By Elvis Bichuh
Many English-speaking Cameroonians are now scared of returning home because of what is now known as the Anglophone crisis, which started in November 2016 with lawyers’ and teachers’ protests against perceived marginalization of minority Anglophones by the Majority Francophone-led Government.
Late last year many Anglophones abroad staged peaceful protests across several countries especially in USA, Britain, South Africa and Belgium to draw attention to the plight of English-speaking minority, who have, for decades, complained of their marginalization in development and appointments in the public service of Cameroon.
So angry were Anglophones to the extent that those abroad formed an Interim Government (IG) of Ambazonia, a putative country.
The IG led by Sisiku Julius Ayuk,a computer engineer, had on September 22,2017 mobilized mass protests of English-speaking Cameroonians across the globe to embarrass President Paul Biya who was addressing the UN General Assembly same day President Biya was actually giving his speech at the UN,the protest marches were going on simultaneously.
Undaunted, the IG pushed further by declaring on October1, 2017, the symbolic independence of Southern Cameroons, what today are the Northwest and Southwest Regions(the two English-speaking communities) of Cameroon.
The declaration of independence was followed by what was supposed to be peaceful demonstrations in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, but the protests rather turned violent, as there were bloody and deadly confrontations between government forces and the civilian populations. Several civilians were shot dead
Then on January 5, 2018 came the news of the abduction of Southern Cameroons leading separatists among whom, Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe, President of the Interim Government of of Ambazonia.
Their abduction reportedly by Nigerian state Security and detention in Nigeria instead provoked more protests by pro- Anglophone activists, and attracted condemnation from international rights protection organizations.
At the moment in Cameroon, there are clashes between Government forces and ‘Ambazonian militia in several communities in Anglophone Cameroon, further fueled by the controversial deportation last January 29 of the arrested Ambazonia ministers to Cameroon. The Cameroon government confirmed the activists were now in judicial custody and considers many Anglophones abroad are discreetly or publicly backing the call for a divided Cameroon.
The continued fighting between the Ambazonia fighters and government forces has caused not only the deaths of both civilians and soldiers in their numbers, but has forced many civilians to flee to safer localities and to neighboring Nigeria.
According to the UNHCR, thousands of English-speaking Cameroonians are now in Nigeria for asylum; many others have been internally displaced.
Stories abound of Anglophone Cameroonians in the Diaspora who have visited Cameroon during this crisis passing through difficulty and torturing moments.
|Franklin Forbinake Aroke|
Consider the case of Franklin Forbinake Aroke, now a fleeing SCNC activist, who had suffered in the hands of security agents in Buea, capital of Southwest Region of Cameroon, which town is also claimed by Anglophone activists to be the headquarters of Ambazonia.
The activist told this reporter in a telephone chat, how he has gone through hell but vowed: “We shall continue fighting for the independence of Southern Cameroons aka Ambazonia no matter the torture inflicted on us and no matter where we find ourselves until self-determination is ours”
Now an ex-student of NASPW Buea, Forbinake Aroke is said to have encouraged minority rights activism while as a student, thus having problems with the local administration.
He travelled abroad in 2017 ,but returned to Cameroon early January this year and on January 13 he was confronted by police in Fako over videos of Ambazonia’ protests discovered in his android phone.
“I must thank God that I was smuggled out of detention. I see this as a miracle especially as many others are languishing in jail” he said. “Now that I am out of danger, I can only keep thanking God. My family does not yet know my whereabouts”
The SCNC, together with the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society consortium(CACSC), was outlawed in Cameroon by the Minister of Territorial Administration on January 17,2017,on grounds that it was instigating calls for the independence of Southern Cameroons even when President Paul Biya has been insisting that Cameroon is “one and indivisible”
With the ban on SCNC and similar groups their supporters are at risk of being molested, tortured and prosecuted in Cameroon, especially as the Anglophone crisis persists.