CAMEROON'S PRIME MINISTER NARROWLY ESCAPES SEPRATISTS AMBUSH IN CRISIS-HIT NORTH-WEST
Wrong threat assessment or sabotage almost landed Cameroon's Prime Minister, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute into separatist Ambush during a peace mission to the country's restive North West Region on October 4.
Chief Dr. Dion Ngute narrowly escaped an ambush from gunmen linked to the Ambazonia separatist group fighting government forces for the restoration of the independence of the former British Southern Cameroons - present day two English-speaking regions of Southwest and Northwest - since 2016.
Several amateur-shot videos taken from multiple angles and circulated on social media on October 4, 2021, showed scenes of chaos and panic after unknown gunmen suspected to have links with Ambazonia armed separatist groups attempted to ambush the delegation of the Cameroonian Prime Minister.
The invincible gunmen exchanged sporadic gunshots for several minutes with state security forces deployed to protect the convoy and delegation of the fourth personality in the country - himself an Anglophone - forcing the Prime Minister and his entourage to take cover in dramatic circumstances.
The sporadic exchange of gunfire is said to have occurred in a location called Matazem - a border town between the English-speaking Northwest region and the French-speaking Western region.
Sources confirmed that the mission of the Cameroon Prime Minister was to meet with local stakeholders and discuss government efforts to resolve the so-called Anglophone crisis ongoing for the past 5 years, through the implementation of a "Special Status" granted to the two Anglophone regions after the historic Yaounde-held Major National Dialogue.
But Ambazonia separatist groups and their various leadership have dismissed the government proposal of the "Special Status" and other recommendations from the Major National Dialogue as too little too late -insisting that only the restoration of the full independence of Southern Cameroons is left on the table.
This is not the first time in the ongoing conflict that the convoy and entourage of senior government officials have come under sporadic attacks from Ambazonia armed separatist groups - but it is the first time the entourage of the Prime Minister has been threatened from close range by suspected separatist groups.
From the chaotic scenes of security forces trying to shield the Prime Minister, many questions on intelligence, planning and preparation arise.
How much journey management intelligence was gathered by the Prime Minister’s protection team prior to his visit?
Why did the Prime Minister’s team appear unprepared, uncoordinated and disorganised during the shield and evacuation procedure, knowing the existing risk and likelihood of an ambush in the volatile environment?
Did the Prime Minister’s security team substitute numbers for actual planning and ground intelligence on potential threats from separatist forces ?
Did the PM's team carry out a threat assessment of separatist groups operational activities in the deployed location ? Was the threat underestimated ?
Was the security of the Prime Minister compromised by some elements of the state security forces for one reason or the other ?
Is this a clear indicator that Ambazonia separatist groups have grown in tactics and operational capacity than estimated by the state?
Whether it was wrong threat assessment or sabotage from inside, recent events in the restive Southwest and NorthWest regions of Cameroon and an enquiry based answers to these practical questions of how the fourth most senior state personality of Cameroon got himself trapped in between exchange of heavy gunfire should form the basis of the next steps towards a permanent resolution of the five-year conflict.
The Cameroon government must now engage with local, regional and international actors to select the most durable and cost-effective measures - beyond the current unsustainable kinetic approach by state security agencies. The attempted ambush of the Prime Minister’s entourage is another key indicator that a battlefield victory from either party is unrealistic.
David Otto is the Director for Stepped In – Step Out UK Ltd and a Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Expert. He is a Certified Anti -Terrorism Specialist (CAS), a Certified Master Anti -Terrorism Specialist (CMAS) and a programme trainer with the Anti -Terrorism