Kangsen Feka Wakai
Dear Mr. Yongui,
I hope my letter meets you well. I recently stumbled upon this article culled from Le Messager newspaper, about a recent letter you wrote to certain authorities about the recent recruitment of 25,000 ‘youth’ by the government of Cameroon.
Le Messager did not publish any of your six letters, even though it did quote excerpts from them. I was immediately struck, which in a way inspired my letter to you, not about your complaint itself, but rather, the people you choose to send your letters to; President Paul Biya, Prime-Minister Philemon Yang, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the French ambassador and the French Cultural attaché in Yaoundé, and to the resident representative of the United Nations in Cameroon.
I remain skeptical that those letters of yours can remedy your circumstance, however, their significance, whether intended or not, should not be downplayed. First of all, why would a citizen of Cameroon decide to include the French President, his representatives and the resident UN representative in Cameroon in a correspondence about a perceived recruitment injustice? Especially regarding an issue that in stately matters must seem rather trivial, and I know you know this.
Sir, there has to be more to this. What are you trying to tell us that you aren’t saying?
Forgive me if I am misreading your intent, but Mr. Jean Paul Yongui, your sense of humor, though it is of the darker variety, intrigues me. I am almost certain I am not the only reader who almost broke a rib from laughter after reading the article. You can rest assured that I was not laughing at you, I was laughing with you. But some of the responses I read were not very flattering; one commentator wrote you had lost your mind, other just left smiling symbols, there were a few LOLs, and a rather sardonic commentator suggested you must go through the former IMF official, Alassane Quattara if you really want to get to Sarkozy; funny, right?
You have just confirmed a theory some attribute to Richard Pryor when he said most humor was rooted in pain. And, who wouldn’t laugh and cry at the story of a spelling champion [in the French language] paying homage to a geo-political arrangement in an act of protest against that system to the same doyens of the system. Wonders shall never end. But what really clinches it for me is your deadpan yet assertive tone.
“My application in itself provides evidence of my academic achievements; not only do I have a Master’s degree in the French language, but my exceptional achievements include; three-time national champion, continent-wide finalist, and world super finalist of spelling in the French language…”*
It would be too easy to dismiss your letters as an attention grabbing stunt not worth further reflection, but I beg to disagree. Mr. Yongui, whether or not you really believed your correspondence would reach their intended destinations is impossible to know. Or is this just an exercise in polemic-symbolism to demonstrate your frustration at the psychic and physical violence that has become the norm of Francophone African countries? You might need a sequel to clarify on this and other issues related to your letter that baffles me. But, what I do know from the excerpts of the letter the news article attributed to you is that, the author of this correspondence is an ambitious and thoughtful citizen. One does not have to be an expert in the hidden history of Cameroon or a student of recent events in other former French colonies to decipher your puzzle, which in itself is pregnant with meaning.
But Mr. Yongui, why didn’t you include President Barack Obama in your correspondence? After all, wouldn’t have the US President and, perhaps his Chinese counterpart, President Hu Jintao, their enormous military and economic power to boot, been more sensible authorities to lobby? If those two are on your side, nothing is impossible, just look at Tripoli and Abidjan.
Sir, your act of acknowledgement of this ‘thing’, metaphorical to the core, has incarnated—in the slyest of ways too!—a fact of our history and our current reality most historians and politicians are too timid to address. By having brought to life this ‘thing’, which exists as if it doesn’t exist, you have prophesized its death.
Good luck as you go about your job search, and be sure to keep us all posted on developments regarding your letters.
Kangsen Feka Wakai
*My translation from original article.
See online: A Letter to a former Spelling Champion