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A separatist conflict in Cameroon that has forced half a million people from their homes is in danger of worsening, the head of a major aid agency has warned, condemning what he called the “international silence” over the crisis.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), said the world had underestimated the impact on civilians of the violence that has gripped Cameroon, where entire villages had been burned to the ground.

“I’ve been all over the world, dealing with humanitarian work for many years and I was really shocked by the unbelievable extent of this emergency that is underestimated, underreported and neglected by the international community,” said Egeland.

“There are atrocities every single day against civilians … and the world doesn’t seem to know or want to know about it,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone during a visit to Cameroon.

Long-running tensions in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon erupted into conflict in late 2016, prompting crackdowns by security forces and leaving 1.3 million people in need of aid, according to the United Nations.

Egeland said the violence had pushed tens of thousands into hiding in the bush without access to food or medical help, and meant nearly a million children could no longer go to school.

But he said there was a danger the situation could worsen.

“I really, really hope there will be mediation efforts, that there will be an outreach and an interest in dialogue on both sides that will lead to talks which can end this before it is too late,” he said on Thursday.

“I’ve seen too many places which started with a smaller conflict … and ended up in a war that no one could stop.”

Cameroon’s English speakers have felt increasingly marginalized by the French-speaking government in the capital Yaounde and in 2017 thousands took to the streets to demand a breakaway state.

The military stepped in and thousands of Anglophones fled the ensuing crackdown, which Cameroon authorities described as an anti-terrorist operation.

In a statement Egeland, whose organization is distributing survival kits to victims including food, tools and materials for temporary shelters, said there had been little pressure on the parties to stop attacking civilians.

“The international silence surrounding atrocities is as shocking as the untold stories are heart-breaking,” he said. 

A U.N. human rights committee in February criticized the “heavy-handed approach” of the security forces to the crisis, which saw medical facilities, schools and entire villages destroyed.

Allegra Baiocchi, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator in Cameroon, said the violence was hampering relief efforts, and also blamed a lack of funding from other countries.

“The violence has been characterized by massive human rights violations. Attacks against schools and health providers have reached an alarming scale,” she said.

“Negotiating safe humanitarian access is extremely complicated and it is slowing us down.”

Source: reuters

Cameroon’s military says it has freed nine students and a teacher who were kidnapped this week from a school in one of the country’s restive English-speaking regions. It is the third time this month that students have been abducted from schools in the Anglophone regions.

Senior divisional officer Nto’ou Ndong Chamberlin says several gunmen were killed Wednesday in the military operation, and other armed men responsible for the abduction are on the run. The teacher was wounded in the rescue.

“Nine guns have been seized, four neutralized — among them the head of the team, called ‘Man of Lucks,’ and three bikes destroyed and even the camp has also been burned down by the forces of law and order [military],” Chamberlin said.

Gunmen kidnapped the students and their teacher Tuesday evening from Lords Bilingual School in Kumba, a city in Cameroon’s southwest region.

FILE - Students and their principal were kidnapped from the Presbyterian School of Science and Technology in Bafut, near Bamenda, Cameroon, Nov. 5, 2018.
FILE – Students and their principal were kidnapped from the Presbyterian School of Science and Technology in Bafut, near Bamenda, Cameroon, Nov. 5, 2018.

The kidnapping comes three weeks after gunmen kidnapped and then released 79 students and three staff from a school in the neighboring northwest region.

Eleven students were later kidnapped from the same Presbyterian Secondary School. Church moderator Fonki Samuel said a $4,000 ransom was paid to the abductors for their release.

Pierre Marie Abbe, a political analyst at the Catholic University of Central Africa, says the government’s war against the separatists has been a failure.

The government should drop the idea of war and organize dialogue with English-speaking Cameroonians, Abbe said. But for such a dialogue to be successful, he added, the government should meet Anglophone Cameroonians to find out from them who they see as their true leaders.

The government says separatists in the two English-speaking regions have torched at least a hundred schools and abducted or killed dozens of teachers. More than 90 percent of the regions’ schools remain closed.

The international community and rights groups have condemned violence from both sides and called on the government to negotiate an end to the crisis.

“The U.N. has, along with most of the international community, asked for dialogue,” said Allegra Maria Del Pilar Baiocchi, the U.N. resident coordinator for Cameroon. “We need to hear the voices of the people saying we have had enough and we want solutions. It should not only be the U.N. saying it or the ambassadors. We need confidence-building measures and I think we need peace.”

Unrest broke out in Cameroon’s western regions in 2016, when English-speaking teachers and lawyers protested the dominance of French-speakers.

Cameroon’s military reacted with a crackdown, and armed separatists soon launched a campaign for independence.

Clashes since have killed more than 1,200 people.

Author: Moki Edwin Kindzeka

Source: voanews

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The detained Cameroon Anglophone separatist leaders arrive court at about 11: 25 am today and headed straight into the magistrate office.

Going by our reporter on the ground, the ten leaders were in high spirit as they were seen smiling and waving at family members.

Going by the report, Tassang Wilfred and Sissiku Ayuk Tabe, have shaved the grey moustache they had during their last appearance.

Five Minutes later,  Sissiku and others were immediately bundled into their bus as the Cameroon court rejected their habeas corpus plea.

It would be recalled that the habeas corpus motion was filed in by their lawyers.

After making their first public appearance at the Appeal Court in Yaounde on November 1, the detained leaders had the opportunity to tell their story in court as their lawyers pleaded for their immediate release on grounds they were illegally extradited to Cameroon.

The fate of the Ambazonia leaders is still unclear with today’s court decision.

Source: journalducameroun.com

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A soldier’s crumpled corpse at a traffic circle. Young men gunned down in their living room while partying. A teenage boy killed by a stray bullet while watching television. Outbursts of gunfire so frequent that children call them “frying popcorn.”

The horrors residents recount here at the base of cloud-covered Mount Cameroon are part of a conflict that has been upending the English-speaking regions of this country in recent months.

“This situation, it’s unbearable,” said Leonard Etuge, one of the few holdouts still living in a once-bustling neighborhood along a highway called Mile 16 that is now littered with charred, overturned vehicles and shell casings.

Cameroon is still grappling with a tangled colonial past that involved three European powers – Germany, France and Britain – and in recent years, it has become a vital partner of the United States in the battle against Islamist extremism in Africa.

Now, the country is on the brink of civil war.

Longstanding anger at the government has erupted into one of the nation’s biggest uprisings in decades. Separatists are waging a violent battle to break away and form their own country, called Ambazonia. The estimated 2,000 fighters are armed mostly with homemade guns and take orders from activists living overseas.

Known locally as “Amba boys,” the separatists are up against an American- and Israeli-trained elite military force that has been widely accused of human rights abuses. The government crackdown has been ruthless, with residents and local officials providing frequent accounts of troops burning homes and buildings in more than 100 villages, indiscriminately shooting or detaining civilians, and sometimes executing innocent young men as they search for separatists who scurry away into the dense forest after attacks.

Tens of thousands of people have fled English-speaking areas to get away from the violence and about 400 civilians have died, according to an Amnesty International estimate, a figure that doesn’t include security forces and separatists who have been killed in battle.

In the middle of this melee, the country is trying to hold an election. One of the world’s longest-serving presidents, Paul Biya, 85, who has already been in office 36 years, is asking voters to give him seven more. Mr. Biya has been in office so long that most of the nation’s population has known no other leader.

Mr. Biya has been traveling the country to rally support in a contest expected to be highly lopsided, given his tight grip on the nation. Separatists have vowed to do all they can to disrupt the vote, escalating an already volatile situation.

Cameroon is already fighting another war – against Islamist extremists in the region. In the north, Americans have provided the country with military equipment to battle Boko Haram as the war has spilled across the Nigerian border. Mindful of its shaky international reputation, Mr. Biya’s government has hired a Washington public relations firm, after another signed and then quickly dropped him as a client.

But the election will do little to settle the uprising against Mr. Biya in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions, contiguous areas along the Nigerian border. Turnout in them is expected to be extremely low – largely because few people are left to vote. In some areas, locals officials estimate more than 90 percent of residents have fled.

Communities like Ekona, a small town near a dormant rubber plantation, have been completely abandoned. Burned homes, crushed tin shacks that housed businesses and a blackened beer truck attest to the fierce battles here. Many of the concrete homes and stores along the road were riddled with large bullet holes.

Ekona had been a flash point of fighting. A military captain blamed separatists for the damage, accusing them of lashing out at residents who didn’t respect their calls to create a “ghost town,” by abandoning the streets and staying home. But local news reports offered a much different explanation: a gun battle between separatists and security forces in June that sent residents escaping into the forest.

English-speaking areas make up a fifth of the population, and with their palm oil, rubber and banana plantations they are a significant contributor to Cameroon’s economy. Most of those operations are now closed because of the violence.

Residents of Anglophone areas began protesting two years ago, saying they were tired of teachers and judges who did not speak English well but were being appointed to their schools and courts nonetheless. After the government’s security forces opened fire on people at rallies, separatists armed themselves.

The protests were part of a broad sense of marginalization that had been mounting since the post-World War I era, when the League of Nations appointed France and England as joint trustees of what was then German Kamerun. Colonialists pushed their own cultures on each region.

Though the nation officially recognizes both languages, Mr. Biya, who governs from the French-speaking capital of Yaoundé, has concentrated power and resources in Francophone areas, while people in Anglophone regions complain bitterly about unpaved roads and a lack of other infrastructure.

The campaign posters of Mr. Biya plastered across the country and T-shirts handed out on street corners only reinforce the gulf between the two sides. In a nod to his experience, one of his campaign slogans is “The Power of Experience.” But for English-speaking voters, the posters translate the slogan awkwardly, saying “The Force of Experience” instead – an ominous echo of the violence being waged in English-speaking areas.

“To make that kind of mistake,” sighed Derick Woteva Wambo, the chief in a neighborhood in Buea, an English-speaking city. “Oh, this whole country.”

Mr. Wambo estimated that only about 10,000 of Buea’s 200,000 residents remain in the city, a normally quaint mountainside area where the violence has been unrelenting. Many fled after episodes like one Mr. Wambo witnessed last week.

At 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 27, he said he was called to a home where he found the bodies of six men strung across a living room, some limp across chairs and one lying by a door as though he was trying to escape. Another body had already been taken to the morgue.

Before they died, the men were having a party, smoking marijuana in the early morning hours and making noise, Mr. Wambo said. He said security forces heard the racket and executed them after deciding they were separatists, who are rumored to be heavy smokers. One of the dead included a neighbor who also heard the noise and decided to investigate, he said.

Mr. Wambo called Buea “paradise” compared with what is happening in smaller villages. He says he has visited them to find rotting corpses and residents terrified that their young men will be mistaken for fighters and killed.

Mr. Biya’s government says the separatists are terrorists and has refused to open any dialogue with them.

As for human rights abuses by government security forces, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, the communications minister, said that officials had been investigating the allegations they hear about.

“It is unacceptable to commit a crime and unlawful killing today, tomorrow or after tomorrow,” he said. “No army in the world is immune against misbehavior in a handful of its elements.”

Separatists in some areas, including the English-speaking city of Bamenda, have blocked roads by felling trees and destroying bridges in an attempt to thwart soldiers from what is expected to be a major offensive. But the actions have also trapped civilians who are desperate to flee.

Some others don’t want to leave. One young man selling fruit on the streets of Buea this week said he knew his age alone made him a target.

“If I die, I want to die in my own home,” he said.

For those who have already escaped, their lives have been turned upside down. Many have crammed into homes, like the dank room with only one bed where a man named Justice ended up with his teenage niece and 2-year-old daughter. He ran away from Mile 16 after seeing the corpse of his neighbor, a farmer, caught in the crossfire between separatists and soldiers.

Another man who fled to Yaoundé said he had endured a series of atrocities before finally giving up and packing his family of four into his brother’s living room. Eleven people are now jammed into the small apartment, where he has hung a poster of numbers for his 4-year-old daughter. She has forgotten how to count to 10 after being out of school for so long.

In Mile 16, schools have been closed for two years. The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted, said he had repeatedly run into roadblocks from separatists and shakedowns from soldiers who came to homes and helped themselves to laptops, televisions and cash. They even took soda without paying from a 12-year-old girl running a small store near his office, he said.

“We’re working for you,” he said they told her. It was a small thing, but he was outraged.

Then he saw a body floating down a nearby stream, and that of a soldier at a traffic circle. But what finally pushed him to escape was the aftermath of gunfire as soldiers, shooting wildly, chased two men on motorcycles. One of the bullets entered his neighbor’s living room window and struck and killed a teenage boy watching television.

When asked if he was going to vote Sunday, the man’s eyes widened.

“For what?” he said. “I’ve been voting for years and the results have never changed.”

Source: dailytrust

 

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.

YAOUNDE, Oct 8 (Reuters) – Cameroon opposition candidate Maurice Kamto on Monday declared victory in presidential elections, saying he had “achieved his goal” in Sunday’s vote and calling on President Paul Biya to hand over power peacefully.   

“I invite the outgoing president to organise a peaceful way to transfer power,” he told a news conference in the capital Yaounde, giving no results to justify his claim.

Kamto, who leads the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC), was greeted by screams from supporters as he made his announcement. (Reporting by Edward McAllister Writing by Sofia Christensen Editing by Tim Cocks and John Stonestreet)

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

On the surface, Cameroon’s regime projects an image of stability. President Paul Biya, at 85 the oldest ruler in Africa, is rolling comfortably toward an easy victory in Sunday’s election, extending his 36 years in power after eliminating the term limits that could have forced his retirement.

But beneath this façade, Cameroon is sliding toward civil war, and the election is unlikely to change that path.

Violence and military atrocities are rising. A separatist movement is gaining strength. There are killings almost every day. And there are growing calls for countries such as Canada to take a stronger stand against Mr. Biya.

The President has scarcely bothered to campaign, attending only one campaign rally so far. The election on Sunday is expected to give him a seventh term in office. But it won’t solve a conflict that has already killed about 600 people and forced about 300,000 to flee their homes over the past year.

In the country’s far north, the military is fighting the Islamist militants of Boko Haram. In the anglophone regions in the northwest and southwest, a separatist insurgency has triggered new bloodshed, with an estimated 1,000 fighters joining militia groups, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and other heavy weaponry.

Of the 12 million eligible voters in Cameroon, only 6.6 million have registered to vote. Many people in the anglophone regions will boycott the election. Others will stay home for fear of violence. Vote-rigging is expected and the opposition is badly splintered.

“As election day approaches, tensions are growing and the government has become harder-line, opting for repression and peddling conspiracy theories in response to demands for social and political reform,” says a report this week by the International Crisis Group, an independent research organization.

Mr. Biya is showing little interest in seeking solutions. He routinely spends up to one-third of the year in luxury rooms at the five-star InterContinental hotel in Geneva, where he travels with an entourage of up to 50 bodyguards and butlers.

A growing number of U.S. officials and politicians have criticized Mr. Biya’s response to the crisis. But this has been outweighed by the support the Biya government has received from France and China, including investors from those countries.

The impasse could allow Canada to exercise some influence in Cameroon, analysts say. Cameroon is one of Canada’s oldest diplomatic allies in Africa, and Canada has sent it hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid. Since the 1960s, Cameroon has often ranked among the biggest recipients of Canadian aid in Africa. Cameroon’s diaspora community in Canada has been urging Ottawa to take action. And Cameroon’s Prime Minister Philémon Yang spent 20 years as the country’s ambassador to Canada, where he earned a graduate degree from the University of Ottawa.

Despite these connections, Canada’s public response to the worsening violence in Cameroon has been “surprisingly muted,” according to an analysis by Chris Roberts, an Africa politics scholar at the University of Calgary, in a report published by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“Canada’s limited response to the crisis this year comes across as either obliviousness or conscious avoidance,” he said.

On June 29, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Mr. Biya by telephone. But a statement issued by Mr. Trudeau’s office gave no indication that they discussed the political and military crisis in Cameroon.

Instead, according to the statement, the two leaders had “an in-depth discussion” about the Francophonie, the organization of francophone countries, and about the candidacy of former Canadian governor-general Michaëlle Jean, who is seeking a second term as Secretary-General of the Francophonie. The statement said Mr. Trudeau “reiterated to President Biya” that Canada is pushing for another term for Ms. Jean.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office declined to say whether other subjects were discussed in the telephone call.

The statement “reinforced the outward appearance of status quo normalcy … despite the deteriorating situation,” Mr. Roberts said in his report.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said Canada is “deeply concerned by the continuing violence in western Cameroon” and is “troubled” by the deaths there.

“We remain alarmed by repeated attacks, including those against schools,” he said in response to questions from The Globe and Mail. “We have raised these concerns directly with the government of Cameroon and will continue to do so.”

THE GLOBE AND MAIL 
 

• 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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