Wanted dead or alive by the Yaoundé regime, because of his stance on the Southern Cameroons (SC) struggle, Dr. Ebenezer Derek Mbongo Akwanga, slammed a 20 year jail term by the Yaoundé Military Tribunal later escaped from the Kondengui Prison in 2003.
On the sidelines of the 2nd Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium United Front (SCACUF) conclave in June 2017, he argues in Part I of this exclusive interview, that Yaoundé destroyed the first federation , a system that to him, would never work for the benefit of Southern Cameroonians.
The Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science (Conflict Transformation & Peace Studies) from the University Of KwaZulu Natal South Africa, considered by many as a freedom fighter, attributes the disagreements among the SC front line liberation movements, to the fact that the many are yearning for freedom.
As Chairman of the Southern Cameroons Youth League, SCYL(one of the Liberation movements) he speaks about arming the struggle and describes Cameroon government ‘s efforts in trying to resolve the crisis as measures to help them to continuously keep the annexed under persecution, under control, under check. Read on…
|Tough Talking Dr Akwanga|
What is your appraisal of the struggle for the Restoration of Southern Cameroons which took a different twist more than seven months ago?
In reality I don’t like to look at the struggle from the prism of seven or eight months because when you look at it from that perspective you will often lose sight of a number of things. This struggle has been going on for more than two decades as a struggle on the grounds of independence.
This struggle took its real shape when a group of, at that time, Anglophone parents residing in Douala wrote a letter in 1984/85. Hon Jean Jacques Ekindi is fully aware of that letter. They were complaining about the treatment being given to our people. Not our people in Douala but our people in the national territory. That letter led to the birth of the Cameroon Anglophone Movement in 1985.
Barrister Enow Nchong became the first chairman and later on, the late Ambassador Epie. When he died the acting Chairman Dr Arnold Yombang became the head of SCARM because the Anglophone Cameroon Movement transformed itself to the Southern Cameroons Restoration Movement, SCARM in 1984 after the two All Anglophone Conferences in Buea in 1993 and in Bamenda in 1994.
We understand the struggle has been on for decades. How did we get to this general level of the awakening of the Southern Cameroonian nationalism?
What happened seven to eight months ago is that, the lawyers and the teachers under their various trade union organisations were demanding for better working conditions, the respect for common law, better salaries etc. The lawyers did not come out for federation or independence. What I am trying to explain is that when they came out they were looking at themselves.
That is what the people are not realising. The lawyers and the teachers were looking at what was affecting their world. The population told the teachers and lawyers that if they wanted them to join, they should look at what was affecting everybody. The population is what the lawyers and the teachers needed to carry out their strike action, their pacific way of demonstrating, of saying no to the system, that we need change in the system. The population now compelled them that if you want us to be part and parcel of this game that is ongoing, you must follow our own way. And the way was independence.
When independence came, as part of the platform the lawyers now said okay, maybe we might go to ask something that is lighter. That is how federation came about. What I want to say is that the lawyers and the teachers and the general population, especially the younger generation of Southern Cameroonians reignited the flames of an already existing struggle.
There were talks of how the lawyers and teachers were manipulated. The Cameroon government through the Minister in Charge of Special Duties at the Presidency, Paul Atanga Nji, said funds exchanged hands, how some teachers and some lawyers were given money to destabilise the country?
I don’t know what you mean. Are they saying the population manipulated the lawyers and teachers or the teachers and lawyers manipulated the population?
It was said that some people manipulated the lawyers and teachers who later on, somewhat “manipulated” the population…
Manipulated negatively or positively? Are they saying that when the lawyers came out and asked for the removal of all French speaking judges from our homeland and a total return to the Common Law System they were manipulated? I am not sure because we are not lawyers? The lawyers understood the situation because it is their field and that is where they make their daily bread.
The teachers who teach know what to teach. If they find people with an alien language, with a system that is so different being sent into our classrooms to distort what they have studied, what they are supposed to teach, they had to intervene. These people come in with half cooked and half baked knowledge to come and give to our children and the teachers said no, this is unacceptable and destroying our educational system. Were those teachers manipulated? Is it not reality? So when the lawyers and teachers wanted better working conditions and started talking of federation and independence they have been manipulated by some nationalists by going down that road? There is one thing people should not forget. The lawyers and teachers at that time were first Anglophones, which means the Anglophone problem at that time was affecting them.
When they moved from Anglophones to being Southern Cameroonians they are Southern Cameroonians.
Who has manipulated me here to know that I was born under the torture of La Republic du Cameroon? With all the evil things, torture, rape illegal arrests etc that are being done to our people, you tell me, are I manipulated to see them?
I know you are asking me a question as a journalist, but I am a nationalist. And I have told most of our journalists that, while we are journalists, at this particular moment that we are at war, we cannot practice journalism but nationalism.
We can be nationalists but still remain within the confines of the ethics of the journalism profession…
That is where there is a mistake because if you go to the war front and you look at the way killings are being done, the molestation of the students of the University of Buea and Bamenda, you see the open killings and shootings and the rest. As a journalist you will put yourself first in the shoes of those people.
You will report the things that happen as they are…as they happen…
While you are pretending that you want to do your journalistic stuff with the ethics those from La Republique du Cameroon don’t follow those ethics.
They are protecting their Republic. What we are telling them is that we are at war. Do you know the story of Okokondem ? The Biafra guy who was reporting about the war (the Nigerian-Biafra War) on the top of a tree? That is the type of journalism we need at this moment. The journalism in which you have to take side with what is good. I am not saying that you journalists should report something that is negative. You must be on the side of the positive, on the side of the truth. Our struggle is on the issue of truth. You don’t need to feel guilty that they are going to say you are taking sides.
That is your view; Chairman…In the wake of the struggle the government of Cameroon took a series of measures. Creating Ad Hoc Committees, the Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism, the Common Law Bench at the Supreme Court, Law Departments in Universities… I was wondering whether those measures are efforts to resolve what is being known today as the Anglophone crisis.
There is no government in Cameroon what we have is an autocratic regime. Anytime you call it government gives it some institutional recognition.
But it has a President, flag, embassies abroad etc…
No. Having embassies abroad does not make it a government. Let me ask you a question. Idi Amin Dada had embassies abroad. What happened to him? Everybody knew who he was. Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic had embassies. Let me put it this way. To dress and put up a trouser does not make you civilised. Why do we call Paul Biya an ‘animal’ though he does not carry those qualities? Having embassies abroad makes it a state but that could be what we call a rogue state. When somebody annexes you, they have the whims and caprices to decide whatever they want to do. Those guys have not taken those measures for our good. They are taking those measures that would help them to continuously keep the annexed under persecution, under control, under check. It wasn’t for the purpose of trying to bring the people together.
It was for the purpose of putting us in what, they call ‘our place’ as Southern Cameroonians, as Ambazonians or Khuvites or whatever we call ourselves, in that larger prison yard which they have constructed for us. We don’t see the walls but the walls are there. They have blinded us and that is where we find ourselves. So those measures do not resolve our problem of restoring our independence.
There has been a big debate about the quest for a return to a federation. Others are demanding restoration. Some want decentralization to be truly effective. Call them unionists. We understand that you stand for the Restoration of the Southern Cameroons Statehood. If government maybe loosen the noose and proposes a two or more federated states, might things move well again, for the two Cameroons?
Are you asking me this as a federalist, unionist or as a spokesman of the regime?
I am asking you this as someone who is aware of your position in this debate and as a journalist of course…
I don’t have a position. The position I have is the position decided by Yaoundé. Yaoundé decided that the only best way out for the people of Southern Cameroons is independence through their actions. They have already taken the decision. This is like a bullet. When you pull a gun the bullet comes out. Even if you realise it’s an error you cannot run and catch that bullet. The bullet is going to do what it wants to do. It is the same like words. When you throw out words you can only say I misspoke but that would not change what the people have heard.
Let me put it this way. This is a French speaking country whether you like it or not. And there is no Franchophonised country in the world with a federal system of government. The only reason why Canada has a federal system of government is because it is an English speaking bilingual country. Secondly when they put up a federal system of government in Cameroon, which was not our option, who destroyed it? They destroyed it because it is not part and parcel of their norm. They are not used to it. They don’t even want a federated system of government. Even as bad as it is, they would not permit it. To answer your question I would like to say they have pulled the trigger and the bullet is out. There is no way they can bring back the bullet. It’s independence all the way.
I have also observed that many Anglophone movements came up in the wake of this struggle. You spoke about SCAM. We also know about the existence of the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, Ambazonia Republic, Southern Cameroons Peoples’ Organisation, SCAPO, the Southern Cameroons Youth League, SCYL, the Acting Governing Council, AGC, the Movement for the Restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons, MORISC, and more recently, the Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium- United Front, SCACUF. We have also observed what some critics describe as serious in-house fighting among Southern Cameroonians and the movements. What is your reading of this fighting in relation to the struggle?
|With Other Restorationists|
If you want to ask that question to an Anglophone then you are talking to the wrong person. I am not an Anglophone. I am a Southern Cameroonian. If Anglophones are quarreling that’s their business. Ask me a question that concern Southern Cameroons.
What do you make of all the in-house fighting going on within the Southern Cameroons movements and amongst Southern Cameroonians as the struggle unfolds?
There is in-house fighting because there is no easy walk to freedom. I earlier explained to you that we are a people that have been caged for more than 56 years. We are like in an airtight prison and somebody, surely God, comes up and bore a little hole. What happens to everybody in that prison? Everybody wants to get a little bit of air. The strongest ones are trying to push back the weaklings to make sure that they must be the ones to breathe that first fresh air.
But that is not all. There are weaklings who are behind who are stronger than the physically strong because they have money. So they are using their money now to bribe other stronger people. Not for the stronger people to go and get that air. It is for them to chase away the other stronger people so that they the weaklings with money can come and breathe a little bit of fresh air. Until that little hole becomes a gate not just a door there would be this chaos.
It must be a door through which everybody can pass through and actually feel that freedom. In other words until that little hole becomes the total breakdown of that wall, when everybody can jump out and feel free, until when you will breathe based on the size of your nose and your nostrils not on your physical strength, there would be this continuous chaos. If we want to stop this chaos our people must think. They don’t ask questions. Part of it is due to frustration especially the younger generation. They counted a lot on our older generation. They count a lot on us and when most of us are not able to perform it becomes a problem.
Part of the reason why we don’t perform is because we have started dabbling into politics. We are making a mistake between a regime change, a system change and the struggle for a homeland. These are three different dimensions. What happened in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and even what is happening in Syria is not the fight for a homeland. They are fighting for regime change that has caused this trouble all over. We are talking about having our own country which is called the apex of a political revolution.
It is the apex to build your own country where you can make your own laws and govern yourself. It’s different from changing the system. So what is happening now is that with all this chaos that is ongoing our people do not think that maybe my ideas might align with the SCYL or SCNC. Others come onboard to say this is a time for me to make a name for myself, a few minutes under the sun. They create their own organization and in a country of 8 million terrified, dehumanized persecuted and imprisoned people for 56 years that is a normalcy. We must think, and think again.
|Doctors Akwanga and Cho Ayaba|
How could the in-house fighting going to be checked given that some other tongues are saying that the biggest battle in Cameroon is going to be fought among Southern Cameroonians?
That is correct. The biggest battle would be fought if our people don’t start using their head to think. I am serious. It might be fought when I am dead because I don’t know how long I have to live. If we become taken away by sentiments and just simple oratory, we are not going to anywhere. That is why I have prescribed as a good medication to end this chaos, the AK47.
That is an assault rifle?
Yes. I have said when you buy an AK47 to begin the liberation of the homeland we are going to know now who actually is the ‘kendeh’ (chaff) and which is the real ‘corn fufu.’ The real people who want independence or freedom of our homeland would be siftered. The stronger ones who have even the heart to withstand what is coming, at that time would be there. The rest of the other people who are social media warriors, who are the top revolutionists, who are like the Malcolm X of the social media, would all dissipate because of what the regime would want to do.
This is because if you are only talking I can’t stop you not to go to Facebook and WhatsApp. But there is one thing I can stop you from doing. I can begin liberating that homeland and you would have to decide whether you become a man by casting away fear, or coil yourself and stay quiet.
Are you talking about an armed the resistance to the struggle?
Of course I am saying that it is the essential commodity for us to go and end this disorder and two, take back our homeland.
Would there not be more chaos because some say countries which have fought wars face challenges thereafter…?
Show me one country that has fought war and after the war it was not developed and I will give you a reason why.
Some countries today remain insecure as a result of such armed conflicts …
South Africa that you might be thinking about did not fight a liberation war. SA fought to change the system. It is different from what happened in Zimbabwe which became the breadbasket of Africa, until autocracy sank in and Robert Mugabe crippled the economy. That is not all look at Namibia, South West Africa. Go to Wyndot and see how the country looks like.
It’s not a very big country. Even at its worst stage, infrastructure that was put down by the Apartheid system is far better 100 times than what you have in La Republique du Cameroon.
Its academic institutions are far better and stronger than what you will find in LRC despite the fact that we have not been in their situation. Now people keep saying that war is going to bring more chaos and the rest. War in our context is a positive evil. War is not good. I will tell you that.
Why then opt for an armed resistance, for war?
No I am not opting for war. We have been told that if we want freedom we must fight for it. That is what we have been told but you cannot have it without sacrificing for it. Listen, the Americans fought a war of independence. That is why they were able to come together and build their country. Till date they are still quarreling. The people of Texas still think they should break away.
There are some Southern States which are still clinging to the confederacy. What is important is that, war changed the United States. Unfortunately the good thing that came out after WWII was the reconstruction of Germany. Because it was destroyed Germany had to rebuild itself. It is also the same with Japan. I am not saying that war is good. I am saying that there comes a time when war becomes a positive good. By the way we are talking about chaos and war.
Who is the greatest warrior? The greatest warrior is God. God fought wars for the people of Israel. There were times that God said go in and kill everybody so that they don’t come and contaminate the good seeds of the people of Israel, those who were chosen from the ten tribes. He does so because he realised there are people he created who at a certain time become followers of Lucifer. That must be destroyed.
People have also been raising concerns at the fact that schools have not been on or effective for the past academic year in Southern Cameroons. There are also claims that it is harming the future generation of Southern Cameroonians.
I don’t want to go back to the fact that there was a time in Ghanaian and Nigerian history when schools were shut down for some time. When we look at their educational standards and compare to our academic system, the Ghanaian and Nigerian academic systems, were for some time, almost the best in Africa whether we like it or not, despite the fact that they had those lapses.
Is that what you want to happen in Southern Cameroons?
That’s not what I am saying. Listen I feel for our younger ones. I feel for our children who are not able to go to school. It is not what any of us want. Those who felt that this matter could be solved pacifically thought that a peaceful resistance, staying out of school and taking the brunt of the punishment for some time would be essential than going out on a full scale physical confrontation were mistaken.
|Graduating with a Bachelors, Criminal Justice and Admin|
We have tried that many have been killed. Many have been kidnapped and abducted. Some have died or disappeared while others have been picked up and locked up in different concentration camps all over LRC.
They did not carry arms but they were killed. They were treated as if they were in a war zone.
The rest of the world has told us something. The UN told us that it is an internal issue and they are right. The issue of our children not going to school and our courts shutting down are not the only problems that we face as Southern Cameroonians. We face problems bigger than that. So what we are prescribing is that when you tell students not to go to school and do all the other stuffs you want to do, what next?
To be continued….