Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ambazonia: Francophones at risk in Limbe


Kidnapping, targeted killings, mistrust of English speakers, ... French-speaking Cameroonians living in Limbe, in the English-speaking South West of the country, claim to be targeted by English-speaking separatists. And the obsession is growing as the evolution of the Anglophone crisis evolves.

"We live in fear," says Edouard, a resident of Limbe, a seaside resort in the southwestern Anglophone region of Cameroon, where francophones are regularly targeted by armed separatist groups.

In this cosmopolitan city, home to a large Francophone community, discomfort is growing as the Anglophone crisis grows.

Many francophones, military and civilian, preferred to leave their families for fear of aggression. "I moved my family to Douala", the economic capital, explains Edward, a young administrative executive living in Limbe for several years, because "we live in fear". Other witnesses, on condition of anonymity, claim to have had relatives "tortured" by separatists.

Edouard dares not return to Mile 4, a peripheral district where he lived for years until his move in July. Overlooked by mountains, this district, cut off from other areas of Limbe, is one of the few in the city where separatists roam, weapons and machetes in hand, to mark their presence, according to witnesses.

Mutual suspicion

The rest of the time they are reclusive in the surrounding mountains. On the night of September 26 to 27, they attacked the Mile 4 police station, killing two policemen. The neighborhood was cordoned off by the army for several days.

Previously, several incursions of separatists to intimidate Francophones have been reported to Mile 4. "They entered the neighborhood and began to ask the house of Francophones," says a resident. "They went to my house twice to kidnap me, but I was not there, thankfully," he adds.

According to him, "they tried to kidnap a neighbor, but he managed to escape". "It happened that they come nightly singing the national anthem of Ambazonia (name of the English-speaking state that the separatists want to create) in front of the house of some Francophones," he continues.

The multiplication of such incursions forced Edward to move his family, then he lived several days at the hotel before finding accommodation in another neighborhood.

At Church Street, a chic street in the city center, many people have a drink outside, but French and English speakers form separate groups.

"In general, there is a mix in the lives of people here, but because of the crisis, there is a climate of mistrust, Anglophones are wary of francophones and vice versa," says Edward.

"The current discomfort may shift to something more serious," warns a local NGO official who prefers to remain anonymous.

Believing they are marginalized, Anglophones demand more consideration, the most radical activists for the creation of an independent English-speaking state grouping the regions of Southwest and North-West, in the grip of an armed conflict for almost a year who made hundreds of deaths.

Amalgam

The current crisis "has allowed Anglophones to conclude that they can not do anything with us (Francophones) because they find us mediocre," said Danielle, living in Limbe since 2005 and living with an English speaker.

But for Lessly, one of the few English speakers to agree to speak on the subject, the current discomfort arises partly from an amalgam. "An ordinary (English-speaking) citizen that you meet in the street likens the destruction and killings committed by the army to acts perpetrated by francophones," he explains.

He admits that the crisis is weakening the cohesion between the two communities, because the Anglophones who make this amalgam do not know that "In this same army, there are anglophones".

For this young businessman, "division is not good" and "complicates the life of everyone on the social and economic levels".

Limbé is home to the National Refinery Company (Sonara), the country's largest refinery. The goal of the separatists is to take control of this society, most of whose executives, as well as the director general, are francophone.

The city also hosts a base of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), an elite unit of the army whose elements are regularly seen in the city during their constant back and forth between Limbe and the epicentres of the war. of secession like Kumba or Mamfe.


Source: AFP