‘What you don’t know will kill you’
“No news is good news” is the popular adage when you want to reassure your friend, relative or other, telling him or her that, not receiving any news means nothing bad happened.
The earliest version of this familiar saying is attributed to the English King James I, who wrote in 1616, ‘No news is better than evil news.’
Referring to the title of this column, this saying is not very likely to console those who now consider themselves as Ambazonians in the Diaspora.
Their worrying, fear, anxiety or even utter despair continues unbridled.
The main reason for their mental and psychological state of mind is poor availability of or even lack of direct communication with those they most worry about. Another reason is the difficulty to distinguish between good and bad news or as it is now often called ‘fake news’.
By the way, I believe that President Trump did not discover ‘fake news’ but that it has been around all the time.
In this column I wish to show the variety of information that is available on the “Anglophone Problem”, the “Cameroon Crisis”, the “Republic of Ambazonia” or Southern Cameroons.
The Federal Republic of Ambazonia and La République du Cameroon
For those who have not read any of my earlier columns on Ambazonia, here is a brief recall of what it is all about.
The people of the Anglophone North-West and South-West Provinces of Cameroon have finally had enough of the marginalization, discrimination and creeping francophonization by the Central Government in Yaoundé. Basically the agreement and understanding by which the then called Southern Cameroons, a UN protectorate administered by the English Colony of Nigeria voted to join the francophone Cameroun in 1961, has been blatantly disrespected.
The “Anglophone Problem” is not just a matter of language, but more of culture, tradition and differing systems of e.g. ‘Common law’ and Education, boiling down to the disrespecting the agreed equal partnership, in forming the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
At the end of last year lawyers held a public protest march and teachers started a sit-down strike resulting in schools being closed for an entire school year and now halfway into the next. In addition to this a weekly ‘ghost town’ manifestation meaning that all shops and markets were closed on a particular working day, as a peaceful protest.
However as early as 1984 Fon Gorji-Dinka (leader of the Widikum – Kom tribe and Ambazonia pressure group) protested against the unification; changing the name from Federal to United Republic of Cameroon.
The reaction to the recent protests and calls for independence were met by the Central Government with uncalled for aggressive force, in fact paramilitary occupation of the Southern Cameroons – Ambazonia.
The name Ambazonia is derived from Ambas Bay, the bay at the mouth of the Mungo River and part of the larger area the Bight of Biafra. Ambas Bay forms a natural boundary between Southern Cameroons and the Republic of Cameroon.
Ambazonia’s independence declared
The UN General Assembly voted on 21st April 1961 with a 64 for, 23 against and 10 abstentions for the Southern Cameroons to be granted independence, taking effect on 1st October 1961.
Referring back to this, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe the Interim President of the Ambazonia Government in exile declared their independence on 1st October 2017. As reported in media around the world, the demonstrations of support in major towns in Southern Cameroons on Sunday 1st October were met by live gunfire on the peaceful demonstrators, even shooting from a helicopter. This caused at least two dozen death and many more wounded.
Ever since the paramilitary security forces have hardened their behaviour, leading to unwarranted abuse of power, illegal arrests and invading the privacy of homes. This could be out of boredom as roaming patrolling around the streets of major towns like Buea, Kumba Limbe, Mutengene, Muyuka, Tiko, Bamenda, Kumbo, Ndop, Mamfe and others is not very exciting work for soldiers or police. Recently there are reports of paramilitary patrols breaking into houses under cover of darkness, as electricity often fails or may be deliberately cut off, terrorizing and beating occupants and stealing money and valuables or random property.
No news is good news – how to keep in touch
Understandably Ambazonians in the diaspora are anxious to keep in touch with their family and friends at home, to know they are safe. The internet was cut off for three months from the end of last year but restored after international protests. This left very few options for reliable communication, as direct calls are rather expensive. From the Netherlands it is possible to call through to preselected numbers considerably cutting costs, but from Cameroon and most African countries one has to go through prohibitively expensive national telecom corporations. Using mobile services for international calls from Africa is even more costly.
Letter writing has gone almost out of fashion (worldwide) and takes almost two weeks to be delivered, while the passing letters through travelling ‘friends’ is historically unreliable.
WhatsApp has been the most favourite and reliable means of keeping in touch and so often a relief to assure that loved ones are OK. With salaries of teachers being suspended and courts closed causing lawyers not able to practise their profession, many appeal to relatives and friends in the diaspora for financial assistance to manage their cost of living.
Currently internet in Southern Cameroons is reportedly being intermittent, causing some Ambazonians to travel to nearby towns in francophone areas to get in touch with relatives and business partners abroad.
No News is good News – International, Local and Ambazonia biased News Media
International media to the disappointment of Ambazonians at home and in the diaspora, the ‘Anglophone Problem’ was not important enough for the Global press until it became the ‘Cameroon Crisis’ around the 1st October declaration of Independence and the support rallies of Ambazonians at home. It has since disappeared from global media.
Local media either toe the line of ‘La République’ or courageously keep reporting in often quite strong language even though showing sympathy to the Ambazonian cause puts them in danger of being closed down by the Cameroun Government.
Ambazonia biased media mostly operates from abroad on the internet.
An example of this is BaretaNews to be found on https://www.bareta.news/
Another is Government of Ambazonia http://www.ambazonia.org/ run by supporters of Fongum Gorji-Dinka, earlier mentioned above.
There is also a host of Ambazonians running a regular video blog on YouTube.
A comprehensive list of Cameroonian media both in French and English can be found at http://www.abyznewslinks.com/camer.htm
With an iron grip “La République”, Cameroun central government, controls all sections of society, takes all possible measures to subdue any resistance and terrorizes the people of Ambazonia. With no dialogue in sight no news is good news worries me, as an Ambazonian moyo, most deeply. The slogan ‘when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty’ may lead to worse things than ghost town and strikes.
*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org