The news of Mr. Ayuk Tabe and his collaborators being shipped to Cameroon has hit Southern Cameroonians like a ton of bricks. The announcement of Mr. Ayuk Tabe being in the custody of Cameroon security officials was made yesterday by Mr. Issa Tchiroma, the country’s communications minister, who is known for his manipulation, deception and deceit. While many still argue that Mr. Tchiroma is simply playing pranks on the minds of Southern Cameroonians, many legal analysts are already at work and are calling upon Mr. Biya and his government to live up to their international commitments vis-à-vis people alleged to have committed crimes against their country.
The doubts surrounding this case will only be removed when the right time comes, as lawyers are already at work. It is a requirement under international law that those arrested must have a right to legal services and Barristers Ben Muna, Assira and Felix Nkongho Agbor-Balla are already on the file and will be asking Cameroon government officials to grant them access to those they claim are in their custody. The government of Cameroon has that obligation and until those lawyers identify the “presumed terrorists”, Southern Cameroonians will continue to question the veracity of Mr. Tchiroma’s public statement.
But the issue is not about how the legal battles will be fought. Mr. Ayuk Tabe will not be killed like a little stray dog. The world has evolved. The days when people could disappear without a trace have past. The international community is aware of the drama playing out in Cameroon and it will surely keep an eye on how things unfold. The international community may not have a huge appetite for secession, but it will surely not countenance the government of Cameroon in its efforts to transform the country into a slaughter house.
It is true the Francophone press has already judged and condemned Mr. Ayuk Tabe. Reading through a cross section of the government-sponsored media this morning, Mr. Ayuk Tabe has already been branded a terrorist and in their score board, he is already guilty and it is incumbent upon him to prove his innocence. This is one aspect of Francophone law that still baffles Anglophones who hold that anybody arrested is a suspect and it is incumbent upon those who have arrested him to prove his guilt.
The burden of proof should therefore be on the government and not on Mr. Ayuk Tabe who, in many minds, is just an incarnation of the aspirations of most Southern Cameroonians. The presumption of innocence does not seem to exist among Francophones, many of whom hold that killing your adversary is the best solution even when you have not yet establish guilt. And this is one of the many reasons why Southern Cameroonians have been seeking to walk away from this marriage that has brought more pain than gain to them.
But rather than focus on the noise that those media houses and their paid analysts will be making in the coming days, it is up to Southern Cameroonians to focus on the next steps. It is incumbent upon Southern Cameroonians to unleash the full spectrum of their financial, psychological and intellectual resources in order to keep the pressure on a government that is already on the back foot.
Mr. Ayuk Tabe might have been arrested, but the Southern Cameroonian struggle might not be stopped. From every indication, this struggle is bigger than an individual. Many Southern Cameroonian leaders have been arrested before, but instead of dousing the fire, the fire has been burning out of control. From reactions across the globe, it is obvious that many Southern Cameroonians are already lining up to take on the mantle of leadership.
The struggle for Southern Cameroons is an idea whose time has come. The government might be celebrating in public, but in private, it understands it has a huge crisis on its hands. It has been deluding itself that Anglophone restorationists are in the minority. The reality on the ground is unfortunately different. Its violence against an unarmed people has transformed an entire people into secessionists. Its misuse of the word “terrorist” has radicalized almost every Southern Cameroonian. Until it changes the way it speaks and addresses its people, the government of Cameroon will continue to breed revolutions within its own territory. Instead of standing in the way of change, it stands to gain if it leads that change in a transparent and honest manner.
The wind of change will continue to blow in Cameroon and the government will do itself a favor in watching the direction of the wind. The Southern Cameroons crisis has triggered something in Cameroon. The seed of a rebellion has been sown by the government itself through its own marginalization plan and injustice. If it does not take appropriate actions, the next phase of the struggle will come like a tornado that will rip everything in its path. The Francophone majority might be quiet and docile, but that does not imply it is not feeling the pain. The day it will wake up from its slumber, the world will be shocked by its reaction. The silence of many Francophones should not be misconstrued as an acquiescence of the government’s reckless irresponsibility and oppression. When the right conditions will be in place, this majority will make its impact felt. It’s up to the government to defuse the bomb before it goes off.
The government of Cameroon has never treated Southern Cameroonians with respect. East Cameroon has always considered West Cameroon as a conquered territory and this has caused certain mentalities to stand the test of time. Though blessed with many natural resources, Southern Cameroons has been neglected for decades. Its people have been pushed into exile by the government’s marginalization policy that has been robbing the people of Southern Cameroons of their dignity and opportunities. Though Cameroon’s oil fields are located in Southern Cameroons, most of the proceeds from the oil do not trickle down to the people to whom God had given the oil. The country’s lone national oil corporation located in the southwest coastal city of Limbe is managed by Francophones while the locals watch from a distance as sorry spectators of how their wealth is being carted to East Cameroon.
But it is up to Southern Cameroonians to change their destiny. If a particular arrest can stop them in their tracks, then they are not yet ready to obtain the results they are all hankering after. If you look into the mirror of history, you will find out that many leaders of many political movements have, at many points in their lives, been prisoners. Mandela is an example that will never leave our minds. It will be preposterous to fear jail and continue to think that the oppressor will one day become clement and understanding. Those who oppress others never understand that the oppressed are also human beings. Freedom is never handed to the oppressed on a platter of gold. It is seized.
Mr. Ayuk Tabe knew this day would come. He has been psychologically and financially prepared for this day. His family is safe in a land where freedom of speech and human dignity are respected. Like Mandela, he is prepared to lay down his life for this struggle. It will be a disappointment for anyone to spend time thinking of what will befall him in Yaounde. He will be a lot happier to know that some six million Southern Cameroonians are keeping the flame alight. The pressure on the government must continue. This is a government that is hell bent on destroying its own country before it disappears. This is a government that is prepared to destroy the economy and render young Cameroonians unemployed. This is a government that has no regard for the rule of law.
The Southern Cameroons crisis is a unique moment for Cameroonians to change their fate and destiny. Mr. Ayuk Tabe might be in a physical jail, but Southern Cameroonians do not have to be in a psychological jail. They have to keep on posing challenges to a government that has run out of ideas. Your fate is worse than death. Why not change things for future generations? It’s up to you!
Cameroon Concord News Production