Southern Cameroons War: Why Biya is losing
Two years ago, when Anglophone lawyers and teachers called for a protest against the Biya Francophone Beti Ewondo regime, there were few signs that they would have an impact. More than two years later after the protests transformed into a war, one that is yet to draw in the international community, it seemed a matter of when, not if, Biya would go the way of his fellow strongmen in former Zaire and Gambia. Biya appears now closer to leaving office than he was in the 1990s.
To be sure, Biya has kept his position, at great cost to his so-called one and indivisible Cameroon. But it would be wrong to say he is in control. It’s true that he, with the support of France and the CEMAC nations, has held on to power even after the English speaking regions declared independence from La Republique du Cameroun. Most of the Southern Cameroons population that has escaped the Ambazonian war now lives in areas controlled by the Biya regime and the Southern Cameroons Interim Government. But Cameroon as a one and indivisible nation has effectively collapsed.
Before Biya took over from the late President Ahidjo, the country was by international standard solidly middle income. It is estimated that it will take another five decades after the war in Southern Cameroons ends, whenever that happens, for French Cameroun to regain its Ahidjo economic status. The price tag to rebuild Southern Cameroons alone is already being estimated at billions of US dollars or more if the fighting endures—money that neither the 85 year old Biya, nor his patrons in Paris or the European Union, have to spare.
Then there is the human cost: More than 1,200 Southern Cameroonians have been killed, 161, 000 internally displaced, over 50,000 seeking refuge in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and entire towns and villages flattened. There are few signs the fighting is close to stopping. Troops loyal to the Biya Francophone Beti Ewondo regime continue to kill innocent Southern Cameroonians in counties held by the Ambazonian Restoration Forces. The Southern Cameroons death toll since the most recent assault on Menka Pinyin, Kwa Kwa and Bekora began last month exceeds 1,200. With the international community doing nothing to stop Biya, it is all but certain the war will sooner or later transform into a full scale civil war. The fact that the capital city Yaoundé is in Biya’s Beti Ewondo constituency continues to give him the feeling that he is defeating the resistance.
It’s very difficult for both French and English speaking Cameroonians who have watched this Southern Cameroons war from the beginning of the revolution. It’s unclear—and highly unlikely—that Biya can survive in power without French and CEMAC countries support. Biya says he wants to regain control of all of Southern Cameroons, but may have to settle for only a bit more than he has now. The Ambazonian Restoration forces are unlikely to give up the counties they’ve gained in the Southern and Northern zones. Some pro Biya gangs sponsored by the Cameroon government to counter the Southern Cameroons revolution are now turning their guns on each other. We of the Cameroon Concord News Group can now reveal that at least three more potential conflicts are playing out on Southern Cameroons territory, that which pits Mayor Patrick Ekema-Atanga Nji militia against the Amba Boys, Cameroon government troops against the Ambazonian Restoration Forces, and the Francophones and Anglophones within the armee Camerounaise.
The Republic of Cameroon was once the power broker in Central African Republic and a major force in the CEMAC region but is now dependent on the largesse of its few allies such as Chad and Gabon. Biya’s military forces are depleted. The most effective pro-Biya fighting forces are Fulani soldiers recruited from the Far North region by Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali. With Buhari’s departure imminent in Nigeria, international players will get involved in the Southern Cameroons war—and it will prolong the fighting and make the outcome far more difficult to obtain.
Frankly speaking, CEMAC countries are already preparing for life without Biya in Yaoundé—no matter how distasteful that may sound to them. As for the population that’s left in Southern Cameroons, 80 percent of Ambazonia lived in poverty and life expectancy has fallen. The Chinese including International funders are reluctant to give Biya their money for fear it will benefit a regime accused of war crimes.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai