The United Nations, the EU and the African Union have demonstrated a kind of “fake restraint” in responding to the atrocities being committed by Cameroon army soldiers in Southern Cameroons. Even the US Congress reportedly told the Interim Government of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia that the Southern Cameroons exiled government could only get a Congressional Subcommittee on African Affairs hearing. But the Ambazonia Self-Defense Council Restoration Forces have been so efficient even without international support to a point where President Biya’s men are now predicting disaster if the 85 year old fails to dialogue with Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and the Interim Government.
There are strong suggestions that the French and the American governments are struggling to extricate the Francophone dominated military from a war that never should have happened. However, the end product now being sought for by the French which is the so-called “one and indivisible” Cameroon simply isn’t in the cards.
If keeping a nation together were just about the army and the Rapid Intervention Battalion, BIR then Biya’s approach of declaring a war against Southern Cameroonians may have worked. But there’s a lot more to governance than appointing your kinsmen to key positions in government and in the command structure of the military and the Secret Service. For many Southern Cameroonians, French Cameroun political elites are extremely lacking in political and management finesse and those factors that could have kept Anglophones and Francophones together remain as unattainable today as they were under the late President Ahmadou Ahidjo. The simple truth is that this war has revealed a lot of Francophone bad faith and contempt for Southern Cameroonians. Consequently, Cameroon can never be a one and indivisible nation again and thus any international maneuvers to shore up Biya’s faltering regime are likely to fail. Here are some of the reasons why the concept of a one and indivisible Cameroon is not feasible.
Southern Cameroonians and the people of French Cameroun have never had a shared sense of nationhood. The country was fashioned for Southern Cameroons to serve as a colony of French Cameroon and the pattern of administration by the French Cameroun political elites have never corresponded with the loyalties of the English speaking community. The territory was split and renamed South West with a native Bantu and Semi Bantu population and the North West harboring the Tikars. The so-called South Westerners were teleguided to think that they share a lot in common with the French speaking tribes in the Littoral region of French Cameroun while the North Westerners were pushed towards the Bamilekes who occupy present day West region in French Cameroun. Both the Ahidjo and Biya regimes instituted anarchy plus fanaticism with little or no nationalism.
French Cameroun’s history of oppression. Given the United Republic of Cameroon’s lack of an organic identity, Francophone political leaders have frequently resorted to force to hold the country together. Ahmadou Ahidjo, a Muslim leader with the support of the French government brutally repressed a UPC uprising immediately after the UN Secretary General Dag Hamarskjold declared French Cameroun independent using indiscriminate means that killed thousands of Bassa and Bamileke natives and Biya has now raised the level of French Cameroun violence used in suppressing uprisings to genocidal intensity. If the two Cameroons are to remain together, then the international community will spend years after Biya on quelling sectarian violence as the enmity between Southern Cameroonians and French Cameroonians is deep-rooted and probably beyond remedy.
Many actors are getting involved. To the east, the Central African Republic is run by a group of political elites trained in Yaoundé and supported by the Beti-Ewondo Fang and Bulu security apparatus with international cover from France. This group has repeatedly resorted to terrorism and subversion as a way of getting hold of the diamond and gold reserves in that country. It is vital to point out that the UN presence in Bangui is all French whitewash. Those participating in the diamond trade in Central Africa have created a safe haven in the East region of Cameroon for armed militants known as Anti Balaka. The nation is also bordered by Nigeria to the west with a decisive presidential elections coming up in 2019, Chad to the northeast with growing opposition to President Idris Deby’s rule and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo to the south all having disturbing political issues to address. Furthermore, Cameroon’s coastline lies on the Bight of Biafra, part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. So with many Southern Cameroonians now carrying guns, the one and indivisible Cameroon is likely to remain a sectarian war zone. Biya is corrupt, incompetent and a bit paranoid when it comes to Southern Cameroons matters and he’s the crux of what’s wrong in Cameroon.
Christianity is no more an all-embracing force in Cameroon. Southern Cameroonians no longer trust French Cameroun Roman Catholic Bishops. The Cameroon Episcopal dog under the stewardship of Archbishop Samuel Kleda of the Douala Arch Diocese has refused to bark ever since the killings started in Southern Cameroons. Southern Cameroon’s once thriving Christian community has long since fled to Nigeria and some to the bushes. The ruling CPDM crime syndicate has successfully infiltrated the Roman Catholic and the Presbyterian Churches and it is hard to say whether key values such as the separation of church and state exist again in Cameroon.
Anglophones are two cubes of sugar. One aspect of inequality that typically gets excluded from conventional assessments of Cameroon’s political culture is the inferior status of Anglophone political and administrative leaders. If you have followed recent developments in French Cameroun, you may have noticed that the Francophone governors and Senior Divisional Officers do not respect Southern Cameroons traditional and religious leaders. While Francophones barons of the regime such Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali, Justice Minister Laurent Esso, Bello Bouba Maigari, Issa Tchiroma Bakary and Fame Ndongo are always kept in government and in strategic positions of command, Southern Cameroonian political elites such as Achidi Achu, Dorothy Njeuma, Itoe Benjamin are regularly being dismissed from government for lame and ridiculous reasons and are most of the time appointed to head departments that are not of Francophone interest. Most French Cameroun political elites including Biya see the need for their kids to study in English schools and universities, but accepting that English should be equal to French is another matter as this will not go well with the French government. Since both sides in Cameroon claims to adhere to different precepts, equality will be hard to sell and at the moment history seems to be pedaling furiously in the opposite direction. Getting rid of Biya won’t change the basic character of French Cameroon political elites, and therefore won’t materially improve the prospects for maintaining a one and indivisible Cameroon. The only way the French and French Cameroonians can fashion a government in Cameroon that even vaguely resembles a government of national unity is to have a Southern Cameroonian as head of state.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai