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 Anglophone crisis.
Confronted with flaring tempers, a total breakdown of law and order, and worsening socio-political conditions, government has now taken to trail those considered as masterminds of the unrest. This move represents one in a series of measures that have been undertaken by the government 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 sentences 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 arrested in Nigeria and later extradited to Cameroon and detained 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. Their trial at the military court 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, arrests and the burning of houses of suspected activists by the military keep soaring. In some cases whole villages have been burnt down.
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 brought down 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 troubles. Today, many homes in the two 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 who have fled to Neighbouring Nigeria and are living in refugee camps.
Several activists both home and abroad have been earmarked for arrest with regional andnational and search warrant issued against them. Photos declaring them ‘Wanted’ have been placed with security forces with names like Tanjohcha Zavera, Franlklin Vegah Law, Menyele Charles Mosima and Tayo Kenzem appearing on the list.
A case is that of Junior Aba Etu, a teacher by profession and frontline member of the Southern Cameroon National Council, SCNC, a pressure group clamouring for the restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons, whose whereabouts is unknown following the strike action staged by Common Law Lawyers and Anglophone Teachers in 2016.
Junior Aba Etu, it should be recalled, was shortlisted amongst the 1,000 teachers recruited into the Cameroon Public Service. He arrived Cameroon in 2017 to start his teaching career but was unfortunately arrested by security operatives in connection with the Teachers and Common Law Lawyers strike. Junior Aba Etu sneaked out of detention and disappeared to an unknown destination.
Following rumour that Junior Aba Etu was in Kumba, the military immediately stormed their residence just to discover that he was not around. However, hours later, their residence was razed to the ground by unknown persons.
The military, according to family sources, wll later razed the residence of Junior Aba Etu’s wife, Tabe F. Brenda, at Silver Valley village in Limbe as they went in search of Junior Aba Etu. As if this was not enough, the military, The Sun gathered, attacked Bombe- Konye village in Konye Sub Division, the village of Junior Aba Etu, and burnt down houses including his residence just in a bid to fish him out.
Since then, Junior Aba Etu has been declared wanted, and is seriously under security operatives’ searchlight. If arrested he will be tried under the anti-terrorism law whose maximum punishment is the death penalty.
With government tightening the noose on separatists and their sympathisers, the future promises to be pregnant.