America’s Undersecretary of State for Africa, Tibor Nagy, recently rounded up a brief trip to some African countries including La Republique du Cameroun (LRC). Prior to his visit to Cameroun, Tibor Nagy granted interviews in France and South Africa signaling his mission to LRC will center on the Ambazonian liberation conflict. Irrespective of America’s geopolitical interest and the fight against Boko Haram, the Ambazonian liberation struggle for independence in Cameroon’s English speaking region has become the most important security, humanitarian and human rights issue between Washington and Yaoundé. Importantly, Washington considers Ambazonians as a people with the right to self-determination.
Barely a month before Tibor Nagy’s visit, the US Departments of State and Defense significantly reduced military aid to LRC. Though no specific details were released on the this military sanction, the US applied Leahy Laws which oblige the American government to terminate military relations with any partner country whose military grossly violates human rights. According to CNN, “the US intends to “terminate” over $17 million in security aid, including funds for radars, four defender-class patrol boats, nine armored vehicles, training programs for C-130 airplanes and helicopters and the withdrawal of an offer for Cameroon to be a candidate for the State Partnership Program.” This demonstrates Washington has enough evidence that LRC military is seriously engaged in excessive human rights violations including “targeted killings, detentions without access to legal support, family, or the Red Cross, and burning and looting of villages.”
In addition to suspending military aid, the Undersecretary raised the possibility of referring the Ambazonian conflict to an international forum. Though he did not mention any specific international forum, there is high probability the United States may refer the conflict to the Security Council of the United Nations. Washington demonstrates the gross violations of human rights now warrant an international humanitarian intervention. Though LRC will object on grounds of territorial integrity and state sovereignty, international law and practice have now developed to the effect that humanitarian considerations trump state sovereignty. Evidently, Washington is fully aware that LRC has lost control of the Ambazonian conflict and cannot singlehandedly regain such control. Similarly, it is equally possible that Washington has recognized Ambazonia’s determination and capability to repel LRC.
Also, Washington like other international players, notably the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, asserts that Ambazonians have the right to self-determination. By consistently referring to Ambazonians as “Anglophone population” and calling for both sides to dialogue without pre-conditions, Washington recognizes Ambazonian legitimate right to self-determination under international law. Importantly, Tibor Nagy seems to signal that the current armed conflict is “a long-term historical crisis that goes back decades. It goes back to the union of the two parts of Cameroon. It goes back to the fact that the anglophone population of Cameroon have felt like second-class citizens for a long time.” By highlighting the “union” of the two Cameroons, Washington seems to also indicate that an “international boundary” separates the Ambazonia from LRC and the two countries represent different “peoples” under international law.
Interestingly, despite the US military aid and personnel training offered to LRC recently, Tibor Nagy compares the Ambazonian conflict to the Vietnam War. He expressly warns LRC to remember that despite having a well-trained Army and using sophisticated weapons, America lost the Vietnam War. Aware of LRC’s military prowess, Washington raises this important element for possibly three significant reasons.
First, LRC’s military arsenal and financial resources cannot sustain long-term guerrilla warfare because Washington had negative and difficult recent experiences in several insurgencies around the world. Tibor Nagy also understands that the Anglophone population supports the Ambazonian Restoration Forces against LRC.
Second, Tibor Nagy’s failure to outrightly condemn the constitution of Restoration forces could be seen to indicate that Washington recognizes Ambazonia’s right to self-defense. Thirdly, Washington understands the conflict is totally provoked by LRC and the people of “Ambazonia” identify with Ambazonian liberation movements acting in their defense.
Importantly, Tibor showed great mastery of the conflict. Three of his declarations are worthy of note. Reacting to claims that Ambazonians living in the USA are sponsoring terrorism in LRC threatening to destabilize LRC, Tibor requested LRC supplies names of suspects and if Washington finds any compelling evidence that the accused have violated American Laws, American Courts will deal with them. This assertion outrightly flattened LRC’s claims that the US will immediately return political activists to LRC. Unfortunately for LRC the US is a state of laws and the executive must comply with judicial decisions. Besides the significance of the rule of law, Tibor referred to Restoration fighters as “Amba Boys”- a name commonly used in normal parlance in Ambazonia. Also, Tibor confessed he receives reports with images of gross human rights committed daily.
Towards the future
Conclusively, American diplomatic conversations around the Ambazonian conflict prove the US is the only superpower interested in resolving the conflict and protecting human life in “Ambazonia”. Fundamentally, Tibor Nagy’s declarations represent the US perspective and demonstrate the US seems to have a good understanding of the Ambazoninan conflict. It is equally compelling to note that LRC’s narrative and attempt to sell the Ambazonian revolution as a “terrorist” movement and an internal affair did not gain traction.
The easiest solution to the Ambazonian conflict lies in revisiting the decolonization process, asserting Ambazonia’s right to external self-determination and could result in recognizing Ambazonia’s independence in compliance with laws and resolutions organizing decolonization. As mentioned above, this conflict has been in the making for decades but caught international attention when it transformed into an armed conflict. Its armed nature called the world’s attention to the sufferings in Ambazonia.
Some Ambazonians feel that Restoration forces have put them on the map of international issues and they must maintain and increase militarily pressure before negotiating terms of separation with LRC. They contend that negotiations at this point will disadvantage Ambazonia because Ambazonia will negotiate from a position of weakness. As true as this may seem, Ambazonian leadership must act in compliance with international law, understand the international political system and learn from previous liberation struggles similar to the Ambazonian struggle.