Nobody ever imagined that the Southern Cameroons revolution which shook the Yaounde government to its core when it all started to play out in almost all the towns and villages of the country’s two English-speaking regions would one day flounder given the determination with which Southern Cameroonians engaged in battle with the Yaounde government.
A simple and peaceful protest by teachers and lawyers was mismanaged and was allowed to spiral out of control by a government that was not wont to hearing contrary views.
The protest by teachers and lawyers was a way Southern Cameroonians wanted the government to listen to their grievances and seek solutions which could douse the fire that was burning out of control in many their minds.
Years of political and economic marginalization had sown a violent storm in many minds in Southern Cameroons. The region was, indeed, a tinder box and the illegal arrest and incarceration of Barrister Felix Nkongho Agbor-Balla and Dr. Fontem Neba was the fire that was to bring down an entire nation.
Southern Cameroonians across the world stood up as one man and promised to make their frustration with a government that only understood a strong language and an iron fist known to the world.
A protest that was supposed to lead to a peaceful resolution of grievances finally got exported abroad, with the Southern Cameroonian Diaspora stepping in to provide the much-needed leadership when leaders of the consortium were hastily bundled to Yaounde in total disregard of the country’s law on human rights and freedoms.
It was on that basis that Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe, who was enjoying life out of the country, agreed to assume the mantle of leadership. As a mild mannered and honest person, Julius Ayuk Tabe has never been a warmonger and he holds that speaking with the Yaounde government, especially on “divorce” issues, is the best thing that will help both parties avoid bloodshed.
His notion of leadership is based on Plato’s principle that “Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.” Corruption and dictatorship were not things he admired. He believed in the collective management of affairs and dialogue as a way out of an impasse.
Southern Cameroonians believed in him and still do, and millions willfully believed that they had to pull their fair share of the weight if Southern Cameroons had to be independent. The Yaounde government has been a huge psychological, economic, and political burden on Southern Cameroonians, and they were prepared to demonstrate that. Those who could not be on “Ground Zero” willfully provided financial resources to those who had opted to take up arms.
Rather than negotiate, the government resorted to military violence, killing and maiming innocent civilians. The old and disabled were roasted to death in their homes. The government was instead killing those it was supposed to protect.
By its actions, it had demonstrated that negotiations and dialogue were not on its agenda. The world was shocked by the horror triggered by a government which was supposed to be democratic and a believer in the peaceful resolution of differences. Unleashing the full spectrum of its military might on its own people only radicalized Southern Cameroonians.
In their desperation, Southern Cameroonians picked up anything that could help them defend themselves against a brutal military that was in no mood to spare anybody. Southern Cameroonians started with sticks and hunting rifles, and over time, they have morphed into a formidable force that has sent thousands of army soldiers to an early grave.
Even the Yaounde government has quietly acknowledged that though untrained, Southern Cameroonian fighters have proven that they are a force to reckon with. The country’s military is still not believing that a ragtag military could bring such destruction to a trained military.
Today, instead of using conventional methods, Southern Cameroonian fighters are employing explosive devices which are wreaking havoc on government military equipment and on army soldiers. A small disagreement between citizens of a country has been allowed to snowball, ruining the country’s economy and making secession a possibility. Southern Cameroonians have lost the love they once had for a country they once called theirs.
The success scored by the fighters in Ground Zero could also be attributed to the leadership structure which Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and his collaborators had left behind following his arrest and repatriation to Yaounde in circumstances which clearly defied international law.
His arrest triggered great unity of purpose among Southern Cameroonians who felt they must walk away from a union that was doomed to failure on the same day it was manufactured. In response to the arrest of their leader, money was poured into accounts which had been set up in many parts of the world to support efforts by the fighters to rob army soldiers of their illusion that they could unleash a reign of terror on the population without consequences.
The Diaspora was dragged into the conflict, and it became a key element in the revolution which would test the government’s ability to deal with a crisis of a global scale.
The more the money poured in, the more those who had taken over from Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe became wayward, irresponsible, and undisciplined. Poverty hardly breeds virtue and those who took over from Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe have clearly demonstrated this.
Most of them had used the Bible to blindfold Southern Cameroonians who were delivering millions of dollars for war purposes. Pastors became leaders and instead of providing the much-needed leadership and character, they carefully called for the dismissal of Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe on the grounds that he was no longer capable of running the affairs of a state that only existed in their warped minds.
Once they got the safeguards out of the way, they carefully transformed Southern Cameroonians into their personal piggy banks. Dr. Samuel Sako Ikome, who was chosen to lead the interim with the assistance of Mr. Chris Anu, formed a formidable duo, but not to fight the intimidated Yaounde regime, but to line their pockets.
Both were pastors, who many think, were struggling financially when they took the reins of power but now own massive multi-million-dollar homes in the United States and are living a life they could only dream of before the struggle.
Religion, the oldest tool of deceit, has once more been used to derail a revolution that was on course to deliver spectacular results. As the sages will always advise, money will hardly be a binding force when those managing it are smart little devils who have made greed their hallmark.
After having plotted against Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and all those who stood for probity and accountability, Samuel Sako Ikome and Chris Anu are today at daggers drawn. Their relationship which seemed to have been made in Heaven has actually turned out to be forged in a crucible of war.
They are trading accusations and are using their surrogates to sling mud at each other. A lot of money is missing and none of them is capable of accounting for the money, though they have been happily running the accounts. The mere mention of the word “audit” irritates them. These are the people who want to rule a new country.
According to many sources in Southern Cameroons, the actions of these “men of God” are putting the lives of thousands of young men and woman who have opted to fight for an independent Southern Cameroons at risk.
Leadership requires discipline, selflessness, a sense of what is wrong and right, as well as transparency. The current leadership of the Southern Cameroons struggle seems to be morally bankrupt and totally bereft of those features which make a good leader.
The revolution may still be playing out, but it seems to be on its last leg. The misconduct of a few has caused Southern Cameroonians to keep their money instead of giving it to people who will only use it to feather their own nests. Leadership is a real issue in the struggle and if this is not sorted out, the revolution will die a natural death.
By Joachim Arrey, Ph.D