Amid the growing Western and Russian diplomatic offensives in Africa, the Dr Ikome Sako-led Ambazonia Interim Government, IG has said it will align with whoever sympathises and works with them to achieve their goal of regaining their independence.
Dr. Samuel Ikome Sako, President of the Southern Cameroons Interim Government in exile, was speaking on September 28, 2023, during an international press briefing that was themed, “Exploring Russia’s Influence in West Africa: Focus on Ambazonia’s Shared History with Nigeria, The Conflict Between the Cameroons and its Potential Impact on the Gulf of Guinea”.
At the press conference, the IG team regretted that the Western world has for some reason, decided to wilfully turn a blind eye to the ongoing war, and the several human rights violations committed in the course of the fighting. “The Ambazonian struggle for independence and recognition has been marked by violence, loss of lives – at least 45 thousand, and human rights violations. However, the Western world’s attitude towards this genocide has often been overlooked and neglected”, the IG said. It further quoted the former US Undersecretary for Africa, Tibor Nagy, who on September 23, 2023, tweeted, decrying the fact that the crisis that has brought about the loss of lives and human rights violations in Southern Cameroons is not getting enough attention. The former Diplomat had asserted that the killings and rights violations are equally tragic as those occurring elsewhere.
The Sako-led IG asserted that “the West’s attitude can be largely attributed to two key factors. Firstly, geopolitical interests shape the World Order, guiding the allocation of attention, resources, and diplomatic support. Countries that wield economic and strategic importance often receive more significant international focus. Shockingly, Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia does possess significant natural resources or a strategic positioning that should garner substantial Western attention. But an explanation of the disregard for this independence struggle amidst other global crises that dominate diplomatic discussions can only pivot around the interest of members like France.
“Secondly, historical ties between the Western powers and the African continent have contributed to the West’s biased approach. Former colonial powers, such as France and Britain, played a significant role in shaping the region through colonization. Consequently, their influence and interests often dictate Western policies towards African countries. In the case of Ambazonia, it appears that the West is reluctant to challenge or address the status quo, which favors the territorial integrity of Southern Cameroons over the demands for self-determination and recognition”, an IG statement said.
While decrying the West’s negligence and indifference to the ongoing war between pro-independence forces and Cameroon’s leadership, the IG said, that ignoring or marginalising the conflict perpetuates a cycle of injustice and undermines the principles of human rights and self-determination. “It is essential for the international community, including the West, to prioritize accountability, justice, and lasting solutions to address the Ambazonian struggle for independence
“The West’s attitude towards the Ambazonian struggle for independence has been characterized by negligence and indifference. This diplomatic standpoint, as evidenced by Tibor Nagy’s tweet, reflects the prioritization of geopolitical interests and historical biases over the urgent need for international engagement and action.”, the IG said.
On Nigeria, he urged them to pursue a policy that would bring about the speedy resolution of the issue, stating that it could simply follow a ruling of its own court on the issue. Dr Sako says the Nigerian people are already paying a price for the conflict, through the over 135000 Southern Cameroons refugees in camps, in Nigeria, as well as the thousands of other unregistered refuge seekers all over Nigeria. He said Southern Cameroons and Nigeria have many shared interests, as well as a history.
Russia or The West?
Responding to a question on whether the IG and other pro-independence groupings will align with Russia or the Western world, in the face of the ongoing diplomatic offensives by the two world power brokers in Africa and other parts of the world, the IG president, Dr Sako said at this point, their interest is fighting for, and gaining their “much cherished” independence, and that as such, they are ready to be friends with whoever supports and stands with them at the difficult times.
“We want to stop this bloodshed, If anyone is coming to help us, then we will accept. Whoever aligns with us will be our friend. What will define the friendship, will be our interest” Sako said. He furthered that it is in the interest of the sub-region and security in the Gulf of Guinea, to accept and recognise Ambazonia’s self-determination.
On the current instability in some African states, especially former French colonies, Sako said they have taken note, but are also aware that Russia did not cause the issues former French colonies are facing and fighting against, today. To him, in the case of Cameroon, which is also a former French colony, Southern Cameroons is not party to the various accords former East Cameroon signed with France. He regretted that through a ‘dubious’ association with East Cameroon, West Cameroon also became a victim of France’s exploitative tendencies. He said in order to enjoy the resources of former Southern Cameroons, France has played an important part in keeping the discussions on the issue, from reaching high circles, and has backed the Cameroon government in pursuing only the military option as a way out of the crisis.
The armed conflict between pro-independence Ambazonia forces and the government of Cameroon started in late 20216 just as a lawyers’ and teachers’ strike which decried the marginalisation of the Anglophones and demanded among others “outright independence” from French Cameroon. The government responded with repressive measures and in 2017, what was a peaceful protest in 2016 escalated into an armed conflict.
This has led to the loss of lives and the destruction of properties. According to Crisis Group, since 2017, over 6,000 people have died while over 765,000 displaced of whom are 70,000 refugees in Nigeria. The UN estimated that over 600,000 children have been deprived of education owing to the conflict.
Biya has rejected calls from the national and international community to dialogue with the separatists and end the war. In his end-of-year address to the nation on December 31, 2022, he said calm is gradually returning to the war-rocked regions. However, despite his describing what is happening as “pockets of resistance”, attacks since 2023 have continued to pursue the Cameroon Military.
On Friday, January 20, 2023, the Canadian Government through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Melanie Joly announced that it has accepted a mandate to mediate a peace process between the Cameroon government and Separatists to end the over six-year war. This was highly applauded by the national and international community that waged their support for it. Just three days after the Canadian announcement, Cameroon through the Minister of Communication, Rene Emmanuel Sadi released a communique saying it has not mandated any institution or body to seek peace negotiation in the English regions. To him, the government believes in the outcome of the Major National Dialogue of 2019 which many have highly criticised as “not effective”.