By Ikome Eposi in Buea
The Governor of the South West Region, Bernard Okalia Bilai has launched an appeal for separatist fighters in the bushes to drop their weapons and go back to their families, as their security is assured. He has also called on the elites, churches to echo the appeal on the youths to return to their families.
The Governor was speaking in Buea recently as he chaired a meeting between Administration and stakeholders in the coordination and management of humanitarian assistance.
Governor Okalia Bilai stated that “Let us give ourselves a target between now and the end of this year 2018 so that our children can spend Christmas and New Year with their families; so that our traditional rulers and chiefs can return to their palaces. We should use this period to campaign for the return of peace, security and joy throughout our region. It this way we would be bringing a final solution to the crisis”.
According to the governor, “Reports show that a good number of those displaced have benefited from this humanitarian assistance, however, we are aware that the ones provided cannot satisfy the needs of others. I call on you and other stakeholders to demonstrate the good spirit of the head of state’s call towards the youths to drop their weapons and go back to their families”.
The Anglophone crisis which started in October 2016 has led to severe suffering to people while others have been displaced and killed.
The Senior Divisional Officers present at the event presented the situation existing in their spheres of influence. According to Engamba Emmanuel Ledoux, SDO for Fako division, the crisis that has hit Fako has seen exodus of the population in areas such as Muyuka, Munyenge, Bafia, Muea, Mile 16, and Mile 14 to Wotutu. As at September, the total number of people who had fled their areas numbered to some 20,000: while the figure is less as of now as the population is slowly going back home.
He however indicated that it is very difficult to carry out a census to know the exact number of the displaced and needs concerned. “The task would have been easy if camps were in existence as in other areas. There exist camps but with well-armed persons who make distribution difficult” Emmanuel Ledoux said.
To the SDO for Manyu, the region is regarded as the epicenter of the crisis and there exist no refugee camps around and the displaced are forced to live in bushes where they are kept by secessionists. “The 4 subdivisions of Manyu are affected with roughly 8,000 people internally displaced. Some food stuff, building materials, healthcare have been provided for them. Our goal now is to bring back those who are hiding in the bushes or kept by secessionists so they can benefit from the humanitarian aid as they cannot if they continue to live in the bushes”.
To chief Cyprian Ntui from Akwaya, it is unfortunate that the government has not taken the initiative to give the responsibility to private people, to the traditional authorities. “The more you use the military, the more the boys get angry. So the only people who can talk to these young men are those who are not associated with the government. We are doing our best to talk to them. Most of them got in to because of others. There is hope that life is returning to normal”.
During the meeting, the chief of Eyumojock made an appeal to the government to set up employment opportunities, investors to keep those who are willing to go back home so they can engage in businesses which will make them not to go back to the bushes.
Responding to the Mayor of Tinto, Governor Okalia Bilai said “if you bring back our misguided compatriot, we will give you the assurance that nothing bad will happen to them. You will go along with them to know how they will be treated and where they are going to. If something happens to them, people are there to call the state to order. If we don’t act now, the situation will continue. They may get sick and even die, because they cannot afford medication. Let’s do something to help our brothers and sisters,” he said.
In June 2018, the head of state instituted an Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Plan for those who have been affected by the crisis. It should be recalled that the first batch of assistance for the SWR was made available July 24, 2018 consisting of goods such as beds, mattresses, blankets, sugar, rice, packets of soap, cutlasses, hoes, packets of sardines and bags of fertilizers.
The first consignment consisting cooking oil arrived the South West Region by August meant for Manyu, Meme, and Fako. More recently, a second consignment of humanitarian assistance was given consisting amongst others cement, zinc for the construction of homes destroyed.