What is today popularly called the “Anglophone crises” started in October 2016 as an industrial/professional imbroglio between teachers and lawyers of English-speaking expression on the one hand and the government in Yaunde on the other.
It started with a demand by teachers and lawyers from Anglophone Cameroon regions on the state for constitutional reforms. The agitation gained momentum underlying the hopes of the English speaking regions of the country.
At some point the government of President Paul Biya could not ignore the agitation and agreed to negotiate.
The agitators, under an umbrella group known as The Consortium, laid their cards on the table and asked for a constitutional restructuring of the republic. But the government representatives stalled.
Then a more extreme voice sneaked in on the side of the pro-reform negotiators, calling for a secession.
The position incensed moderates on the government side. Thus the situation escalated and the government deployed troops to crack down on the agitators.
Today, the sticking point in the negotiations that revolved around the state structure – federalism or decentralized collectivities – has since evolved into an outright call for secession by what a U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon, H.E. Peter Barlerin, termed “…a very tiny minority of Cameroonian-born individuals living in the United States”.
The situation would not have got to where it is today had the Biya government listened to the voices of moderates within The Consortium whose views represented the feelings of a majority of the English-speaking community.
And schooled and bullied by the Francophone leadership imbued in the Napoleonic iron-fist leadership, even the English-speaking representative of the government at the negotiations could not see reason with the yearnings of his own brothers and sisters.
As the stick prevails in all Napoleonic (French colonial mentality) disagreements, the Biya government unleashed its dogs of war on protesting teachers, lawyers and even Buea University students.
Lawyers clad in their professional robes were dragged in the mud and dust by lowly-placed police, gendarmes and soldiers in the streets of Anglophone towns.
University girls were raped and brutalized with impunity as the world watched in horror through the pictures and videos posted on social media.
In the face of such brutality/impunity, calls for retaliatory violence by diaspora Cameroonians using social media conjured favourable attention from various strata of the Anglophone communities at home.
As of now, a dirty war is being waged against the people of the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions by the national army which duty it is to protect them and various groups of armed/faceless individuals visiting Nigerian-type kidnappings for ransom, blackmail, arson and outright wickedness on their kith and kin.
MILITARY KILLINGS, ARSON AND THEFT
The Biya government never hesitated in homing in on the Anglophone community, unleashing the crudest brutes of the national army who visited mayhem, including murders, arson and outright theft, on the people.
Thousands fled into bushes while others were forced to go into exile abroad, first on the orders of government and later because of exactions from not very merciful groups taking cover behind those referred to as “Ambazonia boys”.
The military swoop on Anglophone communities in the Northwest and Southwest regions seems to be a textbook example of how the suppression of civil uprisings or even wars should not be prosecuted.
With an army led by the Beti military oligarchy that knows it has several skeletons in their cupboards and as such must eliminate anything on the way of their perpetuity in power, it is the most rotten of the rotten foot soldiers who are sent to the front.
They are made up mostly of former street gang members recruited with the main aim of executing dirty warfare.
They listen to the harangues of Beti “elites”, such as Ernest Obama of Vision 4 (popularly known in Cameroon as “la television des mille collines” in reference to the Hutu Radio Mille Collines in Rwanda that called for genocide against Tutsis).
Obama has called for the annihilation of Anglophones, including even six-month old kids, the same way the likes of Prof. Owona Nguini advocates genocide-type lessons against Anglophones.
Inspired by anti-Anglophone sentiments, the BIR operatives in English-speaking Cameroon, have been wreaking havoc on poor rural communities.
Also, former street pick-pockets and mafia-type local enforcers recruited into the military have been razing down villages and towns, killing, maiming and stealing everything they find in the houses they burn down.
A brisk black market in goods, especially electronics and mobile phones stolen from “conquered Anglophone territory”, thrives within the military and associate ruling communities.
“All happens as if the Cameroon military, especially the ‘elite’ BIR trained by American and French instructors, has no regard for international laws and conventions.
They kill and steal with impunity and some consider the goods they steal from local Anglophone communities as war booty”, says a human rights activist, who elected for anonymity for fear of the wrath of the marauding military.
One would have been a little lenient towards the unenlightened lower ranks of the military, were their actions not receiving the unction of their superiors.
In fact, the since transferred military commander of the Southwest Region, Gen. Donatien Melingui Nouma, in an interview with AFP declared that the military under his command only burnt down houses in which arms were discovered.
In trying to justify the exactions of the military upon otherwise peaceful communities, a senior army officer, who elected for anonymity because he is not authorized to talk on behalf of the army, said “…the military only visits towns and villages where soldiers were attacked” by “terrorists”.
These punitive attacks by the military on villages/towns often happen when those who attacked the military have long vamoosed into thin air, thus exposing innocent civilians to the collective punishment of the military.
“The military descends on villages from which secessionists attacked the army because the villagers know those secessionists amongst them and continued to tolerate them without reporting to the soldiers,” pthe senior military officer declared.
EXACTIONS ON LOCAL COMMUNITIES BY CRIMINAL AND ARMED GROUPS
The bad days of villages/towns visited with mayhem from the army do not end when the national army has left the localities.
Another wave of destruction, killings and molestation follows when secessionists return to punish those they accuse of having collaborated with the military when they arrived in the villages/towns.
“Most times they kill in cold blood all those whom they accuse rightly or wrongly of having invited and informed on them to the army. They then destroy or take away the properties of those killed and molest other villagers for not having stood up against the military.
“So you see, we are the ones who bear the brunt of the fighting between the army and separatists, all of which two groups claim to be fighting for our interests, yet killing, maiming and robbing us of the little we have,” declared the chief of a village recently visited by both the army and secessionists.
Besides the secessionists, there are also groups of criminal gangs some of which are armed by Nigerian black market arms dealers.
These ones are different from the secessionists and seem to have received training from criminal syndicates in Nigeria.
They derive their membership from among some of the refugees who escaped exactions from both the army and the secessionists and went to Nigeria.
“They have returned from Nigeria with a vengeance, copying Nigerian-type kidnappings and threats of arson in exchange for huge sums of money,” says a recent victim of the criminal gangs.
There are also Nigerian members of IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) who have been aiding and abetting the Cameroonian separatists with the illusion that should the separatists’ dreamland, Ambazonia, materialize, they would use its territory as a hub from which to operate their own independence war.
Besides, there are operatives from the Niger Delta Defence Forces who have been training local boys in guerrilla warfare and kidnap tactics who pay themselves from the ransom paid for the freedom of kidnapped individuals.
These gangs are involved in mafia-type operations in rural villages and towns. Their targets are those they perceive as rich within the villages or those whom they know have rich relatives in metropolitan areas and abroad.
“I just recently received a note from the criminals threatening to burn down my house in the village if I don’t pay them two million FCFA,” one of the victims of the gangs living in Douala told HumanAngle.
They most times target relatives to Cameroonians in the diaspora, kidnap and hold them hostage demanding ransom from their family members living abroad.
This was the case with retired Justice Mbeng Arrey who was abducted in Ewelle village, Manyu Division. Mbeng has since been released after his family paid a ransom.
In one recent case, six youths from one village wielding cutlasses and masked visited a neighbouring village and started demanding money from the villagers.
Youths of the attacked village grouped themselves together and engaged the marauders with cutlasses and sticks too.
They eventually over-powered the uninvited visitors and when they unmasked them, they discovered that the attackers were some of their friends from a neighbouring village.
SETTLING OF PERSONAL AND FAMILY SCORES
There are yet other groups of individuals using the current situation to settle individual and family feuds.
These groups are made up of gun-for-hire individuals who are paid to kidnap individuals for the settlement of personal scores or family differences.
There was a recent case where a girl who had some differences with her friend reported the friend to the gendarmes who promptly arrested the friend and extracted quite a sum from the girl.
To pay back the friend, the arrested girl arranged with the village’s hired hands to kidnap her friend who was held until the family paid double what the gendarmes had extorted from her friend.
Jealous individuals and village school drop-outs who are unhappy with the successes of their former classmates now arrange to extort money from their successful age/classmates by hiring armed hands from within the community to do their dirty work in the name of “the struggle”.
According to one senior citizen from Manyu Division, this Anglophone struggle is sowing seeds of evil and hatred which will take decades to heal even after peace returns to the country.
And as for the peace, it may wait until the cows come home unless the Biya government and those claiming to be fighting for Anglophones start thinking of the interests of the English-speaking communities instead of their personal pockets.