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Elimu, Swahili for “imparting knowledge, skill, and judgment,” is the handle for the alternative education project of the Ambazonia grassroots media project the Southern Cameroons Broadcasting Corporation TV (SCBC TV). SCBC TV was born out of the 2017 Cameroon government imposed internet blackout in the occupied territories of Ambazonia also known as the Southern Cameroons.

To start with, SCBC supports without reservation the General Strike (Ghost town action) of the peoples of Ambazonia both as an Ambazonian grassroots movement project but also because the General Strike in itself is a legitimate form of nonviolent resistance.  Thus we would like to categorically state from the getgo that Project Elimu while hoping to help our children learn from home, is NOT in anyway intended to nor will it in anyway undermine the ongoing General Strike.  It is out of our awareness of the importance of education in building a strong foundation for the life of every child, that Project Elimu is being put in place to help our children learn from home in the wake of Cameroon’s refusal to sign the Safe School Declaration, and Cameroon’s sustained attacks on our children and youth in and out of schools. We are hoping project ELIMU will also reduced chances of contact with solders, which has too often than needed turned deadly causing enormous heartache for several Ambazonian families and communities.

We equally look forward to fill the education gaps inherent in the substandard educational system that the neocolonial regime has been so determined to impose on our communities.

SCBC Background

Ambazonia is an English-speaking territory located between Cameroon and Nigeria in West Africa. Ambazonia has been under military occupation by the French neo-colonial regime in Cameroon since an ill-fated UN plebiscite on a confederacy between the two countries in 1961. Immediately before that, Ambazonia had been a UN Trust Territory under British administration— which is why the region’s primary colonial language is English, in contrast to Cameroon in which the primary colonial language is French.

For years there have been waves of protest over the second-class status that is forced on the people of Ambazonia. Despite agreement that Ambazonians get to keep their language and autonomous institutions, Cameroon has systematically eliminated these structures over the years. In the fall of 2016, protests erupted across the territory once more, this time in response to a strike by legal workers called to defend the Ambazonian common law–based judicial system. Though British colonial control was hurtful to Ambazonia in many ways, set in historical context, it was by far the lesser of the evils and left a legacy of respect for a personal-liberties based legal system that has been utilized by legal workers to protect the dignity of the people.

In response to this mass nonviolent demonstration of popular sentiment, the Cameroon military used excessive and unnecessary force to silence the protests. They used helicopter gunships to shoot live ammunition at demonstrations, they chased down and executed hundreds of unarmed protesters, and they detained more than a thousand summarily and without charge. In direct response to these atrocities, for the first time in the history of our struggle, some fractions have chosen to defend their communities with force.

To prevent the people from communicating and reporting these crimes to the outside world, the Cameroon regime cut internet access to the entire territory. In response, community media makers at home and in the diaspora came together to create SCBC TV, which broadcasts remotely from around the world to communities in the occupied territories of Ambazonia––the first community-owned and operated TV station in Africa with global reach.

SCBC TV has been the most prominent tool for mobilizing nonviolent resistance in the occupied territories in this violence-filled time.

Unfortunately, it is clear that the ongoing violence will prevent Ambazonian children from returning to school for the September 2018 academic year. It was in this light that SCBC TV decided to launch an alternative Education TV School which will air lessons into Ambazonian communities under military occupation.

Project ELIMU

September 2018 will be the start of the second academic year in which children in our communities will not be able to go to class as usual because of a conflict that escalated in 2016. To mitigate the damage being done to their education during this time of conflict and the importance of education to the future of our children and society, SCBC decided to start a TV School to provide Ambazonian children the opportunity to learn from home.

The mission of Project ELIMU is to provide a free, world-class education to every child in conflict zones where regular classes are not possible.  We are committed to ensuring that children in conflict zones, starting with Ambazonia can learn from wherever they find themselves just by having access to a TV set and a cellphone. In the medium term, we are looking to extend the program to children in bushes and refugee camps through Project Elimu Learning Centers (PELC).

The Tagline of the Project is: Each One Teach One, making learning a community commitment.

Project Background

The history of TV in the classroom in the US goes as far back as the 1950s. There is a wealth of literature and well-developed sample curricula for TV school projects. That work was further developed by the homeschooling movement of the last 30 years.

We look to build on that research, the developments in the alternative education community including online schools, lectures, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), M-learning, and others to provide our children with high-quality education along with certificates from international accreditation institutions to go with it.

Project ELIMU material is packaged to maximize learning via TV School and optimize learners feedback mostly via cellphone.

Standardized Testing

Project ELIMU is looking to use a multitude of tests based primarily from the best international accreditation and certification institutions. That way when our students following the program they can take the appropriate test for them. We will elaborate on the tests and certification in another document. Project ELIMU will be making an effort to fundraising to cover the cost of some of these international certification tests.

Project Elimu Learning Centers (PELC)

Project Elimu also understands that there are now over 400,000 displaced Ambazonians hiding in bushes and over 60,000 who have sort refuge in Nigeria. For this reason, the project will also include the following elements:

  • Making same study materials readily available online in downloadable format in an app developed by the team called Udemia (https://wudemia.com/). This will enable people to learn from any smartphone or download the material and share with children in other accessible ways on the ground as part of the efforts to reach who might not have access to TV.
  • The project team intends to deploy learning centers across all refugee centers in neighboring Nigeria where all those of school age can also take time to study in the center’s ones they are set up.
  • The team continues engagement with various alternative educators around the world in a bit to continue the research process to make the alternative education not only accessible but worth it for the children who can access it.

To Volunteer, Contact or support the Project Team:

Write to The SCBC Education foundation

Project Elimu Team

Contact by email:  projectelimu@scbctv.com

 

 

The Biya-Kamto Impending Electoral Dispute

By Oswald Tebit
12 Oct 2018

With the US State Department stating that
“Any disputes should be resolved peacefully and through established legal channels”.

Which are those legal channels? The courts. Who appoints the Judges of the courts? Paul Biya, who is a player and referee in the electoral process.

Whether Kamto and Akere are lawyers is inconsequential.
Ask the SDF how many electoral cases & disputes they have filed since 1992. (Barristers, Kofele Kale, Ben Muna, Mbah Ndam etc).
I know many people will jump to say oh we are in 2018, it’s the android generation. And so what.
Will an android phone determine a case in court.

The 07th Oct 2018 Presidential Elections on Sunday was a ceremony. In fact a CPDM Ritual.
The reason why Ambazonian Strategist took the strategic move to ban the elections in Ambazonia.

The US State Department is requesting for all parties to follow due process.
And who has the institutions of due process in their favor – Paul Biya & CPDM.
Therefore being a lawyer is inconsequential if the courts and Judiciary are not independent.

I have said here time and again that electoral political transition in Africa through the ballot box is only possible through the following;

1) The establishment of an Independent Electoral Commission (Jerry Rawlings of Ghana and Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria both establish Independent Electoral Commissions that led to their respective ruling parties defeat).

2) The goodwill and faith of the incumbent to concede defeat (Abdul Diouf of Senegal conceded defeat to Abdulaye Wade).

Case Precedence – Electoral Disputes in Africa

Camerroon Presidential Elections 1992
Paul Biya was declared winner.
John Fru Ndi was declared runner-up and placed under house arrest for 3 months. Paul Biya went on to govern without any serious threat from the SDF.

The 2003 Nigerian Elections
The results of the elections which were contested saw Olusegun Obasanjo won a second term.
The Nigerian Army was deployed to quell violence in several parts of the country.
Obasanjo went on to complete his second term of office.

The 2007 Kenyan Presidential Elections.
The results of these elections were contested by Raila Odinga who had 44% of the votes while Mwai Kibaki who won with 46% went on to be sworn President a few hours after the declaration of results due to the violence that erupted proceeding the declaration of the results.
The violence led to the death of over 1000 civilians in clashes with the Kenyan police.

The AU, EU & US intervened to negotiate a Government of National Unity which saw Raila Odinga become Prime Minister.
While Mwai Kibaki went on to complete his term of office.

The 2008 Zimbabwean Presidential Elections
The opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai won with 47% but short of the majority required with Robert Mugabe coming second with 43%.
Tsvangirai pulled out of the second round on grounds of violence against his supporters.
Mugabe went on to win. However, the tensions that proceeded the elections led to the negotiations of a Government of National Unity in which Tsvangirai became Prime Minister.
Mugabe went on to complete his term of office.

The Current LRC Presidential Elections.

With the votes being counted, Maurice Kamto, the candidate of the MRC party has declared himself the winner.
This has led to tensions as to what will happen if he is not declared the winner on or by 22nd Oct when the Constitutional Council will declare the results.

Going by electoral disputes precedence in Africa, it is likely that Paul Biya will be declared the winner, as ELECAM is not independent.
This is likely to trigger violent protest in some of the strongholds of Kamto’s MRC party.

Going by past precedent, the Cameroon security forces will use brute force to quell these protest.

There is the likely hood, Paul Biya will succeed in crushing any protest and maintaining himself in power.

Unwilling to concede defeat in case of victory by Kamto, Biya will be sworn in as President for the 7th term.

Just like in past elections, the international community may criticize the elections but will fall short of requesting Biya to step down.

The international community will only request Biya to step down if Cameroon threatens to tear apart.

The Kamto campaign has a huge challenge in overcoming the various institutions in Cameroon that hold sway to the results of the elections.

What options are therefore left for Kamto? Would he follow up on his statement to fight till the end?
How will he fight? Would he follow due process to challenge the results in court or Would he consider an armed struggle?

Only time will tell.

As Cameroon heads to elections, experts warn of the fallout from an ongoing separatist crisis in the Anglophone regions.

by Eromo Egbejule

WHAT IS THE ANGLOPHONE CRISIS?

  • Bilingual Cameroon, a union of two parts colonised separately by the British and the French, has long had a fragile harmony.
  • In 2016, the fissures grew larger as the Anglophone minority, protesting the imposition of French systems in the courts and schools were attacked, triggering a war between the government and separatists.

Yaounde, Cameroon – Last October, Fred Assam watched from his hiding place as government soldiers spoon-fed acid to the village chief’s son.

The 24-year-old knew it was time to flee his homeland.

He escaped his village of Mbenyan in southwest Cameroon with a small bag of clothes, abandoning the life he knew behind to the safety of neighbouring Nigeria.

“The soldiers were shooting everyone they saw,” he says from Agbokim, in southern Nigeria. “They killed so many young people in Mbenyan and other villages across the Anglophone regions.”

Assam is one of over 30,000 Cameroonians – including his parents with whom he reunited three months ago – from the English-speaking northwest and southwest regions of the country who now live in refugee camps and settlements in southern Nigeria.

Discrepancies between the French and English academic, legal and administrative systems which have always existed concurrently, as well as cries of political and economic marginalisation, crystallised into a series of protests and riots in 2016.

That soon turned bloody as the government, in a bid to quell dissent, first ordered a three-month internet shutdown and deployed soldiers.

In January, separatists including Julius Tabe, the leader of the interim government of “Ambazonia” – the self-declared state consisting of the Anglophone regions – were arrested in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, on charges of terrorism.

Back in Cameroon, young untrained fighters are embroiled in a battle with government soldiers, countering sophisticated weaponry with homemade guns, machetes and charms called “odeshi” to make them invisible and invincible.

Trapped in the middle of all this are the estimated 17 million Anglophone Cameroonians who form roughly one-fifth of the population.

I was detained alongside suspected Boko Haram insurgents. There was this lady who was only released recently – she gave birth to her baby in prison.

AGBOR NKONGHO, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY IN AFRICA

Local groups say the number of people displaced from both regions has doubled to around 200,000 people over the last month and there are about 50,000 refugees in Nigeria.

The International Crisis Group, which says the international reaction has been muted, estimates that at least 2,000 people have died in the conflict, with another 170,000 displaced.

An unknown number of people are also sleeping in open forests in the absence of formal camps. There is a shortage of toilets and proper hygienic conditions for menstruating girls and women in the informal host communities.

Still, the country is pressing on towards an election on Sunday, as incumbent President Paul Biya seeks a seventh term in office.

Meanwhile, the government is headstrong about hosting a continental football competition next January despite the Anglophone crisis.

Observers and civil society leaders are worried about the government’s preoccupation with holding the elections and believe it is an attempt to paper over the cracks and present a united front to the international community.

“The reason I’m not contesting in this election is because of the current security situation,” says Kah Wallah, leader of the Cameroon People’s Party (CPP) which is not presenting a presidential candidate.

“You have people sleeping in the open forests. There is conflict in six of the 10 regions in Cameroon. There is intense conflict in the northwest and southwest, then in the Far North [Region], you have about 300,000 people displaced by Boko Haram.

“In the East [Region], there is a spillover from the insecurity in Central African Republic. In Adamawa and the North [Region], there is spillover of the crisis in the East and Far North. There were over 71 kidnappings in Adamawa last year alone. I can’t contest an election with all this happening.”

Along with the secessionists are innocent citizens who have been arrested, detained and in the cases of some jailed for 15-year sentences or longer, on trumped-up charges of terrorism, says Agbor Nkongho, director of Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) in Buea.

Nkongho himself was detained for eight months last year at the Kondengui prison in Yaounde and his trial was adjourned six times before a military tribunal acquitted him last August.

“I was detained alongside suspected Boko Haram insurgents,” he says. “There was this lady who was only released recently – she gave birth to her baby in prison.”

Mental health concerns

Beyond the detentions and displacements, there are concerns about the lingering trauma that could significantly hamper the healing and reintegration process for survivors.

Widows who have lost their spouses to flying bullets, children separated from their parents and citizens who have lost their incomes could have no life to return to.

For secessionist fighters, the option of an amnesty programme and “de-radicalisation” therapies are not on the table, as the government has reportedly backed a shoot-at-sight order with them as the targets.

“Election is overshadowing the crisis especially in the Francophone regions,” concurs Nkongho. “It is a non-issue in the south given the threat by the Ambazonia boys … We’ve not seen any plans to properly take care of the displaced people and the government is not admitting that there are refugees outside the country.”

Many are going through some torture, losing properties and going through serious psychological distress. They don’t know what will happen because things are so unpredictable. Parents watching their children get killed and children watching their parents murdered.

DR ERIC GOLA, MENTAL HEALTH SPECIALIST

The government’s humanitarian response has been underwhelming, say civil society leaders who point out that its relief programme factored in just 160,000 people, a number likely picked up from a UNOCHA report released earlier this year. The plan does not also address the urgent need for psychosocial support for the displaced population.

“The plan didn’t acknowledge refugees and so made no provision for those in Nigeria,” says Nkongho.

“Also, those who were to manage it are some of those seen as the enemy by the displaced and have no moral authority to implement things and distribute relief. We asked them to include civil society and the clergy who are neutral, but this wasn’t done. It has failed and it’s just a political scheme to show that President Biya cares.”

The CHRDA, which already provides legal aid and relief items to the vulnerable, is in discussions to get immediate psychological help for all those affected by the conflict.

Local churches are also gradually stepping in to fill the void by organizing small-scale trauma healing workshops, but there are few seasoned professionals to join in the process.

Abuse of substances like cannabis and tramadol is also common across both regions, warns Dr Eric Gola, a mental health specialist in Kumbo, in the northwest region.

Since the conflict began in 2016, he has been working with Berikids, one of the few rehabilitation centres nationwide.

“Many are going through some torture, losing properties and going through serious psychological distress. They don’t know what will happen because things are so unpredictable. Parents watching their children get killed and children watching their parents murdered. Soldiers raping.

“The Ambazonia boys are now taking up arms and getting involved in substance abuse to get courage to fight since they are untrained. It is affecting them mentally and rehabilitation centres will face a deluge in the post-war future because most families will have serious psychiatric cases because of the trauma of war.”

Gola was contacted a few months ago by some Catholic priests who wanted to establish centres for managing psychosocial disorders and post-traumatic stress conditions pending the outcome of the conflict. It’s a drive that he wishes the government had.

“The president declared war on Southern Cameroons,” he laments. “He has the yam and the knife to stop the war, release those in detention in connection to the crisis, demilitarise both regions and organise a dialogue with all parties concerned.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

• New video shows gendarme’s decapitated head
• 160 members of security forces killed by armed separatists 
• More than 260 security incidents perpetrated by both the armed separatists and security forces in 2018

The brutal attacks against ordinary people and security forces are further proof of the horrific escalation of violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, Amnesty International said today.

The organization’s forensic experts have authenticated two videos which were received late last week. In the first video, an individual identifies himself as being a member of the armed separatist’s group “Ambazonia Liberation Forces”. The same video shows images of a gendarme’s decapitated head.

In the second video, which is believed to be a continuation of the first clip, a voice can be heard saying that the armed separatists had taken the gendarme’s rifle, which Amnesty International identified as an AK Chinese Type 56, a model that is ubiquitous in the region.

The situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon is becoming increasingly desperate with no one spared from the violence which is spiralling out of control

Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa

“The situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon is becoming increasingly desperate with no one spared from the violence which is spiralling out of control,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

According to Amnesty International’s forensic experts, the gendarme had bruises on his head, which was laid on a blood-soaked white cloth with what could be his genitalia placed nearby.

Amnesty International is not yet in a position to independently confirm the exact location of where the videos were shot, but analysis suggests it might be in the area of Belo, in the North West region which has been badly affected by the crisis. Belo is also close to Njinikom, a town and commune in the North West Region of Cameroon, where the armed separatist’s group “Ambazonia Liberation Forces” is known to operate.

“By also attacking and kidnapping students and teachers, we have reasons to believe many other lives of ordinary people are now at risk with the violence carried out by some members of the armed separatists groups. This must immediately stop,” said Samira Daoud.

400 ordinary people killed

As a result of the violence in the Anglophone regions, up to 400 ordinary people have been killed since a year by both the security forces and the armed separatists.

Amnesty International has also recorded more than 260 security incidents since the beginning of the year, ranging from clashes between armed separatists and security forces, kidnappings of members of the general population and the killing of security forces by armed separatists. The incidents also include unlawful killings by the security forces and the destruction of private properties by both sides.

“Perpetrators from both sides who have attacked and killed people or destroyed their properties must not continue to walk free. The authorities in Cameroon must commit to urgently, promptly, independently and effectively investigating these crimes,” said Samira Daoud.

Since the start of the crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions in late 2016, Amnesty International has documented the deaths of more than 160 members of the security forces at the hands of armed separatists. However, the death toll could be much higher as attacks go underreported.

On 3 September, in the town of Bafut in the North West region, armed separatists kidnapped seven students and the head of the Presbyterian Comprehensive Secondary School (PCSS), who was tortured and seriously injured while in captivity. The hostages were released in the following days and the head of the school was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Also around 10 September, armed separatists attacked the positions of soldiers stationed near the well-known St. Joseph’s College Sasse in the town of Buea, causing an intense exchange of fire between them and the security forces. People living around told Amnesty International that they have heard heavy gunfire for a few hours on the night of the incident.

Violence will only fuel further incidents, crimes and untold suffering. The government must act immediately against this in an attempt to restore peace in the Anglophone regions

Samira Daoud

“With the upcoming elections in Cameroon, we have reason to fear a further upsurge in violence. We may well see an escalation in the number of security incidents and increased activity by armed separatists threatening to disrupt the electoral process at all costs in the Anglophone regions,” said Samira Daoud

“Violence will only fuel further incidents, crimes and untold suffering. The government must act immediately against this in an attempt to restore peace in the Anglophone regions.”

Background

In its June 2018 briefing, A turn for the worse: Violence and human rights violations in Anglophone Cameroon, Amnesty International highlighted a series of acts of violence committed by armed separatists in the two Anglophone regions. The document featured cases of ordinary people, including teachers and traditional chiefs, who were assaulted and abducted by armed separatists.

The June briefing also documented how security forces have burnt down villages, indiscriminately killed, arrested and tortured dozens of people during military operations which have displaced thousands of civilians both within the Anglophone regions and in Nigeria.

Author: Samira Daoud

Source: Amnesty International

Before Anglophone teachers and lawyers went on strike, before several mass protests in major English-speaking towns, before the Cameroonian government started arresting and imprisoning protesters,  Nti was a farmer and waterside worker helping boat drivers offload their bags of cocoa and other goods.

After several attempt to get into the police, army and customs, Nti felt he had no chance of landing a job in his village near the city of Mamfé in Cameroon’s southwest region. His elder brother who had a degree also had difficulties getting a job.

Many young men in the English-speaking regions like Nti have similar stories of struggle and frustration. Today, both 22-year-old Nti and his brother have joined thousands of other separatists fighters caught up in a deadly wave of violence with government security forces since November last year.

As of May this year, the crisis has displaced at least 180, 000 people, including more than 21,000 who fled to Nigeria. Nigerian emergency officials and NGOs estimate that the number might be as high as 50, 000.

What started as a strike by lawyers and teachers in late 2016 to protest the use of French in courts and schools in Cameroon’s English-speaking northwest and south-west regions has morphed into a vicious crisis.  At least one person was shot dead on the first day of the protests in November 2016. Then  on 1 October, 2017 when the new state of Ambazonia was declared by separatists, Amnesty International say at least 17 people were killed during demonstrations.  And in November 2016, security forces arrested some 100 people in the city of Bamenda and many people treated with bullet wounds in hospital in the city of Bamenda, capital of the northwest region.

“We only started peaceful demonstrations, but the government started jailing us every day and becoming violent,” says Michael, a fighter with one of the rebel groups.

“This is something that could be settled with dialogue, yet the troops chose to use force against us. It was never a gateway for peace because boys will raise to fight back.”

Michael’s younger brother was arrested and is still in jail following the declaration of the independence for the new state called “Ambazonia” by separatist in October last year.

Nti, 22, says most young men join self-defence separatist groups out of frustration.

Nti, 22, says most young men join self-defence separatist groups out of frustration. (Linus Unah/TRTWorld)

Cameroon has a population of about 24 million people, some 20 percent are Anglophones. The country is divided into ten administrative, semi-autonomous regions of which two are predominantly English-speaking regions.  Majority of the population in the Anglophone regions often complain of lack of job opportunities, economic development and the predominance of French and French-speaking  people in official documents, and public offices.

The journey towards an insurgency

Though long-standing grievances resulting from a deep-seated feeling of discrimination have often pervaded the Anglophone community as far back as the 1980s, calls for either greater autonomy or secession have grown louder and more ferocious since late 2016.

The roots of the conflict run deeper.

Three years after British and French troops sent Germans away from Cameroon in 1919, the country’s 80 percent was administered by the French and 20 percent by the British. The British administrative zones were further divided into Northern and Southern Cameroons.

After French Cameroon gained independence in 1960 to become the Republic of Cameroon, the UN sponsored a plebiscite that allowed the British territories to either join Nigeria or French Cameroon. British-administered Northern Cameroon joined Nigeria, but the Southern Cameroons — now splintered into present-day northwest and southwest regions – joined French Cameroon to form the newfangled Federal Republic of Cameroon in 1961.

But the lure of federalism was stifled by a constitutional referendum that, in 1972, saw Cameroon change to a unitary state to become the United Republic of Cameroon. This disillusionment was further compounded by current president Paul Biya, who, after coming into power in 1982, changed the name of the country to the Republic of Cameroon. Mr Biya, who is now 85, announced that he will run for re-election next month. Currently, only three out of 33 Cameroonian generals and six of the 63-person cabinet members are Anglophones.

 ‘Joining the struggle’

Nti, the separatist guerilla,  spends most of his time in camps tucked away in the forest, while trekking for several days and clambering mountains as his group takes on the army. When he joined the separatist fighters in October last year, his parents protested and his mother would occasionally quarrel and harangue him whenever he came home for a short visit. But now, he says, they are used to his being fighter and only pray for him.

Nti belongs to the Ambazonia Defence Forces, which is fighting government-backed security forces alongside a slew of other self-defense groups such as Ambazonia Restoration Army, The Tigers of Ambazonia, and Southern Cameroons Defense Forces, most of whom are under the aegis of the Ambazonia Self-Defence Council.

“What do you want us to do?” he asks, adding: “We cannot sit back and watch the army kill our families and relatives and burn down our villages without reacting; so I joined the struggle out of annoyance.” Nti’s eyes rolls around almost like a predator in search of prey. He takes several seconds and sometimes minutes to reflect before he talks.

After using satellite imagery to evaluate 131 villages, Human Rights Watch said in a report in June that “several hundred homes showing signs of destruction consistent with arson in 20 villages of the South-West region alone.” The report further maintained that testimonies from villagers showed that security officials were responsible for the burnings.

Cameroonian refugees in Agbokim Waterfall village wait outside a centre to receive assistance.

Cameroonian refugees in Agbokim Waterfall village wait outside a centre to receive assistance. (Linus Unah/TRTWorld)

At one of the banks of several rivers flowing through the border area in Nigeria’s southeast, John bantered with his friends. Their talk segued from was a farmer and owner of a roadside petrol stall before the crisis uprooted people from their villages and turned boisterous towns into ghost towns. He said he “joined the struggle” because Cameroon is “designed to favour French people over us.”

John, 24, said he tried taking entrance examinations (widely known as concours) into the police. He says he spent more than $400 in getting required documents, buying physical stamps, and paying officials who promised to help him in the north-western Cameroon city of Bamenda.

But, in the end, nothing came of it.

“I watched as all the money I laboured to save from my hustle went down in vain,” he says, his eyes welling up with tears. “Then when the crisis started, I just knew I was going to join the fighters because we were getting frustrated and cheated by the [Francophone] every day.”

Most fighters TRT World interviewed often call the battle with Cameroonian soldiers a struggle, so it is common to hear them say “I joined the struggle”.

“It is a struggle to better our lives and free our land from the French Cameroon who have been marginalizing us for many decades,” 26-years-old Michael, who is with the Ambazonia Defence Forces, explains. “When somebody comes to your house, kills your mum, kills your dad, kills your sister, what will you do?”

Before joining the ranks of fighters, Michael, who has a General Certificate of Education Advanced Level, has written at least ten concours for the army, police, gendarme, the Battalion d’Intervention Rapide (an elite combat unit of the Cameroonian army), customs, health personnel training institution, and more.

“When you put all these things together you can see why it is easy to become frustrated,” he  says.

Both sides have been accused of grave human rights violations. In June, Amnesty International released a report which found that security forces carried out arbitrary arrests, torture, unlawful killings, and destruction of property, including burning down villages in Anglophone regions.

The report, which is based on interviews with over 150 victims and eye-witnesses as well as satellite images, documents how armed separatists killed security forces and attacked some 42 schools between February 2017 and May 2018 for not participating in a boycott of schools in the Anglophone regions. Rebel fighters have also been accused of kidnapping and attacking civilians.

“Their heavy-handed response will do nothing to calm the violence – in fact it is likely to further alienate Anglophone communities and fuel further unrest,” Samira Daoud, Amnesty International Deputy Director for West and Central Africa, says of the military crackdown.

 Though 22, Nti’s furrowed forehead and calloused hands tell of his sojourn in the forest, sleeping in tarpaulin-covered camps with a cook and TV to help them keep abreast of happenings around them. After recruitment, fresh fighters received rapid series of trainings in kickboxing, handling guns and explosives, among others.

Nti uses a dane gun, and he says most fighter use this old-fashioned rifled musket and some use handguns and locally-manufactured hunting rifles.

But since the Cameroonian soldiers are not only well trained but also heavily armed with assault weapons, separatist fighters know better than to go to battle without any form of magic or protection.  Locally known as the Amba-boys or Amba warriors, separatist fighters also  wear amulets and necklaces for protection. This magic – which is known as Odeshi – is usually prepared by local medicine men and helps  separatist fighters stave off  bullets from the army.

“We all have Odeshi [charm],” Nti tells TRT World, as he ambles to a nearby thick undergrowth. He pluck a stem from a grass and boldly declares: “This is one of the leaves we use in preparing the Odeshi.”

Despite the use of Odeshi, some of the fighters who spoke to TRT World still have reverence for God. “Every morning when we wake we pray before we sing the Ambazonia national anthem,” Nti reveals.

“We even have a pastor in our camp. The government has declared, so we must use everything we have to fight back and save our people from oppression.

Author: LINUS UNAH

Source: trtworld

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