The Southern Cameroons crisis that has put the country in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons has started spiraling out of control. Government brutality that has been widely condemned is to blame for the chaos that is playing out in the two English-speaking regions of the country.
For close to two years, the supporters of the Yaounde regime have been beating the drums of war and young Beti soldiers stationed in the English-speaking regions have been spreading death and destruction. Many young men have been gunned down point blank and many houses have been burnt down in a bid to strike fear into many Southern Cameroonians who have clearly expressed their support for a rebellion they hold will bring them independence and a better life.
The Yaounde government has always turned a blind eye to their plight. While the educational rate in the two English-speaking regions stand at more than 80%, unemployment, for its part, stands at over 90% among educated Southern Cameroonians in major cities and towns in the English-speaking regions. Even when there are state-owned corporations in Southern Cameroons, the workers are mostly French-speaking Cameroonians.
In the South West region where there are at least three major state-owned corporations, the story is very pathetic. The Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) that used to be a preserve for Southern Cameroonians has been taken over by Francophones. Today, it is normal to find drivers who can only speak French in many CDC plantations in the South West region.
For the national oil refinery, SONARA, the story will bring down tears to the cheeks of even the most hardened observer. All the top positions are occupied by Francophones and the language of communication in Limbe where SONARA is located is French.
To make matters worse, SONARA workers have their own neighborhoods which are heavily guarded while their children attend special schools. The local people have simply been reduced to sorry spectators to how their natural wealth is being harvested and taken to East Cameroon.
For more than forty years since the establishment of SONARA, no South-westerner has ever led the corporation. The Francophone population in the city of Limbe has become very arrogant and it has been treating the locals like garbage. Despite years of complaints and protests, the corporation’s officials and their backers in Yaounde have continued to treat the people as if they are a conquered people.
The government has simply decided to be blind and deaf to the plea of a people who have never had their fair share of the national cake. A trip to Ndian Division where the oil fields are located could be a huge eye-opener. There are no roads in the Division and health care facilities are simply non-existent. The Rio Del Rey Estuary where the black gold is harvested looks more like a war zone. The Yaounde government seems to be conducting itself as a foreign government that must exploit the locals.
While it is carting away the oil, it is working hard to keep the people in poverty so that they will never have the capacity to complain. The story of the inhabitants of this region is that of extreme poverty and abysmal ignorance. While advances in technology have granted many people around the world the opportunity to emerge from ignorance, the people of Indian Division are simply not part of the new technology age. They are in this world, but not of this world. They have become victims of their God-given wealth.
But this might be changing very soon. The Southern Cameroons crisis which has been ignored by the government for a long time has finally reached a critical phase. After having complained for more than five decades, the people of Southern Cameroons have finally opted for arms against their will. They have to defend themselves against a regime that understands only one language – an iron fist. And that fist will surely be visiting all French-speaking Cameroonians who are still living in Southern Cameroons.
The Ambazonian Interim Government has given all French-speaking Cameroonians right up to May 31, 2018 to leave the newly created Federal Republic of Ambazonia otherwise known as Southern Cameroons. Any French-speaking Cameroonians who do not heed this advice will surely have themselves to blame and the Ambazonian Defense forces will be implementing the law as prescribed by the Interim Government.
Any French-speaking Cameroonian caught in Southern Cameroons after the prescribed deadline will be considered a criminal alien whose intention is to destabilize the fatherland. This crime carries the capital punishment and the different armed groups have been called upon to enforce the law after the deadline.
All Southern Cameroonians housing French-speaking Cameroonians have an obligation to send them out before the expiry of the deadline. Failure to comply with the laws of the land could result in severe punishment, including the burning of their property. The message has been clearly articulated in an audio message issued by Mr. Chris Anu, the Communication Secretary of the Southern Cameroons Interim Government. It is therefore in the interest of all Southern Cameroonians to be law-abiding. Southern Cameroons will never be chaotic and any lawless elements will be promptly taken into newly built green jails in Southern Cameroons.
The Interim Government’s message looks like an empty threat, but it should be taken seriously. Over the last two weeks, the Yaounde government has been gunning down many young Southern Cameroonians and the whole world has been playing spectator to the killings. The American government has been very critical of the government’s targeted killings. The international community has been horrified by such acts of criminality, but the Yaounde government has remained indifferent to the plea of some of the respected voices in the world.
This therefore calls for self-defense. Southern Cameroonians have a right to self-defense and they want to use that right to protect themselves. They have clearly stated that they can no longer share the same geo-political space with their French-speaking counterparts. The government has been indifferent to their plea for years and they think now is the time for them to take those actions that will bring them the independence they need.
The government can no longer go about killing Southern Cameroonians with impunity. The world can also no longer stay on the sidelines as if Southern Cameroonians are simply lab animals that can just be disposed of anyhow. Over the last five months, many innocent Southern Cameroonians have been sent to an early grave by young, sex-starved and alcohol inflamed Beti soldiers who erroneously think they are there to protect the Yaounde government that has outlived its usefulness.
In a reaction to the Interim Government’s order, a young Red Dragon fighter who has been in the jungles of Lebialem for more than six months said that “Francophones have an interest to comply with what the Interim Government has said. We are running out of patience and will surely be staging a show that will shock the world once the deadline expires.”
He added that “Let nobody think this is an empty threat. We have seen our brothers and sisters being killed by government forces and we are ready to revenge. There will be a bloodbath after the expiry of the Interim Government’s order. We have faith in our Interim Government and we will do all what it takes to ensure that the laws of the land are respected. If the Yaounde government thinks this is a joke, then it has not yet understood that it has a huge crisis on its hands. We are prepared to die. We have been enslaved for decades and now is the time to liberate our land. We have never thought that independence will come easy. We know it is never delivered on a platter of gold. We are aware of what happened to Eritrea, South Sudan and even in faraway Timor Leste. We are well read. We are also university graduates, but the government’s decision to declare a war on us will turn out to be its greatest undoing. If the world is still on the sidelines, then it really wants to play spectator to a Rwanda-style genocide at the end of the month. We will be staging a massive show that will shock everybody. We never asked for this war. It was imposed on us and we will do all in our power to end the oppression that has been ours for decades.”
While senior government officials are still trying to put on a brave face, many in the corridors of power are already very concerned. Southern Cameroonians have put up a good show beyond everybody’s wildest imagination and their determination is being admired by many French-speaking Cameroonians. But their recent move to chase French-speaking Cameroonians out of their land spells a huge disaster for the government.
For months, the government has been adamant to calls for an inclusive dialogue. 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 voices 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.
But he has remained tone deaf to these calls and his refusal is costing many lives. He too is putting a brave face, but American pressure seems to be paying off. Behind the scenes, the pennies seem to be dropping. The government wants to talk, but it has not got an interlocutor. It had arrested and delegitimized federalists in 2017. In 2018, Southern Cameroonian leaders were kidnapped in Nigeria and brought to Yaounde where they are being held incommunicado. Those are the people the government should be talking to if it has developed the right mind that can bring peace to the country.
The situation is spiraling out of control. Mr. Biya is losing support even within his own party. The Southern Cameroons crisis is surely that issue that will blow up the ruling party. The dissenting voices are increasing and the pressure on Mr. Biya is mounting. Some ruling party members hold that if Mr. Biya steps down, there could be a possibility for a negotiated settlement. Many ruling party members do not like the country to be split, but the manner in which Mr. Biya and his cohorts have handled the Southern Cameroons crisis leaves many of his supporters with no other option but to ask him to leave power.
Cameroon, once the oasis of peace, has become part of the chaos that has been the hallmark of its neighbors. The country 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 on 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 operate in a country where civil liberties are never respected.
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.
Speaking to our correspondent in Mamfe recently, 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.”
It is heartrending to know that things have declined to such levels where Cameroonians are today killing each other. This is the unfortunate legacy Mr. Biya is leaving for Cameroonians. Mr. Biya, once touted as the one person who could transform the country into a modern paradise, is today a nightmare that will not go away anytime soon. Cameroonians – Francophones and Anglophones – have always lived in peace, but the government’s corruption, nepotism and inefficiency have ruined the love and peace that once existed between these two linguistic groups.
From every indication, it will take a lot of time and talking for Cameroon to recover. Southern Cameroonians want to walk away from this union that Foncha and Muna said was made in Heaven. Today, it is clear that it was made in Hell and no Southern Cameroonian worthy of that name will ever trust such an agreement. It is flawed and it needs to be revisited. The Yaounde government has to understand that times have changed. The people will no longer bow to the president like angels do to God. The old days are gone and Southern Cameroonians are looking forward to the day they will live in their own country. They want to talk, but to talk about divorce issues. French-speaking Cameroonians can never be trusted. Their leaders are dictatorial. The people are docile. They have a huge capacity to bear pain. They have a culture of betraying people and it is hard to live with them. They have to bid Southern Cameroons farewell in the days ahead. The die is cast! They have to comply. Cameroon is not one and indivisible.
By Kingsley Betek
A Cameroon Concord News and Cameroon Intelligence Report Production