Since October 2016, the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon have been engulfed in a socio-political reawakening, with pro independence fighters and their leaders now asking for a breakaway state called Ambazonia.
Protests swept through the streets of both English-speaking regions on September 22, 2017 as President Paul Biya addressed the United Nations General Assembly. On October 1, 2017, the “independence” of Ambazonia from the Republic of Cameroon (La Republuque to Cameroun) was symbolically declared by some locals of the North West and South West Regions now seen as separatists.
Two years down the line, President Paul Biya has convened a Major National Dialogue to resolve the Anglophone crisis, as it has now come to be known. The dialogue will run from September 30 to October 4, 2019.
That the said dialogue had to coincide with October 1 and the UN General Assembly may well justify the fears many now have towards the sincerity of the process. Is the Major National Dialogue only a smokescreen? Is it intended to turn attention from the crisis? Is it a ploy to frustrate Ambazonia’s ‘second independence’ anniversary?
A mere quest for the respect of the tenets of Common Law in courts in the North West and South West regions and the preservation of the Anglo-Saxon educational system in a constitutionally bilingual and bi-cultural country was allowed to escalate into a bloody crisis in which thousands have died, hundreds of thousands internally displaced, with others as refugees in neighbouring Nigeria.
Did Biya have to wait for entire villages to be reduced to dust before seeking a peaceful solution? It is common knowledge that the protests started peacefully but turned violent when the state met them with force.
Biya would later extend and olive branch to the fighters, promising to give greater autonomy to the people through decentralisation. But his iron fist could not let this olive branch get to those concerned. In the same breath, he promised to crush all voices of dissent.
Hear him: “All those who have taken up arms, who perpetrate or encourage violence should be fought relentlessly and held accountable for their crimes,” before congratulating the security forces for their “bravery, determination, restraint and professionalism.”
At independence on February 11, 1961, the UN held a referendum giving Southern Cameroons the choice of joining either Nigeria or francophone Cameroon. With no option to become an independent state, they chose their francophone neighbours and together became a federal republic on October 1, 1961. But the Anglophones soon found it was not a “marriage” of equals.
Talk of an independent Ambazonia has been around since the 1980s but has gained traction in the past few months and with the many blunders of the Biya administration, many are those who may never give up the fight for their own nation. Not even a return to the 1961 status-quo makes sense anymore.
Today, a Major National Dialogue is being seen as a way to end the crisis and leave the core problems unresolved. But many diehard supporters of the regime are of the opinion that if Biya’s overture is genuine, it will have little chance of headway so long as breakaway leaders remain behind bars or in exile.
If all those in detention are freed and safety guarantees given to activists in the diaspora, then a mediated dialogue between all warring parties may save Cameroon the trouble of burying more souls in a senseless war.
But with October 1 set as the date Ambazonia symbolically declared her independence, it is not known if Cameroonian politicians will join Ambazonia commemorate the day like on October 1, 2017 when the speaker of the assembly led his peers to the reunification monument.
Gunshots have not ceased in the restive regions, with cases mo human right violations still committed by the soldiers sent to “protect” the people. The recent arrest of firebrand Muslim Scholar and critical voice of the regime, Abdul Karim Ali, has further proven the regime’s intolerance against free speech and lack of will to engage a meaningful dialogue. Would any separatist take part in the dialogue, without being arrested? Observers say no!
“This dialogue risks not only being a farce, it is looking more and more like it will do harm. Delegations from English-speaking regions, led by French-speaking governors who are representing the Anglophone population in French! Do we even remember what the Crisis is about?” Kah Walla, president of the Cameroon People’s Party, CPP, writes on Twitter.
Mimi Mefo Info Editorial