By LUSY LIMA
Many more Anglophone Cameroonians are reported to have fled the country to seek refuge and safety in other countries out of Cameroon in 2019 as the on-going war launched by the Cameroon Government against pro-independent Separatist fighters in the Northwest and Southwest regions intensified.
Since the start of this war in 2016, thousands of Cameroonians have fled the country to several other countries abroad for their safety.
The persistent cry by the minority Anglophones of the two English Speaking regions of Cameroon, which is predominantly French speaking, grew louder in 2016 when lawyers and teachers tabled a memo to the Government demanding for a return to a federal system of Government as it was from 1961 when these two regions joined the rest of French Cameroun at Independence.
But the Government responded with even increased violence and use of force against the lawyers and teachers and other activists by effecting massive arrests, torture and detentions.
Anglophone Human Rights Lawyers such as Barrister Agbor Balla, Dr Fontem Neba and several others were all picked up in Buea and taken to Yaounde where they were detained for well over eight months. Hundreds of others, amongst them, Mancho Bibixy, A Journalist from Bamenda, Penn Terence and others were rounded up in Bamenda and flown to Yaounde for detention at the Kondengui Maximum Prisons.
The massive arrests and detentions caused other activists to start fleeing the Country as the Government was intensifying its crackdown on the activists. Barrister Bobga Harmony who was the President of the Northwest Lawyers Association and one of the signatories of the Memo to the Government fled to the USA where he has since been granted asylum. Many others such as Tapang Ivo, a Journalist and graduate from the University of Buea also fled as they were about to be apprehended by security forces.
Government’s hardened measures soon degenerated into a full scale war by the end of 2017 when the Head of State, Paul Biya, declared a full fledged military crackdown on Pro-independence Anglophone Separatists fighters who had decided to take up arms to defend themselves against the Government crackdown.
This war led to more arrests, tortures, detentions and even enforced disappearances between 2018 and 2019. Prominent among these arrests was a Buea Journalist, Samuel Wazizi who was arrested in August 2019 and detained by the 21st Infantry Military Battalion. Till date, he is now where to be found. His lawyers have tried in vain in the Buea Court to have him appear for his trial.
Even activists of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) have not been spared in the prosecution of the war against pro-independence forces as SCNC female activist, Ms. Ntamark Ngeni Eunice just like many others is reported to have fled the country in the month of July 2019 for safety abroad after going through numerous arrests, torture and detention for about eight months without trial in the hands of the Cameroon Military on account of her alleged involvement in the proclamation of an independent state of Southern Cameroons. Ms. Ntamark Ngeni Eunice aged 31 and an active member of the Southern Cameroon National Council ( SCNC) since her university days in the University of Buea as we gathered, was arrested in April 2019 by security forces as they staged a rally to demand for an end to the on-going war in the two English Speaking regions of Cameroon.
It is on record that since 2014 that the Cameroon Government passed an anti-terrorism law, which punishes anyone who carries out a public rally without Government’s permission, the Government has these past years arrested, detained, tortured and even extra-judicially eliminated most Anglophone Cameroonians based on this anti-terrorism law that has been condemned by many Human Rights organizations, lawyers and activists.
A Washington Post Journalist, Siobhan O’Grady, in a February 5, 2019 article on the Anglophone crisis, states that, “over the past two years, violence (in the two English Speaking regions) have brought Cameroon to the brink of civil war. Hundreds have died, close to 500,000 have been displaced and pro- independent activists of Southern Cameroons origin have been rounded up and jailed.
The government’s claims that the attempt by the SCNC activists and some factions of armed Separatists to carve out the two English speaking regions of the Northwest and Southwest as an imaginary state of Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia from the Republic of Cameroon constitutes acts of terrorism hence prompting fierce retaliations from the Cameroon the military in defense of the territorial integrity of country.
But Human Rights Watch in its 2019 report on the crisis condemned the Government for the scorched earth policy, extra judicial executions, arbitrary arrests , tortures and detention imposed on the innocent civilians population of the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon.
It’s the combination of the above atrocities committed on Anglophones by the Government and, at some points, Separatists fighters, that has forced many SCNC activists such as Ms. Ntamark Ngeni Eunice, Journalists, lawyers and thousands of others to be fleeing the country for safe sanctuaries abroad.