BAS is Kamto’s military wing

COLUMN 08 Jul 2019
BAS is Kamto’s military wing

BAS has not arms (yet). But they are angry, militant, resolved and have the potentials to raise and fund an armed insurgency if it became the only option to dislodge Biya and set their country free. BAS is to MRC/CRM what Umkomto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) was to ANC during apartheid rule in South Africa ANC and IRA (the Irish Republican Army) was/is to Sinn Finn in Northern Ireland liberation struggle from the UK. Or As Amba Boys are to the Ambazonia liberation struggle from Cameroon.

Some journalism in Cameroon is saying, as a matter of fact, that Maurice Kamto and his MRC/CRM are directly responsible for the acts of vandalism by the diaspora-based Brigade anti-Sardinard or the anti-Sardine Brigade (BAS). I wonder how they will establish the “direct responsibility”, but they often refer to a fact I consider lousy that the marauding boys and girls brandished Kamto’s effigy when they went on the rampage to ransack a couple of Cameroonian embassies and “hoisted” it like a flag after tearing down Biya’s.

Laughable! Fan clubs are not necessarily the creation of personalities, nor must they necessarily be held responsible for the actions and exactions of restive fans. It sounds like holding Allah responsible for all the acts of violence that some so-called jihadists commit in the name of Allah when everyone knows that every good Muslim does not necessarily subscribe to that line of reasoning. Nor that poor Allah never gives neither implicit nor tacit approval even when some of the punishment meted on some “infidels” by radical Muslims could be “justifiable” even in the eyes of non-Muslims scornful of misdeeds of a certain scale.

In ransacking embassies and hoisting Kamto’s effigy even without his consent, BAS were obviously making a statement that they recognize Kamto as president, laying claim to his supposed victory at the October 2018 polls. In that reasoning, they were doing justice by knocking down a sit-tight “defeated incumbent” Biya, to install the “rightful winner” Kamto. Their every move since then is pressing on with that message. And you can tell they are not letting up.

Call them Kamto vanguards, if not an army. Add the fact that military wings do not necessary pay full allegiance to the political wing. Some are mere allies and can dissociate from each other’s actions. Some military wings are “subsidiaries” of the political wing like Umkomto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) for apartheid South Africa ANC. Sometimes the political wing is the subsidiary of the military wing like Sinn Finn for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland.

Measuring their resolve, the lengths they seem ready to go and their methods, they are beginning to look like an army for Kamto, even without the latter having initiated their movement nor supporting them in any legally implicating way. The Brigade looks like a squad that may, in the long run, if not pretty soon, transform into boots on the ground if things do not take the turn they desire to see. The difference being that they are based abroad, they may raise a home branch to defend their icon’s “victory” the way Ambazonia combatants are defending their homeland and their armless women and children, with initial support from the Ambazonia diaspora.

BAS obviously has the means, reason, motivation and “righteous anger” to be moved to raise and fund an armed group back home. The ground is getting fertile by the day. Local masses, especially Kamto supporters, are on edge. Myths are broken. Biya’s invincibility is diminished. The arrest, trial and guilty verdict passed on his bodyguards in Switzerland leaves a moral dent, psychological puncture and mental torture for the old man. The international spotlight is on Cameroon. The Ambazonia Revolution, bigger than the Kamto Revolution, is raging and winning more hearts and minds abroad.

Though pro-Kamto protesters chanted what sounded like anti-Ambazonia slogans at a recent Yaounde demonstration, it is no secret that on the diplomatic front, both revolutions collaborate, share address books and hold doors open for each other. If Kamto has not declared support for Ambazonia secession, he has expressed sympathies for the plight of Anglophones. Early in the Anglophone Revolution, he wondered at Francophone insensitivity to Anglophone lamentations and said, “Anglophones are crying, we are telling them they have no problem.” If this will not translate into the ultimate concession by a future President Kamto to let Ambazonia go like in the Ethiopia-Eritrea deal between old guerrilla comrades Meles Zenawi (Ethiopia) and Esias Aferwaki (Eritrea) in the early 1990s, it may not be impossible for both revolutions to collaborate beyond mere strategic support and take each a piece in the hereafter. Or a “President Kamto” who says he would leave it for a referendum to decide, may recognize the special status of Ambazonia/Southern Cameroon. The looming atmosphere smacks of “last fight” on the horizon!

We love Biya, we want his throne
The three northern regions have, in unanimity, expressed their unflinching love and support for President Paul Biya by condemning the actions and exactions of the Brigade anti-Sardinard (BAS) during the president’s recent visit to Switzerland.
You’d believe me if, like me, you heard the CRTV radio news item the other day that suggested the massive and passive populations of the northern regions congregated and chanted the pro-Biya, anti- anti-Sardinard words in unison.

But you know that is false. It is using the media to manipulate public opinion. There was no such popular statement. CRTV was simply quoting a few northern elite seeking favours from the Biya regime and with calculations of their own to grab power but careful not to be given a bad name and be hanged for a legitimate ambition. What the northern elites are doing is stand against a perceived Bamileke dash for power, secure it for themselves post-Biya and give the impression they are the good guys who love Biya and are protecting him against “Bami haters”. It’s all power-play.

No, the North has not changed. Northern politicians, that is. The same ones who meant and still mean to “take back their thing” which they seem to believe their patriarch, Ahmadou Ahidjo, left with Biya to serve as caretaker president while Bello Bouba Maigari matured. The North has not changed. They are still moved by the notion that power was theirs and shall be theirs again. When Marafa set his eyes on power, you bet he laid claim to it both as a bona fide Cameroonian with legitimate ambitions and as a Northerner to whom power ought to return.

The North has not changed. After all where would they have kept the fire that burned in them when their political elite across party lines, with drum-majors including Issa Tchiroma, Antar Gassagay, Dakole Daissala rumbled with the famous Northern Memorandum that stated how their regions and peoples were abandoned in abject poverty? The North has only changed strategies.

There is no doubt that northern political elite have their eyes on the throne; a legitimate ambition no doubt. But as much as dissension by any group of persons, rightly or wrongly perceived to be all or largely of any certain ethnic group, must not be given an ethnic, so too must northern elite scheming for power, veiled under loyalty to Biya, ought not be generalized to sound like northern masses have all expressed support for Biya. They are drumming a song that the MRC/BAS uprising is a Bamileke tribalist quest to seize power from the Beti simply because MRC leader Maurice Kamto is a Bamileke and naturally pulls a strong following among his tribe. But there are multitudes of non-Bamileke MRC die-hards, aren’t there?

When northern political elite across political leanings unanimously declared support for Biya in the October 2018 presidential race, their motive was clear. They saw Kamto coming. They thus opted to play the spoilers, hoping (successfully or unsuccessfully) to swing Northerners from voting for Kamto to prevent him from grabbing the throne. Seeing the questionably scandalous 100 per cent scores from polling stations in the northern regions, it is left to be seen how much influence the northern elite exerted on their masses.

Remember that Wikileaks conversation between Amadou Ali and former US Ambassador Janet Garvey in which Ali said Bamileke elites approached northern elite to combine forces to oust Biya and the northerners refused? Your guess is as good as mine that those “Bamileke elites” were Maurice Kamto and the “northern elites” were Amadou Ali. That supposed conversation might have taken place in Amadou Ali’s office at the time Kamto was minister –delegate under Ali at the Ministry of Justice between 2004 and 2011.

Now you can better guess why northern political elite are so apparently “united” in their support for Biya at a time they fear the prospect of power swinging to the West and not “naturally” returning to the North.
It’s all power-play, not love for Biya. The North does not.

Worse gun-battles during undeclared truce
It is either because it is darkest towards dawn or because “l’ennemi ne dort jamais” (the enemy/opponent is always on alert). Though there is a discernible truce in the Ambazonia armed conflict, some of the most ferocious and fatal gun-battles have been raging.
For a couple of months now, observers can tell that the alert level of government defence and security forces might have dropped from ORANGE to YELLOW. For some time, soldiers for whom bulletproof vests and protective metal helmets had become routine wear because of permanent fear of the unknown, had been dropping their protective gear to stay in normal combat fatigues.

At some of the most impermeable checkpoints like Mile 16 in Buea where, for months, commuters were obliged to alight from vehicles and cross security control on foot, officers have been allowing vehicles to pass by with passengers on board, sometimes allowing vehicles to cross without any checks at all. Those with a sense of discernment could have guessed right that an undeclared pre-dialogue truce was in the process or was already in force. With information filtering out of Switzerland suggesting preliminary talks towards dialogue, it can now be understood why the guns generally went silent for a while.

But as it must be expected, for psychological reasons, conflict can potentially degenerate beyond wartime proportions towards end of conflict because warring parties may seek to take advantage of the lull to short-change each other. Truce time is not time to go to bed. It often and easily comes out of combat fatigue and is used by warring parties to rest, resource, reposition, restrategize, rearm and thereafter, possibly provoke combat to test their newly acquired capabilities.

It can be darkest towards dawn and sometimes – if peace efforts are not genuine – truce time could be the tempest before the storm. That is when real battle may begin, suggesting that what we have seen so far might have been only the warm up.

Greater trouble may be ahead if current peace efforts shall be half-hearted. The Agborkem German ambush of government forces on the river, the Amba mine attack on government security are signs that truce time is not sleeping.

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