The Southern Cameroons crisis that started as a simple strike by teachers and lawyers in October 2016 is gradually making the independence of the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon a certainty, especially as there are targeted killings and huge refugees movements in and out of the country.
Ever since the crisis started, the country’s president, Paul Biya, also known as the owner of the country, has refused to listen to many respectable people across the world. The Pope has had an opportunity to talk to Mr. Biya. Leaders of Western Countries have advised him to pursue dialogue as a sure means out of the impasse. The African Union has once offered to mediate.
The Francophonie, for its part, is still prepared to play a great role in efforts aimed at restoring peace to the country, but the country’s authorities are reluctant to accept all these offers of assistance and this is causing the situation to spiral out of control. Mr. Biya and his collaborators have clearly opted to pursue a path that is causing the country to lose its youthful population. They seem to be frozen in time and their strong faith in old ways is putting the country in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Across the country, some religious authorities have also called on the government to embrace dialogue in order to spare the country the agony it is going through. But all the wise counsel has fallen on deaf ears. Mr. Biya who is 85 years old is intent on destroying the country before he leaves this world. His total refusal of outside help to restore peace to the country is costing Cameroon a lot.
Cameroon, a once peaceful nation, has been gripped by the ‘dictator’s disease’; a disease that attacks African countries that have been ruled by sit-tight dictators. The Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Somalia are some of the African countries that have been victims of this devastating disease.
Many African dictators always bequeath civil wars and political chaos to future generations when they leave power. In many cases, they leave power forcefully or through a civil war. Cameroon is on its way to joining this unfortunate club as Mr. Biya and his collaborators hold that the best way to address political issues is to unleash a reign of terror on the people they are supposed to govern and protect.
The Southern Cameroons crisis which could have been addressed through an inclusive dialogue has today become a civil war wherein government soldiers are shooting and killing many innocent civilians, as they cannot fully engage the Southern Cameroons fighters who are lurking in the jungles. The fighters, for their part, are using rudimentary weapons to protect themselves and this is adding to the chaos that has made life unbearable in the English-speaking regions.
The fighting is unfortunately consuming many young soldiers who have been pushed by the government to go and kill Southern Cameroonians whose initial objective was to put their grievances to the government. The government’s violent response caused the demands of Southern Cameroonians to mutate and, today, almost all Southern Cameroonians, even those in government, are in support of secession. Federalism, which was initially on the table, is being rejected by a majority of Southern Cameroonians who clearly hold that they can no longer share the same geo-political space with their French-speaking counterparts.
In many towns and villages in the two English-speaking regions, corpses of young innocent civilians are being discovered at roadsides and the government seems to be padding itself on the back for accomplishing such a feat. It is a really tough to know that government officials of Beti extraction are really celebrating when their fellow compatriots are being shot down point blank. It is even more baffling to know that the same authorities have kept on talking about one and indivisible Cameroon when their brutality is slowly dividing the country.
To defend themselves, many young Southern Cameroonians have taking to the jungle and many are now using whatever means that are available to them to fight a government they believe is intent on killing all the young men in the region. The fighting clearly indicates that Cameroon will never be the same again. Holding a country together clearly goes beyond political sloganeering and brinkmanship.
Yesterday, a young lady and her brother were killed in Etoko in Manyu Division when they ventured out to look for food. In many villages in the North West region, the story is the same. Four corpses were located on Saturday by civilians in AchiaTugui in the North West region. The corpses that have not yet been identified are suspected to be those of young men arrested somewhere else and killed military-style by government forces.
From every indication, the crisis has entered a very critical stage with the government holding that the more people it kills, the greater its chances of keeping the country one and indivisible. April has actually been a tough month. The government’s targeted killings increased in April, with even children being brought down by government bullets. The government has also adopted a scorch-earth policy which is resulting in whole villages being wiped off the country’s map. Army soldiers are relentlessly pursuing their scorch-earth policy. Houses are being burned and civilians are being tortured for crimes they have not committed.
But the indiscriminate killings and the decision not to call for an inclusive and broad-based dialogue seems to be Mr. Biya’s greatest undoing. The more Southern Cameroonians the army kills, the more fighters the movement acquires. This is putting the country’s national unity on the rocks. Government actions are driving Southern Cameroonians away from the union that was hastily stitched by the United Nations.
Young Southern Cameroonians – both boys and girls – are voluntarily joining the struggle with the objective of granting independence to the people of Southern Cameroons. Many of these fighters have been unemployed for years and they strongly hold that their fate is worse than death.
They also hold that they may never live to see the independence of their land, but they are happy to trigger that movement that is already splitting Southern Cameroons from East Cameroon. The fighters argue that the government is doing everything to make the secession possible.
Speaking to our correspondent in Mamfe, a fighter who elected anonymity said that they were using different strategies to roll back the enemy. He stressed that all was fair in love and war, adding that the government had made a mistake to engage Southern Cameroonians in a battle that was not necessary.
“We are making sure the enemy feels the pain. The enemy has resorted to indiscriminate killings and this is hurting our people. We too are using all the means available to us to strike the enemy who is scared of dying. The young Beti soldiers who have been sent to come and destroy our cities and towns will pay a huge price. They have been killing our people as if they are animals. We will pay them in their own coins,” he said.
He added that “In Njeke, a small town close to Kembong, we deceived the enemy. We had a small party in Njeke where we killed a goat as part of the party. We cooked everything. We poisoned a whole pot and ate the part that was not poisoned. We sent someone to inform the hungry soldiers that we were partying. By the time they arrived the venue of our party, we had melted into the bushes. They seized a whole pot of goat meat. They also started feasting on it without suspecting anything. But that pot had poison in it. Today, some of them have already died and many are fighting for their lives. We will continue to delete them from the face of the earth using any means we know. The soldiers are hungry. Their masters in Yaounde cannot sustain them. The population is hostile to them and this has left them with lots of butterflies in their stomachs.”
A crisis that started as simple protests by lawyers, teachers and students in Buea and Bamenda is gradually splitting the country. Over the last six months, the protests have metamorphosed into a full blown armed conflict, as the government disregards all appeals from many across the globe for meaningful and inclusive dialogue.
The government is frozen in time and this gives it the impression that only an all-out military victory can bring peace to this once prosperous nation. It still believes that actions taken in the early years of the country’s independence to put an end to a bloody “Marquisard movement” could also work in the 21st Century.
But its failure to comprehend that times have changed and that other factors have come into play will keep it in the jungles and mountains of Southern Cameroons for a long time. The sixties and seventies were still part of the continent’s dark ages. Many people were not literate and poverty was a constant presence among the populace. The Bamilekes and Bassas who masterminded the independence struggle were still poor and had very few friends around the world.
Today, the world is a totally different place. Many people are educated. Education rates in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon stand at well over 80%. Besides, more than 50% of the region’s population lives out of the country and this makes it possible for the region to survive any government onslaught against those on the ground.
With more than 3 million English-speaking Cameroonians living out of the country, it is very possible for this large Diaspora to financially support those facing the government’s “scorch-earth” policy. The region’s Diaspora has been out of the country for more than 40 years and the majority of the region’s Diaspora lives in prosperous countries such as the USA, Canada and the UK where economic opportunities abound.
It is this Diaspora that is helping the pool of willing fighters back in Southern Cameroons to give the government a run for its money. Across the globe, there are monthly fund-raising efforts to ensure that those on the ground have access to the weapons they need to protect themselves against a government that has declared war against its own people.
Besides fund-raising efforts for arms, there are also fund-raising efforts to ensure that all those whose houses have been razed get rebuilt once the region secures its independence. Southern Cameroonians want to prove to the government that its brute force will only help them gain their independence sooner, rather than later.
Many people across the globe are already pointing out that the government’s reckless and irresponsible reaction to the crisis is already granting Southern Cameroons its independence, one day at a time. Some point to what happened to East Timor, also known as Timor Leste.
The Asian Island was also a victim of oppression from Indonesians for decades, but when the courageous people of Timor Leste decided it was time to walk away from the union, they challenged their oppressor and despite the intimidation and killings by Indonesians, East Timorese stood their ground. They knew that some people had to die for them to have a free and prosperous nation.
After many years of bloodshed, on August 30, 1999, a UN-sponsored referendum led to an overwhelming majority of East Timorese voting for independence from Indonesia. Immediately following the referendum, anti-independence Timorese militias — organized and supported by the Indonesian military — commenced a punitive scorched-earth campaign. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people into West Timor as refugees. The majority of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed during this punitive attack.
On September 20, 1999, the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) was deployed to the country and it brought the violence to an end. Following a United Nations-administered transition period, East Timor was internationally recognized as an independent nation on May 20, 2002.
This is exactly what might happen to Southern Cameroons as the government relentlessly pursues its diabolic campaign to destroy Southern Cameroons and to kill its people. The government of Cameroon has to take a hard and long look at its actions if it does not want to clone Indonesia’s mistakes.
But from every indication, the Cameroon government seems to be happily cloning the Indonesian example. It seems to be reading from a script produced by the Indonesian government. A script that has caused Indonesia to lose some of its best Islands that were noted for their tourism potential.
If the Cameroon government does not put an end to its military campaign, it will soon be losing Southern Cameroons. The Southern Cameroonian Diaspora is also willing to make this happen. “La République du Cameroun” has failed Southern Cameroonians and the brave and hardworking people of these English-speaking regions are willing to walk away from this hastily stitched marriage that was arranged by Foncha and Muna who only thought about their own interest.
There are even rumors that before long Southern Cameroonian fighters will soon be chasing Francophones out of Southern Cameroons in an attempt to bring the international community into the conflict. The world still has time to step in to prevent the chaos that is still being prepared in the jungles of Southern Cameroons.
The government’s arrogance and inefficiency are today costing the country huge amounts of money and the loss of human life is really disturbing. Both soldiers and civilian are being killed in a conflict that is unnecessary. The government’s decision to slaughter hundreds of Southern Cameroonians on October 1, 2017, has turned out to be an unfortunate error of judgment and its cost to the nation is incalculable.
The country’s fragile economy has been badly hit. Corporations such as CDC and Pamol that are located deep into Southern Cameroons’ heartland are struggling to stay afloat. Their businesses have been seriously affected, as Ambazonian fighters stage incursions in the region on a daily basis.
Falling oil production and prices have also hit the government like a ton of bricks. The Southern Cameroons crisis that the government thought would end after a few weeks is gradually robbing the country’s economy of its vitality. The country’s economic indicators are unfortunately trending very low and it is obvious that the days ahead will be bleak.
Today, the country is celebrating its 46th reunification anniversary but the celebrations are only taking place in East Cameroon. In Southern Cameroons, the mindset is different. May 20, does not represent anything to many Southern Cameroonians. They are contesting the day and many cities and towns in Southern Cameroons are in total lockdown as Southern Cameroonian fighters have been threatening to kill anybody who participates in such a sham.
The government, for its part, has advised civilians to stay at home and anybody found on the streets will be arrested. And there have been many arrests in Buea and other towns in Southern Cameroons. However, it is clear that the event has been disrupted in many parts of Southern Cameroons.
The government is gradually losing Southern Cameroons. Its high-handedness is dividing the country. In a bid to keep the country one and indivisible through force, it is only succeeding to tear it apart. The government’s targeted killings have drawn criticism from many quarters and based on the chaos playing out in the country, the United States government is now calling on Mr. Biya to step down so as to give the country a chance to heal. His presence in power will only cause the country to split and this is no good news for many people.
Time is gradually running out. Changes are very necessary. The government has to abandon its legendary hypocrisy if it wants to keep Cameroon one and indivisible. Terrorizing its people and intimidating journalists will not keep Cameroon one and indivisible. It must seek to meet Southern Cameroonians halfway if it really wants to keep the country united. The ball is in its court. The world is watching the president. He has refused all useful advice and this will surely turn out to be his Achilles heels. As Americans have started to ask him to think of his legacy, he should know that his time is up. It will be better for him to quit on his own terms.
By Kingsley Betek
A Cameroon Concord News Group Production