BY TALLA AGHAA CHRISTOPHER
The lives of activists of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) both at home and abroad are at risk as government security operatives are targeting them.
As the crisis rocking the North West and South West regions, which has now spiraled into an armed struggle, escalates, the government has intensified its efforts to crack down on SCNC activists. Many of them are being arrested and detained under horrendous and inhuman conditions. Some have died in detention.
The arrested SCNC activists are being tried under the anti-terrorism law whose maximum punishment is the death penalty.
The government has always accused SCNC members and other Anglophone secessionists in the diaspora of propelling the Anglophone crisis; which the government has labelled as “terrorism”. The Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakari, had emphasised that, the government will not dialogue or negotiate with terrorists. Sources have revealed that, the government is using its diplomatic networks to ensure that SCNC members and other Anglophone activists abroad are tracked down and extradited.
It should be recalled that, leading members of the separatist movement: Nfor Ngala Nfor Chairman of the SCNC, Sessekou Ayuk Julius Tabe, the Nigeria-based president of the Southern Cameroons Governing Council, were arrested in January 2018 alongside others at a hotel in Abuja, Nigeria. They were later extradited to Cameroon and detained incommunicado for several months. They are currently being tried at the Yaounde military tribunal.
Mancho Bibixy, the initiator of what is now known as the Coffin Revolution, together with many activists who were arrested and tried at the Yaounde military tribunal, are now serving long jail terms at the Kondengui maximum security prison in Yaounde.
Meanwhile, after releasing a list of Anglophone activists in the Diaspora, who were targeted for arrest some time ago, sources say a fresh list of SCNC members and other activists abroad has been re-established for arrest. More than a hundred names have reportedly been given to intelligence services.
We learnt from informants that after several meetings held in Yaounde in a bid to seek ways to neutralise the growing Anglophone activism both within and without the country, a bigwig of the regime was sent on a mission abroad to ‘bribe’ his way in causing the UN and other diplomatic services to frustrate the Anglophone struggle by neutralising those in the Diaspora via their arrest and extradition.
This move by government is reported to be one of the reasons which sparked widespread protests of Anglophones in the United Kingdom (London) during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting this year. During the protests, SCNC members in the UK called on the Commonwealth to force the government of Cameroon to demillitarise the North West and South West regions, stop the ongoing mass killings of Anglophones and also to expel Cameroon from the Commonwealth.
The London protest is alleged to have been organised by UK SCNC Chairman, Robert Tamanji, alongside other members like: Ivo Kuka, Joseph Bikong Catherine Yambo, Divine Taminang, Omawah Elenor Charlotte Oyebog, Limunga Loridiana , Alain Bougan, amongst others.
The country is now considered unsafe by many Anglophones in the diaspora who fear arrest or death if they return to the country. if arrested they will also be tried under the anti-terrorism law.
Origin of crisis
It is also worth recalling that the Anglophone crisis, something that pundits say had been brewing for several years, boiled over in November 2016, 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 strike was met with brutal repression by the military which has today escalated into an armed conflict between the two camps with the rise of the “Ambazonian Self Defence forces”. Today it is estimated that over 20,000 Southern Cameroonians have fled the country to neighbouring Nigeria, thousands of internally displaced people have fled into bushes/forests, and hundreds are being detained and many others missing. A huge number of civilian and military casualties have also been recorded.
While the Anglophone crisis continues to escalate, international organisations and other Western powers have called on the Government to address the root cause of the crisis through dialogue. But the government continues to drag its feet.