By Sah Terence Animbom
The arrest of some three Cameroonian American Citizens suspected to be the major sponsors of armed groups in Cameroons North West and South West regions seems to have instilled some sort of fear in other separatist funders in the US, Europe and South Africa.
Kidnap for ransom has had a sharp increase within the last three weeks with international NGOs working in the two regions finding it more difficult to access certain areas. This reporter spoke with some International Non Governmental Organizations working in the two regions who revealed startling figures of persons kidnapped weekly. Though they would not want to be quoted, they revealed that at least 40 persons are abducted weekly in the North West and South West Regions.
Some of the abductions lead to killing with about three corpses seen around Bamenda within the last week around Nacho Junction and Ndamukong neighborhoods.
“Such abductions have become targeted and very strategic abductions as the armed groups are making sure that the persons they abduct can pay heavy ransoms”
Claude Chi, Lah Nestor Langmi and Francis Chenyi are the three Ambazonia activist indicted by the US Department of Justice. They are being indicted for conspiracy to provide material support to a conspiracy to kidnap persons and use of weapons of mass destruction in Cameroon. The three are all Cameroonian born citizens with US citizenship.
Boyo administrators have been locked out of Boyo division by heavily armed and hostile armed separatist fighters along the Bambui-Fundong stretch of road for over three weeks now. They charge every passenger FCFA 1000 for road settlement at three separate control posts and compel all drivers to pay FCFA 2000. Passengers are now compelled to pay FCFA 5000 as transportation fare to Fundong Sub division, witnessing a FCFA 3000 increment from the usual fare. This compulsory collection of FCFA 1000 from each passenger is said to be a strategy the armed groups use every month of December since 2019 to get enough money to celebrate the festive period.
It is estimated that at least 25 passenger vehicles transport at least 200 passengers to Fundong on a daily basis, thus giving the three control posts an average of FCFA 750,000 a day. For passengers whose ID cards show professions like teacher, journalist, banker and other professions that sound lucrative, they are compelled to pay from FCFA 25,000 to FCFA 100,000 depending on how diplomatic and how strong their negotiating force is. They are therefore able to make up to FCFA 1Million on some daysand are likely to make at least FCFA 18,750,000 by December 24, estimated to be when they will finally leave the roads free.
This reporter was compelled to pay a substantial amount at one of the control post in Belo on Friday, December 16, after his bags were taken out of the car by the armed fighters with threats to take him to the camp unless he paid FCFA 100,000. He and other passengers were held there for over 45 minutes as he pleaded his way out while proposing to give them the last money he had on him.
Business persons have been compelled to pay between FCFA 20,000 and FCFA 50,000 as taxes to the armed groups. Failure to pay results in the armed fighters keeping you at their control post and eventually to their camp if the military does not pass by to disperse them.
For three weeks now, the Sabga Ngoketunjia Kumbo road has been blocked by separatist fighters, once more subjecting commuters of Ngoketunjia and Bui division to difficult routes. Prices of Irish potatoes that come from Kumbo have recorded the highest price hike since 2017 with a bucket of Irish potatoes now selling at FCFA 4500.
While the tensions continue to rise between armed groups and the regular military, there has also been infighting between the armed groups leading to the killing of each other for reasons of money and double dealing. Armed groups in Bamenda conveyed someone who was thought to be one of theirs to Nacho Junction last Friday December 16 and shot him on the chest with at least five bullets before riding off on their bikes leaving him to die.