Armed conflict in NW, SW: Many flee as gov’t steps up crackdown on Anglophone activists, sympertisers

Kouoto Nfondi

As the crisis that has been rocking the North West and South West regions, which has spiraled into an armed conflict, rages on, the government has stepped up its crackdown on all those suspected to be activists or sympathisers to the Anglophone cause.

In this light, security operatives have been indiscriminately arresting Anglophone activists and suspected activists. This has caused many of them to flee into hiding and the whereabouts of many is not known.

Sources say the arrested activists are being tortured and detained under horrendous and inhuman conditions. Some have reportedly died in detention.

We gathered from sources that security and defence forces have also intensified their search for some members of the family of Kouotou Nfondi Oumar Bongo.

One of their sons, Kouotou Nfondi, is suspected to have been the one spreading information and sensitising the public on the activities of members of the separatist groups fighting for the independence of a country they have christened Ambazonia.
Kouotou Nfondi, in September 2019, fled, leaving behind his wife and child. His whereabouts is not known. He had been arrested, tortured and detained under inhuman conditions because of his activism.

He was accused of promoting the separatist movements’ agenda by carrying out separatist propaganda using social media. He is also said to have served as a vessel to channel money to the separatist fighters to finance their struggle for independence.

His friends and family members had mobilised a mass protest at the police station where he was detained, demanding for his release. However, Kouotou Nfondi is said to have escaped from detention under circumstances that remain unclear.

If arrested, Kouotou Nfondi will be tried in a military tribunal under the anti-terrorism law, whose maximum punishment is the death penalty. That is if he is not killed outright like many others who have been victims of extrajudicial killings.

His parents who had earlier been arrested when security forces conducted a search in their home to dislodge any supporters of the Ambazonia propaganda are said to have taken a serious engagement in detention even before charges were to be pressed on them. They are reported to have made an undertaking to desist from separatist activities.

The armed separatist groups, it should be noted, are seeking for the independence of the Southern Cameroons from the predominantly French-speaking part of the country, into what they have dubbed Republic of Ambazonia.

Origin of the crisis

It is worth recalling that the Anglophone crisis, something that pundits say had been brewing for several years, boiled over in October 2016 when Common Law Lawyers in the North West and South West regions went on strike, paralyzing the courts. They were demanding for a return to the federal system of government, redeployment of Civil Law Magistrates back to Civil Law Courts among other grievances. Not long after, teachers in the North West and South West regions also went on strike, demanding the redress of several issues concerning the English sub-system of education.

Things got worse when concerned citizens in the North West and South West regions, who had been fed up with the unfavourable political and especially economic stagnation of Cameroon at large, but more importantly in these regions, joined the strike.
But after negotiations with the teachers and lawyers ended in deadlock, the government, in January 2017, banned the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, and the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, CACSC. Some of the leaders of the Consortium such as Barrister Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla and Dr. Fontem Niba were immediately arrested while others such as Barrister Bobga Harmony and Tassang Wilfred fled into hiding.
Meanwhile, some leaders of the Anglophone separatist movements including Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and nine others, who were arrested in Abuja, Nigeria in February 2018 and later extradited to Yaounde, are currently at the Kondengui maximum security prison, from where they have been attending trial at the military tribunal.

It is also worth noting that many people, both civilians and security forces, have been killed in the crisis, many more internally displaced and over 50,000 have fled to neighbouring Nigeria where they are living as refugees.

While the Anglophone crisis continues to escalate, international organisations and other Western powers have called on the government to address the root cause through genuine and inclusive dialogue.

By Chinje Hopeson

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