It is more than a year since the start of the French Cameroun military campaign in Southern Cameroons, but that is unlikely to be an occasion for celebration in Yaoundé. Cameroon Intelligence Report sources have all opined that the war has created several military and CPDM billionaires and is estimated to have cost the Biya Francophone Beti Ewondo regime billions of FCFA. Correspondingly, the Southern Cameroons war has eroded the international image of the so-called one and indivisible Cameroon and failed to achieve its objectives of containing the Ambazonian revolution and quest for an independent state. At the same time, the people of Southern Cameroons have suffered immensely from the French-backed French Cameroun military campaign, which has claimed the lives of some 2000 Southern Cameroonians, destroyed Ambazonian towns and villages and has led to widespread disease and hunger. Biya’s recent trip to Europe offers an opportunity to bring this harmful campaign to an end.
For the French government, the newly created Federal Republic of Ambazonia is not only a historical target of influence, but also a critical arena for oil and gas security and stability. Southern Cameroons shares a long and porous border with the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also commands the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, in its onslaught against Southern Cameroons, the French Cameroun government enjoys intelligence and logistical aid from the French government and also from the President Buhari consortium of crime syndicates in Abuja. French Cameroun has one of the largest security budgets in the CEMAC region as well as advanced weaponry at its disposal donated by the French and US governments. Yet, Yaoundé is finding it difficult to defeat a determined enemy. In fact, in addition to holding on to many counties in the Northern and Southern zones, Ambazonia Restoration Forces have killed hundreds of French Cameroun soldiers and have made the entire Southern Cameroons territory ungovernable.
The gap between French Cameroun investment in the army and military performance ever since the Southern Cameroons war started led the 85 year dictator to replace the top level of the French Cameroun security establishment in Buea that was headed by General Melingui. General Melingui’s replacement was presented as part of a strategic process, but it actually reflects growing frustration in the French Cameroun political elite with the Cameroon government army’s performance. The change has not brought any success or effect on the continued fighting.
Although it has an image of comparative success, the Ambazonian Interim Government (IG) headed by Dr. Samuel Ikome Sako is also encountering difficulty in operating in Southern Cameroons. The cooperation between Abuja and Yaoundé imposed on Nigeria’s Buhari by France—with European Union aid—is restricting the IG’s ability to dictate events on the ground and demonstrating the limits of its power. Since the IG is unable to break the Yaoundé-Abuja axis of evil, it has no choice but to smuggle money, and small kinds of weapons to Ambazonia Restoration Forces on Ground Zero.
Europe should see President Macron’s close relationship with Mr. Paul Biya and the French Cameroun Monarch’s visit to Switzerland as an opportunity to end this disastrous war: The French Cameroun army cannot win this war but it can settle the conflict on favorable terms, and the European Union should help Biya do just that.
Knowing that European Union and U.S. support will be withdrawn should incentivize the Biya regime to reach a political solution as soon as possible. The war in Southern Cameroons has been a disaster for all involved parties, and so ending it is both the smart thing to do as well as the right thing to do.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai