24, May 2018
The pronouncement of the US Ambassador, Henry Barlerin, after his meeting with President Biya of LRC has shaken the top leadership of Cameroon to the very roots of their being. In his declarations, the Ambassador clearly called out the regime on its use of excessive force in the killing of Ambazonians, the burning of villages, the creation of thousands of refugees as well as the need for Paul Biya to step down from power. Its diplomats and academics have been working overtime in a bid to save face and protect their hegemony, as the fallouts of the meeting have hit the global press in general and the Cameroonian populace in particular. Some of them have been very crass and expletive in their characterization of the Ambassador, as they condemn his statements. The real question is how much of their reaction can actually change the stance the Ambassador took? Are we seeing a change in global response to the plight of Ambaland?
The fact is that even some Ambazonians have criticized the Ambassador for not going far enough to term the actions of the LRC military as the genocide that it really is. However, a position has been taken by the Trump Administration and the question is whether LRC has a choice in following suit. Mbela Mbela, the Cameroonian Foreign Minister, has summoned Barlerin to talk about the message he delivered openly to the press, saying that by their very nature these messages are not meant to be publicized. He further argues that the sovereignty of Cameroon allows only Cameroonians to determine who leads their country. According to Mbela Mbela, Cameroon will handle its internal crisis in its own way and foreigners should not intervene. The totality of reactions from Cameroons leadership is one of complete anger towards Barlerin in particular and America in general. So how do these play out on the ground as the days unfold?
It serves no purpose here to mention the strangle hold of France over Biya himself, through the rigging of elections, nor does it help to talk about American as the global leader in diplomacy. So, within the context of diplomacy, Barlerin has pronounced the stance of the USA. That is a very important position. Note that the scope of diplomacy spans from total silence to all-out war. His statements could not but have been made with the benefit of full intelligence as to what has been happening on the ground as well as the educated position of the United States towards the unfolding crisis. The outbursts from the Cameroonian ruling classes cannot but be seen as the rantings of a hurt ego. If Cameroon really wants to show its anger in can call back its Ambassador to the United States. It can also ask the US Ambassador to leave Cameroon. Such a move is enough to convey the message. They can then sit back and wait for America to respond. So far they have not done so. While it is still early they still have the time to do so and even threaten any other action that they see fit. What exactly is in their arsenal to use as a threat to the most powerful country in the history of the human race?
Turning the tables, what can America do to enforce its pronouncement? A few days ago, Ambazonians were agog with the “donation” of two fighter planes by the same Ambassador, to Biya and his team. A flurry of communication between Ambazonians in the US especially, followed and thereafter the meeting was held to congratulate Biya on the occasion of the National Day of 20th May…and look what came out. Ambazonian Americans have been complaining to their Senators here in the US about the flagrant violation of the terms of support to Boko Haram as Biya has turned the BIR against the people of Ambaland. One can safely say that for Biya, the tables are turning and his chickens are beginning to come home to roost.
So what can the Americans do you ask? In strict diplomatic terms, the piece of geography on which the US embassy sits in Yaoundé is actually America abroad. Even Paul Biya himself cannot walk into that land without the express permission of Washington. One can make the same claim about the Cameroonian Embassy in America and on the face of it one will be correct. However, it was President Reagan who marched into Panama, captured Noriega, the sitting president and brought him to be tried in the US. It was also Reagan who swooped into Tripoli and bombed the hell out of Gadhafi, killing his daughter and destroying the Libyan presidential palace. So while we can claim that diplomacy is diplomacy, we say in Bamenda that “njangi money na for table”. We have not even mentioned the fact that Trump is more of a “bad boy” than Reagan. So, the hoopla from Yaoundé is going to die down eventually, and they will come to their senses. Many of them have rightly quoted examples of how America went into Zaire and kicked Mobutu out, the case of Syria, Somalia, Sudan, etc. We can even add Iraq, Vietnam, and Afghanistan etc. Has that stopped the Americans? We can only wait and see. For us Ambazonians, the important question is, where does this leave our struggle?
The expletives coming out of Yaoundé are beginning to take the typical Zimbabwean tone under Robert Mugabe. Look what happened to him. While the ire against LRC may not directly translate to support for Ambazonia, it will help to make the case of the caliber of people we have been dealing with all these years. It is not a mere coincidence that within the past week or so, we have suddenly received a flurry of encouraging words from different nations – at least condemning the actions of LRC. A good number of them have mentioned the need for the International Court of Justice to take a look at their excesses.
We have also heard rumors about secret meetings in Senegal with the facilitation of Kofi Anan. We can comfortably say that the tides are turning in our favor. Even if some of these rumors are simply that – rumors – global sentiment has definitely taken a tangent. What do we say in Bamenda – “Cow whe e no get tail…”
By John Tuma