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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Ambazonia: a close friend of Paul Biya declares the end of Anglophone crisis

A thick fog envelops Buea on this morning of October. It can not, however, conceal the crimes committed and the fear that has invaded the spirits in the capital of the Southwest region as in the other English-speaking region of Cameroon, the Northwest. The entrance to the city was deserted by its inhabitants, left to the military and police, who control the entrances and exits. Some wrecked burnt vehicles, heavy bushings on the roadway, abandoned markets and homes indicate what everyone here modestly calls "the situation" is really a war that does not say its name.

A closed-door conflict between the soldiers of an aging autistic regime and militias fighting for the improbable independence of a state they call Ambazonia. The victims are to search among those whom the first are supposed to protect and the second to release. "In one year, we received more than 100 gunshot wounds, 90% of civilians, while in the previous five years we had not seen more than two," says George Enow Orock, director from Buea Hospital.

"Fear of lost bullets"

In mid-September, Amnesty International reported that "in the past year, as many as 400 citizens have been killed by security forces and armed separatists". An assessment that the human rights organization considers very likely to be underestimated. On condition of anonymity, an officer of the Cameroonian army argues that "the power does not communicate on it but, in exchanges of fire, the soldiers have eliminated hundreds of secessionists". Amnesty International has documented "more than 160 cases of members of the security forces killed by armed separatists".

To these figures should be added the multitude of villages burned, the people who had to flee their homes, the arrests and summary executions perpetrated away from all eyes, the tortures inflicted, the children deprived of schooling, the closed companies, the administrations destroyed.

In Buea, two days after the October 7 presidential election on which Ambazonian separatists managed to impose a widely-held boycott by threat, Mary and Rachel (first names) have other concerns than electoral issues. The two ladies, who have set up a small display of tomatoes and onions in front of closed stalls, confide their "fear of stray bullets", that "the Amba boys do not attack the population", the impossibility to flee the city for lack of money and fright as soon as appears in the street a Toyota Hilux white trivial in which circulate military. "When he passes, someone must die," they say under the approving eye of two young men.

Brutality of government forces

To stay alive when you are a man of fighting age, in Buéa as in the two English-speaking regions, it is better not to wear a jacket that could hide a weapon, torn jeans, a black knit, tattoos or a rasta hairstyle that could make you suspicious in the eyes of police and military, say several sources.

If the population agrees to denounce the brutality of the government forces, the demands for independence, and even more the way in which the struggle is carried out by the various groups responding in particular by the name of Ambazonia Defense Forces, Red Dragons or 7 Kata, are far to reach consensus.

An official seen in Buea sees in them "the restorers" of a past greatness, but Joshua, one of the few traders still present in the city, has a hard time portraying them in Robin Hood. "I understand their demands, but do they need to stop children from going to school, blocking trade or banning elections? All this is destructive, "said the man who said he suffered a reduction of 70% to 80% of its activity due to the crisis. According to a report by Cameroonian employers, published on September 13, "the escalation of violence" during the two years of crisis has led to "a shortfall estimated at 269 billion CFA francs [410 million euros]. "

However, it is not the economic and social repercussions that most concern Joshua, but the threats to his safety: "I have received calls from at least six numbers to tell me that I must give between 500,000 and 5 million CFA francs to support the cause. I am threatened to burn my house. He therefore sent his wife and four children away, hardly ever goes out for fear of kidnapping and complies with the obligation of the "dead city" days, imposed every Monday by the Ambazonians, for fear of seeing his business fire.

Criminal drifts

Reverend Samuel Fonki, head of the Cameroonian Presbyterian Church, is among the men of good will who are trying to find a way out of "this situation that has degenerated in a frightening way". With Catholic and Muslim dignitaries, his ambition is to organize a "conference of all Anglophones" on November 21 and 22 in Buéa, a meeting that will help to locate the wishes of the people and find a way to peace.

While he deplores the lack of a government willingness to open a dialogue and the brutality of the army that has radicalized the minds, he does not spare the secessionist leaders, based in the United States or in Europe, who, " sitting on their toilets, decree "dead city" days before leaving for work and send the children of the region to die when theirs are at school ".

Since the arrest in January in Nigeria of ten separatist leaders and their extradition to Yaoundé, the political and military branches are led by personalities based in Washington, Baltimore and Norway. A command far from the front that generates criminal drifts. "In Bafut, in September, they arrested the principal of one of our schools and shot him in the head. Luckily he is not dead, reports the Reverend Fonki. For the release of the six students they had kidnapped, we had to pay 700,000 CFA francs each. "

These acts of banditry are a boon to the Cameroonian authorities. "The Ambazonian cause is over, says a close friend of President Paul Biya. These are armed gangs that sow desolation with the complicity of economic interests in the West who see the creation of micro-states a boon for the exploitation of wealth. What are these Western interests or such coveted riches? This power framework does not want to say more.

Denial and repression

Still, the authorities have done nothing to prevent a deterioration of the situation, quite the opposite. While the crisis erupted in October 2016 on claims of lawyers and teachers asking for a better consideration of their specificities inherited from British colonization and less marginalization of the two Anglophone regions attached to Cameroon in 1961, Yaounde has played on two registers: denial and repression.

The most moderate English-speaking leaders, backed by a return to a federal system in effect until 1972, were jailed for eight months, opening the way for secessionists from both regions, who are home to about 20% of the population. the population of the country.

The victims of this conflict, which could easily have been avoided, are found in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon, but also on the other side of the border, in Nigeria. Among the approximately 200,000 refugees in their own country, one could quote Julius, "the best Mamfe tailor", who survives today by changing tires; Sylvia, the little merchant of second-hand clothes from Buea, who now sells her nakedness; or Frida, who fled the town with her seven children after being threatened. His fault was to have called for peace. Still terrorized, she mechanically repeats: "We are nowhere safe. Nowhere. "