Cameroon: Soldiers on rampage in Manyu Division 0

Manyu Division in the South West Region of Cameroon is currently under military rule as the government continues to conduct its “clean-up campaign” in the two Anglophone regions of the country. Some 18 military trucks arrived the Manyu Divisional headquarters of Mamfe on Sunday, December 3, 2017, following a declaration of war by the country’s president on Anglophone secessionists who have been calling for the total liberation of the once British trust territory. The trucks have been heading to villages such as Otu, Agborkem German, Esaghem, Nsanarakati and Eshobi to “mop up” those villages of those the government terms as “terrorists” who have been killing army soldiers in recent months.

According to our military sources in Mamfe, the objective of the campaign is to track down those who have been responsible for the killing of army soldiers in the region. The sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said that after a roll call by the government, it was discovered that more than 200 army soldiers sent to Manyu Division to preempt the declaration of independence had not returned to their base and things were made worse when 4 gendarme officers and 2 policemen were savagely killed in the region last week.

According to civilian sources in Mamfe town and in Otu, a border village, the soldiers who are heading to these villages have been brutalizing women whose husbands have fled into the forest and into Nigeria to seek refuge. It should be recalled that a press release by the Senior Divisional Officer for Manyu, Oum II Joseph, last Friday sowed panic, causing many men to cross over into Nigeria or seek refuge in the dense equatorial forest. Although the South West Region’s Governor had said on Saturday that the said press release was fake, many Manyu Citizens who are used to government tactics knew that it was a strategy to deceive them. The villagers understand that the government has been hurt and the killing of army soldiers was a humiliation to the beleaguered government.

Our sources have also advised that the military is seizing all cell phones to ensure that no pictures make their way out of the region. The government holds that this action will help to suppress the people of this region once and for all. However, our military sources have promised that they will make sure pictures emerge as they are not comfortable with the operation that is clearly designed to suppress the English-speaking minority.

Though the International Crisis Group and Amnesty International have been proscribed in Cameroon, our sources have alleged that some of their members are operating on the ground and will be able to bring out the eerie tales of the government’s misadventure in a region that is determined to frustrate all its  efforts to impose its own version of peace in the region.

It should be recalled that the Anglophone crisis that has rocked Cameroon over the last twelve months has entered a critical phase. According to many analysts, Cameroon is sliding into a civil war and only international efforts can check this unfortunate situation, as secessionists are determined to carry their action to a logical conclusion.

Today, many parts of Manyu Division have been militarized and the citizens are not allowed to move from one location to the other. The people seem to have been rolled back into the dark ages against their wish. It also seems the government is helping to enforce the ghost towns that have been going on in the region for one year by undertaking such unnecessary military actions.

In border villages and towns like Ekok, Otu, Agborkem German and Nsanarakati, army soldiers are abusing young girls and the population does not know where to turn to for protection. For those who have escaped, the unfortunate thing is that many of them may never return home, especially those who are hiding in the jungle as the conditions out there are not the best.

With hordes of refugees heading to Nigeria, it is obvious that international community will become aware of the scale of destruction and murder that is taking place in Southern Cameroons, especially in Manyu Division that is the birthplace of Anglophone activism.  With the anger and frustration of having been marginalized and chased out of the country, these young men will surely constitute a strong pool of willing fighters if they lay their hands on weapons. Instead of fighting secession which is an idea with appeasement, the government has decided to kill an idea with missiles and this is unfortunately not producing the desired results. The government has failed to understand that in cases like this, appeasement is better than brute force. As the population gets terrorized, it becomes very hard for the government to obtain reliable intelligence on how to track the people the soldiers are looking for. No security system in the world has ever done a great job without the participation of the civilian population.

The government stands to gain if it seeks to win hearts and minds. The Anglophone problem has been playing out for over a year now and Anglophones have clearly stated their problems. A strike that started with lawyers and teachers was allowed to quickly degenerate into calls for federalism that was promptly rejected by the government, with the country’s president, Paul Biya, stating that the form of the state could not be discussed. This has put him in a tight spot and, today, he does not know how to eat the giant humble pie he had made for himself. Anglophones are not backing down. The deployment of troops across the region is not synonymous with a return to the old days. The country has been caught up in unprecedented turbulence and this is taking a toll on the fragile economy. The few resources that could have been used to reboot the economy are now being used to run a war that is doomed to failure as it is a guerrilla warfare and the secessionists’ hit-and-run tactics are bringing humiliation to the government, as its soldiers continue to bite the dust.

The solution to the Anglophone problem is at the negotiating table. The government has to swallow its pride and accept that there is no return to the status quo ante. Cameroon will never be the same again and instead of killing and maiming ordinary citizens, it is time to meet Anglophones halfway so that the new republic’s future can be discussed. It is unfortunate that Cameroon is ending up with a dictator’s legacy – a civil war.

By Kingley Betek in Ekok