Two years after declaring unilateral independence, Africa’s newest country, Ambazonia, is in a deadly spiral of ever increasing violence . After decades of marginalization the two English speaking provinces of Southern Cameroons declared independence. Ambazonian self-defense units have fought a running battle with government forces over control of villages and strategic roads. The government of President Paul Biya, Africa’s longest serving ruler, has ordered mass arrests and a military campaign against what he terms terrorists. The result for civilians has been catastrophic, over ten thousand casualties, hostages taken, schools closed, and displacement of tens of thousands fleeing battles, brigands and marauding government forces. Indiscriminate violence has claimed thousands of innocent lives including an American missionary and Ghanaian priest. Villages have been burned, civilians butchered, limbs hacked off with summary arrests and executions carried out with impunity.
The international response to date has been nonexistent because of the Biya regime’s long-standing trade and diplomatic relations with France, Canada, the USA, and UK and as a partner in the war against Boko Haram. Respected NGOs like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and International Crisis Group however have been quick to identify the human rights abuses, many of which are recorded on cell phone video. Nonetheless, the UN, African Union, ECOWAS, the Commonwealth and other international organizations have failed to step in while the casualties and atrocities mount.
Fearing another Liberia or Sierra Leone type conflict, in which murder, torture, and war crimes became endemic; several Ambazonian groups have come together now to declare the formation of a War Crimes Tribunal – The Southern Cameroons Special Tribunal Coordination Committee (SCSTCC). The initial backers include the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), the Southern Cameroons Defense Force (SOCADEF), the African Peoples Liberation Movement (APLM), the Organization of Emerging African States (OEAS) and the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium. Other groups are expected to join soon.
Dr. Jonathan Levy, an international lawyer specializing in human rights was appointed Chief Coordinator of the tribunal. According to Dr. Levy, the special tribunal’s immediate mission is to use existing courts and procedures to investigate and prosecute war crimes: “Right now we have solid proofs of numerous crimes against civilians committed by government forces. There are also reports of brigands and bandits. However, the overwhelming evidence shows a policy and pattern of brutality against civilians by government forces engaged in the so called anti-terrorist campaign. The command structure is such that these atrocities could not be committed on such a large and ongoing scale without the knowledge and consent of president Paul Biya, the Minister of Defense and their field commanders.”
The next step according to Dr. Levy is to assemble a team of experts through the good offices of the International Criminal Bar and other organizations and to immediately begin both civil and criminal prosecution against Paul Biya and his military commanders in worldwide courts. “We hope someday to have our own UN backed war crimes tribunal and chambers, but we cannot wait years while people are dying, we will act now using all legal means available to us.” Said Levy, who added, “Right now we need lawyers who are willing to take these cases to court in London, Washington, Barcelona, Banjul, and any other venue in which a civil or criminal case can be lodged against Paul Biya and his commanders.”
Dr. Jonathan Levy