The One Thing that Scares both Ambazonians and the Biya Regime in Cameroon

The Biya Regime and Ambazonians apparently want completely different things. Their end-games are antithetical to each other, and as such, one would be right to assume that the two camps will rarely find any common ground. Ambazonians have been clear that it is ‘All or Nothing’ in their quest for independence and the Biya regime has been categorical that it is ‘all or nothing’ in their dogmas on ‘one and indivisible’ Cameroon.
Over the two years that I have followed and participated in seeking solutions to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, I have been surprised on many occasions to find that the two camps, despite being polar opposites, tend to have a lot of similarities in their approaches.

No To Anglophone Marginalisation

An instance would be the ‘No Circulation’ or ‘No Movement’ Strategy that was instituted by the Ambazonian leadership, with the objective to stop all but essential movement within the two English-Speaking Regions. This strategy was further supported by the Biya Regime administrators in both regions, who also issued communiques, banning all but essential circulation. While the objectives of both camps might have been different, one thing they could have agreed on was that they were imposing a burden on the people of the regions and making an already difficult existence, unbearable.

The second instance was the ban on elections within the two English-Speaking regions. The Ambazonians made their position very clear, issued clear warnings and even went on to attack some persons who dared to disobey the orders. What they might not have known, or refused to acknowledge, was the fact that Biya’s declaration of war within the two regions and his refusal to resolve the crisis was aimed at also preventing people from voting. The two regions have historically been the areas Biya and his CPDM party have always struggled in elections. Given the wide discontent of the population and considering the fact that turnout in elections are always very low in other parts of the country, there was the possibility that a decision by the two regions to go out in full support of any candidate would have made the job of Biya’s rigging machinery a million times harder. That is a chance Biya and his team did not want to take. Hence, allowing the conflict to fester and causing widespread dispersal of persons, they ensured that many people, even if they wanted to, would be unable to vote. It would have been sheer glee within the Biya ranks, therefore, when Ambazonians started echoing the same sentiments. The results of the already widely contested elections is one evidence to show that both camps succeeded in one thing – keep the opposition at bay, while giving Biya and the CPDM victory in regions in which they are most hated.

The above cases are simply about strategy and outcomes, but the one thing that both camps have shown a great fear of over the years is the concept of FEDERALISM. The notion of Federalism as a solution to the Anglophone crisis seems to send cold shivers down the spines of both the Biya regime and the Ambazonians. Historically, the Two-State Federation which existed between 1961 and 1972 have on record the most developmental milestones of the English-Speaking regions. Little wonder, that scared of the fast pace at which West Cameroon was progressing economically, the Ahidjo Regime, in collusion with France, abrogated the Federal Constitution of 1961 and ended the Federal structure.

In 2016, with the resurgence of the Anglophone crisis led by Lawyers and Teachers, the concept of a return to the Two-State Federation gained prominence. Led by Barrister Agbor Felix Nkongho, the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium made it clear that only a return to Federation will guarantee a long-lasting solution to the crisis. Their message was clear, it was simple, it was appealing. It won the hearts of the masses, to the dismay and chagrin of the Biya regime, whose message of a ‘one and indivisible’ Cameroon could only be imposed on the people with the use of brute force. Efforts to bribe and cajole the pro-federalist movement failed woefully, leaving the Biya regime one option, force. The Consortium was banned, the internet was cut and the leaders were arrested and carted off to Yaounde to stand trial for treasonable offences.

The then Secretary-General of the Consortium, Wilfred Tassang, fled to Nigeria where to the surprise of many, changed the narrative to a pro-independence quest. This was surprising for many reasons, he had chosen Interim leaders in the diaspora, one of whom at the time was a known and avowed federalist. Secondly, taking such a stance seemed to provide fodder for the cannon of the Biya regime to crucify the incarcerated consortium leaders. Their lawyers promptly acted, by distancing them from the new movement. Nigeria, therefore, became the renaissance country for the Ambazonia ideology, which hitherto, had been on the fringes of Cameroon Anglophone society. Ambazonia was rebranded and sold to the English-speaking Cameroonians as the most logical progression in the freedom struggle. Statements such as ‘the train has moved’ ‘we have gone past the stage of Federation’ ‘we cannot federate with monsters’ etc.. gained prominence.

The absence of the internet within the Anglophone regions in Cameroon also helped as the people were unaware of the developments taking place in the diaspora. The formation of a body known as SCACUF, brought dinosaurs of the Anglophone struggle into the heart of leadership of the new movement. As there was no vetting process, it was impossible to ascertain who had over the years, been bought over by the Biya regime. The quest to present a united front in the face of continuous disunity meant that questions were left unasked about some of the most important things.

However, as the newly branded pro-independence train grunted and stuttered along, sometimes bereft of passengers, sometimes in the completely wrong direction, the urgent need for a captain arose. Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius was chosen as the Messiah. There were a number of reasons for this; he was relatively unknown, meaning there was bound to be little or no skeletons in his cupboard; Ayuk Tabe had a good job within a university and he was soft-spoken, articulate and appeared overall to be unifying figure. This worked and the people rallied behind Ayuk Tabe and his newly-formed Ambazonia Interim Government (IG). Three reasons made this possible: there was no other viable alternative as the consortium leaders were still in jail; he was closely aligned with Tassang Wilfred, which meant people still saw in them the relics of the Consortium they had come to love and finally, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, in stark contrast to other pro-independence leaders, preached a message that was about hope rather than the doom and gloom that characterised the constant allusion to historical catastrophes that had landed the Anglophone in the current mess.

Realising the power at his disposal, Ayuk Tabe, started steering the train towards what might have led to a resolution of the crisis. Without outrightly echoing the ‘all or nothing’ independence dogma, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe appeared more to be a Federalist than a pro-independence leader. It is, therefore, no surprise that the reason circulating for the ill-fated meeting at Nera Hotel in Nigeria, which led to his and his cabinet’s abduction, has been mainly around the fact that they went there to negotiate on a Federation-outcome which would end the crisis and spare the people further suffering.

What Sisiku and his team failed to realise was that the Biya regime would have left him alone had he been fully pro-independence. Outright independence was a dog with a loud bark, but no bite, with a high potential of biting the wrong people, should it choose to do so. Federalism, however, was something the Biya regime was totally scared of and would do anything to stop it in its tracks. Before the abduction of Sisiku, the Biya regime had done a number of things to ensure that the federalism project would not resurface.

Prior to releasing Agbor Felix and Fontem Neba from jail, they circulated rumours discrediting them in the eyes of the people. When this did not work and upon his release, Barrister Nkongho hit the ground running, they fomented a torrential attack on the concept of federalism, pitching it against independence. This soon gained traction on social media and all attention soon focused on Separatists constantly attacking federalists, despite the fact the latter were practically their closest allies. With this fully in place, when Barrister Nkongho visited London, it was shocking, but not surprising to see the same people who had once chanted his ‘hosannas’, shouting ‘crucify him’. The protest against Nkongho at Chatham House, London, signifies a very low moment for the Anglophone crisis, but one that the Biya regime would forever cherish. The separatists were clearly going to do anything to stop the federalists.

Over the months that followed, many write-ups, Facebook lives and YouTube videos were made, with one focus, attack Federalism. The Biya regime relaxed. As soon as Federalist voices seemed to have been tamed for a while, the regime prodded and taunted the separatists towards the one direction they could easily go – violence. This worked and the whole Anglophone region was thrown into conflict. This, to the regime, was a win-win situation. It gave them legitimacy to wipe out any dissenting voices, while at the same time, ensuring that they (the regime) could easily mask as separatists and attack anything remotely resembling a call for federalism.

Their attack for the Anglophone General Conference initiative of Cardinal Tume and Dr. Simon Munzu amongst others, has been just one of the many ways to ensure the Federalist agenda does not resurface. The attack on Federalists instigated by Boh Herbert’s write-up and subsequent attack at their private meeting in the USA by Eric Tataw, another separatist, who clearly expressed his hatred for the federalists by stating he will not write his name on the same paper as them, even if it meant he will then be able to make his points, further accentuate the level at which they are willing to go to stop the federalists.

As one casts an eye for a sense of progress on the Anglophone, all one can see is the constant attack on Federalists, mainly by Ambazonians and this has been extended to the Francophones, who are easily working with Federalists to heap more pressure on the Biya regime. The hatred for Federalists and by extension, the francophones, has been such that many Ambazonians are openly declaring their support for Biya to stay in power, if only by so doing, they could thwart the efforts of the federalist.

If anything, this is by every indication, a very unusual alliance between the Biya regime and the Ambazonians, whose only point of convergence is their disdain for the Federalist. This, however, is understandable, given that the Federalist stands as the voice of reason within the carnage. The federalist presents the meeting point between two extremes and most importantly, the federalist approach presents the most likely prospect of success in giving autonomy to the Anglophone and bringing a close to the crisis. Why would this be a problem for the Biya regime and the Ambazonian, one may ask? This is simply, the two extremes thrive on power and control, the Biya regime loses its control of the English-speaking regions, unleashing the potential for accountability and growth. The Ambazonian leaders lose their only opportunity of attaining leadership by ascription rather than merit. The Federalist position is one in which the actors have no personal benefits other than a change in the form of the state which will usher in the devolution of power, accountability and a system of fairness where the best and brightest will lead. This, unfortunately, is something that both the Biya regime and most of the current Ambazonia leadership, do not clearly want as it will render them obsolete

How Did Samuel Ikome Sako of Ambazonia End up Representing Another Organisation at the UN?

There is no doubt that the quest for liberation of the people of the former Southern Cameroons has been riddled with many controversies. The most recent has been the claim of the faction who call themselves “Ambazonians”, that they were boycotting elections taking place in Cameroon. One ought to wonder how one gets to boycott an election of which they are not part, that wonder turns into bewilderment when the Acting Interim President of Ambazonia becomes one of the first people to send a congratulatory message to one of the candidates Maurice Kamto before official election results had been published. I for one interpreted this as a form of propaganda to force the Biya regime to capitulate, hand over power to someone else, who will take a softer and more conciliatory approach to the Ambazonia question.

The above would be good propaganda. But when there seems to be propaganda that is aimed at deceiving the people of Ambazonia, then one must of necessity question what the real motivations of Samuel Ikome Sako and his government are.

A few weeks ago, Bareta News reported a huge announcement made by Mr. Sako. He is quoted to have said:

“I would love to make that big announcement. Our nation- Ambazonia has been officially invited by the 4th committee of the united Nations concerned with decolonisation…We will be presenting our case in New York before this committee in a few days time.”

As is to be expected, this announcement brought a lot of excitement among Ambazonians, especially those who pay allegiance to the Interim Government led by Sako. I was also very intrigued and my curiosity was piqued. Could this finally be happening? Could the UN have finally decided to grant Ambazonia an audience and hopefully start a process of reconciliation and righting of past wrongs? Could this be the moment that finally brings an end to the conflict that is claiming the lives of English-Speaking Cameroonians on a daily basis?

These questions made me keep an eye out for the outcome of the Committee’s proceedings. It, therefore, came as a rude shock when I checked and found that there was a publication about the decolonisation Committee, titled “Delegates Urge Administering Powers to Take Necessary Steps for Rapid Self-Determination, as Fourth Committee Begins Decolonization Debate: President of General Assembly Highlights Commitment to Ensuring Full Independence for All Colonial Countries, Peoples” but nowhere in the documents is Ambazonia or Southern Cameroons mentioned.

I was rather surprised to find out that Mr. Sako and another Martin Ayong Ayim had presented themselves as representing interests that had nothing to do with either Ambazonia, Southern Cameroons or even the Republic of Cameroon. They were listed as representatives number 60 and 61 in a document A/C.4/73/7 titled “Question of Western Sahara: Requests for hearing”. On this document, Sako is listed as a representative of African Solidarity of Sahrawi.

According to the UN document, a representative from Cameroon had raised concerns about the presence of two individuals on the list of representatives. It, therefore, goes on to state that “Samuel Ikome Sako of Africa Solidarity for Sahrawi and Martin Ayong Ayim of Living Stories and Memories, are listed in the requests for hearings on Western Sahara.” and that “The Committee will take up those two requests later in the week following the informal consultations,”. This, therefore, raises the question of how Sako and Ayim ended up using strange organisations to represent Western Sahara? Why does the name Ambazonia or Southern Cameroons not feature anywhere in the documents? There is the indication in the documents that Sako and Ayim are representing a country without “complete knowledge of the facts,”.

It is my opinion that Sako and Ayim simply used different organisations, so as to get their names on the UN documents, as a way of providing evidence to their followers that they truly were part of the decolonisation committee. What they had not anticipated was the fact that this information would be published and made available to the public.

It is worth mentioning that Western Sahara, is a is a disputed territory in the Maghreb region of North Africa, partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially Moroccan-occupied, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the Northeast, Mauritania to the East and South, and the Atlantic Ocean to the West.

Western Sahara or the Sahrawi, therefore have nothing in common with either Ambazonia or Southern Cameroons, safe for the fact that they are both territories clamouring for independence.

#Cameroon’s Paul #Biya Goes into Shock as Kamto Declares Victory

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya exhibited a lot of confidence in the build-up to the October 7, 2018, Presidential elections. He did not engage in any campaigning until a week to the elections when he made a single appearance in the Northern Region of the Country. This confidence could be as a result of the fact that Biya has been president for over 36 years and has been within the corridors of power for over 50 years.

 

However, as results from the elections began to filter through, indicating a victory for Maurice Kamto, the presidential candidate for the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), Biya’s Communication Minister and Minister for Territorial Administration, quickly warned against anyone causing problems by declaring victory.

This warning was not heeded by Maurice Kamto, who braved all odds and declared himself winner during a press conference that took place in Yaounde. This unprecedented declaration has been reported to be creating a lot of tension within Cameroon.

Within the presidency, information reaching us is that Mr. Biya has been in shock over the turn of events and this has worsened following Kamto’s declaration. This is not surprising given that a few weeks ago, Biya was in Geneva Switzerland receiving medical attention. Also taking into consideration that Biya is 85 years old, such news would have been bad for his ailing health.

A source from within Biya’s ruling CPDM party has highlighted that the President has not been able to leave the country for medical attention as this would be considered a concession of defeat and an attempt to abscond. However, it is reported that medical staff from the Geneva University Hospital, who have been taking care of Biya, have been flown into Yaounde, to be on standby as his health is expected to deteriorate. The Geneva University Hospital is renowned its Stem Cells Collection and Cord Blood Banking, among other specialisations.

There is tension within the corridors of power in Yaounde as Biya is said to be highly disappointed with how his henchmen, Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary and Minister for Territorial Administration, Atanga Nji Paul, have handled the situation.

Speaking to some political analysts, we learned that Biya’s decision to declare war on the English-speaking regions and his refusal to resolve the Anglophone crisis, was a tactical one, as he was well aware of the challenges he would face in securing votes in these regions. Hence, by making sure that over 200.000 persons were either internally displaced on in Nigeria as refugees, and ensuring a high military presence, Biya guaranteed that there will be minimal or no voting within those Regions.

It, therefore, has come as a nasty surprise to him and his team, that without the participation of the two English-speaking Regions, the rest of the country was already tired of his 36 years of baren rule. Should Biya overcome this shock and regain his health, it is expected that he will fire Atanga and Tchiroma in his next cabinet reshuffle, for the failures. That is, if he succeeds if getting ELECAM and the Constitutional Council to rig the elections and declare him the winner, instead of Kamto the obvious choice of the people.

Maurice Kamto Declares Himself President-Elect of Cameroon

In an election that will go down in the history of Cameroon as one of the most controversial, it has not been short of excitement and intricacies.

With last minute coalitions that were formed, challenged by the electoral commission (ELECAM) and defended by the parties; with warnings made by the Cameroon Communication and Territorial Administration ministers as soon as polling was over; with several reports streaming in from different areas indicating that there were many irregularities; one would have thought it could not get more interesting.

However, as unofficial results made the way across social media sphere, it became obvious that Maurice Kamto, the leader of the  Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) and leader of the Coalition formed with the NOW Movement, was emerging the clear winner.

Despite the fact that Cameroonian law indicates that official announcement of results can only be made by ELECAM and the Constitutional Council, 15 days after polls, Kamto was not to wait for whatever they will declare. An announcement was therefore made by Kamto’s team about a press conference that was to take place on Monday, October 08 at 10.00am in Yaounde. This finally held a few hours later, because of the huge security presence at the initial venue.

During the press conference, Maurice Kamto declared that he had been given the mandate to kick a penalty, he kicked and a goal has been scored. Amidst large cheers from the crowds, Kamto went on to state:

I have closely followed national and international opinion regarding the elections and I am inviting the outgoing president to organize a peaceful handover! As I am involved, I guarantee him and his family a protection at the level of his status. I launch a virulent appeal to all candidates in this election to remain vigilant

Talking about the ongoing crisis in the English-speaking regions of the Country, which has effectively meant that people from those regions did not participate in the elections, Kamto promised to rebuild the villages that have been burned by the Biya regime and to pay compensations to all victims.

It is the hope of many Cameroonians that 85-year-old dictator Paul Biya, will concede victory peacefully and allow the rebuilding process to begin, especially with regards to the fractured North West and South West Regions. Some people, however, are skeptical as they wonder how the man who has been in power for most of his adult life, will suddenly hand over to someone without a fight.

It is expected, that with the ongoing tensions in the English-speaking regions, should Biya refuse to concede victory, there is a high likelihood of a nationwide crisis as supporters of Maurice Kamto will also not be giving up without a fight.

Southern Cameroonians Defy ‘Movement’ Ban – Come out Massively on October 1st

When the West Cameroon Movement for Change (WCMC) called on demonstrations to mark October 1 and all it signifies, it boldly decided that followers in Yaounde should go out and march. This was met by a naive conclusion by Cameroon’s minister for defence, which led to a published letter calling for the military to target Anglophone neighbourhoods in Yaounde. Assessing the situation, WCMC called for their followers in Yaounde to pause the demonstrations but encouraged others in other cities and countries to go ahead. One thing WCMC did not envisage was the resilience of the people within the embattled North West and South West Regions of Cameroon.

As October 1st unfolded and WCMC together with the Southern Cameroons Community UK and other frontline movements, stormed the streets of London, the fever spread across the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.

Videos and images began emerging as the day wore on, showing that the people had defied the orders of the Ambazonia Governing Council (AGC), the Ambazonia Interim Government (IG) and the Biya Regime’s representatives in the North West and South West Regions, who all placed a ban on public movement within the regions.

The actions of the people on the ground have shown once more, that all those purporting to be leaders are clearly out of touch with the basic realities and aspirations of their people. I already condemned the strategies, asking people not to go out, as being out of touch with the daily realities of those communities.

The outings that were accompanied in most cases by chantings and carrying of peace plants, were taken a notch higher in others, where the people came out with weapons and some hoisted the Ambazonia flag on some prominent government buildings.

As much as I continue to admire the resilience of the people, I still remain of the opinion that the hoisting of flags, the use of force in challenging the brutal military of Biya, will not take the people forward towards freedom. I maintain the opinion that the only way towards any form of freedom for the people of the English-speaking Regions and by extension for all Cameroonians, is for them to unite and oust Biya from power.

It is my hope that over the coming days, there will be some form of mass uprising as the campaign trail brings up pent-up emotions within all parts of Cameroon and the people gradually come to the realisation that unless they come together as one and demand an end to Biya’s 36 years of barren rule, they may have another 7 years added to it.