Consultations For Dialogue: Saints and sinners go marching…

It took over three years, thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of refugees, depletion of private and state resources; it took national and international outcries, mediation and refrain for dialogue as a solution to an embarrassing carnage, for Mr. Paul Biya to budge and accept that Cameroonians should start talking to instead of shooting one another.

When he at last announced that dialogue could happen, he assigned Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute to organize and chair it. The latter swung to immediate action, consulting individuals and interest groups. They included hawks and doves, saints and sinners, hardliners and malleable people of every hue. Paradoxically, even regime zealots and others who had sworn that there was nothing like an Anglophone problem and that there will never be a dialogue, were the first to march to Dion Ngute purporting to proffer tips on how the Biya dialogue could or should best be handled.

As they consultation continues, incredible numbers of interest groups, sans the dyed in the wool separatists are marching in and out of the Star Building, soliciting, eager to be part of an imminent dialogue with well defined prescriptions, restrictions, do’s and don’ts. (Continued on Pg 2)   

When the Civil Cabinet of the Presidency of the republic announced that President Biya would address the nation at 8 pm on Tuesday, September 11, the nation immediately went into frenzy. This was not so much because his intervention had been long awaited as the thrust the speech was supposed to evoke. Of course, everybody but regime hardliners was in the know that he had been tardy in addressing the crisis rocking the two English speaking regions of the country. However, the content was not so much in issue as the form of whatever he had to tell the nation. What was nevertheless, certain was that the Anglophone crisis would be the fulcrum on which the speech would revolve and it turned out to be so.

Whatever character the speech conjured up, when President Biya eventually addressed the nation, opinions differed as to its poignancy regarding a definitive solution to the Anglophone crisis. While there is unanimity in the fact that he has, at last, come down from his high horse to decree a national dialogue on the Anglophone crisis, there seem to be apartheid in the perception of the rest of the speech particularly, in its rendition of the Anglophone problem in question. 

Judging by inflexions from a vox pop conducted on the issue, many Anglophones are of the opinion that the president has not acknowledged that there is an Anglophone problem. By derisively referring to Anglophone alienation as “purported”marginalization, the president is overtly siding with the likes of Atanga Nji who read wolf – crying when there is no wolf in the Anglophone quest for recognition as an equal partner in the union that brought together the former East and West Cameroon in 1961.

Furthermore, badmouthing is to the effect that the president is insensitive to Anglophone idiosyncrasies when he justified the absence of marginalization of Anglophones by the persistent appointment of Prime Ministers from the English speaking part of the country since the advent of political pluralism in 1992. Persons of this leaning peg their derision of the speech on the fact that when President Biya was Prime Minister, he was the second personality in terms of state protocol.

They continue that apart from being whittled down to insignificance and choking under the weight of four Francophone appointees, whose ascendancy regarding state protocol is not a moot point,  the Prime Minister is just a ceremonial position, given that de facto authority resides with the Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic. 

Another bone of contention is the fact that the president has arrogated to himself the prerogative to decide on the representatives to the announced dialogue. While admitting that his array of potential participants cuts across a broad spectrum of Cameroonians, some dissidents are wont to say that the approach Christian Cardinal Tumi and his All Anglophone Conference, AGF, were about to bring to bear on the circumstance would have produced participants who are true representatives of their people. After all, they say, the issue in instance is Anglophone alienation by Government and not a national conference. Moreover, they continue that those who now pass off as elected appointed officials had since lost authority to represent their people on account of their being seen as government hirelings.

Perhaps the most vexing issue highlighted by the president’s speech is his nonchalant attitude to the sensibilities of Anglophone separatists. The contention of some of those interviewed is that the president ought to have called for an immediate ceasefire with soldiers returning to their barracks while separatist militias are given a deadline of about three months to completely lay down their arms.

They are also miffed by the fact that their acclaimed leaders Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and his crew of abductees from Nigeria were sentenced to life imprisonment barely a few weeks to the convening of the dialogue. By their reckoning, conventional wisdom would have impelled the head of state to order that all those detained on account of the simmering crisis be released before the commencement of the dialogue.

Be that as it may, the thread that runs through the vox pop is that peace should be given a chance and for this reason let Cameroonians of all climes and skies gird their loins for the D-Day. While admitting that the regime has broken world records in disavowing resolutions reached at conferences to map out antidotes to opaque governance (Foumban, Tripartite, deletion of the prefix ‘United’ from the country’s name etc.), history will certainly judge us to have deliberately stayed away from a golden opportunity to right the wrongs plaguing this country once and for all.

On the other hand, should president Biya and his coterie of court jesters attempt to use this as another opportunity to ride roughshod on Cameroonians, the upshot will certainly be an all-out revolution whose incendiary impact will send Cameroon one hundred years behind.

Unbiased critical reporting: Veritable ingredients of democracy

By Charlie Ndi Chia

Journalists and referees have one thing in common. They ought to be independent. No matter who pays them, they are supposed to be fair, firm and unbiased. Referees we all know are not supposed to take sides. A journalist’s primary responsibility is to serve the common good or better still, the people’s as opposed to parochial governmental interests.

When people are afraid of the government, there is tyranny. But when the government is afraid of the people there is democracy. Therefore, stories in the press, whether controlled by government or not, should tend to answer the citizens’ needs and not just those of overwhelming political or economic interests.

In most developing nations, the tendency is for journalists employed by government to outdo one another in singing the praises and “protecting the interests” of those in power… for filthy lucre in one form or the other. Some state media bosses even go to the extent of overtly “decreeing” that the primary brief of government owned or controlled media is projecting official action and parrying [opposition] criticism. Yet in strict professional terms, this is very wrong, because like the nation itself, the government is an everyday negotiation, with journalists playing the role of Ombudsmen, more or less.

Time was, when Cameroon Tribune was a veritable forum for national debate. Critical issues, including controversial ones affecting all aspects of national life were freely debated on its pages. This went a long way in connecting those in government with the governed and gave credibility to the government itself. Ideas were liberally expressed on the pages of Cameroon Tribune. Then, the paper served as a barometer or weather cock for those at the helm of power, who in turn became acquainted with the likes and dislikes of those they governed and crafted people friendly policies accordingly and obligatorily. This was in the 1980’s and Cameroon Tribune was a “visible, functional roundtable” of national conversation.  

What one reads these days though, are mostly one sided accounts of how the government performed, is planning to perform or what big feat one big gun or the other has been achieving. It is often “spiced” with routine news of valiant sportsmen and women, without of course, indicating, let alone analyzing their perennial brushes with institutions and persons that hardly bother about the complaints of these embattled sportsmen and women. Even though Cameroon Tribune might not have crassly breached the journalistic fundamental principle of truthfulness, it is pretty clear that this newspaper’s first loyalty is to a cluster of individuals in government and not to the citizens whose tax money has been funding it for 45 years. Most of its news staple is official hand downs, nay, gubernatorial or ministerial performance, inaugurations, installations and all that jazz. There is hardly any independence or clear cut divorce from the rather pampered interests of those Cameroon Tribune journalists cover.

In a manner of speaking, the newspaper hardly monitors, takes the pulse, with a view to monitoring power and giving a voice to the voiceless. Sincerely speaking, the cocoa farmer in Meme Division has little or no stake in the paper, let alone being told by Cameroon Tribune if and how his cocoa crop is profiting. By the same token, critical issues of persistent power outages, provocative affluence, graft and corruption by certain government big necks are not independently reported, debated or criticized. Sometimes those who misgoverned or even looted the common till outright are projected as living saints even when the masses are groaning and dying from the cruel, crushing weight of their misdeeds. Managers that mismanage public corporations are hardly investigated and exposed as frauds. Then, they turn up belatedly, when it suits the fancy of power brokers to report that ‘A’ or ‘B’ has been indicted and taken into custody on corruption charges.

Perhaps in reporting basic issues such as irritating power outages and damage to the national economy, the rot in most local councils and parastatals, lack of potable water nationwide, poor  primary health measures to name but these few would make for a more people friendly Cameroon Tribune than what it is, presently. What this means is that this publicly funded newspaper shouldn’t be a pliant tool in the hands of a few influential civil servants and/or sacred cows, but should rather serve as a veritable forum for public examination and criticism and collective problem solving. Even the government interest won’t be hurt in any way if the news carried on the pages of this taxpayers’ funded organ is proportional and relevant.

True journalism is unbiased, critical and [reasonably] objective. Whether they work for government or not, journalists ought to guarantee the sanctity of the nation, and not that of the people who run the affairs of the nation. Cameroon Tribune could do with a bit of this without being hurt or hurting anyone for that matter.

This is the city of excellence!

When he served as Mayor of the municipality, Mbella Moki Charles named it “The town of legendary hospitality.” It was Mbella who contracted the French waste disposal company, ‘HYSACAM,” to handle Buea’s public hygiene imperatives. Local council labourers that hitherto carried out these chores were either redeployed to other duties or remained underemployed.

During Mbella’s tenure at the Town Hall, there was no raging war like is the case today. The social atmosphere in the municipality was generally convivial and depicted the mayor’s legendary hospitality approach to running a town hall. It is no longer the case now. Years back, a shooting war was declared, political animosity between the sitting mayor, Ekema Patrick Esunge and his predecessor heightened. Systemic and deliberate steps to obliterate the Mbella legacy were reportedly engaged, including sacking council staff suspected of having any links to their former boss.

This culminated in the abrupt change of the legendary hospitality nomenclature to “City of Excellence.” Excellence in this case would logically denote a drastic facelift of the municipality in every sphere of socio-political life. It would mean that the town now towers over mere hospitality to something like nobility and perfection. But that is not quite the case.

Buea has been overtaken by mountains of stinking garbage in every street corner. Little or nothing is being done, even as an emergency measure to halt this towering vector of an imminent epidemic. Ironically, the mayor’s priority is fighting the ghost towns syndrome to a standstill. So, despite the established fact that a cholera outbreak is most likely to kill more denizens, and do so faster than ghost towns, the mayor is preoccupied with intimidating and hacking open business premises that didn’t open for business on ghost town days.

And so, huge mounds of refuse litter Buea and environs, threatening to block the main streets in some cases. As earlier indicated, the phenomenon constitutes an imminent health hazard with the possibility of the spread of disease pretty high. Certain individual households have resorted to burning their waste with the help of kerosene or petrol. But with the coming of the rains, even this crude, desperate method of waste “cremation” is proving inadequate. And either way, the high levels of toxicity emanating from such burnt waste is said to be very disturbing to preventive health authorities who, in any case are helpless. The resulting gasses from the burnt refuse, experts say become is very dangerous to both human and animal health.

 Also, assorted burnt refuse is said to produce toxic matter, often deposited on plants like vegetables which are harvested and sometimes consumed raw.

Areas like Molyko, Sandpit are practically chocking with breathing difficulties as we write. If Buea is being overtaken by “excellent dirt” and official brutality and destruction, the Bamenda City Council is very silently having new mountains rapidly rising and in certain cases replacing what used to be food markets. The town stinks to the nose. Potholes on the few dirt roads in this city are more or less open graves, that daily swallow automobiles and drives the economy on snail shells if you will.

The ‘HYSCAM’ garbage collection contract boycott is mainly blamed on the current level of insecurity induced by the ongoing war in the English speaking Regions of the country. ‘HYSACAM’ workers are said to be afraid of getting into the neighbourhoods for fear of being attacked by separatist militias and marauding bandits. It is alleged that a good number of their utility trucks were burnt at the Musaka junction refuse dump in the outskirts of Buea. Reason they no longer collect refuse in the Buea municipality for many months now.

Ironically, the council readily affords enough labour and strong military protection each time the mayor goes about sealing business premises, forcing them open or bursting the tyres of taxicabs whose drivers either feared to do business on ghost town days or had them parked in garages for repairs.

Governor’s ‘marching order’ divides chiefs

When he barked out the “marching order” some two weeks back, Southwest Governor Okalia Bilai Bernard may not have imagined for a split second that fiat was going to kick up much controversy with most of the chiefs kicking back in anger. But they did, and told him in no mistaken terms that he had gone a bit too far, crossed the red (royal) line if you will.

Then the Buea Mayor whom Bilai had instructed in the full view of television cameras to prepare propaganda placards for the May 20 event sought to water down the gravity of what from all indications was an administrative goof and a traditional taboo committed by the governor. The mayor said the governor was misunderstood; that enemies and unpatriotic dissidents living in Buea and Yaounde were, in a manner of speaking, making mountains out of molehills.

The mayor’s rebuff, posted on social media was full of invectives. He made snide remarks about hungry chiefs who were no longer benefiting from surreptitious land deals; others who had cowardly fled Fako in the face of a rampaging militia and who, as a consequence could not even defend their subjects from the hideouts where they had run out of easy cash.

Undaunted, the chiefs, through the President of the Southwest Chief’s Conference, insisted by way of a communiqué which he published online, that Mr. Bilai had offended, desecrated the chieftaincy institution by reducing their Royal Majesties to “marching schoolboys.” On account of the governor’s audacious posturing, he asked for a boycott of May 20 activities by all chiefs as a mark of protest. He had support from many of his peers. The Divisional Officer, DO, for Buea sought to douse the raging fire ignited by the rather flippant governor but was told by certain chiefs and social media enthusiasts that he was fishing in unauthorized waters, more or less.

Some people even suggested that the populations should stay at home in support of their traditional rulers whom the governor had set out to treat with scorn and disdain.

May 20 is inching closer and despite reminders from other enlightened and influential chiefs that the governor’s bluff be called, there is still uncertainty as to whether the governor’s “marching orders” would be obeyed by sundry chiefs. The chiefs most irked by Okalia’s audacity have been stating that the governor would logically have ordered top government brass like Prime Minister Dion Ngute, and the centenarian, Nfon Victor Mukete to show up on the marching groung on May 20, pick up their own placards and lead by example. Failing, they would all be stripped of their chieftaincy crowns and other paraphernalia.

 As recently as two days ago, His Royal Majesty Dr. Robert Esuka Endeley, Paramount chief designate for Buea issued a communiqué that clearly stated that the chiefs were duty bound to come out on May 20 as a mark of patriotism and respect for the state.

In a terse message which he posted on face book he said inter alia:

“The Paramount chief designate of Buea HRM Dr. Robert Esuka Endeley is by this press release calling on all  the chiefs and population of the chiefdom of Buea to no heed to calls to boycott National Day Celebrations in Buea.

“He then calls on them to show proof of patriotism and loyalty to the state and Republican institutions that are upheld by the constitution of this our beloved country, Cameroon.

“Contrary to divergent views expressed by various individuals in their respective capacities, concerning the celebration of this year’s National Day in the Southwest Region, We, of this chiefdom value and stand on the supreme general interest shared by of (sic) the majority Cameroonians of goodwill.

“ Hence he calls all and sundry to massively turn out en masse for the 2019 edition of the National Day Celebrations on the 20th May to exercise their civil rights…”

Okalia Bilai has since showed neither resolve nor remorse for the apparent insult of their royal highnesses.

The negotiation PM – Can he fix the damage?

The appointment of Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute as PM is strategic and circumstantial, perhaps with little weight placed on his achievements in his previous role at the Presidency and more on his negotiation skills and network as the longest serving Minister Delegate in charge of the Commonwealth and his role in the allocation judgment of the contested Region of Bakassi Peninsular by the European Court of Justice in favour of Cameroon. Like it or not, Cameroon, once considered as one of the safest countries in Central Africa is at a very delicate point at home and beyond, and there is a desperate need for a ‘Negotiation Prime Minister’ with international legal experience to be the ‘Handy-Manny’ of a shattered country increasingly surrounded by national and international enemies and a few friends of self rather than collective national interest. The President and indeed, the government needed a ‘new’ face and reliable personality with experience of the root causes, culture and people of the two English speaking Northwest and Southwest Regions.

It appears H.E Dion Ngute maintains a long standing network with the UN and other potential stakeholders who would be key in any final negotiation settlement to rescue the country or at least repair SOME of the big damages that Cameroon is struggling to cope with, including the ongoing dirty war between government forces and Ambazonia armed separatist fighters and the shocking withdrawal of the 2019 CAN hosting rights.

The deteriorating ‘Anglophone Conflict’ requires a meaningful and effective peaceful negotiation before active fighting spills over to other Regions hosting Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs. All sides must now realize that this horizontal war cannot be won by either side using military tactics even if sustained for decades. Innocent citizens and ordinary Cameroonians are paying the ultimate blood price as both sides refuse to unilaterally lay down their arms or withdraw government forces from the affected Regions. The Ambazonia war is taking a different shape, unfavourable to all sides involved. Ambazonia armed fighters initially supported by local and Diaspora communities are controlling huge territory and gradually creating ungovernable spaces in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. Local infighting between Ambazonia armed groups, inexperienced fighters and Diaspora leadership splits is resulting in a disorganized ground fighting, human rights violations, kidnappings for ransom , extortions, beheadings and other dangerous terror related activities that is reversing gained sympathy and support from the local population and the international community. The PM will have to balance these factors carefully when the government decides to engage the key stakeholders of the conflict in a neutral environment.

A meaningful negotiation should commence, one that addresses the real ‘Anglophone problems’ that have kept the country disunited for more than four decades, rather than exclusively addressing the resulting effects in the hope that causation factors will disappear under the carpet. A genuine process will require the participation of carefully selected credible national and Diaspora stakeholders, especially those with ´big dogs in the fight.’

Negative international image

The negative international image hanging over Cameroon, the pressure on the national economy and social life is mounting at high speed and any effective solution requires a head of government with plenty of solution orientation skills. But in the complex circumstances, someone who can distance himself from the immediate scene of the damage and say, ‘it was not me in charge when things hit the fan but I am here to fix the situation, give me a chance.’

This is a strategic Presidential appointment at a time when the key leadership of various Ambazonia armed separatist groups, viz;  Ambazonia Defence Forces, ADF, of Dr Cho Ayaba ; Southern Cameroons Défense Force, SOCADEF, of Dr Ebenezer Akwanga and the Ambazonia Security Council, ASC, of the Interim Government, IG, under Dr Samuel Sako are split over leadership control – rendering a negotiation process even more complex with the potential for spoilers should key stakeholders be left in the cold. The current negotiation dynamics should involve a support pre-negotiation mechanism to unite the ´Ambazonia’ leadership without freezing out either moderate voices or those who prefer armed struggle as the only viable solution.

This is perhaps the last PM under the current centralized structure and his role is the most critical in deciding the future of Cameroon, one that should be embraced with celebrations of business as usual.’

The President, the newly appointed PM, the people of Cameroon at home and abroad and the international community will not rest peacefully until the current conflict is buried below and not above their heads once and for all. It is down to H.E. Dion Ngute to play his best and most challenging role in the history of Cameroon as the ´Negotiation Prime Minister.’

Why they are fuelling a war without end

Prior to and on December 31, 2018 many Cameroonians were all ears and speculating. They hoped that Biya’s traditional address to the nation would calm tested and frayed nerves and end the stupid two year long war in which uncountable lives have so far been lost and the economy mangled. Biya loyalists eventually, expectedly hailed his address which they said reflected the president’s “wisdom and deft approach to governance.”

But the teeming masses, especially those directly affected by the war thought otherwise. As far as they go, Biya and his advisers have been tactlessly intransigent. Biya’s threat to “neutralize” militants who didn’t drop their weapons was a thoughtless riot act, very unnecessary at a time the country was steadily buckling under, with countless of her teeming youths either killing or being killed. Biya, they insisted, ought to have been fatherly, softer, especially considering that his iron fist approach to solving the problem is hurting everyone else, including teeming Cameroonian masses in general and the soldiers and civilians being mowed down like disposable animals.

A public affairs analyst noted that the intractable nature of the conflict would have been mitigated, had regime hawks not been fuelling and deriving direct socio-economic gains from it. According to him, claims by Ambazonian separatists notwithstanding, the situation has been further worsened by bad governance, epitomized by social injustice across the board, maladministration and intolerance.  He said that resorting to denial, time buying and heaping of resources on propaganda was merely postponing the evil day. “You don’t solve a problem by pretending that it doesn’t exist.” Rather, he noted, it is often advisable to invite the complainant, sit down with them and put the cards face up on the table. Papering visible cracks and forming money guzzling commissions is tantamount to playing the proverbial ostrich, he warned.

The Rambler investigations revealed that rather than douse the raging fire of war, Biya’s vow to exterminate militants intensified the latter’s resolve to fight on. A source said that some 40 Ambazonian militants out of an estimated three thousand have so far surrendered to the disarmament commission which Biya created late last year. Some others are said to be still considering how and when to negotiate safe access to the commission. The 40, we learnt, are being debriefed somewhere in Bali.

On the other hand, limited sections of the population are reportedly cooperating with the regular army entrusted with the mission of routing or “neutralizing” the rebel fighters. The reason we got is that the biting effects of the ‘ghost towns’ on the people, the kidnappings and extortion of ransoms plus other acts of incivility on the part of the militants is turning the tables of trust from “faceless liberators” to a “visible elements of law and order.”

But the military, who themselves have on occasion gone berserk, raping, killing, looting and burning homesteads are not having it easy defeating the militants outright. Relatively, they are still having a hell of a time containing the determined “Amba boys” on the one hand and completely winning the confidence of the people on the other. This is further explained by the fact of people saying that “Biya’s New Year address was a mere babble. That it were best he kept quiet instead of saying the things that he said in the address. According to this class of individuals, “the war would be fought to the end and won.”

Meanwhile, the Northwest, like most of the Southwest Region is almost in complete shutdown. Only two Sub-Divisions out of the many in the Region are still functional in the true sense of the word. They are Bamenda l and Santa. Roads have been dug up, bridges destroyed and other vital infrastructures ruined. Most school gates remain tightly shut.

Elsewhere, administrative buffoonery and other forms of ineptitude continue to be perpetrated. Certain government officials are busy fanning the embers of war with a naïve view to being seen as punishing “enemies of the state.” They take ridiculous decisions that include denying access to food and other forms of basic assistance to detainees connected with the Anglophone crisis. An example is that of the charity going by the name Ayah Foundation, known to have taken succour to refugees in most parts of the English speaking Regions and Nigeria. But at the Yaounde Maximum Security Prison where about a thousand of the people are being detained reportedly under poor conditions, the provisions were rejected by prison officials and foundation members ordered to beat a hasty retreat.

Other reports talk of sleazy practices, whereby some local administrators and elected municipal authorities have been stealing relief materials, including food items, while those for whom the government destined the items are pining away at internally displaced people’s camps and in the bushes.

Any how one looks at the situation; it becomes only clear that many top brass are ironically working for the war to continue and not the other way round. Because they are benefitting from the misfortune of fellow citizens in many ways.

By Charlie Ndi Chia

Firebombs now rule Meme!

Mounting tension in the vicinities of KwaKwa and Nake along Kumba/Mbonge road consequent upon the brutal murder of a policeman and a soldier earlier this month allegedly by “Ambazonian Tigers” who had laid siege over the area, patrolling with guns and checking vehicles and, concomitant Government retaliatory expedition actualized in the deployment of over 500 soldiers and policemen has left the villages lifeless

Reports, images and videos captured of these villages indicate that more than 50 percent of their populations have lost homes to flames of fire set by military men. It was, also, reported that on Wednesday January 17 and Thursday January 18 when the military raided the area and met nobody, they were angry and started setting houses on fire.

One of the survivors of that attacks whose house was also burnt told this reporter that, “The military were just burning indiscriminately. This is because even churches which have no connection to the Anglophone crisis were burnt. He revealed that the premises of the Apostolic Church and the house of the Rev. Father of the Catholic Church have been reduced to ashes.” It is even alleged that an old woman of 96 year was burnt in one of the wooden structures in Kwakwa when all her children ran for safety in the bushes.

Kwakwa deserted

The erstwhile buoyant village is now as quiet as a grave yard at night. People have fled this locality to other safe zones like villages along the Bai Manya/Kotto Barombi road. Many of those who can be seen are those who hid in the bushes and only come to pick food stuff around their compounds. The only people who own the land now are the military who keep parading combat ready. Stray animals and skeleton of houses are the images that welcome the eyes of passersby in Kwakwa. In fact as at Saturday January 20, The Rambler got reports that all the Batibo people who had been residing in Kwakwa had taken off for Bamenda.

Attacks elsewhere

On Tuesday, January 16, soldiers stationed in Mbonge stomped the locality of Dieka Bafaw whereupon two civilians were reportedly shot dead. Reports from this area also indicate that one of the soldiers suffered an injury emanating from the careless firing of guns. The corpses of the two boys were laid to rest on Wednesday, January 17, by the villagers. People in this village are also leaving in constant fear of the unknown.

In Mbonge, a soldier was reported to have been killed by persons yet to be identified on Thursday January 18. Still on this day the principal of GBHS Mbonge was reportedly attacked by the “tigers”. It’s said that he ran and got missing at the CDC rubber plantation but later found his way using the GPS device.

The villages of Ekombe and Kake also suffered panic as there were reports of random gunshots in the afternoons and even at night. At Ekombe, the indiscriminate shooting by the military left a Sourobat worker (company charged with the construction of the Kumba/Ekondo Mudemba road) dead.

The neighbourhood of Tancha, in Kumba III Sub-Division is said to have also experienced a tensed atmosphere on Friday morning.

Generally, life in Kumba is calm but not without fear of what might happen the next moment.

By Ngende Esther

Will Buhari deliver ‘big Ambazonia catch’ to Biya?

This question may be answered within hours, weeks or months.  The “show” may even stretch on for years. But what is clear is that the arrest over the weekend of Ambazonian separatists in an Abuja hotel is fueling heated legal, constitutional, diplomatic, political and social debates.

Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and Co

While apologists of the Biya regime hurriedly rejoiced and cursed “secessionists and adventurers” for clutching the balancing pole too far on one end that it tipped them over, diehard separatists and frontline actors in the fight for Ambazonian nationhood ranted on social media, threatening fire and brimstone and warning the Nigerian Government against handing over the “prized catch” to Biya.

But as it stands, “negotiations” most likely to be anchored on vested socio-economic, political, diplomatic, legal and other parochial interests might mean having the issue of the arrest of some nine spearhead Ambazonian separatists drag on for quite a while. Plus, the Ambazonian question might just have hit the glaring limelight of the latest in the quest for self-determination.

As we write, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius, head of the Interim Government, IG, of Ambazonia and eight others are the unwilling guests of Nigeria’s Directorate of State Security, DSS. News about their imminent release or extradition to Yaounde is still hazy. What is clear is the fact that some diplomatic “hobnobbing” has so far been ongoing between Yaounde and Abuja ever since the renegades retreated to Nigeria about a year ago. Then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo received a key figure of the Biya regime, Emmanuel Rene Sadi (Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization) sometime last year and must have sought the good influence of the neghbouring Federal Republic of Nigeria to help neutralize the burning appetite for an Ambazonian state. This was followed up by Mr. Biya receiving the Nigerian High Commissioner to Cameroon at the Etoudi State House.

From the look of things, President Biya, might just be hoping that the arrest of the cream of the Ambazonia leadership might just turn out to be the ultimate nuncdimmitis or death of the uprising during which security operatives have mowed down hundreds of innocent civilians, raped and maimed many more. He might just be fancying having crushed the rebellion without as much as starting the much trumpeted dialogue that his regime has been preaching, singing and rhyming.

But such a dream could only materialize following due legal/diplomatic process as well as a considerable invocation of international conventions. At the very worst, crass resort to the manner of brinkmanship that informed former President Matthew Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo’s betrayal of Liberian fugitive, Charles Taylor might mean shipping across the big catch to Yaounde. It should be recalled that after assuring Taylor of his safety in Nigerian territory, Obasanjo surreptitiously set up the former Liberian strongman to be arrested in a remote Cameroonian border village. Taylor is today serving a 50 year jail term at The Hague.

President Biya had in a state of the nation address on December 31, warned that “all those who have taken up arms, who perpetrate or encourage violence should be fought relentlessly and held accountable for their crimes before the courts of law.”

The above warning is clearly indicative of what fate awaits the likes of Ayuk Tabe should the Nigerian authorities introduce them to Biya’s den of “one and indivisible wolves.” This probably explains Nigerian foremost lawyer and human rights advocate, Femi Falana’s concerns. The fiery lawyer has asked President Buhari to immediately release the detained freedom fighters. He has also warned him against releasing them to Biya “because Cameroon and Nigeria have no extradition treaty.”

In a media outing, Falana noted:

“The Attorney General also lacks the vires to initiate extradition proceedings under the Extradition Act (E25) Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Noting that Nigeria may be under pressure from Biya to hand over the arrested men and woman to the Cameroonian security forces, the learned Queen’s Counsel, QC, pointed out that they are entitled to reside or visit Nigeria without molestation. He advised Buhari that instead of using the SSS to fight Biya’s proxy war, the security outfit should rather fish out criminal elements that have unleashed war on the people of Benue State in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

“As Africans, the detainees are entitled to human rights, to personal liberties, freedom of association guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution. Furthermore, their unquestionable right to self-determination is protected by Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which has been ratified by both Cameroon and Nigeria.

“Having failed to crush the ideas which recently led to the demand for the state of Biafra by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, the Federal Government should not attempt to provoke the marginalized people of the Southern Cameroons, SC, by frustrating their legitimate demand for an independent state of Ambazonia.

“Since the Federal Government has not succeeded in completely defeating the dreaded Boko Haram sect, it should not declare war on the people of Southern Cameroons and further expose the displaced people.”

Be that as it may, it may be the wish and hope of the Biya regime, that like happened in Angola after Jonas Savimbi, the rebellious leader of UNITA was killed, the dream of an independent Ambzonian territory might equally go up in smoke should its propagators be repatriated to Yaounde and decently silenced, once and for all.

By Claudia Nsono & Charlie Ndi Chia

End impunity, cut the losses

The news from Nigeria has been heartening. The military tribunal there just passed life and death sentences on its own soldiers for atrocities committed against civilians during the fight against Boko Haram in the North. To be celebrated in this verdict is not the death or permanent incarceration of these soldiers – they must, in some way, have contributed to containing the Boko Haram madness – but the integrity displayed by the Nigerian military. Discipline is the established hallmark of any army, and discipline is incompatible with impunity. An army in deployment has rules of conduct and any violation thereof is visited with befitting severity. This includes the killing, torture and humiliation of non-combatants and even captured combatants.  Some soldiers use war or law-and-order campaigns as a pretext to settle personal scores or to visit their ethnic hate on people in a position of weakness. These are war crimes and crimes against humanity, and when an army is not seen to identify and adequately deal with the culprits, the criminal responsibility goes up the line of command, right to the commander-in-chief.

In dealing decisively with its war criminals, the Nigerian military have demonstrated that they take the honour of their uniform seriously, with impunity as an unacceptable blemish. That act may concern only a few soldiers but its symbolism is of great significance. Indeed it is a brilliant plume in Nigeria’s hat as a leader on this anything-goes continent of ours.  Every country claims to be a state of law, but in most of Africa the network of laws is like a cobweb. It can catch all the flies, bees and butterflies but the rhinoceros beetles just plough their way through. In other words we can apply the laws when the culprits are small fry but look the other way when it comes to heavyweights.

For those Africans who keep complaining that by prosecuting our leaders for crimes against humanity the ICC is trampling on their sovereignty, Nigeria’s action speaks louder than words. As long as zero tolerance for crimes against humanity is to be applied across the board, Nigeria should, in future, not need the ICC to carry out these prosecutions.

This makes it two lessons for Cameroon in a matter of weeks, coming just after Zimbabwe’s demonstration of how to deal with a spent but sit-tight leader. Cameroon cannot pretend that this is a new lesson. If you visit the Foumban palace museum, you will see among the relics an under-sized human skull. The palace historian explains that this is the skull of a diminutive coward soldier who, in war time, used to flee the heat of battle at the front.  At the end of the battle soldiers were expected to bring home the heads of enemies they had killed. This coward would then kill some unarmed civilian and bring home his head as a war trophy. Once found out, he was killed and his skull kept as a historic testament to intolerance for war crimes.

The conduct of Cameroon’s military in Buea and Bamenda in the past few years, and especially in its recently declared war against the people of Southern Cameroons, is laced with crimes against humanity. And since nobody in the rank and file has been held publicly accountable for these misdeeds despite all the visual evidence flooding the social media, the responsibility for the crimes falls squarely on the shoulders of the commander-in-chief. And the longer the conundrum drags on the greater the carnage, the heavier the grievances, the more frightful the gravity of the case to be answered, the more inescapable the consequences, the slimmer the chances of reconciliation and the more distant the dream of oneness and indivisibility.

The picture the regime is marketing of the current crisis is that of some foreign hand trying to de-stabilize Cameroon in the guise of the Anglophone secessionist movement.  Sometimes we lie so persistently that we begin to believe our own lies. It does not take a soothsayer to tell anyone that this regime sowed the seeds of its own destabilization they day it abandoned the path of rigour and moralization and opted for social unaccountability and impunity. The head’s personal coffers are bottomless and he is surrounded by an arrogantly wealthy ethnic cabal ready to do anything and everything to avoid accountability, even if it means the whole country gets torn down. Any form of governance that gives the people a voice is a potential threat to this gang and must be blocked by all means, fair and foul. That is why they can’t imagine Biya leaving, no matter how tired he may become, unless he is to be replaced by one of them or someone they are sure to control.

It is thus obvious that the Southern Cameroons awakening sends shivers down their spines, and must be attributed to some external machination to destabilize Cameroon. That is a ploy to enlist any residue of nationalism among Francophone Cameroonians, even if the gangsters themselves no longer believe in Cameroon.  Indeed ‘The Rambler’ challenges the security services to investigate the over 50 top officials of this Government who are now rumoured to have acquired foreign nationality as a safety valve.

In any case, they know that the shedding of Southern Cameroonian blood and the blood of other innocent Cameroonian soldiers has not been in the national interest. If it is true that Biya has ordered an end to the madness, it is indeed the least he could afford to do now. He may find it a humiliation to retreat in the face of a war be declared, especially given the reports of heavy losses among his troops, but he should not be ashamed of ending a war he should never have started in the first place. And in any case, it is never too early to stop senseless bloodshed.

As for what impact the end of hostilities will have on Southern Cameroonian disaffection with his regime, that is a completely different kettle of fish.

UB VC counsels freshmen; shun vices, hug studies

The event could not have been otherwise than representing a replay of what must have been UB Vice Chancellor Prof. Ngomo Horace Manga’s experience some 37 years ago as freshman of the University of Lagos in Nigeria, in archetypal Anglo-Saxon tradition. As replication therefore, over 6,000 newly matriculated students of the University of Buea, UB, have been told to stay disciplined, focused on their academic duties and avoid unnecessary distractions.

Prof. Ngomo Horace Manga was speaking recently in Buea while matriculating the 25thnewly admitted batch of students into the University.

“You must shun habits like drunkenness, theft, sexual promiscuity, corruption.Please don’t be part of those who hide on social media to propagate inimical information to the growth of this university. Your watchwords should be discipline, hard work and respect of the rules and regulations that govern this institution,” the VC counseled.

He told them that the university world is a race which they will need their health, energy and financial resources to win. Prof. Ngomo said they should redouble efforts in order to graduate from the university with their heads high.

“Excellence does not come from spending 24 hours daily in the library or praying 12 hours a day; all-night vigil or spending all your time on social media; or being an all-time night clubber or partying all-week.  The amount of time you spend on your books should be balanced by that spent on social engagements and other forms of social learning.”

Given that it was the VC’s first batch of matriculation after his appointment, he named them‘The Vice-Chancellor Batch.’He said as a result, they are expected to be true ambassadors who will safeguard and improve on the reputation of the institution. Prof. Ngomo assured the students that the university will do its best to protect their interests.

Delivering an academic discourse to the students, Prof. Giselle Morfaw told them they were now masters of their own destinies. “Be assiduous, inquisitive and enthusiastic. You are here because you understand that you don’t know and want to know. You must be organized because it is the key to success,” she told them.

The Professor of Mathematics reminded the students that they were the pillars of the nation and as such, in all they do, they must strive for excellence.

The matriculated students promised to heed to all the advice given them. According to one of them, Lesley Rian Awah, they have learned so much. “We have been given advice and objectives.The VC has told us the things to do in order to obtain these objectives. Classes have already begun and we are doing all it takes to attain these objectives,” Awah said.

Students still on Mayor’s fake credentials

Some students used the occasion to remind the powers that be about the fake certificate still in the possession of the Mayor of Buea. Moris Orock, a postgraduate student in the Department of Law expatiated why they were still carrying placards against Ekema.

“This is a demonstration we have been at for a long time now pertaining to the fact that the Mayor of Buea has fake credentials in his keeping which are not just affecting the University of Buea but Cameroon in general. The last time the Minister of Higher Education, Prof. Jacques Fame Ndongo, was here for the VC’s installation, he promised us he was going to see into those fake certificates of the mayor and how he will be brought to book. Today, we are here to remind the VC and the Pro-Chancellor to help us see that all our pleas of retrieving Mayor Ekema’s fake certificates come to pass.”

By Nester Asonganyi