By Nadia Ndome
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.
The government crackdown on Anglophone activists since 2016 when the crisis began 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 by both non-state armed groups and 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 and overseas 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.
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.
Hopes for peace were raised early this year when a press release from the Canadian Foreign Affairs ministry talked of both sides agreeing to negotiate a peace deal. This was dashed and gloom returned when Cameroon government spokesman Rene Sadi distanced government from what was happening in Canada claiming the government didn’t give mandate to anyone to negotiate on its behalf.
Since then killings, kidnappings are resumed and the list of victims of this crisis continues to grow.
Tewah Laurita, a graduate from the University of Bamenda explains what she went through in the hands of government forces before escaping to safety. She started by hinting us on how she added her voice to those of others to call for the restoration of the federal system in Cameroon.
“I only added my voice to many to call for the restoration of the federal system that existed before now”, said Tewah Laurita.
In a bid to know what pushed her to take that decision, she said the killing of innocent civilians who came out to decry the marginalization of Anglophone Cameroon triggered her. “The forces of Law and Order of the government in power caught me with flyers carrying a slogan which read; “Bring back our Federal System of Government and stop the shooting”, she said.
According to Laurita, she was then taken to the Bambui police cell where she was detained alongside others with who she was for four days. Attempts to bail her from the dragnet of the police by family members and friends went in vain.
Surprisingly to her, one of the police men of French speaking Cameroon came up to her and accused her of her involvement in a strike action that took place in Buea in 2017. That is how she was then transferred to the prison in Buea where she was lucky to meet a Human Rights lawyer who could release her on bail and assisted her with money to go to the hospital for treatment. She had had severe injuries meted on her while she was in the police custody.
“I was hospitalized at the Government hospital in Muyuka Sub Division for seven days” said Tewah Laurita.
She then explained how a nurse working in the said hospital helped her to escape through Ekok and to neighboring Nigeria when the nurse realized the warder was fast asleep in the ward.
Tiegeh Collantine Youngobwe, a graduate from the University of Buea and the first child of a family of five has been missing from their family home in Muea, a town close to the South West Regional headquarters of Buea. The parents, Tiegeh David and Herodia Mapuh are in a state of total despair and desperation. They have visited hospitals, clinics, police and gendarme cells to look for their son to no avail.
An unemployed graduate, aged 25, having been put to birth on July 17, 1997, Tiegeh has been the target of both government forces and separatist fighters according to his parents. While government forces have been tracking him as a separatist fighter, the separatists have been after his head accusing him of colluding with government troops and identifying their positions in Muea. Muea has been veritable hotspots in the ongoing crisis which has registered many battles between the belligerents leading to casualties on both sides.
Tiegeh it is reported has been missing now for over six months and no information has been garnered without he is in the country or has fled the country for safety like many others.
Still another pathetic case
Another case is that Ewah Nadege Blance born on the 20/06/1993 at Batibo. She is a nurse by profession, though due to her small earnings which was not enough to take care of her, her daughter and family she decided to study medical esthetic.
After her certificate in medical esthetic, she worked for one year and later opened her petit business in Bastos Yaounde by name Body Expression Beauty Institute.
She relocated to Yaounde from Bamenda when it became unbearable to stay in Bamenda. She moved to Yaounde with her mother and siblings due the crisis raging the northwest region. She is a mother of one. She lost her elder brother during an exchange of gunfire between the armed forces and separatist fighters.
Towards the end of 2020, after a quiet period in Yaounde during which the beauty institute she opened picked up steam, she opened smaller branches and started sending products to Limbe in the South West region and Bamenda in the North West. Unfortunately, her business growth instead brought her trouble as she started receiving strange visitors who quizzed her on her business and where the funds of her business were being sent to. This stemmed from the fact that security alerts by security officers was to their opinion that the Anglophones (English Speaking Cameroonians) who moved to Yaounde were also sponsoring the Ambazonian defence forces (separatists’ fighters) in the North West and South West Regions.
The questioning turned to threats of arrest on the grounds that she was sponsoring the activities of separatists. With the many threats of arrests, she has been on the run hardly residing long in one place. She has been moving in and out of the country also.
Infact, in the early months of 2021, on heading to her business site, Ewah Nadege Blance was surprised when some few minutes later, about three persons approached her shop saying they were from special branch department of the police force saying they had come to investigate her business accusing her of sponsoring Ambazonian fighters. She was grilled for over three hours. The following day she had a visit from the taxation department.
The scenarios repeated themselves when she visited her business branches in Limbe and Bamenda. In Bamenda she was picked up by two men on a motorcycle and was taken the separatists’ camp and was confronted by one “General Beabea” who accused her of being a blackleg in the struggle. She was held in the camp for two days and got released after paying a ransom.
After these traumatizing situations, she was lucky to travel out of the country namely the United States. Her relatives and friends warned her not to return but she defied their advise to come back home.
She rarely went out but was surprised on February 2023 by the visit of two security officers who told her they have been in the look out for her. They forced themselves into her house without a search warrant, ransacked the house and virtually turned it upside down. She was whisked to the police station and seriously tortured.
Ewah Nadege Blance, with the help of an investigator was able to sneak herself out of the torture chamber and go into hiding. No one knows where she is now.