CDN Peace Initiative To End Anglophone Crisis (Toronto Retreat) : A good initiative, but a wrong approach

– Contrary to some media reports, Cho Ayaba did not personally attend  the retreat in Canada

– Why the Sako/Anu Camp boycotted the Toronto Retreat

–  Why the Toronto Retreat will not change the situation in NW/ SW Regions

   A hitherto unknown International NGO of Southern Cameroons, the  Coalition for Dialogue and Negotiations, CDN, which is said to have as objective to seek  “to find a pathway to credible, mediated negotiations to end the spiraling conflict ” in Southern Cameroons, has come to the lime light, following a retreat it organised in Toronto, Canada from October 29 to November 1, 2021. 

  The four day retreat brought together some armed separatist groups and  Ambazonian activists like Ayaba Cho’s  AGOVC,  John Mbah Akuro of the Consortium, as well as Mark Bareta, Eric Tataw Dr Flo of IPOA – GovC, Prof Carlson Anyangwe, and Yerima Dabney  who is the Vice President of  the  Seseku Julius Ayuk Tabe led  faction of  Interim Government  of Ambazonia, IG – Care.

   Also, the leaders of some Anglophone civil society organisations like Barrister Agbor Balla of CHRDA, self proclaimed women leader, Esther Oman, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, Rt Rev Fonki Samuel Forbah, Archbishop Emeritus of Bamenda, Mgr Cornelius Fontem Esua, former SDF MP, Paulinus Jua,  among others, were some of the invitees that took part in the Toronto Retreat organised by CDN.

    Worth adding adding that sone foreign observers also attended the Toronto Retreat, amongst them the representative of the Swiss Government, Dr Christopher Fuchs.

« No Military Solution »

    Meanwhile the Co – Chair of CDN, Dr Denis Foretia, asserted that such a come together had become imperative to try to seek ways to end the  Anglophone Crisis that sparked off in 2016, and that had since late 2017 escalated into a very bloody and destructive armed conflict. An armed conflict between Government troops and separatist fighters  in the two Anglophone Regions (Northwest and Southwest). 

  « Everybody knows that there is no military solution to the war. The Government cannot win militarily. We must find all ways to bring peace, and that is only possible when there is a broad consensus on the process to achieve a mediated settlement. The retreat will help Southern Cameroonian leaders and other key stakeholders define the pathway », Dr Foretia told Pan African Vision before the closed door retreat. 

 Communication  And Propaganda

Meanwhile from observation,  the organisers of the Toronto Retreat unlike similar meetings that have been organised to try to seek solutions to end the escalated Anglophone Crisis,  set up a smart  communication and propaganda team for the event. But not only did the  communication and propaganda officers inform the Cameroonian  public about the retreat through social media,  but they also played the spin doctors to try to manipulate public opinion  or even mislead the public, about  the event, in a bid to make it look more grandiose than it was in reality. 

   For example, there was first the misinformation  that all separatist groups would be in attendance.  This misled many media  organs in Cameroon to  initially report that the Toronto Retreat was being attended by all armed separatist groups. 

   Then when it  became clear that some major armed separatist groups had boycotted the retreat, the spin doctors went to work to try to downplay the impact of the absence of those separatist movements. 

  There was also the talk of how the  representatives of three G7 member countries were attending  the retreat, as if they were delegated by G7. There was also talk of an “estimated 100 Southern Cameroonian leaders from Cameroon and around the world expected to attend the  retreat”. 

  The Toronto Retreat organised by CDN, was also presented as the first ever meeting to bring together separatist movements,  Anglopone civil society groups and religious leaders since the start of the Anglophone Crisis five years ago.

Armed Separatist Movements 

 Meanwhile to better understand the impact of the boycott of the Toronto Retreat by some  armed separatist groups, just like happened with the  Swiss Peace Initiative in 2019 that was also boycotted by some separatist groups,  we should first of all draw a line between separatist groups and Ambazonian activists, because many people are mixing them up.  These are Southern Cameroons armed separatist groups and activists, that are fighting to cause the secession of the two Anglophone Regions in Cameroon, to create an independent country which they call Ambazonia. 

   Meanwhile from observation, there are just three armed  separatist groups in the Diaspora that are  currently active on the ground in  Southern Cameroons. These are separatist movements in the Diaspora that from observation are seen to have effective control over groups of separatist fighters in the two Anglopone Regions. 

   The first is the IG faction led by Sako Ikome Samuel / Chris Anu, who are both based in the United States of America. This group has been able to raise a lot of money in the United States and beyond in the name of the struggle or war, though there has also been lots of scandals or allegations of embezzlement of funds. 

  Whatever the case, the Sako/ Anu camp has perhaps through their money power, diplomacy or manipulation, aided by a web TV,  been able to bring many groups of separatist fighters in Anglopone Cameroon to be loyal to their camp. The Red Dragons of Lebialem, the Bui Restoration Forces, the Buffalos of Bali Nyonga, the Black Tar of Fako among several others, have been observed to be loyal to the Sako/Anu camp. 

   In fact the Sako / Anu camp camp from oibservation, have  groups of separatist fighters that are loyal to them in all or  almost all of the 13 Divisions of the two Anglophone Regions. 

 The second force is the Ambazonia Defense Force, ADF, which  is under the control of  AGOVC led by Cho Ayaba Lucas as President and Nyih Julius as Vice President, both based in Europe. 

   Worthnoting that unlike the Sako/ Anu Camp that lobby  or even “buy over’ the loyalty of some armed separatist groups already in existence, the Cho Ayaba/ Nyih Camp creates armed separatist groups in different parts of the Anglopone Cameroon, that  are all known as ADF. 

  One of the ADF group that is referred to in Bamenda as the Alabukam Camp,  that kidnapped the National Chairman of the SDF, Ni John Fru Ndi, is known to be the strongest separatist group that operates in Bamenda and environ. 

   Meanwhile the third group of separatist fighters in the two Anglophone Regions, are under the control of Akwanga. However unlike the Sako/ Anu Camp and the Ayaba / Nyih Camp, Akwanga’s group of separatist fighters is said to be comparatively

 quite small, and  is known to be active  for example in Muyuka Sub – division. 

Ambazonian Activists 

Meanwhile there is another group of Southern Cameroonians, or Ambazonians as they will prefer to call themselves, that pass for separatist leaders, but who in reality are just  Ambazonian activists, as they control very little or nothing on the ground in Southern Cameroons. Some of them claim to be leaders of separatist groups, like the case John Mbah Akuro with his Consortium. But in reality, the so – called Consortium controls very little or nothing on  the ground in Southern Cameroons. It is the same with Boh Herbert Ntumfoyn, Eric Tataw, Mark Bareta and others.

    As aforementioned, all these guys are in reality Ambazonian activists and not separatist  leaders. These activists that  individually ally either with the Sako/ Anu Camp or with the Ayaba/ Nyih Camp, came to fame thanks their postings on social media. It should be noted that many of them are journalists cum political activists. 

   Meanwhile added to the group of Ambazonian activists in the Diaspora is Moslem scholar, Abdulkarim Ali. The difference between him and the others, is that he  avoids taking side to support either the  Sako / Anu Camp or the Ayaba/ Nyih Camp that are so bitterly opposed to each other. 

  Meanwhile there is the IG faction led by the imprisoned Ambazonian leader, Seseku Julius Tabe, that has been re-baptised as IG – Care. With Ayuk Tabe in prison, IG – Care is run outside the prison by his Vice President, Yerima Dabney. 

  The IG –  Care is not known to control any armed  separatist group in the Southern Cameroons, but many separatist fighters are said to have respect for Seseko Ayuk Tabe, who declared what they claimed was  independence of Southern Cameroons on October 1, 2017. He was arrested together with nine other Ambazonian leaders in Abuja,Nigeria  in January 2018, and whisked off to Yaounde , Cameroon, and have all since been incarcerated at the Kondengui Prison. 

 Bitter Rivalry B/W Sako And Ayaba Camps

Meanwhile the two major separatist movements in the Diaspora led by Sako and Ayaba, that control armed separatist groups in Southern Cameroons, are not only rivals, but are bitterly opposed to each other. 

   The root cause of the antagonism between the two camps is the argument 

 as to who is who. Each camp wants to show that it is the leader or that it is the one in charge on what they call Ground Zero, G2, that is the two Anglophone Regions. 

    The bitter rivalry between the two camps is said to have also seriously affected the relationship between the different groups of separatist  fighters  on GZ that are loyal to them. Things have so much degenerated to the point where some of the armed separatist groups on the  ground in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, are said to look at each other as enemies.  

Creation Of Alliances 

 The rivalry between the Ayaba and Sako Camps,  has tacitly led to the creation  of two bitterly opposed alliances among the Southern Cameroonian separatists movements in the Diaspora and on GZ.  

   As aforementioned, many prominent  Ambazonian activists in the Diaspora, have  individually taken side either with the Ayaba/Nyih Camp, or with the Sako/ Anu Camp, even if they do not openly  accept that is the case. For example, Eric Tataw, John Mbah Akuro and Mark Bareta are known to lean towards the Ayaba / Nyih Camp, while Boh Herbert and others lean towards the Sako/Anu Camp. 

   Also, the IG – Care of Ayuk Tabe/ Yerima is tacitly in alliance with the Cho Ayaba/ Nyih Camp, while Akwanga and his separatist movement that most a times try to maintain their independence, occasionally lean towards the Sako / Anu Camp. 

Acting As The Spoiler

It should be noted that the bitter rivalry between the Sako/Anu Camp and the Ayaba/ Nyih Camp, is such that when one camp accepts the proposal for a peace initiative, the other camp would automatically reject it, even if the latter knows that is good proposal. 

   Worst again, it does not just end at one of the camps rejecting the propusal, but the camp that rejects the proposal resorts to playing the spoiler, by waging a very negative campaign against the peace initiative, so that it should fail. This is in a desperate  bid to  show to the organisers of the peace initiative and others, that  nothing can work when the camp is not involved. 

   In fact the very unfortunate bitter rivalry between the Ayaba / Nyih Camp and the Sako / Anu Camp, has in a way  been  seriously affecting International efforts  to organise an inclusive dialogue to seek solutions to end the escalated Anglophone Crisis, that has taken away thousands of lives and also caused  heavy destruction of properties, in the two Anglophone Regions. 

  Even the Biya regime is known to often exploit the glaring  division among  the armed  separatist groups, to claim that the regime does not know with whom to  dialogue. 

  Meanwhile the separatist camps   seem not to care about the deaths and destruction of properties. All they seem to care for is their ego. Each camp wants to prove at all costs that it is the one that calls the shots on GZ. Foolish pride,  immaturity, self interests, viciousness, callousness. 

Swiss Initiative/ Toronto Retreat

Meanwhile  from the analysis above about the tacit creation of two alliances, we can clearly see that while the alliance of the  Sako/Anu  Camp attended the   Swiss Peace Initiative in mid 2019,  the alliance of the Ayaba/ Nyih Camp boycotted it. 

  Then when the alliance of Ayaba/ Nyih Camp attended the just ended Toronto Retreat, the Sako /Anu Camp boycotted it.

  In other words,  the Sako / Anu faction of the IG  as well as Akwanga, Boh Herbert Ntumfoyn and others that attended the Swiss Peace Initiative, boycotted the Toronto Retreat. On the other hand, the Ayaba/ Nyih Camp as well as John Mbah Akuro, Mark Bareta and Eric Tataw that boycotted the Swiss Peace Initiative, attended the Toronto Retreat organised by CDN. It is as simple as that.

    Worth pointing out also that the Ayuk Tabe/ Yerima faction of the IG, also attended the Toronto Retreat along side the Ayaba Camp.

    It is also worth recalling here the contrasting  reactions of the Sako/ Anu Camp and the Ayaba / Nyih Camp, when in July 2020,  Seseku Julius Ayuk Tabe and  eight other incarcerated Ambazonian leaders, met with a Government envoy in Yaounde, to discuss conditions for a peace talk to end the armed conflict in the two Anglophone Regions. This followed  a call that was made to the Cameroon Government by the UN Secretary General,  in the wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Sako/Anu Camp upon getting the information, immediately went amok, screaming all over the place, accusing Ayuk Tabe of being an impostor and a traitor. But the Ayaba/Nyih Camp on their part said they had taken note of the development, and were observing. 

Ayaba Did Not Travel To Canada

Meanwhile contrary to some media reports, the President of AGOVC, Cho Ayaba, who is based in Norway,  did not personally travel to Toronto, Canada, for the retreat. 

   In a release posted on social media on Sunday, October 31, 2021, Ayaba said his movement had sent a four man delegation led by the Vice President, Nyih Julius, to the Toronto Retreat, and that the delegation was briefing him on what was going on at the retreat. He also said that he had  directed the delegation to also hold talks with the IG – Care of Ayuk Tabe and Yerima Dabney. 

    Political observers saw Ayaba”s decision to instead send a delegation to the  Toronto Retreat, as part of his rivalry with Sako Ikome. It would be recalled that Sako did not also personally travel to Switzerland in 2019 for the Swiss Peace Initiative. He instead sent a two man delegation. 

   Also, by not personally attending  the meetings, the two rivals, Ayaba and Sako, as well seem to want to make it clear to  Caneroonians and the international community, that they are leaders of big armed separatist movements, and not the likes of John Mbah Akuro, Eric Tataw or Both Herbert. That was probably why when Eric Tataw, John Mbah Akuro and Mark Bareta went to the Toronto Retreat alone, Chi Ayaba who did not travel to Canada, sent a four man delegation. 

Good Initiative, Wrong Approach 

Meanwhile in view of all the above, political observers and analysts will definitely agree that while the objective of  the Coalition for Dialogue and Negotiations to organise the Toronto Retreat was a good initiative, the CDN as a Southern Cameroons’ NGO, would have known better and adopt a better approach that would have  ensured that all the  armed separatist groups attend the important retreat. 

    In other words, it would have been wiser for CDN as an international NGO of Southern Cameroons, to secretly try to work and reconcile the Sako/ Anu Camp with the Ayaba/ Nyih Camp that are so bitterly opposed to each other, before organising the Toronto Retreat. The retreat would have thus  been attended by all armed separatist groups. 

   From all indications, the Toronto Retreat, just like the Swiss Peace Initiative of 2019, will not change the situation on the ground in Southern Cameroons. This is the unfortunate truth. 

   The  CDN has reportedly promised that after the Toronto Retreat, the NGO will continue to work to try and bring onboard all the armed separatist groups that boycotted  the Toronto Retreat. That however will be a very difficult task, for it is difficult to see the Sako/Anu Camp accept to come onboard after the Ayaba/Nyih Camp. 

  Worthnoting that the Swiss had since 2019 tried several times in vain to bring the Ayaba Camp onboard the Swiss Initiative. 

   The Ayaba Camp posed a condition which they definitely  knew was impossible, by demanding that the Swiss should put just one item on the agenda of the meeting between the Cameroon Government and the separatist movements, which should to discuss the term of secession. That was definitely a pretext not to be part of the Swiss Peace Initiative. The same Ayaba/Nyih Camp attended the Toronto Retreat without any such condition. 

   Worthnoting that the Sako/Anu Camp in boycotting the  Toronto Retreat,  said they would accept no other  peace initiative than that of the Swiss. 

By Joe Dinga Pefok

Source : Forum Libre N° 148

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