Politics

PM’s Buea, Bamenda Peace Trips: Why Is The Government Avoiding Open Dialogue With Real Actors?

By Joe Dinga Pefok

Political observers will agree that the visit of PM Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute to Bamenda, the Northwest Regional Headquarters, from Tuesday, October 5 to Friday, October 8, 2021, created more noise than impact.

Like in the Southwest, the PM’s visit to the Northwest did not provide any concrete way out of the current crisis. The PM had little to say about how to end the armed conflict for peace to reign.

Some critics even hold that the PM’s peace visits to Anglophone Regions were meant to give a false impression to the international community that efforts were being made to find a solution to the escalated Anglophone Crisis.

The Government claimed that separatist leaders in the Diaspora were invited to the NMD, but that they failed to show up. What the Government did not say, was that President Biya did not sign the general clemency as was demanded to guarantee that the separatist leaders would not be arrested when they got to Cameroon.

Running Away From Inclusive Dialogue

In a talk with the Media in Bamenda, the Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Affairs in charge of the Common Wealth, Felix Mbayu, alleged that the Government has been in talks with the various separatist leaders, but that the separatists have persistently refused to make a compromise.

That the international community is blaming the Biya Government for the continuation of the Anglophone Crisis. This is because the Government has so far refused the calls by the international community to organise a genuine and inclusive dialogue to end the crisis.

Also read On MND Visit To Buea: PM Lauds ‘Significant’ Peace, School Resumption In Anglophone Regions

Even efforts by the international community to help organise an inclusive dialogue has not yielded any fruits, because the Biya Government has been running away from such initiatives.

Since 2019 for example, there has been an initiative commonly known as the Swiss Initiative, to organise preliminary talks between the Cameroon Government and separatist leaders. The initiative is supported by the international community.

A delegation from Humanitarian Dialogue travelled to Cameron in late 2019 and was accompanied by the Swiss Ambassador to Cameroon for an audience with PM Dion Ngute.  But so far, the Biya government has been evasive about the Swiss Initiative.

Gov’t’s Strategies Are Unrealistic

From keen observation, the Biya Government’s strategy to end the escalated Anglophone Crisis has is the unrealistic hope that Government troops will triumph in the war option. As the then US Under Secretary for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, told the US Senate and Congress last year, there are hardliners around President Biya who are making him believe that there can be a military solution to the crisis.

Strategy Of Secretly Contacting Separatists

Meanwhile, the other Biya Government’s strategy is to mobilise agents to secretly contact separatist fighters individually to convince them to drop their guns, as well as to also secretly contact separatist leaders individually or in small numbers, to drop the idea of secession.

From time to time there have public displays organised by the Government to show small groups of alleged separatist fighters that have dropped their weapons. These public dramas have been seen in Kumba, Buea and other places.

It would be recalled that during the Major National Dialogue, several persons with Kawa Yannick as spokesman, were paraded as alleged separatist fighters that had dropped their weapons. Also, during Prime Minister Dion Ngute’s visit to Bamenda last week, a group of 13 persons led by a certain General Scatter were presented as separatist fighters in Noni that had decided to drop their guns.

Also read As PM’s Rounds Off Peace Mission: Military Rounds Burning Down Of Houses In Kikaikom

This strategy which gulps huge sums has little to show for. For one thing, nobody or knows the total number of separatist fighters or the number of new fighters that enter the war each week. From the look of things, more frustrated youths are swelling separatist ranks every day, especially out of the frustrating treatment and abuses by government troops fighting the war.

In Bamenda, the PM called on parents of Amba fighters to get their children out of the bushes. The Government is behaving as if these boys took permission from their parents or even just informed them, before joining the secessionist movement.

PM Dion Ngute himself is from Ndian Division in the Southwest Region and is as well a traditional ruler. He knows that parents have no powers over their children who join the separatist movements. Even traditional rulers are powerless in the hands of separatist fighters.   

The Controversial Special Status

Meanwhile in the  PM’s handbag during the visit to the Northwest Region like that to the Southwest Region earlier, was what the Government terms a Special Status for Anglophones, but which critics insist, and rightly so, that it is an empty shell. It would be recalled that the so-called Special Status for Anglophones came out of the MND. But the Anglophone people have since repeatedly stated that they never asked for a Special Status as a solution to the Anglophone crisis.

Even in the early days of the crisis, the leaders rather demanded a return to the federal system of government. That is a demand for a return of the country to the initial federation.

The Deputy Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the ruling CPDM, Grégoire  Owona, boasted over Canal 2 International on October 6, 2019, that the proposal for a Special Status for Anglophones, was raised at the Major National Dialogue by a CPDM militants from the South Region,  Akame Mfoumou.

Akame Mfoumou does not only come from President Biya’s South Region, but he is also a former Minister of Defence and is known to be close to President Biya. This raises the suspicion that the powers – that – be had decided on the Special Status thing for Anglophones before the MND. Thus the MND was probably organised just to give the false impression to the international community that the Special Status for Anglophones came out of a national dialogue.

In his trips to the Two Anglophone regional headquarters, the PM have found out that it is very difficult to sell the Special Status to Anglophones. Like Anglophone regions, all regions have regional councils. The only difference is that in Anglophone regions, there is a House of Chief. The House of Chiefs can only give an opinion, as such, it is of no real good to Anglophones.

The Biya Government’s House of Chiefs is not in any way similar to the former Southern Cameroons or former West Cameroon House of Chiefs. Also, the President of the Regional Council is the boss to the President of the House of Chiefs, and the President of the Southwest Regional Council did caution the President of the House of Chiefs on the issue a few months ago.

This means that the President of the Biya Government’s created House of Chiefs does not even have the power to convene a session of the House.

The PM told the press in Bamenda that the greater impact of the Regional Assemblies in the Northwest and Southwest Regions as regard the Special Status for Anglophone Regions will only be felt later as it will be factored into next year’s State budget.

Divisional Delegations Meet PM

In Bamenda, the PM received in audience delegations from the seven Divisions of the Northwest Region, who presented memorandums to the PM on how the Anglophone Crisis could be brought to an end in the different Divisions.

But again the exercise was more of a public show to give a false impression to the national and international communities, that the population were being consulted on how to end the armed conflict.

For example, Madam Kilo  Vivian Asheri, the Secretary of State for Basic Education, who was one of those personalities that accompanied  Prime Minister Dion Ngute to make presentations in Bamenda was again at the frontline of the Bui Divisional delegation that met the Prime Minister the next day. Also, Rose Ngwari Fomundam epse Mbah Acha, who is Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of the Supreme State Control, was at the frontline of the delegation from the Mono Division.

Read also Is Prime Minister In Cameroon Really Head Of Government?

There are even allegations that the so-called memos that were presented to the Prime Minister were written in Yaounde by the external elite (CPDM) including members of the Government, and carried to Bamenda. They of course certainly limited themselves to the type of proposals that the Government will want to hear. 

Northwest Fons / SDF

Even the delegation of Northwest Fons was not any different.  In the frontline of the delegation of Northwest Fons were people like Fon Chafah XI of Bangolan,  or better still ‘IDP Fons’ that had since escaped from their Fondoms and have been living in cities like Yaounde and Douala. It was the same with the SDF delegation that was received in the audience by Prime Minister Dion Ngute. The SDF delegation was led by the National Chairman of the party, Ni John Fru Ndi. It is no secret that Chairman Fru Ndi has been living in Yaounde for quite some time now, because of the insecurity he was facing in Bamenda in connection to the escalation of the Anglophone Crisis. He had to travel to Bamenda because of the PM’s visit.

Was The PM’s Visit To B’da Necessary?

There is an increasing number of questions as to whether the visit of the PM To Bamenda, like Buea was necessary. Some critics saw the visits as a waste of the taxpayers’ money.

The armed conflict in the two Anglophone Regions is between Government and separatist fighters. Thus any serious dialogue to end the conflict must have on the table the Cameroon Government and the secessionist movements on the table.

“Who Is Fooling Who?”

Somebody aptly summarised the visit of Prime Minister Dion Ngute to Bamenda last week in an article posted on social media. “People leave Yaounde as a group,  reach Bamenda, organise their rally, ask their prepared questions, answer them themselves. Then clap for themselves and move back to Yaounde to tell King Biya that all is well, while the population resume their activities with the same problem unsolved”.  Then he questioned: “Who is fooling who”. The answer is blowing in the wind. His last sentence: “Our politicians have truly failed us”. True.

Mobilization Of Bamileke Women

Though reports talk of huge crowds welcoming the PM, The Post has learnt that there were fears in Government circles that the population will not turn out in their numbers to welcome and listen to visiting Prime Minister Dion Ngute.  A situation that would show the world that the people are against the Government’s Special Status.  And so measures were taken to secretly mobilise people from the neighbouring West region to swell the crowd in Bamenda.

One of those who travelled to Bamenda for that mission was the Chairperson of the Telecommunications and Regulatory Board/ university don, Prof Justine Diffo Tchunkam, who is also the National Coordinator of   ‘More Women In Politics’.

Read also The Anglophone Question: What Went Wrong, What Has Not Been Righted

After her appearance in Bamenda, several pro – Bamileke media organs, showered Prof Justine Diffo Tchunkam with praises, reporting that she travelled to Bamenda and together with Prof Uphie Chinje Melo (a Northwest elite), they mobilised over 500 women to come out to welcome the Prime Minister. A French-language daily,  ‘L’Info a Chaud’, in its edition of Thursday, October 7 had on its front page a picture of Prof Tchunkam with Prof Uphie Chinje and the Northwest Governor, Adolphe Lele L’Afrique, in Bamenda. She was credited to had mobilised hundreds of Bamileke Women in Bamenda to welcome Prime Minister Dion Ngute, both in the streets as well as at the public event that took place at the Bamenda Commercial Avenue.   

The Babadjou – B’da Road Project

Meanwhile what is being presented as a major announcement as regard development projects for the Northwest Region which the PM made during his visit to the Bamenda, was that the Government has successfully negotiated a loan from the World Bank for the rehabilitation of the Babadjou – Bamenda Highway which is in a very bad state. The PM claimed that the World Bank had a few days earlier lifted a ban on the funds that the Government negotiated for the road project and that upon his return to Yaounde he ask contractors to start work immediately.

The Minister of Public Works, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, who came under fire a few months ago when circulation was paralysed on the Babadjou – Bamenda Highway did announce last June that the Government has finally succeeded to negotiate a loan with the World Bank for the rehabilitation of the road.

The minister even disclosed that the rehabilitation project of the 52 km long Babadjou – Bamenda road, will be divided into three sections and given out to three different contractors,  to enable a speedy execution of the project, which he said would start at the beginning of the dry season.

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