Panic has gripped Southern Cameroonians across the globe following a France24 brief report that the Ambazonian President, Julius Ayuk Tabe, and his cabinet had been flown to Cameroon in the early hours of Friday, January 26, 2018. The report adds that they were being held in a maximum-security facility in the nation’s capital, Yaounde. The report, however, does not provide any details that could have made the story credible.
There were no pictures, the name of the maximum-security facility was not provided, there were no analyses and no interviews have since been conductedto make the report credible. Besides, France24 has a correspondent on the ground in Yaounde and not even this correspondent has been interviewed after this announcement for some flesh to be added to the bare bones.
Furthermore, prior to the France24 report, another journalist, a Beti Fang obscure journalist, Armand Ougock, who is a KOACI correspondent in Yaounde had also announced on Thursday that Mr. Ayuk Tabe and his team had arrived in Yaounde on Wednesday, January 25, 2018 at 9:30 pm Yaounde time. In his message, which the Cameroon Concord News Group has, he said that “ the flight transporting Mr. Ayuk Tabe and his team touched down in Yaounde at about 9:30 pm.” Mr. Ougock’s information did not have any further details and but was high on speculations. He quoted security sources in Douala where the plane had transited and later contradicted himself by pointing out that not even the Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma, had spoken about the incident.
He did not provide any sources which could be contacted or reached for further information and has reduced his report to mere speculation or a figment of his imagination. Like the France24 report, it was brief without the usual journalistic details that could have made it reliable. France24 could have simply fallen for cheap news and its reputation has been hurt. Such false reports are not rare in today’s world. Last week, it was reported that Pele, the iconic footballer, who brought immense glory to his native Brazil, had been rushed to a hospital following a heart and prostrate problem. The BBC had to debunk the information, advising that the 77-year-old football star was in his home resting.
How many times has the world been misinformed that former president Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe had died when he was in office? Even last week, the Web was awash with the false news that the Zimbabwean-style military takeover was playing out in Kinshasa where the Congolese strong-man had been blocked in his home. This turned out to be false. How many of us still remember the false French government that Adele MballaMballa of CRTV released when President Macron was still trying to put together a government during a newscast that earned her a long suspension? The web is a good place to obtain information, but the old journalism rule of verification and validation of news and its sources still stands despite the use of technologies of freedom which can deliver news to millions of readers in a split second.
Cameroon Concord News Group had analyzed Mr. Ougock’s piece on January 25 and had dismissedit as it did stand any serious journalistic scrutiny. While he talked about the plane landing in Douala and later heading to Yaounde at 9:30 pm, France24’s report talks of the early hours of Friday and did not also provide any details any fine journalistic piece should have. This looks like a contradiction as the same plane cannot land twice in Yaounde with the same group of people at two different times.
Furthermore, no other important network like the BBC, CNN and Aljazeera has reported the transfer of Anglophone leaders to Yaounde. Similarly, no Nigerian news papers or web sites have reported any such stories and France24 has not returned to the story to provide more details. Such a transfer will surely be the subject of multiple analyses by France24 specialists and other experts who would have helped to develop the one liner released by the French network.
Moreover, Ayuk Tabe and his team are considered high- profile suspects whose presence in Yaounde would have been the subject of gossiping and boastfulness. How possible is for such high-profile figures to be transferred and nobody will be aware both in Nigeria and Cameroon? It is usually a huge network of people involved in such undercover business and someone will surely leak that information to the press. Knowing how Cameroonian authorities are longing for news that will boost their egos and morale after their soldiers have been made to bite the dust in many Anglophone cities, such success will be celebrated to demonstrate that the head of state is an astute leader who is capable of the impossible. That is not yet seen in Yaounde and nobody is talking about that.
Similarly, when such higher profile suspects are brought to Yaounde, they are immediately taken to SED or CENER for questioning. In the process someone will at least notice their presence and will at least advise others. Today’s world is different. Secrets hardly exist. It will be preposterous to think that Nigeria will be extraditing American and Nigerian citizens to another country whose courts are known in the world to be Kangaroo courts. Besides, some of those arrested are refugees recognized by the United Nations and are protected by the Geneva Convention.
The Cameroon Concord News Group has been conducting its own investigation and has been speaking with some informed sources such as Barrister Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla who has called for calm. He indicated that everything was pure speculation and that more light would be shed on the matter on Monday. He agreed that such an operation could not have taken place without anybody being aware. He added that he would continue calling his contacts to get more information on the matter.
Our West Africa Bureau chief in Abuja, Kingsley Betek, for his part, has since been working the phones to gather more information on the issue and has spoken with a Nigerian secret service officer who said he was not aware of such a transfer. He assured that if such a move would take place he would provide details to our Abuja-based correspondent. The officer, who elected anonymity, stressed that the issue of extradition was being complicated because there were Nigerian and American citizens involved, a point underscored by Mr. Milan Atam in a video message to fellow Ambazonians.
Mr. Atam castigated those peddling such false information, adding that such people were attention seekers whose cardinal objective is to derail the people’s focus and sow confusion. He branded them as “boys trying to play the role of men” adding that the issue was a diplomatic matter and diplomacy is usually conducted behind the scenes.
He reassured Ambazonians that everything was under control, adding that the Interim Government was permanently in touch with its high contacts in Nigeria. He underscored that such rumor was the handiwork of people seeking online popularity and relevance. He urged his fellow country men to shun such news peddlers to ensure they did not “sow confusion among us.”
This new story simply depicts how the Yaounde government is desperate for success and it is using all the wrong strategies to achieve this goal. The Southern Cameroons crisis cannot be addressed by arresting a few leaders. The revolution is an idea and holding that eliminating a few leaders will solve the problem is tantamount to self-delusion. Dialogue remains the main tool. Using it will spare many lives. The government must understand that it must meet Southern Cameroonian leaders halfway. Cameroon will never be the same no matter what and the fact that many army soldiers are defecting and deserting the army should advise the government that many young men are not willing to die for a government is being led by old men who have had their fair share of life.It is indeed too soon to be despondent. The extradition battle is long and it will take many months for a diplomatic and political solution to be reached.
By the editorial team with contributions from Kingsley Betek in Abuja, Nigeria.