By Eric Tataw – Tuesday October 15, 2019.
A leading English Newspaper in the Central African country of Cameroon has highlighted the character of the leader of Cameroon’s secessionist leader, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius also referred to as the President of Ambazonia, a country armed groups in the country’s two English-speaking regions are trying to restore.
The Guardian Post, headquartered in the country’s capital, Yaounde, on the front page of its Tuesday October 15, 2019 edition, carried a headline talking of an explosive interview. In that same space, the paper described Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius as defiant.
Defiant Sisiku Ayuk Tabe spits fire from Kondengui Prison, it said, referring to an exclusive interview granted the Ambazonia leader by Jeune Afrique, a French-language pan-African weekly news magazine, founded in 1960 in Tunis and published in Paris. It is the most widely read pan-African magazine.
In the Jeune Africa of Saturday October 13, 2019, Ayuk Tabe granted an interview that has been widely circulated, keeping many in shock of how courageous a man in detention can get.
Just recently, a military court in the country’s capital, Yaounde, handed life sentence to him alongside nine (9) members of his retinue. The judgement goes against international standards, disrespecting a previous judgement from the Federal High Court in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, demanding that the Nera10 as they’re called be returned to Nigeria where they were picked up as refugees. Below is his full interview.
Jeune Afrique: For two days, only the liberation of Maurice Kamto and his supporters has occupied the debates. First, how did you feel about the announcement of their release?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: We are very happy that Prof Maurice Kamto and his MRC compatriots have been released. Jailing political opponents and suppressing political expression are repressive measures that are incompatible with democracy and the rule of law. With their release, we hope, they will fight to make La Republique du Cameroun a more just, humane and equitable society where international laws and treaties are respected, torture is prohibited and the rights of all individuals are respected including those of refugees and asylum seekers.
Jeune Afrique: Some argue that negotiations are under way for your release. What do you have to say?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: We are in prison in Yaoundé. We have neither been contacted nor informed. We know nothing about the negotiations going on for our release, if any. As a matter of fact, we are more concerned with the freedom of millions of Southern Cameroonians than our individual freedoms. We are not free if our citizens continue to be killed, our girls and women continue to be raped, our villages continue to be burnt down, and a force of occupation continues to occupy and terrorizes our country.
Jeune Afrique: The Major National Dialogue (MND) as prescribed by President Paul Biya ended with the announcement of a special status for the North West and South West regions. What does it inspire you, how do you see it?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: The Major National Dialogue was a gathering of CPDM party members and a few other French Cameroonians to discuss among themselves and probably come up with their own position. We have our position which is rooted in international law, in history and in culture.
La Republique du Cameroun and Southern Cameroons are two former trust territories under UN administration! One does not grant independence or ‘special status’ to the other. As such, it is evident that Mr Biya does not have the powers to decide the future of the People of the former UN Trust Territory of the British Southern Cameroons also known as Ambazonia. That decision belongs only to the people of that territory.
Jeune Afrique: Was the Major National Dialogue a Big Bluff? Despite the fact that 333 Ambazonians are supposed to be released?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: The Major National Dialogue was for French Cameroun citizens to solve their national problems. To us the MND was a non-event. Our problem with La Republique du Cameroun is an international problem and cannot be solved by a national dialogue.
That Mr Biya announced the release of 333 (half of 666) of our compatriots is nothing to write home about. This number is insignicant and also as there is no justification for detaining self determination activists. There are over 3,000 Ambazonians illegally detained by La Republique du Cameroun. Releasing all of them and accounting for the missing ones is the right thing Mr Biya should do.
Jeune Afrique: Representatives of Ambazonia took part in this dialogue. It sounds a bit like your disavowal, doesn’t it? Could this be the beginning of the end of Ambazonia? Ambazonians who agree to participate in this MND; are they traitors to the cause?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Let it be made very clear that no Ambazonian or a representative of Ambazonia attended Mr Biya’s MND. In the MND, Mr Biya was talking to himself.
Jeune Afrique: What leeway do you still have, you are now in prison? It will be interesting to know where you are with your political convictions, after receiving and serving a life sentence. What makes you persevere despite this major setback?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Our conviction for Ambazonia lies in the fact that truth always prevails. We are not part of La Republique du Cameroun and will not be coerced to be part of it. Success stories of legitimate claims to nationhood abound. The determination and success of Namibia, Eritrea, East Timor, Djibouti, and South Sudan inspire us.
Jeune Afrique: As many people are being killed, victims of atrocities, villages being destroyed and burned, people displaced in the North and South West regions, what is your proposed solution to stop this human disaster? When you observe these so-called English-speaking regions you see nothing but destruction, do you say to yourself: we should not have gone so far to decide to secede?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Permit me start by correcting the fact that we are not seceding. We are restoring our nationhood. I refer you to UN Resolution 1608 that granted us independence. Also we are not English speaking Regions, we are the former British Southern Cameroons now known as Ambazonia.
A genocide being perpetuated by Mr Biya’s military is going on in Ambazonia right now. To stop it, Mr Biya should declare a cease fire to the genocidal war he declared on the 30th November 2017 and pull his troops out of the Southern Cameroons. We regret that Mr Biya’s government could be that insensitive and responsiveness, but as a People we are bent on upholding the truth and defending our fatherland to the best of our abilities, at all times despite the odds, to the last man standing.
Jeune Afrique: What is your opinion in view of the barbarity, atrocities, tortures and serious human rights violations committed by the government forces as well as the separatist groups, of which you are the leader? Abuses are probably not the sole fact of Cameroonian law enforcement. Do you recognize that there are among you some uncontrolled elements?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: The level of barbarism being perpetuated by Mr Biya’s military and his government militias as they pursue their genocidal war and scorch earth policy to completely annihilate the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) is alarming. So far, as a result of the on-going genocide in the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia), an estimated 20,000 people have been killed, over 280 towns and villages have been burnt down, over 120,000 people are seeking refuge in Nigeria and further afield, over 1million people are internally displaced or living in bushes and over 3,000 persons incarcerated in prisons and detention facilities.
It is also reported that over 4.5. Million people are at risk of famine. One thing we know for sure is that Mr Biya and his military and private militia will be held accountable for these crimes. While not exonerating Ambazonian self-defense forces, we also know that Mr Biya’s government is doing everything through its private militia (popularly known as Atanga Nji Boys) to commit atrocities and link them to self-defense forces, so as to evoke international sympathy. Only an independent fact-finding mission can establish the facts and thus far, Mr. Biya’s government has resisted all requests by independent humanitarian organizations to visit Southern Cameroons and establish the facts.
Jeune Afrique: Would you agree to meet and negotiate with the Government of Cameroon to find a compromised solution to this calamity?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: We have always been open to negotiations to end this political conflict between the Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun. The resistance has been from Mr Biya’s side. However, the negotiations we are looking forward to should be mediated by an independent, impartial and credible entity in a neutral territory. The negotiations must address the root causes of the conflict. Finally, there must be a mechanism to ensure that the outcomes of the negotiations are implemented. This is Conflict Resolution 101 and I wonder why the Yaoundé regime finds it so hard to understand.
Jeune Afrique: With the presence of credible political leaders, would you agree to work with them on changes to the Cameroonian constitution, the penal and electoral code that will lead to the return of federalism as a compromised for the secession? Or do you maintain the only way out is secession?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: British Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) is not part of La Republique du Cameroun. The UN resolutions that granted independence by joining at no point took away the international personality or international boundaries of Southern Cameroons. Changes in the Constitution or other legal instruments of French Cameroun do not therefore relate to Ambazonia in anyway. We are ready and willing to work with credible international mediators, to address the root causes of the conflict, for a lasting solution.
Jeune Afrique: How bad can it get, what is according to you the worst-case scenario if things don’t get resolved in the Northwest and the Southwest regions very soon?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Nothing worst can happen than the genocide that is already taking place in Ambazonia. We pray the UN and international community to step in now to resolve the conflict in Ambazonia. As a people, with a right to self-determination, Ambazonians have taken the destiny of their nation into their hands and will stop at nothing till they completely restore their independence. It is either total independence of Ambazonia or resistance for ever.
Jeune Afrique: What do you think about the state of democracy in Cameroon? About the political opposition parties? What are your relations with the SDF, or the party of Edith Kah Walla? Are there still great English-speaking political leaders in Cameroon like Muna, Foncha, Endeley?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Going by the history of former British Southern Cameroons, which witnessed the first democratic elections in Africa in 1958, our assessment of the political space in Cameroun is that there is a long way to walk on the path to democracy in La Republique du Cameroun. However, we are really not interested in party politics in La Republique du Cameroun. We are interested in what is happening to us as Ambazonians as we prepare to build our nation, on the foundation laid by Dr E. M. L. Endeley and John Ngu Foncha in the 1950s.
Jeune Afrique: Let’s talk about the attitude of English-speaking dignitaries such as Cardinal Tumi. Did they give up too soon?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Christian Cardinal Tumi is a respected religious leader with an independent mind and a right to his opinion. As a man of God, he is expected to use his power and God-given position to stand for the truth and the oppressed. If he, like anyone else, opts not to write his name in the sands of time, such a burden will be his to bear. African leaders like Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and others in Nigeria and Central Africa are living examples of religious leaders who championed socio-political change in their countries. Cardinal Tumi like other dignitaries is entitled to his opinion. But only the truth will prevail.
Jeune Afrique: Albert Dzongang spoke today about a form of rapprochement between the CRM and you. Can you tell us more?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Mr Albert Dzongang was another victim of French Cameroun government’s barbarism. He was locked up in the same prison with us – Prison Principale Kondengui, Yaounde. We interacted as inmates and we share no political fraternity, for our goal is the restoration of the statehood of our nation. We do not mingle into French Cameroun politics.
Jeune Afrique: In your own words, could you please tell who Sisiku Julius AyukTabe is? When did you become interested in politics? How did you become the leader/president of the self-proclaimed state of Ambazonia? Was there an electoral process at the end of which you were brought to the head of the separatist group?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe is the peoples’ chosen leader. He has never been interested in partisan politics. In 2017, he was brought out from his quiet life by the people to continue to lead the quest for the restoration of the independence of the Southern Cameroons, taking over from Deacon Tasang Wilfred, as Chairman of the Governing Council of SCACUF. He was nominated President of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia by acclamation at SCACUF’s 4th conclave at the close of 2017, by the People’s representatives. As a humble servant of his people, he enjoys the support of his peoples as was aptly demonstrated on the 1st of October 2019.
Jeune Afrique: For some people, the self-proclaimed state of Ambazonia was a joke. For others, Ambazonians were merely terrorist. How would you describe the fighters of Ambazonia? Who are they? Live skinned?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Anyone one who still thinks that the restoration of the statehood of the UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons now called Ambazonia was a joke lives in a world of his own. History, International law and Culture justify our resolve for Ambazonia. UN Resolutions 1514 and 1608; Article 102 of the UN Charter vindicates our restoration quest for the independence of the Southern Cameroons. Some have called us terrorists, some secessionists, some separatists and some rats and dogs.
Remember you could always give a good dog a bad name in order to hang it. We are Restorationists, fighting against the annexation and colonization of our homeland – the former British Southern Cameroons. With regards to the self defense groups called Ambaboys, they are our heroes. Without arms, they are defending our population from being exterminated by Mr Biya’s genocidal war and scorch-earth policy in the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia).
Jeune Afrique: Could you tell us how you got arrested and taken to Yaoundé?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: For the record, we were not arrested; we were abducted by armed men. As Refugees and Asylum Seekers based in Nigeria, our abduction and subsequent transfer to La Republique du Cameroun without due judicial process was a flagrant violation of international refugee laws. It is also indicative of the lawlessness which the governments of these nations operated.
On the 5th of January 2018, 12 of us met at the gardens of Nera Hotel in Abuja, discussing the pathetic state of our sisters and brothers streaming into Nigeria as refugees. We were abducted by heavily armed men, without any warrants of arrest. We were detained at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of Nigeria for 20 days without access to family, friends or lawyers and without charge.
On the 25th of January, we were handcuffed, blindfolded and bundled into a military cargo plane and taken to Yaounde, where we were held incommunicado for close to nine months. Later, we were confronted with trumped-up charges of terrorism, terrorism related activities, secession and revolution, among others.
Jeune Afrique: What is your day like in prison? Can you describe your conditions of detention?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: A typical day in prison starts from 7am when our cell-doors are opened to 6.30pm when they are closed. Within this time as a community, we study the bible and meditate together, eat together, play together. On visiting days, we receive families and friends together. In terms of conditions of detention, this prison now is a squalid over-populated environment, infested with rodents and cockroaches. However, we are making the best of a bad situation.
Jeune Afrique: The current secession movement in Cameroon is reminiscent of another one, but much older the Biafra. It is remembered that the French were the ones pulling strings. And some are suspecting foreign powers behind the Ambazonians?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe; As you said, foreign backing is a suspicion and of course unfounded. We Ambazonians own our revolution and our destiny. It is not a secessionist movement, but a restoration movement, aimed at restoring what is genuinely ours.
Jeune Afrique: If you had to ask forgiveness from Cameroonians, what will that be and why?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: In life, it is the robber that asks for forgiveness from the robbed; the colonizer from the colonized; the annexationist from the annexed; the cheat from the cheated. Should there be a time for forgiveness, it will be the People of the Southern Cameroons to forgive the UN, UK and France for masterminding its colonization by La Republique du Cameroon, after UN granted it independence on 1st October 1961.
It will be the People of the Southern Cameroons to forgive the international Community for shelving the Never Again Campaign against genocide, for staying silent while thousands of Southern Cameroonians are murdered and for complicity in genocide perpetuated in the Southern Cameroons by Mr Biya’s military and militias.
Jeune Afrique: It appears from the MND that the acceleration of decentralization remains the only way out. Federalism does not seem possible either. When did you say that you, secessionists, had reached a point of no return, a rupture from the government?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: As I said before, we are not secessionists but restorationists. With regards to the choice between Federalism and Decentralization in Cameroun, French Cameroonians are free to choose whatever form of government they think is good for their country. On October 1 2017, the Statehood of the Former British Southern Cameroons was restored as the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.
Jeune Afrique: Your current situation that is keeping you from your love ones reflects in a way that of many English-speaking families who have been torn apart, displaced in forests, other part of Cameroon and even in neighboring countries because of the war. You who have been separated from your family since your incarceration, what message do you have for all these families?
President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe: Thank you for this question and the opportunity to leave a message to our families in pain. My fellow Ambazonians, it is indeed a painful experience to be separated from loved ones on account of our noble course. I consider them enormous sacrifices and these shows the love we have for Ambazonia. I share the pain of every Ambazonian wherever they may be, including IDPs, Refugees, prisons, torture centers, or in the wildernesses.
Remember that some our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children have paid the ultimate price, with their lives. The blood of these our fallen heroes shall not be in vain. Wherever you are, defend Ambazonia with courage, determination till the last man standing. It is either total independence for Ambazonia or resistance for ever.