By Ayo Kehinde
The ongoing political crisis in Cameroon stirred by the desire of the English-speaking regions to go their separate ways following years of resistance against perceived marginalisation by the majorityFrancophone-led government, heightened with the arrest of key leaders of the self declared Ambazona Republic at a hotel in Abuja, Nigeria, January 5. They were reportedly whisked away from Nera hotels located on Ekweme Road, Abuja by gunmen and are yet to be found.
In a statement by Chris Anu, Chris Anu, Secretary of Communications and IT, the abduction of President Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and nine other officials was done “by gunmen from la Republic du Cameroun at about 19:30 pm in Nera Hotels, (Ekwueme Road), Abuja Nigeria on January 5, 2018. This criminal abduction happened during a meeting being chaired by H.E. Sisiku Ayuk Tabe. He gave the names of those arrested along with “ the President H.E. Sisiku Ayuk Tabe to include:
Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor, Chairman of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC)
Dr. Fidelis Nde Che, Dr. Henry Kimeng, Prof. Awasum, Dr. Cornelius Kwanga, Mr. Tassang Wilfred, Barrister Eyambe Elias, Dr. Ojong Okongho and Barrister Nalowa Bih.
“The President and his team were in a High Command meeting in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria at the time the Cameroun Gunmen showed up at the Hotel. The meeting started at around 5pm, Nigerian time. At around 7:30PM, the gunmen came into the Hotel and abducted all of them including the President.”
“The Federal Government of Nigeria has been notified of the incident and it is currently investigating the situation. The Interim Government of the Southern Cameroons calls on all Southern Cameroonians to remain calm as it pursues investigations.”
Attempts by Thisage to get official reaction from the Foreign Affairs Ministry proved abortive as none was ready to make any statement. An official who spoke on conditions of anonymity, merely volunteered that the issue raises “serious diplomatic implication for the relationship between Nigeria and Cameroon. We have some bilateral and multilateral agreements under which any such matter would be looked into. There is no need for haste.”
However, Mr Anu speaking with Thisage, said in response to the question whether the Nigeria authorities were properly briefed of their status and activities in the country: “these persons who were picked up by Abuja have been living the Nigeria for a long time. Some have passports, some others have working papers from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, UNCHR.
On the activity of the group before their abduction of their leaders, he said: “We have close to 40,000 refugees from southern Cameroons in Akwa Ibom, Calabar, Taraba and it was their fate, particularly during the raining season, we were to discuss when the abductors swooped on us”
On the question whether he has made any formal request to the Nigerian authorities beyond the press statement he issued on the matter, he said “We have lawyers who are working with the Nigerian authorities.”
“President H.E. Sisiku Ayuk Tabe”
The crisis has its roots in the country’s past when Camoroon was born as a county, courtesy of an arrangement between the colonial powers, Britain and France. The former which ruled Southern Cameroons along with Nigeria, granted independence to its arm on October 1, 1961, while the French did the same to its arm, La Republique du Cameroon, on January 1, 1960. The two territories came together to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. There were two states—West and East Cameroons—operating under the federal system of government which were later fused on May 20, 1972 to form the United Republic of Cameroon.
“But over time, citizens of the country’s English-speaking regions, which account for around 20 per cent of the population, have complained to feeling frustrated in the union as they complain of cultural, economic, social and political deprivation.”
Attempts by the people of the North West and South West regions to protest their marginalisation on September 22, 2017 was met with a crackdown by the security forces, foiling any attempts by the agitators to hoist blue-white flags of Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia as a sign of independence.
Amnesty International confirmed that up to 17 persons were killed by security forces during the protests in some of Cameroon’s Anglophone towns.
President Paul Biya, who has been in power for 35 years, condemned the agitations as “all acts of violence, regardless of their source and their perpetrators.”
He appeared to enjoy the support of members of parliament and the ruling Cameroon’s People’s Democratic Movement but shockingly, the English speaking opposition MPs and the opposition Social Democratic Front Party, condemned the support and boycotted any meeting in that line.
“We hope the Nigerian authorities would act to free our leaders and restore hope among our people,” said Anu.