For four long years, the Yaoundé government should have understood that violence only begets violence, but the authorities of this collapsing country seem to be on a diet of power and nothing, except a robust intervention of the international community can instil some sanity in the minds of those who rule Cameroon.
Violence seems to be the cornerstone of the government’s territorial administration strategy to the extent where the soldiers sent to the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon think that they have been given carte blanche to kill any and everybody.
These soldiers should have been properly trained to make the population their ally in their effort to end the insurgency that is really tearing the country apart.
The injustices that have triggered the discontent among the country’s English-speaking minority have been left unaddressed despite the loss of life, but new despicable situations are being generated everyday by the soldiers who think it is their divine right to treat the local population in the North West and South west regions as animals.
The Southern Cameroonian insurgency is a challenging and massive problem that requires a huge tool box, but the morally and ideologically bankrupt Yaoundé government has demonstrated that the only tool in its small tool box is brutality; a tool that has only made matters worse.
This government has no regard for human life and the manner with which army soldiers treat suspects in Southern Cameroons clearly underscores that winning hearts and minds is not a key thrust of the government’s conflict resolution strategy, that is, if it has a strategy.
The obvious abuse in a recent video wherein army soldiers are molesting an innocent civilian speaks to the government’s penchant for human rights violations. The fact that abusive government forces are never punished only encourages them to commit more atrocities.
What is more interesting is the happiness with which the soldiers themselves document their own atrocities. They are happy, relaxed and enthusiastic to commit murder with impunity.
Such images do not make room for reconciliation as both camps will be retaliating and even seeking to outdo each other.
However, while the ragtag military groups fighting for the total liberation of Southern Cameroons can be forgiven because of their ignorance and irresponsibility, government troops which engage in such gross human rights violations fail to understand that they belong to a state military which has responsibilities under the Geneva Convention.
The government which sends its troops to Southern Cameroons has a huge responsibility to ensure that Southern Cameroonian fighters who are caught are treated based on the requirements of the Geneva Convention.
The world is not without rules. There could be some chaos especially that caused by Donald Trump’s Administration as former president Donald Trump sought to withdraw the United States from many international organizations, but the Biden Administration has clearly stated that it will be filling its leadership role and human rights will be given pride of place on its agenda.
While the Yaoundé government might be protecting those who have committed atrocities in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon, Southern Cameroonians must make it their duty to expose those human rights violations.
Southern Cameroonians living in exile in any part of the world must sink their differences if they really want to achieve something. They must alert the authorities of their host countries to the government- orchestrated massacre that is playing out in Southern Cameroons.
Instead of fighting each other, the various Southern Cameroonian groups must understand that unity is strength and that if they fail to make common cause, those on the ground will continue to pay a huge price.
The internecine conflicts within the various groups and the internal disagreements between the different factions have clearly robbed the insurgency of its vitality and this is giving the Yaoundé government the possibility of thinking that it can obtain a clear military victory in Southern Cameroons.
Today, there are many Southern Cameroonian groups abroad and most of these groups do not even collaborate to ensure that the Yaoundé government is given a good run for its money.
Each group now lays claim to legitimacy and recognition by the people of Southern Cameroons, but the truth is totally different.
No group is legitimate. No group is without its supporters. No group will represent the entire Southern Cameroons in the event of any negotiations. No group will fight alone to achieve the total liberation of Southern Cameroons and no group has the resources to prosecute this war.
The truth is that, as Southern Cameroonians continue to fight each other, they are unknowingly letting the Yaoundé government off the hook.
If the government has to feel any pressure, the different factions must bury their pride and ego to reach out to the other groups so that a new and formidable force, capable of becoming a nightmare to the government, can be created.
This struggle is far from over and if Southern Cameroonian groups do not make common cause, the Yaoundé government will continue to have an upper hand and its soldiers will continue to treat innocent civilians better than cattle.
All hopes are, however, not lost. Despite the numerous factions which have helped to weaken the unity of purpose that held Southern Cameroonians together, one fact remains.
Julius Ayuk Tabe is the poster boy of this struggle and many Southern Cameroonians still long for the days when he was a clear symbol of unity and determination.
Southern Cameroonians must come together. They have a common interest. The enemy is still strong and he is doing all he can to roll back the gains the insurgency has made over the last four years.
The disunity among Southern Cameroonians that is killing the insurgency needs to be brought to an end if the enemy must be brought to the negotiating table.
The violence which has become the government’s hallmark needs to be made known around the world and this must be done through concerted efforts. Going it alone will not deter the government from killing and maiming innocent individuals and children.
If the burning of a baby by government forces and the beating of an innocent man by BIR officials for no crime committed and the numerous atrocities that have shocked the world cannot speak to the leaders of the various factions, what then will speak to them for them to understand that making common cause is central to making the Yaoundé government to come to the negotiating table?
Time is of the essence. The government has ratcheted up its violence and brutality against the people of Southern Cameroons and this will not end if all the leaders of these factions do not come together to act as a single group.
The IG must immediately undertake diplomatic initiatives that will enable the world brand the Yaoundé government as a massive and merciless abuser.
The world has been caught in multiple crises and for it to pay attention to what is happening in Southern Cameroons, the various factions involved in this struggle must start working together. There is power in numbers and the world needs to know that Southern Cameroons has the right men and women who are capable of making a difference.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai
Cameroon Concord News Group