The world is once more playing spectator to the gruesome acts committed by some unidentified armed men in Cameroon.
Yesterday, armed men stormed the premises of a prestigious bilingual school in Kumba, the southwest region’s biggest city, and left a trail of death and destruction.
Some five students were killed in cold blood, some of whom were simply beheaded. The world is still very shocked, especially as all the factions in the Southern Cameroons crisis had agreed that students should be allowed to go back to school after close to four years.
Schools in the country’s English-speaking regions had been shut down due to a protest by the country’s English-speaking minority following strikes by teachers, lawyers and students against the government’s systemic and institutionalized marginalization against the minority anglophone population.
As the government sought to roll back any opposition to its policies, it resorted to force, with the military being granted the carte blanche to kill those it suspected of being involved in an insurgency that has lasted over three years.
As a result, some 5,000 civilians have been mowed down by the military, sometimes in broad day light. All young men in the country’s two English-speaking regions are considered as fair targets even when they are not armed or when they are just going about their business.
The military’s brutality had to push the population to seek ways of defending itself and given the urgency, many young men and girls had to make the most of their parent’s hunting rifles and machetes, and with such rudimentary weapons, they sent more than 2,000 army soldiers to an early grave.
This has infuriated the corrupt and incompetent regime in Yaoundé that has failed to pay heed to calls by the international community for a peaceful resolution of a conflict that has put the country in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
In the government’s view, unleashing a reign of terror on the local population would force the innocent population to turn against the Southern Cameroonian fighters who, for most part, were simply trying to defend a population that was being unfairly targeted by a brutal and an unprofessional army.
The government had not properly analyzed the situation before jumping into such a misguided decision.
The young men and women who were wielding the hunting rifles were simply the faces of the anger that has been simmering in the two English-speaking regions of the country for decades.
Though their rifles were not a match to the sophisticated weapons sent by the French to its puppet regime in Yaoundé, the government was oblivious of many things.
The hunting rifle-tooting Southern Cameroonians had lots of wind at their backs. Their lack of sophisticated weaponry was made up with courage and determination.
But the greatest asset they had was the unwavering support from the global Southern Cameroonian Diaspora which was hellbent on demonstrating to the dictatorial regime in Yaounde that its old tactics that had given it a quick victory over the Bassa-Bamileke insurgency in the 1960s would not work.
And truly, those tactics have failed the country’s crime syndicate that passes off as a government. The Diaspora has invested a lot in this government demystification program that has left Yaounde with a bloodshot eye.
The Southern Cameroonian Diaspora has the wherewithal and determination. It has proven this over the last four years. It has successfully retired the hunting rifles that once made the Southern Cameroonian insurgency look like a running joke.
Today, the “boys” as the fighters are fondly referred to by the population, are in possession of very sophisticated weapons and their assault rifles are a long nightmare to many government soldiers who have had the luck of facing those boys.
The government has employed all the tricks in its book, but none seems to be the silver bullet it has been hoping for.
The government has tried to split Southern Cameroonians by choosing some hungry and desperate Southern Cameroonians to speak for the 8-million strong minority, but this strategy has fallen flat on its face.
Even the chaotic capturing of Southern Cameroonian leaders in Nigeria and their illegal extradition to Yaounde has not done anything to douse the fire and anger in many Southern Cameroonian minds.
The country’s territorial administration minister, Paul Atanga Nji, a notorious ex-convict, seems to be running the same playbook. He has been sending out death squads to murder civilians just to give the insurgency a very bad name and the Kumba incident clearly bears his hallmarks.
Similarly, he has also been creating armed militia and dressing them up as Southern Cameroonian fighters, but his demonic plans have not panned out. The people are a lot wiser and they will not fall for such shoddy schemes which have outlived their usefulness.
Despite assistance from the country’s intelligence community, Atanga Nji has not made any significant progress except when he orders that all able-bodied adults in a particular village or town be brought down with bullets obtained with the taxpayer’s money just like they did in Ngarbuh, Kwakwa, Muyenge, Ikata, Muyuka, Mamfe and even in the far north where a woman and her child were killed by bloodthirsty Yaounde soldiers.
The Southern Cameroons crisis will not be going away anytime soon. The people are still angry and for as long as the government is pack full of bitter old men and women who cannot stand any dissent, the country will continue to tither on the brink of an implosion.
While the killings in Kumba have triggered international outrage just as Ngarbuh did, the world must understand that outrage alone will not address the root cause of the conflict in Cameroon that has ruined the country’s economy.
The Yaounde government is shame-proof and it will in the days ahead order another investigation that will not address any real issue.
Many people have already begun accusing the separatists for the heinous crime, but common sense should dictate that it is too early to lay blame to non-state agents, except the world is suffering from collective amnesia.
Ngarbuh is still there for us to remind ourselves that the government we have is more of a criminal enterprise than a group of determined people who really want to bring peace and prosperity to their people.
The Yaounde government is desperate to prove a point. It wants to give the insurgency a very bad name and it will stop at nothing to prove its point.
This is a government comprising the most vindictive people God has put on the face of the earth. Their notion of government and governance is clearly at variance with what prevails in other parts of the world.
If the truth about what has happened in Kumba will be known, then an international team of investigators must be brought in.
The shell casings that have been found at the crime scene make it easy to slam the government with a guilty verdict, but since some of the fighters also bear sophisticated weapons, it will be unfair to consider the usual suspect – the government- as the guilty party.
But if one has to cast his mind to the past or look into the mirror of history, it will be very easy to figure out that Atanga Nji and his boys are simply rehashing some of their previous plans or they are simply restaging one of their old movies that did get good reviews and did not have a huge audience.
It will be preposterous or immature to exclude the government. Sources in Kumba have reliably informed the Cameroon Concord News Group that the usual suspect is once more up to its old antics.
A source in Kumba close to the military has told the Cameroon Concord News Group that the gruesome movie was staged in his neighborhood, adding that he was a witness to this unpalatable scheme designed to spread fear within the civilian population.
The source, who elected anonymity, intimated that a Toyota Carina E which is usually used by the military when it is operating under cover drove into his neighborhood and stopped somewhere, where it let off four armed military men.
The four military officers who were dressed in mufti came out and walked to the school. Shortly after their arrival at the school, their well rehearsed plan was executed with mathematical precision and with the speed of lightning.
He added that the said Toyota Carina E is not painted in military camouflage, adding that when he saw them, he took cover, suspecting that they were out for some dangerous mission.
He regretted that he was not in possession of a good phone which would have enabled him to capture the incident on video.
He stressed that almost everybody in that neighborhood was aware that the military had a hand in the Kumba massacre which has clearly underscored that the Southern Cameroons crisis is not yet over and that if the government thought the lull was the solution, then it was mistaken.
The Southern Cameroons crisis will continue to conduct itself as Mount Etna. It will sometimes give the inhabitants some respite but it will also, from time to time, throw up some unpleasant surprises if the government does not sign in for a long term solution that will require the mediation of international bodies and conflict resolution experts.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai in Germany and Irene Nanyango in Canada