By Denis Atemnkeng
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- I am writing this on the assumption that the reader has also read the press release from the “Ambazonian Liberation Movements” (ALMs) following the Geneva meeting and read the releases from the Swiss Government and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD).
- By now, you already know my position on dialogue and the fact that I do not think any form of dialogue would cause La Republique du Cameroun to pack out of our territory, besides many other reasons I have advanced, especially the power-mongering on the Ambazonian side that may ruin any dialogue. I have written quite a lot on dialogue and will not repeat myself here.
- However, if the international community has pushed for dialogue until we have it, we expect that it would be handled with utmost care and due diligence on our side, by those who can legitimately claim to be speaking for the Ambazonian people.
- At this point, all our interest should be to come together, present a unified and organized front; see how to correct the mistakes of every step and always remember that our homeland is our highest priority.
- After reading the three press releases mentioned above, these are my very quick observations:
- I applaud the fact that the press release from Ambazonian Liberation Movements (ALMs) highlights the paramount goal of achieving independence, which is the most important matter in our dialogue or negotiations.
- In general, the tone of the document is good and shows our willingness to dialogue. But it also reveals many things that I will raise presently.
- When did the groups described in the document as “Ambazonian Liberation movements” make the offer to the Swiss? Was it before the two meetings, during or after the meetings? In other words, was this whole process started by the Swiss who got our Liberation Movements to make the request or by us? Do you see the relevance of this question?
- Was our request made in writing or verbally? Can the movements share that request with the Ambazonian public or interested parties?
- Did these movements ever meet prior to any of the meetings to discuss a common agenda or decide to write a common request to the Swiss Government or each one of them wrote or asked separately?
- Are you aware if La Republique has made a similar request? Were you shown or served a copy of LRC’s request, if any? Or La Republique’s acceptance to be part of the intended dialogue? (In these matters, we must proceed with concrete evidence of every important item likely to cause disagreement later. We cannot just be told verbally that LRC accepted or made the request and we fail to ask for the document by which it was made).
- The document by ALMs is saying the Swiss have accepted to serve as mediator in negotiations between the Republic of Cameroon and the Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia, but the Swiss press release does not even use the word “Ambazonia” or “Southern Cameroons”; it does not even clearly define the parties to the negotiations; instead, it is talking of northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon? How is that? Do we see that there can be a serious dispute as to what our ALMs claim to be their agreement with the Swiss Government? We must always remember that in all matters, written documents always take precedence over verbal allegations. So, it is what the Swiss Government has written down that will prevail should there be any disagreement! Do we have a document in which the parties to the dialogue being prepared for are clearly defined to us and the facilitator?
- I invite you to read the Swiss press release against our own document to see the gap of misunderstanding between the two!!!! HD’s release at least calls us by the name we call ourselves, but not the government release! Does this ring any bell to us?
- What does it mean for Switzerland to “double as mediator for the Republic of Cameroon”, as the document by our ALMs says? “Mediator for the Republic of Cameroon”?
- Our document says “we have committed to the Swiss-led process”; by which mandate? What is the legitimacy of the groups that were there? What would happen if the Swiss are preparing the dialogue with people who may not be part of the dialogue? Does it really matter to Ambazonians who claims to be speaking on their behalf? Who has the power to claim to be speaking the mind or using the voice of Ambazonian people?
- Our document says Switzerland has the green light to design a process that will work for us and the sovereign people of Ambazonia. What about Swiss neutrality? Is the process for both sides or for us?
- What do we understand by “Swiss neutrality”, especially when we also say they are a “mediator” and not just a “facilitator”? Will Switzerland be bound by evidence; by truth, by justice, by the rule of law, or it may say it is not bound by evidence on the grounds of “neutrality”? I am calling on our people to have what they call an agreement written down, in black and white!!!! This concept of Swiss neutrality must be clearly understood and defined before we go into any negotiations!!!
- We state that we are satisfied that Switzerland has no hidden agenda, etc; what is our evidence? That whole paragraph is a great danger and uncalled for, if it turns out, during the negotiations or at any point in the process, that we were deceived. Always remember Switzerland is the place that has accepted and continues to accept to hoard stolen African money; hosting its dictators because of that money, etc. Yet, Switzerland and other European countries continue to blame Africa for its poverty; to complain about humanitarian situations while providing the fuel for them to happen! Even amid this process, they are hosting Biya and manhandling protesters against Biya!
- Our document shows no caution, prudence and even the resolve to withdraw from the process should Switzerland fail to live up to expectations. Instead, it goes out of its way to praise Switzerland without any caution, and I may say with evidence to the contrary.
- Are we concerned at all about the commitment of the other party, LRC, to the dialogue process? What signs do we have that the other party is also willing to dialogue? Not one of the conditions we have been calling for has been met. Instead, on the ground, LRC is intensifying its atrocities.
- The para that begins with “As mediator…” should be a citation from the terms of reference for the facilitator and not from us. Do we have the written terms of reference for the facilitator or mediator? If these things were documented, there would be no confusion as to the role of the Swiss. By the way, the Swiss have referred to themselves only as “facilitators”; we are the ones referring to the Swiss as “mediator”. Let us be very careful with the misunderstandings I see developing.
- This is the most alarming one: How do we wish that the Swiss-led process should stop radicalization instead of wishing that it should lead to an immediate ceasefire, release of prisoners and so on? These are very bad signs that we may be having sugar coated mouths already. Our document has not mentioned a word about the conditions we have always emphasized must be met for dialogue to hold; have we already abandoned those conditions? Are these not signs of drifting because of the enticements? Is this not what they will read into our conduct?
- The identity of the movements is not made out. How did the Swiss accredit the movements claiming to be “Ambazonian Liberation movements” or to represent the People of the Southern Cameroons? Are we concerned about the accreditation process? Should everyone with a letterhead claim to represent the Ambazonian people and be accepted by the Swiss as such? Will all these movements come to sit in the negotiations or claim a role in them? Do these so-called movements have any followers? What responsibility can they bear for claiming to speak on behalf of the People of Ambazonia or even for betraying the people? And what if the Swiss are accepting all of them just to increase the alleged number of movements that accepted to dialogue, and not because it believes they represent the people of the Southern Cameroons?
- Even if the role of the facilitator is not defined on paper, should we not undertake to put on paper and present to the Swiss Government the role we expect the facilitator to play? If we have expectations different from what the Swiss themselves think is their role, then the whole process is doomed. Therefore, it is extremely important for all sides to agree concerning the role of the Swiss Government in these proposed talks. I have hinted to the issue of “Swiss neutrality”, and our claim that they are mediator when they refer to themselves only as facilitator.
- Let me ask: did the Liberation Movements consult their lawyers before drafting this document? Did they share with them for their comments after the draft? It would be good for those claiming to lead to develop the habit of getting their lawyers involved in the drafting or review of all-important documents going to the public.
I have raised these issues only to warn and call our attention to the importance of ensuring that we are in full agreement with the Swiss in everything concerning the process. Every word count, and from the words we have used in our press release I see a lot of contradiction with the press release of the Swiss Government. Let us correct these mistakes and sit down and work out a unified front and present the best of ourselves in the intended dialogue.