By Boris Esono Nwenfor
As the year 2021 concludes, the situation in Cameroon’s North Region and Anglophone Regions are still volatile. For the latter, the crisis that is in its fifth year is still ragging on with constant attacks on schools and killing of school children, attacks of security forces and the latest being in the use of IEDs in towns.
The separatist fighters have become emboldened with their attacks on security forces increasing by the numbers. They have also acquired sophisticated weapons which have caused great damage to Cameroon’s defence and security forces. Over 3,000 civilians and security personnel have been killed in the Anglophone Regions since the crisis began in 2016.
Over in the Far North of the country, the Islamist armed group Boko Haram carried out a series of attacks killing scores of civilians. The conflict between the government forces and Boko Haram has seen thousands of Cameroonians displaced.
Pan African Visions now takes a look at the major highlights and events that happened throughout the year.
Rise in school attacks, killing of schoolchildren
In 2020, some four attacks were carried out in educational establishments leading to scores killed and the trend seems to have subsided in the first half of the year 2021. The dream of many to see schools left out of the frequent attack died when on October 14, Enondiale Carolaise, a class one pupil was shot in Buea on her way to school. Barely a month later, Tataw Brandy was killed while on her way back to school in Bamenda, the chief town of the North West.
“Every father who sees this situation cannot stand by and watch, because how can you explain a child being shot on the way back from school. What does it have to do with their battle? We are all going to die but now the police officer is running away why?” an angry inhabitant told journalists in Bamenda.
“We came to pick up the child when the policeman had already fired and run away. Are they going to kill us like this every day? She and her mother are my neighbours, they live by the roadside.”
After two improvised explosive devices went off in Buea with the second killing a taxi driver, the perpetrators then turned their attention to the University of Buea and on November 10, an attack was carried out with an IED leading to 11 students injured. And on November 24 another attack was carried out at GBHS Ekondo Titi in the South West with five deaths recorded; four students and a teacher.
Raiding of health centres by government forces
Government forces have continuously been accused of “raiding” health facilities in search of separatist fighters who they say are being treated in these facilities. Health centres are impartial places where the wounded are treated no matter their linings but security personnel have continuously accused health personnel of siding with the separatist fighters.
On Sunday, November 14, 2021, at about 1:30 pm, members of the Cameroon military entered the St. Elizabeth Catholic Hospital Shisong or simply Shisong Hospital, armed with sophisticated weapons and all dressed in combat gear, a frightful scene for patients in a hospital setting according to the Director of the Hospital.
“The Military personnel went through every inch of the Hospital from the consultation room and the exploratory laboratories, to the basement of the Cardiac centre, the emergency unit, the dispensary and from ward to ward in search of separatist fighters,” Dr Sr Anshoma Helen, Director of the Shisong Hospital said in her letter, copied to the Senior Divisional Officer, Bui and the Bishop, Diocese of Kumbo.
“Not finding the Amba Boys they were looking for, they started insulting and threatening the Reverend Sisters. They even threatened to shoot the sisters in the leg if they did not indicate where they had hidden and are treating the Amba Boys in the Hospital.”
The Military personnel have attacked the Shisong Hospital for the second time this 2021 and for the third time since the crisis started. When the security personnel left according to the Director, they promised that when they come back they will set the hospital “on fire”. “Not satisfied with this explanation, the Military exercised brute force on the Security Officers. They were severely beaten with the butts of the guns and kicked with their military boots. They all sustained injuries and swollen faces…,” She said.
Doctors without Borders suspends operation in North West
After facing countless pressures from the Cameroon government and having been under a ban in the North West Region for nearly eight months, Doctors Without Borders finally pull the plug concerning their activities in the Region.
“We cannot stay any longer in a region where we are not allowed to provide care to the people,” Emmanuel Lampaert, Doctors Without Borders’ Operations Coordinator for Central Africa said in August as he brought the curtains down in their activities in the region.
“Unfortunately, we cannot keep our staff on standby any longer, so we have no choice but to withdraw our teams. However, will keep a small liaison office in Bamenda, the regional capital, to continue our dialogue with the authorities.”
The international medical agency’s decision came after the government of Cameroon constantly accused them of supporting local armed groups, which MSF rejected. Despite months of exchanges, Cameroonian authorities did not grant MSF the right to resume their activities. And since the NGO seized activities in the region in August, nothing concrete has been made on whether or not activities will resume.
“The suspension significantly reduces access to medical services in an area where communities are badly affected by armed violence,” Emmanuel Lampaert added. “We hope that the provision of medical humanitarian assistance to everyone, without distinction, will still be possible. The people are paying a very heavy price for this situation. If the authorities decide to lift our suspension, we will resume medical activities as soon as possible.”
MSF’s works were not only to those who have been affected directly due to the crisis. MSF’s team treated 180 survivors of sexual violence, provided 1,725 mental health consultations, performed 3,272 surgeries, and transported 4,407 patients by ambulance, more than 1,000 of whom were women about to give birth.