Southern Cameroons Crisis: Robust international engagement is vital to halt the slide to war
Nowhere in the world has there been a man whose first job on earth was a ministerial position. But never has there been a man that has failed so spectacularly as the Cameroonian Head of State, Paul Biya. Successive opposition parties in the Francophone dominated country including one created in Southern Cameroons have attempted to force the Biya regime out of power but have failed to free the enslaved people. In the thirty- five years since President Biya took office, the people of Cameroon have discovered that their own ruler can be just as brutal and corrupt like Mobutu of Zaire and the Ugandan thug, Idi Amin Dada.
Since last year, Francophone soldiers and the nation’s gendarmerie loyal to President Paul Biya and his ruling CPDM crime syndicate have jeopardized the unity and peace that was miraculously put in place by the late president Ahmadou Ahidjo by reigniting conflict in Southern Cameroons which is home to the Anglophone communities.
Thousands of Southern Cameroons civilians have been forced to flee into neighboring Nigeria or take shelter in French Cameroun. Hundreds of Southern Cameroonian citizens have been killed. The UN and its corrupt Secretary General, Antonio Guterres look on, as they have done on numerous occasions in Africa, unable to prevent the massacre of innocent civilians.
This is foremost a successful failure of President Biya’s leadership. The many foreign architects of the reunification process in 1961 that led to independence also share part of the blame. It was only with consistent, top-level engagement from Paris, that the French Cameroun political elites headed by Biya were persuaded to make public the decree that paved the way for the annulment of the Federal Republic of Cameroun. The same France that helped to end the UPC uprising in French Cameroun has pushed Mr. Biya with naive paternalism and complacency into his last journey of many dangers. Now that it has all gone wrong, the French appearing guilty of looking the other way have dragged the Federal Republic of Nigeria into the Ambazonia crisis.
The French and its multilateral donors, on whom the Biya regime’s foundation depended, are paralyzed by a dilemma of their own making and they are astonishingly shock with Biya’s low sense of judgment. Far beyond an elaborate patronage system run by grasping Beti Ewondo army generals and an ill-prepared gendarmerie, and a national dependency on French and European Union aid and sometimes Greek gifts from the US, the French and the EU donors have little to show for the billions of Euros they have thrown into propping up and sustaining Biya since 1982.
The French and the EU are reluctant to continue with the policy of throwing good money after bad. So, troops deployed to Southern Cameroons by President Biya are looting and stealing even from poor Southern Cameroonians. Yet, without French support, there is little chance that Biya can keep French Cameroun forces in the Federal Republic of Ambazonia for another one year. French Cameroun is bankrupt. Much of the oil production has been sold forward to French companies anyway, and what is left in revenues the Biya regime must share with the army generals and CPDM acolytes.
The uncomfortable truth is that unity and peace may have to be bought with federalism as pointed out by Chief V.E.Mukete. The Interim Government of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia, which has the greatest interests in the struggle, can also help. Some of the French Cameroun actors in this conflict including President Biya, the governors of the North West and South West regions, the SDO of Manyu, the Minister of Defense, Joseph Beti Assomo are guilty of crimes against humanity. They should be subject to sanctions, and should know that they will ultimately be held to account. An arms embargo, long overdue at the UN Security Council, should be put in place immediately.
Correspondingly, ECOWAS which is hosting more than 40,000 Southern Cameroons refugees can take the lead in sending troops to protect Southern Cameroons civilians. The AU should deploy its standby forces created for this kind of crisis to Ambazonia. Without a far more robust and high level international engagement, there are few grounds to be optimistic that the Southern Cameroons crisis will come to an end soon.
Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai