Gov’t steps up crackdown on suspected separatist activists, sponsors

Achalle J. Enow 

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 and also their sponsors.

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.

The government is also believed to be intensifying its scorched earth policy. In addition to pressing for the arrest of those believed to be bankrolling the separatist agenda, the armed forces are reported to be going after their families on the ground. 

Human rights institutions have decried the move, citing that it goes against every strand of human rights principles. In its June 2022 report, the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, CHRDA, revealed that multiple rights violations had ensued in the Anglophone regions. Among them, it noted, were acts of arson, arbitrary arrests, attacks on citizens, and more. 

“In the month of June, multiple attacks were recorded against civilians and civilian objects … including the massacre of at least nine unarmed civilians in Fungom by the Cameroonian Defense and Security Forces,” CHRDA stated.
Among the said victims cited by other sources, is 30-year-old Achalle J. Enow, father of one and son of a retired soldier, Achalle Joseph. 

In June this year, his wife was reportedly whisked away by the forces of law and order during a raid in Buea, capital of the South West region. Till date, her family has not set eyes on her. 

In another raid this time in his native Etam, a locality in the Kupe-Muanenguba division of the South West region, Achalle Enow’s family was again affected, with two of his relatives reportedly shot dead and others taking to their heels.
Achalle J. Enow’s name had allegedly featured among those of many others believed to be sponsoring the separatist conflict, and his family was accessed as a portal to get him. However, rights groups say that he, like many others cited, are not guilty. Multiple persons sending home money for the upkeep of their families are said to have fallen victim, and are accused of rather sponsoring terrorists. 

Talking to a local of Etam, who opted for anonymity for his safety, he recalled that Enow’s father, a retired soldier runs a charity, peace and humanitarian village association, Help Your Neighbour, financed by his son. Contrary to government belief, however, the association is said to provide help to internally displaced persons and other victims of the armed conflict. 
Nonetheless, Achalle’s father had been accused of terrorism. Despite arguing the contrary, Achalle Joseph was arrested and later released after days in detention. Having gone into hiding, the whereabouts of Achalle Joseph is not known.

Meanwhile, we gathered from sources that a warrant of arrest has been issued for Achalle Enow. His picture has also been posted on some public places by security forces, declaring him and his father wanted. If arrested, they will be tried under the anti-terrorism law, whose maximum punishment is the death sentence. That is if they are not killed outright like many others who have been victims of extra-judicial killings. 

Since May 20 (National Day) celebration and increased violence, authorities appear to have doubled down their crackdown on civilian communities. It is also reported that multiple persons on the said ‘wanted’ list have had their assets and bank accounts frozen, as the brutal crackdown ensues. 

       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, where they serving life sentences after having been tried in 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.


Che Gaston 

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