BY LUCY LIMA
One odd year has gone by since the attack on the St. John Minor Seminary Fotabong in the Lebialem Division in the South West Region of Cameroon but the whereabouts of many students remain unknown. This, as a result of the Anglophone crisis that started with separate strikes by common law lawyers and teachers of English speaking extraction in 2016 and later degenerated into an armed conflict between the government forces and separatist fighters, better known as Amba Boys, fighting for the independence of the envisage state of Ambazonia (former state of British Southern Cameroons).
As tension rage on in the two English speaking regions, the killing of a student atthe St. John Minor Seminary Fotabong and the disappearance of several others in Lebialem Division, an area almost controlled by the dreaded separatist warlord, Field Marshal, have been reinvigorated. Though the incident happened in March 2018, many human right groups, civil society organizations, the Roman Catholic Church and family members have raised the issue, which has become a major talking point in the country, and across different media platforms. This is even rifer given that the government is yet to make an official statement, over one year after.
According to sources from Lebialem, government security forces stormed the area and razed the St John Minor Seminary Fotabong. Some students who witnessed the incident from their hide out in the bush, reportedly broke the news of the macabre arson act to the school administration. In a bid to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice, the school authority is said to have submitted a complaint to the administration and military authority.
The Sun has it on good record that instead of investigating those who carried out the attack, military and administrative authorities summoned the students who witnessed the act including the senior prefect Esandem Cyril Nkenglefac and his friend Foncha Derick and threatened them to reverse their statements concerning military atrocity. The Senior Prefect and all the other students refused yielding to the demand of the military and administration. Reports say they managed to escape but unfortunately, the corpse of Foncha Derick was later found in a bush, in an advance state of decomposition. The location of Esandem Cyril and other students remain a conjecture.
There is however, information from credible sources that the military has intensified manhunt for Esandem Cyril and others. It is highly probable that they could be killed like their friend if found or charged with trumped up charges like propagation of false information, terrorism or rebellion against fatherland at the military court, which has most often resulted to heavy jail terms.
As the crisis continues to deepen, report of a survey released by a group of Human Right Organizations in Cameroon indicates that the lives of activists of Anglophone extraction are in danger, as the Cameroon Government is sparing no effort in tracking down those it considers “agents of destruction”. Even those abroad considered as activists and preaching against the marginalization of Southern Cameroons by the Yaoundé regime have equally been declared enemies of the State of Cameroon and have been tagged for persecution.
Recent statistics by civil society organizations reflect the extent of the damage with horrific numbers. The death toll is on a rise, while there are claims that about 200 villages have been burnt down in the two regions, and some 430,000 people internally displaced, with thousands of English-speaking Cameroonians in neighboring Nigeria as refugees.