President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe tells Jeune Afrique “As Ambazonians, each one of us has a one-way ticket to Buea”
The Paris-based Jeune Afrique has made a reputation of speaking for Southern Cameroons-La Republique du Cameroun peace. The French language media house has recently published several damaging human rights reports and corruption scandals against the Biya Francophone regime in Yaoundé.
French Cameroun civil servants passing for political elites who have never served in the army are accusing Jeune Afrique of destabilizing their so-called one and indivisible Cameroon.
However, sitting Thursday in the Kondengui High Security Prison in Yaoundé with the leader of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia, President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, Jeune Afrique will again take several machine gun bullets in the stomach from government officials of the ruling CPDM crime syndicate.
The Southern Cameroons chief executive told Jeune Afrique in this soul-searching conversation that Mr Biya’s government will stop at nothing in trying to deceive the world.
Jeune Afrique: How do you feel after 3 years and 2 months of incarceration?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Imprisonment is not a good thing no matter the conditions. Freedom is always better. My team and I feel bad that as Refugees and Asylum-seekers in Nigeria, since 5th January 2018, when we were abducted in Nera Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria, we now find ourselves imprisoned and sentenced for life in Cameroun. This, in complete violation of all international and national laws and conventions! Despite the Abuja High Court Judgement of the 1st of March 2019 that ruled that we be returned to Nigeria, discharged, acquitted, and compensated. However, our quest for a free and independent Ambazonia supersedes our persons. So, if this is the price, we must pay for Ambazonia to be independent and free, we would all do so willingly.
Jeune Afrique: On the 20th of August 2019, the Military Tribunal Yaoundé condemned you and 9 members of your Team to Life Imprisonment. Did you appeal against the judgement? If you did, what became of the Appeal?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: In a sham trial on August 20, 2019,I and the 9 members of my team were given a Life Imprisonment sentence by the Tribunal Militaire Yaoundé in what has remained the most inequitable, unfair, and ridiculous Judgement ever given by a court of law. The court started hearing in Capital Offenses proceedings and completed same to judgement without giving the Accused persons opportunity to have legal assistance or even to be heard and delivered judgment in front of us without as much as even touching or reading any of the pieces of evidence that were admitted into court without any respect for procedures and laws. The court illegally used public speech support system with loudspeakers of more than 100000 watts and the witnesses who testified were all standing at the door of the court following up the proceedings! One of the Accused persons collapsed in court and the Court went ahead with him lying helpless on a bench in court throughout the trial. The trial marked the height of injustice by a court of law on a people. There were so many illegalities that only our lawyers can talk to you about.
We filed an Appeal to the Appeal Court of Centre Region, Yaoundé. On September 19, 2020, the Appeal Court, in like manner went ahead with proceedings in French language before us without any translators, denied our lawyers and us any opportunity to talk and delivered judgement within less than 20 minutes of hearing, confirming the Decision of the Yaoundé Military Tribunal.
The peoples of Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia since invasion and occupation on the 30th of September 1961 by La Républiquedu Cameroun, LRC, have never had Justice in Cameroun. This has been our painful experience till date.
We have filed a notice of appeal to the supreme court as their laws require, but till date we have had no feedback. This of course is not surprising as we do not expect to have justice on an international issue from a domestic and corrupt system like that of Cameroun.
Jeune Afrique: The government has often maintained that due to the many stakeholders involved in the conflict and that these various stakeholders do not cherish peace and dialogue, that there is no one to talk to. Do you subscribe to this assessment?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Mr Biya’s government will stop at nothing in trying to deceive the world. Such statements by the government of LRC are meant to buy time while exploring military options, with the hope that her military will come out victorious, which is a fallacy. Ambazonians will resist to the last man standing. The people of the Southern Cameroons, (also known as Ambazonia) are a peace-loving people. They want peace at all cost. Remember, that in 1958 Southern Cameroons had a democratic election and a peaceful transfer of power during their period of self-rule under British trusteeship. The people still have and cherish these values. However, there can be no peace without justice. If Mr Biya claims he does not know whom to talk to, then why were we abducted from Nigeria in January 2018? Every house has its own problems including LRC. Yes, just like in all other conflicts, there are several stakeholders in this conflict. On our side we know ourselves and have a common goal. This makes it difficult for the LRC government to corrupt one of these factions and have their way, as it is their stock in trade. It is not for them to decide whom to talk to. The people of Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia are ready for talks. They know their leaders and will constitute their team themselves for this purpose. No one will hand pick for them. The Ambazonian team will be all-inclusive. Let Mr. Biya do what is needed by: i) Withdrawing all his forces from our streets; ii) Freeing all prisoners; iii) Granting general amnesty to those in the Diaspora; and iv) Committing to an international mediated negotiation, in a neutral venue; and Ambazonians will be there. Anything short of these, Mr Biya will be talking to himself.
Jeune Afrique: In light of the UNSC Resolution 2565 calling for a cease fire, will you be willing to denounce violence, call for a ceasefire and continue your revolution in a nonviolent way?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: UNSC Resolution 2565 calling for a ceasefire is a welcome development that could stop the genocide Mr Biya’s government is committing in the Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia. We remember there was a similar one last year, but Mr Biya shunned it. Let it be on record that the Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia are not violently opposing Mr Biya. They are acting only in self-defence. Proof of this is that there has not been any encroachment into the French Cameroun Territory to attack anyone. The war that is ravaging us was declared by Mr Biya on the 30th of November 2017. The onus is on him to declare a ceasefire of the war he declared. Our Restoration Forces came on board to defend our vulnerable population a long time after Mr Biya’s declared war on us and was pursuing an ethnic cleansing and genocide agenda on the Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia. Once Mr Biya declares a ceasefire and commits to the four points highlighted above, we can assure you, the killings will stop.
Jeune Afrique: The government of La République du Cameroun thinks that the Secessionists have been totally defeated, is that true?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: For the records, we are not secessionist but restorationists. A secessionist from LRC is anyone who want to change/reduce the nation whose independence was obtained on the 1st of January 1960. On that date Buea was not part of LRC, neither was Bamenda. The Southern Cameroons got its independence on the 1st of October 1961, 20 months after LRC’s. Anyone who thinks to the contrary has the burden of brandishing the union treaty between the Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun. We are merely appealing to the international Community, particularly the UN to restore legality and truth in our relationship with La République du Cameroun, as per UN Resolutions, 1514(XV); 1608 and Article 76(b) of the UN Charter.
With regards to LRC government’s claim that we have been totally defeated, this is not the first time we are hearing that from them. They should match their words with reality. Remember their denial of Ngarbuh Massacre and many others. The war has been raging unabated for 4 years now. Under his instructions and watch Mr Biya’s forces have embarked on committing genocide in the Southern Cameroons/ Ambazonia. The world silently watches as this goes on, in complete disregard of the R2P commitment and the Never Again Promise after the 1993/94 Genocide in Rwanda. We are bothered if the war continues for a long time because of the lives of our people killed every day by Cameroun military forces, but until Mr Biya and his colonial forces leave our territory, for us, it is “TOTAL INDEPENDENCE OR RESISTANCE FOREVER.
Jeune Afrique: In January 2019, your lawyer said that you are ready to negotiate directly with the Cameroun Président, Paul Biya, on the condition that the Negotiations take place out of Cameroun. According to our sources, you have started negotiations with some High Authorities of Cameroun, … Can you confirm this?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: While we have always been willing and ready for talks, we have not held any negotiations with La République du Cameroun. It is not in our interest to talk to Mr Biya directly. We are interested in La Republique du Cameroun coming to the table as an equal partner with Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia. However, we have had some consultative overtures with some of their envoys and we clearly expressed 4 cardinal confidence-building measures, that can lead to any negotiations with them. These measures included:
- Withdrawing all his forces from our streets.
- Freeing ALL persons arrested and detained or imprisoned on account of the conflict.
- Granting general amnesty to all Ambazonians in the Diaspora; and
- Committing to an international mediated negotiation, in a neutral venue.
Once these measures are implemented, we will consult with the other Ambazonian leaders and prepare for the negotiations with LRC.
Jeune Afrique: Why have the negotiations not ended/succeeded?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Negotiations have not started because the government of LRC is yet to address the 4 confidence-building measures put forward to them. Once these measures are implemented, we are sure the negotiations will start and progress, in good faith.
Jeune Afrique: US Senate passed RES. 684 calling for a genuine and inclusive dialogue, but the Cameroun government claims that they already had the Grand National Dialogue (GND). Do you agree with the recommendations of GND and if not why?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: The so called Grand National Dialogue by LRC was a meeting of Mr Biya’s contemporaries and committee of friends that endorsed the agenda of the ruling party. It was a charade and a monologue. To us, the GND was a non-event, a waste of time and resources. Mr Biya was talking to himself. Almost two years after the GND there is basically nothing to showcase.
We are opened to talks but that must be only when the confidence building measures have been implemented and we must talk as equal partners as was previewed in UN Resolution 1608.
Jeune Afrique: You have consistently called for a UN Mandated Fact-Finding Mission to Southern Cameroons. Can you explain why this is necessary and what it will achieve?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Our call has been consistent for a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Mandated Fact-Finding Mission to the Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia. For 4 years and counting Mr Biya, his military and their private militias have been committing genocide in the Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia. As we speak reports are claiming more than 32,500+ civilians have been killed; over a million children are out of school; 550+ villages have been razed down, 3,000+ are presently in detention centres and prisons; hundreds of our women and girls have been raped; thousands of our loved ones are missing. The Norwegian Refugees Commission (NRC) has stated two years in a roll that this is the world’s most under-reported crisis – obviously because Mr Biya and his team block access to the international world and are shielding and trying to clean up the crimes they are committing in the Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia. Remember they or their militias most often commit heinous crimes and accuse our Restoration Forces. A UN mandated Fact-Finding Mission is a very vital, important, and absolutely necessary tool to investigate and unravel the gravity of the atrocities being committed there.
A UNSC mandated Fact-Finding Mission will be independent, reliable, unbiased, and professional in information search, analysis, and dissemination. Their conclusions are genuine and could enable the UN to make valid judgement, take right decisions and implement them. Information generated by the IFFM will determine the depth, degree, and severity of the war-crimes as well as action during the conflict on the peace-loving peoples of Ambazonia against perpetuators of such crimes and Human Right Abuses.
Jeune Afrique: Let’s come back to your life in prison; Are you treated fairly well? How do you spend your days? What do you read?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Like all other Ambazonians incarcerated in various Prisons in la République du Cameroun, we are under serious psychological trauma and at times subjected to very inhuman conditions. When we are sick and admitted in hospital, we are chained to hospital beds like it happened to Barrister Shufai Blaise Berinyuy and especially Brother Thomas Tangem who died handcuffed to a hospital bed. We take care of our feeding and medications, etc. In a nutshell, our conditions in prison are deplorable.
We pass our days reading the various books that we are able to secure, given that the Prison Authorities denied us access to books the ICRC Yaounde had promised to give us. In addition to regular exercise to keep us healthy and fit, we also play games like Monopoly, Chess, Scrabble and Drafts.
Jeune Afrique: Any last word?
President Sisisku Ayuk Tabe: Yes, I would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to all our people who have loss and are continuing to lose loved ones in this senseless war declared on us by Mr. Biya. I want to thank all Ambazonians for remaining steadfast and holding the fort. As Ambazonians, each one of us has a one-way ticket to Buea. We will either get the independence that is rightly ours or we would resist our oppressors forever. The pain or death our oppressors subject us to, are momentary compared to the freedom we are seeking for Ambazonia.None is more difficult to defeat than he/she who is ready to give everything including his/her life for a cause. In our quest to restore our Statehood, we should focus our gaze on the prize ahead. Each and every one should accurately measure his/her words and actions to ensure that we add no unnecessary pain on our people and that they take us one step closer to Buea. In a free Ambazonia, we will build world-class institutions that will make Ambazonia an icon of peace, democracy and stability, not only in the Gulf of Guinea but in Africa.
To the international Community, international law and conventions tell us self-determination is a fundamental right. The people of the Southern Cameroons have made their choice for an independent nation. We cannot be denied that right that is given to others freely. Remember the Never Again promise after Rwanda 1993/94 Genocide. Remember the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). With more than 32,500+ killed and the level of other atrocities meted on us, one more death is one too many. Act now to end the Genocide. Deploy a UNSC mandated Fact-Finding Mission to the Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia as a first step to addressing the root-causes of the conflict, which hinges on the botched decolonization process of 1961. Thank you.