Cameroon’s “Special Status” Offer Prolongs Ongoing War

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Cameroon special forces near the town of Buea last year. The country is trying to put down a rebellion in English-speaking areas.Credit...Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times

By Paul J. Lysinge, AmbaNews24, Buea

In a continuous play of its historical arrogance and delusions, the Cameroon government has thrown a “Special Status” to what it calls its “Southwest and Northwest Regions” in the hope that this will end the ongoing Ambazonia War of Independence that has engulfed the territory since 2017. The truth is: the war will intensify! And this is why.

Cameroon Government Cannot Impose a “Special Status” before Negotiations with Liberation Fighters

The Paul Biya’s government is perpetually oblivious of standard procedures in conflict resolutions, abrogating to itself the right to impose solutions that it crafts using its regime bigots and a class of selected men and women who have lost a sense of truth and are being controlled by the drive for money from the Yaoundé regime – some of them are running around in cassocks and roman collars.

Let us be clear here – once there is an ongoing armed conflict, there are only three ways the conflict can end. Either the belligerent parties grow tired of fighting and both parties give up, or one party defeats the other in the war field and declares victory, or both parties negotiate a peace agreement. The political ploy “special status” from the Cameroon government does not meet or satisfy any of these three situations.

The Biya’s regime did not arrive at its “special status” through negotiation with the fighting forces. It simply handpicked its political hand clappers and so called “moderates” whom it believes can help it maintain its “One and Indivisible Cameroon” agenda, and used them in its Grand National Dialogue and thereafter to create its special status offer. In so far as the very idea and content of the Special Status was not born out of negotiation and agreement with Ambazonian liberation leaders, it shall remain a talking point in the media while being rejected on the ground. It will fail, and the war will continue.

The USA government, the Belgians, and other foreign nations know it will fail. That is why they keep telling the Biya’s regime to negotiate with the “separatists”. They know that from their own conflict experiences, the Cameroon government cannot win a guerilla war, and the “special status” is a window dressing caricature that cannot pass for effective conflict resolution. Both parties must first negotiate a peace agreement wherein the terms and full content of the “special status” – if Ambazonian leaders can even agree to that as an interim measure – are agreed upon before the Yaoundé parliament can vote the negotiated provisions of the special status into law.

I should be quick to inform the Cameroon government that only a few days ago, Ukraine in an attempt to quell the separatist war ravaging that country offered a special status to separatist controlled regions in eastern Ukraine. That came about through international mediation negotiations in Paris between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany built on the already negotiated 2015 peace agreement.

This conflict is rooted in a botched decolonization process in which the Cameroon government under Ahmadou Ahidjo, and then under Biya, believed it could disregard international law, UN Resolutions, African Union Charter, all due and standard processes of union treaty negotiation, conflict resolution, and territorial administration. The same disregard for these procedures is the reason the ongoing war shall continue.

Cameroon has No Powers to Grant Ambazonia a Special Status

The Republic of Cameroon was a Class B Mandate Trust Territory of the United Nations under French rule; the Southern Cameroons (now “Ambazonia”) was also a Class B Mandate Trust Territory of the United Nations under British administration. The boundaries between both territories was established by the Anglo-French Treaty (the Milner-Simon Agreement) of 1916. Cameroonians east of the Mongo constitute a people under international law just as Ambazonians west of the Mongo constitute a separate people under international law. This was the ruling of the African Commission for Human and Peoples Rights in 2009.

How on earth is it imaginable, then, that the Cameroon government can think it can give the Ambazonian people a “special status”? Does it not have the commonsense to see and know that Ambazonians already have an inherent special status? For heaven sake, they are “a people” – that is their status – and as such they have all rights ascribed to a people under international law. That right includes the “inalienable right to total freedom, the exercise of their sovereignty and the integrity of their national territory” as stipulated in UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December, 1960.

The Cameroon government lives in a bubble of self-denial and self-deceit. It has deceived itself for years that the Ambazonian territory is its territory – although it has remained incapable of showing how it acquired claim to the territory under international law and procedures. It often says, “there was a plebiscite and the anglophones voted to join us.” However, it consistently fails to see that without negotiating and signing a union treaty as was required by UN Resolution 1608 (XV), Operative Paragraph 5, of 21st April 1961, and without that treaty being ratified by the Southern Cameroons House of Assembly and House of Chiefs as it were, Cameroon has no legal claim to the Ambazonia territory.

That is why when Ali Triki, the UN 64th General Assembly President visited Paul Biya in 2010 at the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cameroon, the gift he gave Biya from the United Nations was two separate maps – not one – of the Republic of Cameroon and of the state of Ambazonia. The diplomatic message that the UN envoy was sending to the Cameroon government was simple: these two territories have not been officially united under international law, principles and procedures; they are still separate territories.

Absent this legal authority under international law and procedures to govern Ambazonia, the Cameroon government occupies Ambazonia illegally in colonial and annexationist style. It cannot then deliberate and enact any status whatsoever, and enforce it in Ambazonia legally. The status shall be rejected, fought against and shall remain null and void.

The earlier Mr. Biya stops the arrogance that the government of French Cameroon, beginning from Ahmadou Ahidjo in 1961 has exercised over the Ambazonian people, the better for the Yaoundé government.

Participants in Biya’s “Special Status” Risk Being Killed

There is a continuous tendency to minimize the war of liberation that is going on in Ambazonia. Everyone must be very careful when arms are involved. Separatist fighters shall take all measures possible to eliminate anyone who dares to become a member of the Regional Executive Council, Regional House of Chiefs, Regional House of Representative or any other organ to be set up under the Biya’s Special Status. Such is simply the reality and nature of war!

Anyone whom one party believes is supporting the other side is killed. That is why Cameroon soldiers have been killing civilians they suspect to have any links with separatist fighters. Why then should anyone not expect Ambazonian fighters to kill anyone who openly declares and participates in the “special status” organs of the enemy of the Ambazonian people? The French military killed over 9,000 French citizens who were siding with Germany in the liberation of France from Germany’s invasion and rule. The price for traitors is death!

Members of the so-called House of Chiefs, House of Representatives, etc – including their families – or any organ that will be set up under this bill will be killed. This is not a command for them to be eliminated, but a fact of the war theater environment. To stay alive, they will have to go and live in Yaoundé for their safety. As such, they will never be able to act inside Ambazonia with separatist fighters controlling a majority of the territory.

Ambazonia Governing Council Declares “No Blinking”

The Ambazonia Governing Council, acting in line with the framework of the Ambazonia Restoration Collaborative Council (ARCC) has declared that the ongoing war will not stop until Cameroon respects the inalienable right of the Ambazonian people to total freedom, exercise of their sovereignty and respect for their territorial integrity as provided in the above quoted UN General Assembly Resolution 1514. This commitment not to give up on the inalienable right of the Ambazonian people cannot be taken lightly.

Its military wing, the Ambazonia Defense Forces is the most armed liberation force in the territory. It also has some of the most deadly trained fighters, including snippers who recently killed Cameroon gendarmes in Bamenda. From command under General Ivo to General Efang, they have fought the highest number of battles across the territory, from Bamenda to Kumbo, from Bafut to Batibo, from Buea to Kumba, from Teke to Matoh, from Ekok to Mamfe, from Jakiri to Akum, from Bechati in Lebialem to Tiko, etc – setting bobby traps, dismantling Cameroon security forces checkpoints, attacking army camps, blowing off military trucks, taking down Cameroon’s BIRs, gendarmes, etc. Its number of armed fighters is increasing every day, and has reached the critical 2,000 number that is generally considered the threshold of an equipped undefeatable guerilla force. It is also controlling significant areas across the country.

One Unit of the Ambazonia Defense Forces

Time is on the Side of Ambazonian Independence Fighters

The Ambazonia Defense Forces and all other fighting groups across the territory have a factor in their favor that the Cameroon government does not have. This element is time, and it is not subject to Biya’s “special status” political drama.

Guerilla fighters are never in a hurry. Oliver Leke, Aka Field Marshall may hide in the forest land of Essoh-Attah for a month without a single fight, but he eventually poops out and deals the enemy a blow. RK may be quiet for two months in the difficult terrains of Boyo, but the unit under him will eventually take out at least five Cameroon soldiers in a battle.

Guerilla forces do not intend to win the war next week, next month or even next year. In fact, outright victory in the war front is not their primary motive. They spend more time monitoring their enemy for a precision attack than actually shutting guns. Their goal is to progressively and slowly, harass, undermine, confuse, degrade, demoralize and ultimately destroy the enemy from within. Every day that passes and they are still alive is a day of victory for them. Their modus operandi is to live today to destroy the enemy another day. That is what is most important to them, not the ticking clock pressure under which the Cameroon government is under to ensure it has enough money to pay workers at the end of the month, to pay its sovereign debt on due day, to hold elections in accordance with its constitution, etc.

Therefore, irrespective of the “special status” bone of the Biya’s National Dialogue thrown at the separatist fighters today, they need not bother. They are not controlled by the political temperature in Yaoundé or on international media. They will come out when they want, act when they want, neutralize enemy targets when they want, and sabotage Cameroon’s economic infrastructure whenever they want. They dictate the pace of the war, not Cameroon!

Time is always on their side! That is why it took the Eritreans 26years, despite the hundreds of thousands of soldiers that Ethiopia committed into eliminating the Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF). And at the end, Eritrea became independent and sovereign. That is why it took the South Sudanese People Liberation Movement/Army over 21years in South Sudan; it took the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor (FRETILIN) over 20years in East Timor; it took the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) 11years in Mozambique; it took the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army 16years in Zimbabwe, etc, and their territories still became independent and sovereign. Time is always on the side of guerilla fighters!

The Cameroon government’s “special status” offer in the hope that it will appease the population and end the struggle is actually a miscalculation that will prolong the war because it fails to follow standard procedures of conflict resolution. It is a further expression of Biya government’s arrogance and illegitimate claims of authority over the Ambazonian territory. Those who dare to enfore it by participant in the structures it seeks to create shall be eliminated as traitors in times of war. The resolve of the Ambazonia Governing Council and true liberation movements is unwavering, and Ambazonian forces are getting more sophisticated by each passing day. Time is on their side – and so today’s “special status” bone will be history tomorrow.