Opposition activists called it an effort to cling to power and alleged intimidation and harassment of people who didn’t support the amendments.
177 inmates arrested for protesting in Cameroon’s notorious Kondengui prison
July 28, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Amos Fofung
The government of Cameroon has via a communique penned by the Minister of Communication said they had arrested some one hundred and seventy-seven detainees in relation to last Monday’s prison riot at the Kondengui Central prison, one of Cameroon’s most notorious detention facilities.
This come 24hours after it was reported that hundreds of prisoners where unaccounted for after violent protest breakout in the detention facility situated at Cameroon’s capital city, Yaounde.
Some media report state that at least 300 prisoners were removed after the prison protest with other feared death after security forces used live bullets on protesting prisoners. Though Amnesty International has requested investigation into the allegations, the government claims that no shots were fired and that just 177 prisoners who initiated the protest were transferred to police and gendarmerie cells.
Leading the protest which also took place at the Buea Central prison were detainees arrested in relation to the country’s Anglophone crisis.
In an open letter sent to the Prime Minister, the detainee requested their freedom, stating that their arrest was unjust. Campaigning for an end to the war in the English-speaking regions the detainee denounced overcrowding, judicial delays and what they described as deplorable conditions at the Yaounde prison, which was constructed for 750 people but now holds more than 6,000 inmates.
Cameroon Official Blames Opposition MRC Supporters for Prison Protest
July 28, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
An official of the Cameroon government has blamed supporters of a detained opposition leader, Maurice Kamto, for a riot at the Kondengui prison in the capital, Yaoundé. Hundreds of inmates went on a rampage on Sunday July 21, burning the prison library and infirmary as well as the destruction of a workshop meant for female inmates, reports indicate.
A government official, Jean Claude Tilla, who visited the prison to assess the damage, told the BBC that supporters of Mr Kamto’s Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) were the instigators of the violence. At least 400 of the party supporters are held in different facilities in the country, but it is unclear how many detained at the prison took part in the protest.
Speaking to the BBC reporter in Yaounde, Mr Tilla said supporters of the CRM have been causing trouble in Cameroon prisons since they were detained. “We know that they are hiding behind the Anglophone problem to foment such trouble,” he told journalists”.
Cameroon’s communication Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi in a communiqué said at least 177 detainees have been taken into custody in relation to the protest. According to the Minister, the detainees were the brains behind the prison protest.
Minister Sadi however indicated that the protest led to two detainees injured while dismissing reports that there were deaths during the protest.
The riot which was live streamed on Facebook showed prisoners calling for the release of Anglophone separatist leaders held for over a year now. They chanted pro-independence slogans and described President Paul Biya’s government as incompetent.
Cameroonian security forces restored control after shooting in the air and firing tear gas into the prison. The Anglophone detainees – many of whom have never been taken to court – were moved to different detention facilities.
Another riot equally broke out Tuesday July 23, at the Buea central Prison which houses detainees of the on-going Anglophone crisis. According to multiple reports, gunshots were heard early Tuesday morning around the premise which caused many caused panic among the inhabitants.
On visiting the scene, this journalist and others were barred from entering the prison as an emergency meeting was taking place, involving the Governor of the South West Region and others security personnel. A journalist’s camera was seized by one of the security personnel and only told to come back later and collect.
The strike action at the Buea central prison reports hold was in solidarity to that carried out at the Kondengui Maximum prison in Yaounde. A similar one was organized in Bamenda, North West Region of the country.
Following the security forces’ use of firearms, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Director said “authorities in Cameroon must refrain from using excessive force against prisoners and independently and effectively investigate the use of firearms and live ammunition reported during the riot”. “Prison conditions are absolutely dire in Kondengui, an overcrowded prison where many prisoners are waiting to be brought before a judge. Until this situation is remedied, there is a real risk of further violence”.
She added: “authorities should work to improve the grim conditions prisoners are crammed into, release anyone detained only for exercising their right to peaceful protest and ensure that all the people detained past the legal period of pre-trial detention are immediately presented to a judge or released”.
Sierra Leone:Former APC Big Guns to appear in the ongoing commissions of inquiry
June 26, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
Former senior government officials in the Koroma administration are to appear before Justice Bankole Thompson Commission of Inquiry on Monday 1st July according to a notice of hearing from the Commission of inquiry headquarters, Special Court Complex in Freetown.
The former erstwhile senior government officials in the past administration that should appear before Justice Bankole Thompson included Sheka Tarawallie former press secretary and official in the Ministry of Information , Momoh Konteh , former National Telecommunications Commission boss (NATCOM) , Tom Oberleh Kargbo also former Chairman of NATCOM , Alhaji A.B. Kanu former Minister of Information and Cornelius Deveaux ,former deputy Minister of Information and Communications respectively as persons of interest on issues pertaining to the Ministry of Information during their tenure in office.
It could be recalled that President Bio in January this year launched the Commission of Inquiry in order to look at the governance activities of the former Koroma administration that ruled the country from 2007- 2018 that ushered the new administration of President Julius Maada Bio.
Cameroon:Kidnapped Kumba Students Freed
November 22, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono (Buea-Cameroon)
A group of students kidnapped November 20 in a school in Kumba, South West Region have been released. The students and teacher were taken from the Lords Bilingual Academy by unknown men linked to the separatist forces.
The students according to the Senior Divisional Officer, SDO for Meme Division Chamberlain Ntou Ndong were freed after an operation carried out by the army which led to the death of some of the kidnappers.
“All the students have gone back to their families except the teacher who is in the hospital with an injury” he said “In the course of the operation, at least two assailants were killed, others injured, their camps burnt down and guns seized”.
He added that “three students were rescued by the army November 20 immediately after they were kidnapped while the others were freed in the early hours of November 21 during a crackdown on the kidnappers”.
“The operation that continued saw the army kill two other suspected kidnappers and seizing four guns and burnt down bikes used to transport the students”.
The Senior Divisional Officer however précised that nine students and a teacher of the Lords Bilingual College Kumba were kidnapped as opposed to previous figures reported in the media.
What began as protest in October 2016 in the North West and South West Regions against structural discrimination escalated into violence in 2017, and the situation has worsened considerably since. Armed groups have called on local residents to boycott schools until a referendum on independence is held. Protests against marginalisation by the country’s French-speaking majority have been met with a violent crackdown.
The violence has led to massive internal displacement-at least 436,000 people are believed to be internally displaced while more than 30,000 have fled to Nigeria since September last year according to the UN Human rights wing.
Nigeria set to host Africa Trade Forum 2018 – ECA
November 1, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Teslim Olawore
The communication section of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that Nigeria is set to host the Africa Trade Forum 2018 in a statement posted on its website, adding that the forum would hold between November 2 and November 3 in Lagos.
It also said that the forum was being organised by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and co-organised by the ECA, The Rockefeller Foundation and the African Union Commission (AUC).
According to the commission, the forum will bring together stakeholders from across the continent, political and governance spheres, the private sector and entrepreneurs, philanthropists, academia, researchers and development partners. The statement added that the forum was aimed at discussing the process for realising the AfCFTA.
The AfCFTA that was signed in March 2018 by 44 African countries and if ratified, would become one of the world’s largest trading blocs. The agreement aims to provide improved competition and lower business costs among members.
The ECA said that the forum’s purpose was to take a deep look into the challenges and opportunities of the AfCFTA in individual African states. It is also to better understand how AfCFTA can drive economic development and prosperity on the continent for all African citizens.
The statement also quoted the Executive Secretary, ECA, Ms Vera Songwe as saying “in an age of trade wars, Africa is sending a strong message”.
“In order to ensure the AfCFTA has a game-changing impact on African economies, we must now develop clear strategies for product diversification and inclusive implementation,” she said.
Mr Mamadou Biteye, the Managing Director, Africa, The Rockefeller Foundation added that the foundation was delighted to support the ECA and AUC. He also said the forum was an opportunity to work together to address challenges, discuss solutions and increase awareness about the agreement’s ability to be a transformative tool that improves the lives of millions of Africans, especially the most vulnerable.
Lone Congolese Bank to Sign the China-Africa Inter Bank Association Establishment Agreement
September 11, 2018 | 0 Comments
Wednesday 5 September, 16 African banks including RAWBANK, the first banking institution in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and China Development Bank (CDB) signed an agreement for the establishment of the China-Africa Inter Bank Association in Beijing (CAIBA)
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, September 10, 2018/ — RAWBANK (www.Rawbank.cd), the only Congolese bank to have been selected as founding member of this cooperation, hence assumes its leading role in the Congolese banking sector alongside international and African banks. This agreement marks the official establishment of the first China-Africa financial cooperation multilateral mechanism.
Based on the presentation by H.E Xi Jinping, President of China, aimed at enhancing China-Africa relations and promoting “10 principal cooperation plans” between this country and the African continent, “eight major actions” of China-Africa cooperation were planned in order to advance the partnership.
Taking into account the deficit in meeting the funding needs of African countries with regard to industrialization, infrastructure connectivity and poverty alleviation, a closer collaboration between Chinese financial institutions and African countries was decided.
Within this context, the China Development Bank (CDB), represented by its President, Mr Hu Huaibang, and peer financial institutions in Africa jointly established the China-Africa Inter Bank Association (CAIBA), which is a concrete move in achieving win-win cooperation and better quality and higher common development.
RAWBANK, Congo’s lone bank to be selected owing to its leading position in the banking sector for more than 16 years, is henceforth one of the 16 founding members of CAIBA alongside international and Pan-African banks such as Standard Bank, Absa, Attijariwafa Bank, to name only a few.
With CDB, CAIBA will, in the long term, enhance financial cooperation between all member banks to advance partnership in various domains such as China-Africa infrastructure interconnection, international cooperation and exchange in the humanities.
This agreement is proof of CDB and RAWBANK commitment to strengthen the economic ties and investments between China and African countries, as part of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
About China Development Bank:
As the Chinese government’s financial institution for development, the CDB (www.CDB.com.cn) has always put a premium on cooperation with Africa. Since the launch of funding cooperation with Africa in 2006, the CDB has continually widened its cooperation with the financial institutions of African countries by investing and funding over USD 50 billion in close to 500 projects in 43 African countries.
The CDB encourages Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa, assists African local governments in solving problems such as funding deficits and infrastructure construction delays, and strives to develop economic and commercial cooperation, increase employment and spur economic growth in African countries.
Established in 2002 by the Rawji Group, operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the start of the 20th century in the areas of trade, distribution and industry, RAWBANK (www.Rawbank.cd) is the country’s largest bank as it was the first-ever to exceed 1 billion dollars in total turnover in 2015. Having more than 1 600 staff members with close to 100 sales points, 300 000 customers and 25% of market shares, RAWBANK is a key player in the development of Congo’s economy. Having been certified and won and award, it is today considered a crucial financial stakeholder in the DRC, for individuals and SMIs/SMEs, as well as for major enterprises and international institutions. RAWBANK is rated by Moody’s (B3), certified as ISO/IEC 20000 and ISO/IEC 27001, and has established funding partnerships with several international donors (Proparco, IFC, Shelter Africa, etc.). Safety, cost-effectiveness and sustainability are RAWBANK’s operational priorities to consolidate its growth strategy, in particular towards individuals and the private sector.
Terrorizing the Terrorist: Cameroun Warfare and Human Rights Abuses in Ambazonia
August 1, 2018 | 0 Comments
(Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (7))
By Solomon Ngu*
I had started writing a piece about social media and the war in Ambazonia when three high profile images circulated on the internet: the execution of women and the babies they carried on their back, the rape of a 17-year old nursing mother and the killing of a priest. All of these crimes were carried out by the Cameroun soldiers. The first act was in the north of the country where we have the Boko Haram insurgency. This atrocity was possibly recorded by another soldier. The second and the third took place in Southern Cameroons. These incidences of inhumanity have been traumatizing, leading me to reflect deeply on why these soldiers felt so entitled to rape a woman or kill an unarmed priest (among many other atrocities). It dawned on me that they were in fact dealing with people they have classified as terrorists.
Anyone living in a Western country understands that the underlying message of terrorism is associated, rightly or wrong, with Muslim fundamentalists after September 11th 2001. It now constitutes part of anti-Muslim sentiment or Islamophobia whereby Westerners associate the Muslim religion with violence. Emerging from this narrative and undergirded by an incitement of fear and panic is a definition of terrorism for purely political purposes. For example, we now witness that dictators in non-western countries have found it convenient to consolidate authoritarianism by describing political opposition as terrorism. This desperate call for attention is done by leaders who have realized that the foundation on which their power is built has become shaky. To safe themselves from an impending doom, they turn the gun against their own citizens who mysteriously become terrorists overnight. Among other things, identifying the terrorist is an appeal to Western powers, to warn them that their economic interests are at stake.
When Biya described protesting Anglophones as terrorists, he was in fact appealing to a Western audience, especially France, a former colonial master of Cameroun (Francophone Cameroon). Worth of note is the fact that over the past fifty-seven years, France has been keen at Francophonizing Ambazonia through French Cameroun. A couple of months ago, a video circulated online in which archbishop emeritus Cardinal Christian Tumi mentioned that at some point during his career while visiting France, he was congratulated – probably judging by his impeccable French – for their effort in Francophonizing the Anglophones. The French official was unaware that Cardinal Tumi was an Anglophone!
One must not downplay the language used to categorize citizens as terrorists. The language we use most often shape our reality of the world. This is not to mean language reveals an objective world, because the way we see the world out there is socially constructed. Thus, we see terrorists out there only after we define who they are and where we can find them. It is purely a matter of who has the power to classify who the terrorists are. Simply put, a terrorist frightens the population and for this reason, s/he is an unwanted element in the society. But it does not end there. Categorizing people as terrorists is a way of degrading their bodies and humanity. It thus sounds logical to torture them in any possible way since the belief is that they can inflict pain on others.
President Paul Biya and his military guys have produced the Ambazonian terrorist in war talk, which is to say the condition has been set for the soldiers to abuse, extort, kill, loot, etc, with impunity, with their action informed by the belief that they are fighting monstrous beings. In other words, the soldiers sent to occupy Anglophone towns and villages have the image of Ambazonian monsters locked up in their heads. The conduct of the war in terrorist territory demands that cruelty and any form of human rights are suspended. Field evidence is showing that most terrorists in the war in Ambazonia are civilians. It is thanks to social media that we are getting a glimpse of how the soldiers kill citizens for pleasure. Priests have been killed. Girls have been raped. Elderly people who are too old to run into the forests have been burnt alive. The soldiers have carried out drive-by shooting/killing of civilians who stand in front of their houses. Entire villages have been burnt and crops destroyed. Schools, hospitals and churches have come under attack (some burnt down as well). In short, the terror campaign is all-encompassing and is directed at Southern Cameroonians, their institutions and livelihood.
It is only when footage of these atrocities is revealed to the public that we see a certain level of resignation on the part of the government and its supporters who all along congratulate soldiers for the good work they do in eliminating the terrorists. The images also contradict their narrative of the Cameroun professional soldier. We all know those defending Ambazonia are armed and are ready to defend themselves and their communities which logically means the government soldiers are expected to confront these Fighters. It is unclear why all Ambazonian are targeted. When it comes to the killings, the minister of communication simply says the victims of soldier atrocities merely suffer from stray bullets. What about the looting? What about the burning of villages? Some activists online have mockingly said in the case of rape that the victims suffer from stray dicks. This may sound humorous but it points to the fact that the soldiers are simply irresponsible and also shows the extent to which they can do whatever they want because they have the license to do so. These attempts at justifying or diverting the soldiers’ cruelty in fact tell that the leadership is satisfied with what the soldiers are doing to the supposed terrorists.
But there is more reason for the denials. It is unsettling for the supporters of the war to admit that the soldiers’ conducts are unprofessional simply because this admission would mean they are implicated in lootings, murders, executions, rapes, summary executions, mass graves, torture, burning of villages, etc – which is what is going on right now as I write. This explains why Mr Issa Tchiroma, the minister of communication would deny all facts, terming them opinion, until a video about rape, torture and execution emerges to shut him up. Right now, we know just too much about the misconduct at the war front. What more can they deny that we do not yet know? NOTHING! All forms of war malpractices have already been exercised on Ambazonians.
The atrocities committed by the soldiers are not unfortunate occurrences; they are part of the war and have been used right from the onset to instill fear in the minds of the people. The military is doing exactly what it has been instructed to do. Recall that in September/October 2016, university girls were raped leading to the fiery speech in the parliament by Joseph Wirba, an Anglophone opposition MP who told the government that the people of Ambazonia are not the slaves of the Francophones, their territory was not captured in a war and that they have the right to defend themselves. Also, in Feb 2018, a video showing the torture of Sam Soya, a disabled man, circulated online. His was suspected of knowing people who killed government soldiers. In one of the photos, we see a soldier severing the head of Mr. Soya with a knife. Images of unarmed civilians tortured or killed at the war front circulate daily on social media. Hardly does one meet an Ambazonian who does not know of anyone who has been killed or who has become a refugee – fleeing from people who should protect them. I have mentioned earlier in one of the articles that such state terrorism pushes Ambazonians into the arms of the Amba Fighters (https://www.panafricanvisions.com/2018/life-war-zone-30-days-ambazoniaanglophone-cameroon-5/).
At no point can we suspect that Paul Biya misspoke when he referred to protesting Anglophones as terrorists. It’s time we do a critical assessment. Who are terrorists? Are they people whose presence make others to flee their homes into the forest for safety or they are those who are smoked out of their own homes? We are talking here about human beings who have nowhere else to go. And as I speak, these terrorists are in the forests and are tormented by cold and rain at this time of the year. Talk less of access to health facilities.
*This is part of the series Life in a War Zone:30 Days in Ambazonia by Solomon Ngu for PAV under the blog Kamer Blues
Cameroon:People Who Think I Can Be Intimidated Are Clueless About Me-Cardinal Christian Tumi on “AAC 3”
July 29, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Elie Smith
In the last two years, Cameroon has been facing its worse existential threat since the unification of former British Southern Cameroon’s with the former French administered Republic of Cameroon on the 1st of October 1961. In this exclusive interview with Pan African Visions, Elie Smith met with the Archbishop Emeritus of the Douala Archdiocese, Cardinal Christian Tumi who on the 25th of July in Douala along with other religious leaders announced the organization of an All Anglophone General Conference in Buea on the 29th and 30th of August this year.
“In Anglophone Cameroon or Southern Cameroon, there are several opinions on the current crisis and also how to solve it. Anyone who refuses that is not honest but the conference will help to come up with a common ground,” says the Cardinal known for his acerbic critique of the Biya regime.
Fighting off controversy surrounding the AGC , Cardinal Tumi says those who think he is fronting for Biya or Munzu simply do not understand him or his convictions. The Cardinal says he has been thinking about such a forum for a while and took the initiative to reach out to other religious leaders and stakeholders.
PAV: Your Eminence, lots of questions are being raised regarding your planned Anglophone General Council, scheduled for Buea on the 29th and 30th of August 2018. One of such question goes thus: when did the idea for such a conference come up into your mind?
Cardinal Christian Tumi: the idea has been in my mind for quite some time. I listened to the interventions of Anglophones over televisions and radios and I arrived at the conclusion that, we were not saying the same thing and when I say we, I am thinking of myself as an Anglophone and sometimes, I think we don’t really know what we want or perhaps that, our problems are not clearly defined. So, I thought it will be good for the Anglophones of all sheds and opinions to meet and to objectively as possible, say orally and in writing, what their grievances against the central administration are. This would serve as basis for any future national dialogue between us Anglophones with the central government. In reality, it will be an update form because such a conference has been held some two decades ago. And that is why, when I met Munzu that I have known for quite some time and who has international experience, I called him as I had called others before, but he was most available and we spoke about my project and he accepted to be a sort of secretary of my idea of the proposed 3rd all Anglophone conference albeit with a different appellation. Dr Munzu quickly caught my attention and approval not because I had known him for long or because he was willing to run errands for me, but mostly because, I think he served in a similar position at the All Anglophone Conference that took place in 1993 from the 2nd to the 3rd of August. So that is how I arrived at what has now become a topic of debates. I called him and he came here and I told him, I will not like to do this alone, especially given my advance age. I also told him, I will like to achieve my idea with experience leaders of major religions in Cameroon. That is also how, the idea of contacting the Presbyterians Church, the Baptise Church and the Muslim community to provide elder persons, came up. In preference, I would have wanted retired pastors and imams. But as far as the Presbyterians are concerned, it is they who decided that, a synod clerk should represent the Presbyterian Church. And then we also thought that, we should not forget our Muslim brothers, they have something to say. So we contacted therefore, the Imams of Bamenda and Buea and they made sacrifices to be here in Douala. The Imam of Bamenda central Mosque, arrived here at 4 O’clock and left at about 6 or 7 o’clock in the evening back to Bamenda. That is how the idea that was originally mine took shape and we arrived at the communiqué that was made public. For such a meeting, you bring a draft, which serves as a working basis. You don’t come empty handed. We had such, on to which every word was properly studied and collectively adopted as ours. That is how the final communiqué read by Rev Babila George Fochang came out or was made public.
PAV: What do you make of some Southern Cameroonians or Anglophones who think your initiative is remotely controlled by Biya’s regime?
Cardinal Christian Tumi: of course they are sure that, the government has authorized the meeting or may be pulling strings from behind. But I can assure you that, there is no such thing, I am still wondering whether the government will accept us to meet because it is a big meeting which they will need to protect us and make sure that, the meeting takes place calmly because it is our right. It is also our duty as pastors to take the initiative that, I have taken.
So, if anybody within or without the Anglophone community could think that, I can be pushed around; it is certainly because they don’t know me. Cardinal Tumi can’t be push around or forced to do things that he doesn’t believe in. I have my personal conviction.
PAV: Granted that you are the sole initiator of the August 29th and 30th conference, how come that, it is only now when the crisis is in its 2nd year that, you are taking such an enterprise?
Cardinal Christian Tumi: Because, I thought that, the initiative taken by the government then to send some officials to meet with people of the South west and North West regions would help reduce the tension, but I think, all of us will agree that, the tension is getting more and more serious. And we can’t just sit down and watch what is happening in a situation where by many soldiers, many civilians are being killed. So, we as pastors we want to speak and propose to the Anglophone Cameroonians and to all Cameroonians, what we think should be done to cease the violence that is taking place in the country. It is a proposition, we are not imposing. As Pastors and as religious leaders and for us Catholics, Christ has said: propose in season and out of season, whether they listen to you or not. You have done your work. We don’t have to sit down and see things go wrong and we say nothing. If we say nothing, we will be guilty before God.
PAV: Are you the initiator of the project or it is Dr Simon Munzu who is an avowed federalist or that, you are fronting for Dr Munzu?
Cardinal Christian Tumi: Can you imagine me at my age fronting for a young man such as Munzu? The Anglophone General Conference is my initiative, which coincidentally caught the interest of Munzu that I have known for years. So, is it difficult for me to make proposals such as the current one? Even if he were the one who proposed it to me or you and I owned it and assume it, it simply becomes my own and it is the same with you, if I make or bring up an idea, and you assume it and makes it known, it is yours. There is no contradiction here, whether he proposed it to me or I took the initiative and invited him. But it is my idea and I was waiting for the opportune time and that time is now. No one can manipulate me. The Anglophone General Conference is my initiative that I didn’t want to carry out alone and I associated other religious leaders.
PAV: Your communiqué read by the Synod clerk, said it will be an inclusive dialogue and this has equally raised more suspicions and doubts. How do you guarantee that armed militants and Anglophones who are abroad with arrest warrants dangling above their heads will attend without risk of being arrested by the government?
Cardinal Christian Tumi: Well, your question partly removes the doubts or claims that, it is the government sponsoring the conference. If they were the ones, how come that, you will be asking such questions on those who are fighting in the bushes or those who are abroad? That is why, we are telling the government to please allow everyone to come in freely. And if it is legal, to free those who are in prison, so that, they will participate personally or by delegation in the meeting because it is called inclusive.
PAV: what is going to be new or said at the August 29th and 30th meeting that will be different from the ACC1 &ACC11?
Cardinal Christian Tumi: The first is that, this initiative is taken by religious leaders. Second, we are going to be updating our grievances and this last point could be what will make August 29th and 30th different from AAC1 and AAC2. We have a pastoral approach. We have no arms, but we tell love and forgiveness. These are the virtues we will be insisting on: love and forgiveness, objectivity and truth. This is not political language and that makes our approach different. As we take part in that meeting, we the religious leaders, we will invest in all those virtues that make man: truth. If intellectually, you see someone saying something good, by virtue of intellectual honesty, you have to accept it as the truth. When someone else brings up an idea that you accept or disagrees, but you find out that, it might help solve a problem, you need to concede and it shows that, you have truth in you and also that, if you claim to be an intellectual, then you are an honest intellectual. We must learn to be truthful and honest intellectually. In Anglophone Cameroon or Southern Cameroon, there are several opinions on the current crisis and also how to solve it. Anyone who refuses that is not honest but the conference will help to come up with a common ground.
PAV: Do you think the government will accept or authorised your conference?
Cardinal Christian Tumi: the Anglophones are not coming together with a fix political or should I say, they don’t have a fix position or one stand on the current crisis rocking their country or region. There are those who are for secession, others are for federation and others are for decentralization that the President of the country is proposing. All we are saying is that, anybody who wants to be part of this dialogue must be objective. That is to say, you must be ready to take and give. I have spoken with some Anglophones who say, especially those in the Diaspora and who claim 90% of Southern Cameroonians are for secession, then I ask them, how do you know? What is your basis for making such claims? I tell them, I can also affirm that, 90% of Southern Cameroonians are for two states federation, but what will be my basis? This come together, I repeat will permit us to know who is who in Anglophone Cameroon.
PAV: finally, I am not in any way putting in doubt your integrity, but can you affirm before God and man here that you not being remotely controlled by the regime or fronting for Dr Munzu?
Cardinal Christian Tumi: Only God knows. To be frank with you, I was never consulted by anyone or groups of individual not even the government to make any intervention on this crisis. If I am not convinced personally of something, no matter how it is being presented to me or by whom, I don’t accept it. May be because the idea of the conference came from this house, some groups have started thinking that, it will be a start to solving the problem, hence they think I have been influenced by somebody or an occult group or groups, as claimed by a French-language daily, Info-Martin of today. I repeat, no one has influenced me or is influencing me. All I and other religious leaders are saying is that, peace, love and forgiveness should be given a chance.
Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (5)
June 25, 2018 | 0 Comments
Amba Fighters and the Question of Anglophone Freedom in Cameroon
By Solomon Ngu*
When I began to look at the Amba Fighters, it flashed in my mind that fairly organized boys’ movements have existed before in Anglophone Cameroon. Over the past hundred years, beginning in the later part of the 19th century, various boys movements – some state-sponsored and others, disorganized – have challenged constituted authority and made their impact felt in what we now know as Ambazonia (plus the Western Region). Nicolas Argenti describes some of these movements in his research on violence and state formation in the Cameroon Grassfields. First were the tapenda, a name derivative from the interpreter. These were either connected to, or imitative of, the interpreters of the early colonial days. These boys posed a threat to the kings (Fons) and the German colonial authority. Later, at the turn of the 20th century, there emerged the free boys, so called because they drew inspiration from the freed slaves. Some of them simply refused to provide labor to the elders as was required by tradition. There was also the Gendarmerie, a French paramilitary organization known for extortion, rape, murder, incarceration without charge, unlawful arrests, etc. They crossed the border into Anglophone Cameroon after the two countries formed a federation in 1961. Needless to mention that this organization still operates, unfortunately, as a state-sanctioned criminal gang.
What underlines these movements is their tendency to harass and intimidate an established order. The movements were and are out for themselves and in no way would a population admire or support gangs that extract what others have earned through hard labor. To put it clearly: their infringement into the daily lives of people was and is received with scorn.
There is a reason why I refer to these movements and this is it. When I visited Cameroon and after hearing positive stories about the existence of the Amba fighters, I began to ask myself the question: why would villagers feel comfortable harboring people who are fighting a well trained and organized army? At the present moment, it does not take long before one realizes among the Anglophones that the government soldiers are seen more as a trained boys’ militia sent to destroy the Anglophone zone of the country. And it is within this context that the Amba Boys are greeted with relief. They are lauded for resisting the Francophonization of Ambazonia. Come to think of a situation where young men and women are courageous enough to punch a fat bully on his nose.
Hardly did I meet an Anglophone who did not admire the Amba Boys. In fact, they were even described as Pikin Them (The Children), The Amba Soldiers, The Boys, Our Boys, etc. which is a way of making them ordinary and at the same time, affirming an intimate connection to them. Against a background where the government soldiers treat everyone in the Anglophone battlefield as an enemy, there was the popular narrative that these boys are out to protect the people. This is demonstrated by their readiness to pay the ultimate prize for Ambazonian freedom by standing on the front line to take bullets from the government soldiers. Ironically, the government soldiers hardly confront these Fighters; they go for easy targets – the civilians.
That people should be oppressed to the extent that they take up weapons to defend themselves, and in doing so, kill other human beings, is unfathomable. In all oppressive systems where violence is used to keep the oppressed in their place, the oppressors must develop enough reasons to believe or portray those they humiliate are less human. These reasons advanced by oppressors free their consciences when they go about dehumanizing the oppressed. In Cameroon, the oppressive government has always been aware that it is despised by the people. But it chooses to ignore this. The question of freedom has been fundamental in the Anglophone struggle in Cameroon. They just want the predatory bully called government to get out of their way. In Cameroonian pidgin, the Anglophones don’t want to be the kokoh of the Francophonized system.
To get glimpse of how this bully operates and to be more concrete about what I am saying here, read below a scary encounter I experienced in Cameroon:
In mid-April 2018, I traveled from Buea to Bamenda (two Anglophone cities), passing through the Francophone part of the country. My first bus from Buea dropped me off at Bekoko on the Francophone zone. From here I took a mini bus to Bamenda. In the car was this young military man, a guy so brutish that I never wish to meet him again in my life. He sat on the right front seat. First of all, just after three hundred metres or so, we got to a police checkpoint and he became irate that the police stopped our car. He went out of the car and almost started a fight with the policeman who was merely doing his job – the Cameroonian way. About an hour later, he threatened to beat a civilian. And this is the story. An obstacle on the main road caused cars to divert their course, passing through a dusty road in a village. The villagers started placing wood across the road to block the passing cars.
This young soldier, a member of the notorious American-Israeli trained (and equipped) elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) unit, got out of the car and grabbed one of the villagers by his pants. So tight was the grip that one could see the genitals of the civilian bulge on the left side of his trouser. The villager winced with pain as the soldier tightened the grip, pulling his pubic hair in the process. As soon as he got back into the car, after the passengers pleaded for him to let go of the civilian, he said it was the Anglophones who were responsible for blocking the road. Pointing his finger warningly in the air, he shouted indignantly ‘C’est eux. C’est sont les Anglophone qui amenenent les problemes dans ce pays’ (It is them. It is the Anglophones causing problems in this country). This frightened the hell out of me and I could now understand why it took long for him to let go of the villager; he had in fact been torturing someone who belongs to a category of citizens he is trained to humiliate.
The young soldier saw himself as the law and had this belligerent courage and bullying attitude so characteristics of the so-called forces of law and order. They know the law isn’t for them. Surprising was that the passengers in the car praised the soldier and referred to him as l’homme de l’ordre (a man of order). The Francophones believed it was wrong for the police to stop a car carrying a soldier. They went further to say the Anglophones (not the Amba Fighters) have themselves to blame for daring to stand up against the government forces. The soldier and the Francophones in the car plainly saw Anglophones as problem people and not as people with a problem. This would suggest the Francophone oppressive regime targets the problem people and not the problems that these people face. A recent video showing a military operation in the Anglophone farming town of Ekona tends to support this view that Anglophones are seen as the problem. In the video we see the military spraying bullets at buildings along the roadside. They did not care if there were people in these buildings. We do not even see counter fire coming from the buildings.
It was simply disheartening to hear how the passengers in the car believed some people are not expected to comply with the laws of the land. But to despise them would be missing a point. A century of brutal dictatorship, first starting with the French and then the two post-colonial Francophone regimes, has produced these authoritarian-admiring subjects; they perceive authority and power mainly in terms of how those in control could subdue the less powerful. That Amba Fighters have picked up arms to fight for Anglophone freedom is precisely because the post-colonial Francophone regimes just do not know what it means to live in a free country where the rights and opinions of others are respected.
I will end with this note:
There are criminal gangs who now use the name of Amba to loot, kill, extort, revenge and intimidate adversaries. The respectability accorded this movement may diminish if such rogue elements are not identified, named and shamed. Still, we are aware that the ruling government has either infiltrated some of these groups or formed distractionist units that want to be identified under the general umbrella of Amba Boys.
*This is part of the series Life in a War Zone:30 Days in Ambazonia by Solomon Ngu for PAV under the blog Kamer Blues
Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (4)
June 16, 2018 | 1 Comments
Amba Fighters: Power Respects Power
By Solomon Ngu*
In The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin, the legendary African-American novelist, says the police in America (and white supremacists) were cautious in attacking members of the Nation of Islam (NOI). Members of this black (or Negro as it was called in those days) movement were not ready to turn the other cheek in the face of police/white supremacist violence against black people in America. They believed in a tooth for tooth and an eye for an eye. These Muslims were encouraged to arm themselves, not to attack their rivals but that if attacked, they should fight back with a maximum force. For them, it was better to die standing. Malcolm X, a leading figure in the Nation of Island once said the only thing that power respects is power. Events in Anglophone Cameroon in recent months are undeniably validating Mr X’s viewpoint.
There was virtually no armed resistance to the militarization and Francophonization of Anglophone Cameroon before Mr Biya declared war on them in November 2017. Messages circulated on social media stating that the government was out to massacre the population. Images of troops in military cars –some of them photoshopped – heading to the two Regions were a frightful sight. The government had cut off internet in the two Anglophone Regions but people found a way to send images on social media by going to the francophone side of the country. We all suspected mayhem. And mayhem it was particularly in the home village of the interim Ambozonian president, Tabe Sisuku Ayuk. In fact the local administrator in this area told citizens to vacate their homes. This, they did. Most of them fled into Nigeria and have remained there ever since.
By the end of 2017 however, young men began to arm themselves. Hunters started using their rifles to defend unarmed villagers. And there was nothing the government could do about it. A few gendarmes were killed sending shock waves into the spine of political leadership and the soldiers. This was unexpected in a country where the military and the police are always above the law. There were online genocidal messages by Francophones, their journalists included, calling on the government to annihilate the Anmbazombies and Anglofools. The minister of communication cried foul and insisted that it was intolerable to allow terrorists to kill gendarmes. This incident, he said, further justified why Ambazonia needed to be militarized.
What Mr Issa Tchiroma did not realize at this point was that these soldiers on a mission to kill unarmed civilians unexpectedly clashed with another force that was bent on retaliating the death of the villagers. It did not for once occur to the minister and the soldiers that they were not the sole armed force in what was becoming a battlefield. Prior to their death, this group of gendarmes had killed unarmed civilians in the invaded village. Those lives did not matter in the eyes of the government, so to speak. The army had and still has the weapons as well as soldiers trained to fight the enemy, the Anglophones. Those defending their dignity have two things: courage and knowledge of the war terrain. In a nutshell, the scoundrel soldiers who had hitherto not encountered any resistance now knew there was power on the other side; and the only thing their power fear is this power that has not restrained from exercising itself through ambushes and other guerilla tactics.
Ironically by Feb 2018, the minister of communication stopped announcing the death of soldiers who die in the battlefield. Private TV stations and digital media footages captured by private citizens have revealed dead and dying soldiers. Some of them, facing threats of death, have defected; others have sold their weapons to the Fighters while some have simply escaped into neighboring countries. In early April 2018, I witnessed three military trucks that were purportedly carrying corpses of soldiers killed in the front line. It is well-known in Buea that the mortuaries are filled up with the corpses of the military men killed in the combat zone. Here is the thing though: the government conceals the death of these soldiers from the Francophones, fearing that parents may questions why their children are sent to die in a senseless war.
This strategy of not announcing the death of the soldiers on the public media is surely intended to deceive the bereaved families, making them think the death of their son or daughter is an isolated, rare and unfortunate occurrence. This strategy has no precedence in Cameroon where the military people who die in action are sent off in a solemn public ceremony with flags and medals adorning their coffins.
But how has this power evolved over time? As mentioned earlier, there wasn’t any resistance when the government sent rogue soldiers to teach Anglophones a lesson during and after the Anglophones celebrated their independence day on Oct 1st 2017. Soldiers chased, beat and shot the unarmed civilians. In the Anglophone capital city of Buea, helicopter gunships sprayed bullets on people from the air. No one for sure knows the death too. Some neighborhoods became aware of deaths in their vicinity only through the stench of decomposed corpses. It is believed some of the corpses were dropped from the helicopters. In all this, the soldiers were winning – their sense of victory was emboldened by fearful citizens fleeing life bullets. The government media institutions celebrated the triumph of brutality against unarmed civilians. Little did they know they just provoked an embittered population amongst them, the kids that were into a second year of not attending school.
Out of nowhere, we started witnessing armed and masked young men threatening to resist the marauding soldiers. They became known as Amba Fighters/Amba Restoration Forces/Amba Boys or just Amba. These Fighters do not have a central commander but all aim at fighting/sending away what they see as the colonial forces of La Republique. So far, they have been putting up a strong resistance and have become confident to the extent that they do not mask their faces anymore when delivering threats to the government and its soldiers. A few weeks ago I watched a video, in which the young people sang songs, displayed their guns, introduced their hierarchy and talked about liberating their homeland. There was this kid, not more than 15 years old, who threatened to take as booty, the sliced testicles of the president of Cameroun. This is what he said in pidgin: ‘We go kill you Popol. Me I want na that your canas’ (we will kill you Polpol [Paul Biya]. I want those testicles of yours’).
The gun has undeniably emboldened the resolve of these young people to speak without fear. Has this power been useful so far? Well, the government soldiers have not launched any military attach to free arrested/kidnapped soldiers or administrator of the regime, perhaps for fear of counter fire. In those cases where the kidnapped/arrested officials have been released, a bounty has been paid to the kidnappers.
In my next article, I still focus on Amba Fighters: how they are perceived by the Anglophone public?
*This is part of the series Life in a War Zone:30 Days in Ambazonia by Solomon Ngu for PAV under the blog Kamer Blues
Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (3)
June 8, 2018 | 0 Comments
After Fleeing from the Marauders – Refugee Stories
By Solomon Ngu*
Why the Biya government decided to launch war in the countryside, I suspect, was because he feared a Maoist-style revolution whereby villages mobilize enough fighters who eventually move en masse to capture the cities. Whether the government is succeeding in this or not is questionable. What we know is that some of the villages in the countryside have, through guerrilla tactics, put up strong and unbelievable resistance to the government forces. The Fighters are currently talking of cruising into Buea irrespective of whether they control the countryside or not. I must stress that the government forces barely occupy deserted portions of the villages; they haven’t captured any territory through combat. Those in the occupied parts of the countryside are living in the forests, have fled to unaffected villages or the city.
Photos and videos depicting the living conditions of Anglophone refugees in Nigeria and those living in the forests in Cameroon circulate daily on social media. Despite their condition, they – especially those living in the forests in Cameroon – go an extra length to take videos and photos within a setting where they do not have access to electricity to charge their phones. I recently got a call from one of my childhood friends, a farmer living in the burnt farming village of Munyenge and he said they have found a way to charge their phones by sneaking into those houses that have not been burnt down.
Villagers in the war zone, especially those in the thick forests region, do monitor the moves and location of the soldiers. They know which paths and routes to take if they want to leave the countryside. This task is further made easier by the Amba Fighters located in the villages. I met several people whose escape to Anglophone cities and to the Francophone side of the country was facilitated by these Fighters. These escapes are sudden and those fleeing have just a small window of opportunity to pick up a handful of their belongings.
To get a deeper understanding of the experiences of those who fled the countryside, I decided in mid April to visit some of the families hosting refugees. I talked with the refugees and must say their ordeal, courage and resolve to run for their lives in the face of advancing soldiers are worth commending. Take for example, the horrifying experience of Agnes (a pseudonym) who escaped into the forest for two days, leaving behind her very sick mother. She was too old to run with the others into the forest. Luckily, the grandma was still alive when Agnes returned from the forest. In less than an hour, she picked up her few belongings and was already on the run again to a neighboring village. The compound they fled into hosted more than 25 people. They all slept on the floor. She eventually reached Buea thanks to transportation money sent to her by her sister. In her words:
“We were told that there had been confrontations between the Fighters and the La Repubique [government] soldiers in a neighboring village which is about one day trekking from our village. We didn’t know the fight would reach us so soon. But events unfolded so quickly. I was on my way from the farm when I heard the sound of the guns. It sounded like the end of the world. Bullets rained on our roof. One of the falling bullets pierced through my new jacket.”
Agnes showed me scars of the wounds she sustained on her legs and arms as she ran through the forests with her children and mother. Amidst the commotion, she had forgotten to take money. She took another risk of returning to her house alone. She came face to face with the Fighters who were all dressed in Cameroon military uniform. The uniforms and weapons had been taken from killed and capitulated government soldiers. To her surprise, one of the Fighters called her by her name and instructed her to leave the village as soon as possible. This, she did.
Another story is that of a woman who is in her early 60s. Transport services into and out of her village were completely cut off after the government forces attacked. She took into the forest, trekking for more than 50km. It took her two days before she finally got to the Francophone town of Dschang from where she took a bus to Buea.
But here comes another problem, the challenge of living in the city. With tears in her eyes, Agnes described how life in Buea is strange and unfriendly. She had thought her refugee status would last only a few days but two weeks after getting to Buea, her village, including a semi-urban settlement around it, was completely deserted by mid April 2018. Agnes had lost her freedom and privacy and needed money to survive in the new place. She was a farmer, a money-lender and a trader in the countryside. She left the village at the beginning of the planting season meaning that there is a possibility she may starve next year if she returned to the village. In my recent communication with her, she wasn’t sure if she would ever return to her house.
During my stay in Cameroon, I traveled to a few border towns hosting refugees. I spent two days in Dschang where the car parks serving Anglophone passengers were scanty. Listening to the hardship of those hosting the refugees was heartbreaking. Nearly everyone I met in Dschang was hosting refugees from Lebialem. There is this friend of mine whose five relatives fled the village to live with her in late March. As of the time of writing this article, the number has increased to six. She has a two-bedroom apartment. She avoids loss of privacy and stress at home by spending most of her free time in the church and farm.
The government has refused to recognize the Anglophone refugee disaster. Talk less of any conversation about the Anglophone Crisis at the national parliament. Responding to my first post on this series, someone insinuated that ‘this mad war [has been] initiated by desperately power hungry Cameroon diaspora’. What he failed to mention was that the war was declared on Anglophones, the ‘terrorists’, by the president in November 2017. The Anglophone diaspora started supporting the Fighters after they realized that the soldiers were killing Anglophones indiscriminately. The minister of defense actually praised the soldiers for massacres in villages in Manyu Division where people resorted to fleeing to Nigeria. It is estimated that between 40.000 and 50.000 Anglophones have sought refuge in Nigeria.
The narrative put forth by the government surrogate such as the one who commented on my first post specifically aims at excusing the government of war against people it sees as despicable. How do I know this? How the Cameroon government choose to treat – or choose not to treat – its citizens who happen to be refugees tells a lot about who is considered a true Cameroonian. We have all seen how the government provides humanitarian relief to Francophone refugees fleeing Boko Haram attacks. They have been treated as unfortunate people whose humanity is being destroyed by terrorists. The Anglophone refugees, to quote Franz Fanon, live in a zone of non-being; a zone where people are not recognized as full humans and their lives are less valued.
In my next post I will focus on the Amba Fighters – how they are perceived in Anglophone Cameroon. Part of my argument will be that they do no longer want to condone the dehumanization they experience daily in their country.
Burundi’s president says he won’t run for another term
June 8, 2018 | 0 Comments
NAIROBI, Kenya – Burundi’s president has announced he will not run for another term, even as he puts in place a new constitution that would allow him to stay in power until 2034.
President Pierre Nkurunziza on Thursday told supporters that “I will support the new president who will be elected in 2020,” adding that “a man can change his position in the bed but he cannot change his word.”
Deadly political violence followed Nkurunziza’s decision in 2015 to pursue a third term, which critics called unconstitutional.
Burundians in a referendum last month approved changes to the constitution, promoted by Nkurunziza, which extended the length of the president’s term.