About 200 stalls have been destroyed by a huge fire which ripped through a food market in Bamenda, the chief city in the Northern Zone. The cause of the fire at the market is unclear. Last year, the government blamed a similar incident at the market on Southern Cameroons Restoration Forces demanding independence for Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.
The people of Ambazonia say English-speaking Cameroonians face discrimination, and are fed up of being part of a country ruled for more than 35 years by French-speaking President Paul Biya. The government accuses Southern Cameroonians of being “terrorists” threatening the country’s unity.
Cameroon is replete with many problems and many of them are off-shoots of the mismanagement, tribalism and corruption that have become the country’s hallmark. Corruption has robbed the country of the financial resources it needs to undertake major development work. The country lacks good medical infrastructure. Most of its hospitals have become consultation clinics. The road infrastructure also leaves much to be desired. The roads are today death traps that are consuming the population at a rate never seen before.
The country’s economy too has taken a nosedive. Over the last 20 years, Cameroon’s economy has been caught in a tailspin. Unemployment has continued to rise, with university graduates not being able to find jobs. Many corporations have gone under, leaving many of their workers unemployed.
But the most difficult challenge is the Southern Cameroons crisis that is very likely to tear the country apart. For more than two years, Southern Cameroonians have engaged the government in a tough battle that has resulted in the killing of some 4,000 Cameroonians, including over 1,300 soldiers.
Following a demonstration by teachers and lawyers in 2016, the two English-speaking regions have become ungovernable. The government’s military actions have caused some 200,000 Southern Cameroonians to flee to Nigeria while millions are hiding in the bushes to avoid the government’s indiscriminate killings.
Many children are today seeking refuge in those bushes and many babies have been delivered in the process. The numbers of teenage mothers have increased and this spells another serious problem in the future. The government has not taken any efforts to convince the people for them to return to their homes.
On the contrary, soldiers have been torching many homes and killing any young Southern Cameroonians found in the territory in the hope that they could eliminate any threat Southern Cameroonians pose to the government.
Schools have been closed now for two years in the region and many of the students have simply been co-opted into the armed groups that have emerged. As the government turns down any appeals for inclusive dialogue, so too does the situation deteriorate. Even after solutions to the conflict would have been sought, security issues will linger for a long time. Many young men, who have lost hope in life, will continue to use their weapons as a means of eking out a living.
By Sama Ernest with files