Revisiting Orwell’s Farm, Amba Farm.

Three hoots defined Aunty Lady’s Monday. The first was the taxi-driver beginning his shift with market women at the Bondogo-Babuti junction, Buea. The next was the delipidated smoking kindergarten school bus doing the rounds for excited children, and the last was the Hysacam diesel truck whose brash trumpet-like blare seemed designed more to awake those resting beneath the tombstones, adorning many of the frontage gardens, than alert residents to bring out the thrash. These triple hoots told of market women taking their wares to the market, where they sold goods, bought provisions for their families, as well as paid rates to the Buea Council, who amongst other things, paid contractors to clean up the streets. Life may have been far from ideal, but before the strikes turned Mondays into a town for ghosts, women like Aunty Lady got to the market, their kids went to school, and dirt was picked up from the streets. Back at home in the evenings, between the household chores and running a corner shop, Aunty Lady could afford a holiday only in her short nightly rest where sometimes her desires for a better life bubbled through in pleasant dreams of plenty and a life of ease. Her dreams were always pregnant with messages she shared with her young daughters, much like Old Major’s in Animal Farm.

“Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever”

While this may have encapsulated Aunty Lady’s caution to her daughters on the wiliness of men, it nevertheless was the central theme from the old boar’s dream, revealing to the attentive animals an idyllic change to their lives after the cause of their misery, “Man”, had been overthrown.

At this point, neither Major nor the rest of the animals at farm had the foggiest idea how or when they would achieve their freedom. Nevertheless, they sang their anthem, “Beasts Of England”, with wild enthusiasm. Meetings every night organised by the emergent ruling class, the Pigs, educated the animals on the principles of “Animalism”, which reinforced Old Major’s message that “Man” was the enemy, and laid plans for the revolt and the day when “Tyrant man shall be o’erthrown”.

Yet, when D-Day arrived, the success of their rebellion owed more to a confluence of serendipity and bungling humans than an elaborate plan.

The poor management of the farm which translated to intolerable work conditions for the animals, the rekindled perception of inequity they felt, thanks to Amimalism which repeatedly reminded them, they animals produced everything, and Man, their enemy, consumed it all, made the farm ripe for a revolt. Thus, on this fateful Sunday, while Mr. Jones nursed a hangover, the short fuse on the farm burnt out when the unfed and thirsty animals were brutalised by Jones and his men for venturing out of their pens to seek food.

On this day, resistance which had existed solely in the minds of the animals crystallized and to Man’s shock, the animals fought back. Hooves and horns were hurled in a surprisingly brief but violent encounter which saw Mr. Jones and his men chased out of the farm. The revolt was complete. Man, as Old Major foresaw, was gone.

The revolt may have been completed but it could be argued their revolution was still in situ because revolutions required paradigm shifts in their thinking, ways of working and associations. In other words, a complete adherence to Animalism through the seven commandments.

The decay and corrosion of revolutionary ideals is the essence of Animal Farm. The fable reveals how the proletariat under a yoke of poor governance, discrimination and disenfranchisement can be manipulated to find solace in those who purport to speak on their behalf and who with great eloquence and bombast can paint lofty vistas of freedom and equality.

The reality though is far from the truth – because even before the paint on the Seven Commandments dried, one of the core tenets of Animalism, equality, was being subverted. Case in point, while the animals were being ushered to the fields to work, milk from the cows was being diverted for the benefit of the Pigs.

Orwell portrays the yawning cavern that is at the heart of promises made at the dawn of revolutions through a series of literary milestones noted by the qualifications to their revered seven commandments. “No animal shall sleep on beds – with sheets”, “No Animal shall drink alcohol – To excess”, “No Animal shall kill another animal – without just cause” unto the ultimate “All Animals are equal – but some are more equal than others.”  At this point, while the Pigs made toasts, cheered and played cards with Man, the proletariat had completed a 360 degree turn, back to the origin where, as they peeped through the windows, to see their fully clad comrades, they could no longer discern who was Man and who was Animal.

The fate of the animals in Animal Farm suggests that the path to a successful revolt is relatively easier than staying on course for a successful revolution because they invariably succumb to the frailties of their proponents who eventually undermine the ideals of the revolution.

Classlessness was one such ideal which was used to sell the revolt but could simply not be sustained in the revolution and became the Achilles-heel of the farm. Thus, when Man attempted to retake the farm in “The Battle of the Cowshed” in which Snowball was injured and a sheep was killed, Snowball and Boxer got “Animal Hero First Class” but the sheep (unnamed) got “Animal Hero Second Class” – amazingly this was a unanimous decision which revealed that the animals really did not think themselves equal or that the life of a sheep, was equal to that of a pig. However, the award did little to save Snowball who was hounded out of the farm or Boxer who was eventually sold to the knacker.

History is replete with revolutions some notables like the English, French, American, Russian, Chinese, Iranian, Cuban, Nicaraguan etc., whose differing cultures ensure they are all different in nature and form, yet, they all share similarities of being born out of revolts such as that which occurred one year ago in Anglophone Cameroon.

On 1st October 2017 secessionists declared the Anglophone North-West and South-West Regions of Cameroon independent from the other eight Francophone regions. They did so on the back of a year of strikes by lawyers, teachers, urban transport workers and street demonstrations across the regions in a protest, against marginalisation of the Anglophone minority by the Francophone majority in the republic. Initially, the strikes were led by a consortium of lawyers and lecturers, but it was eventually hijacked by secessionist groups who saw the ground swell of sympathy with the marginalisation cause being fought by the consortium as an opportune moment to actualise their cherished rendition of “Old Major’s Dream”, one which came complete with a new flag and name of the region – “Ambazonia”.

The secessionists claim the territory has been illegally annexed by “La Republique Du Cameroun” which gained independence in October 1960 and to which the then British Southern Cameroons voted in a plebiscite to join in a year later in October 1961. The country existed as Federal Republic of Cameroon until February 1972 when another referendum was held whose outcome saw the dissolution of the two federated states becoming a ‘United Republic of Cameroon’. Another twist was to come in 1984, when this time without any poll, the ‘United’ was dropped in favour of just ‘Republic of Cameroon’. This unilateral act, along with decades worth of marginalisation on those from the English-speaking parts of the country encompass the bulk of the problems faced today.

The problems of marginalisation ranged from, the judiciary where lawyers felt the Francophone system of law was being enforced in Anglophone courts through appointed Francophone judges and magistrates; that the Anglophone educational system was being transformed to suit the Francophones; that public exams were skewed in favour of Francophones; that politically Anglophones were closed off to key cabinet positions; that there was an institutional bias against the English language and English speaking people in public offices; and a general sense that there was a slow creep towards converting the Anglophone regions to Francophone. It is worth noting that Britain and France were only present in Cameroon because after WWI the Germans lost their African territories including Kamerun cum Cameroon (Cameroun) shared between the British (who ran it as a Trusteeship territory administered from Nigeria) and France who administered the territory as a colony.

The ideals of Ambazonia are not far away from Old Major’s dream touching on revolutionary themes like “Social Justice”, “Freedom” and “Equality”. But what Social Justice, if children of the territory are being denied education as seen for the last three academic years? (Incidentally, while those of proponents in the diaspora are enjoying an uninterrupted education.)

“Education of the young was more important than anything that could be done for those who were already grown up.”

What justice, when young men, ill-equipped and untrained are being urged and ushered to the fore, sacrificed like lamb, for their blood to attract attention of the media and perhaps ire of world leaders? In the various battles to retake the farm, in Orwell’s fable the Pigs for all their bluster were involved in the battles, putting their lives and limbs at risk, rather than these latter day ‘Internet Generals’ commenting thousands of miles away from what is ironically called “Ground Zero”.

What equality when unelected “leaders” in diaspora have appointed themselves masters and commanders seeking to lord over all in the territory, giving orders for pawns (an unfortunate term but that’s what they have become) to act on their whims.

What “Freedom”? When economically the rebellion has pulled tight the purse strings and left businesses in dire straits with the result that some employees have gone for more than a quarter without salaries. What “Freedom”? When politically citizens are threatened not to engage in their civic duty to vote in the upcoming elections? What “Freedom”? When, citizens in fear for their personal safety are moving from the Anglophone region into the Francophone regions for security. Comparable to the animals following Mollie and moving en-mass to either Pilkintons and Pinchfield neighbouring Farms which were still run by Man.

Fate it would seem, is not without a sense of irony. What Freedom?

Arguably, the revolt in the run-up to October 2017 has never really been completed, with the implication that post the October 1st 2017 independence declaration, the so-called “revolution” referred to by many of the instigators and commentators has not yet begun. A completion of the revolt and the birth of the revolution would have been marked by a mass and complete repatriation of administrators eastwards comparable with the fate of Mr. Jones in Orwell’s fable. But this has not happened, and any sober Amba fighter will accept the probability of that event is remote.

So why has this revolt failed to transform in to the much-vaunted revolution?

Firstly, unity. The firebrand secessionists may have convinced themselves of the need to tear off the Anglophone regions from the republic, but they have not convinced the whole territory. Come to think of it, the constant arguments on social media between the disparate secessionist groups likewise amongst the kaleidoscope of armed groups representing them is an affirmation of incoherence and plurality of their purpose. A stark contrast to Manor Farm where all the animals were unanimously behind the singular effort on that midsummer’s day to overthrow their enemy, Man.

That unanimity was achieved by the force of arguments not by bullying everyone to silence or the appellations of traitors or the wilful destruction of property or by the kidnapping, torturing and in extremis, killing of those who disagreed. The animals believed in Animalism, in toto.

“Get rid of man, the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could become rich and free.”

This was the Old Major’s message to the animals. But few would disagree that if prior to their revolt the animals had seen the Pigs squirrelling away the Cows’ milk or sequestrating the apples for themselves (which they did after their revolt), that doubts would have been cast as to the genuine intentions of the proponents of Animalism.

The point being simply that the protagonists for secession are being accused of enriching themselves at the expense of the lives and livelihoods being destroyed in the North West and South West Regions. Whilst in the constant stream of online chatter it is difficult to discern fact from fiction, the recent exposure of a leading figure in the secessionist movement who flew to London to sign away oil mining rights to a fictitiously set up company, as part of a spoof, can only reinforce the thoughts and sympathy with the animals that overthrowing Man and moving into the arms of another cabal of rapacious undemocratic elites, the Pigs, left the animals no freer and certainly no richer.

In Animal Farm there was a clear delineation between Man and Beast in the sense that Man had his quarters and the animals had their pens, stables, sheds etc. The lives of Man and Beast were apart except at the point when the animals produced, and Man consumed. However, if Orwell’s fable had been told from a farm where man and animal shared the same physical space, or perhaps on a farm where mythological man-beast hybrids such as minotaurs and centaurs existed, then the rebellion would have been a far more difficult thing to pull off.  The inevitable cultural diversity that has blossomed in more than half a century has ensured that the fractional acquisition of pure a Anglophone distillate, free of any Francophone influence, in regions, as some leaders of the secessionist movement would wish for, is practically impossible.

At this point it is possible to ask what would have happened to the animals if their revolt had floundered and if Mr. Jones and his men had resisted the flee impulse, evaded the disorganised stampede and retained control of the Farm? The fate of the animals in the subsequent story Orwell would have told may not have been dissimilar from the fate of the animals in the latter part of the Animal Farm story, when Napoleon had, with absolute loyalty from the Dogs, assumed complete control of the farm and the exiled Snowball had become the enemy. At this dark part of the story, summary executions were visited on all suspected of collaboration with Snowball. It was a time when few at the farm could remember their rebellion or what the revolution stood for. They had simply stopped believing and found it difficult to reconcile the difference with when Man was in charge, and had difficulties remembering when “Four legs good, Two Legs bad”, had transformed to “Four Legs good, Two Legs better”. Simply, they had come full circle, a revolution, from “Manor Farm” to “Animal Farm” and back to “Manor Farm”. But they were back to the origin, with a difference, their Animalism revolution was dead.

The article has looked at the Anglophone Crisis in the North-West & South-West Regions of Cameroon through the lens of Orwell’s fable, Animal Farm, to reveal that dissatisfaction, disenfranchisement and marginalisation made the regions fertile grounds for seeding revolts by merchants of serpent oil who like vampires fed off their followers’ the blind devotion. Sycophancy and unquestioning followers who bleated behind revolutionary figures were incubating political Frankensteins programmed to destroy the very ideals the revolution stood for. But revolts, and the revolutions they give birth to, were less about the leaders and more about a sea-change in the culture of everyone caught up in them. While disunity of those in the affected regions could be blamed for failure of the revolt to transform to a successful revolution, it could also be said that unity of the countries external to the regions and the world at large, in refuting support for the secessionists’ Ambazonia has also played a role in constraining the revolt. But what if the revolt did turn into a revolution? Orwell’s fable at the end, returned the animals to the start point of their revolution and like hollow bells ringing out death in a community, told of the vacuous nature of promises made in revolutions.

By Lloney Monono, UK.

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Categories: Literature, Politics

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