Was the Formation of the Interim Government Ambazonia’s Original Sin?

A Three-Part Analysis

By Effiom Mbong*

“Now he has won our brothers, our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

Chinua Achebe

Residents of Bamenda in the North West Region marching with peace plants in protest against Anglophone marginalization before the crisis degenerated into the armed conflict of today. AFP/Getty Images

On 02 March 2019 or thereabout, Barrister Charles Taku posted an article in a restricted Southern Cameroons Forum, wherein he was performing a sacred duty to the memory of his great friend, the late Mr Bate Besong. Taku’s two-part article is quite pertinent to the Southern Cameroons liberation quest in several respects. Not only because it pays homage to Bate Besong’s extra-ordinary prescience in predicting the Ambazonian uprising but also because he correctly situates the multidimensional implications of the complicity of the Nigerian federal authorities in the illegal and extra-ordinary rendition of those perceived in certain quarters as constituting a significant crop of the leadership of the Ambazonian revolution, from Abuja to Yaounde. Leading minds within the Southern Cameroons intelligentsia agree with Taku that what is most important at this juncture is to confront the genocidal regime in Yaounde and ensure the liberation of the homeland. However, through his well-intentioned but misguided endorsement of the so-called Interim Government, he could be correctly accused of unwittingly sanctioning not only illegality but a strategic mistake that has set back the fight for the liberation of the Southern Cameroons. In Taku’s words: 

“While internal squabbles must be addressed, that cannot override rallying behind the Interim Government that instructed the lawyers working on this and other cases to raise the profile of the cases to the highest levers of international intervention…

It is therefore advisable to support the IG to move quickly to fulfil these tasks while other weighty issues are internally reviewed and quickly redressed without the intention of rocking the boat for the sake of power….”

Charles Taku is not only a brilliant lawyer of international repute, but one can personally also attest to his integrity and steadfast commitment to the cause of the liberation of the Southern Cameroons. The question is, why do otherwise brilliant and committed Ambazonians such as  Taku make the mistake of endorsing such a flawed contraption? Which Interim Government is he asking Southern Cameroonians to rally behind? What has become popularly known as the ‘Pastors Interim Government’ (PIGs) because many at its helm claim to be ordained priests, and with its base in the Washington DC – Maryland axis? Or what has come to be known as the ‘Kondengui Interim Government’ (IG-CARE)? Since many amongst its leadership are currently in the Kondengui prisons in Yaounde. Committed cadres like Taku seem to fail to realise that one could support and uphold the actions of a crop of the revolution’s leadership while simultaneously distancing oneself from a number of their actions that imperil the cause they purport to stand for. Whatever the case, could Taku not have applied the simple test of whether his bosom friend, Bate Besong, would have endorsed the Interim Government?

Lawyer Charles Taku

A few weeks before Taku’s outing, in February 2019, many informed minds had come out against the PIGs, as there was mounting and irrefutable evidence that vital elements within it were infiltrators at the behest of the Yaounde regime. The issue is not the apparent infiltration of the leadership of a significant component that stands for the liberation of the Southern Cameroons, even if this remains crucial.   History records that every revolution has its fair share of opportunists and adventurers ready to betray the cause they purport to stand for in a twinkle for a dime. Nevertheless, how could Yaounde so easily penetrate and hoodwink an otherwise intelligent and committed people? The answer may well lie in the formation of the so-called Interim Government and how those who championed it went about its creation. It is not rare to find treachery in the highest ranks of an organisation or cause, but there are ways of mitigating and limiting the harmful activities of such individuals. Once the Interim Government was created and these individuals successfully seized control of it on the decapitation of its initial leadership core in January 2018, the IG’s cloak gave a semblance of legitimacy to the harmful activities of these scoundrels.

This phenomenon is what one of the Southern Cameroons foremost academics and liberation stalwart,  Mr Carlson Anyangwe, as one of the principal architects of the IG, bemoans in several outings after realising that he might have unwittingly facilitated the birthing of a monster that could consume the liberation quest. In his ‘Reflections’ (05 May 2019), one of his several exchanges with leading members of the PIGs, he concedes that perhaps the formation of the initial IG was a mistake. But rationalises it thus:

It is often forgotten that the original idea of an Ambazonian IG was not to ensure the governance of Ambazonia from abroad. That is infeasible. The idea was to create a directive instrument responsible for: (i) prosecuting the national liberation struggle, (ii) internationalisation and education in regarding the quest for freedom, (iii) responding to the mounting humanitarian crisis, and (iv) crafting a vision for independent Ambazonia in all areas of national life.

Many have wondered if Anyangwe’s idealism could have clouded his legendary intellect and judgement, thus leading to his participation in the premature formation of the Interim Government?  Carlson Anyangwe is an Emeritus Professor-at-Law and pioneering veteran of the quest for the Southern Cameroons liberation. One cannot doubt his loyalty and commitment to the sovereignty of the Southern Cameroons. At various times he has taken enormous risks and made significant sacrifices to advance the cause for Southern Cameroons independence. As a young academic, he co-authored the late Prof Bernard Fonlon’s and Fon Fongum Gorgi-Dinka’s New Social Order in 1985. One of the Founding Fathers of the Social Democratic Front, he is equally amongst the earliest to have parted ways with the party in 1993 because of his commitment to the Southern Cameroons Statehood’s realisation. He was one of the four conveners of the All-Anglophone Conference in April 1993 that brought together over 5000 Southern Cameroonians, including its surviving leading pre- and post-unification politicians, such as ST Muna, JN Foncha and Tabi Egbe. The Conference issued what came to be known as the Buea Declaration that demanded a return to a two-state federation. He played a prominent role in securing victory at the African Commission for Peoples’ and Human Rights (ACPHR) 2009 judgment that recognised the people of the Southern Cameroons distinctiveness and recommended negotiations with Yaounde as a way forward to an amicable resolution. Thus, he is one of the few of his generation to be intimately involved at every milestone achievement in the progression of the people of the Southern Cameroons towards self-determination and sovereign statehood.  

The lessons of hindsight make one ponder if Anyangwe’s apparent tragedy is not by and large self-inflicted since many well-informed personalities of Southern Cameroons extraction had advised against the formation of the Interim Government for many of the same reasons he was now advancing. It may well be that the tragic fate of the Southern Cameroons is equally one of disorganisation and lack of preparation by the various liberation groups that existed before 2015 since, given Yaounde’s intransigence, it had become apparent that violent confrontation was inevitable. This point is all the more significant since, in a subsequent interview with Mr Bernard Ngalim, Anyangwe leaves one confused if the formation of the Interim Government was simply a case of a woeful failure of foresight or there are yet to be disclosed reasons for the move? The relevant segment of the interview flighted on the Southern Cameroons Broadcasting Corporation (SCBC) on 31 May 2020 is herein transcribed in extenso:

Bernard Ngalim (BN):         Many have pointed out that the formation of the Government was uncalled for and is responsible for the current high state or high rate of confusion because it transformed the revolution from a liberational idea into trying to secure power and influence – what do you have to say about that?

Carlson Anyangwe (CA):    My answer is every fool can be wise after the event; so, you say nothing after the event has happened. Before the event, all these people, you don’t hear these people, you don’t hear any of them offer no solution, nothing. So, for me, and even now, any person making that kind of a statement, what is the alternative they are offering? They have no alternative. I have always believed that we have amongst ourselves a lot of people who suffer from poverty of thought; and poverty of thinking; poverty of speech, and ability to think carefully through what they say—yes, assuming for the purposes of argument, but without conceding the point that the formation of a government was wrong. So what? It is not because you have now somebody like looking now, and say oh well, this person now, is now a criminal, a murderer; his conception was wrong. No. I don’t believe in that.

What I am interested in now is to say, people to offer alternative, to say, well, we must have made a mistake, and we all must accept that if we make a mistake and that is why I always say that look at some, in the days of the good old communist days, they always do what you call internal critique of each of themselves, and look back and say, look, what did we do, where did we go wrong, how could we change what went wrong?

Now, of all these people, I have never heard them, anybody, come up [with] any proposal, anybody with any such thing. To make such, oh just a revolutionary movement, a revolution is – that is nothing. Doesn’t say anything to me. What is the content of that so-called revolutionary movement you are talking about? Every movement is a revolutionary movement. So what?

BN:            Even the Government?

CA:            The Government is bound to be a revolutionary movement. And that is not the first. Revolutionary governments have been set all over. And there are two kinds of revolutionary governments. Some are governments that are set outside, set outside, but that having been inside. And there are some that were inside but later on relocated outside. So what are people talking about?

BN:            Becoming specific on the Ambazonian situation and on the Ambazonian Government, do you have any proposals or what is your analysis of the state so far? Do you have what needs to be amended? Because currently, we have two of them; one broke out of the other, and now we have one led by Siseku and the other led by Sako. What needs to be done to bring them back on rail?

CA:            I don’t follow your question. To bring who on rail? There is only one IG. You may have a counterfeit one, perhaps, yes.

BN:            (laughing) I don’t want to say there is one. There is IG-Sako; and there is IG-Siseku. Am I wrong, Prof.?

CA:            I could call myself that I am Ngalim. So, do you become Ngalim 1, and I become Ngalim 2? It doesn’t change anything.

BN:            So, as it stands, which is the IG you are talking about?

CA:            I am talking of IG. There is only one IG. That is the IG that was created and led by Siseku. There is no other IG.

BN:            According to you, he is still the leader of the IG?

CA:            of course! How else can it be?

BN:            So now we have plus one revolutionary movement – that is the IG that is led by Sako (laughing). It’s making me want to laugh a little because it’s.

CA:            Let me tell you that even that one you are mentioning, its so-called IG is derivative, isn’t it?

BN:            Absolutely.

CA:            So, what is the content of what it is talking about? It doesn’t make sense.

BN:            Could you talk a little bit about the legitimacy of the IG?

CA:            Siseku derives its legitimacy from the string of conclaves that were held in Nigeria. Conclave 1, 2, 3 and 4, which were a representation of the different liberation movements, as captured in our declaration of independence. It, you see there, are all the liberation movements that took part in it. And there are all the liberation movements that decided unanimously on having him and setting it up. So anybody impugning that will be saying that those liberation movements did not exist; and therefore, they themselves, the liberation movements, do not exist in the minds of our people, and have no legitimacy. That’s the legitimacy we are talking about; in other words, legitimacy derived from our people. I will advise anybody to go and read that proclamation of independence over and over and over again. There is answer there for everything people are asking. The problem with our people is that many of them do not read. That is our basic problem. We don’t read.

Good intentions can, and often do, have poor consequences, and it appears that those who championed the formation of the Interim Government are victims of one of such classic cases. Bernard Ngalim deserves commendation for exhibiting such brilliance in this interview. Anyangwe, on the other hand, seems to be suffering from many of the same traits he accuses others of in the discussion. It is important to note that the interview was conducted almost a year after the circulation of his Reflections on 05 May 2019. As such, sufficient time should have elapsed for deeper self-introspection. Such introspection could well have led to the conclusion that the formation of the so-called Interim Government was not only a strategic mistake but one whose ramifications may continue to have a deleterious impact on Southern Cameroons politics beyond the liberation struggle and independence.

But from the interview, one gets the impression that he seems to be recanting the mistake he conceded in his  Reflections. That is that the Interim Government’s premature formation was a mistake despite the apparent laudable intentions behind it ‘to create a directive instrument.’ His interview with Bernard Ngalim as such is unhelpful in shedding light as to why those who championed the formation of an Interim Government at the height of Yaoundé’s onslaught on the people of the Southern Cameroons deemed it as the most appropriate course of action. Would a post-conflict Truth and Justice Commission in the Southern Cameroons help unravel the real reasons why a few persons managed to successfully persuade a relatively significant number of groupings and actors that an Interim Government could best serve the cause of the Southern Cameroons liberation at that critical juncture?

Prof Carlson Anyangwe

Those who advocate for such a Commission also point out that thought leadership in the Southern Cameroons had recommended a different course of action. That is why it is equally important to examine Anyangwe’s interview with Bernard Ngalim more closely. Acknowledging that a mistake had been made does not equate to taking responsibility nor amount to an apology. Within the Ambazonian community, serious critics of the IG’s formation point out that its formation led to the polarisation of those in the Southern Cameroons genuinely interested in its sovereignty, besides discouraging many significant players in the international community sympathetic to the cause of the liberation of the Southern Cameroons. It has further distracted from focusing on confronting the Yaounde regime’s forces on the ground and instead resulted in infighting amongst armed groups. As of October 2019, well-informed sources estimated at 800 the number of Ambazonian fighters killed from infighting, and by May 2020, the figure of 1200 was advanced.

It is not that divisions amongst anti-colonial groupings are not uncommon. However, the IG’s formation was used to provide an otherwise inexistent semblance of legitimacy to specific groups on the one hand and the other, accentuating the differences amongst movements involved in a common cause for liberation. As per his Reflections, the four reasons advanced by Anyangwe for creating the Interim Government appear to be compelling and valid. However, were there no other and more effective ways of achieving the same objectives? More importantly, did the benefits of having an Interim Government outweigh the likely negative fallouts of having such a contraption as many had fore-warned?

Moreover, the manner and methods used to devise the so-called IG are not those that could have facilitated or advanced the attainment of the objectives outlined by Anyangwe. Could these objectives have been an afterthought to rationalise what he previously admittedly accepted as a mistake in this instance? What then could be the real reasons for Anyangwe to have acquiesced, if not promoted, the constitution of what amounts to self-sabotage in the name of an IG?

To Be Continued

* The analysis are those of the author and reactions may be sent directly to him at Effiom.Mbong@gmail.com or through this publication.

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