Cameroon’s political crisis has taken a turn for the worse as government forces have arrested the winner of last year’s presidential election, Professor Maurice Kamto, a prominent law professor who has vowed that the people’s victory must be returned, or the country will be made ungovernable.
Arrested along with Prof. Kamto was Mr. Albert Dzongang who was with Mr. Kamto at the time the police arrived. Mr. Kamto was at Mr. Dzongang’s home where they were strategizing on the next move in their bid to reclaim their stolen victory.
But the arrest of the learned lawyer was not that easy. As the police arrived Mr. Dzongang’s home, the population came out to ensure their leaders were not arrested. With the crowd increasing, the security forces decided that it was better to negotiate, but when the population was adamant, the forces decided to use tear gas and fired at the crowd, wounding several supporters of Maurice Kamto. Mr. Kamto and several of his supporters have been taken to Yaounde where they will be charged with all the crimes and sins in the world.
In a related story, another senior opposition politician, Celestin Djamen, was picked up from his hospital bed and taken to an unknown destination. Mr. Djamen had been shot on Saturday, January 26, 2019, within the framework of the demonstrations organized by Mr. Kamto and his MRC party. Mr. Djamen was whisked off to an unknown destination with five other persons who had been shot by the police on Saturday.
Prof. Kamto’s arrest only deepens the country’s political crisis that has brought its economy to its knees. Under Mr. Paul Biya, the country’s president, Cameroon has witnessed serious and several political and economic crises and this has fragilized the entire sub-region.
Mr. Biya’s rulership which is predicated upon corruption and nepotism has created huge divisions within the country, with many Cameroonians holding that merit has no place in the country. With Mr. Kamto’s arrest, the government has opened another front in its struggle to stay in power. Cameroon has been dealing with many military challenges in recent times. In the north, it is facing a tough Boko Haram insurgency that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians.
In a bid to turn tables on Boko Haram, government forces have been committing violent crimes in the north, making it hard to win hearts and minds in the region. On many occasions, government troops have been caught on video in flagrant acts of human rights violation. The shooting of a woman and her daughter as well as the killing of some young unarmed boys in a village in the north were the incidents that shocked the world the most.
To hide its crimes, the government alleged that the heartless killing of a lady and her children occurred in Mali, a situation that prompted Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group to investigate and the investigations revealed that the incidents actually occurred in the northern part of Cameroon.
In the East, armed groups from the Central African Republic (CAR) remain a dangerous menace to the local population and the military. The armed groups have been carrying out incursions on towns and villages in Cameroon’s eastern region.
But it is the Southern Cameroons crisis that has become a millstone around the government’s neck. A crisis that started as a simple strike by teachers and lawyers in October 2016 is gradually making the independence of the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon a certainty, especially as there are targeted killings and huge refugee movements in and out of the country.
Ever since the crisis started, the country’s president also known as the “monarch”, has refused to listen to many respectable people across the world. The Pope has had an opportunity to talk to Mr. Biya. Leaders of Western Countries have advised him to pursue dialogue as a sure means out of the impasse. But all the advice has fallen on deaf ears.
Cameroon, a once peaceful nation, has been gripped by the ‘dictator’s disease’; a disease that attacks African countries that have been ruled by sit-tight dictators. The Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Somalia are some of the African countries that have been victims of this devastating disease.
Many African dictators always bequeath civil wars and political chaos to future generations when they leave power. In many cases, they leave power forcefully or through a civil war. Cameroon is on its way to joining this unfortunate club as Mr. Biya and his collaborators hold that the best way to address political issues is to unleash a reign of terror on the people they are supposed to govern and protect.
The Southern Cameroons crisis which could have been addressed through an inclusive dialogue has today become a civil war wherein government soldiers are shooting and killing many innocent civilians, as they cannot fully engage the Southern Cameroons fighters who are lurking in the jungles. The fighters, for their part, are using rudimentary weapons to protect themselves and this is adding to the chaos that has made life unbearable in the English-speaking regions.
The fighting is unfortunately consuming many young soldiers who have been pushed by the government to go and kill Southern Cameroonians whose initial objective was to put their grievances to the government. The government’s violent response caused the demands of Southern Cameroonians to mutate and, today, almost all Southern Cameroonians, even those in government, are in support of secession.
In many towns and villages in the two English-speaking regions, corpses of young innocent civilians are being discovered at roadsides and the government seems to be padding itself on the back for accomplishing such a feat. It is a really tough to know that government officials of Beti extraction are really celebrating when their fellow compatriots are being shot down point blank. It is even more baffling to know that the same authorities have kept on talking about one and indivisible Cameroon when their brutality is slowly dividing the country.
To defend themselves, many young Southern Cameroonians have taken to the jungle and many are now using whatever means that are available to them to fight a government they believe is intent on killing all the young men in the region. The fighting clearly indicates that Cameroon will never be the same again. Holding a country together clearly goes beyond political sloganeering and brinkmanship.
From every indication, the crisis has entered a very critical stage with the government holding that the more people it kills, the greater its chances of keeping the country one and indivisible. The government is gradually losing Southern Cameroons. Its high-handedness is dividing the country. In a bid to keep the country one and indivisible through force, it is only succeeding to tear it apart.
Time is gradually running out. It is time to make necessary changes. The government has to abandon its legendary high-handedness if it wants to keep Cameroon one and indivisible. Terrorizing its people and intimidating political opponents will not keep Cameroon one and indivisible. The government must seek to meet Southern Cameroonians halfway if it really wants to keep the country united. The ball is in its court. The world is watching. The country’s president has refused all useful advice and this will surely turn out to be his Achilles heels. Arresting Prof. Kamto might be that mistake the government might regret for a long time.
By Chi Prudence Asong on special assignment in Yaounde