Civilians bear the brunt as war rages on in NW, SW regions

Romanus Meboka

As the armed conflict in the two English-speaking regions of the country rages on, several civilians caught in the conflict have been paying a heavy price.

As solutions to the crisis are yet to be proffered, the human rights situation in the two regions remains worrying.

Most civilians have become targets to both the defence and security forces and the separatist fighters who are pushing for the creation of an independent state, called Ambazonia.

Several civilians accused of having links with armed Ambazonia separatist groups are indiscriminately being arrested, tortured and detained under precarious conditions. Some have disappeared following their arrest.

A certain Romanus Meboka Ngome, a well-known business man in the town of Ekona, near Buea, capital of the restive South West region, is one of the recent victims of such brutality.

Trouble began for Romanus Ngome in 2018.

While running a drinking spot, Ngome’s business joint was the centre of attraction to many youths in Ekona, who frequently thronged his bar to relax.

As his drinking spot grew to become one of the most popular in the area, Ngome became the target of soldiers.

In 2018, soldiers stormed his home at night in Ekona. 

We gathered that when the soldiers stormed his house, they began questioning him on his relationship with some of his customers suspected to be separatist fighters.

 Ngome was accused of collaborating with separatist fighters, who are said to be regular customers at his business joint. 

We learned that the soldiers had told Ngome to his face that separatist fighters have been meeting in his bar to strategize on how to carrying offensive attacks on the military. 

After long exchanges with the soldiers, he is said to have stood his grounds on the fact that he doesn’t collaborate with the separatist fighters. 

He had argued that he receives numerous costumers in his bar, and can’t be responsible for the actions of those who patronize his business joint. 

But the soldiers apparently not being convinced by the narrative of Ngome, began molesting him. 
He was tortured mercilessly, living him with severe injuries. 

His wife who watched helplessly as the soldiers molest her husband, was reportedly raped by the men in uniform. Ngome’s mother who was present during the raid was also raped in front of him and children. Ngome was repeatedly beaten. 

After several running battles with the military, In June 2019, Ngome fled the country for an unknown destination. 

This was after he had received several threats to his life. 
We gathered that soldiers have since launched a manhunt of Ngome whose exact whereabouts remains unknown. 

The uninform men have been making several rounds in Ngome’s neighborhood in search of him. 
We gathered that in one of the raids in search of him, soldiers are reported to have burnt down his house and business joint in Ekona. His family members long fled the area.

It is unclear what might happen to Ngome if he is arrested by state security forces. However, it is feared he might be charged for terrorism and handed a heavy jail term as has been the case with other civilians accused of links with separatist fighters.

By Amos Akuam in Buea

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