BY LUCY LIMA
There is a new twist in the Anglophone crisis as the government has stepped up its crack down on activists of the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, and other sympathisers of the Anglophone cause.
As the crisis that has been rocking the North West and South West regions, which has spiraled into an armed conflict, rages on, the government has resorted to arresting and detaining all those suspected to be activists or sympathisers of what is now referred to as the Anglophone struggle.
In this light, security operatives have been indiscriminately arresting Anglophone activists and suspected activists. This has caused many of them to flee into hiding and the whereabouts of many is not known.
Sources say the arrested activists are being tortured and detained under horrendous and inhuman conditions. Some have reportedly died in detention.
It is worth recalling that the Anglophone crisis, something that pundits say had been brewing for several years, boiled over in 2016 when Common Law Lawyers in the North West and South West regions went on strike, paralyzing the courts. They were demanding for a return to the federal system of government, redeployment of Civil Law Magistrates back to Civil Law Courts among other grievances. Not long after, teachers in the North West and South West regions also went on strike, demanding the redress of several issues concerning the English sub-system of education.
Things got worse when concerned citizens in the North West and South West regions, who had been fed up with the unfavourable political and especially economic stagnation of Cameroon at large, but more importantly in these regions, joined the strike.
But after negotiations with the teachers and lawyers ended in deadlock, the government banned the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, and the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, CACSC. Some of the leaders of the Consortium such as Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho and Dr. Fontem Niba were immediately arrested while others such as Barrister Bobga Harmony and Tassang Wilfred fled into hiding.
But as the crackdown on the activists escalates, several cases have been reported.
One of such cases is that of Agha Nfon Clovis, a graduate of the University of Buea, who was running an agricultural shop in Wotutu village, Fako division of the South West region. Agha joined the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, in May 2015 and due to his active participation in the movement’s activities, he was elected Publicity Secretary for the Wotutu area.
Because of his activism, Agha Nfon Clovis was arrested severally, tortured and threatened to be killed if he did not back down on his SCNC activities. Agha is said to have gone as far as allowing his father’s house in Wotutu to be used in holding SCNC meetings.
It was because of this that on September 20, 2016 while they were holding one of such meetings in his father’s house,, the military swooped on them, arresting Agha and several others. The arrested SCNC activists were tortured and whisked off to the Bonjongo gendarmerie brigade where they were accused of holding an illegal meeting and attempts at insurrection. While in detention, they were seriously beaten and threatened with death. After five days in detention, Agha was released under unclear circumstances.
Meanwhile, on September 22 and October 1, 2017 when Anglophones in the North West and South West regions including youths and women took to the streets in protest against marginalisation of English-speaking Cameroonians by their majority French-speaking counterparts, Agha Nfon Clovis was among the protesters in Buea. The military, brought in to disperse the protesters, fired live bullets into the crowds, killing many. Some were injured and many others arrested.
January 11, 2019 was another bad day for Agha Nfon Clovis. He was again arrested and detained, this time for about three months. He was accused of being among those who are fronting to split the country to form what has been christened Republic of Ambazonia. All through his detention he was tortured and sometimes refused food and water for several days. The detention conditions are also said to have been horrible, with several persons in a single room without toilet.
However, Agha Nfon Clovis and some of the detainees are reported to have escaped under unclear circumstances. His whereabouts is currently unknown. If arrested again, Agha will be tried under the anti-terrorism law whose maximum sentence is the death penalty, that is if he is not killed outright like many others who have been victims of extrajudicial killings.
It is worth noting that the crisis in the North West and South West regions has left many killed, others 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.