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

Cardinal Tumi Confirms that All Anglophone Conference is going ahead as Planned: Just on a Future Date

FB_IMG_1533927095149Despite some initial challenges and reservations expressed within some quarters, Christian Cardinal Tumi has today confirmed that the All Anglophone Conference is going ahead as planned. However, instead of taking place on 29th and 30th August as initially scheduled, the event will take place on 21st and 22nd November 2018.  This, the organisers say, is to ensure adequate preparations.

In a Press Release following a meeting that took place today in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon, the retired cardinal expressed satisfaction at how plans were going towards the realisation of the conference. He also confirmed that there has been overwhelming support from across Cameroon.

It is hoped that this conference will start the discussions that could lead to a peaceful resolution of the Anglophone Crisis. The current phase of the crisis, which began in 2016, has been the bloodiest since the two Cameroons came together in 1961.

Below is copy of the full Statement by the Cardinal.

PRESS RELEASE

The Conveners of the Anglophone General Conference (AGC) met in Douala on Wednesday, 8th August 2018, to review the situation and identify the necessary actions to be taken towards the holding of a successful AGC. They noted with deep satisfaction that the Government welcomed the initiative while expressing reservations on some requests that were addressed to it. They appreciated the enthusiasm with which Cameroonians of all the ten regions and all political leanings at home and abroad received the announcement of the forthcoming conference, while taking cognizance of the scepticism, doubt and hostility expressed by some voices. They re-affirmed their determination to pursue, as politically neutral servants of God concerned solely with the welfare of the people, this initiative which is intended to lay the ground for finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the Anglophone crisis and for a return to normal life in the Northwest and Southwest regions.

The Conveners reviewed the various tasks to be accomplished in preparation for the conference and to ensure that this important gathering of the people of the Southwest and Northwest regions achieves its noble objectives. They concluded that more time would be needed to prepare for the conference. They, therefore, decided to postpone the holding of the Anglophone General Conference in Buea, initially scheduled for 29th and 30th August, to the 21st and 22nd November 2018.

The Conveners call upon the people of the Northwest and Southwest regions, wherever they may be, to continue preparations for their Individual attendance and effective participation in the conference. They invite all Cameroonians to pray daily to the Almighty God for the success of this conference and for the early return of peace and harmony to the two Anglophone regions.

+ Christian Cardinal Tumi

Douala, 8th August, 2018

For further information, contact:
Dr. Simon Munzu, Spokesperson, College of Conveners (e-mail: anyopeuh@yahoo. co.uk; tel: +237695256460); or
Mr. Elie Smith, Head of Communications (e-mail: eliesmith@yahoo.com; tel: +237 699108387)

 

Justice Ayah Paul Abine Speaks Out: Provides Logical Justification on why AACIII is absolutely Necessary

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Anyone with the remotest interest in the wellbeing of Anglophone Cameroonians (West Cameroonians, Southern Cameroonians, English-speaking Cameroonians or Ambazonians), would have been utterly dismayed by the wanton loss of lives and destruction of property that has engulfed the region over the last 24 months.

With Biya’s regime seeming the favour violence over dialogue, it should be obvious that the reason behind this could be because, like many dictators and bullies, they can only win using brute force. The way to defeat Biya’s tyranny therefore is to adopt an approach he is not comfortable with.

When it was announced that a fierce Biya critic, Chrisitan Cardinal Tumi and other Religious leaders were calling for an All Anglophone Conference, one would have expected dismay from the Biya camp and relief from the oppressed camp. Unfortunately, for some unexplained reason, some Anglophone activists have joined Biya’s camp in denouncing the conference.

I personally, was shocked that people will turn down any initiative that might provide a step forward in resolving the ongoing conflict.

It has been with a huge sigh of relief that I have seen many Anglophones of high-Standing expressing their support for the Conference and promising to attend.

Ayah Paul Abine, someone who understands the legal implications of all that is happening, someone who has every reason to be angry at the system; someone who was unjustly deprived of his liberty for many months, for simply speaking the truth; someone who is part of a foundation currently at the heart of humanitarian efforts to mitigate suffering of the people,; YES, someone who has worn the shoes, still wears it, and knows where it pinches, has just written in support of AACIII.

Below is his full statement. As usual, if you ag44 with him or not, feel free to express your views in the comment section below.

“One would have thought that the contention would have been where to meet rather than whether to meet”…

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For reasons impossible to explain naturally, I chose yesterday, July 31, 2018, to state my stance on AAC III. Just as I began writing the date, distress calls came from St Valentine Centre (Orphanage), Buea. I gathered on the spot that armed soldiers had come to the centre menacingly because the inmates were playing in front of their dormitory, shouting… As I sat down to write on my return, sad news was broken to us about the death of my only brother-in-law… I do hope the good Lord will allow me to write to the end this time around.

Since my release from captivity, I have published at least two posts on the absolute need for an AAC III to hold. Both received substantial positive endorsement as gleaned from the hundreds of comments. Before my captivity, I had published several articles in the same direction. It was when it received little attention that I went on to propose the English Cameroon Authority. Records show that the proposal received tremendous support!

The overwhelming opposition to AAC III championed by Cardinal Tumi of recent now is a huge embarrassment. I was convinced that it was understood the objective of the English Cameroon Authority was to create a forum for concertation among Anglophones; and to provide a team for prospective dialogue at the time. If the idea has caught up with the cardinal today whereby he craves that Anglophones come together to chart the way forward, one is at a loss as to the raison d’etre of hostilities.

There is no doubt that one may not agree entirely with the cardinal’s plan of action. Only during the AAC III would Anglophones, by unanimity or in their majority, chart the way forward: whether to trust Mr. President this time around to give him another chance., given his disdain for the Anglophones previously. But is it not only democratic for us to meet and make our points or opinions heard? If not, why does anyone believe that their own opinions are infallible and must be accepted by the others?

That’s why I consider the cardinal’s initiative invaluable, and that it comes at a propitious moment and opportune time! As a matter of fact, we, Anglophones, appear to have lost sight of certain indisputable facts. Anglophones are in two groups in location and in circumstance: those in the diaspora and those at home; those at room temperature and those taking the heat of hostilities. The one group cannot do without the other, lest we favour fragility at the expense of durability; dictatorship instead of democracy.

I am of the considered opinion that there can NEVER be unity of purpose until we have met to agree on the common purpose/goals. Such agreement can only stand the test of time if it emanates from reason rather than from emotion. Reason requires proposal, face to face arguments/debates and consensus or the majority vote. I am at a loss how this can come about otherwise than when we meet.

One would have thought that the contention would have been where to meet rather than whether to meet. At the moment, the diaspora has assumed leadership in monopoly for obvious reason. They have incurred the hostilities of the current dispensation. Obviously, their entry and safety cannot be guaranteed until there has been amnesty. Which is to say the Buea venue or any other within Southern Cameroon/Ambazonia is inappropriate. Nor can the diaspora organize a forum that the internal representatives would freely attend. It is in that light that the cardinal has put forward pre-conditions. Our standing united behind the acceptance of those pre-conditions ought to be the reasonable goal instead of bickering…

If the argument is that the term “Anglophones” is nugatory, what can we say we are? Whether independent or not, we remain Anglohones by definition or by description. Independence or no independence, is it not only normal that, as a people, Anglophones reserve the right to meet as a people to review their wellbeing as a people from time to time? To paraphrase William Shakespeare, what is in a name? Methinks, then, that invoking the point to defeat the search for peace seems utterly facetious…

There is no gainsaying that, during war, there are negotiations for truces, cease-fires, cessations of hostilities… And no war has ever ended without parties sitting at the table. How would we seriously contend that, in our case, it has to be otherwise? If, as the cardinal did suggest, there was the release of those in prison/detention; together with the downing of arms (and the necessary end of bloodshed, even just momentarily); would that alone not be a welcome relief? Do we, in the comfort of our homes, contemplate the inhuman living conditions of our people in refugee camps; in the bushes (forests); in dungeons?… We of the Ayah Foundation feel/live it daily, and we do appreciate what our people are going through…

Above all, no initiative aimed at restoring peace and normalcy ought lightly to be dismissed from emotional inner drives. Our guiding principle should be democratic flexibility: the readiness to accept that the other person has a right to a different opinion. We may never forget that democracy is, in fact, the dissenting voice. Lest we defeat the right to argue that we are different and/or want to be different!

To my mind, AAC III is inevitable! Let us lend Cardinal Tumi our support!

AND SO DO WE HEREBY SUBMIT

By Ayah Paul Abine…