A recorded message passed on to French radio, Radio France Internationale, RFI, said the head of the kidnapped French family has pleaded to Cameroon’s President Paul Biya to negotiate for their release, especially that of the four children living under unbearable conditions.
Almost a month since a French family was snatched from North Cameroon by the Nigerian militant group, Boko Haram, a deal is yet to be reached to ease their release.
While a French authority openly declared that the French government will not pay any ransom to the militant in exchange for their release, and then came the militants’ rejection to any offer to talk with the French, which they consider as enemies of Islam, only Cameroon is left to initiate any probable deal. With the will, but no skilled manpower or means to approach the militants, Cameroon government are instead looking on to the French to take the lead or talk them through what could be done to rescue the hostage without any loss of life or casualties.
First was the ‘crazy rumour’ that came from Yaoundé that a deal has been reached for the liberation of the French family of seven; a rumour which the French foreign ministry quickly dismissed as bogus. Next was the sluggishness of Cameroon government that is very good at talking but slow at taking decision or acting, even when lives are at stake.
However, the laid-back approach by the Cameroon government can be attributed to the fact that its hands are equally not clean as they are being accused by the insurgents of arresting and detaining some of their men.
According to radio message, a man believed to be the family head or father, Tanguy Moulin-Fournier pleaded directly to President Biya to let go the men arrested in Cameroon so that they could also be set free. Adding that every passing day the family is losing its strength and might not survive for long if the demand is not met. The family of seven kidnapped on 19 February in the Waza national park of Far North Cameroon includes a worker of GDF Suez, his wife, four children and an uncle.
Cameroon takes the challenge
At the time when the French government is overburdened by the operation in north Mali, while also trying to rescue its citizens taken hostage by various Islamic groups or runaway jihadists from the Middle East, any French ally who offers a helping hand would obviously be welcome. Biya need to negotiate a deal or lead any operation for the release, first to keep his Franco-Cameroon relationship intact and secondly to save his face in front of other African countries. As a sovereign state, the government of Cameroon equally needs to act promptly to defend its territory, its citizens as well as national interest and pride.
If some of the Nigerian militants are actually in detention in Cameroon, they should either be judged or handed over to the Nigerian government in respect of human rights and international laws. However, the choice to hand over the prisoners either to the militant group or to the Abuja government is entirely at the clemency of Biya. The French community in Cameroon is quite huge, and for them to feel secure and at home, Biya’s government most prove to them that they can rely on them for safety, starting with the rescue of the French family with very young children. The mission is quite a difficult one, but not an impossible one. However, the longer it takes to open a negotiation or rescue, the more complicated the mission might become, especially if the hostage takers do run out of patience.