All Ambazonia Consultative Conference (AACC): How Far – So Far?

It has been just over three weeks since the All Ambazonia Consultative Conference (AACC) took place in Washington DC. Many hailed the conference and the match in front of the White House as being the watershed moment for the Anglophone revolution. They were right, but not for the reasons they had in mind at the time.

As the dust settled on the conference and many were trying to analyse all that was said and done during that weekend, one thing that many hailed as progress, was that for the first time in a long time, the Anglophone leaders were united and focused on the one issue that made them leaders – the liberation of their people from the barbarism of Biya and France.

A few days after the conference, things began to unravel, beginning with the resolutions that were taken. Some people, like me, had hoped that this conference will be a time of deep reflection on the pain and suffering of the people within the English-Speaking Regions of Cameroon. It was hoped that resolutions that will be taken will be geared towards, not only alleviating the pain of the suffering masses, but also making sure that focus is taken away from the people and placed where it should rightly be – on the Biya Regime and France.

The first contentious issue was that of school boycott. The Washington DC conference resolved that schools should not resume in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, despite mounting evidence that this was counter-productive. Prominent persons such as Ayah Paul added their voice in calling on the leaders to consider the issue of school resumption seriously. The debate went on to social media and raged on for a few days, while the fate of children hung in a balance.

The Ambazonia Interim Government (IG), through its Communication Secretary, made a surprising turn-around, and in a live broadcast, announced that they were not against school resumption. They, however, said they could not guarantee the security of children going to school. This statement was interpreted differently, depending on what side of the divide a person was. For those in favour of school boycott, the fact that the IG could not guarantee security was a clear indication it was not in favour of school resumption. To those in favour of school resumption, it was interpreted that the IG was happy for parents and guardians to make the judgment and decide for themselves if it was safe for their kids to go to school. Many parents and children, tired of staying at home for over two years, decided to take to the second interpretation. Many children went to school and many schools opened on the resumption date.

The anti-school campaigners decided to step up their campaign to prove a point. Within a few days of school resumption, students and their principals were kidnapped from a number of schools. Some were tortured, some died. The point was made, there was insecurity in the country and so anyone going to school did so at their own risk.

More crucially, however, Ayaba Cho Lucas, the leader of the Ambazonia Governing Ayaba Cho Lucas' View on School ResumptionCouncil (AGC) and Commander-in-Chief of the Ambazonia Defense Forces (ADF) announced on his Facebook page that schools will not resume until 2019. His reason was simple. Many of his fighters were students. The question of whether these students are of the right age to be involved in a military campaign, is that of another discussion. What however was clear from Ayaba’s message was that there was no agreement among the big stakeholders of the Washington Conference on the issue of school resumption. While the IG favoured the parents making the decision, Ayaba had made his decision and communicated it to everyone.

While this was clearly an area of disagreement between the major leaders of the Ambazonia revolution, it did not appear to be significant enough to be a call for concern. Everyone was still mildly optimistic that the other issues on which they agreed will carry the revolution forward and that within a short period of time, one will begin to see some signs of this unity, manifesting in the betterment of the situation on the ground for the suffering masses.

Over the weekend of 7 September 2018, rumours began circulating that there were disagreements on what to do with some money that had been raised in Washington DC. One Facebook account operating under the name of ‘Kemita Ashu’ posted a poll asking friends and followers to vote on what they wanted to be done with the money – share among groups or operate as a common fund.

By Monday 10 September, Chris Anu released an audio, in which he attacked some of the other leaders and challenged their views on the issue of the $50.000 raised in Washington DC. The following day, there was a rebuttal from Boh Herbert in which he also cast serious aspersions on the personality of Mr. Anu and others such as Sako Samuel, the Acting Interim President of the IG. To make matters worse, this was picked up by the local newspapers in Cameroon, with one publishing the damagine frontpage headline “Fight Over Money tearing Diaspora Ambazonia Leaders Apart – Suspected embezzlers to face Court Action.

While the veracity in the headline, especially the aspect of court action could be a matter of conjecture, it, however, highlights the plight of the Anglophone people. It clearly paints a picture of leaders who are out of sync with the realities and sufferings of their people.

It would have been thought that with the growing number of deaths inflicted by the Biya regime, with the astronomical rise in the number of internally displaced persons and with uncertainty looming over the very existence of English-Speaking Cameroon, a unity of purpose among the leaders will be of utmost priority.

As supporters and worried citizens were trying to come to terms with all these developments, and as some activists have gone on the defensive to mitigate the damage A Concerned Ambazonian highlights the current divide among the groupsthrough a reinterpretation of the issues, a new contentious issue has emerged. There is now the growing argument over dates on which some actions are being imposed on the people on the ground. The actual implication of the action, which seems to call for a month of inactivity, is unclear. However, what seems clear is that the leaders are again at loggerheads as to what date it should start. While some are of the view that it should start on the 16th of September, some are of the opinion that it should be 25th of September. This in itself has left the people who are facing the brunt of such discord, in a more dire situation. Some have concluded that this is a fight for dominance between the AGC and the IG. Whatever the case, this raises serious concerns about the future of the anglophone quest for freedom and further casts a gloomy spell on the future wellbeing of the whole of Cameroon, especially in the light of upcoming presidential elections.

 

 

Why I Can’t Be Silent about School Boycott in English-speaking Cameroon

When I talk about schools in d North West and South West Regions  of Cameroon, It is not as if I stand to personally gain or lose if schools remain closed.

Malala

When I speak out against school boycott, I am thinking of the child who did NOT choose any of these.

I am thinking of the child who sits and wonders why they cannot go to school but their rich  neighbour’s kids have either gone to school in other towns or the expensive ones where there is security.

I am thinking of that child whose dream to read and write is being taken away, yet they have no say.

I am thinking of that child who, because of school boycott, is now subjected to child labour in the farms.

I am thinking of that child who will be forced into marriage because they have no reason to stay around.

I am thinking of that child who will want to understand why there is a war, but will have to rely on oral history, because they cannot research and read for themselves

I am thinking of that child who will not understand why both factions in the conflict claim to be fighting for their future yet neglect their present.

That child who wonders why it is that despite insecurity, other businesses function but schools do not.

YES.. I don’t own a school and I have no kids of my own who have to go to school.

I could keep quite because of the insults and threats to my life… but if I do, how will I sleep at night knowing that these children will one day accuse me of doing nothing.

If I keep quiet because I am afraid to use my education to speak out, then I don’t deserve to extoll the virtues I have acquired from my learning.

Malala  Yousafzai, a little girl from an obscure town in Pakistan, spoke out when a Taliban gun was held to her head. She believed it was better to die than remain uneducated.

She took a bullet from the Taliban but the education acquired by the medics at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham UK, saved her.

She inspires me today. Because of her, as much as I dread the insults, threats to my life and that of my family, it is nothing compared to what Malala had to endure because she wanted to go to school.

So as much as I will want to, I am SORRY, I cannot keep silent on the issue.

When I talk about schools in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, It is not as if I stand to personally gain or lose if schools remain closed.

When I speak out against school boycott, I am thinking of the child who did NOT choose any of these.

I am thinking of the child who sits and wonders why they cannot go to school but their rich neighbour’s kids have either gone to school in other towns or the expensive ones where there is security.

I am thinking of that child whose dream to read and write is being taken away, yet they have no say.

I am thinking of that child who, because of school boycott, is now subjected to child labour in the farms.

I am thinking of that child who will be forced into marriage because they have no reason to stay around.

I am thinking of that child who will want to understand why there is a war, but will have to rely on oral history, because they cannot research and read for themselves

I am thinking of that child who will not understand why both factions in the conflict claim to be fighting for their future yet neglect their present.

That child who wonders why it is that despite insecurity, other businesses function but schools do not.

YES.. I don’t own a school and I have no kids of my own who have to go to school.

I could keep quite because of the insults and threats to my life… but if I do, how will I sleep at night knowing that these children will one day accuse me of doing nothing.

If I keep quiet because I am afraid to use my education to speak out, then I don’t deserve to extoll the virtues I have acquired from my learning.

Malala Yusuf, a little girl from an obscure town in Pakistan, spoke out when a Taliban gun was held to her head. She believed it was better to die than remain uneducated.

She took a bullet from the Taliban but the education acquired by the medics at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham UK, saved her.

She inspires me today. Because of her, as much as I dread the insults, threats to my life and that of my family, it is nothing compared to what Malala had to endure because she wanted to go to school.

So as much as I will want to, I am SORRY, I cannot keep silent on the issue.

As much as I want to avoid the threats and insults, I think I should rather be glad they are not as bad as a Taliban gun placed to the head of a little child who wanted nothing but to go to school.

For that reason, I continue to plead with both sides of the conflict in Cameroon especially the Regime of Biya… do something, any thing, that will allow kids to go to school without fear of being kidnapped or attacked.

Ambazonia Interim Government Calls for School Resumption in Southern Cameroons – With Some Caveats

The issue of school resumption in the English-Speaking parts of Cameroon has been a very contentious one. Over the last week, the debate has been intense with some advocating out-rightly that schools should resume, some out-rightly rejecting the notion and some arguing that for schools to resume, there has to be some promise of security.

In what has been a signficant U-turn, the Interim Government of the self-proclaimed Federal Republic of Ambazonia, through its Communication Secretary Chris Anu, in a broadcast, announced that they were not against school resumption.

In a message that was 1 hour and 16 minutes long, the representative of the Interim government of Ambazonia dealt with a large number of issues. Amidst exhalations to those still fighting for the restoration of their statehood, he used historical references to indicate why there was no need to give up.

At the 43rd minute and 27th second however, he turned his attention to the issue of school resumption. He made it clear that the Interim Government and front-line movements, having held in the past that schools should not resume, are taking a different approach to the issue. Announcing that schools were free to resume and that educational institutions were free to open their doors, the Ambazonia leaders have shown without doubt that they are more concerned about the future of Cameroonians than the current Biya regime.

In my message to the leaders before their Washington DC conference, I had raised the issue of school resumption and argued that it will cast the leaders in a more favourable light as education remains one of the key ways of ensuring a better future for children and for continuity of the quest for freedom.

Justice Ayah Paul Abine also raised the issue, while highlighting the importance of making sure that school resumption was closely linked to the halting of hostilities. It therefore came as no surprise that while making the announcement that schools can resume, the Ambazonian Interim Government, raised the issue of security as a concern. Pointing out to the many instances where the Cameroonian security apparatus has failed to provide safety for citizens, it was made clear that as people resume schooling, they should be aware that the levels of insecurity are still high.

This announcement has effectively increased the pressure on the Biya Regime to ensure that hostilities are halted ahead of the school resumption. In the last two years, the regime in Yaounde has been able to hide under the banner of school boycott policies, to blame all activists fighting for a better Cameroon for anything that went wrong with the educational system. The regime on occasion, blamed activists and Ambazonian fighters for burning schools and attacking pupils and students as way of enforcing school boycott. All of that changes with this announcement.

It is therefore hoped that with this announcement, schools can resume and parents can make the decision to send their kids to school without the fear of disobeying orders from the Ambazonian leadership. It is a tiny step forward, but certainly one in the right direction, especially given the challenges that the school boycott was already presenting to the economy of the Anglophone Regions and to the general health of the struggle for freedom.

 

 

The Paradox of #Anglophone Children Going to Study in French #Cameroon

The last few days have been particularly difficult for me. This is probably because I am very passionate about education and as September approaches, I cannot bear the thought of Anglophone children staying out of school for another academic year.

Importance of Education for Motivation - Jim rohn
Importance of Education for Motivation – Jim Rohn

I was mildly optimistic that the Anglophone leaders meeting in Washington DC over the weekend will make this a priority and pressure the Yaounde regime into some form of capitulation. As this did not happen, I was nursing my disappointment, I came across a Facebook post in which the person jocularly indicated that Anglophones were now going abroad to study in La Republique Du Cameroun.

Making reference to the ultimatum issued by Chris Anu, the Ambazonia Interim Government Communication Secretary, who gave till the end of May  2018, for Francophones to leave and advised Anglophones to come back home, this Facebook post pointed to the irony that the reverse was happening – Anglophones were rather going over to French Cameroon, to ensure the education of their children.

Education leads to Peace
Education leads to Peace

This trend should not in the least be surprising, given the importance placed on education within African societies. Education is seen as the only way out of poverty and the assurance of a better future. For parents, therefore, who have had their kids out of school for two years, this is as much a sacrifice as they can make.

The paradox of the situation, however, is that the Anglophone crisis began in 2016, in part, as a quest to stop the Francophonisation of English schools. By prolonging the school boycott strategy and forcing Anglophone families to send their kids into the French-Speaking zones, the policy is not only depriving the Anglophone region of financial resources, it is achieving the exact thing, the protests in 2016 sought to challenge.

The longer the school boycott strategy is in force, the more Anglophone providers of education suffer; the longer the strategy persists, teachers, especially those employed by the private sector, suffer and the more Anglophone Children find themselves at the heart of a French system of education.

Education is the sure means to a sustainable Future
Education is the sure means to a Sustainable Future

I must state here, however, that this happens to be only the children of well-to-do families. The poorer children, whose parents cannot afford to send them to the French areas to study, will be left uneducated. This, therefore, creates another problem. A class distinction, in which the rich create opportunities for their kids, while the poor suffer the brunt of the school boycott approach. In the not too distant future, the rich will inevitably become richer, while the poor will remain servants thereby broadening the class distinction.

Justice Ayah Paul Contends that School Resumption & Ending Of Hostilities are Mutually Inclusive

As the dust is about to settle on the just-concluded All Ambazonia Consultative Council (AACC) which held over the weekend in Washington DC, some people have been left underwhelmed, not least, Justice Ayah Paul Abine. In a post on his personal Facebook Page, the former Justice in a strongly-worded statement makes the case of why school resumption and cessation of hostilities were absolutely necessary. In my recommendations to the conveners of the conference, I had seven points that they could consider, among which were the declaration of a ceasefire and school resumption.

Justice Ayah Paul Abine
Justice Ayah Paul Abine

In that write-up, I was too optimistic and had treated both the issues of school resumption and cessation of hostilities, as mutually exclusive. I also made an argument that the call for hostilities to end could come from the Anglophone leaders. Ayah Paul has debunked this by arguing that the Cameroon government “cannot declare war and call on the adverse party to lay down their arms unilaterally.” and that the same government “cannot argue the case for a return to normalcy when [they] go killing people indiscriminately, including the most innocent”. After reading these logical arguments, I must admit that I was naive to assume that it was possible for such a solution to have come from the Anglophone leaders. Following therefore on the superior logic of Ayah, I will submit that ending of hostilities remains the responsibility of the Biya Regime.

The issue on which Ayah and I do agree on is the importance of education for the building of a sustainable future. Ayah argues clearly that:

…we owe posterity a collective duty to prepare those growing up to take the relay baton from us. Therefore, I am one with all those who hold that education is too invaluable to be toyed with. None of us would be doing with efficiency what we are doing today without education. It is absolutely self-defeating to prosecute for a better tomorrow and perpetrate simultaneously conduct that mars that very tomorrow.

The importance of education both as a human right and a conditio sine qua non for the sustainability of the Anglophone quest for freedom, having been established, the question remains as to how this can be achieved in an environment of conflict.

First off, we can all agree that school boycott has no impact on Biya, who has not placed any value on quality education in the 36 years he has been in power. If we agree on that, then we can also agree that Biya will never be moved by the declaration over the weekend, from the Anglophone leaders that schools should not resume. On the other hand, should the leaders of the opposing camp take up the challenge and highlight the importance of school resumption, they will automatically heap pressure on the regime, whose duty it is to ensure that children going to school are not put in harm’s way.

While reiterating therefore that the starting point for any calls for school resumption should be the cessation of hostilities, Ayah Paul goes on to declare that the Anglophone leaders have as much a responsibility as the Biya regime in making this happen. He argues that although the responsibility for ending the conflict lies with the regime, it is not a blank cheque for Anglophone leaders

…  at home and/or abroad [to] take refuge under continuing hostilities to stay formally resolute against the reopening of schools. My considered opinion is that we should leave the door open, thereby shifting the blame to those guilty of belligerency.

If the Anglophone leaders truly care about the future of the children at home, if they care about posterity and the sustainability of the quest for freedom, then they will surely be revisiting their resolution that schools should not reopen.