The much talked about Ambazonia lockdown went into full force today across some cities and villages in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon, sources have confirmed.
As usual, the day has been characterised by exchange of fire between security forces and Ambazonia fighters, local sources report.
In Tiko, at the entrance to the South West region of Cameroon, activities were very timid with very few bikes and taxis moving in the early hours of the morning but picked up steam as the day wore through.
Further at Mutengene, it was rather a mixed atmosphere with a timid pace of activities while a few gunshots were heard around the “quarter rubber” neighbourhood.
In Buea, the entrance of the town was swept in a complete lockdown from Mile 14 through to Molyko as shops remained closed as while the streets remained deserted. However, there was a lease of life further up town as shops were open around Bongo Square right up to Buea Town.
Driving out of Buea, precisely around Muea, there wereexchange of fire between security forces and Ambazonia fighters in Liongo village as well as the Wokaka new layout, sources said.
Muyuka was equally on lockdown as gunshots were heard throughout the morning and equally resumed later in the day, our sources said.
Further in Kumba, sources say most parts of the city are locked down compounded by the fact that the town has been in total black out.
In Bamenda, the lockdown was effective in most parts of the city with gunshots heard around Ntaruru though no cit has been quiet for the rest of the day.
In Ndu, sources talk of a dead town following a military operation last night aborted by heavy rains that forced the soldiers to retreat.
In summary, the lockdown was respected in some parts of the North West and South West regions of Cameroon while others went ahead with business as usual.
A soldier was killed on Monday morning in Mokunda village Limbe by a group of about 50 Ambazonia fighters who launched an attack on the village, sources have confirmed.
Mbonde Emmanuel, a senior warrant officer at the Limbe Naval Base was killed as the armed men invaded the village in Limbe II sub division in the early hours of the morning equally burning down his vehicle.
Several persons were equally abducted in the course of the raid carried out by the armed men but were later released though it is still not clear if all abducted persons have been released.
The corpse of the military officer have been preserved at the mortuary of the Limbe Regional Hospital Mortuary.
The corpses of at least nine young men were discovered in Mamfe, Manyu Division of the South West region on Monday morning, sources have confirmed.
Local sources said at least four corpses were discovered at Okoyong, three at Besongabang and one at Banya quarter while another around a primary school. Gruesome images which we got showed young men in their mid twenties lying in their own pool of blood.
Circumstances surrounding their demise are still not clear but locals say sporadic gunshots were heard last night in Mamfe while others talk of a military raid in the area.
Gunshots were equally heard in Mamfe early this morning as several residents preferred to remain indoors for their sfaety.
Last week, a boy in his twenties succumbed to a stray bullet during an exchange of fire between security forces and Ambazonia restoration fighters in Mamfe.
Kumbo Town is the second largest town in the North West Region of Cameroon, one of the restive English-speaking regions clamouring for autonomy. In recent times it has become an epicentre in the on-going conflict between Cameroon military forces and restorationist forces of the putative Republic of Ambazonia, often known as the Amba Boys. An unprecedented wave of violence has taken the town captive and is rooted in the New Year’s message of President Paul Biya as he approaches his 86th birthday, to use crude military force to quell the uprising if the terrorist/rebels do not lay down their arms.
In the early hours of January 1st, at 00.05am, to show allegiance to Biya (now in power for over 26 years), there was a deafening and frightful salvo of gunshots in all military facilities in the town causing the inhabitants flee to safety. The war had started.
The Score Board
In this month of January 2019 areas of the town such as Mbev, Ndzenji, Squares, SAC Junction, Mantum, Ber, and Meluf have been deprived of the right to own and live in decent houses. The conflagration of military fire has reduced many houses to ashes and forced many people to flee to unknown destinations, paving the way for mass looting from the forces of lawlessness and disorder. Many doors of houses are standing ajar after their crude acts. Soldiers come in waves and depart with looted material, especially Android appliances and food items. This probably is a well orchestrated and planned tool and strategy in this war of attrition. Target killings, extra-judicial execution, disappearances and abductions have become the hallmark of their presence.
In Mbve on January 18th, a pregnant nurse on her way to resume work at Shisong General Hospital was mercilessly gunned down by soldier from a rooftop.Two days later an early dawn raid was effected by the military within the premises of Shisong Hospital causing double trauma for the hospital patients as well as the Cardiac Unit. A young Internally Displaced boy of 17 who had never witnessed heavy military presence ran into the house where he was hosted for safety, but was unfortunately pulled out and riddled with bullets beyond recognition. Shisong, which hosted many IDPs, is experiencing a re-displacement, making a bad case worse. There is almost daily military presence and shooting around the hospital in the night and the IDPs plus their hosts have all flocked into the wards. No one can be certain of what is to come. There is an atmosphere of foreboding.
Everyone seems resigned to their fate. The military units making their entry from the West Region into Kumbo are leaving behind a trail of destruction of houses beyond imagination. Food stuff for people’s consumption is set ablaze. This is scorched earth policy. The civilians must pay the price.
January 21st a young bike rider at Squares-Kumbo round-about, who had just dropped off a passenger, ran into a military convoy returning from Shisong and was pulled off his bike and slaughtered with impunity. In Tankum Quarter, the story was no different; two young boys in their teens had their throats slit open by the military on allegations of being Amba affiliates. Minutes later military canisters were directed to another quarter, Kongir, setting a house ablaze, killing a two year old child therein, and wounding the sister and mother, who were lying in bed. Also, women have been raped with impunity. Goats and chickens have equally paid a price with their lives for roaming freely in town. They are shot and packed into military vans possibly for consumption. Beer parlours with stocks of beer that have been locked are invaded by these unfriendly visitors who consume the stock to excess and then shatter the remains into bits and pieces, thereby ruining the business of a proprietor.
Kumbo Town which used to be bustling with activity has become a dead town, a ghost town, a town abandoned to fate. About seven out of every ten houses have been abandoned. Frequent electricity black-outs or cuts are alarming. The cost of petrol and diesel has risen to absurd heights. The prices of basic foodstuffs have risen considerably. Getting water for use and consumption has become a Herculean task. Many people die in homes because they cannot afford the means to reach hospital. Many pregnant women have escaped into the bushes and far off villages for safety, disregarding anti-natal checks and clinics.
Commercial activities are at a standstill, with a gross shortage of basic commodities – even those that are available are sold at unbearable prices. Educational facilities are completely shut down and unemployment has soared. Dead IDPs are buried in the absence of relations by people of good will. Houses along the main road in the town are branded with bullet holes. Civilian farms within the precincts of military facilities have been torched and destroyed in order to create a buffer zone. Fugitives and IDPs moving into other regions are not free from harassment and death-threats. In Douala, IDPs are forced to pay a tax before being accommodated. Some are demeaned through innuendo and ethnic slurs. Many people wearing clothing of certain colours have become targets for the military. Wearers of black, the classic icon of tough guys, and red the emblematic insignia of Amba Boys, have become targets for elimination by the military. Bike Riders have not been spared from this fate.
On the other hand, Amba Boys that shoot for restoration forces, though defending and fighting for the marginalised, have equally left their own mark. Government sympathisers and those critical of them are whisked-off to unknown destinations where they are tortured beyond recognition and released only when a ransom is paid. They have frequently interrupted the little attempted commercial activity with death threats. Any Amba critic or sell-out receives the crown of brutality from the Amba Fist of Fury. Transit fees/fares demanded by Amba affiliates are heartbreaking. Moving from one Administrative Division to another is a nightmare with numerous check-points for both Amba and military forces. Having identity papers with a Cameroon Government Logo is nauseating and acrimonious to Amba Boys and a lack of them at Cameroon Government checkpoints is an occasion for arrest, torture, incarceration and death. This is the predicament of the inhabitants of Kumbo.
Reflection: “Actions that are designed for the methodical extermination of an entire people, nation or ethnic minority are always to be condemned as horrendous crimes” (Gaudium et Spes 79). “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation” (Gaudium et Spes 80). The obligation of preventing war lies on all nations. A world organisation that has Supreme legitimacy and authority seem to be the most apt means of preventing war and promoting peace.
Conclusion: Pride which is the spurious feeling of superiority leads to errors of judgment with the consequences of disgrace, destruction, opposition, and downfall. There is the need for upgrading the call to the international community to intervene and force the warring parties to the bargaining table in an inclusive dialogue; for the pen is mightier than the sword. If the present trend of events continues unabated, there will surely be a replay of the Rwandan episode, plunging the entire Central African Sub-region into a morass. A stitch in time saves nine! For now, “as wanton boys are to the flies so are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.” Source: Independent Catholic News.
The Central African country of Cameroon—whose tourist slogan for years was “all of Africa in one country”—presents itself as a unifier of diverse environments, languages, and culture in this nation located in the middle of the continent. The last weeks in Cameroon, however, suggest the worst of conflict, corruption, and colonialism, primarily relating to the country’s intensifying repression against the English-speaking minority in the region of Ambazonia, little-known even to Africanists and anti-colonial academics from the Global North. Despite the efforts of Ambazonian scholars based in the U.S., and a trickle of not-always-helpful information from Amnesty International and the BBC, the escalation of military violence over the past few months, and especially a new “scorched earth” burning of entire villages since last May and several massacres in the first half of July, have gone largely unnoticed even by human rights experts.
On the evening of July 11, 2018, five students were separated during a round-up by government military forces at the University Center in the town of Bambilli, allegedly for not having identification cards. Bambilli is a college town north in the Ambazonian territory. Though BBC reported on the incident, they did not make the connection to the pattern of attacks on Ambazonian students, activists, and community leaders which have worsened over the past year. Three days later, ten more unarmed Ambazonians and one Ghanaian pastor who was working with them were slaughtered in the town of Batibo.
Though this news may never have surfaced if not for the connection to clergy in Ghana, organizations such as the Network for Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa have begun to analyze, document, and report on these incidents. Several Pan-African groups, including affiliates of the prominent Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (which share a collegial relationship with the Pan African Nonviolence and Peace-building Network), have raised growing concerns about military-perpetrated, government-instigated violence in the area which makes up the southern border of Cameroon and Nigeria.
Nonviolence has always been the strategy and philosophy of choice there, with the decades-long freedom slogan focusing on the logic of Ambazonia freedom, by “the force of argument, not the argument of force.” In1961, the United Nations Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons voted for full independence from colonial Great Britain, and neighboring Francophone Cameroon quickly incorporated the territory into its own “United Republic” of Cameroon. Since that time, a mass, unarmed civil resistance movement has declared its desire for full independence, given its distinct languages (English and Indigenous African), culture, history, and geographic base. In 1984, when Cameroon President Paul Biya removed the “United” from the official name of the country, an even more intense crisis ensued. “All this time, however, from the 1960s until 2017,” noted Eben, U.S. facilitator of the Ambazonian Prisoners of Conscience Support Network, “barely a single stone was thrown as part of our resistance. Armed resistance was never a tactic we engaged in.
Following a series of lawyer-led uprisings which began on October 1, 2016, escalating nonviolent civil resistance, and a massive general strike in September 2017—met with gunfire from Cameroon government helicopter gunships—some Ambazonians did initiate an armed struggle on October 1, 2017, declaring independence and setting up a government in exile. Cooperation between the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon might play a negative role in the aspirations of Ambazonians, as Nigeria handed over some who were taking refuge there, and who now make up a growing political-prisoner population in Cameroon.
Nigeria’s inability to resolve their “Boko Haram problem”—the Islamist fundamentalist-military movement with close ties to Iraq—also plays a role. Nigeria can push Boko Haram forces across the border into Cameroon, and Cameroon in turn attacks both Boko Haram military units and Ambazonian independence activists as if they represented the same “nuisance” to the common people. It is the ordinary civilian, however, who is most caught between governments, militaries, and borders. A horrifying video of Cameroon soldiers murdering two women, a young child, and a baby—apparently in mid-July and because their families allegedly had ties to Boko Haram—has begun to go viral and gain the condemnation of Amnesty International. In an eerie flash-back to words uttered fifty years ago in Vietnam at the heinous My Lai massacre, one soldier can be heard asking his commanding officer: “Are we going to kill the children too?”
Ironically, Amnesty—widely seen as the unquestioned expert on human rights in the region—has been slow and significantly misguided in reporting the facts of events in the region. An incredibly detailed and well-documented critique of the June 2018 Amnesty International report on “Anglophone Cameroon” spotlights ways in which the respected organization has misunderstood and distorted the reality of Ambazonian life and struggle. The popular refrain that there “is violence on both sides” not only gives too much emphasis to a very limited armed struggle, dismissing the decades of previous history, it also ignores the fact that the last two years have seen a sharp increase in the breadth and scope of nonviolent civic engagement on the part of Ambazonians, both in the territory and in diaspora. An entire network of home-front media producers has congealed around a Southern Cameroon TV project, dozens of diaspora organizations have formed and successfully pressed for attention from local and national politicians, the Southern Cameroons Congress of the People was formed as a political party, and a veritable social media army has begun to link refugees, political prisoners and their supporters, home front organizers, and those living abroad.
Independent internationalists might be especially confused by the July 19, 2018 briefings and commentaries issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW). On the one hand, their poignant report “These Killings Can Be Stopped” recounts in 59 detailed pages how the area “is slipping into a protracted human rights crisis in the largely Anglophone North-West and South-West regions that border Nigeria.” It documents how, for the past two years or so, the Cameroon government has responded to demonstrations, legal challenges, and unarmed protests with “heavy clamp-downs,” “repression and arrest,” and “abuse” which likely caused a radicalization on the part of the Ambazonian freedom movement.
On the other hand, in HRW’s summary press release sent out the same day, “Cameroon: Killings, Destruction in Anglophone Region,” they misleadingly and inaccurately assert that “in response to protests and violence by armed separatists, government forces have killed civilians, used excessive force against demonstrators, tortured and mistreated suspected separatists and detainees, and burned hundreds of homes in several villages.” Want to find evidence that the HRW summary press release is inaccurate? Read the HRW full report! The poor attempt to be “even-handed” tragically dilutes HRW’s basic good point: these killings can and must be stopped—by support for justice-seeking nonviolent campaigners and a condemnation of government-based military violence and oppression.
The crisis in Ambazonia—like so many anti-colonial crises that seem to be escalating in this age of neocolonialism—cannot easily be resolved, especially by traditional military or diplomatic means. As grassroots women’s and social groups inside the country and supporters or allies in the Diaspora continue to put pressure on the colonial regime, unarmed civil resistance is the best hope for lasting change. But change cannot take place without clear, pro-justice, international attention and support—which so far has been sadly lacking.
Ongoing violence in the Southwest and Northwest Regions of Cameroon continues. A refugee crisis threatens. The United Nations (UN) refugee agency reported more than 32 000 Cameroonians crossed into Nigeria as refugees. The Daily Vox team takes a closer look.
Cameroon Refugee Crisis
The United Nations and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have reported that intensified violence has led displacement. There has been a displacement of more than 437 500 people within Cameroon. More people fled into Nigeria where they are staying in refugee camps in Cross River State.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) built a refugee settlement in August 2018. By December 2018 it held more than 6 400 refugees.
In a report compiled by MSF, they spoke to refugees in the camp. Lydia Ochin from Akwaya, Cameroon said: “I escaped from my country in October 2017. I have lived with my family, my husband, and my children, in Adagom refugee camp since August 2018. Life in the camp is not easy. I live here with my husband, who is sick with tuberculosis, and my children. Eight people living inside a small tent. Now that my health is getting better, the biggest challenge is food. We do not have money to buy food on our own and all we eat is the rice that is given to us.”
In the area, the MSF Cross River project operates six mobile clinics for the host and refugee community. The organisation dug boreholes and repaired handpumps to provide water for the communities.
Civil society response
In February 2019, faith and civil society organisations like the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Denis Hurley Peace Institute will deliver a letter to the 40th session of the UNHCR. The letter demands UN members states investigate allegations of human rights violations in Ambazonia. At the same when the letter is delivered to the UN, press briefings are to be held in Geneva, New York, and Johannesburg.
There are daily reports on social media about alleged violence in the region. “The UN HRC has the power to cultivate the conditions for peace,” said the Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. “We strongly believe that a UN HRC-mandated fact-finding mission would have the immediate effect of quelling violence and saving lives.”
What has been happening
Conflict in Cameroon stemming from the calls for independence in South Cameroons began in 2016. The people of Southern Cameroon (Ambazonia) have demanded the right to determine whether they want to remain in a union with Cameroon or restore the independence of Southern Cameroons as a sovereign state.
Those calls led to a violent crackdown by President Paul Biya’s Francophone government on the Anglophone population of Southern Cameroon. In 2017 there was an internet shutdown to prevent mass mobilisations against the government and many people were killed by the security forces during protests. There were arbitrary arrests with people detained in already overflowing jails.
Biya won his seventh term in October 2018. The elections were marred by low turnout, especially in the Anglophone zones. He has been in power since 1982. The constitution was changed in 2008 which removed term limits which would allow him to rule for even longer.
During a 2017 march by the Southern Cameroons community living in South Africa, Milton Taka, a spokesperson for the Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium United Front said: “Only the Ambazonian flag will fly all over our land. Our people are taking their power back. From today we declare self-rule. Self-determination is an inalienable right and nobody will take that from us.”
Increased humanitarian crisis
There have been all around calls for an increase in attention for Cameroon. Both the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator to Cameroon, Ms. Allegra Baiocchi, and Cameroon’s Civil Protection Director, Ms. Yap Mariatou warned about the increased need for humanitarian assistance due to the Francophone-Anglophone conflict.
“Cameroon today can no longer be a forgotten crisis; it needs to be high on the United Nations agenda” Mariatou said. The UN estimates that around 4.3 million people in Cameroon requires lifesaving assistance. This is one in six people and mostly women and children.
Refugee crisis: Nigeria
There has been a cross fleeing of people. Nigerian people fleeing to Cameroon from the northern Borno state it’s been reported in January 2019. They are fleeing increasing Boko Haram militant attacks. Reportedly there was a displacement of 30 000 people after a deadly attack that happened on January 14. There have been calls for the Cameroonian government to accept the refugees into the country. This all happens against the backdrop of the violence the Cameroonian government in enacting against its Anglophone-speaking citizens.
A policeman was on Monday, January 28 killed in Bamenda, Northern zone of Ambazonia by unidentified gunmen, sources have said.
Police Inspector Joseph Ngunde Itabi, body guard of the President of the Bamenda Court of First Instance was killed in Bamenda in a day which was marked by heavy fighting between security forces and Restoration Forces in the city.
The shootings in Bamenda have raged on into Tuesday as most residents have remained indoors since morning with several trucks of soldiers arriving for back up.
Heavy shooting has equally been reported in Bafut for the second consecutive day as French Cameroun soldiers battle Ambazonia restoration forces in the locality.
The Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria will pass a ruling on April 15 in the matter filed by lawyers against what the term illegal deportation of the Ambazonia leaders from Nigeria to Cameroon.
The court finally opened hearing in Abuja today which was an opportunity for lawyers to presnt their case as they insist the leaders were illegally arrested and deported to Cameroon.
The lawyers told the court that for justice to take its course, the Ambazonia leaders have to be returned to Nigeria where they were arrested given the fact that both countries don’t have any extradition treaty.
But before April, the Ambazonia leaders will have to prove their nationality at the Yaounde military tribunal on February 7.
The Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria has today opened a hearing between the ten Ambazonia leaders and the government of Cameroon.
Lawyers of the detained Ambazonia leaders seized the court to order their return to Nigeria where they were arrested a year ago and extradited to Cameroon
The lawyers say their clients are not Cameroonians and should be returned to Nigeria, their place of residence where their matter can be heard in a civil court.
Thus lead counsels Barristers Fru John Nsoh and Ndong Christopher are in Nigeria where they have joined their Nigerian counterparts Femi Falana and Abdul Oroh to plead their case.
In Nigeria, they will equally be seeking to prepare documentation to prove the detained leaders have refugee status when they arrested in Nigeria.
The detained leaders had rejected the Cameroonian nationality at the Yaoundé military tribunal during the last hearing forcing the court to adjourn the case to February 7 when they are expected to show prove of their status.
A ray of hope shone for widows and refugees of Ambazonian extraction when Belinda Babila Foundation reached out to them at a refugee camp located in Ogoja, Cross Rivers State during the Yuletide season.
Founder of the foundation, Dr. Belinda Babila said it was a very touching experience to reach out to the widows.
“Speaking to the refugees one-on-one was quite touching. We visited the Cameroonian refugees at the Adagom Settlement in Ogoja LGA, Cross Rivers State, and we had a three-day empowerment outreach”, she noted.
According to the US-based philanthropist, “we are planning self-sustenance empowerment programmes for the over 8000 refugees. I am most grateful to all the donors and partners who contributed towards the just concluded refugees outreach campaign at Adagom Settlement in Ogoja, Nigeria. However, funding is one of our major challenges.”
Among others, over 200 patients got referrals for further evaluation while school uniforms were handed to school children.
Hygiene packs were also handed out to teenagers. A huge quantity of medical supplies was donated by Rhemacare Clinic.
Ambazonia is a self-declared state consisting of the Anglophone portions of Cameroon, which previously comprised South Camerouns.
In 2017, the Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium United Front (SCACUF) declared independence but the Cameroonian government stated that the declaration has no legal weight and this has culminated in a refugee crisis that has displaced thousands of Ambazonians.