By Beltha Mokube – Tuesday September 24, 2019.
Herman J Cohen, a well-known name in Cameroon’s armed conflict who served as United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 1989 to 1993, brokered an end to the Eritrean-Ethiopian War in 1991, and conflicts in Angola and Mozambique has warned separatists on their approaches towards dialogue.
In a message on his official Twitter Account, Cohen said separatists would lose vital international support if they continue to refuse dialogue. “#Cameroon “separatists” will lose vital international sympathy if they continue to refuse dialogue. Instead, they should accept dialogue, but as preconditions, demand release of all political prisoners, a neutral mediator, and government acceptance of their political legitimacy.”, Cohen said.
Prior to Cohen’s message, one of the movement’s activists, Eric Tataw has in many occasions said almost the exact same thing as Cohen. Eric Tataw in at least five live Facebook videos said Ambazonia stands a high risk of losing major international support should they continue to be opposed to the National Dialogue called by Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya.
Eric Tataw said he would go for dialogue by proxy; implying that he has transferred power of representation to the leadership in jail. He stated that he recognizes the dialogue called by the Yaounde regime but simply puts it that since thousands of Southern Cameroonians are in jail, dialogue should begin with them.
The activist holds the view that Paul Biya’s greatest wish is for the separatists to out-rightly reject dialogue so that the international community would see them as warmongers.
Eric Tataw explained that he’s optimistic Biya wouldn’t release the prisoners and in that case, the world would have seen that separatists wanted dialogue but the regime foiled it.
Cohen is very popular within Cameroon’s political landscape and is probably one of the most followed world leaders within the context of the armed conflict. He appears to have been following up the crisis closely and has made major tweets that have always gone viral.
Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions of the North West and South West are buried in deadly gun battles with Anglophone armed groups fighting for the Restoration of the statehood of Ambazonia, a self-declared independent country the rebels are trying to establish.
After more than three years of intense fighting, President Paul Biya on September 10, 2019, finally yielded to international pressure by calling a National Dialogue for the end of September. This has however met with complete rejection by some separatists abroad.
The military has reported killed civilians in their thousands, burnt down hundreds of villages. The crisis has also displaced millions either as refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IPDs) while thousands have been imprisoned.
On August 20, 2019, a military court in the country’s capital, Yaounde slammed life sentence to the leader of the separatist movement, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius and nine members of his retinue.
There has been outcry, especially from Eric Tataw that they must be released to participate in any dialogue, in which case they would have been freed to make decisions weighing on the general interests of the separatists.