By Yerima Kini Nsom
Dear reader, have you ever paused a little to imagine a country without soldiers? Such a country would not even exist as a corporate entity since any country with expansionist ambitions can walk in, conquer and colonise it at any time. The citizens of such a country would be living in perpetual fear of the unknown.
The importance and the indispensability of the soldier in every country cannot be overemphasised. This means that it is incumbent on us to set our applause machines to motion and give all genuine and republican soldiers a standing ovation for defending nation and its citizens from aggressors. I hereby, pay glowing tribute to soldiers who truly defended the Fatherland in honour and fidelity from the Bakassi Conflict to Boko Haram terrorism and to the Anglophone Crisis. I shed a tear and pray for the repose of the souls of those who have paid the soldier’s debt like Young Siward of Shakespeare’s imagination. Despite the odds, many soldiers have continued to serve the nation in self-denial and abnegation. They have continued to preserve the aura of dignity, nobility and sanity our military deserves.
Compatriots who play such an important role in the life the nation should not be the subject of free-for-all cursing like it happens, more often, in public discourse. We need to reflect and ponder over how we treat people who were never conscripted into army. They chose to be defenders of the nation and all times. In the circumstances, we need to be brutally frank and avoid cheap propaganda and outright prevarications that usually animate debates on the professionalism of our military men and woman. Indeed, many of them are veritable work horses who have labored themselves grey just to defend the fatherland. I will never, just like the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, President Paul Biya, honour any misguided soldier who abuses human rights, including the extrajudicial killing of unarmed civilians. I mean those who take away the lives of unarmed civilians with tragic ease. For, even when all the odds are stacked against him, the main duty of the soldier is to protect citizens and their property. This is the image that the authorities project about the military almost on daily basis. Luckily, they are no longer tolerating the misguided fellows who seem to be so determined to give our army a bad name. Are you surprised that the authors of the Ngarbuh and the Missong massacres are facing the long sword of the law? My heart bleeds whenever blood is spilled recklessly in the internal crisis rocking our country. I weep for all our compatriots, both soldiers and civilians who were recklessly dispatched into early graves. Yet, it must be stated in all sincerity that there are soldiers and there are “soldiers”.
The former are those who embraced the profession as a calling and are so determined never to shoot above the law, especially when dealing with internal conflicts. The latter are likely to be morally bankrupt fortune-seekers, desperate oafs who have invaded and adulterated the profession just as a way for desperate employment and the zeal to line their pockets from the public till.
They are driven into the military by convenience and not by conviction and the passion to decently defend the Fatherland at all times. Small wonder that some of these people are responsible for the atrocities that the military is being accused of committing. They are accused of looting, rape, extrajudicial killings, arson and other forms of atrocities that reek of collective punishment in the crisis-hit areas. Otherwise, how can women who sell food and drinks to any customer that comes their way be brutally killed because they sold food to Separatist fighters? Can those women refuse to sell food to the gun-wielding Separatist fighters and still be alive in that village? Do we create more problems or solutions to them when we kill on unarmed civilians on account of very flimsy reasons? I fear that such killings are stocking the embers of the crisis, the offspring and other family members of the victims, quickly joined the other side in a desperate bid for vengeance. You can only cause more problems when you break into people’s houses and stores in such poverty-stricken rural areas and you loot property and burn down the structures. This means that we are creating more than a century of agony and underdevelopment for generations to come. And it saddens every sane mind when elements of the army, which is a republican institution, behave like hoodlums of terror.
Such fellows need to be reminded that the army is an organised republican institution with clear “dos” and “don’ts”. They should stop behaving as if they were part of an army of occupation or a private militia for certain individuals. They should stop giving the wrong impression that every Anglophone civilian is a Separatist suspect who should be brutally killed until the heavens intervene in one way or the other. For, we cannot swear the Cameroon is “one and indivisible” and still afford to treat some citizens with scorn and prejudice as if they were part of a different country. Those on both sides of the divide who kill innocent civilians should beware of nemesis. The spilling of innocent blood is always a suicidal move no matter how long it takes.
The uniform man or women ought to be a moral paragon who should show the good example for others to follow. That is why citizens feel frustrated when some soldiers, more often, demonstrate their might instead of their right on some unarmed civilians. The ugly scene at Ambam in the South Region in which some soldiers brutalised a customs officer who tried to stop them from passing with contraband goods, does speak well for our nation. Do some people consider the uniform as a state within a state? Thus, there are soldiers and there are ‘soldiers’. The more I look at some of those who do not respect republican institutions, the more I enjoy playing with dogs just to while away stress.
So, I hereby, doff my hat and pay glowing tribute to all the professional soldiers who still live by the ethics of their profession, and making sure that they defend our country under the law and not above the law. It is a moral obligation for the entire nation to stand at attention for such patriotic and selfless soldiers who continue to deliver against all odds and make our nation in many respects.