The continuing conflict and brutality in the NW and SW regions of Cameroon is causing huge unrest and loss of life. Torture, casualties and death are common amongst civilians, most of whom can only wish to bury their dead and hope for an end to the genocide that has engulfed these regions over the past six months, so as to give their children a reason to live.
Why people have left their homes:
* From fear of stray bullets, and fear of being shot and killed in cross-fire between warring parties, most especially the government forces who may not make a clear distinction between innocent civilians and secessionist fighters (‘Amba Boys’).
* Many homes have been torched with fire, which has become a common instrument of oppression, with many people shot dead on sight.
* Aggressive military behaviour and shock from the deafening sound of artillery being fired indiscriminately into civilian houses.
* The brutality inflicted by soldiers upon civilians, if they should find people in areas where gunshots are being fired by separatists.
* Frequent summary execution of detainees by the military, e.g., as witnessed in Kumbo, Tadu, Melim, Jakiri.
* Looting and pillage of shops and provision stores by government forces in places such as Shisong and Mbuluf, among others.
* Arrest and torture of government loyalists by secessionists who demand ransoms as conditio sine qua non [i.e., an essential condition] for release.
People living close to barricades and trenches on roads run for dear life because, if the military should meet them, they pay with torture, arrest and even death. They are considered to be accomplices of the Amba Boys.
Many schools, businesses, and houses lie derelict, covered by grass and weeds.
* People along the major roads in the conflict zones are victims of indiscriminate shooting from troubled soldiers returning from the battlefield.
* Advice from the separatists for people to relocate from conflict zone so as not to become victims of cross fire, as happened , for example, in February at Ndzenwai in Shisong’s Bui Division, near SAC Junction.
* Areas frequented by secessionists are often targets for the military who patrol these places at night.
* People caught in cross-fire are often considered to be separatist sympathisers and therefore become potential targets for the military to intimidate, shoot and kill and meet out brutality of the highest order.
* Destruction of food crops by government forces applying a scorched earth policy.
* The gruesome murdering of innocent civilians on the grounds that they do not disclose the hide-outs of separatists.
* Kidnappings and ransom demands to scare civilians across the political divide.
* Some people have left their homes for the bush to escape brutality from both sides on the grounds that they are selling out.
* There is insecurity as government structures have collapsed.
* All means of communication have been hampered and ruptured.
* There is a severe lull in economic activity because of the conflict.
* Some parents have taken their children to other areas to prevent them from joining the separatist militia and armed gangs.
Many are ill from the shock of deafening sounds of gunfire; others, wounded by bullets, die at home because they cannot meet hospital bills or because they lack the means to reach treatment centres, while still others decide to stay back and let fate take its course.
Given that many were forced to abandon non-harvested crops on their farms, provision of food has become an uphill task everywhere and many are starving. Normal activities are at a standstill, even in major towns such as Kumbo, where 380 civilians were killed and more than 700 homes torched from September 2018 to March 2019
Citizens in the restive anglophone regions of Cameroon are regarded as potential terrorists and, according to official thinking, lack concern for IDPs from the government side. This is the reason why the elderly, the sick and the handicapped are often burned in their houses when the military attack a locality such as Mah or Meluf. Most of the IDPs in the forests and the bush live in make-shift huts and houses constructed with salvaged materials and have no access to drinking water or sanitary products. Some are in villages, church houses, schools, health centres and community halls. Women and young people returning from farms are the target of soldiers who summarily execute them if they find them in a conflict zone such as Njavnyuy or Kitiwum.
Health Care: With scarce resources, no medical care is effective because of limited finance and there is no transport to ferry the sick to hospitals so that many die at home or on street corners. Due to the crisis, there is a dangerous precedent: the sick, the dying and the dead are moved to and from hospitals on wheelbarrows and stretchers. Most of the wounded are treated using crude medication or by traditional practitioners using unorthodox means.
Generally, the pain and misery are alarming. Some people die away from their locality and so are forced by circumstances to be buried where they lie by people of good will.
Women and Children: Women and children constitute the greater bulk of IDPs in anglophone Cameroon, above 70%. They are physically weaker and therefore vulnerable to physically challenging situations. With the school closure impasse, many girls have embraced prostitution and teenage pregnancy has become the order of the day. Many teenagers are pregnant and many of these are homeless. Children are the biggest victims in the crisis. Child soldiers are commonplace and are easily taken in by the separatists. Many in the separatist groups are youths in their teens. Some enlist to take revenge for the deaths of parents or relatives. Family ties are being loosened. The young and able-bodied men are enlisted into the fighting forces where they are taken care of, or can forcibly take care of themselves. The women and children are left to fend for themselves! Some women are forced to use unorthodox means to get bread and shelter for themselves and for their children. The young men are either forced by their families or by militias to join the fighters in order to “defend” their families from the oppressors. The situation is growing worse by the hour, as towns and villages are increasingly depopulated each day.
* Schools have been shut down.
* Many people remained locked up in jails in unknown locations.
* Salaries of people working with faith communities and private schools have remained unpaid since the end of January 2017.
* Spying networks rooted on bribery and corruption, have taken the cue to cause abductions and disappearances.
* Businesses dependent on the Internet have crumbled away in the North West and South West Regions, rendering many unemployed.
* Killings due to conflict rise on a daily basis.
* Kumbo, the second-largest city in the North West Region, has been nearly emptied of people due to violence, as have many smaller centres.
Richard Moncrieff the Program Director for Central Africa at the International Crisis Group has noted this when he says “Displacement is a very good indicator of trouble – people are leaving these areas because there is a lot of violence.”
International pressure, outspoken and clear, is needed to end human rights abuses, to create credible and effective avenues to hold those responsible to account, and to encourage the Cameroonian government to work towards peace.
Source: Independent Catholic News