Voice From Prison: Cameroon: Let My People Go, By Sissiku J Ayuktabe
I write to you today from Kondengui Principal Prison, where I am unjustly detained with a sizeable part of my cabinet and with thousands of other Southern Cameroonian prisoners who have run afoul of the repressive regime of Paul Biya, the long-ruling despot of Cameroon. We are in an increasingly dire state – overlooked and forgotten by the world at large, which allows our captors to inflict unspeakable violence upon us. This, in reality, is indicative of the broader struggle that my people have faced, often in silence and too often disregarded.
Over the past two years, I have the honor of serving as the president of the Southern Cameroons Interim Government. Several months ago, I was illegally abducted, together with part of my cabinet from the Nera Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria, and thereafter illegally transported to Cameroon, in violation of international law. To be sure, I am merely the latest victim of a catastrophe that has been long-simmering, evident today by a growing social fissure that has resulted in countless deaths and destruction.
Historically, The Republic of Cameroon achieved its independence on January 1, 1960 and became a member of United Nations with her own territory clearly defined, sharing a recognized boundary with Southern Cameroons. British Southern Cameroons was later granted its independence on October 1, 1961 with her own territory clearly mapped out as well, sharing common boundaries with the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Cameroon.
As such, the root cause of today’s ongoing crisis is the result of a severely botched decolonization process. And this must be addressed immediately before a lasting solution can be found, one that is built on a foundation of international law and a culture of justice and respect for basic human dignity. Put simply, international law provides Southern Cameroons the right to self-determination. What is more, the violence and killings that are taking place in Southern Cameroons at this time, has left us with no alternative than to fight, to defend and to liberate ourselves from the shackles of black on black colonialization.
The unjust treatment of Southern Cameroonians is, today, an unavoidable and tragic reality. Our people are being killed not for what they have done but for who they are. Our people have indeed been described as “rats” and “dogs” by members of the Cameroon’s government. There are calls to exterminate us, and other Ambazonians, with the justification that President Biya has the right to kill everyone on the pretext of “national unity.”
Imagine being told that you are the enemies in the house; imagine your people being told to vacate their ancestral lands and villages or be considered terrorists; imagine the scorched earth policy and military operations in our villages that have spared no one, not even elderly women and young children; just imagine being made to feel like a second class citizen in the country of your birth. These are the stone-cold and brutal facts of today and living conditions in which we are forced to somehow survive.
On the basis of these reprehensible and humiliating conditions, Southern Cameroonian leaders have sought, on multiple occasions over the years, to engage in peaceful dialogue with Cameroonian authorities. We have been consistently refused this opportunity. Over the due course of time, our people – myself included – realized that we were simply victims of another broken promise and the signs of impending disaster were manifest. Our hopes were dashed and many of our leaders, both political and civic, were thrown illegally into jail. Protests had failed. Attempts at good faith dialogue also failed. We were stymied. We were beaten. And we were humiliated in the process. We thus came to the realization that collectively we had no other alternative except that of preparing for direct confrontation, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the international community.
Put simply, the people of Southern Cameroons have lost faith in the Cameroon experiment – it is indeed an incurable disease. Paul Biya and his regime has ruthlessly cracked down on our peaceful people – our mothers, fathers and children alike – with a ferocious barbarity. War has been declared on our people. This is all to remind onlookers and readers that we did not move irresponsibly into direct confrontation with authorities in Cameroon. We have always advocated for a peaceful resolution to the root causes of this crisis. However, Biya and his regime thought otherwise, determining that violence can be the solution.
Never again can we, the people of Southern Cameroons, afford to live with the narrow and institutionalized status of second-class citizens – certainly not in the land of our ancestors.
Today, the winds of freedom and liberty beckons to your divine conscience to tell your governments and your elected representatives worldwide: Let my people go! Support our democratic aspirations. This struggle has gone beyond that of individuals like me willing to pay the ultimate price for the freedom of our people. Join our struggle for human decency and battle for respect of our bodies, hearts and minds, our traditions and values. The struggle for the complete independence of Southern Cameroons is your struggle. Please, stand with us.
Sissiku Julius Ayuktabe is the President of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia Interim Government and currently a political prisoner in Cameroon. He was the first Vice President of American University of Nigeria and former director at of CISCO coordinating projects in over 23 African countries.