Macron, Cameroon and the Shrine
But other pressing issues took away my focus.
However, the startling performance on the African talking drum by the president of France inside of the refurbished Shrine of Fela Anikulapo Kuti in Lagos rekindled this passion to put some lines out to talk about the atrocities happening in Southern Cameroon under the direct command and control of Africa's longest reigning president- Mr. Paul Biya.
This is so he (Emmanuel Macron) wouldn't dance away his sense of humanity and forget that his forefathers who participated in the scramble for Africa and took control of Cameroon for years as a colony, indeed created more problems for the locals.
We must at the same time admit that the overbearing greed and lust for political power by Paul Biya aided by France has now led to the unprecedented crushing of opposition voices in Anglophone Cameroon who are sick and tired of the repression they collectively suffer from Younde in the hands of the brutal dictator who has imposed himself as a leader since nearly four decades (40) which is the exactly how old the French President Emmanuel Macron who emerged from outside the French political establishment to win electoral a year ago, is.
Also, this piece is meant to condemn the ignominious role played by the current Nigerian government in the Anglophone debacle in Southern Cameroon which depicts the Nigerian Administration as that which hates human rights.
President Muhammadu Buhari, against international humanitarian laws, arrested and repatriated some leaders of the pro-independence movement in Southern Cameroon who had escaped into Abuja to avoid violent death in the hands of the repressive and brutal dictatorship of Paul Biya of Cameroon.
Specifically, alleged members of the Ambazonia separatist movement in Southern Cameroon were picked up from their Abuja hotel by the Department of Nigerian Security Services and detained in Abuja.
Some media reports said these Southern Cameroonian leaders were arrested by the Nigeria Police. Leg or tail, both Nigeria Police and DSS are all policing institutions.
The news is that the leader of the separatists, Julius Ayuk Tabe and 11 others who had gathered at Nera hotels Abuja on January 6th 2018 to deliberate on the refugee crisis affecting their people were picked up and detained even as 39 others were similarly arrested and detained in Taraba State.
Nigerian administration against all pressures from concerned human rights organizations both within and without returned these leaders of Southern Cameroon back to the dungeons of the Paul Biya – led tyranny where they are currently subjected to horrendous human rights violations.
This conduct by Buhari in return ing people running away from danger to the source of the danger is offensive to human decency because these persons were simply running away from cruel and violent deaths so taking them back to be tortured in Cameroon speaks volume about the disregard to the tenets of human rights by the Nigerian government in the current dispensation.
The United Nations commission for refugees recognizes that the gross violations of human rights by government is at the root of refugee crisis.
Cameroon as well as Nigeria have administrators that are haters of constitutional democracy and human rights.
The United Nations have clear legal frameworks affirming disrespect for human rights as the genesis of refugee crises.
“Human Rights violations are a major factor in causing the flight of refugees as well as an obstacle to their safe and voluntary return home. Safeguarding human rights in countries of origin is therefore critical both for the prevention and for the solution of refugee problems. Respect for human rights is also essential for the protection of refugees in countries of asylum.”
These are the exact words of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees.
However, the political authority in Abuja is in a marriage of convenience with the incredibly lawless and dreaded dictatorship of Paul Biya in Cameroon.
The problems associated with widespread abuses of human rights in Nigeria under the current Muhammadu Buhari’s administration are also a collective fundamental factor sparking off the phenomenal rate of migration by hundreds of thousands of Nigerians fleeing from war, poverty and wanton killings.
Many of these migrants have perished trying to cross through the dangerous Mediterranean Sea off the coast of lawless Libya administered at different levels by Islamic terror groups.
The truth is that right now, Nigeria is under a repressive regime.
Most observers therefore were not very shocked that the Abuja administration could order the arrest and repatriation of these Cameroonians who fled Southern Cameroon because of credible threats to their lives by the Paul Biya administration.
However, what Buhari's administration has done to the Southern Cameroonian leaders is like throwing back a child to the furnace of burning flame when the child had barely escaped from the burning flames.
Back to the visitation of Emmanuel Macron of France to Nigeria and his nation’s non-challance towards the mass killings, torture and destruction of lives and property of the citizens of Anglophone Cameroon, this attitude of France therefore graphically shows that it is wrong to judge the character of a man by how harmless he may appear on the face value.
The French President did also not even made mention of the growing humanitarian crisis in Cameroon and it is not known if he would pay a visit to Anglophone Cameroon before jetting back to Paris. He dedicated much of his visitation period to drumming and dancing reminiscent of how he was coached as a child dancer by his then teacher whom he later married and who is twice his age. Macron should be told that after the singing, dancing and beating of drums at the Shrine in Lagos, the Southern Cameroonian quagmire hasn't been resolved to the satisfaction of the citizens directly at the receiving end of all these crises.
The issues that have now enveloped the whole of Cameroon starting from the crackdown by the Paul Biya’s administration of pro-independence campaigners in Southern Cameroon began when the citizenry of Southern Cameroon protested for a prolonged period of time over the dominance of the affairs of their country by the francophone side of the divide.
So France is at the core of this crisis and must of necessity be a guiding light towards a quick resolution.
But since Emmanuel Macron has chosen to go dancing in the Shrine of the great Fela, he needs to be told the truth about Southern Cameroon.
After he would have partied in the Shrine of the late Afrobeat king in Lagos, the French President would be doing grave disservice to humanity and human rights if he fails to visit Southern Cameroon from Lagos to see for himself the level of destruction going on there.
Flying from Lagos to Cameroon can only take him a few hours of flight time.
The crisis of Southern Cameroon is an open sore on the conscience of humanity and it deserves to receive all the global focus it can generate to be resolved as quickly as possible so these avoidable calamity is halted.
Unfortunately, the big player in Cameroon which is France has only maintained conspiratorial silence over these blood cuddling state sponsored violence in Southern Cameroon.
France is more concerned about asking their nationals to stay away.
The French government had declared Cameroon’s Anglophone regions a ‘no-go’ area for its nationals resident in the Central African country.
In its latest travel advisory dated March 22, the government also warned against all but essential travel to areas like the far north region notorious for Boko Haram attacks and the area along the border with Central African Republic and Chad.
French Ambassador to Cameroon, Gilles Thibault, recently tweeted that travel to the Northwest and Southwest (Anglophone regions) is now discouraged for travelers, except for imperative reasons, so reports Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban.
His tweet included a link to the French government’s Foreign Ministry website which had a detailed security alert on Cameroon. Except the southern border with Gabon and Congo republic, all other borders were classified no-go areas.
The Anglophone regions of the country have been volatile since October 2017 following a secessionist plan to declare independence under the so-called Ambazonia Republic.
The separatist group under the Ambazonia Defence Force (ADF) has launched guerilla style attacks on members of the security forces killing over twenty of them – soldiers, police, gendarmes. But the killings were reprisals over the killings of pro-independence campaigners.
The media affiliated to the Cameroonian administration stated that Paul Biya's government has increased its security operations in the region including the recent creation of a military region to be based in the capital of the northwest region, Bamenda.
The Cameroon government without any shreds of evidential proofs accused the separatists of adopting the use of kidnappings in recent past.
"They have kidnapped a soldier and another top government official. Countries like the United States and Britain have all issued travel advisories in the past with respect to the two regions", so echoed a Paul Biya's friendly journalist. Independent journalists are restricted from reporting the exact situation in Southern Cameroon.
It is observed that despite multiple calls for dialogue to end the clashes, there has yet to be concrete efforts in that regard.
The direct humanitarian impact is that Cameroonians continue to flee the region into neighbouring Nigeria.
At the last count, the UN said over 20,000 Cameroonians had sought asylum in Nigeria. However it is looked at, France and Nigeria must play significant role to end the uprising in Cameroon in such a way that all parties come to an agreement on the round table.
The most important topic for the visiting French president would have been to find lasting solution to the growing crisis in Cameroon.
Report says the English-speaking regions of Cameroon have been gripped by crisis for six months.
As a fact, thousands of lawyers, teachers and students and several civil society groups have taken to the streets and launched strikes in opposition to discrimination against Anglophones by the central government and by Cameroon’s long-serving president, Paul Biya.
The government’s response has been harsh.
At one protest more than 100 people were violently arrested.
In December, four protesters were killed by live ammunition.
The media reported that the crisis escalated in January when activists threatened a month-long strike but instead of opting for constructive dialogues the government banned two major organizations, arrested two of the movement’s leaders on terrorism charges, and imposed an Internet blackout across Anglophone Cameroon.
Till date Internet services have not been entirely restored, which has impacted local business and provision of health care.
What then is the root cause of this crisis?
Historians noted that before independence in 1960, Cameroon was split between a larger French and smaller British mandate.
During decolonization, a portion of British Cameroon elected to enter into a federation with French Cameroon rather than join Nigeria to its northwest.
The new Anglophone state of West Cameroon had its own prime minister, who was also the federation’s vice president. There were many political parties in both states. The dominant political party was President Ahmadou Ahidjo’s Cameroonian Union.
Political historians asserted that federalism was an uneasy marriage and Ahidjo quickly began a process of centralization.
He managed to convince other parties to join him in forming a supra-party, the Cameroon National Union (CNU). The CNU and its successor — the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) — have been Cameroon’s dominant party since.
Shortly after, federalism was abolished and a new unitary state created. Many of the Anglophone grievances date back to this change.
The root cause is that Anglophones have historically seen themselves as the big losers from the national distribution of resources.
Washington Post as far back as June 2nd last year reported that Politics in Cameroon are multiethnic and depend on the president’s ability to control the flow of resources toward specific individuals and regions.
"The ruling coalition has generally balanced north-south divisions within French Cameroon. Under Ahidjo, public investment and senior political appointments tilted toward his northern Fulani co-ethnics, while under his successor, Paul Biya, it was toward his southern Beti co-ethnics."
These perceptions of bias are exacerbated by Cameroon’s poor record of democratic representation.
Washington Post reports that in the early 1990s, a pro-democracy movement started in Anglophone Cameroon and forced the government to allow elections.
"Since then, the government has responded with both co-optation and repression. While an Anglophone has filled the position of prime minister since 1992, Anglophone Cameroon is also frequently subject to government repression. Gerrymandering electoral districts has helped eliminate opposition representation from Anglophone areas".
What is often termed the “Anglophone problem” according to this American media house refers to a deeper sense of Anglophone separatism and the lack of national integration.
"Many activists today are protesting in response to having French language and legal standards imposed upon them. Anglophone Cameroonian courts are sometimes run by appointed French-educated judges despite no knowledge of British common law, which is supposed to be in use. Similarly, teachers and students have criticized the lack of opportunities to study or take exams in English."
In recent years, Washington Post reported that Anglophone resentments have found growing expression in overt secessionist groups like the Ambazonia Movement, or organizations advocating for a return to federalism like the Southern Cameroons National Council.
"This makes a solution to the current crisis more complicated. Many activists now demand that the central government cede a significant degree of autonomy to Anglophone areas."
This writer contrary to the pessimism expressed by Washington Post, thinks that finding lasting solution to this problem and stopping the bloodshed is not rocket science.
Cameroonian people and officials must look for ways and means of enthroning constitutional rule and dethrone the dictatorship of Paul Biya that has lasted nearly four decades. Zimbabwe should be their role model on how to democratically force old dictator out of power.
By the way, the demands of these Southern Cameroonians find support in the international Covenant on civil and political rights which supports self-determination.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and [email protected] ; www.emmanuelonwubiko.com ; www.huriwa.blogspot.com .