Cameroon’s senile and aging president, Paul Biya, is expected in Washington DC in the weeks ahead where he will be meeting with the American President, Joe Biden, where both men will discuss a broad range of issues, including the insurgency in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions.
Over the last six years, the country’s two English-speaking regions have been open air killing fields where more than ten thousand Cameroonians have lost their lives, including some four thousand soldiers, many of whom were brought down by home-made explosive devices laid by insurgents seeking the total independence of Southern Cameroons.
While the situation on the ground might be improving, there are still fears that a recrudescence of violence is still possible as the key issues which led to the conflict remain unaddressed.
The government has not been receptive to numerous calls from Western powers and international organizations, calling for genuine and fruitful dialogue which should result in a sustainable solution.
The killings in the two regions have reduced to trickles, more so because the country’s army has stopped conducting unnecessarily violent raids in the two English-speaking regions.
The military is to blame for the murder of more than six thousand civilians as it operated based on the government’s Machiavellian and tough principle that negotiations cannot take place with non-state actors, but the insurgents picked up weapons because of the government’s indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians.
The government was clearly caught in the act when its soldiers killed many people in Ngarbuh, Muyengue, Santa, Kumbo, Kwa Kwa and other towns in the two English-speaking regions of the country.
There is ample evidence that the government is to blame for those deaths and several reports by the International Crisis Group have clearly indicted the Yaoundé government, citing the government’s inhuman approach to conflict resolution.
There are videos where religious authorities clearly state that they have evidence of the government’s deliberate killing of its own people just to prove a point.
While Mr. Biya will urge the Biden Administration to arrest many Southern Cameroonians living in the USA and send them to Cameroon, he will be facing very tough challenges as the US government never repatriates its citizens to any country for trial.
Besides, Mr. Biya and his entourage will have to produce incontrovertible evidence that those being suspected were directly involved in the commission of the atrocities the Yaoundé government is alleging.
America is no banana republic nor is it Nigeria which can be bribed and browbeaten for it to ship its citizens to a country where the rule of law is still a foreign concept.
The Yaoundé government is known abroad for its corruption and it will have to convince Americans that whatever evidence it will be providing is not doctored.
Americans would like to conduct their own investigations, if necessary, and if there is no probable cause, then the Yaoundé government’s plea would end up as a dead letter.
The Yaoundé government is desperate. The current calm may be the calm before the storm. The Biya government has never addressed any real issues for forty years. It has always counted on time to address its issues and the likelihood of old demons rearing their ugly heads is very high.
Cameroonians living in the United States have already lawyered up and the battle, if any, will be a tough one. Even the three Southern Cameroonians indicted in the United States have vowed that they would not go down without a fight.
In the American justice system, an indictment is nothing. Lawyers, who are out looking for lucrative lawyering opportunities can end up messing up the FBI’s case and sometimes those cases could go on for years and some of those cases, could go on even after the 90-year-old Biya joins his ancestors. It will never be a walk in the park in America when it comes to legal justice.
Moreover, not all those being considered as suspects by the Yaoundé government live in the United States. Canada is also hosting thousands of Southern Cameroonians and most, if not all of them, bear Canadian passports and Canada too is not in the business of shipping its citizens to foreign countries where one man’s rule has replaced the rule of law.
Canada wants to mediate and its stance on the Southern Cameroons issue is clear. It wants a federal system in Cameroon. Canada has huge experience in dealing with linguistic minorities and the government clearly holds that a Canadian-style federal system will bring peace to Cameroon.
North American countries never disown their citizens and even when arrested in those rogue countries, Canada and the United States will find a way to bring their citizens home.
Diplomacy is always Canada’s first weapon, but when it does not yield dividends; Ottawa will use economic power to achieve its goal.
The Yaoundé government has a tough task ahead of it. It must come to terms with the fact that times have changed and peaceful resolutions can deliver better results than expensive wars against its own citizens.
If the Yaoundé government is really longing for peace, it must bend over backwards to work with the Southern Cameroonian Diaspora which is estimated at more than four million.
Fighting is not the best way forward and hoping that the United States will do its dirty work is being naive. Sending an American citizen abroad for trial has always been a bridge too far and there are always political consequences for any American administration which engages in such irrational act.
Cameroon needs peace and the Yaoundé government should use its allies to engineer that peace. Instead of wasting time and other resources to seek revenge for the humiliation it has suffered in Southern Cameroons, the Yaoundé government should grant a general amnesty to all those who have been directly or indirectly involved in the conflict.
It should also grant dual nationality to appease the Diaspora which has vast financial resources which could be used to destabilize the country. Cameroon is not yet out of the woods.
Pardoning everybody including the military is the best way forward and not revenge. The military bears greater responsibility for the massacres which have put Cameroon in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai