By Talla Aghaa Christopher
As tensions in the North West and South West Regions rage unabated, government has embarked on a protracted mission to fish out sympathisers and activists backing what is now termed the Anglophone crisis.
Confronted with escalating tempers, a total breakdown of law and order, and worsening socio-political conditions, government has now decided to trial those considered as masterminds of the unrest. This move represents one in a series of measures that has been employed by the administration to calm the troubled waters amid deteriorating security conditions and other concerns.
This hunt is in a bid to bring activists before the military tribunal for adjudication, as was the case with the likes of Mancho Bibixy, Tsi Conrad, and Penn Terence, who, upon their arrest in January 2017, subsequently stood trial before the military tribunal to bear the brunt of a failed system. They were each slammed maximum jail sentence to serve at the Kondengui maximum security prison.
Leaders of the virtual state of Ambazonia (otherwise known as Southern Cameroons); Seseku Ayuk Tabe, Tassang Wilfred, Barrister Eyambe, Nfor Ngala Nfor and others, were then extradited from Nigeria and placed incommunicado for close to a year and are currently standing trial at the Yaounde military tribunal. They are presently faced with charges of terrorism, secession, propagation of false news, insurrection, non-possession of National Identity Card and rebellion against the state in an on-going trial before the military tribunal. Their trial has suffered several adjournments.
The war in the two Anglophone Regions of Cameroon referred to by activists as Southern Cameroons or “Ambazonian” is in its third year with no end in sight. The number of shootings, abductions and arrests keep soaring.
With the military finding it difficult to differentiate between innocent civilians and separatist fighters, many young people have been caught in the web. They have either been hit by stray bullets or mistaken for members of the gun-carrying-militia and killed in cold blood.
Life for many living in the restive regions is a miracle given that each new day comes with its own. Today, many homes in the two restive regions have been broken with women left to drown in their tears. They have been looking for their husbands and sons who are either missing or dead. The outskirts of towns like Buea, Kumba, Bamenda, Kumbo, Mamfe have been the hardest hit by the crisis. Many have fled in order to provide a level field for the smoking guns to rattle.
Recent statistics by civil society organisations reflect the extent of the damage with horrific numbers. The death toll is on a perpetual rise while there are claims that about 120 villages have been burnt down in the two regions, and some 11,000 people remain internally displaced, a majority of who are taking refuge in the bushes and forests. This is in addition to the more than 45,000 English-speaking Cameroonians that have assumed the status of refugees in Nigeria.
Several activists both home and abroad have been earmarked for arrest with regional, national and international warrants issued against them. Photos declaring them ‘Wanted’ have been placed with security forces.
The tale of Smith Nkelnzieh Nupoh, Kenzem Anselme Sylvain and Ayuknken Policarp Tabe, caught our attention as we seek to document the ordeals of youth caught in a war for no fault of theirs. For issues relating to the Anglophone cause, Smith Nkelnzieh Nupoh, Anselme Sylvain and Ayuknken Policarp Tabe have become persons of interest in Cameroon. The regime has set its sight on him with intent to prosecute and incarcerate them based on charges for acts of treason, terrorism, secession, propagation of fake news, rebellion against the state and sponsoring of the Anglophone crisis.
The Sun gathered that Smith Nkelnzieh Nupoh, a member of the Kumba 4 Youth Association, with links with Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), a separatist movement clamouring for the restoration of independence of Southern Cameroons, was made president of the said Kumba 4 Youth Association sometimes in 2017. Upon investigation by the authoritises of the Yaounde Regime, it was clear that “Kumba 4 Youth Association” had strong ties with SCNC, and thus its members became targets for arrest.
It’s on this backdrop that on February 26, 2017 shortly after their meeting some members including Smith Nkelnzieh Nupoh were arrested, tortured and placed under inhumane detention condition both in Police and prison custody awaiting trial. Smith was almost taken to prison if not for the swift and timely intervention by his family to secure his release not on a pressure group with links to SCNC but for equally feeding Cameroonians abroad with false information in a bid to incite a revolution in Cameroon.
The SUN gathered that, Smith Nkelnzieh Nupoh was later granted bail after having signed an undertaking never to indulge in activities aimed at breaching the peace of the country. With the zeal of seeing that SCNC achieves its objectives of independence Smith Nkelnzieh Nupoh couldn’t stop his activism. For fear of subsequent arrest and being taken to an unknown destination, THE SUN learnt Smith Nkelnzieh had no other option than to leave the country.
With the knowledge that Smith Nkelnzieh Nupoh’s destination was unknown to security forces he was immediately declared wanted by the regime.
Family sources have disclosed that their residential area is always under constant checks and monitoring, all in a bid to crack down on Smith Nkelnzieh Nupoh and his siblings who are frontline members of the “Kumba 4 Youth Association’, moreover as Smith Nkelnzieh Nupoh is still very much active in seeing to it that Southern Cameroons is liberated going by his frequent outings alongside many “Ambazonians” abroad. Recently the family residence of Smith Nkelnzieh Nupoh was razed by fire and his mother and other family members including his sister Geraldine remain displaced persons. The cause of the fire is unknown by it is suspected that the house may have been burnt down by security forces
Another pathetic ordeal is that of Tayo Kenzem Anselme Sylvain a businessman, from Ekombe- Mofako Sub Division, Meme Division, in the South West Region, who was equally arrested and detained under horrible conditions in November 2018, by the military for about two weeks for his alleged involvement in the Anglophone crisis. He later escaped from custody to an unknown destination.
Family sources told THE SUN that Tayo Kenzem Anselme Sylvain was regarded by the Ambazonian Defence Force, ADF, as a government spy because he resisted all attempts and calls by the separatist fighters to join them in the fight against the Yaounde Regime in order to restore the Statehood of Southern Cameroons.
Meanwhile, the government was also pointing accusing fingers at him for being a member of the Ambazonian Defence Force. Earmarked for arrest by both the government and separatist fighters, Tayo Kenzem Anselme Sylvain’s residence in Ekombe- Mofako village was burnt by the military and since this incident his family has been restless due to impromptu checks by the military and the Ambazonian Defence Forces who are on the lookout for Tayo.
On his part, Ayuknken Policarp Tabe, another SCNC activist from Ediki village in Mbonge Sub Division in Meme Division of the South West Region, who joined to the SCNC movement in 2009 after having gained experienced from his uncle, Tabe Daniel Tabe, has since the end of October 2018 been declared wanted by the Yaounde Regime. Family sources hold that Ayuknken Policarp Tabe, before his disappearance, was a staunch member of the SCNC and participated in all the activities of the movement to wit; the distribution of SCNC flyers and tracks. His ordeal, according to reports, indicate that he has been arrested, detained and placed under inhumane conditions with the worst experience at the Buea prison on the 20th May, 2018 after he distributed SCNC gadgets in the street of Buea during a protest march. After his release three months after, he didn’t relent his activism with the SCNC. Returning from Buea to Kumba in October, to distribute SCNC flyers, Ayuknken Policarp Tabe realised that his community was razed to the ground and his uncle, Tabe Daniel Tabe, was equally killed by the military. Ayuknken Policarp Tabe, faced with this situation, ran into the bush when he was informed that he has been declared wanted by security operatives.
With government tightening the noose on separatists and their sympathisers, the future promises to be pregnant.