BY NGUM ERNESTINE
The Anglophone crisis that has been raging on since 2016 following the Common Law Lawyers and Anglophone Teachers peaceful demonstration against the marginalisation of the former British Southern Cameroons by the majority Francophone Cameroon otherwise known as La Republique du Cameroun and clamouring for the restoration of the Independence of former British Southern Cameroons, metamorphosed into an armed conflict for the past six years and counting, the government has been restless in multiplying strategies for the armed conflict to end.
In 2021 the entire nation was sadden, following the abduction of six Divisional Delegates of Ndian Division, South West Region by alleged separatist fighters otherwise known as Amba Boys. The have taken up arms against the state of Cameroon, demanding for the restoration of the independence of Former British Southern Cameroons with a new State known as the Federal Republic of Ambazonia. These Delegates were abducted while on an inspection mission to Ekondo-Titi Sub Division of Ndian Division.
Ever since the abduction of these Delegates in 2021 the government, through its robust military might, has reactivated fresh search for alleged Anglophone Activists. The whereabouts of the abducted delegates is still unknown.
Though the abduction of the delegates remains government preoccupation, in October 2020 there was the gruesome killing of students and pupils by armed men suspected to be Separatist fighters, at the Mother Francisca Memorial Bilingual International Academy Fiango, Kumba, Meme Division South West Region, of Cameroon one of the restive areas in the armed conflict rocking Anglophone Cameroon.
According to reports, about seven students and pupils between the ages of 9 and 13 were brutally killed, while about 11 others were sustained grievous injuries and were rush to the hospital, is even more disturbing.
Despite wide condemnation from across the board, the government decided to lunch fresh pursuit against suspected Anglophone activists at home and abroad especially as the abduction of the Delegates and the Kumba school killing occurred few months after the killing of civilians by the military with the assistance of 30 armed Fulani militiamen in Ngarbuh village of the North West Region of Cameroon massacre where about 21 civilians were killed alongside 13 children and a pregnant woman amidst the Anglophone crisis.
Despite documented compelling evidence published by New York Times Journal and corroborated by Human Rights Watch, the New Humanitarian, Cameroon Humanitarian Civil Society Organisation and the Catholic Church accusing the Cameroon army of the massacre and other extrajudicial killings in the armed conflict zones of the North West and South West Regions, the government has formerly denied its responsibility in many of these killings. The Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji, has instead faulted national and international Organisations, including the media, NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for fueling terrorism, distabilising Cameroon and faking reports to tarnish the image of the country’s security forces.
The government and its security forces believe that the crisis is being fanned by activists at home and abroad and are bent on tracking them, including even their families back home. The government has reactivated fresh pursuit for their arrest, persecution and prosecution of the activists.
Amongst the many of these activists, whom the government and the military are really bent on apprehending, as they have already declared him wanted, is Ashu Roland Erieh. Reports say before going underground in 2016, he was amongst many other youth who initiated a strike action in the North West Regional capital of Bamenda in 2016. The strike action was against the marginalisation of Southern Cameroons. However they were arrested by the military and as they were being whisked to Yaounde, they managed to escape from the hands of the military.
Ever since this incident happened, the military has been making frequent and impromptu raids in their village in Mamfe, Manyu Division, South West Region to find out if Ashu Roland Erieh and the others are around. Family sources hinted that, since Ashu, just like many other activists, have been declared wanted and placed under security searchlight, the government and military have equally placed a ransom for any person who will dish out information about the whereabouts of Ashu. To make matters worse, the military carried out a raid in Mamfe in search of alleged Anglophone activists including Ashu Roland Erieh. In that raid, they arrested Ashu’s mother and at the time we went to press her whereabouts remained unclear.
The Anglophone crisis is now characterised by civil disobedience, violence, intimidation, kidnappings and complete breakdown of law and order with the military allegedly burning down homes and villages considered as enemies of the State.
As the crisis rages on, many have become internally displayed persons. Recent statistics by Civil Cociety Organisations have declared Cameroon as unsafe for youths. The death toll is ever rising. There are claims that about 300 villages have been razed to the ground in the two English-speaking Regions, 5,000 lives claimed by the armed conflict while about 850,000 people remain internally displayed with a majority of those displayed, taking refuge in the forests. This is in addition to the more than 50,000 Anglophones Cameroonians who have assumed the status of refugees in Nigeria.
Meantime, the government has launched a manhunt for those alleged to be fanning the crisis at home and abroad with terrorism charges to be proffered against them if arrested as they have been declared wanted just like Ashu Roland Erieh and others.
It should be noted that those arrested in connection with the Anglophone crisis are tried in a military Tribunal under the anti- errorism law whose maximum sentence is death penalty. The case of the separatist leaders, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius, Nfor Ngala Nfor, Barristers Eyambe, Severzim, Tassang Wilfred, and a host of others is still fresh in the minds of Cameroonians.