12 June 2023
Ni John Fru Ndi Chairman of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) of Cameroon and comrade and friend of the Socialist International. He is known to many as Cameroon's unwavering advocate for democracy, has passed away at the age of 81. In the turbulent landscape of the 1990s, Ni John Fru Ndi emerged as a hero for his fearless stance against a one-party state.
Starting his journey as a bookseller and evolving into a powerful orator from the English-speaking part of Cameroon, Ni John Fru Ndi's resilience led to the establishment of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) in 1990. His rising popularity was a clear indication to the ruling regime that embracing a multi-party system was inevitable. Despite the controversy surrounding the 1992 presidential election results and the challenges that followed, including his house arrest, Ni John Fru Ndi's influence was undeniable.
Though he faced challenges, including being kidnapped by militants and enduring part of his residence being burned in 2019, Ni John Fru Ndi remained committed to a unified Cameroon. He consistently advocated for the rights of the English-speaking minority, pushing for a federal system that would ensure their concerns were addressed. His preferred methods of peaceful protest, like the "ghost towns" strikes and street marches, resonated with many. His campaign rallies, marked by his unique call-and-response chants, drew large audiences across the country, cutting across language barriers.
Born in Baba II near Bamenda in 1941, during the era of British colonialism, Ni John Fru Ndi's early aspirations were to become a pilot. However, a series of events, including a brief stint in Nigeria and his return to Cameroon post-independence, shaped his journey differently. Establishing himself as an entrepreneur, he created the Ebibi Bookshops and became a prominent figure in his community, both in business and on the football field.
While he initially engaged with the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) party, his growing discontent with the political system led him to champion the idea of an opposition party. The establishment of the SDF was not without challenges, but Ni John Fru Ndi's determination and the broader African movement toward multi-party democracy eventually influenced change at the national level.
Throughout his political journey, Ni John Fru Ndi faced both admiration and criticism. Despite the highs and lows, including personal tragedies and internal party disputes, he remained resolute in his commitment to Cameroon's democratic progress.
As he moved into the twilight of his life, Ni John Fru Ndi expressed contentment with the path he had chosen, once saying, "I have lived a full life. I have done everything I wanted to do." His passing leaves a legacy of courage, resilience, and an unwavering belief in the power of the people.