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World democracies, global organizations and the world’s biggest media outlets have either maintained criminal silence or opted for a shockingly high level of hypocrisy on the 36-year-old tyranny of Paul Biya, 85, in the Cameroons.

For instance, whereas the West has chased leaders of Biya’s ilk from power under similar conditions in Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, The Gambia and Zimbabwe, excuses are made to roll out the carpet for Biya.

On November 6, the 36th anniversary of Biya’s first inauguration as president in November 1982, the ruthless dictator was sworn in for yet another seven-year term. Biya’s longevity in power would have been impossible without the West, notably France, looking the other way.

Often seen, on account of its unpopularity, as being on political life support, Biya’s regime has survived on the back of brutish repression, state terrorism, constitutional coups, massive vote rigging and election hold-ups.

Biya is the civilian façade of a clan-based de facto military regime. It thrives on divide-and-rule and fuelling the many fractious factions of the opposition.

It is a regime that pays lip service to majority rule but survives on minority rule through its rejection of election run-offs.

It dismisses remedies that could be offered by vote recounts.

It professes faith in the infallibility of decisions handed down by Biya’s hand-picked Constitutional Council, the supreme authority on the bankrupt electoral system that the regime counts on to cling on to power.

But, if you arrived on earth today from Mars, you would be forgiven for concluding – based on global media coverage of the Cameroons recently- that the most important challenge facing this two-in-one failing or failed nation founded in 1961 is the kidnapping of 81 students and their teachers. It is not.

Yet, it is the only story that every single one of the world’s leading wire services (AP, Reuters, AFP, etc.) and broadcast outlets (CNN, BBC, VOA, RFI, DW, etc.) have bothered to cover extensively.

They have done so despite the shallow nature of the facts and holes in the story.

When the dust settles, world media may be able to admit that the Biya regime played political Drama Queen on this incident, leading the world and world media by the nose.

In a hurry to have the scoop on a story that they sensed has global appeal and front-page staying power, reporters created a storm in a teacup.

Their reporting embarrassed audiences around the globe with poorly sourced, hardly fact-checked, wildly distorted, misleading and inaccurate accounts of the kidnappings.

Western capitals took the bait, expressing concern and calling for the immediate release and safe return of the kidnapped students.

None expressed concern over why an officer of Cameroon’s army was unmasked in photos as the lead kidnapper.

Acting urgently, as Western capitals did is understandable.

There is, indeed, no higher priority than to seek resolution of a crisis.

However, on these kidnappings and even before all the details are known, one thing is clear.

The kidnapping of the 81 students and teachers looks increasingly like a sadistic prank by the Biya regime.

It was aimed, ostensibly, at reenacting the April 2014 kidnapping by Boko Haram Islamic extremists of 276 Chibok Girls in Nigeria’s Borno State.

It is the kind of fabrication the regime has been desperate to find to mobilize world support for listing the pro-independence campaign as a terrorist movement.

It is the kind of crisis every tyrant prays for when they need to divert world attention from real challenges.

Like a deer in the headlights, Western powers and Western media houses are caught in the regime’s self-incriminating web of lies, endless political spin, and pure propaganda. How else?

If Western democracies were not just going along with the regime’s poorly masked campaign of demonization of pro-independence campaigners in Ambazonia, one would have expected them to show the same level of concern for other vulnerable citizens.

For example, hundreds of thousands of Ambazonian children – most of them far younger and more vulnerable than the students kidnapped – now live in the wild (in bushes, farmlands and forests).

It is the only choice they have if they want to survive the brutish French-speaking troops whose occupation of Ambazonia has led, among others, to the looting and burning to the ground of over 140 villages.

As a result of scorched earth practices in blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, more than 100,000 people have fled into exile or refugee camps mostly in neighboring Nigeria

Victims of these horrendous abuses cannot be blamed for doubting that the West truly believes in the sanctity of life – for all.

The congratulatory messages to Biya after he staged another election theft in broad daylight has many doubting the commitment of the West for democracy, human rights and the rule of law for citizens of the Cameroons.

Especially because both London and Washington, DC, congratulated the “election thief” way ahead of countries like North Korea and China.

France’s ownership of the natural resources of the Cameroons in keeping with a pre-independence accord signed on 26 December 1959 and Britain’s preoccupation with sealing oil and gas deals suggest that the West cares more for pay-to-play deals than for the welfare of Ambazonians.

The hypocrisy is blatant.

France’s foreign minister played Pontus Pilatus when reporters asked whether or not Cameroon’s most recent presidential elections were free and fair.

Paris hid behind the very convenient, but utterly false, claim that France respects Cameroon’s so-called sovereignty.

Speaking of which – where else did the West evoke national sovereignty in a crisis they were interested in preventing or ending?

Under the “Responsibility to Protect” principle adopted by the United Nations in 2005, the West can – if it truly cares – intervene unilaterally in Ambazonia to put an end to an unjustified war against the English-speaking people of Ambazonia who, overwhelmingly, favor peaceful separation from recolonization by Cameroon.

While the world has looked away, thousands of pro-independence campaigners have been massacred, injured or “disappeared” in one of the world’s most under-reported war and humanitarian crisis.

The number of the internally displaced is probably north of a million people.

It is genocide – a crime of intention.

French-speaking troops are targeting and slaughtering English-speaking citizens simply for insisting to be who they like to be: Ambazonians.

No students – or anyone else for that matter – should suffer kidnappings.

The prank this week would have been avoided had Western democracies not shown the kind of indifference, criminal silence and outright failure that has been promoted as policy at global organizations like the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Their job, at all times, should have been to call out regimes like Biya’s. Sadly, the leaders of the United Nations and the Commonwealth have bothered more about being on good terms with a tyrant who lavishes them with gifts of gold than uphold resolutions adopted by and still pending full implementation by the institutions they lead – if such could be called leadership.

As with the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and the massacres in Bosnia in 1995, there is no excuse for Western democracies doing nothing to end the carnage in Ambazonia.

Especially because the Biya regime has telephoned their every move and has lived up to every one of those sadistic pledges.

For example, from the very beginning of the war against Ambazonia, the regime committed officially that its troops will target civilians indiscriminately – in other words, that their troops will commit war crimes.

The only adjustment that has been made to that policy has been the regime calling on its troops to stop documenting their atrocity crimes and crimes against humanity on video, posted on social media.

Biya’s minister of territorial administration promised, from the onset of the war, that their troops will treat – sorry, mistreat – Ambazonians worse than Boko Haram terrorists.

The regime has delivered on that promise.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the war against Ambazonia has been more deadly than the counter-terrorism campaign Cameroon is waging against Boko Haram in the northern regions of that country.

Facts don’t lie. Western democracies, global organizations and the Western media are proving, shamefully, that they held former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe to a different standard than they are willing to hold the Biya regime.

America readily approved support for rebels who formed a never-before-known state in Benghazi in defiance of the central authority of ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, but Washington is unwilling even to uphold America’s YES vote – along with 63 other countries on the floor of the United Nations on 21st April 1961 – in favor of independence for Ambazonia (then known as Southern Cameroons).

The West evoked Responsibility to Protect as soon as the Gaddafi regime promised “rivers of blood”.

Yet, the same Western democracies are sitting on their hands even as the Biya regime not only promises but is actually spilling “oceans of blood” in Ambazonia.

The same United Nations which deployed Peacekeepers to arrest further descent into violence in a far less bloody civil war in Cote d’Ivoire has mouthed platitudes tantamount to giving Biya a pass even as his regime has prevented the deployment of human rights and humanitarian missions.

The same France, which, with support from America’s former president, Barack Obama, did not hesitate to lead a military invasion.

They dragged out of the presidential palace the former leader of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, and installed the person the West believed was the rightful winner of the ballot in that country.

Now, they are burying their heads in the sands of so-called sovereignty of Cameroon.

Talk of hypocrisy!

Author: Boh Herbert Ntumfoyn Ntumfoyn

Source: taarifa.rw

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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

Local authorities in Southwest, one of the two crisis-hit English-speaking regions of Cameroon, on Saturday stopped families from relocating to French-speaking side of the country.

“We are not stopping them from traveling but those who are about leaving their homes you can see luggage here including furniture, beds. Where are they going? We want them to stay at home. The security and defense forces will guarantee their security,” the region’s governor, Bernard Okalia Bilia, told reporters after intercepting luggage-bearing buses from traveling.

The governor’s decision was taken after people began departing from the troubled region in large numbers following threats from armed separatist forces that circulation of vehicles will be stopped ahead of the Oct. 7 presidential poll.

The separatists have threatened to disrupt the election but Bilia said adequate measures have been taken to ensure a hitch-free vote.

Since November last year, government forces have been clashing with armed separatists in the Northwest and Southwest, the two Anglophone regions of the country where about 80 percent of the population are native in French.

The armed separatist forces have declared an independent state in the two regions called “Ambazonia.”

According to the United Nations, over 180,000 people have been displaced internally and at least 30,000 have escaped to Nigeria where they now live in refugee camps.

Source: CGTN Africa

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