Many flee as armed conflict in North West, South West escalates

NEWS 18 Feb 2019
Many flee as armed conflict in North West, South West escalates

BY CYNTHIA AKUM

Many denizens of the North West and South West regions are fleeing as the crisis that has spiraled into an armed conflict rages on.

As the gun battles between the military and separatist fighters persist, many people in some of the localities where the fighting is taking place have fled into the forest for fear of being caught within the cross-fire.

Meanwhile, as the tension in the two restive regions rages on, government has embarked on a mission to fish out sympathisers and activists of the Anglophone cause.

Sources say the arrested activists are being tortured and detained under horrendous and inhuman conditions. Some have reportedly died in detention.

One of the activists for whom security forces have launched a manhunt is Desire Lires Kamdem Kouokam, who used to sell fuel at BICEC Junction in Kumba, Meme division of the South West region. He was arrested at 8p.m on February 5, 2019 at his business place alongside other activists as they were said to have been gathering to protest for 10 days and enforce a lockdown that had been imposed by separatists against the celebration of the National Youth Day on February 11.

After their arrest, Desire Lires Kamdem Kouokam and the others were whisked off to the Kumba Central Police Station where they were said to have been tortured and detained under inhuman conditions. They were charged with insurrection and hostility to the state.

Desire Lires Kamdem Kouokam

Desire Lires Kamdem Kouokam

However, Desire Lires Kamdem Kouokam and others such as Neba Victor, Ivo Chu, Pierre Simo, all members of the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, and South Cameroons Youth League, SCYL, are reported to have mysteriously escaped from detention. Since then a warrant of arrest has been issued for them.

If arrested by the security forces, they will be tried under the anti-terrorism law whose maximum sentence is the death penalty, that is if they are not summarily killed like others who have been victims of extra-judicial killings.

Origin of crisis

It is also worth recalling that the Anglophone crisis, something that pundits say had been brewing for several years, boiled over recently, when Common Law Lawyers in the North West and South West regions went on strike. They were demanding for the return of the federal system of government, redeployment of Civil Law Magistrates back to Civil Law Courts in French Cameroon, among other grievances. Not long after, teachers in the North West and South West regions also went on strike, demanding for the redress of several issues concerning the English system of education.

Things, however, got worst when Anglophones in both regions, who had been fed up with the unfavourable political and economic situation of the country, the use of French as the dominant and official language, and the marginalisation of the Anglophones, joined the strike.

The crisis has left many people internally displaced with some living in bushes while several thousands have fled to neighbouring Nigeria where they are living as refugees.

The separatist leader of the self-declared Republic of Ambazonia, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, and eight other close associates of his, who were arrested in Nigeria and extradited to Cameroon, are currently detained at the Kondengui maximum security prison in Yaounde. Many other activists such as Mancho Bibixy, Penn Terrence, Tsi Conrad among others are also being detained at the Kondengui prison.

While the Anglophone crisis continues to escalate, international organisations and other western powers have called on the government to address the root cause through dialogue.

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