Ambazonian Conflict @7: Need for 70 days ceasefire for end of year family reunions

The Colbert Factor:

Ambazonian Conflict @7: Need for 70 days ceasefire for end of year family reunions

Colbert Gwain

Muteff may be a little known local village kaleidoscope, but things that happen there sometimes have far-reaching ramifications. On April 13, 1978, when they were fiercely involved in the struggle for autonomy from mainland Abuh, a violent tornado swept across the Kom Kingdom, blowing off hundreds of homesteads and killing a woman and her kid on their way back to Belo from Babungo market.

Although the incident didn’t affect the Muteff community in any way, Muteff community leaders judged that for purposes of solidarity with the larger Kom Kingdom, they should declare a unilateral ceasefire or suspension of hostilities (SOH) across the Muteff community for one or two months, and rather spend the time supporting affected families in one way or another to rebuild their destroyed homesteads. That turned out to be some sort of fruitful and silent diplomacy as in the process, many affected families and villages in Kom understood and sympathized with Muteff community more than ever before. Authorities of the Kom kingdom who had the yam and the knife in terms of granting Muteff’s wish, became the more sympathetic to the cause.

That singular act of opening up humanitarian corridors to other affected communities in Kom gave the Kom palace a platform on which to begin considering The Muteff Question.

What happened in Muteff in 1978 (and could as well be referred to by historians as ‘The Easter Ceasefire), was the marker of many things to come. Apart from demonstrating in triumphant detail the maturity of the Muteff community in fulfilling its obligations as an autonomous village community respectful of the Kom ethos, it also sent a message of its dogged determination to Abuh, the other party in conflict.

Families in both Muteff and Abuh were allowed to freely have their reunions, marriages and death celebrations together, for the first time since the start of hostilities. This sign of goodwill was also time enough for families across the divide to be schooled on the raison d’etre of Muteff’s actions, and especially that the separation was never going to impede family life and reunions across the divide. It was only during that period of suspension of hostilities (SOH) that even hardliners on the Abuh side could see reason in Muteff’s quest for autonomy.

Fast-forward to 2023. It has been seven long years of brutal and raging conflict between central government forces and separatists fighting for the autonomy of British former Southern Cameroons wanting to to be referred to as Ambazonia. The raging deadly conflict has cut down over 10,000 innocent civilians in their prime, while displacing thousands of others both internally and externally. Unlike the age-old Israeli/Palestinian conflict where the bone of contention is only over land, that of Ambazonia is both over land and the people who inhabit it. Worse still, both sides fight on believing God to be on their side. The Government of Cameroon long since moved from denial to acceptance that the Anglophone problem was real and urgent. Unfortunately, both sides sharply disagree on the solution to the problem and seem to have agreed to fight each other until the last man standing.

In 2020, both sides disregarded calls for a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities (COH), including a plea by the UN Secretary General for a 90-days ceasefire, so as to join the rest of the world in fighting the common enemy at the time — the COVID-19 pandemic. It took lots and lots of pleas and pressure from donors for both sides to begin understanding the need to open up humanitarian corridors in affected areas, a thing Muteff was quick to do in the 70s, without any external force having to impress on them.

The first child born to an internally displaced Anglophone should be seven years old today, probably in Primary Two or Three, and in the francophone zone. Together with their parents, they have been prevented from visiting and communioning with grandparents back home by the conflict. Some who have attempted going home have either been kidnapped and ransomed or simply ‘wasted’. Family reunions, traditional weddings and death celebrations (which are pure independent African traditional activities and way of life), have equally suffered endless adjournments. What with the negative consequences on some family heads and communities at large.

If the Ambazonian leadership were to follow up on the good points recorded these last two years, where they lifted the 2016 ban on schools as well as suspending unnecessary luckdowns, by going ahead to declare a unilateral 70-90 days ceasefire or suspension of hostilities, so as to allow families displaced across the country and beyond to reunite and commune with loved ones back in their local communities, what a great relief there would be! Fighting for independence by destroying the remnants of the little independence people had even at the level of family reunions and the performance of traditional rites, defeats the purpose!

No one doubts the fact that end of year family reunions are fundamental Anglo-Saxon values. If by trying to gain more freedom, we destroy and annihilate the little we have, then…. Think of the fact that the seven-year-long conflict has virtually forced internally displaced Anglophones to pick up francophone community ways of life. If these families, and especially the children, are not allowed to commune with grandparents back home once and learn our ways of life, we may end up destroying even the little we have. We would be behaving like the child in the famous Thomas Jefferson story who killed the father and mother only to turn around in court to plead for leniency and mercy on the grounds he was an orphan.

A unilateral Christmas ceasefire or suspension of hostilities by Amba fighters, accompanied by the unconditional release of kidnapped individuals (so they spend Christmas and New Year with their families), would bring back a human face to the struggle for the rights and freedoms of Anglophones. This plea also goes to the government of Cameroon for the release of Ayuk Tabe and the rest of the Neria 10 as well as other detainees, as has been recommended by the UN Human Rights Council and other working groups.

Like Pope Benedict XV who on December 7, 1914, begged warring governments during the First World War to reach an official truce, we at The Colbert Factor plead ‘that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang’. Amba fighters would not be the first in history to declare a unilateral ceasefire or suspension of hostilities during Christmas. Soldiers did it during World War I, and even against the wishes of their superiors who argued that one can’t wine and dine with the enemy. Yet, soldiers on both sides of the conflict went ahead and initiated the singing of Christmas carols on Christmas night, exchanging flowers and friendly cigarettes on Christmas day, and even played football with enemy fighters. History records just so many examples of Christmas ceasefires that parties to the conflict in Cameroon can benefit from, and why not, extend Christmas gifts, and trees and sing Christmas carols to their enemies in the spirit of the Christmas season — a season that brings hope, peace, joy and love to all.

Nothing stops Amba fighters from performing such a feat this December. This would entail refraining from aggressive behavior, while at times just engaging in friendly conversations. During the First World War, it took only one unit, Alfred Anderson’s 1st/5th unit Battalion of the Black Watch to initiate a Christmas ceasefire in 1914, and before they knew it had spread out to other units and battalions.

While waiting, we @TheColbertFactor have already declared a ceasefire or suspension of reporting (SOR) and commenting on anything related to the conflict. During the 70-day truce, we will devote our energy to human interest reporting, far from warfaring.

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