Caleche Bongo is secretary of state for health for Southern Cameroon’s. In an exclusive interview, she outlines the objectives of her ministry and the challenges that, as leaders of the secessionist movement they are undergoing. The determined lady says: “No amount of threats from Mr. Biya will stop us from continuing this struggle for dignity, integrity and freedom of our people”.
The secretary of state for health for Southern Cameroon's otherwise known as Ambazonia, what is the Health situation in southern Cameroon currently*?
Caleche Bongo : Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share the experiences of my people with you and your readers. Overall, there is pain and misery in my country, perpetrated by the heartless neighboring regime of La Republique du Cameroun. Last year and this year has given an opportunity for the world to see the plight of Ambazonians. As Secretary of State for health, I can tell you, our public health is deplorable. Basic sanitation is wanting. Portable water,, a basic human necessity has been neglected. Children welfare leaves a lot to be desired. The healthcare sector needs thorough attention and restructuring. Healthcare delivery is haphazard. There is lack of follow up and accountability. Even with our limited resources, we can and should do better.
Others will be tempted to ask you this question, how can you pretend to head a strategic ministry of health and social service or affairs over a territory that you don't control?
Caleche Bongo : That’s very correct and they have a legitimate concern. We believe in government of the people, by the people and for the people. The people of Ambazonia have clearly communicated their wishes to us. That was particularly evident on September 22nd and October 1st, when millions poured out on the streets to express themselves. What we are experiencing now is no different from what happened in the 19th century colonialism process, where the will of the people was suppressed for the ego of a few. This is very similar to Mandela’s apartheid experience and our people wonder why the international community has stayed mute to their plight and suffering. We are an independent nation under occupation and being terrorized and murdered for standing up to our inalienable rights of self rule. We have limited access to our resources, but that will not deter the determination of the 8 million people, I represent.
The South West and North West regions, which is the territory you are claiming, is facing major crisis, in particular in the area of health, what have you and your ministry done?
Caleche Bongo : We are analyzing the situation. We have so far engaged in our emergencies. Our crisis situation escalates by the day and we hope la Republique will quickly meet us at the dialogue table so we can fully engage in the nation building phase of our country. As a ministry, we are engaged in caring for the wounded, the displaced, the imprisoned and the bereaved. We have established a network to identify victims of la Republique’s brutality and reach out to provide healthcare needs. We have partnered with hospitals, doctors and community organizers to reach out to victims. I have detailed records and accounts of most of the victims. Our list is not exhaustive because our homeland is under siege, there are thousands unaccounted for and there are reports of mass graves and burials. Every now and then, I am briefed about my fellow compatriots held in underground dungeons. Mr Smith, let the truth be told, we are dealing with an evolving genocide in our land because of our resolve. Our full story will be told once the genocide is arrested and we have an opportunity to do comprehensive county by county assessment of our nation. But it suffices to say that we have collected unadulterated accounts. For security reasons, I cannot share all of it on this platform but will be happy to share the declassified with you.
As an individual, what motivated you to accept the current post?
Caleche Bongo : Anyone who is quiet in the face of injustice has chosen the side of the oppressor. I grew up living the plight of an average Ambazonian. I yearned for change and an opportunity to show how things could be different. To me it was a no brainer because my heart belongs to Ambazonia. Their pain is my pain. But let me be categorically clear: this is not so much about me. This is about us. This is about our culture. This is about our collective resolve. I am only the face of “US”. I will still be telling you these same things whether as secretary or not. Because our struggle is legitimate, I believe that the next person standing will maintain the spirit until Ambazonia is free from all the bloodshed on our streets
Coming back on your ministry, what have you done to the close to 28 thousand refugees in Nigeria's Cross River State*?
Caleche Bongo : We are putting in place a comprehensive program to help care for our fellow citizens now turned refugees. I have been consulting with a few experts both in Nigeria and around the world. We have worked closely with international humanitarian groups including UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders, as well as relief groups are equally consulting with us how they could be of better in the areas of health and nutrition.
I am currently working on a program to account and care for all of our citizens. Some areas include:
1) Taking census of all the pregnant citizens and the stage and status of the pregnancy
2) Treating the sick in partnership with local government hospitals.
3) Working with international sympathizers to ship nutritious food to our fellow displaced citizens now refugees.
4) Working with international sympathizers to ship clothing to help withstand the harmattan season that is frigidly cold at night and in the morning
5) Shipping over the counter medications and working to set up an infirmary to register and coordinate health screening
6) Implementing portable water initiatives in our refugee sites including digging boreholes, as well as local water purification techniques. Dear Mr Smith, our programs are handicapped by our finances. We have the knowhow and the human capacity to execute to satisfaction. However, our biggest desire is to return our displaced citizens now refugees, to our natural habitat. Home- sweet- home. Nothing like home!!
This may not be under your prerogative, but since you are part of a dissident group, may I ask you this question: are there any prospects for dialogue between your government and Yaoundé?
Caleche Bongo: We are always ready for dialogue because we share a border and we share many vital institutions. We had lived together for 56 years. Whether they like it or not, they will eventually meet us at the dialogue table. Certainly they are hesitant because they have no story to tell about us. Eventually they will have to come to examine the previous stay together and design a path towards peaceful coexistence of two neighboring countries. Certainly, the specifics are outside of my scope.
Has your ministry any operational capabilities or it was just a PR stunt from your movement when your ministry was created?
Caleche Bongo: Mr Smith, because we are law abiding and respect free press, this question still deserves a response. I hope you recognize that we are a UN recognized territory. We are not in this for some PR. Blood is not spilling on our streets for PR purposes and we have not allowed tens of thousands to become refugees for PR reasons. Rather, I implore you to ask la Republique what has held back their government from coming to the dialogue table for which their 85 year old President had made mention of.
International Warrants of Arrests were issued out to President AyukTabe and all the members of his Government, what do you think will happen now?
Caleche Bongo: As you are aware, the struggle for restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons did not start a year ago, it however intensified a little more a year ago. I have been politically active since I was a teenager and the main reason for my leaving Cameroon was fear of prosecution by LRC, because of my outspokenness and firm stance as an SCNC activist. Mr. Biya is desperate and he knows there's no turning back for the southern Cameroons. I am more than certain that, if the Biya regime were to lay hands on President Ayuk Tabe or any members of his Government, we will not only be miserably tortured but equally killed.
Are you not scared of being arrested by Interpol and taken back to Cameroon to be charged as a Secessionist?
Caleche Bongo: When a people have been marginalized and oppressed for so many years and they finally decide to stand up for their rights against the oppressor, those who take the lead should be ready to face the end of the barrel.
No amount of threats from Mr. Biya will stop us from continuing this struggle for dignity, integrity and freedom of our people. By taking a leadership role we the members of government are ready for whatever challenges that might arise until we get to Buea and the Independence of the Southern Cameroons is restored.
What also is the fate of your family still resident in Cameroon?
Caleche Bongo: My family has constantly been harassed all the way to my village. Some of my cousins have been arrested, tortured in an attempt to get information from them in relations to plans of the interim government. Others who were arrested were forced under torture to confess that the Southern Cameroon government is training an army in Nigeria. As a direct consequence, most members of my family have escaped to Nigeria while those who could not make to Nigeria are hiding in neighboring villages, were they are not known.
Elie Smith: Thank you very much for finding time to answer my questions
Caleche Bongo: We are the ones to thank you for having thought of us and most important about the plight of our people.
Extract: Eliesmith Blogspot