Two years ago, nobody would have thought that the Yaounde crime syndicate that passes off as a government would ever yield to any pressure. The support it was enjoying from France gave it the impression that all would be well at the international level and that Southern Cameroonians would never turn the table on a government that has been built on lies and arrogance.
With French support, the country’s ailing and aging president, Paul Biya, has been conducting himself as a monarch, holding that he was the master of diplomacy and that France will always intercede with the European Union on its behalf.
Of course, for two years, the European Union looked the other way, while Mr. Biya’s militia mowed down the people of the North West and South West regions of the country.
The fighting has gone on for close to three years and more than 5,000 Cameroonians have lost their lives in a war that the U.S.A Undersecretary of State for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, has declared as unnecessary.
Most of those killed are innocent civilians, especially women and children who cannot run into the bushes for them to be protected by Southern Cameroonian fighters.
Many soldiers have also been sent to an early grave, though their families are not aware of what has happened in the South West jungles where hundreds of soldiers have been buried alive.
The picture is even grimmer when you take a closer look at other aspects of life. Thousands of soldiers are dealing with shattered legs and arms. Post-traumatic stress disorder has become a normal health issue among the country’s soldiers, although the government is doing a good job at hiding the truth.
But the Yaounde government has lost its charm. Its lies have been discovered. First by Americans and later by the European Union that is taking the French government to task for its role in the serious human rights violations that have played out in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions.
Americans can no longer trust Mr. Biya and his band of incompetent and ineffective gangsters whose cardinal objective is to subject the people of Cameroon to grinding poverty and dehumanizing corruption.
While they consider Cameroon as a major ally in the fight against Boko Haram, the Trump Administration has easily figured out that weapons sent to fight this religious sect were instead used to maim and kill innocent Southern Cameroonians who just want the errors of the past to be addressed through peaceful means.
Washington has promptly reduced its military aid to Mr. Biya’s crime syndicate and has urged its undersecretary of State for African Affairs to speak up against a corrupt and unreliable Yaounde government that has little or nothing to offer its suffering masses.
The Trump Administration wants a political and personality change in Yaounde and Mr. Tibor Nagy has been throwing deadly punches at the old Yaounde government that is visibly on its last leg. The Southern Cameroons charm diplomatic offensive is effective. It is working like a charm.
The European Union is under its spell and there is not much France can do. France’s traditional allies have jumped ship and they are siding with Washington that is clear about its intention.
Thanks to Ambazonian diplomacy, the Trump Administration has woven a network that is hemming in the Yaounde government that once thought it had the leeway to murder its own people with impunity.
The American arms embargo is being supported by most European countries and before the end of this week, Yaounde will know what the EU decision and sanctions will be.
The usual recreation is over and Yaoundé’s reaction to the EU’s criticism of its actions in the two English-speaking regions of the country and its imprisonment of Professor Maurice Kamto, the winner of last year’s presidential election, speaks to the frustration that has become the government’s hallmark.
Last night the country’s minister of communication and government spokesperson held a press conference on the unsettling EU criticism. As usual, he reminded the EU that Cameroon was dealing with common criminals and separatists, adding that Cameroon was a sovereign state.
Cameroon is always a sovereign state when it is being taken to task for misconduct, human rights abuses and corruption. But its sovereignty melts when its president heads to the West, cap in hand, to seek financial assistance to the same countries it has been sending reminders about its sovereignty.
By preaching sovereignty to those who have sustained them in power for decades, Mr. Biya and his government are simply shooting themselves in the foot. Cameroon is hurting and the government has clearly lost its way.
From the noise coming out of Yaounde, it is clear that the government is in a tight spot. Ambazonia’s charm offensive abroad is keeping the government awake all night. Besides taking a punch to the liver due to the humiliation abroad, the government is facing a huge financial deficit. It is out of cash. Its Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) are dry or simply broken down.
CDC, PAMOL, Delmonte and other state-owned corporations have crumbled like packs of cards. Southern Cameroonian fighters have succeeded to disrupt government activities in the English-speaking regions and the cash-cows (state-owned corporations) that have fed Yaounde politicians fat over the last five decades are no longer delivering the “milk and honey” that have kept the system going.
The Southern Cameroons crisis that started like a simple protest has finally brought the arrogant Yaounde government to its knees. Its traditional financial allies are gradually walking away from it and the cash flows that fed its ego are gradually and slowly drying up.
Southern Cameroons’ Diaspora has given the Yaounde government a very bad name and even within international financial institutions, the country is being viewed as a dry hole that has nothing to offer.
Most projects in the two English-speaking regions financed by the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the African Development Bank have been put on hold till further notice.
Funding for the ring road is available at the World Bank and the African Development Bank, but the chaos playing out in the two English-speaking regions has made it hard for any disbursements to be made.
Despite assurances from the beleaguered government, development finance institutions are very reluctant to deal with a government that is adept at speaking from both sides of its mouth.
The nightmare is getting worse by the day. Cameroon’s debtors have begun knocking at the door. They want their money back, but Yaounde is in no position to reimburse the hefty loans it had contracted. The dying government is no longer solvent. The international finance world is skeptical about Cameroon’s ability to meet its international financial obligations.
That is why a high-level delegation from China’s EXIM bank which granted a massive loan to Cameroon in the second half of 2018 has shown up in Yaounde to remind the government of its obligations.
China’s EXIM bank wants its money, but Yaounde is speaking a language that is not music to EXIM bank’s ears. The crafty Chinese are asking for a re-negotiation of the repayment terms. Yaounde has already defaulted in February and this is worrying to the Chinese who are not so sure about Mr. Biya’s future.
It should be recalled that China EXIM bank was the only bank that had accepted to extend a loan to the bankrupt government when all other major international financial institutions lost appetite for Cameroon’s debt.
It never rains, but it pours! It is now hard for Mr. Biya to even venture out to ask for more loans. The U.S.A has slammed members of his government with travel bans and Europe is no longer welcoming. Even Switzerland that took care of Mr. Biya’s health is now thinking differently. Cameroon’s Diaspora has become a major threat to Switzerland and Mr. Biya is no longer wanted on the shores of a country he so loves.
The days ahead bear no hope for Cameroon. Mr. Biya has gambled and lost. His decision to fight instead of negotiating with Southern Cameroonians is finally coming back to haunt him. He has lost his allies and now the money that used to make him arrogant is also disappearing.
However, he still has a chance to make it right. Talking to all the stakeholders and renouncing war as a conflict resolution instrument. The world is watching him. If he does not heed calls by the international community to organize an inclusive dialogue, he might be the next dictator to exit the political scene. This will be a painful exit. He just needs to check with Abdelazziz Bouteflika of Algeria and Omar Al-Bechir of Sudan. It is never too late to mend.
By Kingsley Betek in Yaounde and Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai in the United Kingdom