Communication Minister and government spokesperson, Issa Tchiroma Bakary says the current initiative to oust the Islamist extremists that have forcefully occupied the northern part of Mali since last year have the full support of the Head of State, Paul Biya. This is no surprise position. In the past few weeks, Cameroon has been actively involved in the resolution of conflicts, beginning with the Central African Republic where it took frontline roles in brokering a settlement between rebels and the central government in Bangui without which the rebels would have overthrown the Bozizé government.
In so doing, President Paul Biya was simply making good his commitments to sub-regional cooperation and security. This important foreign policy plank has been exemplified in a number of actions, least of which is not the regular contribution in terms of troops to numerous peace-keeping operations around the continent and beyond as well as the repeated pleas the President has made in international forums to get Africa's voice heard and respected on the international scene.
Moreover, the President of the Republic has never reneged on his position in respect of the territorial integrity of states. So the Malian case could not have been the exception. Rather, he has taken up these issues with evangelistic fervor and the latest documented case was last January 4, 2013 during a New Year wishes ceremony at State House. Responding to the wishes of the Doyen of the diplomatic corps, Mr Biya deplored the apparent negligence of the United Nations in such cases of blatant violation of international law. Hear him on that occasion: "Does the United Nations Organisation, which is supposed to ensure compliance with provisions of the Charter, have the means to accomplish its mission, when such are openly transgressed? ... Or is it limited only to making resolutions and recommendations, sending observer missions and peacekeepers, often in sufficient numbers?" The presidential query, as Paul Biya himself stated, should however not be taken out of context because Cameroon, as a trust territory before its independence, was a pure product of the UN.
There are other objective reasons for President Biya's resolute stance on regional and international cooperation in settling disputes. Cameroon also knows what it means to lose part of the national territory. Following the 1961 Plebiscite which led to Reunification, northern Cameroons was lost to Nigeria in an election fraught with irregularities. Cameroon painfully accepted the verdict in the respect of its obligations and those of international law. Even for that reason alone, Cameroon could not have stayed idly to see two brotherly countries (CAR and Mali) disintegrate. Then there is Bakassi which the nation almost lost to a foreign occupant. The need for the defence of territorial integrity, obviously informed by the 1961 loss of territory, was for a large part responsible for the President's uncompromising position exemplified by his support for the international military initiatives to oust the Islamist occupation forces in northern Mali.
This very courageous position of the President of the Republic debunks those who continue to consider Cameroonian diplomacy as inert and under-achieving.