On the night of Saturday, October 28 to Sunday, October 29, 2017, unidentified people set fire on the home of Felix Agbor Balla’s parents in Manyu Division. Before fleeing, the arsonists also desecrated the grave of Balla’s late father. CIR’s Chi Prudence Asong in the following conversation with our chief political man, Soter Agbaw-Ebai examines the Barrister Agbor Balla factor in the Southern Cameroons struggle.
Cameroon Intelligence Report: The net is wash with criticisms of Barrister Agbor Balla’s stance on issues back in Southern Cameroons. As a trusted friend and brother, have you spoken to him?
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: I have had several telephone conversations with him and I guess he is succeeding in his UK mission.
Cameroon Intelligence Report: Many Southern Cameroonians seem to hold that he has played into the hands of the CPDM government, especially as he is calling for the resumption of schools.
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: My dear Prudence, many Ambazonians believe school resumption is a good thing, but there must be preconditions. Southern Cameroonian critics are mad at Agbor Balla for not playing up the preconditions as stated by the Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Governing Council.
Cameroon Intelligence Report: Maybe Barrister Agbor Felix Nkongho Balla is not aware of the position of the Governing Council.
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: He is very much aware. I even got one of our senior editors to communicate that to him and in that correspondence to Barrister Agbor Balla, we stated some of the preconditions such as:
- Release of Southern Cameroonians who are in jail across the country;
- Granting of amnesty to those who are out of the country;
- Holding of genuine dialogue with Southern Cameroonian groups, most of which are out of the country.
Cameroon Intelligence Report: Many Southern Cameroonians still hold that separation is the ideal option
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: You should be saying this to Mr Agbor Balla not me. I hold that if there is genuine dialogue, the Biya Francophone Beti Ewondo regime and the Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Governing Council can find ways to narrow their differences and maybe find a long-lasting solution to the issues
Cameroon Intelligence Report: What did you say to Barrister Agbor Balla when he arrived the UK?
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: I suggested to him to tone down his rhetoric on school resumption and place his focus on clear preconditions. As a media and public relations person, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that some of his interviews are instead hurting his credibility. I dedicated my whole life fighting against this Francophone issue of North West/South West Divide, I am sad to say that my own brother, who supported me in those bad days when the late Peter Agbor Tabi and John Ebong Ngole wanted my head, is now the one fanning the flames of North West/South West Divide. Balla’s action is indeed fanning the flames of the North West/South West Divide. I am very disappointed.
Cameroon Intelligence Report: Some political commentators are saying Barrister Agbor Balla is offering something new out of the current situation
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: I understand he says he does not believe in extremism. But I tell you what? It’s getting harder for some of us in the media to sell his side of the story. He will surely have to come up with a new strategy that will make him more marketable. Southern Cameroonians have been counting on him and he must not forget that the freezing of schools was a strategy that was used to secure his release and many hold that its use will go a long way in helping those who are still languishing in the unpleasant jails in Cameroon to regain their freedom. Cameroon Concord News Group has hinted Barrister Agbor Balla that the majority of Southern Cameroonians are not buying into what he is selling.
Cameroon Intelligence Report: Did you suggest anything new to him?
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: I told you at the beginning of our conversation that I got our senior editor to write to him a letter. In that document, Cameroon Concord News Group suggested to Agbor Balla that he should refocus his mission and the main point should be the release of those jailed and the granting of amnesty to all those in exile. The other issues are being handled by the Governing Council.
Cameroon Intelligence Report: What was his take on the letter?
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: He thanked our editor for the letter. However, you are aware that I am not a Barrister! I am only a news reporter. Someone somewhere should tell Barrister Agbor Balla again that the Southern Cameroons crisis is a reality and it will be unfortunate to let the public perceive him as a sellout.
Cameroon Intelligence Report: Suggest to me what Barrister Balla can do now for the struggle
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: My team has made it clear to the Barrister that with the report of the International Crisis Group out, we think it is time for all Southern Cameroons groups to continue to work together to get the Biya regime to the negotiating table. We believe the pressure must continue as the international community’s ramped up rhetoric against the regime should be seen as fodder to the Southern Cameroons cannon. My team has told Balla that he can always count on our public relations expertise, provided he engages in actions that will make Southern Cameroons a better place than he met it.
Cameroon Intelligence Report: Are you aware that Barrister Agbor Balla’s family home has been burnt down?
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: I have heard about it. He is even lucky they did not set fire on his late Dad’s grave!! The elders of the Manyu State advised him to be careful with public statements which may make him unpopular on all fronts. Let me tell you what Barrister Agbor Balla does not know and why he should listen to people like me! Anglophone elites in Government pose a greater threat to him because they think he is online to take over their positions. The problem with Balla is not because he advocates Federalism. Dr Munzu does and was invited to Atlanta and London by Southern Cameroonians to speak about it. The problem is that Balla said he advocated a United Cameroun implying the status quo. Critically he said there was no need for a UN intervention despite the fact that the UN and AU have insistently stated that they were prepared to facilitate dialogue. Taking a public stand against that position is troubling. Indeed the UN Secretary General Personal Representative for Central Africa had been involved in shuttle diplomacy in this regard. Finally Balla doesn’t state clearly whom he is talking for. It seems like he is pushing a personal agenda now. These are my observations. He seems to have burnt bridges on all sides but his immediate adversaries are the Southwest CPDM elite and Government operatives who may have been complicit in burning down his village. If not them who can go to his village undictated to torch his family house? The same village that honored him upon release from detention?
Cameroon Intelligence Report: Thank you Mr Chairman for your time
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai: Happy Bank Holiday to you Prudence