Cameroon: CHRDA’s Latest Book Chronicles the Unheard Voices of the Anglophone Crisis
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
BUEA, March 17, 2023 – “They turned my body into a playing ground. Despite my crying, they were more concerned with taking turns,” “Please I am only begging you. If you cut my fingers, how will I work and take care of my children (translated from pidgin-English).” These are just some of the poignant points that are contained in a book released by the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, CHRDA.
The heart-wrenching, soul-searching 173-page book made public on Friday, March 17, 2023, is titled “In the Eye of the Storm, between the Devil and the Deep Sea. The unheard voices of the Anglophone War in Cameroon.” The book has been divided into nine chapters focusing on issues that will tickle the minds of the readers, asking, how come we reached the level we are today, in the North West and South West Regions, after six years.
“The author is the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, representing unheard voices, voices that you don’t normally watch on television, you don’t hear on the radio and read in newspapers,” Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor, founder of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa told Pan African Visions.
“These are voices of people who have been victims of the crisis, who also have appreciated the crisis from a different perspective. We felt that we should capture these voices because traditionally, we always have the heard voices. We felt that these unheard voices should also be listened to. So, they are the ones that CHRDA captured their voices.”
Greed, avarice and sheer narcissism have become the order of the day, according to the authors. “This happens daily in Anglophone Cameroon; blood-fighting, rape, kidnapping, torture, summary executions, arbitrary arrests, random and avenge killings. This is the new normal. Many people have lost their sensitivity as human beings and become indifferent to the horrors around them. We have sunk to depths of depravity and despair.”
“(The simple message) is enough is enough. People have and continue to suffer. When you read the book, you can at least talk to whoever has the power to find a solution. It could still be a non-state armed group, a mayor, or a parliamentarian, the message is for every one of us to know that it is time to find a solution,” Barrister Nkongho Felix added.
“We are not doing a blame game in the book, that is why we are not calling names, apportioning blames. We believe that all of us, in one way of another other through omission or commission could have made errors. But it is high time we find a solution.”
Since the beginning of the crisis in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, social media have been the place where most people made their voices heard – be it to stand for the population of the two anglophone regions, to support the army or simply to give information about the evolution of the conflict. But CHRDA is changing that narrative as it looks to document atrocities committed in the English-speaking Regions for future usage.
Statistics from the International Crisis Group indicate that at least 500 civilians have died in the violence. According to the UN, there are 32,000 anglophone refugees in Nigeria and an estimated number of 437,000 internally displaced persons. CHRDA estimates that, since October 2017, at least 122 villages were raided and burnt in the anglophone regions.
Tambe Tiku, President of the SW Branch of the Cameroon Human Rights Commission said: “This is unprecedented in that in most of the international and event national tribunals, we have difficulties of prosecuting perpetrators of human rights violations because of the lack of evidence. This will go a long way to enhance the criminal justice system because now we have an opportunity to document some of the first-hand details about the violations, especially coming from the victims themselves.”
“This publication has come at the right time when we have so many of these atrocities. I will like to encourage CHRDA, that they should not end at this publication, but we have atrocities that are coming up daily.”
Health infrastructure in the North West and South West regions has collapsed, with OCHA estimating that 79 per cent of health districts were wholly or partially non-functional in 2019. Access to healthcare services has fallen drastically as healthcare personnel are threatened or killed by the army or separatist fighters for providing aid to others, the authors reported.
“I see the book more as a way of documenting evidence, for some future legal exercise. We have had victims, we see them, but nobody is documenting,” said Barrister Nkea Emmanuel.
“This is an innovative way of reporting and keeping trace because tomorrow when you want to refer to atrocities, you will need evidence. This is very important aspect in that regard.”