Negotiating from Prison: not Another Foumban, not Another Nera
*Deacon TASSANG Wilfred* Prison Principale Kondengui
It might seem I write a little too much, but I’d rather write even more than to wait and answer questions from my people as to why I did not communicate when I could. The matter at hand is of paramount importance and nobody who has an opinion should stay mute. “If I had known” will not be excuse enough after things have gone awry.
The outing by my brothers on Thursday, July 02 2020 was not the first, but the second, and for the second time, I refused to go. Is it because I am a sadist, comfortable with prison? No. Is it because I don’t want to facilitate the resolution of the crisis in homeland? No. The solution to the enslavement of our people is why I am in prison and nothing which can be done to solve this problem should be undermined. Negotiating in chains however, is not even an option to be considered, and I have refused to be party to any such acts of deliberate and willful buffoonery. I am sorry for sounding this way, but those who are doing this can in no way be compared to Foncha; these are PhDs, lawyers etc. Is it possible that these brothers don’t know what they are doing? Not with all their learning and all the quotations that they themselves make references to often. For this reason, and because they have told me several times that Mandela negotiated from prison, I want to quote that Mandela on this subject matter, and he said; “Prisoners don’t negotiate….”
On the 16/04/2020, at about dinner time, 5pm, a fellow inmate walked up to me with a piece of paper in hand and said three of my Nera brothers and I were summoned to appear before the Military Prosecutor”. My answer without a second thought was that I was unwell and will not leave the prison. When these people come for us, it is a squad of the dreaded BIR that comes. When I refused, I knew that I could be forced out even by my straps, at gun point. True, I was unwell, but if I were not, would I have gone? This question, my brother, Julius, asked me a few weeks after their outing. My answer to him was a firm “no. I won’t have.” Why?
You all remember how many times you have wanted to know from me if we were discussing with the authorities in Yaoundé and how many times I had replied in the negative. However, I had been expecting that they would come to talk with us since in SED, (especially after it became clear that our abduction achieved the exact opposite of what Yaoundé expected; general escalation) but they didn’t come until now. It is because I was expecting them that I had also taken a stance on what to do when they came. I am perhaps a foolish man, but that is my position. It was, according to me, SCACUF, the Consortium, bad for Balla and Fontem to negotiate from prison; will it now be good for me to go against the grain of my own virtues? If indeed I did wrong in opposing Balla et al from negotiating from prison, I would change. But it was not wrong. It will never be a good thing for captives to negotiate their freedom or freedom for free people, no matter how brave they are. And do I look like a weakling?
A few weeks after that April meeting, I was summoned again to the office of the Superintendent in charge. It is not unusual here, and as an inmate, you answer running. When I reached there, I was ushered to the assistant’s office where some of my brothers were already seated, those who went for the meeting of the 16th. With them was a young man whose names I will withhold. The meeting was about following up on the discussions of the April 16 meeting. Out of decency, I held my peace until the meeting ended. The next day though, in a tripartite meeting with Pa Nfor and AyukTabe, I warned my brother never to ambush me again. If he wanted me to attend any such meetings, then I must be informed a day prior. I let him know, Pa Nfor witnessing, (Pa can deny this if he wishes) that he should not consider my sitting through that charade as endorsement of whatever he was doing.
On Wednesday, July 01, 2020, I received another summons from the Superintendent in charge, and I quickly dashed out. Guess who I met standing outside; this same young man mentioned above. I instantly worked myself into a rage, but by God’s grace, I was able to observe restrain and listen to him. He started talking right out there on the verandah before the Superintendent came to usher us into his office. The young man who calls me Pa and AyukTabe, Uncle, told me he was sent by Tibor Nagy, and that he, Tibor Nagy, was asking that we negotiate with Yaoundé. Thank God for grace. I told him Secretary Nagy should say that to the IG out there, and this fellow despitefully asked me “which IG?” I almost flipped. The young man persisted and even “threatened” to give me his Nagy’s contact. Imagine that! I was telling him I won’t be part of any charade when my brothers, Eyambe and AyukTabe walked in. I restated it very firmly, letting it be known that I am not part of this drama and that I did not in anyway encourage it. I stormed out fuming and almost collided with the Superintendent who was stepping in. I told him I was done and rushed away.
I am conscious of my humanity (possibility of weakness) and will not allow this to influence what I do from this prison. My body aches from the discomfort of my prison duplexed bunk. I yearn to see my family too, even if homeland is not yet restored. I left my little daughter who would not eat if daddy were not by her. She wants to eat daddy’s stew again. More than anyone else, I want to see this war come to an end. I want to be free to talk to my people without inhibitions. Oh how I want to come out of here! Even with all these yearnings, I can’t afford to “make erreur”, especially as it became clear in that first meeting with the young man, that his main concern was getting his Uncle freed. He wept when stating this; “Uncle what are you doing here?” Well, don’t we all want our freedom? I will be first to step out of these walls when the gates fall apart, make no error about that, and this, I have told my brother, Julius.
Today, one of the lawyers I hitherto admired, (Barr. Ayuketang) on account of his rugged courage and tenacity, wrote an endorsement of AyukTabe’s outings in chains, and I quote Art.6 of his release; he holds that the invitation of AyukTabe by Yaoundé means “That Sisiku AyukTabe is recognised as the legitimate leader and face of the Ambazonian struggle for independence.” Nothing can be more preposterous, and disgraceful to the black robe and white wig. It is basic knowledge that whoever the enemy has preference for in matters like this should be considered the “weak link” and should be kept aside going forward. That Yaoundé runs away from those who give orders on the ground to talk to harmless, but desperate people in chains should tell even AyukTabe that he has been identified as the weak link. What does one do in search a situation? In civilised cultures, anybody in AyukTabe’s position will back off. Worse, can you imagine that the British Premier will linger for a day at 10 Downing if he had his cabinet kidnapped by the enemy even if he were not guilty of negligence? How do we acquire these huge certificates and not acquire culture and good manners? How do we lay claim to so much knowledge and yet not know that we are all so limited? Is not humility a hallmark of a genuine intellectual? Or, is there a noose hanging over somebody’s head?
Now, for more clarity, I want us to consider the list of those who were chosen by the enemy to attend the meetings, especially that of Wednesday the 2nd; Mancho Bibixy, Penn Terrence, Rev. Fritz Takang aka Bush Hunter, Ngome, all from Central Prison. Are not these gentlemen, particularly Mancho, and Rev. Takang, certified for having turned their backs on the struggle for homeland restoration? Haven’t they written letters of apology to the La Republique government, begging to be given back their liberty? Is this not a clear sign that Yaoundé is treating this matter as their internal affair? Another national dialogue? The Adhoc Committee negotiations with teachers was even better because we, the union leaders, determined those who came to sit with us to face the government. Is it really true that the belligerent country can determine those it negotiates with from the country it is at war with? No. Except of course that they are in chains and or, are spoilers, or worse still, that, as is the case, Yaoundé wants to use the said willing collaborators to create confusion and stall progress on negotiations.
Let us for one moment imagine that we were superhumans, and that by some magic, the people trusted us, prisoners; and that all the things that happened did not happen; let us assume for a moment that AyukTabe did not press his “reset button,” and that there were no clouds hanging over the Nera Hotel kidnappings, and that we are in perfect unity. If AyukTabe were truly the President, and had to go for negotiations or pre-whatever in Yaoundé, would he not choose those to go with him? How does it even happen that the president will go for any such thing? Will he not commission a team that will come back to report to him? In the circumstances, (and even if I now am truly worried about Chairman Nfor) is there a possibility that any such delegation will not have Pa Nfor amongst? “More importantly, in this delicate matter bothering on the (International) Law, seeing that these are inmates, shouldn’t AyukTabe have insisted on taking his counsel or counsels along, the same to speak for him before and after the event?
Let me state here categorically, and if Pa wants, let him disown me again, that he, Pa Nfor was kept totally in the dark. When AyukTabe called me and Pa Nfor weeks after the April 16 nocturnal outing, he, AyukTabe stated that the report he was giving then had not been given even to Pa Nfor. Was he therefore doing me a great favour, or was he despising the old man publicly? When they went out on the evening of July 02, Pa Nfor came to have a word with me and I asked to know if he was aware that a delegation had left the prison for “negotiations”? As true as it was raining at that hour, Pa said he was not aware. AyukTabe did not even tell him that his nephew came the previous day with a message from a certain Tibor Nagy. So who does AyukTabe talk to? Who does he consult? Who does he give account to? Are you overwhelmed? I am much more so. And how come that we are seeing only the names of prisoner negotiators? Why is the list of the government party kept a secret? Who does it benefit that the government party is kept top secret? Is it because, as French media are relaying, a certain Prof. Maurice Kamto, the legal wizard from La Republique, was sitting in with his brothers, those who are committing genocide in Ambazonia? Or is it because the other party was made up of soldiers? Is La Republique now run by a military junta? Why is no one saying publicly that an agreement was reached for La Republique to pull away its troops to barracks only, contrary to what the struggle has asked as confidence building measures viz that the occupying country should simply pull away its troops from the territory? So the #Ngarbuh and #Nyen garrisons will still be there? Is this not giving in too much. How could it be otherwise when prisoners are dragged to talks? As a syndicate leader, I can tell you that whenever the term “negotiations” is mentioned, what comes to mind first is “giving and taking.” Therefore, one must not walk into any negotiations from a position of weakness. Did my brothers sit at the table from a position of strength? Answer? No. The aggrieved party must raise the stakes extremely very high at the beginning of all discussions. Was this so on the 2nd? Answer? No. At the very first request for concession, the prisoners gave in. Isn’t that normal under the circumstances?
When I look back, and when I consider my generation, I come to the conclusion that we have no reason whatsoever to judge Foncha and Muna; these were over-anxious, humble primary school teachers, probably overwhelmed by recent electoral victory over Endeley. History has it that prior to Foumban, Dr. Endeley did request that they sit down and prepare for the negotiations and to go together, but nay, Foncha will have none of this. He had won elections and by this, was “qualified” to represent the Southern Cameroons. Right? Did winning elections confer on Foncha the required wisdom and skills needed to negotiate with La Republique and France? Certainly not. All it gave him was the mandate to organise and coordinate. I remember in the DIA in Nigeria, President AyukTabe prided himself of his new status; he too had been arrested and detained, he said. What would Akwanga now say? He asked. So, and probably, this imprisonment thing is a new feather, a badge of honour as it were, and better qualifies him to lead. If imprisonment as a sacrifice, qualifies one to negotiate, shall we not also think that those who have paid the supreme sacrifice of death should be exhumed and brought to negotiate on account of the price they have paid and the highest expertise acquired by dying for the cause? Or is it that abduction at Nera Hotel qualifies one as an expert negotiator much more? As for me, I don’t need Mandela to tell me that “Prisoners don’t negotiate”, and that only free men should, for I know indeed that, only free men, suffering no inhibitions, should negotiate for freedom.
While it is true that pressure is really high on Yaoundé to report to the table of dialogue, I think that Yaoundé is not yet fully repentant. Are not their atrocities on the increase? Their present nightmare is the ongoing War Draft. In initiating this charade, Yaoundé certainly thinks that it will dampen the zeal to draft seeing that the matter is being “handled already.” Shame on childish pranks!
In 2020, we cannot afford to accommodate another Foncha even if they come with a thousand PhDs and glide in the most colourful “professoral” robes. Anxiety or treachery veiled in smart uncoached declarations cannot be tolerated anymore. Those Ambazonia is called to deal with today are nolonger “our brothers;” they are “our enemies.” Another Foncha shall not rise. Another Foumban shall not take place. The yet to start negotiations shall not be abducted.
It is no secret that when Yaoundé got us kidnapped, the ransom they wanted or want in exchange for our freedom is the homeland. It is no secret that when its court sentenced us without trial to life jail, the intention was to cause us to become weak and desperate, so that we may danse Bikutsi from their xylophones even when this is played on the wrong key. I will not danse this dance. I refuse to be weak; I refuse to be desperate. My children are better off without a father than have a name that haunts them for generations. I will not be anathema and my generations will not be.
This struggle shall not last.
God bless Ambazonia.