganda, Madagascar, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, etc.) or in oppressive countries where our people are held in captivity (USA, EU, etc.) does not affect you in Kemet. Until we live up to our Ancestresses’ and Ancestors’ Vision of Togetherness and Unity as a Race, as a People, and as a Nation, we will all fail!
World: Africa in face of Trump presidency
There is a lot of discussion underway in Africa over Trump’s foreign policy with many Pan-Africanists, anti-imperialists, Afrocentrists, positively welcoming his election on the grounds that his protectionist agenda and his declared will to refrain from intervening in other countries’ internal affairs is good news for Africa. What is your view on that?
TONKAM: (Laughter) This is yet another instance of the incredible naivety of Pan-Africanists. Normally, they should know that, western leaders are the most deceitful, morally bankrupt, corrupt, manipulative, criminal, cruel, and cynical characters on earth and that one cannot trust them, especially when it comes to Africa and Africans. This is all the more shocking and incomprehensible since they have just been victims of the Obama hallucination. Thus, one would have expected that they would not trust any western leader any more, but assess his true agenda towards Africa not based on his speeches and rhetoric but based on the strategic role that Africa plays in the upholding and consolidation of western imperialist hegemony all over the world. And since we all know that western hegemony rests on the exploitation of Africa and the enslavement of Africans, it is impossible for any western leader not to implement an oppressive, exploitative, imperialist, and criminal policy towards Africa. Period!
Thus, one should question the sanity of such Pan-Africanists who parade on TV channels to pretend that Trump’s victory is ‘a God-given’ opportunity to Africa! How naïve can these people be! This is even crazy when one knows that Trump has clearly expressed his will to crack down on Cuba and Venezuela. And these are the same people who supported Obama. This proves that the Obama curse is still very much present in the minds of many Pan-Africanist intellectuals. Now is the era of the Panafri-Trumpists. With this confused mindset, how can we free ourselves? Poor Africa! Thus, it was right to leave the pan-Africanist movement behind me and move forward to set up a new Theory of African liberation and Reconstruction.
Thank you, Mr. Tonkam
* SARRAOUNIA MANGOU TETE is an international correspondent/political analyst on African affairs based in Paris, France.