Inside the Bafut battleground! Soldiers, separatist fighters in tug of war as Bafut shuts down

NEWS 22 Nov 2018
Inside the Bafut battleground! Soldiers, separatist fighters in tug  of war as Bafut shuts down

By Sah Terence Animbom
Bafut Subdivision located some 13 kilometers northwards from the Bamenda main city has for over three months had all administrative activities in 95% of the subdivision grounded by Ambazonian fighters in the area. Grounding all schools in the subdivision and stopping all transportation activities through the sub division from Menchum division since September, Amba fighters have blocked roads leading to Menchum Division and destroyed over three bridges along the road. For over two months now, the military has put up a spirited battle to restore order from Bafut to Wum, Benakuma, Isu, Zhoa, and other places in the Menchum Division.
With no police station and no DO’s office in the subdivision after they were all burnt down by Amba fighters about three months ago, no activity goes on in Bafut now as thousands of its residents have fled to Bamenda and other cities out of the region. The few who have decided to stay in Bafut live under very uncertain conditions. The SUN Newspaper took a walk to Bafut within the week to discover the new way of life there.

Luggage is transported in carts

Luggage is transported in carts

It is worth mentioning that cars that load from Bamenda to Bafut only do 2 kilometers into Bafut and end at Agyati just outside the PSS Bafut gate. Passengers at this point are expected to do the rest of their journey on foot. It is from this point that you move into the Amba controlled territory. This point is located just 300 meters from a Gendarmerie brigade and control post. While Ambazonian fighters control and check identification papers of those going into Bafut from PSS Bafut, the Gendarmes control just some 300 meters away from them but seem not to be perturbed.

Children have been out of school for several months now, resorting to occupying themselves the best way possible

Children have been out of school for several months now, resorting to occupying themselves the best way possible

Until Saturday, November 17, 2018, trees had been felled to block the roads beginning from PSS Bafut right down to Njinteh Bafut and beyond. Passing over this trees on foot from Agyati to Njinteh, some Bafut residents who had decided to return home from Bamenda two months since they fled the town were compelled to carry their luggage on their heads and trek over 3 kilometers before meeting some young boys with carts otherwise known in local parlance as “truck”. These boys then put their luggage in the carts and push them to the next road block, then stop and offload and carry the luggage and cart over the mighty trees blocking the road on their heads. Once they cross, the put them back into the cart and continue pushing until they meet the next block.

Skeleton of a burnt car abandoned in the road in Bafut

Skeleton of a burnt car abandoned in the road in Bafut

“This is how we make our money. It is the only thing we do after-all we do not go to school or to the market so this is our new way of making money. When we succeed to go right up to Agyati with luggage, we can make up to 1500FCFA if we carried the luggage of more than one person. Once we reach there, we wait for cars to arrive with passengers who have luggage to transport then we carry them in our carts and start going back. Since we are very few, passengers mostly come to Agyati and do not know that we will come. So they carry their bags on their heads and trek. When we meet them on the way, we then collect the luggage and help them push while they trek along. Bikes were banned from circulating here so life cannot move on smoothly when people do not have a means of movement,” a self-employed child of about 15 told The SUN.
Around Njinteh Bafut which is the main town and business center in Bafut, all was dead with grass fast taking over buildings around there. On the road in front of the Express Union office in Bafut were wrecks of ELECAM ballot boxes, fabrics and electoral material that was burned by the Amba boys in Bafut after they broke into the ELECAM office there threatening to burn it but said the building did not belong to ELECAM and decided to transfer everything outside and burn. A little bit ahead is the wreck of a Guinness Cameroon SA truck that was set ablaze by the military after Amba Boys used it to block the road almost three months ago.
At the Njinteh square, The SUN Newspapers reporter was highly questioned by a locally armed confident and fierce looking Amba soldier who starts by asking “Wusai you commot?” followed by a chain of questions “who send you? You nova hear say stranger no di just enter Bafut so? Or na government send you?” [meaning where are you from, who sent you, Haven’t you heard that strangers are not allowed to just enter Bafut as they like? Or have you been sent by the government.] Responding to the chain of questions, The SUN’s reporter made it clear to the confident-looking Amba fighter that his mission was highly on the basis of professionalism and has nothing to do with government. The soldier then permitted him to take pictures and talk to a few people walking on the streets.
Life is presently far from returning to normal in the subdivision given that even the Bafut municipal council is not functional due to the control of Amba boys in the territory. The military apparently has only 5% control of the territory beginning from Agyati towards Bamenda.
It remains unclear how long the situation will take to normalise, but the population is in dire need of basic supplies.

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