BY CYNTHIA AKUM
As the crisis in the North West and South West regions, which has morphed into an armed conflict rages on, the government has stepped up its crackdown on separatists, those suspected to be activists or sympathisers to the Anglophone cause including family members of the separatists.
In this light, security operatives have been indiscriminately arresting separatists 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 separatists and their collaborators are being tortured and detained under horrendous and inhuman conditions. Some have reportedly died in detention.
Security forces are also reported to have been burning down homes of suspected separatist fighters. In some cases whole villages have been burnt down. The security forces are also accused of extrajudicial killings, rape and looting.
Family members of the separatist fighters popularly known as Amba Boys have been declared enemies of the state and are being targeted and killed on a daily basis. They are being accused of fuelling the conflict and causing untold hardship within the communities.
On their part, the separatist fighters are also accused of perpetrating acts such as kidnapping for ransom, beheadings among others.
Since the separatist on October 1, 2017 declared the independence of what they termed Republic of Ambazonia, security forces have been continuously cracking down on the separatists and their symperthisers.
The population of the two English-speaking regions have been feeling the brunt of the crackdown as extrajudicial killings, burning down of entire villages or ethnic communities, shooting of unarmed civilians, forcing the disappearances of family members are now the order of the day.
We learned that some of the security forces deployed to the North West and South West regions have reportedly invaded the homes of suspected Ambazonia fighters, allegedly raped innocent women and girls related to the fighters, arrested many who have been ferried to unknown destinations.
We also gathered that some family members of the Ambazonia fighters were targeted in Likomba in Tiko, Bole Bakundu, Bekondo and Ekona in the South West region.
A student of the University of Buea, Giftie Ambang Baya, sister of a dreaded Ambazonia fighter, the self-styled ‘General’ Ivo, was accused of sympertising with the Ambazonia cause and covering up for her brother. Accused of also having been one of the ringleaders of the protest that took place in the University of Buea in 2016, Giftie Ambang Baya, was declared an enemy of the state.
In June 2019, security forces are said to have stormed their residence in Likomba Tiko, reportedly tortured the entire family and raped her.
Meanwhile, in February 2020, security forces again stormed Giftie Ambang Baya’s family house, arrested her father and burnt down the entire family home. He was later found dead along the Likomba Tiko main road. He is suspected to have been killed by security forces and dumped on the road.
For fear of her life, Giftie Ambang Baya is said to have escaped to an unknown destination. The whereabouts of other family members is also unknown. If arrested Giftie Ambang Baya will be tried under the anti-terrorism law, whose maximum sentence is the death penalty. That is if she is not killed outright like many others who have been victims of extrajudicial killings.
In the North West region, particularly in Bafut, security forces are said to have invaded the home of a renowned Ambazonia social media activist, Barrister Emmy Tricia Kesah. Her father’s ancestral home was burnt down and her mother was said to have narrowly escaped through the back door before the house was set on fire. The cousin of Barrister Emmy Tricia Kesah was killed during the raid.
In should be recalled that recently when two soldiers were killed along the highway to Bafut, the military had stormed the area, shooting at random and burning down houses.
It should be noted that Ambazonia activists and leaders living in the diaspora such as Mark Bareta, Tapang Ivo, Bobga Harmony, Emmy Tricia Kesah, Chris Anu, Sako Samuel, Cho Ayaba Lucas, Aaron Yancho, Ray Timah, Eric Tataw, among others, have been declared persona non grata by the government of Cameroon.
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 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 subsystem 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 military responded with brute force, firing life bullets at protesters, killing many and injuring others.
The crisis has left thousands, both civilians and security and defence forces dead, others internally displaced with some living in bushes while over 30,000 have fled to neighbouring Nigeria where they are living as refugees.
According to rights group, Centre for Human Rights and Democratic in Africa, CHRDA, over 250 villages have been burnt in the North West and South West regions since the crisis morphed into an armed conflict. The villages include, among others, Kake II, Bekondo, Big Massaka, Bafut, Mankon, Nso, Nganjo, Foe Bakundu, Likomba Tiko, Mamfe, Kwa Kwa, Boa Bakundu, Kembong, Bole Bakundu, Dienda Bakundu, Big Ngwandi, Bakumba, Bokosso, Nake, Kobonbe mission, Kake I.
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 serving life sentences at the Kondengui maximum security prison in Yaounde. Many other activists such as Mancho Bibixy, Penn Terrence, Tsi Conrad among others are also serving jail terms at the Kondengui prison.
Meanwhile, over 15,000 children are said to be out of school due to the armed conflict, 10,000 are reported to be displaced and living in the bushes and forests and others in refugee camps in Nigeria.
While the Anglophone crisis continues to escalate, international organisations and other western powers have called on the government to address the root cause through inclusive dialogue.