|Governor Okalia Bilai(left) discouraging exodus|
The carnage that the Northwest and Southwest regions have witnessed since the eruption of the deadly Anglophone crisis in 2016 has put citizens of the said regions in a state of fear.
In spite of persistent assurances by the Government that adequate security measures have been taken to protect lives and property, panic-stricken residents of the Southwest are fleeing in search of safety, leaving the region’s governor,Bernard Okalia Bilai,worried.
Frightened families,in their thousands and carrying heavy luggages such as bed, kitchen equipment and even live domestic animals-are now abandoning the two English-speaking regions, hitherto their comfort zones but now battle grounds for armed separatists and government forces, to towns in French-speaking regions, an indication that there is a real or perceived security threat.
The mass exodus has been provoked by threats from separatists, who have been fighting for the independence of Anglophones. The separatists have vowed that they will not allow any movement of people and vehicles in Anglophone Cameroon, several days before the October 7,2018 presidential election, which they plan to disrupt.
Also, the beeped up security measures by Government to counter any separatist attacks is increasing citizens’ fear, conscious that many innocent people have reportedly been killed by stray bullets.
The separatist leaders, who have a huge following back home, claim the two English-speaking regions have become a separate country called Ambazonia.
Faced with this predicament, a disturbed Southwest Governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai, has been pleading with the population of his region not to relocate, a call that many have decided to ignore.
The Governor, last Saturday, visited the Buea Mile 17 Motor Park, to personally discourage huge luggage-carrying citizens from fleeing their homes in the region to towns in French-speaking regions.
The governor’s visit to the motor park came after he had issued a communiqué dated 14 September 2018(broadcast repeatedly over CRTV Buea),urging people not to be scared of any threat from separatists.
“Since the beginning of the week especially a few days back, we have observed the mass exodus of the population out of the towns of Buea Kumba,Limbe and Mamfe etc to areas and localities out of the region on grounds that terrorists and other specialists of intoxication and manipulation are claiming that public authorities intend to prohibit all movements and circulation as from September 15,2018”,said Okalia Bilai, in the communiqué, insisting that “these are unfounded rumors being spread in order to terrorize and provoke panic among the populations”.
He called on the population to rather continue carrying out their daily activities as usual, and to send children to school,in a region where school resumption has remained scandalously timid.
The governor appealed to the population to trust the administration, security and defense forces who, he noted,“for the past two years have guaranteed their security and protection against these same terrorists and secessionists”
Okalia Bilai assured: “Indeed, adequate measures have been taken to ensure the security and protection of persons and their property”.
Mass exodus from towns in the Northwest region has also been reported.
The Anglophone crisis has resulted in the deaths of hundreds-both soldiers and civilians.
Tens of thousands of Anglophones fleeing because of the crisis are seeking refuge in neighboring Nigeria.
The UN estimates that about two hundred thousand people are internally displaced and badly in need of support. Thousands of others are said to be seeking protection in bushes.
President Paul Biya, who has ruled Cameroon since November 1982, is among the nine candidates for the next presidential poll, come October 7, 2018