According to supporters of the ill-considered war on Southern Cameroons, General Dobékréo is a battle-hardened soldier recently dispatched to crush the Ambazonia uprising.
Frankly speaking, General Bouba Dobékréo was on the frontline of almost every conflict Cameroon has faced in recent decades, and has battled highway bandits, pirates, and radical Islamists. Now he has been dispatched to lead the fight against Ambazonia Restoration Forces, and some reports have suggested that he plans to take a much less repressive approach than his predecessors.
In recent weeks, Southern Cameroons fighters have carried out a series of deadly ambushes against the Cameroon government military which have been on a bigger scale than anything yet seen since the start of the conflict five years ago. President Biya and his so-called army high command want to change strategy but they are yet to say how they intend to proceed.
Whether reports on General Bouba Dobékréo’s soft approach to the war are true or not, we of the Cameroon Intelligence Report and the Cameroon Concord News are of the opinion that no one can win this war in Southern Cameroons on the basis of bluff and bluster, or by ignoring the sheer facts on the ground. This, however, is how the 89-year-old President Biya and his Francophone dominated supreme military council are currently approaching the five year running war in West Cameroon. To be sure, the Beti Ewondo political elites arguing for continuing the war have chosen to ignore the grim realities that are actually shaping the course of the fighting and what will happen in Yaoundé if Biya suddenly dies.
There is only one source of official reporting on the military course of the war in Southern Cameroons-it is the Cameroon government military spokesman Serge Cyrille Atongfack. Yaoundé does not allow any other official reporting by traditional rulers, DOs, SDOs including the Governors of the two English speaking regions of Southern Cameroons. This corrupt structure of informing the Cameroonian public opinion is an indication that Cameroon government army soldiers are dying like flies and that the war is at best a stalemate.
The International Crisis Group and other respectable media houses were forced by the regime in Yaoundé to stop reporting on the war and funeral rituals for fallen soldiers were also stopped abruptly, evidently because such reports and burial rites showed steady Ambazonian gains.
We of the Concord Group have raised critical issues about progress in either to secure a peace or to successfully keep fighting. We have also informed Yaoundé that the critical issue on the ground is not the total number of Francophone Special Forces, but the ability to implement appeasement policies as quick as possible. This is what General Bouba Dobékréo means when he speaks of a much less repressive approach than his predecessors and it is also a clear indication that he has no good military options to use in Southern Cameroons.
Discussion of peace talks no longer exist in the political discourse in Yaoundé. Staying in the war and providing heavy media coverage on Samuel Eto’o and FECAFOOT is now the Biya regime’s new strategy. And the government is spending hundreds of millions on a daily basis on the military, not counting support activity outside it. In short, there are no good military options in Southern Cameroons. Appointing General Bouba and signing a presidential decree deploying Special Forces after five years into a conflict simply creates a potential power vacuum in Yaoundé that the army can exploit if Biya suddenly bows out. Since there is no practical way to disarm an irregular Ambazonia Self Defense Group that does not maintain heavy weapons, it means that only dialogue can resolve the crisis in Southern Cameroons. Trusting the army to become a major player in Southern Cameroons and staying the course militarily means there is no clear path to lasting peace.
International indicators show that Biya regime is still one of the worst and most corrupt governments on the globe. Yaoundé is running the worst justice system in Africa and poverty is a huge problem.
Population issue is becoming intense in Cameroon as many people are leaving the country. Added to this difficult situation is a massive national and youth employment crisis that is further compounded by rising urbanization in cities such as Douala and Yaoundé without enough new jobs.
No one has projected what would happen in case President Biya suddenly leaves the political stage! Ultimately, all of the options in Yaoundé are bad. The choice, however, should be made between the best Southern Cameroons peace plan and the best plan for separation of the two Cameroons. This critical choice should be based on the grim realities on the ground, and offer the best steps forward it can. It should not be made on the basis of a hollow political gesture or on the basis of heated Biya Francophone Beti Ewondo rhetoric.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai