Before the attacks on Manyu Division, Cameroonian soldiers based in GRA, Mamfe and in the army camp in Besongabang were highly loved and respected by the Manyu population. The troops were not heavily protected and lived within the community. The Francophone soldiers who served in Manyu Division in the yesteryears have always spoken of Manyu people holding the military in high regard.
The French Cameroon service men and women who came to Mamfe were taught the softly-softly approach – thanks to experience of always inviting the army to protect Manyus during those difficult football years of the great Joseph Eyong of Cammark Mamfe and the late Fayez Olabi of Meme Works. Once in Manyu, the French Cameroun’ heavy-handed tactics was washed away from the soldiers.
It was a view that was spreading across the Cameroonian army. The army barracks in Besongabang was regarded as relatively friendly to every young man who visited. Manyus including other ethnic groups had largely welcomed the Cameroonian army and General James Tataw was seen as a true Manyu hero.
But the days of sharing drinks in bars in Mamfe and handing sardine to children in the army camp in Besongabang are now long gone. Casualties being suffered by Cameroonian soldiers in Manyu are now coming at a higher rate all because of one man, the 84 year-old President Paul Biya.
The Francophone dominated army is expected to massively pull out of Mamfe, the chief town in Manyu Division, where a battle group of unidentified Southern Cameroons militants have kept them under consistent fire. The numbers of Cameroon soldiers in Manyu Division will then fall and a large majority of them will be based at just one location in Akwaya and in Otu and Nsang in Eyumojock.
With such a small force in a vast constituency like the Manyu, soldiers will now be used essentially to protect themselves. Their objective appears to be largely to provide a symbolic show of support for pro-Biya Southern Cameroonians and the French government. This current setting and off-the-cuff withdrawal is also pretty expensive and not sustainable.
The Biya regime seems to be changing the Manyu tactics and now wants to hand over responsibility to Anglophone military leaders. The Southern Cameroonians in the army will protect the Enugu-Bamenda Highway and carry out targeted security operations on the Manyu Cross River. But while the Biya Francophone regime’s public statements give the impression of a job done, the reality of what is currently going on in Southern Cameroons is different.
Relentless attacks against Cameroonian soldiers have driven them off the streets of major cities in Southern Cameroons and into increasingly secluded compounds like in the case of Mamfe. The recent partial withdrawal ordered secretly by President Biya from Manyu has been viewed by the Ambazonian armed men as an ignominious defeat. Today, Manyu is basically controlled by the Interim Government of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia with a leader, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe who is seemingly more powerful and unconstrained than before.
Ever since he was appointed to head the Manyu expedition, nothing has been heard about General Elokobi Daniel Njock. There are concerns about the whereabouts of General Ivo Yenwo. It is evidently clear that the Cameroon army have lost the ability to reverse the downward spiral in Mamfe, Akwaya and Eyumojock.
Cameroon Concord News understands that to speak of defeat is too simplistic. But after the 14 days war in Manyu, it is right to point out that the Cameroon army is living with the consequences of past decisions and actions – that’s a reality – and there is no point in saying that everything in the garden is rosy, because it isn’t.
One conclusion is almost nationally drawn: Cameroonian soldiers suffered from a hasty and ill-prepared deployment by a commander-in-chief who comprehensively failed in pre-war planning. Boko Haram militants in the Far North region were Nigerian citizens who did not even master the landscape! The Ambazonian resistance in Manyu is made up of young men who God in his infinite image created and planted in Manyu Division.
There is a complete lack of popular support for the Manyu military venture. Any successful strategy to resolve the crisis in Southern Cameroons needs three legs: a political-dialogue part, an economic component and the military-security element. The Cameroon army attack on Manyu has signaled Yaoundé that if progress is not being made on the dialogue and economic fronts, security starts to fall apart. It’s time for Mr. Paul Biya to meet with the Interim President of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai