Why are so many French speaking Cameroonians opposed to Southern Cameroons gaining its independence?
Why are we asking this question now? Because Southern Cameroons declared itself to be the world’s newest country under the leadership of President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe some two decades after President Biya’s dissolution of the United Republic of Cameroon – and after a ghastly cavalcade of gruesome atrocities, forced expulsions and a genocide that has killed some 1000 with no international intervention – the people of Southern Cameroons have declared themselves independent and are now known as the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.
For 57 years Southern Cameroonians have lived as a French Cameroun protectorate while its citizens rely on remittance from the Diaspora. When talks broke down between the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium and the Biya Francophone Beti Ewondo regime, the Southern Cameroons Interim government unilaterally declared independence as the Federal Republic of Ambazonia. Now the creators of the world’s newest independent country were abducted by the Buhari administration in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and extradited to Yaounde. Before this dubious process the Ambazonian Interim Government had sent hundreds of letters to governments around the world seeking formal recognition of their independence.
What do the Francophones think?
They are very unhappy. They regard Southern Cameroons as the heart of their state since the early 60s, even though both territories have two different political settings and history. French Cameroun political elites have described Ambazonia as a “fake country”.
So who’s on what side?
The Nigerian regions harboring Southern Cameroonian refugees fleeing the conflict have in a way recognized Southern Cameroons as an independent state and the much anticipated departure of President Buhari in 2019 will make matters even clearer. So will most of the big African nations – Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Morocco – and the Ecowas countries are moving toward recognising Southern Cameroons, pronouncing developments in line with President Biya’s continued stay in power, the on-going genocide and the Southern Cameroons refugees crisis in Nigeria.
The CEMAC members – Gabon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Congo Brazzaville and the Central African Republic have said they will not. Other countries opposed to an independent Southern Cameroons include France and the Ivory Coast. European states are also divided. Germany and the UK are maintaining a kind of deliberate silence including Belguim and Italy. Other EU states, like Holland and Norway, want Southern Cameroon’s future be decided at the UN.
Where is the international community?
For almost two years, Southern Cameroons has been reduced into a slaughter house with government troops killing innocent citizens as if they were not human beings. In many parts of Southern Cameroons, many young men, many of whom are innocent and have nothing to do with the ugly fighting that is playing out over there, have been arrested and taking to unknown destinations. Many have been buried alive, while others have been used by the country’s trigger-happy soldiers as shooting targets.
A recent video that has gone viral online speaks to the accusation that the Yaounde government is committing gross human rights violations in the country’s English-speaking regions. The video, which has shocked many across the globe, is being documented as evidence of human rights abuse by many rights groups which have been seeking to draw the world’s attention to the genocide that is unfolding in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.
A crisis that started as protests by lawyers, teachers and students in Buea and Bamenda was allowed to spiral out of control due to the government’s firm belief in tough and violent means to address issues. The government’s decision to slaughter hundreds of Southern Cameroonians on October 1, 2017, has turned out to be a very bad mistake. Many Southern Cameroonians who have been victims of the government’s marginalization program simply wanted to express their grievances and frustration. But wont to violence and dictatorial ways of doing things, the government resorted to its legendary violence which has transformed an entire region into a huge killing field.
After October 1, 2017, a date many Southern Cameroonians consider as their independence day, the country has been pushed into a spiral of violence. Southern Cameroonians hold that it behooves them to protect themselves as their protector- the government – has decided to mow them down. Many Southern Cameroonians have unfortunately been sent to an early grave and this is what is making any dialogue or reconciliation impossible.
Today, there are many armed groups in the two English-speaking regions of the country. Over the last four months, many innocent civilians have met their death as the government pursues its policy of collective punishment. Many civilians have seen their homes burnt down by government forces which have opted for a “scotch-earth” policy that is hurting many vulnerable people who have nothing to do with the conflict.
What are the arguments?
The European Union, the African Union and the Commonwealth of Nations believe that genuine dialogue by the French Cameroun political leadership is essential for Cameroon to become stable. In reality, a negotiated solution will not be possible if Mr. Paul Biya stays on as Head of State.
The French for their own selfish interest have blocked every Southern Cameroons action deep within the African Union and the United Nations and have countered with high-minded arguments about the inviolability of national sovereignty. The French diplomatic missions in both Nigeria and Cameroon have been quoted as saying that France will not recognize Southern Cameroons because this does not respect international law.
But it is perhaps significant that those countries including Spain, France and Nigeria opposing recognition of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia mostly have problems with their own separatist or secessionist movements. Lawmakers on the tiny French overseas territory of New Caledonia voted recently to hold an independence referendum on November 4 to break from France. Spain is presently in chaos over the crisis in Catalonia and mighty Nigeria is bracing with the Biafra uprising.
There is fear that after South Sudan, Southern Cameroons independence could create an unmanageable precedent in the conduct of international relations and the established global order of sovereign states. But Southern Cameroons is however a unique African situation which deserves a unique response from both the United Nations and the European Union.
What is likely to happen?
There will of course be political upheavals in Nigeria in 2019 and the PDP dominated states and governors will openly support the Ambazonia Interim Government and by extrapolation back Southern Cameroons’s independence. But France and the Fulanis in the APC Buhari administration will not. The CEMAC countries will block all Southern Cameroons moves in the African Union. Chad’s chief diplomat heading the African Union will use all diplomatic means at his disposal to block Southern Cameroon’s recognition – and will probably block Southern Cameroon’s access to the UN and the EU.
The real questions are less glamorous and more profound. Unemployment in Southern Cameroons has reached crisis level, corruption and organized crime orchestrated by the ruling CPDM crime syndicate is bad, and more than 40,000 have fled to Nigeria. The troubles are far from over yet.
Is independence for Southern Cameroons a good thing?
* 99 per cent of its people are Anglo-Saxon and democratic in nature and should be allowed to determine their own fate
* French Cameroun has effectively lost Southern Cameroons through its own actions in the atrocities and massive killings going on now for two years
* Southern Cameroons independence is the logical working out of the collapse of a failed French policy in Africa
* Southern Cameroons has formed the heart of the state of French Cameroun since independence in 1961
* It sets a dangerous precedent for other parts of Africa such as the Congo and Uganda where rebels want to break away
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai
Cameroon Concord News Group