The President of the federal Republic of Ambazonia speaks out on the circumstances of his arrest in Nigeria in 2018, the worsening Anglophone crisis and much more.
By Arnaud Kuipo
Who is Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius, also known as the President of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia ?
Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius is the President of the Federal Republique of Ambazonia. The former British Southern Cameroons. He is an ICT Engineer by training. He was the 1stVice President of American University of Nigeria (AUN) Yola, Adamawa state, Nigeria. He was one of the Sub Directors of CISCO and one of CISCO’S regional Directors in Africa, coordinating over 23 countries. He worked in AES Sonel in various senior portfolios. He had his Primary, Secondary and High School Education in Manyu and then proceeded to the UK where he obtained a first degree in computer science mathematics and second degree in control engineering.
We understand you are “Sisiku” an honourary title in Manyu Division. How did you get this title and when was it bestowed on you?
Yes, I am Sisiku an Ekpe traditional title in Manyu. This title was bestowed on me in 2015 as a result of my good work as a philanthropist. The title represents a mark of responsibility as a member of the traditional /Authority in Manyu.
You are detained in Yaoundé alongside some of your compatriots since January 2018. What are your daily routine activities in prison ?
I am a political Detainee in “Kondengui Prison Principale” with nine other members of my government, to wit, Barr Shufai Blaise SEVIDZEM BERINYUY, Prof CHEH Augustine AWASUM, Dr KIMENG Henry, Dr NDE CHE Fidelis, Dr NJIKIMBI Cornelius KWANGA, Dr EGBE OGORK, NFOR NGALA NFOR, TASSANG Wilfred FOMBANG and Barr EYAMBE Elias EBAI as well as other Ambazonians. We were brought here on the November 22nd, 2018 from “Secretariat d’état a la defense” (SED). Routinely, the cell doors are opened at about 07.00 am and closed at about 6.30 pm. We, the Ambazonians have morning meditation as a community, share breakfast, sports and then we spend time in reading the few material acquired, we chat, play a few scrabble, chess and draught games, reflections as groups or individuals on nation building and we share dinner in the early hours of the evening.
How are you being treated in prison ?
We have a fairly good relationship with the Prison Administration. However, there are some Prison officials who are highhanded. It should be noted that we are solely being fed by family and friends. I must state it here that occasionally we are starved because the military State Counsel, Thaddeus Engono rarely approves communication permits for our family and friends. In fact, there was a time we threatened to go on hunger strike before a few visitors’ permits were signed for our people. The situation has not improved and we are holding our peace.
How is your health situation ?
My health conditions before being transferred to this Prison, on November 22nd, 2018 from SED had seriously degenerated from the point of abduction. This is because in SED we were in total solitary confinement devoid of sunlight and fresh air for over six months, which further compromised our health conditions.
While in this Prison, we have the opportunity to breathe some bit of fresh air and be attended to in the infirmary but the conditions are really squalid. The health challenges here are : Overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, severe infestation by pests and rodents in the environment and cells, poor lighting and intermittent supply of water.
In summary, my deteriorated health situation can only be fully assessed, when I have access to specialized health services.
You said the conditions in which you were detained in SED were very difficult. Can you tell more about that period ?
I and my team were detained in SED for 11 (eleven) months. SED is the worst environment for human habitat. In SED we were under absolute confinement with grossly inadequate ventilation with no windows, and with doors almost sealed with only 35 x45 cm² air space. The cell rooms are accessed through tiny tubed corridors. The water quality was poor, even with the sand filters provided to us. The environment was infested with rodents and pests and occasionally sprayed with insecticides with detainees in confinement. There was structural re-enforcement like concreting of the walls and pungent smelling paint.
We were psychologically, mentally and physically abused. For example, we were constantly being told that we were on “bon voyage” told that we were less than slaves, that we would be killed, we had guns pointed at us always, not allowed to pray, not allowed to discuss with roommate ; blindfolded and handcuffed late at mid-night and taken through rough paths for interrogations in the absence of legal counsel. During room searches, we were physically traumatized. Our testicles were being pressed or palpated and we were molested under the guise of full cavity search. We were exposed to very sorrowful wailing sounds from other Ambazonian detainees being brutalized and tortured by the gendarmes, during the days and nights. We had no access to specialized medical care. We were incommunicado absolutely, denied access to families and lawyers for over six (06) months. In fact, this was the most inhumane treatment I have ever experienced in life and I will not wish my worst enemy to go through the same.
You were arrested in a hotel in Nigeria on the 05 January 2018 and extradited on 25th January 2018 to Cameroun alongside 46 of your compatriots. Can you give us some details ?
At about 5.00 pm on January 05th, 2018 we congregated at Nera Hotel Abuja Nigeria to celebrate the New Year upon my return from the United States of America. While discussing issues generally and the Ambazonian refugee crisis in Nigeria, a group of about 20 (twenty) armed men approached us violently, forced us unto the ground face down then handcuffed, hooded and ferried us in buses to an unknown destination where we were detained in cubicles without any reason for our abduction ; there we underwent some interrogation three days after without being told the reasons for our kidnap. On the 18th January, 2018 we were handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to a conference room where we met United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) officials. It was then we realised that we were in a military detention facility referred to as the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The (UNHCR) officials informed us that our arrest was in relation to the Ambazonian crisis, but guaranteed us that for no reason whatsoever shall we be extradited because we were under (UNHCR) protection, as refugees and Asylum seekers.
However at 6.00 pm on Thursday the 25th, January 2018, we were blindfolded and ferried to the military wing of the Nnambi Azikiwe International Airport, and later on were handcuffed and loaded into a military cargo carrier without seats and safety belts air bond for Yaoundé. On arrival, we were hooded then forced into a thirty seater bus, heavily guarded and in a military convoy, we were ferried to SED. May I state it here that in Abuja 12 (twelve) of us were abducted, in Taraba 37 (thirty seven) were abducted and in Cross River State 11 (eleven) persons including an 18 (eighteen) months old baby were abducted, all under different circumstances.
What do you think about the situation in the North West and South West, given that the situation is really bad with Refugees in Nigeria, displaced persons to many parts of Cameroun ?
The description of what is going on in Ambazonia is nothing short of genocide, based on International definition. Our people are being killed not for what they have done but for who they are, considering that our people have been described as rats and dogs, by members of the Cameroun’s government. There are calls to exterminate Ambazonians with the justification that President Biya has the right to kill everyone on the pretext of national unity. Our reports show that over 10.000 (ten thousand) people have been killed, over 120.000 (one hundred and twenty thousand) refugees in Nigeria and other countries, over 1 million (one million) internally displaced persons, over 3000 (three thousand) Ambazonian prisoners of war, unknown large numbers of persons who have disappeared and over 250 (two hundred and fifty) villages burnt down. By the way your appellation of North West and South West regions is wrong because they are the Northern and Southern zones of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.
What do you think can be done to end the crisis ?
The solution to this crisis is rooted in International law, history and culture. The root cause of the crisis, which is the result of a botched decolonization process, must be addressed before a lasting solution can be found. International law gives Southern Cameroons the right to self-determination. Historically, La Republique du Cameroun got its independence on January 01st, 1960 and became a member of United Nations with her own territory clearly mapped out, sharing boundary with Southern Cameroons while the Southern Cameroons got its independence on 01st October 1961 with her own territory visibly mapped out as well, sharing boundary with the Federal Republic of Nigeria and La Republique du Cameroon. Most importantly, there is no union treaty between these two distinct entities ; La Republique du Cameroon and southern Cameroons as required by International law, specifically by Article 102 of the UN charter. With respect to culture there are few success stories of cohabitation between the Anglo-Saxon and Francophone systems. The initial experiment based on the 1916 Anglo French Compendium was an abject failure.
Are you disposed to dialogue with the Government of Cameroun? If yes, what are your conditions ?
Since 2017, we have always called for and stated our readiness for dialogue ; to resolve the political issues. However, for meaningful dialogue to take place the following confidence building measures must be taken : i. There must be a declaration of Ceasefire or cessation of violence ; ii. Withdrawal of Cameroun military ; iii. Unconditional release of all persons arrested on account of this cause ; Iv- A Serene and neutral environment ; v-The presence of an impartial an independent mediator (See our document on this)
It is said that at one moment you were talking with the Cameroun Government. What do you say about this ? And what was it all about ?
We have always been open to any possible approach by the government of la Republique du Cameroun towards resolving the crisis. So far, we had a visit from the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms led by Dr CHEMUTA Divine BANDA himself and we made our position crystal clear. We believe they are a representative of the government. We have also reached out to news media with a document we titled “Proposal for talks”
This document also clearly states our position. We hope the government of la Republique du Cameroun takes cognizance of these.
What do you think about the announced Swiss mediation ?
Any mediation and intervention by any independent and neutral third party is welcome. However, any mediation must be mutually accepted by both parties and with the UNO as umpire.
What do you say about an eventual meeting between President Paul Biya and Secessionist Leaders in Switzerland ?
May I make this correction. We are restorationists not secessionists. You can’t secede from what does not exist. To answer your question now, we are for a true, frank and open dialogue between Ambazonia and la Republique du Cameroun, in the presence of the UN and other important stakeholders. Whoever, represents la Republique du Cameroun, is left for them to decide. Mind you our problem is not with Mr. Paul Biya but with La Republique du Cameroun the illegal occupier of our homeland.
What is your relationship with the other Secessionist Leaders ?
We have a common goal with all other frontline movements of our struggle. The restoration of our nation. Our approaches may vary. This is common in all democracies.
What do you say about the confusion observed within your defense counsel ?
The legal team for our case is steadfast and focused on defending us in spite the illegality of our abduction in Nigeria and non-respect of the national and international laws by the Cameroun judiciary.
Barrister John Fru Nsoh who was Lead Counsel was kept aside by the other counsel. What are your comments on this reality ? And what exactly happened ?
Barr John Fru Nsoh was our Lead Counsel, but by his unethical utterances and behavior he recused himself.
Is Barrister John Fru Nsoh still your Lead Counsel ? If not, who is the Lead Counsel now ?
By his utterances and behavior, he recused himself. The Assistant Lead Counsel Barr. Patrick Yong has stepped up to play that role. Batonier emeritus Eta Besong Jr is most senior Counsel in the defense team and according to English Common law traditions leads the defense !
Can we know why you dissolved the Interim Government of Ambazonia while in Prison ?
The Interim Government of Ambazonia was never dissolved rather the Cabinet that existed as at 05th January 2018 was re-instated. This was done to refocus the efforts to restore our statehood.
Are you still the President of the Republic of Ambazonia, because it is said that you are no longer the President ?
Yes I am still the President.
What is the Republic of Ambazonia all about ?
Our goal is to restore the Independence of the Southern Cameroons, which was granted in 1961 by the UN General Assembly Resolution 1608 XV of 21st April 1961 and article 102 of UN Charter, which were to guide our union with la Republique du Cameroun but which unfortunately were not implemented. This implies that the Southern Cameroons have never been part of La Republique du Cameroun. Our present struggle is aimed at restoring our Independence.
Can you say a word on your trial proceedings ?
Our proceedings in the Yaoundé Military Tribunal are charades of gross injustice, disregard and abuse of national and international laws and conventions. In fact, it is a caricature of justice as our rights to fair trial are being violated at every instance. Consequently we do not expect to have justice in Cameroun especially in their Military Tribunal whose jurisdiction and competence is dispossessed by international instruments duly ratified by la Republique du Cameroun not to try civilians with special status of refugees and asylees we are.
Only 9 of the 46 of your companions with whom you were arrested and extradited to Cameroun are concerned with the procedures in the Military Tribunal in Yaoundé. Can we know where the others are ? And who are they ?
For your information there were a total of 58 (fifty eight) Ambazonians abducted from Nigeria and illegally transferred to Cameroun. We were 10 (ten) in my team abducted from Abuja, 37 (thirty seven) from Taraba State and 11 (eleven) from Cross River State including an (eighteen) months old child. Most of these persons, were legally residing in Nigeria as refugees and Asylum seekers. 10 (ten) of us have been going to court for long now. The others to the best of our knowledge are in Kondengui central prison and we do not know why they have not been to court all this while. However as we said, we do not also expect justice too for them given the trend of injustice on us. I must say that the case of those of us from Nigeria should not be treated in isolation because it is the entire Southern Cameroons that is facing trial in La Republique du Cameroon.
We are very concerned about the decaying detention conditions of all Ambazonians detainees throughout Cameroun. I wish to use this opportunity to inform the people of Ambazonia on ground zero and rest of the world that our team of counsel is providing legal aid to all our detainees under our auspices albeit Cameroun is the wrong country for all of us to expect justice from.
Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius is of which Nationality ?
We have made it abundantly clear that we are Ambazonians.