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Friday, November 2, 2018

Cameroon Separatist Leaders Make Court Appearance

FILE - Police forces stand at the entrance of a courthouse in Yaounde, Cameroon, July 16, 2012. Ten Cameroon separatist leaders extradited from Nigeria made their first court appearance in Yaounde Friday.
By Moki Kindzeka
Julius Ayuk Tabe and nine other separatist leaders made their first public appearance Thursday( 1,November 2018)since Nigeria extradited the men to Cameroon in January.

The men appeared tired as they were brought into a Court of Appeals in the capital under heavy military escort.

Nigerian authorities arrested Tabe and 46 of his followers in Abuja, where they were accused of remotely leading a rebellion in English-speaking parts of Cameroon.

The 36 others who did not appear in court have yet to be seen in public.

Separatist supporter Diana Awemo said she traveled from the English-speaking northwestern town of Bamenda to see the men.

"We are happy. We can now confirm that ten of them are alive. We want to see the others that were kidnapped with them in Nigeria and brought back into Cameroon." Awemo said.

Defense counsel John Nsoh said the accused were deprived of their right to meet their lawyers. He said they have filed a motion for their immediate release.

"This is the first opportunity for them to tell their story to a court. These people were arrested illegally, they were abducted, they were not even arrested, taken from a foreign country and brought into Cameroon and detained incommunicado for more than 10 months," Nsoh said.

Cameroon’s government calls the separatist leaders terrorists and says those arrested will go before a military tribunal. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.
Tabe in October last year declared himself the president of what he called the English-speaking republic of Ambazonia in Cameroon’s northwest and southwest.

Since Tabe’s arrest, armed separatists have launched sporadic attacks in the region on the military, markets and public buildings. At least a hundred schools have been torched and 300,000 people have fled to safer, French-speaking towns and neighboring Nigeria.

The government says more than 400 civilians, police and troops have been killed in the fighting.

In spite of the tensions and violence, Emmanuel Ngaibe, a relative of one of the arrested separatist leaders, expressed hope they will receive a fair trial.

"I hope that the court will be very, very independent and exercise justice and that politicians will not intervene in the matter," Ngaibe said.

Violence erupted in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions in 2016 when teachers and lawyers protested alleged discrimination at the hands of the French-speaking majority.

The government responded with a crackdown that sparked a movement for an independent, English-speaking state.
-VOA News

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Cameroon Protesters Demand Biya Step Down

People protest Cameroon's President Paul Biya on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, Oct. 22, 2018 in Washington. On Saturday protesters marched and sang on the streets in Douala and other cities
Hundreds of people, most of them youths, Saturday marched and sang in the streets of Cameroon’s economic capital city, Douala, calling for Cameroon President Paul Biya to step down immediately.

Bosco Etoundi, a 23-year-old university graduate, says protesters believe Maurice Kamto, of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement political party, who ran against Paul Biya in Cameroon’s Oct. 7 presidential election actually won. Kamto was declared runner-up, with 14 percent of the votes.

Etoundi says he wants Kamto to immediately take power because he is tired of having a president who does not provide for residents’ needs.

Etoundi says young people make up more than 70 percent of Cameroon’s population, but Biya has never involved the younger generation in decision-making. He says that after students complete their studies, they remain jobless because Biya is not creating jobs. He says a change is needed.
Maurice Kamto, a presidential candidate of Renaissance Movement (MRC), reacts as he holds a news conference at his headquarter in Yaounde, Cameroon, Oct. 8, 2018.
Protesters arrested
Cameroon police reported the arrests of more than two dozen protesters Saturday. Witnesses say some protesters were beaten and dragged through the mud.
However, Kamto’s Cameroon Renaissance Movement said 42 people, including some of its party officials, have been arrested and are being detained.

Among those arrested is Michele Ndoki, a lawyer who defended Kamto at the constitutional council, where they alleged massive fraud and ballot-stuffing in favor of Biya’s ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party.

The constitutional council rejected Kamto’s petition and Kamto, who had earlier claimed victory, announced what he called a national resistance program in regard to Biya’s inauguration ceremony in December, although no date has yet been chosen.

Ivaha Diboua, governor of the littoral region of Cameroon where Douala is located, says he will never tolerate any disorder in his administrative area and anyone who creates disorder will face police action.

Diboua says Cameroon respects people’s freedoms, but that no one should abuse the freedom by denigrating, insulting and stigmatizing others claiming that they felt cheated.
Besides Douala, minor protests were reported in the cities of Yaounde and Bafoussam but were quickly contained by police.

36 years of Biya
Biya, who has been in power for 36 years, was declared the winner of the Oct. 7 presidential poll, winning 71 percent of the vote. His runner-up, Kamto, who won 14 percent of the vote, has rejected the results.

In 2008, Biya removed term limits from the constitution, allowing him to serve indefinitely.
He is now the second-oldest president in sub-Saharan Africa. When his new term is finished, he will be 93 years old.

Kamto’s MRC party has vowed to continue with the protests until Biya steps down. In a statement Saturday, Kamto called for police to release those who have been arrested, stating that they were simply expressing their discontent at the election.
-VOA Africa


Friday, October 19, 2018

Cameroon court rejects all petitions calling for re-run of elections

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cameroon’s Constitutional Council on Friday rejected the last of 18 petitions calling for a re-run of an Oct. 7 election that the opposition said was marred by fraud, paving the way for results expected to extend President Paul Biya’s 36-year rule.

The rejections clear all legal objections to the polls. Nearly two weeks after the vote, no results have been announced but under national law authorities have until Monday [October 22] to do so.

Biya is seeking a seventh term that would see him keep his place as one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. The only current African president to have ruled longer is Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

But allegations of voter intimidation, violence and ballot-stuffing cast doubt over the election, prompting the three main opposition candidates, and other prominent political figures, to call for the cancellation of results.

“We reject in totality the results” of the elections, said Paul Eric Kingue, the campaign manager for opposition candidate Maurice Kamto, whose call for a re-run of the poll in seven regions was rejected late on Thursday. “Paul Biya is not our president.”

Candidates Joshua Osih and Cabral Libii asked for the results to be cancelled and the election to be re-run. The court rejected Libii’s appeal late on Tuesday because it said it was filed one hour after the deadline.

Osih’s appeal was rejected in the early hours of Friday morning.
“We as Cameroonians should be ashamed of what is currently happening in front of this high jurisdiction we call the Constitutional Council,” Nkou Mvondo Prosper, President of Libii’s Univers party said.

The elections went ahead with scattered instances of violence in the Anglophone South West and North West regions where a separatist insurgency is trying to split from Yaounde. In those regions, which hold about a quarter of the country’s 24 million population, most did not vote for fear of violence

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Cameroon opposition leader's home torched, court told


© Provided by AFP Cameroon's Ni John Fru Ndi has spent the past quarter of a century in opposition as head of the SDF which he founded in 1990 although he stood aside for this month's election
Anglophone separatists have torched the home of Cameroon's veteran opposition leader and kidnapped his sister, his lawyers said on Thursday. 

The two incidents, which took place Wednesday, targeted Ni John Fru Ndi who heads the Social Democratic Front and comes from Cameroon's troubled anglophone west.

Separatists "burnt (Fru Ndi's) house" in the North-West, said lawyer Francis Sama, referring to one of Cameroon's two English-speaking regions which have been hit by almost daily unrest that has left at least 400 dead this year.
"They kidnapped his younger sister," he said at a hearing before the Constitutional Court, without giving further detail on either incident

His remarks were made during a hearing at which three opposition candidates asked for the contested October 7 presidential election be annulled on grounds of massive fraud.

Fru Ndi has spent the past quarter of a century in opposition as head of SDF which he founded in 1990. 

But although he ran for the presidency three times, Fru Ndi stood aside this time, letting his deputy Joshua Osih join the race against President Paul Biya who has ruled Cameroon for 36 years. 

Although Fru Ndi has long opposed Biya's rule, the separatists see him as a "traitor" because he is in favour of returning to a federalist solution in Cameroon, while they are fighting for the creation of an independent anglophone state, Sama said.
Yaounde is firmly opposed to any return to federalism.

Cancel the vote

Separatist activists had called for a boycott of the election, but SDF decided to run
In a separate incident, the SDF said Fru Ndi's driver had been shot at by the security forces after dropping the party leader home at the weekend. Without giving further details, they said he was "out of danger".

The political crisis in the English-speaking west of this Francophone country erupted in 2016 and deteriorated into an armed separatist uprising last year which prompted a retaliatory crackdown by the security forces.

Following the election, SDF's Osih asked the court to scrap the ballot because "there was no presidential election" in the English-speaking regions where voting was disrupted and turnout was below five percent, the ICG think tank said. 

Two other opposition candidates also joined the petition -- Maurice Kamto of the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon and Cabral Libii, a TV news analyst and at 38, the election's youngest candidate.

Libii's request was dismissed as inadmissible, but the court has yet to respond to the other two petitions.
Courtesy:AFP

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Cameroon minister calls opposition win claim 'non-event'


Sunday's vote was marked by violence in restive anglophone regions as well as low turnout and difficulties staging the ballot in the conflict-torn areas (AFP Photo/ALEXIS HUGUET)
Yaoundé (AFP) - Cameroon's Interior Minister Paul Atanga Nji warned Tuesday that "scoring a goal" is not "winning the match" after an opposition leader used a football metaphor to claim victory in presidential polls.

Maurice Kamto, candidate of the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) party, said Monday he "was charged with taking a penalty, I took it, and I scored", proclaiming himself victor of weekend polls.

He gave no evidence for his claim.
Sunday's vote, in which Kamto headed a partial opposition coalition, was marred by violence in restive anglophone regions as well as low turnout and difficulties staging the ballot in the conflict-torn areas.

"Even if you score a penalty, you don't necessarily win the match at the end," Atanga Nji told AFP, adding that Kamto's announcement was a "non-event".

By law each polling station must submit its results, after verification by the Elecam electoral commission, to the Constitutional Court which is responsible for announcing the official final tally within 15 days of the vote.

But a raft of unofficial results from Cameroon's nearly 25,000 polling stations have already begun to circulate on social media.

Ahead of the polls in which 85-year-old President Paul Biya sought a seventh term, Kamto warned he would not accept any result tainted by fraud.

The government has called Kamto an "outlaw" for announcing his own result.
"I have received a clear mandate from the people and I intend to defend it until the end," he said at a media briefing in Yaounde on Monday.

But Atanga Nji accused Kamto of creating "an unacceptable mess".
"He says he'll go all the way, but he won't even have time to get going... and no one will follow him," Atanga Nji said.

The candidate of the main opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) party, Joshua Osih, said Monday it was "a bit premature to be giving results" and called on his seven fellow candidates to "respect the law".

The youngest of the nine candidates, 38-year-old jurist and journalist Cabral Libii of the opposition Univers party, warned against election fraud.

"If our victory is established, I will by no means allow it to be stolen by anyone," the social media-savvy candidate told reporters on Tuesday.

The US embassy in Yaounde meanwhile called "on all parties to wait until the official results are announced before making pronouncements about the supposed winner," in a post on its verified Facebook account.

Kamto, a former junior justice minister, was backed by rival candidate Akere Muna just before polling day, creating the first opposition electoral union since 1992.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

CHRDA Condemns Recent Extrajudicial Executions in Buea-Cameroon


 Find below a statement from the Center for Human Rights & Democracy in Africa(CHRDA) released today:

THE EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS AT CAMPAIGN STREET 2, GREAT SOPPO BUEA ON MONDAY THE 24TH OF SEPTEMBER 2018 AND THE 27TH SEPTEMBER 2018 MASSACRE AT BUEA TOWN.
On Monday the 24th day of the month of September 2018, the military forces (BIRS) shot and killed two young men at Great Soppo, situated in Buea, capital of the South West Region. This incidence occurred in the early hours of the morning at about 9am to 10am.
In an interview conducted by CHRDA Human Rights Monitoring and Reporting team, an eye witness recounted that one of the victims, Mr. Emmanuel Ndasi Ndum Forton, born 13th December 1979. He was a taxi driver who lived at Campaign Street 2, he left his house to the main road to empty a water reservoir tank at the ‘Car Wash Point’ owned by his elder brother. The elder brother had been warned by the Buea Municipal Council to remove the tank from the spot stating that it was obscuring a clear view of the poster of the CPDM candidate for presidential election Mr. Paul Biya. As he went out and open the tank for the water to pour out for an easy removal, he then returned to the house to keep the cock of the reservoir and to invite his friends to come and assist him pull the reservoir away.
From there, he was now going back to the site of the reservoir before he met his friend Mr. Ndam Ngoh Emmanuel, born 19th April 1990, a taxi driver who resided in the same quarter and invited him to assist him push the reservoir away. Both of them were putting on bathroom slippers and as they were still standing at the spot, a military truck on patrol, carrying BIR soldiers and driving down from Buea town apprehended them on the suspicion that they look like Ambazonia soldiers and shot them both at the spot. Immediately after the killing, the soldiers disappeared from the scene leaving the victims by the road side.
It should be recalled that the extrajudicial execution of these two young men at Great Soppo in Buea, follows a series of widespread and systematic killings perpetrated by the Defence and Security forces against unarmed Civilians in the city of Buea. A classic case in point was that which occurred on Monday the 30th day of July 2018 where four young men, to wit: Esembe Roland Ndobe, Mononno Emmanuel, Motombi Maya Woleta and Tambufor Eric where rounded up and shot dead by the BIR at Bakweri town under the pretext that they were caught smoking weed. Note should be taken that these killings are carried mostly on Mondays; a day widely observed as ghost town in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon. 
Another case of extrajudicial killing in Buea occurred on Sunday the 26th of August 2018, wherein, the elements of the Defense and Security Forces (BIR) shot and killed a young man at Check Point, just in front of the Molyko Municipal Stadium called Nzometia Theophile. It is alleged that he was shot on grounds that he was dressed like a soldier of the Ambazonia Restoration Forces.
Extrajudicial executions on Monday the 24th of September were also recorded at Ekona, a locality in the Muyuka Sub Division, Fako Division of the South West Region. In this locality, two young men were rounded up in a military expedition and shot death. From the testimony of residents of Ekona talking to CHRDA, the military forces raided the area at about 9am in the morning, in a search for members of the non-state forces, an as they were conducting the search, gun shots were being fired sporadically and causing panic on the local population. As the gun firing continued, some two unarmed young men got scared and attempted to flee but were spotted by the military and shot at close range from behind as they tried running into the bush.

27TH SEPTEMBER 2018 MASSACRE IN BUEA TOWN.
On Thursday the 27th day of September 2018, the military forces (BIR) targeted and killed 7 identified unarmed civilians in a compound at Ikundi Street in Babuti neighbourhood of the town of Buea, South West Region of Cameroon. This incidence occurred at about 4:30 AM where the military conducted a raid at the compound and 7 unarmed civilians were extrajudicially executed in the raid.

The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa visited the scene of the incidence in the early hours of the morning before the corpses were carried away, and interviewed some persons who prefer to remain anonymous, and they testified that the compound in which the incidence took place has been under military surveillance for quite a while, after the soldiers were alerted by an unidentified person that a particular individual (one of the victims) was dealing in hard drugs such as Marijuana and contraband drugs like tramadol which many young men including some gendarme officers come to buy and even consume it at his room. Aware of this, the soldiers had already targeted the compound with intent to capture the dealers.
The witnesses stated further that when the military arrived at the scene, they broke into all the doors in the compound and brought out about 6 young men from one room and a 50 years old man, one of the tenants from another room and executed them. One of the victims escaped with bullet wounds but died later at the Buea Regional Hospital. The names of the 7 victims were identified as:
1:        Alain Kumeta
2:        Bobga Francis
3:         Toh Nduko Moses (50 years)
4:        Enow Eric
5:        Ramadan
6:        Mesumbe and
7:        Batino

Cameroon 2018 Presidential Election: The  Ambazonia Boycott and Its Implications for “Southern Cameroonians”

By Eric Chinje, a Shesan

There are 3 major political blunders in the history of Cameroon that have significantly altered the destiny of Cameroon. I mention these just because decisions of great consequence only get fully understood with the passage of time. And within our current context, we need to appropriately situate the consequences of the decision of many to boycott the 2018 election.
My hope is that you will read this message, gain some benefit from it and use it to clarify your thinking in this moment of great confusion and pain for our people. Most of the decisions made today are done by individuals who I can criticize. However, the only active player I will mention is Biya - because he is the one we should be focused on replacing.
Let us go to the beginning...
1.  THE UPC BOYCOTT- In 1955, the UPC decided to boycott the coalition proposed by Soppo Priso because they wanted France to leave Cameroon and grant immediate independence.  Pierre Messmer, the French Governor cut a deal with Ahidjo that created the Mbida-Ahidjo government. This boycott resulted in the North-South alliance that has dominated politics in Cameroon for 57 years.
2. THE SDF BOYCOTT - In March 1992, John Fru Ndi decided to boycott the first multiparty parliamentary election. Despite the boycott, the opposition comprised 51% of the parliament, which weakened the control of the Executive. From 1992 to 1997, many progressive events took place - AAC conferences, calls for a Constitutional Conference, the Tripartite talks and the 1996 constitution. This progressive trend only started failing after the return to parliament in 1997. Since 1997, the SDF has consistently lost seats in parliament and today controls 9% of the 180 seats. The insistence by Fru Ndi to remain opposition leader regardless of the series of successive defeats and the SDF’s inability to adapt into a true coalition remains the central contributor to the long-term impotence of the opposition.
3. THE AMBAZONIAN BOYCOTT - On October 7, 2018, there will be a Presidential election in Cameroon. Paul Biya is at his weakest and the world is watching like never before. For the first time, there are credible opposition candidates and with advances in technology, it is increasingly difficult to rig an election where the opposition decides to compete. While many expect it to be a close election, the only way to get Biya out and contemplate a new political future for Southern Cameroonians is to bring the 800,000+ Southern Cameroonian votes into the coalition. This is the final option to resolve this crisis politically. If we boycott, the only option is a military solution.

DECISION POINT
With record by numbers of Southern Cameroonians fleeing, even to LRC, it is time for the Southern Cameroonians intellectuals to seriously weigh the options - particularly members of the Diaspora. Today, they cannot pretend that the problem does not exist. Most families have either lost relatives or know of others who are refugees or internally displaced.

There are many legitimate grievances we can lay claim to. However, any objective observer will agree that the amateurism of the people who claim to speak for all Southern Cameroonians has resulted in a loss of every opportunity to defeat Biya internationally and created a culture of violence and reprisals at home. By insisting that all Southern Cameroonians should tow the independence line, they have stifled the most fundamental of all freedoms - the freedom of thought, and have prevented the integration of majority of progressives who can add value to the range of options that must be employed to hold the Biya regime accountable in the court of international public opinion.
The fact that we have been rebranded from a peaceful non-resistance movement to a secessionist (and terrorist to some) organization is a testament to the failure of imagination and leadership of those who claim the right to speak for millions of Southern Cameroonians.

The time has come to put an end to this. It is not enough to think we must be monochromatic in our thinking because we are all Southern Cameroonians. Right is right and wrong is wrong regardless of the fact that we are all Southern Cameroonians. A government that raises 2 million dollars to create a 200 million+ dollars problem that is borne solely by the victims it claims to represent has failed. PERIOD.
We should stop deceiving ourselves that this interim government has the answers. We should stop deceiving ourselves that Biya is a regime propped up by France.  The cooperation accords with France expired in 2010 and Biya did not renew them. The oil we keep saying is exploited by France is now owned primarily by the British, Chinese and the Russians. So how does our IG alienate France, ignore the British, Chinese and Russian interests and claim it is doing any work, let alone think? Does the IG realize that this fight has not started and all Biya has been doing is provoking a situation that will suppress opposition votes in the NW and SW, secure a mandate and then accelerate the disintegration of Southern Cameroons? Are the warlords on the internet going to come back to Cameroon to secure territory and fight?

My fellow Southern Cameroonians - we are heading in the wrong direction. And if any leader - whether a Facebook warrior or member of the IG disagrees with what I am saying, they should go online and state so publicly. I insist on them doing so publicly because the record should indicate after October 8th that they took the position. This stupidity by people who are thousands of miles away has got to stop. 

The only plan Biya has after October 7 is to use his mandate (derived largely from the Southern Cameroonian boycott) and embark on a pacification program similar to what was done with the UPC in the 1960s. With arms from China, the best we can realistically hope for is an intensification of hostilities and eradication of nationalism from Southern Cameroons.
We can avoid this. War and Peace are choices. Victory and Defeat are choices.
But we all have to realize the clock is ticking fast. And if you care about this, start calling your friends and relatives to tell them things are going to get serious and we need to take action immediately. We lose nothing by voting but everything by refusing to vote.

The time has come to ask the IG to make a u-turn to the ballot box. If not, let the record indicate that we had the opportunity to avoid crashing into an abyss -  and our leaders insisted that we should maintain the course, play into Biya's hands and accelerate the deconstruction of Southern Cameroons.
If we stay silent and do nothing, history judge our decision to boycott not as another act of popular resistance, but as the biggest strategic blunder in the difficult history of Southern Cameroons. It will be a blunder orchestrated at a time when there are Southern Cameroonians around the world in positions of power and privilege, we have access to the corridors of power and technology AND Biya is 85 years old and at his weakest. We will fail not because our cause is unjust, but because we have allowed a team of people bereft of imagination and moral clarity to assume the mantle of leadership. 

We have to stop this circus of listening to an IG that does not have a command and control structure on the ground and a growing band of militias who keep saying that they are relying on instructions from the IG. This struggle is now a ship without a captain and we are about to reach a point of no return. We are not seeing the number of victims grow exponentially while the agenda is increasingly controlled by a small team of narcissists who know that true democracy will deprive them of their claims of leadership.

The time has come for the Diaspora to rethink the extent to which it has been manipulated. The time has come for the people on the ground to know that the small group of extreme voices who control the social media narrative are more interested in holding onto power and will never come to Cameroon to fight for them. The progress we have made so far has been in spite of the poor leadership of Biya and the IG. We are on our own and we better start thinking of what is best for us as individuals and for our people. And when we do, we should make sure we give the right advice to our friends and relatives at home who rely on our counsel.

We can beat Biya and secure a Federation in 2019 that meets the aspiration of our people. We can change course on October 7, and let the political process and a new President address our grievances. However, if we say no, the IG better start telling people to start buying coffins, preparing for airstrikes on our towns and villages and the probability of fighting against the Russians and the Chinese.

That may very well be when we will start realizing how stupid we have been all along.

IGNORANCE WILL NOT BE AN EXCUSE AFTER OCTOBER 7, 2018. STOP ALLOWING GHOSTS TO DETERMINE YOUR DESTINY UNLESS YOU WANT TO BECOME A GHOST. THINK FOR YOURSELF. YOUR VOTING CARD IS STRONGER THAN ANY AMBA BULLET.

Cameroon's Anglophone crisis: Red Dragons and Tigers - the rebels fighting for independence

Red Dragons video screengrab
The RED DRAGONS//Red Dragon
The Red Dragons, Tigers and Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF) - these are just some of the armed groups which have sprung up to fight for independence in English-speaking parts of Cameroon, posing a major security threat to Sunday's elections, in which President Paul Biya, 85, is seeking to extend his 36-year rule.

In the absence of reliable opinion polls, it is impossible to gauge the level of their support but the authorities' brutal crackdown has only pushed more of the local population into the arms of the separatists, analysts say.
The militias, formed in the past 12 months, have made many small towns and villages in the two main Anglophone regions, the North-West and South-West, "ungovernable", something unimaginable just a few years ago, Nigeria-based Cameroon analyst Nna-Emeka Okereke told the BBC.
"They probably have 500 to 1,000 active fighters, but more importantly they have the morale and determination to fight for the independence of what they call Ambazonia state," he said
The militias have repulsed attempts by the powerful Cameroonian army, including its elite US-trained troops, to defeat them because of the support they command in the two regions, Mr Okereke said.
"Women will cook for them, share information with them on troop movement and, in at least one instance, even helped lure a soldier to his death in Manyu Division [in the South-West]," Mr Okereke said.

'Proud of Anglophone heritage'

The militias began to emerge in 2017 after a security force crackdown on mass protests, led by lawyers in wigs and teachers in suits, over the government's alleged failure to give enough recognition to the English legal and education systems in the North-West and South-West.
The government was accused of relying heavily on people trained in the French legal and educational tradition to work in key posts and generally marginalising Cameroon's English-speaking minority, who make up about 20% of the population.

After some groups declared independence on 1 October 2017, the government dismissed the armed groups as "terrorists", and state radio reported that Mr Biya "declared war" on them.
"People in these regions are proud of their Anglophone heritage - especially their legal and education institutions. So it was a campaign for greater political and civil rights, and the separatists were seen as very marginal. But the government intervened in a heavy-handed way and that stirred support for the militants," Francophone Africa analyst at the UK-based Chatham House think-tank, Paul Melly, told the BBC.
Locals say this happened in many areas, including the farming town of Bafut, where soldiers were accused of carrying out random attacks, even torching the motorcycle taxis of young men.

'Classic rural insurgency'

With their source of income destroyed, the taxi operators made the town a no-go area for the government by forming the Seven Karta militia - "karta" refers to a famous cloth worn by people in the area and "seven" to a group of men who, legend has it, were known for their strength during the colonial era.
Rights group Amnesty International said the militants have also committed atrocities.
Apart from killing members of the security forces, they have also carried out attacks "designed to strike fear amongst the population, going as far as burning down schools and targeting teachers who did not enforce the boycott", Amnesty

The International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank estimates that around 10 armed separatist groups exist, gaining control of a "significant proportion of rural areas and main roads" in the North-West and South-West regions.
"They are not operating under one broad front, but there is very likely to be co-ordination between political elements in exile," ICG Cameroon analyst Richard Moncrieff told the BBC.
"They are waging a classic rural insurgency. They don't control territory all the time. They move around. They use hit-and-run tactics against isolated units of the security forces or prestigious targets - like local chiefs, whom they kidnap," Mr Moncrieff told the BBC.
Mr Okereke said he believed that the Ambazonia Self-Defence Council (ASDC), which is also known as the Ambazonia Restoration Forces (ARF), is the largest armed group, incorporating smaller militias like the Seven Karta, the Red Dragons and the Tigers

But the monitoring group, Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (Acled), said on its website that the ADF is the most active militia.
The ADF launched operations in 2017 in the Manyu district in the South-West and Mezam in the North-West, before shifting its focus to six other districts, the monitoring group said.

African mythology

The ADF and other militia have clashed with government forces 83 times this year, compared with 13 times last year, Acled added.
"Many of the regions where Ambazonian separatists are newly active are in North-West Cameroon. This expansion does not necessarily suggest that any one militia that comprises the Ambazonian separatists is expanding its operations; the spread could be the result of new groups forming in the North-West," it said.

The armed separatists have also established a strong presence on social media, with the Red Dragons posting videos of its fighters, including women, in gumboots and uniforms in a bush, and showing what they say was the shooting down of a military helicopter.
Critics dismiss the videos as propaganda and say the group has suffered heavy setbacks at the hands of government forces.
The militias rely heavily on imagery of animals, as well as African mythology, to rally support.
"You must know a tiger to become a Tiger," the Tiger group said on its website.
"It is believed that some of the Tigers are the ghosts of dead ancestors who have risen from the grave to defend their people," it added.
The name Ambazonia comes from Ambas Bay, the area of a settlement of freed slaves which is regarded as the boundary between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon.

'Desertions from army'

A phrase often heard among the fighters as they appeal to their supporters, inside and outside the country, for funding is: "We need to buy sugar cane and ground nuts."
It is a euphemism - sugar cane refers to guns and ground nuts to bullets.

Many of the Amba Boys, as the separatist fighters are colloquially known, are armed with hunting rifles, though more sophisticated weapons, like Kalashnikovs, are said to have been seized from government forces while ammunition is being smuggled in from neighbouring Nigeria, according to some analysts.
More significantly, the ranks of the militias are also being swelled by some English-speaking deserters from the Cameroonian army, the ICG said.
"The security apparatus is under pressure, as evidenced by the proliferation of military desertions in the English-speaking area, some 20 of them even joined armed separatist groups," the ICG said.
Agreeing with the ICG, Mr Okereke said some government officials, including governors and mayors, fled their posts or failed to take up new appointments after the conflict started.
"Biya thought he could overrun the separatists, but the government is under immense pressure from them," he added.
Soldiers carry the coffins of the four soldiers killed in the violence that erupted in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon, where most of the country's English-speaking minority live, during a ceremony in Bamenda on November 17, 2017
About 175 Cameroonian soldiers and police officers have been killed during the insurgency, the ICG says                

'No serious dialogue'

While the army has been unable to defeat the separatists, they in turn are unable to win a military campaign, Mr Moncrieff said.
"They do not have sufficient international support and military strength to defeat the army," he added.

The conflict has, in the past year, claimed the lives of at least 420 civilians, 175 military and police officers, and hundreds of separatist fighters. More than 300,000 people have also been forced to flee their homes, according to the ICG.
Mr Melly said the conflict was mainly between the armed separatists and the government.
"This is not an inter-communal war between two nations who hate each other. People move back and forth all the time between the Anglophone and Francophone regions, and many of the people fleeing the conflict are going to Francophone areas. If there is political will, a solution can be found," he added.

              
For now, there is no sign of that. The armed separatists have vowed to enforce a boycott of Sunday's election, raising fears of attacks on polling stations and a low turn-out in mainly Anglophone areas.

Mr Biya is likely to win the poll, as he has "absolute control over the security forces, and the electoral body", Mr Moncrieff said.
The key question is whether he will offer an olive branch to the separatists after the poll.
"So far, his strategy has been to keep multiplying troops," Mr Moncrieff said.
"There has been no serious attempt to advance dialogue. He'll need to do that. The overwhelming majority of Anglophone Cameroonians have genuine grievances, and feel they are treated like second-class citizens."



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Anglophone Crisis: SW Governor Worried Over Mass Exodus

Governor Okalia Bilai(left) discouraging exodus
By Christopher Ambe


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

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