The Southern Cameroons crisis that has split the country and put the country on a downward economic and political spiral is gradually destroying the country’s military. According to our source in the military, there is growing disgruntlement within the military, especially among Anglophones who are not happy with what is being done to fellow Anglophones in the two English-speaking regions of the country.
According to our source, money is very likely to cause huge cracks on the military’s wall. Top military officials are, according to our source, taking advantage of the military actions that are currently playing out in the South West region. It is being rumored that the defense minister, Joseph Beti Assomo, and his friends are robbing the country blind. While the foot soldiers are being killed in the South West region, the generals and government officials are making hay while the sun shines.
It is alleged that Mr. Assomo is now taking financial decisions without following national procurement rules. He claims that the country is at war and if processes and procedures have to be followed, the president’s decision to eradicate the separatists will not be implemented to the letter. Many observers hold that the war could just be an excuse for some government officials to implement their personal agenda and this is causing many foot soldiers to question the rationale behind the killing of innocent civilians and the burning of their homes.
Our source further adds that even among the rank and file, there is a lot of frustration. Most of the government soldiers claim that they are not properly paid and that the risk of having to fight those tough “Ambazonian Tigers” was causing many of them to develop mental issues. Many are sleep deprived, especially those who have witnessed the killing of their colleagues, our source add. He intimated that the soldiers whose duty posts are in the South West region are not being paid per diem, but those coming from Yaoundé are entitled to huge per diems and this is gradually destroying the unity the military needs to prosecute the war.
Our source stressed that the soldiers who are permanently resident in the South West region are now helping Anglophone fighters who are known for their toughness. It is alleged that in Mamfe, the “Odeshi boys”, the fighters who have killed close to two hundred army soldiers have been aided and abetted by government troops who are not satisfied with their financial arrangements.
It is alleged that some government troops have been informing the fighters of troop movement and this accounts for the heavy casualty that government troops have taken over the last two months, especially in the Manyu jungle that has been a tough terrain for most army soldiers.
Meanwhile, discussions between arrested Anglophone leaders and government officials are continuing in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, despite the numerous hitches deriving from differences of opinion. The Cameroon government delegation, led by Mr. Rene Said, the country’s territorial administration minister, is still trying to sell its decentralization policy that is being rejected by Ambazonian leaders. The arrested leaders argue that the decentralization policy is enshrined in the country’s constitution, but for over twenty-two years, it has not been implemented and this, in their opinion, makes it hard to trust any word from the government.
According to our source which elected anonymity, Mr. Rene Sadi has threatened on many occasions to quit the negotiations as Ambazonian leaders keep on arguing that their objective was to get the government of Cameroon to discuss divorce issues. Some of those divorce issues include, debt-sharing, oil revenue, general amnesty and the peaceful return of refugees to the Federal Republic of Ambazonia; things that are not sitting well with the Cameroon delegation at the negotiations.
The Ambazonian President, Julius Ayuk Tabe, for his part, is insisting that it will be hard working with the government of Cameroon that is wont to deceit, intimidation and corruption. He argues that the concentration of power in the hands of one man in Cameroon is responsible for all the issues Anglophones have faced in Cameroon. He insists that it will be hard for the Francophone leadership to understand that centralization has only bred corruption and intimidation. He points to the general malaise in the country as evidence of the negative effects of centralization. He argues that Mr. Biya and his people have pauperized Cameroonians and their love for power and control has rolled back the country by at least five decades.
While the negotiations are not producing any meaningful results, both sides are at least talking and agreeing that the fighting was not necessary, as many lives have been lost. UN and Nigerian negotiators, for their part, are asking both parties to meet each other halfway. Both the UN and Nigeria have very little appetite for separation, but are hugely in favor of a federal structure that will bring powers to the regions, while reducing the red tape that has been the hallmark of the centralized system that has been the bane of people’s lives in Cameroon.
It should be recalled that the Southern Cameroons crisis started in October 2016 with calls from lawyers and teachers for better working conditions. But the government’s brutal reaction to these peaceful calls only made matters worse, especially when the Anglophone Diaspora jumped into the fray following the arrest of the leasers and the banning of the Anglophone Consortium that was negotiating with government officials.
By Kingsley Betek
West Africa Bureau Chief (Abuja, Nigeria)
Cameroon Concord News Group