By ERNSTINE NGUM
As the crisis that has been rocking the North West and South West regions, which has spiraled into an armed conflict, rages on, the government, as a means to crackdown on all those suspected to be activists or sympathisers to the Anglophone cause, has been targeting the family members of Anglophone activists who are based in the diaspora.
In this light, security operatives have been indiscriminately arresting the family members of Anglophone diaspora activists. This has caused many of them to flee into hiding and the whereabouts of some is not known.
Sources say those arrested are being tortured and detained under horrendous and inhuman conditions.
It should be recalled that on Tuesday April 24, 2018, Agbor Ruth Ayuk, the mother of Anglophone activist, Mark Bareta, based in Belgium was arrested by police in Buea. She was taken to the police station for questioning.
Police reportedly asked Agbor Ruth Ayuk to produce her son, Mark Bareta, whom government has labeled a terrorist. She was also accused of sponsoring the rise of the Anglophone crisis with money sent by Mark Bareta.
Reacting on his Facebook page then, Mark Bareta, onetime interim leader of Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, said his mother was innocent and has never controlled his actions.
“Like every parent, you give birth to a child. You don’t give birth to his or her heart/mind, or control their actions. As a strong Catholic Women’s Association, CWA, member, she believes in justice and lives her own small life going to bed every day worried to death, wondering whether I am safe or not. She has numerous times over the years requested that I slow down but came to the conclusion that I am responsible for my own actions,” Bareta had written.
Chris Anu’s mother, sister arrested
Meanwhile, Grace Anu and Beza Berist, mother and sister respectively of Chris Anu, onetime Secretary of Communication of the Ambazonia Interim Government, who last month became Interim President of one of the factions of the Interim Government, were on August 2, 2019 picked up from their home in Yaounde by plain clothes security men.
Chris Anu’s 80-year-old mother and sister were detained incommunicado at the Secretariat of State for Defence, SED, before being transferred to the Yaounde Kondengui maximum security prison.
The security forces are said to have searched their home in Obobogo, Yaounde and discovered 1.6 million FCFA. Barrister Christopher Ndong had confided to the press that the security officers effected the search following suspicion that Anu’s mother and sister were keeping proceeds raised from ransoms in the North West and South West regions.
Grace Anu and Beza Berist later appeared at the Mfoundi High Court in Yaounde to defend themselves against several charges which included support to secession and terrorism.
It should be noted that separatist fighters’ kingpin in Lebialem division of the South West region, Oliver Lekeaka, who was killed on July 12, 2022, was also a brother of Chris Anu.
The case of Adolf Oben’s family
Another separatist supporter whose family members are being targeted is Adolf Oben, who is currently seeking asylum in the United States of America. On August 17, 2022, Adolf Oben took part in a demonstration organised by separatist supporters in front of the Cameroon embassy in Washington led by the renowned Elvis Kometa, Vice President of the North America branch of the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC. The demonstrators were calling for the unconditional release of all Anglophone political activists from the Kondengui maximum security prison and all over the national territory.
On several occasions security operatives have been storming the residences of Adolf Oben’s family members, harassing, torturing and demanding them to release the whereabouts of him. For fear of their lives, some of them have gone into hiding.
It should also be recalled that in October 2021, Antoinette Kongnso, ex-girlfriend of dreaded separatist fighter, popularly known as ‘General’ No Pity, was arrested in Buea. She was detained at the gendarmerie legion and later transferred to the Buea central prison. She has been attending trial at the Buea Court of Appeal. The case has suffered several adjournments.
Though Antoinette Kongnso is now a nursing mother, after having given birth while in detention, pleas by her lawyers for her to be released on bail have been rejected by the court.
It is believed that government’s actions to target family members of separatists is to cause them to pipe down.
Origin of Anglophone crisis
It is worth recalling that the Anglophone crisis, something that pundits say had been brewing for several years, boiled over in 2016, when Common Law Lawyers in the North West and South West regions went on strike. They were demanding for the return of the federal system of government, redeployment of Civil Law Magistrates back to Civil Law Courts in French Cameroon, among other grievances. Not long after, teachers in the North West and South West regions also went on strike, demanding for the redress of several issues concerning the English system of education.
Things, however, got worst when Anglophones in both regions, who had been fed up with the unfavourable political and economic situation of the country, the use of French as the dominant and official language, and the marginalisation of the Anglophones, joined the strike.
The crisis has left thousands, both civilians and security and defence forces dead, others internally displaced with some living in bushes while over 30,000 have fled to neighbouring Nigeria where they are living as refugees.
Many houses, and even whole villages, have been burnt down in the crisis-hit regions.
The separatist leader of the self-declared Republic of Ambazonia, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, and eight other close associates of his, who were arrested in Nigeria and extradited to Cameroon in January 2018, are currently at the Kondengui maximum security prison in Yaounde, serving life sentences.
Many other activists such as Mancho Bibixy, Penn Terrence, Tsi Conrad, among others, are also serving lengthy sentences at the Kondengui prison.
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.