Francophonizing the people in Ambazonia: Is Africa and the world on the brink of another humanitarian crisis?

by Bernard Ngalim

 

Ethnic cleansing surfaced in the context of the 1990’s conflict in the former Yugoslavia during that same period, the Rwandan genocide awestruck a world paralyzed into inaction as about one million Tutsi were slaughtered before the world cameras with CNN ratings hitting the roof off.   After the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the international community promised to prevent a repeat of such horror. Twenty-four years later, the world silently watches another human catastrophe ripping Ambazonia, Anglophone Cameroon. This time rather, instead of the tribes being cleansed, the Anglophone are being francophonized. The eight million people of Ambazonia,  the English speaking region of  Cameroon are victims of targeted and indiscriminate killings, disappearances, mass arrests, detentions, indiscriminate razing of villages, rape, torture etc.

Immediate causes

There is a long story behind the horror but the situation deteriorated in 2016. Ambazonian lawyers and teachers called general strikes against what they called the francophonisation of the judicial and educational systems. Ambazonian lawyers and teachers petitioned the government against the deployment of French speaking magistrates and teachers to English speaking courts and schools. Government ignored the grievances, access to justice and due process eroded, and the quality of education dropped terribly.

Unable to contain government’s inaction, lawyers and teachers called sit in strikes, and in solidarity, frustrated Ambazonian joined them. Government responded by mass arrests and detentions – sometimes in unknown detention centers. Amongst the detainees were Human Rights Lawyer and activist, Felix Agbor Balla, leader of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium and Justice Ayah Paul of  the Supreme Court. To concretize the arrests, government banned the consortium, deployed armed soldiers to cities and villages, tortured students, shut down internet supply in the affected zone and decreed curfews  in the area.

Government brutality exacerbated the Ambazonian quest for independence. On September 22 and October 1, 2017, millions of Amazonians defied government curfews, poured into the streets armed with green leaves, blue and white stripes (flag of and official colors of Ambazonia), declared and celebrated the independence of Ambazonia from French Cameroon. Government again reacted responded with brutal force causing the deaths of protesters. Rights Groups such as Human Rights Watch evaluated satellite imagery of 131 villages and concluded there was evidence of building destruction in 20 villages and small towns consistent with burnings. Amnesty International reported government firing indiscriminately on crowds, including from helicopters. International Crisis Group documented death toll resulting from the use of live ammunition and excessive use of tear gas, including in homes and against the faithful as they left church.

The multiplier effects of government brutality have been devastating. In May 2017, 160,000 people were internally displaced and 22,000 refugees fled to Nigeria and more continue fleeing to Nigeria. Militias constituted themselves to protect their people and property, leading to increased armed violence between government forces and pro-independence fighters. Civilians are the biggest casualties of the violence; they are forced to flee, take refuge in forests, and families are separated. Yet, the world silently watches as the humanitarian situation deteriorates.

cameroon

Ambazonian remember the Never Again Campaign pledged after the Rwandan genocide and wish it were reality. The government adopted a scotch earth policy razing villages, using life ammunition and killing indiscriminately. As the world silently watches, children have dropped out of school and some have joined militia groups, schools destroyed, people live in bushes without healthcare, the economy is shrinking while the military and militia groups kill, kidnap and torture civilians. The conflict has transformed to war. While government claims monopoly of violence, militia groups claim right to self-defense. Between the protagonists, lie the vulnerable civilian population who die daily. Government has refused access to rights groups making it difficult to document deaths, atrocities and update information on casualties and displaced people. In a Facebook post on August 6, 2018, an Ambazonian activist claimed government killed at least 77 Ambazonian between June and July 2018. The list details the names, date and place of death. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights alarmed by reports of serious rights breaches regrets government’s refusal to grant UN and humanitarian investigators access but promised to explore other options including remote monitoring.

war and torture

Civil society operates in a tight and hostile environment making it difficult to collect, update and publish data on the atrocities. The International Crisis Group quoted reports from Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa, a local rights group that put the death toll on October 1, 2017 at 100 persons. To effectively tell the story, local rights groups partner with or furnish foreign rights groups with information. Though most reports recommend government conducts impartial investigations, government congratulates the military for their professionalism. The Catholic Church issued a statement detailing the historical and constitutional root causes of the problem. International Crisis Group posits the Church remains the veritable voice to broker dialogue as a route to resolving the conflict.

Conclusion

War is raging in Ambazonia, people are dying, fleeing into forests and others into Nigeria. It is international good practice to bypass national sovereignty and restore peace in the face of humanitarian and catastrophic human rights violations. Government refusal to grant access to the UN and other international humanitarian organizations is open to interpretation, transmits bad faith and puts the burden of proof on government. Rights groups and the US Ambassador have accused government of using excessive force, targeted killings, collective punishment, arbitrary and indiscriminate arrests making. Consequently, government cannot conduct impartial investigations. Based on the US information on the planned and targeted killings of civilians US, the US can take a lead role to investigate and publish a report on the actual situation thereby invoking international humanitarian action. Following the deployment of 300 US military personnel to Cameroon, the US has enough information on atrocities. Ambazonia is the former UN trust territory of British Southern Cameroon which attained independence in 1961 by “joining” French Cameroon. The “joining” was conditioned on a federation but French Cameroonian abolished the federation, occupied Ambazonia and is francophonizing the people. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights recognized Ambazonians as a people. As a people they have the right to self-determination and should determine their political future. An internationally mediated dialogue remains the sustainable solution to the conflict.

9 replies on “Francophonizing the people in Ambazonia: Is Africa and the world on the brink of another humanitarian crisis?”

  1. The Genocide is ongoing and Ambazonians have made sure the world is informed. Daily we are inundated with dreadful images of slaughtered families, women and children. The killing machine of Mr. Biya use money to hire US lobby firm Squire Patton Boggs to lobby the corridors of Washington at a meagre cost of $100K a quarter making the case for Genocide difficult. The case for Ambazonia is one left for the people alone to bear arms to defend themselves and until then, we will continue to see more killings. hardship and hundreds of people displaced

  2. Tarkiki Ntfunyar says:

    A Concised Report, Just Hope Someone Somewhere Takes Action Before 8 Million People Are Wiped Out From The Surface Of The Earth.

  3. kixito laiven says:

    The people of anglophone Cameroon are like the traveller in scripture in the story of the Good Samaritan. He was beaten, robbed and abandoned by the road side half dead.

    These people are as it were left at the road side, beaten and robbed not only of material possession but also of their dignity as human beings.

    They are waiting for good Samaritans. If these delay in coming the people would bleed to death. I pray and hope your write up moves someone some where. Someone who can be a good Samaritan.

  4. The people of anglophone Cameroon, particularly the masses can be compared to the man in scripture who left Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, who beat him, stripped, robbed him and departed leaving him half dead by the road side.

    These people (anglophone cameroonians) are as it were by the road side, lying on the edge, bleeding profusely, sick, injured, some tortured and disabled/maimed, some raped, and abandoned.

    The anglophone Cameroonians are in dire need of good Samaritans who will come to their aid. I hope that this write up can enable someone somewhere to come to their aid, to be that good Samaritan they so much need.

  5. rosemaria yongabi says:

    Genocide in southern Cameroon.Government killing a people.Ambazonians defend your land.Ambazonians wants the entire international community to hear their voices

  6. rosemaria yongabi says:

    Ambazonians are asking the international community to listen to their cry and rescue them from

  7. kixito laiven says:

    The people (the anglophone Cameroonians, can be compared to a man in scripture, a traveller from Jerusalem to Jericho, who fell among robbers, who got him beaten, robbed him, and abandoned him half dead at the edge.

    These people are as it were on the edge in dire need for good Samaritans. We have to keep shouting as you have done, Mr. Ngalim, hoping that some day someone, some good Samaritan would come to their aid, if not they would bleed to death.

  8. kenneth ngah says:

    Southern Cameroon is a people and has got no affinity with LRC of Cameroon.

  9. Edwin says:

    Thanks, Mr. Ngalim for this recount and analysis for how failed diplomacy and politics has now resulted to the most recent genocide in Africa. The root cause of this war like most conflicts in Africa can easily be traced to the reckless partitioning and administration of the European colonial powers in their selfish interests and in complicity with the League of Nations followed by the United Nations. From the Simon-Milne Declaration of 1916 which defined the boundaries between French and English Cameroons, the League of Nations covenant making British Cameroons a Mandated territory Under United Kingdom Administration, to the status of Trust Territory of the UN with the role of the British Administering authority to transition the colony to self-governance, the people of the Southern Cameroons have been betrayed; boundaries crossed, covenants broken, independence promised, even given ( April 21, 1961, UN resolution 1608 (XV), 64 Yes votes), then denied. Recolonized. The strategic and economic interests of the colonizers ( Cameroon and UN members), is more important than the lives of Africans. The solution remains in the hands of the Southern Cameroonians and not in the corridors of the UN.

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