Southern Cameroons Crisis: Protect us against our protectors 0

For more than five months, the Yaounde government has been quietly implementing its genocide plan as the international community looks the other way. Over the last five months, the government has been shooting and killing many male southern Cameroonians on the pretext that they are terrorists.

Villages across the two English-speaking regions have simply been wiped off the country’s map through a scorch-earth policy that many in the international community have frowned upon. Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group have all called the government’s action against Southern Cameroonians into questions. The world is simply marveled at the commitment of such human rights abuses.

In villages such as Kwakwa and Kembong in the South West region, the government simply destroyed the villages. Its plan was to intimidate the people into submission but the strategy has so far been counter-productive. In Kwakwa, many old people were burnt alive by government forces as a move to punish the entire population for the killing of an army soldier by some unknown and unidentified gunmen.

The buzzword now in Cameroon is terrorism and anybody who holds a view that is contrary to the government’s is considered a terrorist. Mbonge, Bali and Batibo have all been victims of the Yaounde government’s malicious policy designed to stamp out any opposition.

In Etoko in Manyu Division, a young lady and her brother were shot point blank last week by young Beti soldiers who hold that the government is theirs and any challenge to the dictatorial system must be addressed through brute force and Hitler-style brutality.

The worst of the government’s brutality was discovered on Friday, May 26, 2018 when at least 30 Southern Cameroonians were slaughtered in cold-blood in Menka- Pinyin in the North West region and in other locations in the South West region.

In trying to sway national and international opinion, the military rushed its spokesperson to deliver an unconvincing explanation for such acts of brutality by a military that has reduced itself to the level of a ragtag army. A flimpsy explanation by the country’s military spokesperson, Colonel Didier Badjeck, has left many in the international community with the feeling that Mr. Biya and his government do not want a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The government is yet to show any arms the suspects had used or any evidence that they were plotting anything sinister. Killing innocent young men has been its modus operandi and this is eroding its credibility in the eyes of some members of the international community who are already questioning why the UN is not intervening to end the bloodbath.

This week has been a bloody one. It is like the hunting season has been opened and the blood has been flowing. A similar attack also took place on Friday in Mbalangi, a small settlement in the South West region where some 22 young men were left to die in their own blood.  In Santa Sub-division, the country’s Territorial Administration minister, Paul Atanga Nji, reportedly planned and ordered government forces to use conventional explosives on innocent civilians. This has been decried by a  senior Roman Catholic clergy who is concerned about the road the country has taken over the last two years. It should be mentioned that the Catholic church on Thursday, May 24, organized a protest march against the killing of innocent people in the country’s English-speaking regions.

This week’s assaults are part of an indiscriminate campaign by Mr. Biya’s sex-starved and drug-inflamed forces to retake control of the territory now known as the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.  It has been reported that the government has given strict orders to hospital officials not to treat Southern Cameroonians with gunshot wounds. The government seems to be engaged in a dangerous path of self-destruction and the international community seems to have made up its mind not to act while the genocide is still in its infancy.

The murders come on the heels of a scathing criticism of the aging and reckless Yaounde regime by the U.S. Ambassador, Peter Barlerin, who used an audience with the country’s president, Paul Biya, to call for an end to the senseless and targeted killings in the two English-speaking regions.

Mr. Barlerin also called on Mr. Biya to think of his legacy, a coded way of telling the Yaounde dictator not to run in the upcoming presidential election. It should, however, be pointed out that Mr. Biya has no legacy for Cameroonians. After more than 35 years in power, Mr. Biya has transformed the country into an Augean Stables wherein the people have been pauperized and corruption institutionalized.

Besides making tribalism a key component of his politics, Mr. Biya will be remembered as the worst man-made catastrophe that has ever befallen Cameroon. Under Mr. Biya, many priests and nuns have been killed and many Cameroonians have simply disappeared. Though touting himself as a democrat, Cameroonians do know him as an iron fist in a velvet glove.

The carnage taking place in the English-speaking regions of the country will be one event that will never leave the minds of many Southern Cameroonians for centuries to come. The government’s violence has only succeeded to breed revenge and hatred among the population.

It should be recalled that Mr. Biya is using an old strategy employed against the Bassas and Bamilekes during the struggle for independence. The strategy might have worked at the time, but it will surely flop this time around as Southern Cameroonians will only step up their campaign to secede from French Cameroon that has dominated them for more than five decades.

The Southern Cameroons crisis has put the country in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons and its impact will linger for a very long time. Government brutality has been widely condemned. But the Yaounde government seems to be turning a deaf ear to the criticisms of some recognized voices around world.

According to a United Nations official who spoke to Cameroon Concord News Group on condition of anonymity, the Biya era is quietly coming to an end and actions by the government are simply making it hard for any reasonable person to have any respect for the 85-year-old Biya who erroneously thinks the country belongs to him.

“A country cannot belong to anybody. Mr. Biya is making the same mistakes Mr. Mubutu of Zaire made; mistakes that let to his destruction. Mr. Biya should be looking into the mirror of history in order to avoid such dumb mistakes. At 85, he should know that his days are numbered and it is in his interest to think about living Cameroon a better place than he met it,” he said.

“Mr. Biya should be listening to his conscience. He has lost credibility. Within international circles, many people have nothing but disrespect for him. He has failed and he is a disgrace to country like Cameroon that has lots of intellectuals. He should understand that he has had more than his fair share of power even when he has never won any election. There is no way he is going to win this war. The actions of his military are simply fueling violence. Southern Cameroonians will surely resort to more kidnappings as a way of venting their anger. They will also be killing innocent soldiers and policemen who are even against the war. It is really unfortunate that many young soldiers are losing their lives for a man who is just a few meters away from his grave,” the international civil servant said.

Meanwhile, some Southern Cameroonians including Mr. Mancho Bibixy, were sentenced on Friday. All those who were awaiting sentencing were handed long jail terms, all of which are over ten years. Many analysts have questioned the appropriateness of the sentences. A senior Southern Cameroonian lawyer resident in the United States made a mockery of the sentences. He said Mr. Biya and his cohort of old and tired collaborators would soon be leaving the world and none of them would be around to see those who have been sentenced complete their jail terms.

He said that before long, Mr. Biya would be history as he is struggling with prostate cancer and a failing heart. Besides, the stress on him is enormous and this could be seen in the way he walks. His May 20 appearance only pointed to the fact that his days were numbered as he could not even cover half a kilometer on foot.

The Southern Cameroons crisis that has been playing out for almost two years has finally entered a critical phase. While Southern Cameroonian fighters are making a mockery of the government’s military action, the Yaounde government is now scrambling for a peaceful resolution as it has noticed that it is dealing with a very dicey situation. The government is under enormous pressure as the killing of army soldiers has become a daily ritual.

It is becoming clear to the government that there will never be a convincing military victory in this battle that will surely last for decades. Friday’s killings and sentencing of Southern Cameroonians will only cause the violence to flare. The government might be throwing some deadly punches, but it knows it is gradually losing its power and authority.

Cameroon will never be the same again. While secession could be hard to obtain, the government should understand that it will not easily re-establish its authority in the English-speaking regions and, before long, French-speaking Cameroonians will jump into the fray as their economic situation continues to deteriorate.

Currently, the dynamics are changing. The government’s arrogance is gradually being eroded by the determined Southern Cameroonian fighters whose actions have struck fear in the minds of many army soldiers. The government is today staring down the barrel of defeat, as its treasury continues to lose money and its soldiers feeling really despondent as they face the prospect of dying in the rocky mountains and dense jungles of Southern Cameroons.

Many government officials know that defeat is staring the government in the face. Many want to sue for peace, but they don’t know how to proceed as their arrogance has muddied the waters and made reconciliation challenging.

For close to two years, the supporters of the Yaounde regime have been beating the drums of war and young Beti soldiers stationed in the English-speaking regions have been spreading death and destruction. Many young men have been gunned down point blank and many houses have been burnt down in a bid to strike fear into many Southern Cameroonians who have clearly expressed their support for a rebellion they hold will bring them independence and a better life.

As the violence escalates, the fear of a larger catastrophe is looming large on the horizon. The fighting is very likely to take a new and dangerous dimension in the days ahead. The Ambazonian Interim Government has given all French-speaking Cameroonians right up to May 31, 2018 to leave the newly created Federal Republic of Ambazonia otherwise known as Southern Cameroons. Any French-speaking Cameroonians who do not heed this advice will surely have themselves to blame and the Ambazonian Defense forces are already coming up with an implementation plan. They will be implementing the law as prescribed by the Interim Government.

The message delivered by the Interim government’s communication secretary, Chris Anu, underscores that any French-speaking Cameroonian caught in Southern Cameroons after the prescribed deadline will be considered a criminal alien whose intention is to destabilize the fatherland. This crime carries the capital punishment and the different armed groups have been called upon to enforce the law accordingly.

The message also stresses that all Southern Cameroonians housing French-speaking Cameroonians have an obligation to send them out before the expiry of the deadline. Failure to comply with the laws of the land could result in severe punishment, including the burning of their property. The message has been clearly articulated in an audio message issued by Mr. Chris Anu, the Communication Secretary of the Southern Cameroons Interim Government. It is therefore in the interest of all Southern Cameroonians to be law-abiding. Southern Cameroons will never be chaotic, and any lawless elements will be promptly taken into newly built green jails in Southern Cameroons.

The Interim Government’s message looks like an empty threat, but it should be taken seriously. Over the last two weeks, the Yaounde government has been gunning down many young Southern Cameroonians and the whole world has been playing spectator to the killings. The American government has been very critical of the government’s targeted killings. The international community has been horrified by such acts of criminality, but the Yaounde government has remained indifferent to the plea of some of the respected voices in the world.

This therefore calls for self-defence. Southern Cameroonians have a right to self-defence and they want to use that right to protect themselves. They have clearly stated that they can no longer share the same geo-political space with their French-speaking counterparts. The government has been indifferent to their plea for years and they think now is the time for them to take those actions that will bring them the independence they need.

The government can no longer go about killing Southern Cameroonians with impunity. The world can also no longer stay on the sidelines as if Southern Cameroonians are simply lab animals that can just be disposed of anyhow.  Over the last five months, many innocent Southern Cameroonians have been sent to an early grave by young, sex-starved and alcohol inflamed Beti soldiers who erroneously think they are there to protect the Yaounde government that has outlived its usefulness.

In a reaction to the Interim Government’s order, a young Red Dragon fighter who has been in the jungles of Lebialem for more than six months said that “Francophones have an interest to comply with what the Interim Government has said. We are running out of patience and will surely be staging a show that will shock the world once the deadline expires.”

He added that “Let nobody think this is an empty threat. We have seen our brothers and sisters being killed by government forces and we are ready to revenge. There will be a bloodbath after the expiry of the Interim Government’s order. We have faith in our Interim Government and we will do all what it takes to ensure that the laws of the land are respected. If the Yaounde government thinks this is a joke, then it has not yet understood that it has a huge crisis on its hands. We are prepared to die. We have been enslaved for decades and now is the time to liberate our land. We have never thought that independence will come easy. We know it is never delivered on a platter of gold. We are aware of what happened to Eritrea, South Sudan and even in faraway Timor Leste. We are well read. We are also university graduates, but the government’s decision to declare a war on us will turn out to be its greatest undoing. If the world is still on the sidelines, then it really wants to play spectator to a Rwanda-style genocide at the end of the month. We will be staging a massive show that will shock everybody. We never asked for this war. It was imposed on us and we will do all in our power to end the oppression that has been ours for decades.”

While senior government officials are still trying to put on a brave face, many in the corridors of power are already very concerned. Southern Cameroonians have put up a good show beyond everybody’s wildest imagination and their determination is being admired by many French-speaking Cameroonians. But their recent move to chase French-speaking Cameroonians out of their land spells a huge disaster for the government.

For months, the government has been adamant to calls for an inclusive dialogue. Ever since the crisis started, the country’s president, Paul Biya, also known as the owner of the country, has refused to listen to many respectable voices across the world. The Pope has had an opportunity to talk to Mr. Biya. Leaders of Western Countries have advised him to pursue dialogue as a sure means out of the impasse. The African Union has once offered to mediate.

But he has remained tone deaf to these calls and his refusal is costing many lives. He too is putting a brave face, but American pressure seems to be paying off. Behind the scenes, the pennies seem to be dropping. The government wants to talk, but it has not got an interlocutor. It had arrested and delegitimized federalists in 2017. In 2018, Southern Cameroonian leaders were kidnapped in Nigeria and brought to Yaounde where they are being held incommunicado. Those are the people the government should be talking to if it has developed the right mind that can bring peace to the country.

The situation is spiraling out of control. Mr. Biya is losing support even within his own party. The Southern Cameroons crisis is surely that issue that will blow up the ruling party. The dissenting voices are increasing and the pressure on Mr. Biya is mounting. Some ruling party members hold that if Mr. Biya steps down, there could be a possibility for a negotiated settlement. Many ruling party members do not like the country to be split, but the manner in which Mr. Biya and his cohorts have handled the Southern Cameroons crisis leaves many of his supporters with no other option but to ask him to leave power.

From every indication, Mr. Biya’s time is over. His soldiers may be killing Southern Cameroonians, but they will not kill their resolve to become an independent nation. The slaughtering of a people has never killed an idea. It simply makes it sprout like ragweed. Southern Cameroonians understand that independence will never be handed to them on a platter of gold. They know they are in for a long haul. They are aware of the challenges East Timor and Eritrea faced. They are prepared to stay the course. They would not want those who have already die to be forgotten so soon.

They are their heroes and they can only be hailed as heroes in an independent Southern Cameroons. They therefore have a reason to fight on. The road ahead may be long, but the hope of delivery future generations from the oppression and exploitation of East Cameroon will continue to fill them with the determination to fight on. The light at the end of the tunnel may seem far away, but the Southern Cameroonian will be remembered in history as the Spartan that will die, but will never surrender. The two cubes of sugar will not be melting anytime soon and the Yaounde government is sure about that.

The response to the massacres will surely come if the international community does not protect Southern Cameroonians against their “protectors.” The fear is that the response may come, but unfortunately as a mushroom cloud.  Southern Cameroonians are willing to erode the government’s credibility until it collapses. Losing a battle does not imply losing a war. The Amba fighters have simply been given a reason to wreak havoc.

The government has made its way into a maze. It will not be getting out of this war anytime, soon. Mr. Biya has gambled and his gamble may only make Southern Cameroons independent. East Cameroonians will never forgive him for mishandling this crisis. His actions are simply guaranteeing Southern Cameroonians their independence. There is no more room for dialogue. Southern Cameroonians hold that they have crossed the Rubicon and they will never want to live again with their French-speaking counterparts. Cameroon has been split by the actions of an 85-year-old demented president. The mess he has created will surely take him to his grave. Cameroonians in their generality are simply calling on the international community to come and protect them against their supposed protector. The international community should wake up and smell the coffee.

By Kingsley Betek in Bamenda