By Emmanuel Konde, PhD
Two major political forces perceptibly altered the face of Cameroon politics in 1990. One of these emerged from English-speaking Cameroon and the other from French-speaking Cameroon. Neither of these forces could have succeeded on its own devices without the assistance of the other. Although these forces failed to converge into a formidable political force, each nonetheless influenced the transition of Cameroon from a one-party to a quasi-multiparty political system. These forces were the Yondo Black Affair and the Social Democratic Front (SDF). The catalyst for multiparty politics in Cameroon, as Dibussi Tande has accurately posited, was the Yondo Black Affair that suddenly erupted in Francophone Cameroon. What has been in dispute for some time, however, is the originator of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) whose roots are deeply embedded in Anglophone Cameroon. The SDF would become the left arm of the opposition movement and eventually rise to be the panoply bearer of the political transition of Cameroon from a single party to a multiparty state.
Of the founding fathers of the SDF we know. That a group of individuals had met on November 11, 1989 in the Bamenda Presbyterian Church Center to organize the SDF is not in dispute. That the members of this group, including Justice Nyo Wakai, Clement Ngwasiri, Siga Assagna, John Fru Ndi, and Albert Mukong can be called “founding fathers” is neither an issue of dispute. At issue is who originated the idea. Below are three versions of varying lengths that purport to illuminate the question of originator of the idea that became the SDF.
The three names often mentioned are Ndeh Ntumazah, Albert Mukong, and John Fru Ndi. From my reading of what transpired, however, I came to the conclusion that the three men were somehow linked to one another. Of Ntumazah and Mukong, their political affiliation goes back to the late 1950s in the One Kamerun (OK) Party. Whether this controversy is a matter of mere semantics or actual substance is not made any clearer here; but it goes deep into explaining some of the insignificant issues that can bog down a sublime political endeavor.
Ndeh Ntumazah, the last of the original UPC leaders is on record as saying that he was the originator of the SDF. Ntumazah is noted to have asserted that: “I say this without feeling that I have betrayed Fru Ndi, that the SDF was my brainchild….” Although Barrister Luke Sendze, a principal player in the founding of the SDF and contributor of case documents for the publication of Ntumazah’s autobiography dismisses this assertion, he admits of a declaration Ntumazah made to him one evening:
"I told Fru Ndi that he would be a great hero for this country fighting the French than trying to outwit them. I told him that so long as the French are in control… he has no chance of becoming president of this country. It is the French who decide who governs this Cameroon, not the ballot box. Until you chase away the French, no amount of protest will change anything."
A more detailed and plausible account comes from Vincent Feko, who accompanied the late Albert Mukong to two meetings they held with their Francophone counterparts in Douala in December 1989 and January 1990. These meetings would result in their arrests by government authorities and in bringing about the demise of the one-party system in Cameroon. What follows is Feko’s recollection of those meetings.
Vincent Feko recollects that “the idea to create this political party was brought up by Albert Mukong, and it was him who after his release from prison took the initiative to contact us individually to join him to create the party. I am talking about the real founding fathers of the SDF.”
The main objective of the SDF at its conception was to work for a return to the two-state federation. Thus, it became necessary to identify some serious French-speaking Cameroonians to join in this mission. Again, it was Mukong who initiated the search for Francophones. The Francophone whom Mukong first contacted was Professor Jean Michel Tekam, who was based in Paris. Given the fact that Professor Tekam was abroad and thus felt that he could not contribute effectively to the project at hand from long distance, he directed Mukong to make contact with a friend of his in Douala named Yondo Black.
© The Entrepreneur Newspaper 2017. All Rights Reserved