BY CYNTHIA AKUM
The North West and South West regions of Cameroon have remained restive since the outbreak of the Anglophone crisis in 2017. Investigative findings and reports from many human rights groups and non-governmental organisations have condemned extrajudicial killings mostly by the military, on innocent civilians including children and pregnant women, and the burning of houses.
It should be recalled that Common Law Lawyers went to strike in October 2016 to protest against government’s attempts to annihilate the Common Law practice in a constitutionally bilingual and bi-jural Cameroon. The strike lasted for over a year.
Anglophone teachers in the country joined the strike on November 21, 2016 to uphold Anglo-Saxon values under threat in Cameroon’s two English speaking regions.
The government crackdown on Anglophone activists has since intensified with arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and extra-judicial killings becoming the new normal, human rights groups have said.
Human rights groups and non-governmental organisations have in one voice condemned the extra-judicial killings mostly by the military on innocent civilians including children and pregnant women and burning of houses.
Reports say this situation has caused many to migrate to French Cameroon, while others have fled to neighbouring countries where they are living as refugees.
According to statistics from human rights groups, over 7,000 persons have been killed, hundreds kidnapped, thousands of houses and over 400 villages razed with over 75,000 persons identified as Internally Displaced, with over 45,000 living as refugees in Nigeria. Some have been left in constant fears either for the demise of their love ones or because their houses have been razed. These attacks have been so alarming that human rights groups across the board have concluded that Cameroon is no longer safe.
The Cameroon Government has, for over five years now, been battling to arrest the situation but tensions continue to intensify with civilian population in the North West and South West Regions in peril, panic and pandemonium. Due to this confusion, and fear of the unknown, many youths and businessmen continue to go underground.
The whereabouts of a Kumba-based businessman, Mr Taleh Azeseng Gilbert, for example, remains unknown since September 2022. The diehard advocate for the greater autonomy of Southern Cameroons since in his university days is a victim a circumstances.
Because of his opinion, his house was razed to the ground by the military in 2018 at the heat of the Anglophone crisis. After having spent some time abroad,he decided to return to his country since the government keeps talking of national dialogue, reconciliation and reconstruction, family sources hinted.
The crisis intensified and Taleh Azeseng Gilbert couldn’t withstand the heat, taking into consideration that the government retaliated on activists who intensified their fighting from the period to October, the month Southern Cameroonians claim to have had independence from Britain.
The situation was worsened as government once again went out for massive arrest crackdown characterised with looting, destructions and killings. Amidst all these, the shop of Taleh Azeseng Gilbert was razed to the ground by the military. As we went to press, family sources disclosed that the Taleh Azeseng, just like many alleged activists, remains a target on government list for arrest and persecution if found anywhere within the national territory.
Another unfortunate case is that of Ebot Witney Tarh. Her pathetic situation equally started in her university days. Considered as one of the student leaders who always roseto protest against the marginalisation of English-speaking students in the university and the systematic transformation of the University of Buea by allowing lectures to be taught in French contrary to the school policy, reports say she has been arrested several times by the military and detained under inhumane conditions.
These numerous manhandling by the military on Ebot Witney Tarh, caused her to relocate to the village to meet her mother. Reports hold that the military stormed their village and discovered that her father, a retired police officer, was a staunch Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, member and that he was leaking state secrets to his community who were all considered as Ambazonia fighters.
This led the military concluding that her family members were staunch supporters of Ambazonia fighters.
During the village raid by the military, Ebot Witney Tarh, like many other youths in the village, had gone underground to the bushes, but the military carried out search in their residence and carried away her documents including her SCNC membership card. The military also took her picture and razed their residence.
For fear of the unknown, Ebot Witney Tarh went to Kumba under cover and continued with her political activism. She struggled and completed her studies.
She was declared wanted by the military and on several occasion kidnapped, tortured, raped and abandoned at various neighbourhoods by unknown men.
With the continuous search for Ebot Witney Tarh by military, due to her political opinion and attachment to the ideals of the SCNC, she decided to leave the country to where the respect of human rights is prime. Since September 2022 family sources have hinted thather whereabouts remains cloudy and reports say the military has intensified search for her.
The ongoing socio-political impasse in Cameroon, especially in the restive North West and South West Regions, escalating, the United States Department of States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour published a 45-page document on Cameroon 2018 Human Rights Report wherein they highlighted the worseninghuman rights situation in Cameroon as about 3,000 civilian lives have been claimed, by the armed conflict, and about 730,000 displaced with many living horrible lives in neigbouring Nigeria.