The conflict in Southern Cameroons, which started as a simple peaceful demonstration by lawyers and teachers seeking better working conditions, will surely not be disappearing from the national and internal scenes anytime, soon.
Those who thought the South West and North West regions were “two cubes of sugar” which could easily melt in a huge ocean of water, are today still wondering why the expected results have not yet been achieved.
The “two cubes of sugar” seem to have been wrapped up in plastic paper before they were thrown into the ocean. Plastic is not bio-degradable. This implies the cubes of sugar will stay intact for a long time. There was a clear misunderstanding of things on the part of the government. It is, however, becoming clear that the minority can bring about change in a society.
Southern Cameroonians, who constitute only 20% of the country’s population, are teaching the majority that real freedom never gets delivered to the oppressed on a platter of gold. Real freedom is seized and Southern Cameroonians are ready to grab theirs and run away with it.
But the freedom is coming at a high cost. Many Cameroonians have been sent to an early grave and many are in hospitals battling for the lives as a result of the conflict; a conflict that could have been avoided if the Yaoundé government had opted for sincere and inclusive dialogue.
The country is today awash with bad news and dangerous weapons. The killings are going on unabated. Army soldiers are still engaged in fierce fighting with Southern Cameroonians fighters who hold that only independence from the Yaoundé government will bring peace to the two English-speaking regions.
The government, which is a more organized structure, has unfortunately played into the hands of the Southern Cameroonians fighters by resorting to senseless killing of civilians. This has helped to diminish its stance in the eyes of the population.
The freedom fighters, for their part, are also doing their best to defend themselves. Of course, the killing and maiming of army soldiers is not something anybody should hail, but the military’s killing of anything and anybody that comes into its crosshairs sounds more like wickedness and desperation.
The population would have been a good ally in this fight against an enemy that is lurking in the jungle. But the government’s strategy has made it impossible for the civilian population to collaborate with a government many Southern Cameroonians consider as an “army of death”.
The situation is really sticky. The government’s arrogance has made it hard for any reasonable person to sympathize with it. Even the French-speaking majority which initially was inimical to the idea of a rebellion in the English-speaking parts of the country is now turning against the government for mismanaging a simple protest by lawyers and teachers.
Today, Francophones see their politicians as a bunch of people who have ganged up against the people. The refusal by government officials that the Southern Cameroons crisis should not be discussed at the National Assembly or Senate has angered many Francophones and many of them are now speaking out against the government.
The conflict will not be petering out anytime soon. With the passage of every blessed day, things are only getting worse. Southern Cameroonian fighters are already acquiring sophisticated weapons and this has made the killing of army soldiers look like a walk in the park.
Today, it is widely held that killing a soldier is normal. There is a price on the head of every soldier. Anybody who kills a soldier is immediately awarded CFAF 200,000 and this has transformed many Southern Cameroonians into hunters of soldiers. The message is clear. Thou shall not be a soldier. Or, if you are one, then you must stay away from Southern Cameroons.
An end to this conflict is not in sight. There are still many more scenes and they will be playing out in a manner that will be far from being pleasant. Today, Buea has witnessed some heavy shooting and residents of the city are confused and do not know who is behind the shooting.
Rumor has it that the months of September and October will be the worst in the history of this conflict that has already resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Cameroonians. With the presidential election approaching, it is clear that the government will want to assert its authority over the two regions and this will meet with stiff resistance from Southern Cameroonian fighters who will surely use ghost towns to paralyze the cities and make mincemeat of the election.
The presidential election is spreading fear among the civilian population. Southern Cameroonians are simply not taking part in what they consider a foreign election. At best, they consider the election a sham. Armed groups in the regions have already put out their message regarding this election. If you vote, yours will be the kingdom of death. Many Southern Cameroonians are aware of this and their apathy toward the election is easy to notice.
Mamfe is still boiling. Batibo is still in the spotlight. The killing of soldiers in that part of the country is still very attractive, as long the government continues to enforce its policy of suppression and total submission. The first Ambazonian high school has been set up in Batibo, a small city of less than 5,000 people.
Videos of the school are online and have been visited by many Internet users. Many observers hold that Batibo will soon be a victim of a catastrophic attack by the government which is still trying to prove that it has total control over the country. It is obvious that more blood will soon be flowing and it will be the ordinary civilian who will pay the price.
The Southern Cameroons crisis will continue to snowball as each side seeks to prove that it is making substantial territorial gains. While the government may have greater firepower, it is clear that it has lost its authority in many parts of Southern Cameroons.
While other regions of the country are witnessing some political movement as political party officials take to campaigning to unseat the incumbent, Paul Biya, the two English-speaking regions seem to be indifferent to what is happening in other parts of the country.
Political leaders seem to consider the English-speaking regions as very dangerous for them, although all of them need the votes from those regions, conscious of the fact that the ruling party does not stand a chance there. But the fear of the unknown is scaring all of them.
Even government officials from the English-speaking regions are not keen on going to their constituencies to campaign. They are aware of their fate. They have been warned and there is a huge price on their heads. The pressure is unbearable for many local administrative officials. Many chiefs are quietly abdicating. Many are seeking refuge either in Nigeria or East Cameroon. They are simply in exile. Senior government officials, for their part, are keeping a very low profile and many have already been kidnapped and taken to Southern Cameroonian “green jails”.
Yesterday, the North West region was in the spotlight for the wrong reason. A contingent of army soldiers was ambushed in Zua in the North West region and some 20 army soldiers are believed to have met their unfortunate fate in this small town. Those who carried out this act of brutality are already expecting payment from their masters who have not yet been identified by the government.
They are also aware that government reprisals will soon come and many of them have already packed and left. That appears to be the new rule. Once an army soldier is killed, the entire village or city has to move into the jungle which is now considered a “five star hotel” and it is believed to be safer than the city itself, as army soldiers are wont to killing anybody who crosses their path after a clash.
All of this drama is playing out while the country’s president, Paul Biya, and his health minister, Mama Fouda, are in Switzerland seeking better health care for themselves, although they have been arguing that their government has built many hospitals in the country. But Cameroonians cannot be fooled. They consider those hospitals as consultation clinics which do not have the proper equipment.
Cameroonians are used to such bad news. They are used to their leaders sending their children abroad for better education while they stay at home to deal with the poor infrastructure that the government has developed. Quality of education has been on the decline for years and the government does not seem to be bothered.
The roads, for their part, leave much to be desired. Bad news has become the staple of many Cameroonians. If it is not a ghastly road accident, it is a serious case of corruption where a government official has absconded with state money. And there are unfortunately many government officials who have made pilfering their favorite sport.
Cameroon has successfully placed itself among the most corrupt countries in the world. Under Peter Mafany Musonge, the country’s Prime Minister in the 1990s, Cameroon topped the charts twice and ever since, many government officials have been trying to outdo each other. The country’s future is really bleak and the prognoses are not good.
But there is more bad news on the horizon. The current gloomy prognoses have very little to do with the ruling party’s favorite sport – corruption. It is more about their natural candidate’s health and the country’s declining economic situation. The news is not good for the ruling party and there is panic among party stalwarts.
Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, also known as the “monarch” is fighting for his health in a Swiss hospital. At almost 86, Mr. Biya is no longer strong enough to put up a good fight against a failing heart and a heady prostrate that has been a nightmare to the ailing monarch.
According to a Cameroon Intelligence Report source in Switzerland that is very close to the ailing monarch’s entourage, the prognosis are gloomy and this is sowing confusion among those surrounding the monarch. Mr. Biya who has been sick for many years, now believes that the stressful Southern Cameroons crisis is finally taking its toll.
Last week, the very first test results clearly indicated that the “monarch” had a health crisis on his hands. A Cameroon Intelligence Report source in Switzerland has hinted that the situation is concerning and from every indication; the monarch has not got much time left. More tests were ordered this week and things are not improving. Time is not on Mr. Biya’s side and his age is more of a concern to his Swiss doctors who now think they have a crisis on their hands.
A source close to Mr. Biya’s entourage has intimated that Mr. Biya’s trip to Switzerland was prompted by the fact that his health condition was already spiraling out of control. The monarch’s heart was already sounding like the engine of an old car and this was a major concern to his collaborators who count on him for them to keep their positions and to continue robbing the country blind.
There is pandemonium within Mr. Biya’s circle. Many of his collaborators fear that he might not be able to take the heat that comes with a strenuous exercise like an election campaign. The people around him are concerned and are working round the clock to ensure nothing filters out of the bad situation that is playing out in Switzerland. The location of his hospital has been kept secret for some time in the belief that angry Cameroonians will not show up to disrupt the monarch’s recovery.
But the anger that inhabits Cameroonians has driven them to locate the hospital where Mr. Biya is battling for his life. Any news about the monarch travels very fast. His poor economic and political performance has made him the most hated person in the country.
Many Cameroonians have seen their dreams washed away by Mr. Biya’s mismanagement and corruption. Millions of Cameroonians are unemployed in their own country and their parents are dying of preventable and curable diseases. Millions have fled the dehumanizing poverty that the ruling party has manufactured. The financial burden of Mr. Biya’s incompetence has fallen on the country’s Diaspora which is hell-bent on making the monarch pay for the destruction he has wreaked on the country.
Mr. Biya is currently hospitalized at the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève where millions of dollars are being paid for his failing health. The Cameroonian tax-payer is footing the bill. Mr. Biya’s entourage is 50-man strong and all the staff accompanying him are lodged in world-class hotels. This is costing the country’s treasury an arm and a leg. That is why activists have set up camp opposite the hospital to ensure that the Swiss population is aware of the financial disaster he has hatched in his country.
Mr. Biya and his government burn through money like wild fire. Reserves left by the country’s first president were exhausted in less than two years. Much of that money cannot be accounted for. The news about his hospitalization travelled very fast, reaching many Cameroonians who are so disappointed with a man whom they thought held out a lot of hope for them. Social media is awash with pictures and videos of the hospital in which he is hospitalized.
Mr. Biya’s poor and declining health is on many lips at the Unity Palace where many fear he might not make it this time around. His party members, especially those of the Central Committee, are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that if the inevitable happens, they will be able to have a candidate who will unite the party and win the upcoming presidential election.
Mr. Biya’s dismal economic and political performance is leaving him and his collaborators in a permanent state of confusion, especially as the presidential election is in the offing. They have nothing new to deliver to the electorate. Their lies have caught up with them. The pressure is on and opposition parties are making hay while the sun shines.
Added to this is the pressure from the international community about the deteriorating situation in Southern Cameroons. The pressure has exacerbated things, and with state coffers drying up very fast, the monarch is losing sleep. The Southern Cameroons crisis has been very disruptive. The pressure is on. Evaporating financial resources imply the government cannot prosecute its war in Southern Cameroons convincingly and its foreign allies are no more forthcoming financially.
The unnecessary war in Southern Cameroons is taking up a huge part of the state’s budget and with no end in sight; the government is in for rough times. Southern Cameroonian fighters are as heady as ragweed. They keep on resurfacing on turf the government erroneously thinks it is its own. The road ahead is long, rough and bumpy. The signs are not good both for Mr. Biya’s health and the economy. The country is really going through a rough patch.
Cameroon is mired in a conflict that will not go away anytime soon if the government and Southern Cameroonian fighters do not head to the negotiating table. Despite the shocking number of deaths, there is still room for dialogue. The international community must push both sides to the negotiating table if the senseless killings have to stop. If the world does not intervene, it will surely witness Rwanda play out in Cameroon.
By Kingsley Betek