PRETORIA – Activists fighting for the independent state of Ambazonia (Anglophone Cameroon) have vowed to continue their quest for freedom and the right to self-determination in the face of reprisals from President Pau Biya’s government, which has respondent with heavy-handedness and killed thousands since 2017.
The activists said this Friday, as they staged a protest at the Nigerian Embassy in Pretoria, where they called on the West African nation to – partly, intervene to stop a genocide being meted on their fellow activists by Biya’s security forces, which have so far killed an estimated more than 5,000, displaced more than 800,000 and destroyed infrastructure since 2017, when Anglophone Cameroon declared its independence and announced an interim government.
Estimates are that more than 300,000 people from Cameroon’s troubled Anglophone region now live as refugees in Nigeria and the activists wanted guarantees for the safety of those refugees.
Safety for Cameroonian political refugees was breached on January 5 2019, when 10 Ambazonian leaders, including their leader, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, were seized at gunpoint by Nigerian Security officials and eventually deported back to Cameroon, in utter disregard for the international law and principles guiding political prisoners and other asylum seekers.
The leaders were held incommunicado between the Nigerian and Cameroon government for six months, allegedly in deplorable conditions where they were denied access to family or legal representatives, in violation of the international Human Rights Law of the 1951 United Nations Convention (Article 33) on refugees and 1967 protocol, as well as the African Charter for Human Rights to which both Nigeria and Cameroon are signatories.
The 10 were charged with 10 counts under Cameroon’s anti-terrorism law and if convicted, they could face the death penalty over what they argue is their struggle for an independent state they call Ambazonia.
On March 1 this year, the Federal High Court of Nigeria ruled in Abuja that the abduction and subsequent deportation of 10 leaders and 39 youths from the former British colony of South Cameroon, who had sought refuge in the West African country, was illegal.
The activists said Friday’s protest was partly meant to request the Nigerian government to adhere to and fully implement the court judgment.
“The Judgment of the Federal High Court of Abuja was testimony of the fairness of the Nigerian Judiciary system,” said Patrick Ayuk, Director of the Sam Soya Centre for Democracy and Human Rights.
“While we greatly appreciate it, we are now calling on the executive arm of the Nigerian Government to heed the Judgment and ensure that all the 51 persons listed are freed and compensated as indicated in the ruling.”
The activists solicited the urgent intervention of the Nigerian government to prove to the world that it respected the rulings of its own courts and thereby immediately engage French Cameroon to have all 51 detainees, including members of the Ambazonian Interim Government and other asylum seekers abducted in Nigeria and unlawfully deported back to Cameroon to be sent back to Nigeria and compensated as stipulated in the Court Ruling of March 1.
Other demands were that Nigeria should call on the government of Cameroon to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its “armed terrorist forces of occupation and colonial administrators from the territory of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia (the Southern Cameroons) by respecting the Section 40 and Article 20 of the Africa Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) which give a people their unquestionable and inalienable right to Self Determination, an Act violated by the Nigerian Government when it deported our people back to French Cameroun as cited in the Abuja Court Ruling of 1st March 2019.”
”Nigeria should also create the opportunity for constructive dialogue in the presence of credible third parties, including the UK, the United Nations and the African Union to address the root cause of the problems, intervene to stop the Genocide currently meted on the Ambazonian people, continue to assist refugees from Southern Cameroons, by providing them with a safe haven and other much needed assistance in Nigeria and honour its vote of Independence that it accorded British Southern Cameroons on 30th April 1960,” read a statement from the protestors.