Monday, June 11, 2018

Cameroon: How the Diaspora Fuels the Anglophone Crisis

By Mbemba Fritz                                           

Back in Cameroon, Anglophone activists live in fear, facing: harassment, detentions, persecution and prosecution; but those in the Diaspora freely and courageously advocate the restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons.
      With the help of social media, Anglophone rights campaigners have successfully sensitized the world on the plight of Anglophones in Cameroon, fuelling the crisis.  Pundits are agreed that, it is high time-and morally and legally right- to correct the “errors” of the past, with the United Nations assuming its full responsibility.
Anglophone Refugees in Nigeria /Ayah foundation
Some Anglophones while still in Cameroon discreetly  develop interest in the struggle for the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons for fear of repression, but once they travel out of the country they become frontline campaigners for self-determination. Consider this telling example: Carl Wolonge Nganje is an Anglophone born in April 1983 in the oil-rich Ndian Division of Cameroon. He was aware of growing complaints of marginalization of minority Anglophones by the dominant majority Francophone leadership; but he cautiously maintained sealed lips, instead of speaking out against the perceived injustices like others did.
     But Carl recently became a frontline SCNC activist having traveled to the USA.
 He enrolled as a Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) member in 2014 while in the USA, and having been sufficiently briefed on the true picture of the controversial union of Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun, a disappointed Carl told himself,” Enough is enough” and that is how he has since become very active in propagating the goal of SCNC, created in 1994 to speed up the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons. Carl is reported to have   even created a group known as Cameroon Solidarity Group in 2015 in Oklahoma, which runs a blog that exposes Human Rights abuses on Anglophones by the Cameroon government.
     But such reports on his blog have resulted in apologists of the Biya regime anonymously threatening his life against   returning to Cameroon.
 Reports say his family back home is also facing similar threats.
Carl, who had travelled to the US in 2011, got married there, divorced and remarried. But in January 2016 he was allegedly warned by the US Immigration about his possible deportation because of a job application irregularity concerning him.
      To play safe, Carl in February 2017 would be taken by one friend to Canada where he now resides and continues his scnc activism.
Now because of the escalating crisis in Cameroon, if you tell him to return to Cameroon he would liken you to his enemy who wants him dead.
     He not only fears for his life but for his relations, for sometimes, police molest relations of activists too.
    The SCNC, which since creation, has been putting pressure on the Cameroon government to grant the independence of Anglophones, was banned on January 17,2017 in the wake of  renewed protests by Anglophones  seeking self-rule.
      Signed by the then Minister of Territorial Administration, Rene Sadi, the Government’s banning order of the SCNC partly states: “The groups Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) and the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) are declared null and void for their purpose and activities, which are contrary to the Constitution and liable to jeopardize the security of the state, territorial integrity, national unity and national integration.”
    Following the ban, leaders of the Consortium such as Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho(President) and Dr.Fontem Neba(Secretary-General) were arrested. Even an outspoken judge on the Anglophone plight, Justice Ayah Paul, then Advocate-General at Cameroon Supreme Court, was also arrested and jailed.
Many other activists have been prosecuted and sent to prison.
     Armed clashes between government forces and separatists have this far had  negative effects, which include the burning of houses, killings, kidnappings, molestation of families, torture of suspects, arrests, detentions, growing number of refugees and internally displaced people .
      According to UNHCR, over 30 thousand Anglophones have fled to neighboring Nigeria as refugees; hundreds of others have fled to other countries for safety.
      Concerned about  the crisis,the US Ambassador to Cameroon, Peter Henry Barlerin, last may 18, in a press statement accused the Government of ”targeted killings, detentions without access to legal support, family or the Red Cross and burning and looting of villages
     Barlerin also blamed Separatists for “murders of gendarmes, kidnappings of government officials and burning of schools”
Ex-President of Pan-African Lawyers Unon, Lawyer Akere Muna in a letter dated May 14, 2018 and addressed to the UN Secretary-General titled” Urgent Humanitarian Crisis in Cameroon”, accused the Cameroon Government of Collective Punishment.
      “Collective punishment has been the government’s preferred solution to the crisis”, he wrote, noting that: “A high-ranking General of the Army admitted that the burnings of villages were by the army who had no mastery of the terrain and had difficulties locating the perpetrators of the killing of soldiers.”
      Muna cited the 4th Geneva Convention to which Cameroon is a state-party:” Collective punishment is a form of retaliation whereby a suspected perpetrator’s family members, friends, acquaintances, sect, neighbors or entire ethnic group is targeted”
      Sisiku Julius Tabe, president of Ambazonia and his cabinet members were recently arrested in Nigeria and are detained incommunicado without access to their lawyers and families in Cameroon, as the crisis worsens.

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