Paul Biya’s call for a national dialogue seems to be another ruse to do nothing. This is not the first call to a national dialogue. A few months ago, the Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute to the dictatorial regime had toured the troubled Ambazonian regions saying national dialogue had already started.
Apparently, Mr. Biya is now saying all the previous starts were false starts. The next start will begin at the start of next month. Talk about serious!
This is a regime that has a track record of saying one thing and doing the other. It was a rare public speech, rare and also synonymous with a do-nothing regime. The president rarely gives a public speech. It is perhaps a tacit acknowledgement that he says nothing because he has nothing to show or offer after his decades in power.
The speech was everything, but conciliatory. Here is someone who has plundered the riches of his country, imprisoned political contenders with the ability to unsit him, killed thousands of his own people, decimated their livelihoods now saying dialogue should begin at the start of next month.
These are not the actions of a leader who cares about his own people. He has put a military gag order on the parliament from discussing the conflict in the Southern Cameroons. The do-nothing members of parliament have been forced to only whisper about the conflict like kids in kindergarten.
While Biya is just realizing the importance of dialogue, his actions seem to be too little too late. The separatists have made clear the goal post is now far out of reach. They are now permanently for outright independence.
It is very obvious that Southern and East Cameroonians have already had a national dialogue on the situation in the Southern Cameroons. That national dialogue has been happening for 3 years already. It would seem Mr. Biya had not noticed the flurry of television, radio and social media conversations. Now should be time for action not another announcement for a national dialogue.
Is Biya suggesting everyone should now get into one big room to discuss the savagery of his military in the Southern Cameroons? Southern Cameroonians seem to have already had a national dialogue and we see that in their actions today, their fight for independence.
To see where East Cameroonians stand, Mr. Biya may want to remove the ban on peaceful protests. That should tell us what East Cameroonians have decided should happen.
Biya’s speech was more of an ultimatum to get what he wants than an opportunity for dialogue. Here is an octogenarian dictator who sits and commissions his fellow citizens to dialogue on what he wants. You could never make that up even if you tried. It speaks of what Biya thinks of the people whose wealth he sits on. Nothing says “I’m entitled” than this.
Reactions from the Ambazonian camps have been swift. They say the speech is a non-starter and the fight for independence has only just begun.
After 3 years of silence, if Mr. Biya thought the speech was his get out of jail card, he must have been dreaming. The no mercy lockdown has continued unabated. More and more people are joining the ranks of Ambazonia separatists. Ambazonians and activists seem to have come out stronger from their leadership crisis. There seems to be nothing in the way to stop them.
Many had been expecting Biya to call for frank negotiations with the separatists or outrightly resign. Instead, Mr. Biya brought out only a stick. Showing he is just as greedy as Mugabe. Demanding the separatists give up or face the savagery of his army. That does not sound like a good start to a dialogue. It appears the dialogue ended before it even had the chance to start.