By Monica C. Nkenganyi  
AmbaNews24 Correspondent – New York, USA

In over the last two months, the Ambazonian, Cameroonian and international communities have been drawn to a possible Swiss-led mediation process in the Ambazonia self-determination cause that should restore peace in the Gulf of Guinea. The Ambazonian people, in particular, have insisted that this process must respect the right of the people of Ambazonia to external self-determination and should involve a concerted international effort to ensure both parties – Cameroon and Ambazonia – are comfortable with the negotiations, and that the resultant agreement will be fully implemented.

Former Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, right, welcomes his former Norwegian Counterpart,
Børge Brende towards cooperation between both countries in diplomatic representation, 2016

Today, the Ambazonian people are elated reading from the President of the Ambazonia Governing Council, Dr. Cho Ayaba that “There has been official discussions between the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and the Swiss Foreign Ministry and the Norwegians have agreed to facilitate talks between the Leadership of The Ambazonia Governing Council and the Swiss Foreign Ministry. The Swiss have indicated their desire for bilateral discussions without a third party. We reject this proposition. Before our experts enter into any discussions, the Vice President and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs will officially demand that the Swiss seek and obtain a UN General Assembly Resolution officially mandating them and an Ambazonia Guarantor to facilitate Cameroun’s surrender.”

The openness and engagement of Norway have moved the prospects for peace and respect of the rights of the Ambazonian people in the negotiation process to a high level. Norway was the pivotal facilitator of the Sudan – South Sudan peace process that saw an end to the war in South Sudan and the independence and sovereignty of South Sudan in accordance with the will of the South Sudanese people. Norway mediated the recently completed peace process between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). The Kingdom of Norway is currently mediating the negotiations between the Philippines Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Norway is one of the highest countries in the world that constantly sends its military for UN Peacekeeping missions involving actual combat to protect civilians or creating buffer zones to enforce a ceasefire and restore peace while negotiations are finalized.

AmbaNews24 takes particular note of Dr. Ayaba’s call for the Swiss to “seek and obtain a UN General Assembly Resolution” that shall mandate the “Swiss and an Ambazonia Guarantor” to facilitate the mediation process. This call implies that: (1) the Swiss will still be involved in the mediation process; (2) the Swiss will not be working alone, but in a concerted international effort as desired by the Ambazonian people; and (3) the mediation process should receive full international backing from the highest international organization, the United Nations. 

International negotiations on matters as a self-determination cause involving warring parties are often delicate and tedious. Historically, they have always involved multiple parties. When the Swiss and other international actors such as the European Union and America used the word “led” in speaking of the “Swiss-led process” in the mediation between Cameroon and the Ambazonian people, they were speaking in diplomatic language from experience. There was the understanding that Switzerland will play the leading role in what will be a multinational and multi-organizational negotiation effort. A good working relationship between the Swiss and the other countries and organizations that will be involved in one way or another is critical to ensure that the different concerns and interests of the two parties – namely, the government of Cameroon and Ambazonia – are accommodated throughout the process.

The recent cases of South Sudan and East Timore all involved multiple countries. Portugal, Australia, the Philippines, the United States, and the United Nations were actively involved in the East Timorese negotiations that ended the conflict between East Timore and Indonesia and ushered a path supported by the international community for the independence and sovereignty of East Timor.

The negotiations that ended the decades of war in South Sudan and saw the South Sudanese people become independent and sovereign through a referendum six years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement were facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) under Kenyan leadership, and supported by a “Troika” that consisted of three countries: the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Norway. Norway’s involvement was led by Hilde Frafjord Johnson. Norway’s committed involvement, with the intense engagement of the Americans and the British, was critical for reaching the peace agreement in January 2005.

Hilde F, Johnson. The Norwegian Development Minister, 1997 – 2000 who was at the centre of Negotiation for Peace and Self-Determination of South Sudan

The existing rapport between Norway’s Foreign Ministry and Switzerland is not new. The two countries have worked together in different ways in various peace processes and negotiations around the world that have yielded fruits satisfactory to both parties. The Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution (NOREF) is working currently alongside Switzerland in the “swisspeace” process to end the conflict in Syria.

Signing of the Nuba Mountain Ceasefire with Swiss’ Butcher present

When Senator Jack Danforth, the American Special Envoy for Sudan became involved in the Comprehensive Peace process, he issued four tests to determine whether the process will be successful, among which was humanitarian access to South Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLA) – held areas of the Nuba Mountains. En route from Sudan in December 2001, Danforth visited London and Oslo to consult with the Troika colleagues. In Olso, Norway, he met with the Swiss Sudan Envoy, Ambassador Joseph Bucher. The Americans asked the Swiss to help negotiate a cessation-of-hostilities agreement for the Nuba Mountains, which they successfully achieved in January 2002. Norway continued to lead the process in good faith and terms with other countries till the end.

Considering the serious nature of international negotiations on a matter involving issues of sovereignty and self-determination, more than one country or organization is usually involved. In fact, it cannot be done by one country. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the SPLM/Army and the Government of the Republic of Sudan, for example, was also signed by multiple international countries and organizations that had all been involved in the negotiation process.

Multi Countries and International Organisations at the Sudan government – South Sudan’s SPLM/A Comprehensive Peace Agreement Negotiations

The agreement was witnessed by Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic of Kenya, and Yoweri Kauta Museveni, President of Uganda – both for IGAD (representing then seven countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda), Egypt,). Also involved were Minister Ahmed Aboul Ghet representing Egypt, Senator Alfredo Mantica representing Italy, H.E. Fred Racke who represented the Royal Kingdom of the Netherlands and H.E. Ms. Hilde F. Johnson on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Government. The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland was part of the “Troika”; hence, the agreement was also signed by the Right Hon. Hilary Benn representing the UK and Northern Ireland. The US Secretary of State Collin Powell represented the United States of America. Other international organizations were likewise involved in one way or another in the IGAD-led mediation process. Thus, H.E. Alpha Oumar Konare witnessed on behalf of the African Union; Charles Goerens represented the European Union; H.E. Amre Moussa signed on behalf of the League of Arab States; and H.E. Mr. Jan Pronk who was the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the Sudan was present and signed on behalf of the United Nations.

In addition to the news on official discussions that have taken place between Norway and Switzerland, Dr. Cho Ayaba also observed in his statement that: “in the last days Cameroun papers and television have engaged in a smear campaign against [the Ambazonian] leadership. We are aware that Norwegian involvement has been leaked to Yaoundé. I have provided the above information because we are aware that Cameroun is already aware and has been using it to smear the Norwegians and Belgians. They are living their last days as masters of our destiny. We will not blink until they are put in their place.” Dr. Ayaba further said that “pursuant to the provisions of Article 64 of the [Ambazonia Governing Council] Charter, [he has] appointed two Norwegian Professors of International Relations as advisors to [his] office.” These professors in diplomacy and international relations “will help provide expertise advice that will shape our policies as we deal with the international system.”