Speech delivered by Ni John Fru Ndi, National Chairman on the occasion of the launching of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, on May 26th 1990 at Ntarinkon Motor Park, Bamenda.
"But what we see today is that African leaders have cultivated the tendency of using the vocabulary of democracy to conceal modern forms of dictatorship. It is against this dictatorship and oppression that we join the battle with anyone, and we assure you today that we shall emerge victorious."
Today is the most significant day in the struggle for DEMOCRACY in Cameroon. You are here in your numbers because you do not only have faith in democracy but more so because you are determined to ensure that it works in Cameroon.
Thank you for that faith and determination. Make no mistake and do not allow yourself to be misled or misguided by anyone, no matter his station in life. Democracy has never been handed over to a people on a platter of gold!
For long you have heard several meanings attributed to democracy. Some of these have tended to justify tyrannies. Whether we go back to Aristotle's Athens or we remain in the present with Abraham Lincoln's America, we find ourselves with viable definition; that democracy is about people and the laws that they enact to govern themselves.
And that you should know that the struggle for democracy is not easier today than it was in Greece 2500 years ago. In this context, we share the views of Archbishop Abel Muzorewa when he wonders aloud:
"Why is it that we Africans can go to Britain and I here add Europe and the United States of America and be free to criticise their governments and heads of state without any fear of disappearing the following night or fear of being deported. Why are we afraid of doing it in Africa?
It is a heinous crime in black Africa to open your mouth freely and talk about the doings of the government or head of state. You will get thrown into prison, accused of treason, or simply disappear in such states. Political leaders do not trust their own people. They are tyrannical in the sense that they will not allow criticism."
And yet they were elected by these same people whom they now oppress. We say that democracy is about people because we believe that failure to respect the fundamental freedoms, namely, freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, deprive the people of their basic rights, which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as human beings.
The fact that we have had to put up a hard struggle to hold this rally is abundant evidence that we have a long way to go in achieving the democratic process.
Today, we call on you to yell for DEMOCRACY.
For as someone has rightly said, "…unless people yell a lot, they get ignored. You can't afford to get ignored. You must yell because even if you are ignored, your children and your children's children will not get ignored tomorrow".
Whether those who govern us accept it or not, we believe, as others before us have believed and asserted, that the essence of democracy is about local people controlling their day-to-day affairs.
Let us make this clear to all those who are hearing us today that in the view of the Social Democratic Front, the struggle will continue, not only here, but anywhere in the world as long there is someone who is governing and someone who is governed. This struggle can only stop when all the people participate in their own government.
But what we see today is that African leaders have cultivated the tendency of using the vocabulary of democracy to conceal modern forms of dictatorship. It is against this dictatorship and oppression that we join the battle with anyone, and we assure you today that we shall emerge victorious.
The SDF has included DEMOCRACY in its motto because of its fervent belief and conviction that the essence of the democratic process in any society means the denial of JUSTICE and the retardation of DEVELOPMENT. Because where the people are not free to go about their daily chores without undue molestation, they cannot exhibit their skills and talents.
As we have just pointed out, we eschew any form of dictatorship because, in contrast to a true democracy where the people decide what is good for them, dictatorship produces the following results in the words of Argentina's great blind writer Jorge Luis Borges: "…oppression, servility, cruelty and more abominable is the fact that it breeds stupidity."
We have set as one of our goals to rid the Cameroonian society of a system that deprives people from being free men or otherwise punishing them for daring to think freely, associate freely, assemble peacefully and freely.
Let us assure everyone here present that our own view of democracy is one where the people will retain their own society. We are searching ways and means to secure the future for the generation that will follow us. And therefore to be democratic is to disagree about what democracy is."
Finally, we call upon you to stand up and be counted among those who share our democratic ideal. You have nothing to lose but the straight jacket in which, you, as freeborn citizens, have been cast.
Long live the SDF!
Long live Cameroon!