U.S Changing Position on the Cameroon-Ambazonia Conflict
George L. Nyukighan, Washington D.C, USA
The US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Tibor P. Nagy recently signaled that the US government was increasingly concerned that the Ambazonia-Cameroon conflict reached a level of little hope that the status quo in Cameroon can be maintained. The very existence of Cameroon as we see today, or as has generally been portrayed to the international community must change for the reign of regional peace and stability! This U.S position has been precipitated by President Paul Biya of Cameroon’s intransigence in engaging in a true and meaningful negotiation with the Ambazonian people to address the ongoing Ambazonia independence liberation struggle conflict.
Amb. Nagy told the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on November 19, 2019 that he believes there are advisors telling Biya that he can defeat Ambazonians in their ongoing independence liberation struggle militarily. Unfortunately for Biya, the top US diplomat for Africa added: “The truth is, it’s not going to be won militarily. As we have seen in our own [American] history and in other places, you can’t wipe out a thought militarily. . . . Violence begets violence!”
In the above words, Amb. Nagy reminded Biya that the latter’s intransigence, arrogance and refusal to engage in mediated peace negotiations – rather opting for war – is a path to a violent self-destructive dead end.
The straight talking and bold American diplomat went further to make several pronouncements that significantly reveal America’s changing perception of the reality of the conflict and possible outcome.
From “Cameroonianess” to “what they call Ambazonia”
When Amb. Nagy was asked in the House African Affairs SubCommittee on May 16 this year whether he thought the permanent separation of Cameroon and Ambazonia were possible, he said he did not think so because he believed Ambazonians have “a sense of Cameroonianess,” which is antithetical “to what they call Ambazonia.”
Six months later, the U.S Chief diplomat to Africa told the same House subcommittee that “Every day more Cameroonians who in the beginning were probably very loyal Cameroonians are starting to think that maybe declaring a separate country is the way we want to go.”
In the above words, Amb, Nagy notes that those who were once thought to have “a sense of Cameroonianess” and were as such “probably very loyal” to Cameroon are switching to the affirmation of an independent and sovereign Ambazonia as the best solution to end the conflict, and ensure peace and stability in the Central and West Africa Regions.
The senior diplomat’s statement today indicates a recognition by the U.S. government of the growing popularity and embracement by the Ambazonian people of the Ambazonian independence and sovereignty option as the best solution to end their years of suffering, poverty, death, denial of life, liberty and happiness under Cameroon’s oppression and tyranny. Amb. Nagy’s assertion re-echoes a scientific statistical study that was carried out this year by a team headed by the catholic Christian Cardinal Tumi in which they found that more than two-thirds of the Ambazonian people want nothing but absolutely separation from Cameroon, and the independence and sovereignty of Ambazonia.
America as a nation of democracy, and a country that stands strongly for democracy in its foreign policy cannot be deaf and dump to the implications of these numbers. In democracy, the will of a majority of the people is supreme! Cameroon cannot occupy and govern the Ambazonian people without the democratic consent of Ambazonians. With the increasing popularity of the two countries solution, which was also demonstrated by massive turnout on October 1, 2019 by the Ambazonian local populations throughout the territory to commemorate October 1 as the Independence Day of Ambazonia, the Ambazonian independence and sovereignty option must remain on the table.
From “National Dialogue” to “True Dialogue”: Internationally Mediated Negotiations
For over three years the U.S government has been calling on Mr. Biya to hold a dialogue with the objective of effectively resolving the Cameroon-Ambazonia conflict.
On May 16, Amb. Nagy told the U.S. House African Affairs Subcommittee that “it is in the interest of everybody to have a national dialogue.” Biya took those words and on September 9, 2019 called for a “Major National Dialogue” that began on September 30 and ran for a week.
Today, speaking to the same House Subcommittee, Amb. Nagy told House subcommittee on Africa that what Mr. Biya organized as a “national dialogue” was basically a sham that “unfortunately seemed to be more symbolic than concrete.” In fact, the “national dialogue” was so unacceptable that barely a month after its completion, President Trump slammed Cameroon with economic sanctions for gross human rights violations against the Ambazonian people.
Following the bogus nature of the “national dialogue”, America has shifted its call for a “national dialogue” to a “true dialogue”. It is the U.S government’s position that such true dialogue has to be an internationally mediated negotiation process. In this regard, Amb. Nagy told Congress that the U.S government is “following closely the process in Switzerland that is supposed to be a dialogue.”
From “Southwest and Northwest” to “Two Cameroons”: Clear Identification of the Parties to the Conflict
On Tuesday, March 12, 2019 Tibor Nagy told reporters: “my heart breaks for Cameroon … I just don’t understand why this crisis goes on and on and on.” He further called for “open, unlimited national dialogue to come to resolution, because those poor people in northwest and southwest—we can call them that, we can call them the people in the Anglophone region—are just suffering so, so much.”
In his response to questions from U.S House African Affairs Subcommittee on November 19, 2019, he told the congressmen and congresswomen that “there are two colonial histories; there are two Cameroons that came together.”
If Amb. Nagy had used the word “people” in the above March statement loosely, he qualified it today by placing this peoplehood in the context of the colonial history of the anglophone Ambazonians, and emphasized that “Cameroon” as anyone sees it today is actually made up of two equal people: the people of Cameroon with a specific history of UN trusteeship under the French, and the people of Ambazonia (the erstwhile “Southern Cameroons”) with a specific history of UN trusteeship under Britain.
In the above regard, the U.S position has shifted from a common consideration of parties in the ongoing conflict as the Cameroon government on the one hand versus the Ambazonian rebel independence fighters on the other hand to two people of equal status under international law and principles. These parties are Cameroon that achieved independence on October 1, 1960 as “Republic of Cameroon”, and the erstwhile Southern Cameroons (now “Ambazonia”) which Independence Day from Britain was set by the United Nations for October 1, 1961. The parties to this conflict equally have distinctive geographical borders that was drawn up and recognized by international treaties. It is important to emphasize that the map of French Cameroun deposited at the United Nations Secretariat when it gained her independence and obtained membership into the world body, does not include Ambazonia territory. In the absence of a union treaty between these two distinct peoples, the said map of Cameroon has never been revised to include the Ambazonia territory.
By Amb. Nagy’s words to the House Congressional Subcommittee on Africa, the U.S has now identified and named clearly the two parties to the conflict, which anyone, including purported mediation third parties such as the Swiss should forever know and name as the parties to this conflict. These parties are the people of Cameroon administered by France in their colonial history and the people of Ambazonia occupied by the Republic of Cameroon and was administered by Britain as “Southern Cameroons” in their own colonial history.
When the Ambazonia Governing Council refrained from quickly jumping to the wagon of the possible Swiss-facilitated process, the President, Dr. Ayaba Cho Lucas insisted that one of the reasons for this was because Switzerland had failed to properly identify and name the parties to the conflict. It is frivolous for anyone to jump into a conflict resolution process without first knowing clearly who the parties are.
The starting point of this conflict resolution towards a lasting peace is the recognition that these parties – Cameroon and Ambazonia (erstwhile “Southern Cameroons”) are equal in status. Each of them was a Class B Mandate territory of the United Nations, and each had its political, legal, educational, economic, social and cultural systems. None is above the other, and as such none has powers to attempt granting the other a “special status” of any sort. Therefore, any attempt by one party to dominate the other even in the conflict resolution process will only lead to further escalation of the conflict.
It is Getting Late
The Cameroon government should understand that the handwriting is on the wall. The violence it is propagating in occupying Ambazonia is only begetting violence against it forces and interest in the Ambazonian territory. The intransigence of Emperor Haile Selassie and his preference for a military option saw Eritrea become independent and sovereign. Mr. Biya must know that every passing day that he has his military committing genocidal acts, war crimes, and extreme human rights violations that include mass killing of thousands of the Ambazonian people, burning down of their over 400 towns and villages, and raping of Ambazonian women moves Ambazonia closer to the day of independence and sovereignty.
If Cameroon wants to save itself, it must withdraw its troop from Ambazonia into barracks across the Mongo and hasten to the table for a negotiated settlement in the presence of international third parties.