In June this year, SCCOP took the decision to participate in the Swiss-led mediation initiative on the issue of Southern Cameroons. Our decision to join the process was driven by the opportunities we thought it presented for our people. In line with this decision SCCOP published a statement that: “SCCOP remains skeptical and distrustful of the posture of the Republic of Cameroun and its desire to find a political solution to the conflict between our two nations. That the present posture of claiming to be open to talks was to distract and deceive both our people and the international community of its true intentions, which is to buy time while it seeks to completely crush any form of Ground Resistance and in so doing, eventually pull out of any talks;
SCCOP holds that the Republic of Cameroun has been banking on internal squabbles within our ranks and possible disengagement on the part of our leadership with the intention of persuading the International Community that we are only a tiny minority that does not want peaceful resolution to the conflict and as reported by the US Congresswoman Ms. Karen Bass. In the statement, Ms. Bass posits that the Yaoundé Regime has argued that we are in such dispersed ranks that it does not know which stakeholders to engage;
SCCOP was also aware that as the UN General Assembly approaches, the purported talks as being initiated by the Swiss could be a pre-emptive measure by the Yaoundé Regime to prevent any possible UN Security Council Resolution on Cameroun and Southern Cameroons. But also aware that refusal to engage in Pre-Talks would favour the Republic of Cameroun at the General Assembly;
Additionally, SCCOP is aware that lobbyists for the Republic of Cameroun had gotten many Southern Cameroonian Activists blacklisted or put on the Watch list of International Security Agencies. As part of this lobby, there were anticipated arrests, travel bans and targeting of particular individuals and groupings which have been seen to be reckless and committed crimes of international stature”.
It should be noted that the above quotation is taken from a SCCOP Press statement dated the 29th of June 2019, and most of our predictions (the fear of arrest, the Republic of Cameroun using the National Dialogue as a subterfuge to buy time) have come to pass.
Given that SCCOP members hold opposing opinions regarding our participation in the Swiss Initiative, it was important that we come up with a paper presenting their diverse views. These views would help inform SCCOP leadership in its efforts towards making the right decision of putting the Revolution First.
The question we as SCCOP have asked over the past weeks has been whether or not to continue being part of the Swiss-Led Initiative. This debate presents strong voices advocating for, and strong voices advocating against further participation in the initiative.
This disagreement was deepened by SCCOP’s decision to rescind its signature from the recently formed Ambazonian Coalition Team (ACT). To settle this divide, the Chairman, Comrade Millan Atam, requested that both sides present motivating arguments to enable Leadership to make an informed decision with respect to the entire Swiss-led Initiative. Comrade Tabitha Sotiya, the newly elected Secretary General compiled and consolidated both arguments to present this policy paper.
It should be noted that while the question was whether SCCOP should participate in ACT or not, the fundamental concern was: should SCCOP continue being part of the Swiss-led Initiative at all? So, in reading this document, one should understand that arguments for or against ACT directly affect SCCOP’s participation in the whole process.
Arguments in Favor of SCCOP’s Membership of ACT
Proponents of this argument maintain that ACT provides a Platform for Southern Cameroonian Groups to meet and mend their differences. This group believes that egos and self-interests have lorded over the common interests of all Southern Cameroonians. They cited the mutual mudslinging by one group over the other as the reasons behind our weakened collective efforts. The group mentioned that people, who had no problem with attending meetings in Belgium and the US for purposes of negotiations, suddenly have found negotiations redundant, because it was being conducted in Switzerland.
This group argued that Southern Cameroonians must realize that through the Swiss-led initiative, we have moved from “talking to each other on Facebook” to presenting our problems on a global stage. They added that we need to be asking questions on how the process offers opportunities that we can exploit, rather than persist in negativity. The group posits that opportunities outweigh the risks. Consequently, SCCOP can either stand on the side and criticize or jump in and help guide the process.
They argued that SCCOP’s decision to organize a colloquium in Frankfurt in June of this year was to help prepare SCCOP Cadres for the role they would be expected to play towards the internationalization phase of our cause. The group argues that the actions of the Republic of Cameroun are a clear indication that it is afraid of the outcomes of any roundtable discussions between with our people and therefore wondered why we should we be running away from the same platform that the Biya Regime is running from?
Moreover, this group argued that members of SCCOP need to trust the judgment of their representatives at these meetings. By expressing doubts about the process and rescinding its signature from ACT, and by extension from the Swiss Initiative, SCCOP indicated that as a movement, it does not trust those whom it sends to represent its members.
The group further argued that while it is true that going into negotiations must come from a position of strength, nobody ever had the complete victory and agreed to go into dialogue. Belligerent sides only agree to negotiations when they realize that they are unable to completely vanquish the other party. It would be naïve of us to believe that we can win the war militarily. That we must not wait until we are completely ready before we begin negotiations. How we conduct and prepare ourselves would make the difference towards negotiated settlement of the present conflict.
Regarding the usage of the term “politico-military platform” as being detrimental to our cause, this group insists we must acknowledge that Southern Cameroons is under a politico- military context right now. That there is an on-going military incursion on our territory and whether we like it or not, our people have been forced to pick up arms and defend themselves.
They concluded that the concern going forward should be about the purpose and structure of ACT. In this light, they proposed that it should not be a pyramidal structure. They recommend that all leaders should be equal so as to ensure maximum consultation with the Ambazonian people.
Arguments Against SCCOP’s Membership of ACT
Those who argued that SCCOP should stay away from ACT and by extension the Swiss process, maintain that SCCOP’s representative was not authorized to sign any policy documents or declarations without consultation with their base. Firstly, they argue that it was wrong for Humanitarian Dialogue (the organization hired to mediate) to push for the creation of ACT without the groups’ preparation towards that eventuality.
As an organization with foresight, SCCOP had cautioned its representative in advance of their third meeting that “In case there ever arose the need to sign unto a policy document or other declarations, our representative shall on behalf of SCCOP reserve the right not to sign on the spot. They shall bring back any such declaration to the leadership of SCCOP to present the matter to the different decision-making mechanisms within SCCOP. While SCCOP participates in such initiatives, we bear in mind that lack of preparedness had created unintended consequences for Southern Cameroonians from the 1961 Conference in Foumban. Therefore, delegates cannot sign important documents on behalf of their constituencies without prior consultation.
They argued that through our campaigns, we had succeeded to get the international community to retract its misleading narrative that the war against Southern Cameroons is a conflict pitting two conventional armies of equal strengths. Having come this far to get them to start using cautious diplomatic language to describe the genocide that is happening in Southern Cameroons, we should not be the ones giving them the escape route that we have a “Politico-Military platform”. Once we go down that route, we are telling the world that both sides of the war have well equipped conventional armies, and once their media start pushing out that narrative, then our argument for genocide flies through the window. The use of the phrase “Politico-Military platform” was ill-conceived and flawed. It was all bluff and zero bite.
Thirdly, they argued that signatories to the ACT seemed to prioritize their readiness to negotiate over the urgency to call for a ceasefire that should benefit our people. The ACT declaration that Southern Cameroons stands ready to engage in a first face-to-face talks on talks” and agree on the modalities of the negotiations whenever the Republic of Cameroun is ready”, does not address the urgent need to put pressure on Cameroun to stop killing our people’. Neither were there any efforts to get an inclusive platform to persuade other groups and leaders to be part of the initiative.
The decision by the committee that gave birth to ACT failed to follow simple procedures. They did not allow sufficient time for representatives to take the idea and consult with their constituencies. We believe strongly that the “draft declaration” which was hastily signed and publicized as the Final document” would have benefitted generously from a multiplicity of ideas and editing out certain nuanced statements, which in the present document weaken our arguments as a people under aggression.
They further argued that since SCCOP had adopted the principle of UNITY OF PURPOSE, SCCOP did not have to be part of any joint platform, but that as a movement, we can work purposefully with other movements and achieve specific goals and joint projects. Therefore, the creation of ACT while laudable is not part of SCCOP’s mandate.
Furthermore, we should only accept to go into negotiations from a position of strength. As of now, we cannot demonstrate that we are in a position of strength. Therefore on what basis are we accepting to go into negotiations with the Republic of Cameroun? By accepting to attend the talks without any real leverage, we would be forced to kowtow any decisions and directions dictated by Switzerland and its representatives.
This group further drew attention to two significant actions taken by the Republic of Cameroun, which signaled its intention not to see the Swiss process succeed. These are the Sentencing of Sisiku Julius AyukTabe and the other nine Nera members to Life Imprisonment and the recent arrest of Comrade Abdul-Karim who had just returned from Swiss talks. They argue that this is clear indication that the Yaoundé Regime is not interested in the talks. Therefore what benefit has Switzerland to make by continuously pushing for the talks to go on? Switzerland should get Yaoundé to show good faith by releasing Abdul-Karim with immediate effect.
The opponents of ACT concluded that SCCOP might only change its position on the ACT founding document if the said document “is officially retracted, collectively redacted and finally resubmitted as a document that captures and represents the collective aspirations of the Southern Cameroonian peoples”.
The above arguments will be submitted to the Steering Committee for the Chairman to lead discussions on an official SCCOP position.
Done this 25 Day of October 2019
Below is the official document signed by the SCCOP SG.
SCCOP Official Position Statement on ACT.pdf