By Gérard Alingwa
Cameroon is a sovereign State and does not need lessens from whosoever not even the American diplomat who demonstrated unprofessionalism by divulging to the public in- camera discussions following an audience granted him by the Head of State, Paul Biya.
The May 17 audience granted the Ambassador of the United States of America (USA) to Cameroon, Peter Henry Barlerin by President Paul Biya was in all dimension a diplomatic outing that should have been ‘diplomatic’ in all ramification. President Paul Biya in his usual conviviality showcased the legendary hospitality of Cameroon and its people to the Ambassador who is barely few months old in his diplomatic mission in Yaounde.
At the end of the audience at the Unity Palace, the Ambassador granted a press interview to journalist of the State media. As if that wasn’t enough, the US diplomat issued a press release on his discussions with the Head of State revealing issues that came under discussion.
“Finally, the President and I discussed upcoming elections. I suggested to the President that he should be thinking about his legacy and how he wants to be remembered in the history books to be read by generations to come, and proposed that George Washington and Nelson Mandela were excellent models” the concluding paragraph of the release reads. This statement has attracted widespread criticisms from across the board with pundits stating that the Ambassador was meddling into internal affairs of a sovereign State. Issues of elections in Cameroon are governed by well-established legal instruments such as the Constitution of the country (the highest law of the land) and the Electoral Code. The choice of leaders in Cameroon is a sole prerogative of the citizens of the country as stated in the Constitution. Article 2 of the Constitution of Cameroon as amended in 2008 states that “National sovereignty shall be vested in the people of Cameroon who shall exercise same either through the President of the Republic and Members of Parliament or by way of referendum.” Article 5 (1,2) further adds that “the President of the Republic shall be the Head of State, elected by the whole nation, he shall be the symbol of national unity.”
From the above therefore, Ambassador Barlerin’s unsolicited lessons on the Head of State’s legacy are uncalled for because the choice of leaders in Cameroon is well defined in the Constitution. President Paul Biya was overwhelmingly voted in the 2011 Presidential election by a vast majority of Cameroonians with 78 per cent vote. Recently, calls have been multiplying from various segment of the country, calling on President Paul Biya to stand for another re-election. Even the unmatched and stunning turnout of supporters of the ruling CPDM party in different ceremonial grounds for the 20th celebrations across the country is a pointer that the ruling party has numerical strength above its rivals across the country. It is therefore an aberration for a diplomat to give legacy lessons for a man who has a wealth of experience in governance with over three-decades of experience at the helm of the country. Unfortunately for the American diplomat, Cameroonians have the final say on who their leader should be. President Biya’s legacy is already glaring as the father of modern day Cameroon.