Ever since news broke out that a meeting had taken place between the Yaoundé government and Ambazonian leaders, some members of the Southern Cameroonian community have been questioning why people who are in chains should be the ones to negotiate for those who are free. This situation is not without a precedent. Mandela did it for South Africa and this rainbow nation is eternally grateful to a man who placed his country’s interest above his personal interest.
This question is indeed out of place given that for more than three years, many Southern Cameroonians, especially those in the Diaspora, have been arguing that if the Yaoundé government had to negotiate, it must do so with their leaders who are in jail in Yaoundé.
The Yaoundé government has been falsely arguing that there is nobody to talk with as there are many factions fighting a regime that has functioned for decades on divide and rule. Due to enormous international pressure, the government now believes that the time has come for talks with the people it tagged as terrorists, and it is honoring the wishes of most of the Southern Cameroonian population which has put its trust in the Nera 10 led by the President, Julius Ayuk Tabe.
Nine of the Nera 10 participated in the informal talks which President Julius Ayuk Tabe promptly reported through a tweet to clearly demonstrate the transparency and honesty of his team. The team was invited and it honored the invitation, especially as the international community was involved. Through their leader, the Ambazonian leaders raised four points and this was to ensure that Southern Cameroonians got ready for the talks and that other factions got involved.
The demands of the leaders include calling for a ceasefire which will require the military to go back to the barracks. This action will make it possible for Southern Cameroonians who have been traumatized for years to be psychologically liberated to go about their businesses without fear of sudden aggression.
The leaders also called for the unconditional release of all those who have been detained and imprisoned as a result of the crisis as well as a declaration of general amnesty for all Southern Cameroonians in the Diaspora, making it possible for them to visit their homeland without any embarrassment from the Yaoundé authorities.
The leaders also called on the Yaoundé government to participate in a genuine, open and inclusive dialogue without preconditions, with a timetable and venue, in the presence of an independent and impartial mediator acceptable to both parties.
It should be recalled that the meeting was a response to a call by the United Nations Secretary General for a ceasefire and these measures are designed to build confidence with a view to creating an environment for a successful and sustainable peaceful negotiation.
Despite the transparency, this news has rattled and ruffled a few feathers and there has been a lot of writing and talking over the last two days, with many Southern Cameroonians insisting that the fighting must continue even when the fighters are demonstrating some signs of fatigue and the resources are dwindling, as many Southern Cameroonians are not putting their money where their mouths are.
Some Southern Cameroonians, especially those living abroad, think that the Yaoundé government could be defeated in the battlefield. Many are not aware of the reality on the ground. The local population is suffering, and the military is exploiting the people. The Southern Cameroonian leadership is aware of the people’s pain and it thinks talks and negotiations could also deliver the same results. The fact remains that no war has ever been ended in a battlefield. Supporters of Southern Cameroonian independence must understand that most wars end with talks and negotiations.
The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had directly led to the war. For the Second World War, it ended with two major conferences. The Yalta and Potsdam Conferences which served as a framework for the definition of the relationship between Europe and Germany once Hitler was out of the picture.
It therefore goes without saying that the Southern Cameroons crisis cannot be ended without talks, and the talks will not require everybody but those who have clearly demonstrated that they have the charisma and the people’s confidence. In this case, President Julius Ayuk Tabe and his team will be articulating the Southern Cameroonian dream and they will be paving the way for others to join the talks whenever a neutral place will be agreed upon.
At this time, not everybody who is involved in the crisis can travel to Cameroon and President Ayuk Tabe and his team are fully aware of this constraint and that is why they are calling for the negotiations to take place in a neutral place to ensure that more Southern Cameroonians participate and share their views without fear. Like Mandela, Julius Ayuk Tabe is paving the way for talks and negotiations that will surely define the fate of Southern Cameroons. This is the time to demonstrate unity. No Southern Cameroonian should be driven by greed and envy. Southern Cameroons needs that unity of purpose and those who seek to split the people of Southern Cameroons will end up on the wrong side of history. The world is watching!
By Dr. Joachim Arrey