Chief Taku, thanks for accepting to grant this interview, we start with your reaction to the recent release of Barrister Agbor Balla, Dr. Fontem, Ayah Paul and others.
My reaction to the release of Barrister Agbor Balla, Dr. Fontem, and Chief Hon, Justice Paul Ayah is that it highlights the arrogance of power in a police state in which the judiciary is nothing more, nothing more an instrument of oppression. They should never have been arrested in the first place. The abduction, detention, and release of these Southern Cameroonian patriots as well as the continued holding in captivity are part of the liberty/life and death policy that the Government of Cameroun has developed and used over the years to instill fear and subordination over freedom seeking Southern Cameroons. It is a consistent symbol and evidence of the fact that what held us together with La Republique du Cameroun was a reign of terror and not an enforceable treaty of union or the free will of the people of the Southern Cameroons. I cannot celebrate this release until all others detained are freed, the disappeared and countless slaughtered over the years accounted for. Take note that Maxell Oben has been captivity for over three years without trial, Numvi and others are before a court-martial in Bamenda and Mancho and others are before a court-martial in Yaounde. They are all charged with terrorism not because they committed any crime but because they are Southern Cameroonians and had the courage to courageously assert their identity and a right to live a life of freedom and liberty.
As we do this interview, reports indicate that not all the detainees have been released, any reason you may read into freedom for some and no freedom for others?
As I have stated in my previous answer, the abduction and court-martial of Southern Cameroonians in detention camps in Cameroun generally fall within physical, mental, spiritual and socio-cultural genocide scheme to dehumanize, humiliate and eviscerate all defining characteristics of the Southern Cameroonian humanity. Releasing some captives, retaining some in captivity and then arresting more through a revolving culture of impunity is aimed at humiliating Southern Cameroonians as disposable sub humans who owe their lives at the pleasure and mercy of a colonial system that survives on the misery, suffering, and blood of their Southern Cameroons captives. This is unacceptable.
The UN saluted the move and urged the government of Cameroon to carry on with broader dialogue, could this move serve as a springboard for the commencement of genuine dialogue?
Dialogue has always been the best means of resolving conflicts that have and had claimed human lives. The Southern Cameroons has always opted for dialogue in resolving the conflict that has afflicted its sovereign people for the past fifty-six years. It is the Republique du Cameroun that opted for violence and impunity to attempt to subdue and impose colonial reign on the Southern Cameroons. The latest assault leading to the criminalization of dialogue occurred when Southern Cameroons civil society leaders who cleared opted for dialogue were abducted, held captive and court marshaled for attending the dialogue organized by the government of Cameroun and placing on the table for discussion the ultimate issue relating to the legality of the union between both countries. This is not the first time the UN had called for dialogue. Koffi Annan an erstwhile UN Secretary-General of the UN on a visit to Yaoundé some years back called for dialogue to resolve the crisis but Cameroun declined and opted instead for oppression. The Southern Cameroons National Council accepted the proposal but the Government of Cameroun declined it. African leaders endorsed a decision of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights calling for dialogue under its supervision but again the Government of Cameroun declined.
As a legal professional, considering the arbitrary arrests and gruesome detention conditions described by some of those who have been released, are there avenues for them to seek justice both nationally and internationally?
There are several means of seeking redress. Cameroun is a state-party to several multilateral international conventions for the fight against impunity and international criminality. Among these are the UN Charter, Article 9 of the Geneva Convention on the suppression of the crime of Genocide, the Genova Conventions (1949), the Cotonou Agreement, the Commonwealth Harare Principles, the Optional Protocol 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights among many. Each of these multilateral treaties has specific regimes for the enforcement of fundamental values protected by them. For example, if a strong case for systematic and widespread human rights and acts of impunity were alleged and proved, article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement can be triggered by the European Union to intervene and even imposed visa and travel ban of many of the well-known perpetrators of documented crimes against Southern Cameroonians by La Republique du Cameroun officials. In that situation, many of them will have nowhere to escape to.
What is your take on the debate surrounding school resumption, do you think schools should resume or parents should continue to keep their children at home?
My preoccupation is that the debate whether schools should resume or not obfuscate a wider problem relating to education in the Southern Cameroons. The destruction of the Southern Cameroons educational system is at the very center of the cultural genocide that afflicted our people over the past fifty-six years. On our watch and that of our ancestors in the past, we saw a viable system of vocational, commercial, general education which stood the test of time the world over destroyed and replaced with what I may regrettably call sort of mboko culture educational system designed and funded by Fondation Francaise under the 1959 colonial agreement between Babatoura Ahidjo on behalf of its French vassal state of La Republique du Cameroun and France. Under this system of education, our citizens and educational system were devalued and relegated to third rate administration positions under the ward of Francophone superiors. There is, therefore, no educational system properly so-called to educate our children. Our children lost their right to education, effective and efficient schooling some fifty-six years ago.
I strongly suggest that we must take the opportunity of the ongoing revolution to fix the system and put in place an efficient and effective educational policy that is consistent with our cultural identity and basic freedoms to education put in place. Without a restoration of our educational system and the values that made the system the pride of West Africa, our children’s future will be lost forever. For me Southern Cameroonians did not close down the schools, the Government of La Republique did it and what is ongoing is but the consequences of its deliberate policy of cultural genocide targeting the educational needs of Southern Cameroonians.
There is a release in circulation, it is in French and signed by Barristers Ben Muna and Charles Tchougang purportedly speaking on behalf of the consortium leaders with favorable views for school resumption, any reaction to this, considering that you know Ben Muna and Charles Tchougang well?
I have not seen the press release so I have not read it. Even if I saw and read it, I will as a professional lawyer desist from judging the professional actions of my colleagues. I have stated my position on the cultural genocide targeting Southern Cameroons Schools by the Government of Cameroun. I did so many years ago. I did not wait for the ongoing revolution to express my opinion on this serious violation and the impunity with which the educational system of the Southern Cameroons was destroyed. I said it in the past and will repeat, Southern Cameroonians did not close their schools and with the intention of depriving their children of going to schools to obtain a quality education. The government of Cameroun destroyed the educational system leaving, therefore, nothing to close. The ongoing theatrics about opening or closing of schools are more about false prophets purporting to resurrect a dead system than about a viable interest in the future of our children and our future.
With regards to the activities of Common Law Lawyers, with the release of Agbor Balla and token measures like the creation of a common law bench at the Supreme court, etc, is it time for them to fully resume their activities?
I will make the same assessment I have made about the educational system about the legal system. The outcry about the destruction of our legal system was commenced by our elders, B.T.B Foretia, N.T Tabe, Nfor E.E Ebai, M.N Weledji, Fon Gorgi Dinka, F.W Atabong, A.T Eno, M.N Noto, Ade Muma, Layu, Njobara, Luke Sendze and many others. About three years prior to the lawyer’s strike, I presented an address to the Common Lawyers Association in Bamenda in which I described the policy of harmonization as a war declared by the government against the Common Law. I warned that a policy that conflates Unity with Uniformity was bound to fail under its own weight. For me, there has not been any meaningful change of position by this government. The policy of completely wiping out the Common Law is on course and only an energetic response by the ultimate practitioners of the Common Law and the population they serve will halt this deliberate vicious policy. No change can be said to have occurred without liberating all the lawyers who were detained because of the protest against the destruction of the system, the return home of those in exile and the setting up of an independent commission constituting common lawyers for the promotion and protection of the common law. The sanctity of the common law must be guaranteed and its practice assured without political interference.
There is a firm, Foley Hoag handling the case for Southern Cameroons on the international scene, what does Chief Taku know about this and any progress to show for their work?
I was quick to support the decision to brief a law firm to handle our case. This does not mean that we will not handle our case. My experience is that for us to meaningfully organize our case, we needed the collaboration and participation of lawyers who have the professional and logistical capacity to handle a case of this complexity and importance. The question of access is an important threshold matter in international practice. They will provide us the access and legal cover to mobilize our professional skills and resources to pursue our case. On the other aspects, I am a professional lawyer and am not able to pass a value judgment on my colleagues. The client from whom he received instructions, briefing and debriefing is better placed to do so.
With international Lawyers like yourself, Chief Taku, Ben Muna, Akere Muna, eminent jurists like Simon Munzu and Carlson Anyangwe and many others, why can their expertise not be used instead of paying huge sums to a foreign law firm?
I think I answered this in the last question. No matter the expertise and competence we may individually or collectively have, we need a local law firm with territorial competence to participate in the prosecution of our case. This fundamental threshold informed my support for the briefing of this law firm.
There are some people who want outright independence for Southern Cameroons, others want a Federation, and in the face of this is a government whose leadership is not saying much, how do you recognize the divergent views on an outcome which will satisfy Southern Cameroonians?
My involvement in the Southern Cameroons problem as a victim and professional counsel has always been to work with every Southern Cameroonian to obtain our freedom and total liberation. I am a lawyer and the tool lawyers use to attain their objectives is the law. My stand on legality is well known. It is that there was no foundational treaty of union between us and La Republique du Cameroun. This fact is verifiable and is sacrosanct. There are some who believe that a Federation along the lines contemplated in 1961 could be revived. I respect their right to hold that opinion. We need to be tolerant to this category of persons. However, their position is illusory because the Federation they craved was destroyed by Ahidjo and Paul Biya recently criminalized discussion about Federation and arrested our civil society leaders who proposed it as a means of resolving the ongoing crisis. What we are left with is to seek the protection of international legality under the UN Mandate which recognized our international personality under article 76 B of the UN Charter.
A word on the role that social media has played in the struggle so far and the growing voices in support of the Anglophones from the other side of the Mongo?
The unimpeached success of the social media is evident from the ban on the internet for three months. Those who are now challenging the significance of social media are short on the lessons of recent history. The social media has collapsed several tools of colonial asphyxiation by connecting our people to the world and by giving them a platform a voice to be heard.
Last questions, what to you is the way forward, any prediction on how this crisis will eventually all play out?
There are several indicators of an escalation. However, the truth and justice will prevail. The policy of governance by the barrel of the gun and the bullet that has held hostage for this long has a life span and that life span is expiring soon.