By Emmanuel Konde, PhD
In December 1989 Albert Mukong left Bamenda for Douala for a meeting with Yondo Black. Vincent Feko accompanied Mukong to the meeting at which the latter briefed Yondo Black on the project he was working. Mukong’s goal, according to Feko, was to persuade the Yondo Black to join him in founding a new political party. At the end of Mukong’s presentation, however, Feko recalls Yondo Black pausing for a moment to reflect on what Mukong had divulged. Then, “embarrassingly, [Yondo Black] turned around and tried to sell us the same commodity which we had proposed to him a moment earlier.” Yondo Black told Mukong and Feko that he was heading a group that was working on a similar project as theirs and called on Mukong and Feko to join them.
Two Cameroonians, it seems, had been thinking about and working toward forming a political party at about the same time. Both, it seems again, had been responding to the same untenable political conditions that prevailed in their country under the one party system. From all apparent indications Albert Mukong and Yondo Black were searching for ways to alleviate the political domination of the CPDM and to open up Cameroon to political pluralism. This development was a good thing.
It reflected something positive about the political future of Cameroon from both the Anglophone and Francophone sectors of Cameroon, and from two individuals who had never met. Here was a golden opportunity for effective collaboration presented itself but, the suspicion that bedeviled relations between Anglophones and Francophones since the transformation of the United Republic of Cameroon to the Republic of Cameroon in 1984 intruded itself deep into the noble cause espoused by Yondo Black and Albert Mukong. This suspicion, which was clearly manifested in Vincent Feko’s analysis of what was happening before his very own eyes, no doubt contributed to preventing the coalescing of two potentially formidable democratic forces to symbiosis.
Consequently, rather than eschew mistrust and seize that auspicious moment to bring the democratic Anglophone and Francophone forces together, Feko instead smelled a rat and allowed his distrust of Francophones to overwhelm his rational judgment.
As Feko himself tells it, he felt that Yondo Black was being dishonest. Feko reasoned that had Yondo been working on such a project his close friend, Professor Jean Michel Tekam, would definitely have been privy to it and the professor would most likely have hinted Mukong. A great opportunity for crafting a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship linking Francophone and Anglophone political operatives was thus squandered and sacrificed on the altar of unfounded sentimental suspicion.
Mukong and Feko gingerly left Yondo Black’s residence very disappointed. On their way out Feko, who admits of being bitter and disappointed by Yondo Black’s performance, told Mukong that they should not go to Yondo again. He further suggested that they should seek some other Francophone collaborators but not Yondo Black. Vincent Feko was obviously convinced that Yondo Black had just learned of the idea about floating a political party from them and was trying to pull a fast one. This narrative by Vincent Feko was revealed during an interview with a local newspaper in 2006, more than 16 years after the 1989 meeting with Yondo Black, and nearly five years after the death of Albert Mukong.
Despite the disappointing first meeting, Mukong—who had an uncanny instinct for political action—accompanied again by his pal Feko met with Yondo Black a second time on January 23, 1990. This was a chance meeting, since the circumstances that led to the meeting were accidental. Albert Mukong had learned that Professor Jean Michel Tekam was visiting Cameroon and that he was lodging at Hotel Beausejour in Akwa, Douala. He left Bamenda for Douala to meet with Tekam. Upon arriving Douala, Vincent Feko accompanied Mukong to Hotel Beausejour where they were supposed to meet Professor Tekam. Unfortunately, the professor was absent when the two men arrived at the hotel. They were told that Tekam was out.
It would appear that the planning of this meeting was executed haphazardly, perhaps to circumvent the security police from tracing Mukong’s movements. Otherwise, it is not clear why Mukong and Feko would have made a rendezvous with Tekam only to discover that their collaborator was absent. After waiting for some time and Tekam did not show up, Mukong suggested that they should visit Yondo Black, whose residence was not far away from Hotel Beausejour. The pair drove to Yondo Black’s place. Soon after they entered Yondo Black’s home, Professor Tekam and Gabriel Hameni, the Principal of Lycée Jos in Douala, joined them. In all, there were about nine or ten people in the room where the group met.
Excepting Mukong and Feko who were Anglophones, the other seven or eight there gathered were Francophones. Mukong and Feko once again tried to persuade them to join the Anglophone project of founding a political party; but the Francophones were adamant. Feko reported that he had “the impression that they saw the situation as one of rivalry between a Francophone and an Anglophone group. To them, it was a matter of seeing which group’s planning to float a political party would do it first.”
Nevertheless, the group of Francophones and Anglophones discussed two important documents presented to them by Yondo Black, host and leader of the Francophone group (Yondo Black Group). The first of these documents was a sort of state of the nation address, the other a manifesto of the projected political party. Although the political party was not named, after discussing the two documents the group decided to merge them into one and have it translated into English.
Obviously, the Francophone Yondo Black Group was probably far advanced with its planning for launching an opposition party against the hegemony of the ruling CPDM than the Anglophone Mukong Group. What is not clear is whether the idea of launching a political party was being developed simultaneously by the Francophone (Yondo Black) and the Anglophone (Albert Mukong) groups, or whether as Vincent Feko suspected, the idea was developed by Mukong and stolen by Yondo Black.
Whatever the case might have been, it is difficult to tell which Group developed the idea first as it is plausible to assume that both were working on the same idea at the same time. The rancor of who first developed the idea notwithstanding, the opposition forces suddenly burst forth into the Cameroon political scene in the first half of 1990.
Yet the inability of Francophone and Anglophone political operatives to abjure their differences and form a united front at that propitious moment was symptomatic of the problems that have plagued Anglophone-Francophone relations in general and opposition collaboration in particular.
The last contender for the highly coveted position of founder of the SDF is John Fru Ndi, chairman of that party since its inception in 1990. A more detailed treatment of Fru Ndi is presented below, but first a synoptic appraisal of the life of Albert Mukong would be apropos.
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