29, March 2017
These are horrible times for Bamenda inhabitants. Arbitrary Arrests, Torture and Extortions are plentiful in their daily menu served by gendarmes, police and soldiers. Ask those who have been arrested in recent weeks and taken to the gendarmerie premises Up Station. Many (whose names are being withheld for fear of further victimization) have recounted horrendous stories of beatings and degrading treatments, to
Their crimes! Well, simply possessing a mobile phone with text messages, pictures or videos relating to the current Southern Cameroons resistance is synonymous to terrorism. And for this they could be blind folded and shipped off to the capital Yaoundé. First you would pass through the torture room. To say that that they are arrested is to put it nicely. Otherwise, these are citizens who are simply abducted and extradited to French speaking Yaoundé where they are detained for long periods before being arraigned in a military court.
As it has turned out for many, it is even a big surprise that beatings and physical torture are virtually absent in the infamous National Gendarmerie head quarter, SED as is the case in Bamenda. “I was surprised that I was not beaten at SED when we arrived there. Whereas I had expected that they would cripple us with the baton. It’s terrible what they did to us in Bamenda” said 45-year-old man recently ferried from Bamenda.
At Up Station Bamenda, “those arrested are beaten so badly they can’t walk with swollen feet and limbs. Gendarmes take turns flogging them with batons and smashing them with boots and gun butts”. The other day, gendarmes at Mile 4 Nkwen pounded a driver with gun butts in full view of the population before dragging him into their office. The victim’s face was terribly swollen, with his bloody eyes almost falling off from their sockets. Cry and wail as you may, the baton will keep rising and falling on you until your torturer gets exhausted or hands over to his partner.
“I witnessed how they tortured a young, deaf and dumb fellow. They beat him repeatedly asking him to admit that he was encouraging the strike”, said a former detainee just released from the judicial police in Bamenda. He almost came to tears as he recounted he described the beatings in detention facilities.
Ask the City Council officials of the Bamenda Food Market what happened to them last week – a day after the marketplace went up in flames. To cut things short, they were picked up and taken to GMI police station where a barge of terror was unleashed on them. They were so badly thrashed that they were unable to walk within a short time of administering the corporal punishment.
Imagine a young man jugging on the streets towards Up Station Bamenda early in the morning. Gendarmes stop him and demand his ID and phone. Then they whisk him off to their station just because they found text messages relating to the Anglophone struggle. Then as darkness falls, he is bundled into a van and sped driven to Yaoundé. He is then charged for terrorism and secession. Life imprisonment is now hanging over him should the French speaking military court find him guilty. But that is the same story of dozens of Anglophones arrested from parts of the North West and Southwest regions.
Bamenda has for several months now been militarized. And in what appears like a State of emergency scores of “young people are being arrested in day and night time raids. We are now living in fear and moving without valid identification is now taboo” said a Metta Quarter resident. Anxiety is growing amongst the population as no one knows when his/her turn to be arrested will arrive.
“Imagine troops cordoning off a neighborhood, allowing no one out and no one in. Imagine you are deep asleep with your family. And then, soldiers come pounding on your door; ordering you to open. They force their way into your bed room, turn it upside down, inside out”. The raids popularly called Kale Kale are an old practice in French speaking East Cameroun but dreaded by English speakers. Francophone administrators and gendarmes introduced the practice into Anglophone Cameroon decades ago. Kale Kales are currently taking place in different neighborhoods in Bamenda, Ndop and other towns in the northwest region. Residents of Metta Quarter are still in shock following a recent raid.
“They just popped into my home with guns. I could not question if they had any search warrant because they could feel I am rude and bundle me to Yaoundé”, said a resident. “I don’t know what they were looking for. They went into my bed room scattering everything. They also searched my kitchen. Then they wrote OK on the door and left”.
Another inhabitant told CAMCORDNEWS that “they kept asking for receipts for every gadget in the house: TV, blending machine, decoder etc. We are not safe in this city anymore. You stay in your house and they follow you into your bed room”.
Cameroon Concord News gathered that dozens of young people were arrested during the raids for possessing leaflets promoting the Operation Ghost Town or civil disobedience campaign taking place every Monday in the English speaking northwest and southwest regions. The said campaigns have stopped schools from reopening for three straight months. Young people were taken away and risk being whisked off to the capital Yaoundé, simply for having text messages or videos about the Anglophone protests on their hand sets.
The police department in Bamenda would not comment on the reasons behind the raids despite repeated requests by journalists. But the regional governor, Lele L’Afrique, has now prescribed that civilian vigilante groups be set up in the different villages and towns. The governor is alarmed by the number of arson on schools’ infrastructure and markets, which the authorities believe are the handiwork of those enforcing the civil disobedience campaign.
Money speaks! “Oh yes, eight of you could be arrested for one of those imaginary crimes. Then two of you agree to cough up a hundred bucks or more each. No receipts are issued. But guess what, the two of you will be freed” a bitter ex detainee said. Such money no doubt ends up in the private pockets of your oppressors. And the deal can sometimes run into hundreds of thousands. We have even heard of millions of CFA being asked from relatives of detained suspects. As the people of Bamenda say in local parlance, “something di spoil, fix another one”. Loosely, this means the sufferings of some people is good tidings for others. So many of the uniformed men wielding batons are somehow making brisk business. The more people they arrest, the more opportunities they create for extortions.
Randy Joe Sa’ah Azeng