Despite their poker face when on national television, officials of the ruling CPDM (Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement) and their cronies have been caught in a huge storm that might soon tear the government apart. The long knife that has, for many years, eliminated perceived opponents might very soon turn inwards and the consequences will be disastrous.
For so long, there have been speculations about the weakening cohesion among members of the ruling party and the military, but the Southern Cameroons crisis that has been playing out for more than fifteen months is gradually revealing that what holds the party together is just a small financial and political interest, and even with that, the ruling party members are at daggers drawn and the infighting will soon become a national sport for the entire nation to watch on national television.
While many CPDM party supporters have been struggling to hide their frustration with the system, others are gradually coming out to spill the beans. Years of manipulation and pretense have gradually turned into enormous frustration with some members of the ruling party who erroneously hold that power belongs to them. Some of this frustration is even directed at Mr. Biya himself who has been presiding over the country’s destiny for 35 years, with no results to show for his long stay in power.
The country is bereft of state-of-the-art infrastructure, its hospitals have been reduced to consultation clinics and the quality of education has taken a nosedive. The economy is on life support, as corruption and nepotism become the rule in a country that was once touted around the world as an oasis of peace in a desert of political chaos.
One would have thought that only the young, ambitious and hungry members of the party would start throwing stones at the ailing president. But things are slowly turning out differently. Even the oldest member of the ruling party, Chief Victor Mukete of Kumba, seems to be taking some parting shots at Mr. Biya whom he accuses of being inaccessible and ineffective. The 99-year-old Mukete knows he is on his way out of politics, as his senatorial appointment will no longer be renewed due to age and he thinks this is the right time to tell it all, at least in the interest of future generations.
Speaking to Jeune Afrique, the continent’s most popular French language political magazine, Nfon Mukete did not spare any punches. He pulled some of his deadliest punches against Mr. Biya who himself has been out of the public eye for months now.
Chief Mukete has castigated the Biya government for appointing less than 10 Anglophones to senior positions in the country. He decried the marginalization of Anglophones, adding that none of the Anglophones who had been prime minister under Biya had been courageous or honest enough to sound the alarm.
He regretted the chaos playing out in Southern Cameroons, stressing that the issue could have been addressed long before it got out of hand. He clearly said that he would like Cameroon to be a ten-state federation, pointing out that the current extreme centralization was an error. He pointed out that federalism would enable the people to be in charge of their destiny.
He underscored that the president would be open to such an idea, adding that he had heard people within the corridors of power saying that the president was considering it as a way out of the current political crisis.
Asked why he had not written to the president about the situation, Chief Mukete said that he was not sure the letter would ever reach him, adding that Ahidjo was more accessible than Biya and that the people around Mr. Biya had created a ring of fire around him.
But it is not only the politicians that are exposing the weakness in the current system. In an anonymous letter to the president, some soldiers have been highlighting the issues facing current efforts to roll back separatists who have been making huge gains in the North West and South West regions.
“We are advising you that there is disorder and non-compliance with the instructions given by the field operations hierarchy in the two regions in crisis. The decisions taken by the higher military hierarchy are not implemented by those expected to implement them in the field, especially in the Southwest region where the instructions of General Sali are not respected by the commander of operations, Colonel Ousmanou, who by flouting these instructions, is putting our forces at risk where they are killed by the separatists. This way of acting has already encouraged or facilitated the secessionists to kill some of our troops and seize our equipment (weapons and ammunition). During meetings of the General Staff chaired by the Manyu Divisional Officer, Colonel Ousmanou is always against everyone, sometimes urging the prosecutor of the republic to support ideas relating to the respect of human rights. He declares that the President of the Republic and his government in Yaoundé must find a political and non-military solution to this crisis and that he will never accept that a man under his command use his weapon against anyone,” the memo said.
The memo adds that “Other senior officers are engaged in maintaining and protecting the underground economy that sustains and supports the enemy’s camp. Colonels Ntsama and Ngongang are engaged in despicable acts that do not honor our military. They are involved in the breaking of shops in Ekok, and other localities of Manyu, carting with them freezers, money and other property. Any questions from a subordinate in this regard always result in the subordinate’s redeployment further into the zone or he is given a harsh punishment.”
This does not only reveal that there are cracks on Mr. Biya’s wall. It is a clear demonstration that the Southern Cameroons crisis is causing the government to implode. Southern Cameroonians have succeeded to split the ruling party and the military too is gradually falling apart. Their corrupt practices are being exposed by one of theirs who has elected anonymity. The huge pain and death left by separatist attacks on the country’s military are gradually splitting the Francophone population that was for a long time indifferent to what was happening in Southern Cameroons.
The deaths are painful. The minister of defense who said arrogantly that the military would implement the president’s decision without batting an eyelid has suddenly disappeared from the picture. Even the noisy communication minister feels ashamed of the number of soldiers killed by a small group of armed Southern Cameroonians.
Today, the country is in tears. The bodies of 32 soldiers killed by Ambazonian tigers were given their last honor at the Mvan military base. While the government considers Ambazonian Tigers as terrorists, many Southern Cameroonians consider the Tigers as their brilliant and brave soldiers who have been working hard to protect Southern Cameroonian women and children who have been victims of the military’s brutality.
With rudimentary weapons, Ambazonian Tigers have been able to inflict such damage on the military. Today they have sophisticated weapons and many more are on their way, though a ship full of weapons shipped by the Southern Cameroons Diaspora was yesterday, February 20, 2018, intercepted by Tunisian authorities in their waters. The ship was using a Panamanian flag as a flag of convenience. The Southern Cameroonians soldiers are now fully armed with AK47, M16, Ruger 10/22, Remington 700, AR-15, and some classified tactical weapons to defend their women, children and territory. The struggle seems to be entering a more critical phase and the next days will surely be tough as Southern Cameroonians have vowed that if their leaders are not released, they would transform the entire country into a fireball.
The number of soldiers killed can no longer be hidden by the government of Cameroon. On Monday, February 19, 2018, Colonel Badjeck Didier confirmed on Vision 4 TV that: “Ambazonians have killed more of our soldiers than Boko Haram ever did.” The half-cast doubles as the Director of Communications at the Ministry of Terrorism and his acknowledgement is a clear indictment of the military whose hallmark throughout this conflict has been brutality.
It should be recalled that the Southern Cameroons military only picked up weapons against the Biya regime in November 2017 after government forces killed many Southern Cameroonians for more than a year, despite repeated calls for dialogue by the international community.
With all what is happening at this time, Mr. Biya and his inner circle are at their wit’s end. Violence has not been able to intimidate Southern Cameroonians into submission. With huge cracks emerging on his wall, it is clear that Mr. Biya, who is suspected of being bedridden, will have to meet Southern Cameroonians halfway. Military action alone will not solve the problem. Though government officials have been saying they will not negotiate with terrorists, it is clear that they will have to eat their words as Southern Cameroonians are determined to win back their independence and the Southern Cameroons Diaspora is making good on its promise of providing arms to the pool of willing fighters back home that is inflicting pain on the country’s military. Mr. Biya and his government have to sue for peace. They have to reconcile with the Southern Cameroons Diaspora. The Southern Cameroons Diaspora is rich and huge. With more than three million Southern Cameroonians out of the country, it is very easy to raise money for any military action. It is time to talk peace and any discussions must include the Southern Cameroons Diaspora. The ball is in Mr. Biya’s court.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai and Kingsley Betek