BY LUSY LIMA
As the crisis rocking the North West and South West regions, which has spiraled into an armed conflict, rages on, relatives of separatists, friends, wives and husbands and suspected sympertisers of the Anglophone cause have been feeling the brunt as government steps up its crackdown.
In this light, security operatives have been indiscriminately arresting family members, loved ones, punishing them for crimes committed by suspected separatists.
Sources say the arrested are being tortured and detained under horrendous and inhuman conditions. Some are reported to have died in detention.
Killings, kidnappings, torture and scores-settling have become the order of the day.
Meanwhile, people have been killed or arrested simply because they have a relationship or are family members of either separatist fighters or soldiers. Many people have lost their lives or properties because they are related to either are separatist fighter or government soldier.
It should be recalled that this was the case in early 2019, when the mother of senior Ambazonia activist based in Belgium, Mark Bareta, was arrested and detained at the police station in Buea.
Meanwhile, in August 2019, 80-year-old Grace Mafuantem and Beza Berist, respectively mother and sister of Chris Anu, who is the Secretary of Communication of the Ambazonia Interim Government, IG, were arrested in Yaounde and detained at the Secretariat for Defence at the National Gendarmerie, SED.
Security forces arrested them after a search operation was carried out at their residence in Yaounde.
Grace Mafuantem and Beza Berist were later transferred to the Kondengui maximum security prison, from where they appeared at the Mfoundi High Court.
It should be noted that frontline separatist leader, Chris Anu, also has a brother, Lekeaka Oliver aka Field Marshall, who is one of the foremost rebel leaders in the Lebialem division of the South West region.
In October 2021, eight-month pregnant Antoinette Kongnso Gohla, former girlfriend of separatist fighters’ kingpin known as General No Pity, was arrested and detained at the Buea police station and later transferred to the Buea Central prison. After being taken to the Buea Regional Hospital to give birth, she was sent back to the prison. Kongnso and her baby continue to languish in prison despite the fact that a court in Buea had ruled, granting her bail.
Meanwhile, in early August 2021, security forces are reported to have arrested the mother and sister of general No Pity in Bambalang, Ngoketunjia division of the North West region. They were later transferred to Yaounde where they are currently being detained at Secretariat for Defence at the National Gendarmerie, SED.
Sometime ago, Dorish Mbong Amuh, a voluntary worker with the Cameroon Red Cross in the North West region, suspected by the military of helping wounded separatist fighters. The military, we gathered, is currently searching for her.
Another case is that of Minette Eyong Etta, who recently visited Cameroon from Sweden and was arrested, tortured and thrown behind bars because her husband, Humphry Bate, is wanted, allegedly for supporting and financing separatist movements. The allegations, nonetheless, have not been proven to be true.
We gathered that though Minette was finally released after bail was granted her, there are hundreds, if not thousands, in jails across the country under similar conditions.
Origin of the crisis
It is worth recalling that the Anglophone crisis, something that pundits say had been brewing for several years, boiled over in October 2016 when Common Law Lawyers in the North West and South West regions went on strike, paralyzing the courts. They were demanding for a return to the federal system of government, redeployment of Civil Law Magistrates back to Civil Law Courts among other grievances. Not long after, teachers in the North West and South West regions also went on strike, demanding the redress of several issues concerning the English sub-system of education.
Things got worse when concerned citizens in the North West and South West regions, who had been fed up with the unfavourable political and especially economic stagnation of Cameroon at large, but more importantly in these regions, joined the strike.
But after negotiations with the teachers and lawyers ended in deadlock, the government banned the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, and the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, CACSC. Some of the leaders of the Consortium such as Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho and Dr. Fontem Niba were immediately arrested while others such as Barrister Bobga Harmony and Tassang Wilfred fled into hiding.
Meanwhile, some leaders of the Anglophone separatist movements including Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and nine others, who were arrested in Abuja, Nigeria in February 2018 and later extradited to Yaounde, are currently at the Kondengui maximum security prison, where they are serving life sentences. Many other Anglophone activists including Mancho Bibixy, Penn Terence, Tsi Conrad, among others, are also serving lengthy prison sentences.
It is also worth noting that many people, both civilians and security forces, have been killed in the crisis, many more internally displaced and over 30,000 have fled to neighbouring Nigeria where they are living as refugees.
While the Anglophone crisis continues to escalate, international organisations and other Western powers have called on the government to address the root cause through genuine and inclusive dialogue.