September 22 of every year is historic in the life of the Ambazonians, otherwise referred to as Anglophone Cameroons, since it commemorates the 2017pro-independence protests that culminated in the arrests of about 700 of their kinsmen.
Four months after the declaration of independence in January 2018, Ambazonian President, Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and nine of the leadership were extradited from Nigeria to Cameroon, tried and handed life sentences. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, Ambazonian Vice President, Yerima Darbney traces the Genesis of the struggle, why they want independence and global and regional bodies’ silence over many African presidents’ tyranny and continued self-perpetuation in office
There is a wave of coups in Africa. What do you think accounts for the trend?
The greed of African leaders, weak institutions like the African Union (AU) and the hijack of our continent by imperialists because of our natural resources account for the trend we are seeing today, and there is more to come. Two years ago, while celebrating Africa Day in South Africa, I shared the stage with Comrade Julius Malema, Commander in Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters in South Africa, comrades from Mali, Congo, and other African countries.
In front of the French Embassy in Pretoria, we called on France to leave Africa immediately. We had sensed the wave of change for a free Africa on the horizon, an Africa which will be progressive and prosperous. The trend started from Mali to Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, and now Gabon. We are yet to see the end of this new wave of coups.
The birth of a progressive Africa is here and now and increasingly, Africans are noticing that intergovernmental bodies like the AU, ECOWAS, CEMAC and even the United Nations are irrelevant to their everyday realities of poverty and destitution. These organisations are simply clubs of despots and kleptomaniacs who meet to massage their ego and pledge to support each other thereby magnifying the imperialist agenda in Africa against legitimate anger by the masses and revolutionary soldiers who are fighting for the interests of their homeland and an Africa free of imperialism and neocolonialism.
Let me quote Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, ‘the man who doesn’t have a job or an income has neither life nor liberty and the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.’ Does this sound typical of African countries with all their natural resources and fertile lands? The answer is a resounding Yes.
And how have African leaders reacted to this?
African leaders’ increasing irrelevance by trying to solve European problems instead of Africa’s problems first, signals their eventual collapse. The AU and EU-imposed sanctions on Niger and Gabon are dead on arrival because when a people rise for justice and peace, there is no force in this world that can stop them.
Those Unions are just throwing water on a duck’s back. They should instead try to find solutions to end the over exploitation of African natural resources, end neo-colonialism and then adapt and work for the principles laid down by the founding fathers of the AU like Kwame Nkrumah. The guilt of supporting leaders who organise coups by rigging elections in their countries has blinded them to the realities of the livelihood of citizens of countries like French Cameroun now engaged in a genocidal war in Ambazonia, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Gabon.
The AU has lost touch completely with the tenets of her creation and existence. If the AU were in touch with those tenets, they would have acted as Police to oust all coup plotters who rig elections to stay in power for life and hand over power to their children. The African Union has become an instrument for over the exploitation, suppression, and the destruction of Africa. The organization does not use any instruments for peace which resonate with the plight of the African people. The organization implements mainly the tenets of the supremacy handbook for their masters who are only interested in the resources of Africa because they desperately need them for their livelihoods. The lives of Africans really do not matter according to the supremacy handbook.
Slavery, which was abolished in theory, nowadays has been modernised to humanitarian aids, coups, neocolonialism, and loans which are difficult for African states to pay back, etc. But interestingly, Africa is self-sufficient and the never again generation of Africans (Pan Africanists) stands in solidarity with all progressive African revolutionaries in the continent to fight for the liberation of Africa.
Africa is the biggest and the richest continent in the world and she must be free from the hands of imperialists like France and the over exploitation of her natural resources. The destruction of nations through senseless wars and imposed bad leadership supported and controlled by imperialist masters must stop once and for all in Africa.
We witnessed the genocide in Rwanda, a hallmark of France’s imperialism in Africa. Another genocidal war is going on in Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia with the same hallmarks of France. The events in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Gabon are a result of France’s influence in those countries.
Africa must stand together and fight for what is truly African. We must not allow the imperialist agents amongst us to continue fostering the supremacist’s agenda. That is the tool they have successfully used for a very long time to destroy our continent. Africans must get imperialist and neo-colonialists masters off their backs and remain part of the global village, maintaining mutually beneficial and respectful relations with the rest of the world.
The only way forward is equality, trade, manufacturing, self-reliance, defence capability and the policy of no permanent enemies as the modus operandi of the social and economic systems of the world. This will stop the exploitation and destruction of Africa, the sabotage from without, but even more likely from within. Ending such practices will improve economic growth in Africa which will foster the development of Africa. Imperialism will stop to a greater extent and our world for once will become a better place for us and our generations to come.
What is your impression about some African leaders’ continued self- perpetuation in office as seen in Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, Eritrea and others?
Most African leaders are proxies amplifying the imperialists agenda in our continent. They support each other because they are backed by the same imperialist master who has given them the imperialist handbook as their workbook. They are blinded to the realities of the sufferings of their citizens and keep the imperialist’s handbook to the letter. Such leaders are promised to be presidents for life if they serve their imperial master well against the wellbeing of their people. It is shocking to see African countries with abundant natural resources underdeveloped.
African leaders go to treat themselves in the West because they don’t have specialists’ hospitals in their countries. They embezzle the people’s money and bank the money in Western countries. We see some of them even store large sums of money in their homes like in French Cameroon, Gabon, Nigeria, etc. They take loans from Western countries and mortgage the resources of their people. They are not accountable to the people, and they rule with impunity.
These tendencies make them at some point to become very unpopular and as result, they in turn impose themselves on their people by rigging elections and only take care of the military as in the case of French Cameroon. Their idea is if they take care of the military, they are protected in power as they become untouchable.
Most military in these countries play a very big role in the suffering of the people because they protect the tyrannical leaders. They commit atrocities and human rights abuses in countries like French Cameroon, Togo, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo because these countries are ruled with an iron fist. It used to happen in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger, and Gabon too.
Interestingly, when you read the preamble of the constitutions of most of these countries, it always begins with, ‘we the people.’ Power belongs to the people, but it is taken by a strongman under the protection of their Western slave master. Africa needs real leaders who serve and protect the interests of their people. Leaders who are willing to give off power after they finished their term of office.
Magufoli of Tanzania was one of the kind of leaders that Africa deserves. Jerry Rawlings was one too. The military leaders in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger are doing what civilian leaders were supposed to do. They are ending the over exploitation of their resources and encouraging youths to be entrepreneurs and making sure that the government works for the interests of the people. Leadership is about serving the people. In the Africa of today, we see more rulers trying to create a dynasty for their families than leaders working for the people. That must end.
Why do you think the UN seems not to be addressing this?
The UN is a toothless bulldog. It is an institution created to run the imperialists agenda by making sure that there is over exploitation and the complete destruction of the African continent, the richest continent in the world.
Where was the UN during the genocide in Rwanda? Where is the UN as the genocidal war declared by Paul Biya of French Cameroon in Ambazonia rages on? It is six years now, where is the UN? Where is the UN when Ambazonian refugees in Nigeria have no access to good medical facilities, a situation that has resulted in the death of many?
Where was the United Nations when the leaders of Ambazonia, including Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe were abducted in Nigeria and extradited to French Cameroon against international law? Since then, he and others have been serving life sentences. The sad thing is most of them had refugee status in Nigeria. When the Russian Ukrainian war broke out, I wish you were in America, Canada, or Europe to see how these countries took care of Ukrainians fleeing the war and how Africans were maltreated.
The UN doesn’t serve the purpose of Africa. The UN turns a blind eye because there is serious awareness going on in Africa and it defeats the purpose for her existence. Africans are now understanding better how these organizations operate. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, UN peacekeeping forces have been accused of looting the natural resources instead of fighting those responsible for killing the people and exploiting their resources.
The UN Security Council has so far failed to assume its responsibility under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to deal with French Cameroon’s colonial war in the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia). In the circumstances, it is not inconceivable that the Southern Cameroons abandons the self-defence posture to which it has so far restrained itself, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter. It may eventually broaden its offensive posture by targeting economic and social infrastructure in French Cameroun that supports that country’s war effort in Ambazonia, in the same way social and economic infrastructure in the Southern Cameroons (Amabazonia) continues to be targeted by the French Cameroon army.
The objective of this new offensive would be to bring it home to Emmanuel Macron and Paul Biya that their fanciful claim that “l’Ambazonie est Camerounaise” (Ambazonia belongs to Cameroun) is a pipe dream and that pursuing it will be very painful for French Cameroon in 2023 and beyond, in the same way as the French claimed in 1962 that “l’Algerie est francaise” (Algeria belongs to France) was for France. The people of the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) strongly reject any idea or suggestion, explicit or implicit, that the Southern Cameroons is an area under French influence given that the Southern Cameroons does not have and has never had any ties, colonial or otherwise, with France.
How do you see President Paul Biya and his government which has been in office in the last 42 years?
Paul Biya after 42 years in power is unpopular, frail, and begging for death to take him. His legacy is and will be that of the worst President who ever existed in French Cameroun. He took a vibrant country from Ahidjo and for 42 years Paul Biya and his tribal junta has reduced the country into a failed state with huge external debts and dilapidating infrastructure.
French Cameroon is seriously divided internally because President Biya is very tribalistic. Biya started the genocidal war in Ambazonia in November 2017, and he will likely die while the war rages on. The killings in Ambazonia have all the hallmarks of what Paul Biya’s marauding tribal troops are doing on behalf of their neo-colonialist and imperialist master, France, whose only interest is natural resources in Ambazonia.
As a puppet of France, nothing really changed since he took power regarding French Cameroon’s annexationist, assimilationist, colonization agenda for six decades in our territory. What has changed is the war declared on our people in November 2017 by Paul Biya. The six years old ongoing war of extermination in the territory of the Southern Cameroons has finally redefined itself. It has redefined itself from a war simply of self-defence against the predatory onslaught of France and its vassal state of French Cameroun, to a decolonization war.
It is a decolonization war against France, French Cameroon and its hawkish Bulu-Beti minority tribe. That tribe dominates and controls the government, the legislature, the judiciary, and the military in French Cameroun. It believes the people of the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) and their territory must remain imprisoned under French Cameroon colonization, spoliation, and occupation.
As of August 2023, 40,000 civilians have lost their lives in this war of genocide. About 1,000,000 persons have fled to Nigeria and other countries as refugees, and about 1,500,000 are internally displaced (IDPs). About 550 towns and villages and countless homes have been burnt down by the French Cameroon military. Hundreds of females have been raped (a good number deliberately infected with HIV and other STDs), scores of children killed in targeted killings, food and food crops, and livestock destroyed to impose conditions of famine, water sources defiled and polluted to provoke a pestilence, and mass graves punctuate the landscape.
Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are committed in the Southern Cameroons by French Cameroun military which systematically continues to kill women, teenagers, and even babies, the elderly, the infirm. Presidents Macron and Biya bear direct responsibility for these heinous crimes.
Six years into the deadly conflict, Paris and Yaounde are still dreaming of forcing the territory and people of the Southern Cameroons to remain their colony for resource looting and plundering. Paris and Yaounde are attempting to pin down the Southern Cameroons as a French sphere of cultural influence and economic backyard. France seeks to impose on the Southern Cameroons, via French Cameroun, its evil colonial “accords de cooperation.” France seeks to impose the continued use of France’s colonial currency, the Franc CFA, which is a key tool of colonial control by France. The Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) was never a French colony.
In a rare lucid internal moment, Biya admits that his colonial forces in Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia are terrorists from the French Cameroun State. He transformed French Cameroun into a terrorist state with serious instructions from his imperialist master, France, to implement black on black colonialism and assimilation of Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia. His rule with a sinful vanity for close to half a century is akin to that of an emperor without clothes. The present wave of change in Africa gives him sleepless nights.
There is no freedom of speech in that country. Many journalists who wrote about the right to fight for self-determination, which is our basic human rights, are arrested, brutalised, locked up in jail and put under serious torture. A typical example, Wazizi, an Ambazonian journalist was tortured to death in jail. Kingsley Njoka, another Ambazonian journalist is still in prison for just being an English-speaking journalist. Many journalists of Ambazonian origin are there in jail in the Capital of French Cameroon and are being tried in a military tribunal. The recent order by the colonial governor banning a newspaper of English expression informs the world on the nature of the state of French Cameroun. It is a state under the rule of tyranny, committing war crimes in Ambazonia and state terror in its true sense in French Cameroon and Ambazonia.
Tell us about the Ambazonians in Cameroon?
I am from Southern Cameroons / Ambazonia. I was shocked to realise that many countries in the world thought that Cameroon was a French country. Here is a brief history. The Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) association with Cameroun dates back only to a flawed decolonization in 1961. Southern Cameroons’ long historical connection with Britain goes a long way back, from 1833 to 1887 and again from 1914 to 1961. The country was a British-administered territory under international tutelage for nearly half a century.
Under the UN Charter, the UK as administering authority assumed the obligation to lead the trust territory to independence or self-government. In pursuance of its decolonization agenda, based on the fundamental right of self-determination, the United Nations mandated a plebiscite to be held in the British Southern Cameroons. It was held on 11 February 1961. It offered merely a choice between achieving independence by ‘joining’ (meaning federating) independent Nigeria or independent French-speaking Republique du Cameroun. Achieving independence by federating with an independent state is denoted by the United Nations General Assembly – UNGA Resolution 1541 (XV) of 15 December 1960 as “free association.”
Achieving independence by federating with Republique du Cameroun was thus a free association arrangement. This was endorsed by the UNGA in its Res 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961. The resolution set 1 October 1961 as the date on which the independence of the Southern Cameroons would take effect. That date coincided with the termination of trusteeship and the emergence of the Cameroon Federation. The Federation was constituted by the territory of the Southern Cameroons (denoted as West Cameroon) and the territory of Republique du Cameroun (denoted as East Cameroun).
In May 1972, 11 years into the free association arrangement, the political leaders of Republique du Cameroun abolished the Federation, dissolved the Southern Cameroons State, vandalized all the state’s institutions, and liquidated all its political, social, economic, and cultural structures. Southern Cameroon was cut into two and annexed as part of the territory of Republique du Cameroun. That was a fundamental breach of the free association arrangement between the two countries.
From that moment, things fell apart. Since then, Republique du Cameroun has done everything crooked, and used every subterfuge, as well as brute force to grab the territory and resources of the Southern Cameroons, assimilate the people of the Southern Cameroons into the dreadful Gallic world of Republique du Cameroon and French Equatorial Africa, obliterate the identity and history of the people of the Southern Cameroons, efface the culture and inestimable value system ‘inherited’ by the Southern Cameroons through its intense and beneficial British connection from 1833-1887 and from 1914-1961.
What is the possible solution to this? When is all these going to stop?
Our strongest hope is a peaceful solution to the conflict by the establishment of a United Nations Internationally Mandated Fact-Finding Mission to our territory. Although we are determined to keep negotiations high on our agenda, we must agree that the regime in Yaounde is not ready for any negotiation because war is good business for some of them and their partners.
The people of the Southern Cameroons strongly believe, and are convinced, that Britain should be actively involved in resolving the Southern Cameroons problem. The Southern Cameroons have historical ties with Britain going as far back as 1833 as mentioned earlier. It developed cultural ties with Britain during nearly half a century of British rule, from 1914-1961. Britain is a world Power and a major player in the world. They believe in a post-independence mutually beneficial partnership with Britain in key sectors such as oil and gas, minerals exploration and exploitation, infrastructural development especially roads, rail, air and seaports, security in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as capacity-building in sectors such as education, agriculture, energy, policing, legal and judicial system, and public administration.
The people of the Southern Cameroons firmly believe that Britain, working together with its many friends, can ensure the release of all citizens of the Southern Cameroons arbitrarily seized and being held hostage in French Cameroon prisons. Britain has the necessary leverage and can pressurize that country to abandon its colonial adventure in the Southern Cameroons. Republique du Cameroun should be required to respect international law, the unquestionable and inalienable right of the people of the Southern Cameroons to self-determination, their right to sovereign title to their territory, and their right to economic, social, and cultural development.
Republique du Cameroun must be called upon to respect the Charter of the United Nations, UNGA Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, UNGA Res 1541 (XV) of 15 December 1960, and the Constitutive Act of the African Union, Article 4b which lays down the foundational principle of intangibility of African borders as obtained on the date of independence (French Cameroun obtained independence from France on 1 January 1960 and her borders were frozen at the UN on 20 September 1960 and Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia was never a part of that).
The people of the Southern Cameroons further believe French Cameroun should be required to withdraw its troops, police and colonial administration from the Southern Cameroons. A protection force should then be deployed on the ground to secure the territory of the Southern Cameroons. That would create an enabling environment for the return of refugees and IDPs, and the flow of humanitarian aid. Targeted sanctions should be imposed on French Cameroun and those of its military and civil officials most criminally responsible for egregious human rights violations in the Southern Cameroons since 2016.
Why does Ambazonia want complete independence?
Again, as a servant leader, that decision of total independence has been taken by the people. The people of Southern Cameroons in a very rare kind of referendum made that decision on 22 September 2017 when they all came out in all the cities, towns and villages of the territory with peace branches to declare they all wanted complete independence. History recorded the outpouring of the people in all nooks and crannies of the territory and that can be verified.
Personally, I think independence is the only way to permanently resolve and restore peace because the two Cameroons are incompatible in many ways, the trust between the people has been irreparably shattered. Our forebears tried the middle ground for a federation, but the incompatibility and distrust within the system and the people culminated in the present predicament. So, another middle ground this time around will be simply passing the war and hostilities to the next generation. We, the never-again generation have resolved not to pass this on to the next generation. It’s total independence for us now.
Our goal is to get a place under the sun to determine our own lives and the lives of our children after close to 200 years of colonial subjugation under the British, the Germans, the British again, and now France and French Cameroun. Our goal is freedom, our fundamental right to freedom, to choose our friends, and to live as good neighbours. In doing so we neither seek an inch of territory nor a drop of water from any of our three neighbours – Nigeria, French Cameroun, and Equatorial Guinea.
Our economic and geopolitical strategy will be to naturally align with Nigeria in particular. Nigeria is the most populous and biggest economy in the continent, and this will present Southern Cameroons a huge opportunity for mutually beneficial business in many sectors including agro-industries and other economic activities. There are more than 2 million Nigerians in Southern Cameroons and we have figured and worked out some specifics on the economic and geopolitical strategy for interacting with Nigeria and French Cameroon after our liberation. That strategy will be rolled out when we get to Buea, the capital of Ambazonia in a short while from now.
The Bakassi Peninsula dispute is a settled case by the ICJ in favor of Cameroon. Cameroon won the case because of the sole reason that Bakassi Peninsula was within the territory of Southern Cameroons. In addition, both the UN and AU charters call for the respectability of boundaries at independence. French Cameroon and Nigeria must respect their borders at independence, and we can live as neighbors and do business which will grow our economies and as a result, develop our countries.
On a different note, permit me to point out that the people of the former British Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) would like to inform Nigerians in general, and the Government of Nigeria that the leader of Ambazonia and his team continue to languish in prison in Yaounde, Cameroun. They were abducted in Abuja as indicated earlier in January 2018 and extradited to French Cameroun against international law and they currently have a life sentence in that country. The Abuja High Court since required the Nigerian government to work with Cameroon to return them to Nigeria. That verdict has not been implemented. I would like to appeal to the authorities in Nigeria as a country of laws to implement this verdict of the Abuja High Court in the interest of justice.
I would also appeal to the government of Nigeria and the Governments of other former British West Africa, of which Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia was a part since World War I, to intervene in the Cameroon-Ambazonia war to save the 8,000,000 Ambazonians from a genocidal war of extinction in Cameroon and French Equatorial Africa. British Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) was never a former colony of France and has no reason to be with former French colonies and to suffer French neo-colonialism in Africa. Finally, let me express profound appreciation to the Sunday Telegraph Newspaper in Lagos, Nigeria for the opportunity of this interview.