No retreat, no surrender: Southern Cameroons activists take fight to Trump’s White House Updated for 2021

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Updated: February 28, 2021

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English-speaking minorities in Cameroon took their quest for independence to President Donald Trump’s White House on Sunday, and the Washington National Press Club on Monday, vowing that there would be no retreat and no surrender.

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Hundreds of activists stormed the White House on Sunday singing songs of freedom and calling on the international community to finally hear their case and cries, after two years of struggles and running battles with Cameroonian security forces.

They were mainly peaceful but united in their determination to finally break up from French speaking Cameroon, and to be recognized as citizens of the “Federal Republic of Ambazonia”.

On Monday afternoon, at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC, the activists said the government of Cameroon and its security forces would have to kill eight million Anglophones to stop the irreversible independence of what they refer to as Southern Cameroons.

They announced that they would be shutting down Southern Cameroons on September 30 until October 1 to celebrate their “independence”, and may even start repatriating French speaking Cameroonians from their regions.

For two years now, there have been running battles between Cameroonian security forces and armed activists in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon where Anglophones mainly reside.

Thousands have been killed, activists say, while hundreds of thousands have been displaced in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon referred to by the activists as the Federal Republic of Ambazonia, an independent country, according to them, but not, however, recognized by any other country around the world.

The Cameroonian government has said that the activists have killed dozens of security forces, burned down classrooms to prevent children from going back to school to draw sympathy from the international community, and have taken up arms against the state.

With all that, President Paul Biya of Cameroon and his government have labelled the activists terrorists, and vowed to crush them to free ordinary people who want peace in Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon.

The Anglophones have defended themselves, saying that they were not terrorists but had to take up arms against the state to defend themselves in the face of widespread abuses and atrocities committed by security forces sent by Yaounde.

The protests, started in late 2016 by teachers and lawyers who were demanding justice and equality quickly snowballed into calls for independence, following the draconian reaction of the central government in Yaounde led by 36-year-in-power President, Paul Biya.

The teachers and lawyers called for the protests to demand that the flood of French speaking teachers and lawyers into their regions be stopped. 

But the government saw the protests as being hijacked by some politicians in an attempt to revive calls for independence that took place in the 1990s. Back then, they were bloody, and they are now, several decades after.

At the press conference in Washington DC, led by the “interim President” of the Ambazonia Republic, Dr. Samuel Sako, Ambazonians made their position clear: independence or nothing.

Those who addressed journalists included Chris Anu, the director of communication of the Ambazonian government in exile, as well as other activists, including Professor Martin Ayim, Mr. Ntumfoyn Boh Herbert, Mr. John Litumbe and John Nsah.

Although they spoke confidently, the activists were unable to name a single country backing them.

Even the United Nations, they said, whose resolution 1608 they were quoting, had not shown any appetite or interest in their quest for independence, they recognized.

There were also no official line of communications between Yaounde and the activists, they admitted.

Anglophones had long complained that they were being marginalized in Cameroon by the French speaking majority, but ordinary French speaking Cameroonians being bombed by Boko Haram since 2014 or millions others who live in squalor and hopelessness far away from the presidential palace, had repeatedly said that Anglophones were better off than them.

But there has not been any serious dialogue or attempt to have a serious dialogue from all sides: The Cameroonian government has said independence and federalism are not on the table, and Anglophone activists have argued that it would be independence or nothing.

At the press conference in DC, Anglophones stuck to their guns. The government of Paul Biya in Yaounde has not also shown any desire to shift ground. As a result, the crisis may linger for a long time with more killings on all sides, and more displaced persons in the Anglophone regions.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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