The leadership of the Ambazonia Interim Government, a separatist group in Cameroon, has insisted that its agitations for a separate country has no similarities with that of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Samuel Sako, the leader of the group, said during a virtual press conference Sunday that they would not want to jeopardise their relationship with the Nigerian government because thousands of Southern Cameroonian refugees have benefitted from the country’s benevolence.
“It is political suicide and a very wrong calculation for us to take any position that jeopardises the lives of 120,000 of our people who are enjoying the hospitality of Nigeria right now under the eyes of the government and security forces,” said Mr Sako.
The IPOB, led by Nnamdi Kanu, who is facing charges of treasonable felony and terrorism before a Nigerian court, is a group in the country’s southeast agitating for a secession.
In August, Mr Sako had stated that the activists agitating for an independent Ambazonia have no alliance with IPOB, drawing harsh criticism from the Ambazonia Governing Council, another separatist group led by Ayaba Cho Lucas.
At Sunday’s press meeting, Mr Sako said the response from Mr Lucas does not carry any weight because he only represents a handful of Ambazonians.
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“The weight of any statement depends on who made the statement, not the content of the words,” he said.
“So if I say that Ambazonia doesn’t have an alliance with IPOB, the weight of that statement depends on who I represent when I said so. This is the interim government, representing more than 90 per cent of the people of the Southern Cameroons.
“The opposition in any nation can say anything but what matters is what the government says. And we say we don’t have an alliance and we don’t intend to have one because our fights are not the same. We don’t want to be misunderstood.”
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‘No form of similarity’
Mr Sako said that unlike the IPOB, the Ambazonian activists are not trying to break an existing country.
“We don’t want to go into those arguments, we don’t even want to create any form of similarity because there is none.
“A nation that was granted independence with internationally demarcated boundaries by the United Nations system went into a union with another country that has failed and we are restoring our independence.
“We don’t want to be misunderstood or compared to a false equivalent. So it does not work for us by any means to create an alliance that continues to perpetrate that misunderstanding which Paul Biya is building on.
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“Because all the nations of the world don’t like the idea of secession, they just hate it from face value. But ours is not and we want to make that difference, so this is what it is.
“Secondly, at the level that we are right now, we need nations that can recognise us because we are not trying to be independent, we have restored our independence. What we are looking for is recognition. If Biafra or IPOB recognises us, what is that going to change?
“We need nations of the world to recognise us. Nigeria voted yes for our independence in 1961, in that Resolution 1608 of our independence.
“So we would rather have Nigeria endorse our position to restore our independence than to have a group of activists or movement that is fighting to secede to recognise us. Politically, what’s the calculation?”
Since 2017, the southern part of Cameroon has been locked in a battle with the central government in Yaounde over its quest to have an independent nation. The southerners – who are mostly English-speakers – had a protest of their alleged marginalisation by the government in the majority-French country.
In response, President Paul Biya ordered a violent crackdown of the protesters.
Mr Sako said the southern Cameroonians voluntarily elected to join French Cameroon in 1961, but after the “failed experiment,” the latter began a forceful annexation of their territory.
“Our problem is not one of secession, which is why we keep correcting the call of secession. Secession means to cut off something from a whole. We have never been one. We attempted to join in a flawed process that even failed before it started,” he said.
“And the union has not been a good one by every commonsense. Therefore, we are just restoring that which we had. We came into this failed union with our internationally-demarcated boundaries by the United Nations, the same body that grants independence to nations granted us independence and said we should join following a process which has not been followed by the same international community.
“So we are restoring, from the time we came out to restore, I want to say all hell broke loose. We are being slaughtered like rats, they have called us rats, they have called us dogs and roaches in French Cameroon. They are killing us.”
Mr Sako said many inhabitants of southern Cameroon are now living in exile as a result of the crackdown by the central government.
“Let me give you the statistics: 500 of our villages have been burnt down, I’m not talking about those villages now that have been abandoned since 2017, I mean burnt down to ashes, it’s happening right now as we speak,” he said.
“120,000 of our people are in Nigeria as refugees right now, and some are in Ghana, more than 2,000, and in other countries. Some of them have been able to cross the Mediterranean, we don’t know where they are, in Cyprus, Mexico, many are dying in the process.
“About 1.5 million of our people are hiding somewhere in the French Cameroon and about 10,000 of our people have disappeared. We don’t know, it is likely they have been killed by the French Cameroon thugs and buried in mass graves.
“We have had many massacres and any time we have these massacres there will be outcry here and there, few human rights organisations will say something, because these French Cameroon and their French masters are spending so much money to lobby in the continent, the United States, everywhere. We have had several massacres. They have burnt down more than 100 of our people in houses, in the process of burning the houses they burn our own people in there. Our lives don’t matter to these people.”
The Ambazonian leader narrated a story of how security officials shot dead a five-year-old child at a checkpoint in southern Cameroon.
“They just shot the child, going to school, dressed in uniform, execution-style. This is what is going on and the world is indifferent.
“Why this problem is persisting is because of impunity. These people feel like they can kill us. They have killed more than 30,000 of our people since 2017, those are armchair statistics, the reality is more than that because they have also blocked the way for any international community to come and carry out a fact-finding mission, any international organisation including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
“How many more people have to be killed before the world wakes up? This is what was happening in Rwanda and the world was living in denial. After the genocide of the Tutsis, they came out with figures, 800,000 killed, maybe almost a million. Why did the world have to wait?
“Why should Africa wait until we become a piece of statistics? Why should Africa not wake up while it is happening? This is not costing the nations of Africa anything, it’s just to speak out, for example, take this matter to the ICJ, oblige Cameroon for arbitration, because this matter is backed by United Nations resolutions, that is our plea to the continent.”