The international community is not watching, Cameroon under the 88-year-old President Biya has edged toward collapse, and the Chairman of the ruling CPDM crime syndicate is in his weakest position ever. France and its youthful President Emmanuel Macron now have a narrow chance to prevent a catastrophe in the CEMAC region.
Southern Cameroons Interim Government promised to keep its struggle for an independent state peaceful … but President Biya and his French Cameroun political elites said they wanted bullets, they are now getting them.
The War in Southern Cameroons has already claimed at least 40 000 lives, almost all of them civilian children, men and women, murdered by Cameroun troops in a series of targeted killings, organized massacres, and killings by fire in over 400 villages burnt down to ashes across Ambazonia. Over half a million people have been forcibly displaced as refugees living in various countries and especially in refugee camps in Nigeria. Over another half a million people have become IDPs hiding in forests, caves and hills due to forced displacement. Additionally, over 1.5 million people are facing a humanitarian disaster.
But it is not only Southern Cameroons that is going through such an apocalypse. The northern part of the country has been the theater of violent confrontations between government troops and Boko Haram fighters who have bombed many civilians into an early grave.
While the government has been active in the North hoping that it could roll back Boko Haram fighters who are believed to come from Nigeria, government forces have succeeded to alienate the Northerners due to massive and bloody killings and abuse of the civilian population which now sympathizes with Boko Haram fighters who are sometimes viewed as liberators.
As remarkable as they are, the war in Southern Cameroons and the Boko Haram security crisis unfolding are merely a symptom of a far greater crisis striking at the heart of the Biya regime and its prospects for survival. Reckless politicking on the part of France in Bangui has brought mighty Russia into the Central African Republic and there is panic all over the CEMAC region. President Ali Bongo of Gabon recently staggered to 10 Downing Street to raise a finger against the Russians while Sassou Nguesso attempted to placate the Congolese people by saying that his current term will be his last. Biya is now walking on broken bottles!
Biya may have crushed the SDF and MRC opposition parties over the years but every single root cause of the Anglophone uprising is not just still in place, but has worsened. Added to this difficult situation is the emergence of multiple armed groups in the Far North bordering the Republic Chad-the odd man in the CEMAC region.
We of the Cameroon Concord News Group can now reveal that the challenges to Biya regime’s prosperity, credibility or survival remain in place in every corner of Cameroon including the East region where rebels fighting the government in the Central Africa Republic have made it their base. For the first time in nearly 40 years, French speaking Cameroonians from the Centre-South regions which is the home constituency of Biya and his ruling elites who outwardly support Biya or who have remained quietly loyal to his rule have begun to share whispers of their own exasperation. In holding on to power which is typical of French speaking African leaders, Paul Biya has effectively—and purposely—destroyed his own country.
With the establishment of a KGB base in Bangui, Russia has indirectly offered a new and almost unprecedented opportunity to the Americans. Although it seems like the US paid little attention to Sub Saharan Africa, it has a justification now to be fully present. If the US fails to get involved, the French policy of Son-Succeeding-Their Dads like in Gabon, Togo and of recent Chad will push French speaking Africans towards Russia and China. So, getting rid of Biya as quickly as possible will usher in real and long-overdue changes to the Sub Saharan region that could otherwise become a global tinderbox.
Cameroon as a nation has already taken a truly unprecedented turn for the worse and it has crashed into a debilitating crisis that has shattered every fiber of the so-called bilingual country, leaving greater levels of destitution, famine, and worsening criminality and predatory behavior in both French and English speaking sections of the country. If something is not done and done in a hurry, the giant of the CEMAC region which is currently a human-rights disaster will become a breeding ground for dangerous extremists and regional instability.
The name Franck Biya is now being mentioned as a possible replacement but that Biya family path for Cameroon may emerge as so deeply distasteful for so many Cameroonians that instability, anger, disenchantment and perhaps a Russian-Bangui push might end up unseating the entire Beti Ewondo clan.
The crisis in Southern Cameroons is already of grave concern to France, which along with the European Union is the primary source of President Biya’s external support.
Tribalism and nepotism are really tearing the country apart also as most senior government positions are only occupied by Biya’s tribesmen and those loyal to him and his ruling crime syndicate.
However, it is not the government’s nepotism that is the issue but the results it has posted over the last four decades. Cameroonians would not be bothered if those occupying those strategic positions were really delivering desired results.
While across Cameroon the unemployment rate is high, it is a lot higher in Southern Cameroons and in the northern regions where there are no companies, no roads, no hospitals and no social services and financial assistance that can even cushion the impact of the economic hardship.
The frustrations in the North are legion and the pain is excruciating. The North has lost almost everything it had during the Amadou Ahidjo days and this is really painful.
Northerners have grudges and they want to get their pound of flesh sooner rather than later. The Biya regime had killed thousands of Northerners, especially senior northern military officials, following a coup d’état in 1984 that led to the country’s first president, Amadou Ahidjo, fleeing to Senegal where he died and is currently lying in an unmarked grave.
This bitterness and the corruption which have robbed the northern population of many services has pushed the frustrated northern population to set up a militia which is now armed and willing to fight the Yaoundé government that has never incorporated dialogue into its national development and integration strategy.
France leverage in Cameroon is presently suffering from irrational and unpredictable decision-making in Champs-Élysées, but Paris still matters in the Sub Saharan region and has a chance to shape the outcome. To be sure, the death of Chadian President Idriss Deby-an ally of Biya and Biya’s current weakness provides more meaningful opportunities than we have seen over the years.
Cameroon is falling apart and so too is the ruling CPDM party and the way things are shaping up, if care is not taken, it might end up like Zaire, currently the Democratic Republic of Congo, where since its brutal dictator, Mobutu Seseseko, fell in 1994, the country has been unstable and the number of militia has grown by leaps and bounds and the country has become the epitome of political chaos.
The international community must stop looking the other way as Cameroon continues its unfortunate but sure descent to the bottom of the abyss of chaos and corruption.
With new armed groups cropping up on a daily basis, it is obvious that the country which is now on life support may one day implode and the consequences could linger for a very long time.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai