TWO separatist movements pushing for secession in Nigeria and Cameroon have formed an alliance towards actualising their plan to force the breakup of the two countries.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which is agitating for the creation of an independent Biafran nation out of Nigeria, has joined forces with Ambazonia Governing Council, an armed separatist group fighting for the secession of Cameroon’s English-speaking North-West and South-West regions.
IPOB spokesman Emma Powerful confirmed the development on May 25 in an interview with The ICIR.
Powerful disclosed that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu and leader of the Ambazonia Governing Council Cho Ayaba in 2020.
The alliance will push IPOB to another level, Powerful told The ICIR.
The IPOB spokesman noted that the alliance had already gone far in so many things, but he did not provide details.
“Yes, it is true. The alliance will push us to another level, IPOB and Ambazonia signed MOU in October last year and this year, our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and Ambazonia leader Dr Cho Ayaba had a joint press briefing and since then, the alliance has gone far in so many things,” he said in response to inquiries by The ICIR.
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Further checks showed that the alliance was announced at a press conference by Kanu and Ayaba in April, 2021. The press briefing was livestreamed on the social media.
“We have assembled here today in front of our two peoples to declare our intentions to walk together to ensure collective survival from the brutal annexation that have occurred in our home nations.
“The Ambazonia and Biafra alliance is critical in an area where Nigeria and Cameroon have established two autocracies that have used violence as political tools to suppress our own peoples,” Ayaba said at the event, according to a report by Foreign Policy.
In recent years, IPOB has emerged at the forefront of groups seeking the actualisation of the defunct Biafra, which seceded from Nigeria in 1967, leading to a bloody civil war.
The Nigerian federal forces emerged victorious after three years of warfare and Biafra – comprising the South-East and parts of the South-South – remained part of Nigeria, but pro-Biafra agitation has continued over the years and appears to have turned violent in recent times.
The Eastern Security Network (ESN) – a military wing of IPOB which was set up to protect South-East communities from attacks by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen – is being blamed for attacks on federal security formations and establishments in the South-East.
In Cameroon, the Ambazonia Governing Council is one of the prominent armed separatist groups that are seeking to carve out Cameroon’s English-speaking North-West and South-West regions into a breakaway country known as Ambazonia.
The English-speaking part of Cameroon has nursed longstanding grievances over perceived domination and marginalisation by the French-speaking regions of the country.
The Ambazonia movement turned violent in 2016 when government’s security forces cracked down on teachers and lawyers protesting the marginalisation of Anglophone Cameroonians.
In response to the crackdown, armed separatist groups, which were largely funded by English-speaking Cameroonians living abroad, rapidly mobilised against government troops.
The Ambazonia struggle has since led to the displacement of over 700,000 people, and at least 4,000 civilian deaths, according to the United Nations and the International Crisis Group.
- IPOB, Ambazonia alliance involves weapon and personnel sharing, joint operations and training bases
The report by Foreign Policy quoted Deputy Defense Chief of the Ambazonia Defense Forces, the military wing of the Ambazonia Governing Council, Capo Daniel, as saying that the scope of the alliance would include joint operations and training bases.
The two separatist groups would also work together to secure their shared border and ensure an open exchange of weapons and personnel.
- Armed alliance between IPOB, Ambazonia could destabilise West and Central Africa
Daniel admitted in an interview with Foreign Policy that the alliance could destabilise West and Central Africa, with Nigeria being the largest economy in West Africa, and Cameroon, one of the major countries in Central Africa.
But he insisted that ‘Biafrans’ and ‘Ambazonians’ were cornered and had no choice than to fight to defend themselves.
Daniel said, “We have been very careful in our association with the Biafra movement, because we didn’t want to destabilise the region, but we have been cornered.
“The Nigerians have failed to act, the international community has failed to act, so we have no other choice but to get into an alliance that can better our chances to defend ourselves.”
Foreign Policy also reported that the Ambazonia Governing Council had promised to share lessons with IPOB on how the group was able to make the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon ‘ungovernable.’
The Foreign Policy report further observed that the alliance between the ‘two increasingly violent groups’ was likely to trigger a heightened response from both Cameroonian and Nigerian armed forces, which already worked together to counter the Boko Haram insurgency in the northern regions of both countries.
Interestingly, Nigeria has, in the past, aided the Cameroonian government in attempts to suppress the Ambazonia secession movement.
- IPOB, Ambazonia have common foe in Fulani herdsmen
Foreign Policy noted that just like IPOB, which considered the Fulani as foes, the ‘Ambazonians’ of the North-West region of Cameroon saw the Fulani as enemy.
Tensions between the Fulani and the ‘Biafrans’ and English-speaking Cameroonians date back decades.
Clashes between nomadic cattle-grazing Fulanis, known locally as Mbororos, and local sedentary farmers over land use, is commom in Cameroon’s North-West region.
According to the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA), since 2019, various Ambazonian separatist groups had stolen hundreds of cattle, abducted at least 20 Mbororos and extorted an estimated 10 million Central African Francs ($18,600) in ransom payments, killing an estimated 50 herdsmen, and displacing more than 2,500 more Fulani civilians.
CHRDA also reported that Cameroonian security forces had funneled weapons to the Mbororo communities that had gone on to attack English-speaking farmers.
It was further reported that Fulani fighters, including some who had crossed the border from Nigeria to Cameroon, had been implicated in some of the conflict’s deadliest incidents.
In February 2020, armed Fulani men alongside Cameroonian military personnel attacked Ngarbuh village in the North-West region and killed 21 civilians, including 13 children. In February, armed Fulani raided 18 villages in Nwa subdivision, killing at least 17 people and displacing 4,200 local residents.
Attacks by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen on agrarian communities in Nigeria’s South-East have escalated in recent years, beginning with the ‘Nimbo massacre’ in which about 20 persons were killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen at Ukpabi Nimbo, an agrarian community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, in April 2016.
On March 29, about 25 persons were reportedly killed during an attack by suspected herdsmen at Obegu, a community in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
In recent times, Fulani communities in the South-East have also come under reprisal attacks from suspected members of the ESN – the IPOB military wing.
Foreign Policy noted that there was a big risk that the alliance between IPOB and Ambazonia would ignite cross-border ethnic violence that might have regional consequences.