Cameroon Concord News Group has been informed that violent clashes are currently playing out in several towns in Southern Cameroons. Our source in Batibo has reported that three army soldiers have been killed by unknown gunmen while the Batibo Senior Divisional Officer has been taken by the gunmen to an unknown destination.
The Batibo Assistant Mayor, Esther Tebo, for her part, is currently hiding in the forest after gunmen showed up at her church and opened fire, wounding several people.
In Kembong, a town in Manyu Division which was a hotspot during the violent confrontations in December 2017, is back in the spotlight following an attack by heavily armed gunmen on the temporary military barrack in the town.
The attack resulted in the killing of three gendarmes, with many other uniformed officers wounded. The wounded have been flown by helicopter to the Mamfe military hospital for treatment, a measure expected to help stabilize them. Sources close to the military say the wounded will soon be flown to Douala where it is believed they would get better treatment.
Our military sources also reported that several of the attackers had been killed, adding that the fighting was still ongoing. There is rising fear among the population, given that the last time a military officer was killed in Kembong, many houses were torched by army soldiers in revenge.
The military source added that the attackers used heavy artillery and some artisanal weapons and were many. The source advised that the Southern Cameroons crisis would not be addressed through military action, adding that the loss of life should push the government into negotiating a way out of this conflict that is very likely to run for years if dialogue is not pursued.
The incident, which is a response to the government’s military action in many parts of Southern Cameroons, comes less than 24 hours after the country’s president, Paul Biya, said the North West and South West regions were stabilizing during a speech delivered to the country’s youth on Saturday, February 10, 2018, on the occasion of the country’s Youth Day.
Mr. Biya’s speech had been expected by millions of Cameroonians, especially the youths, who have been victims of the government failure to create jobs and grow the economy. The wait also stemmed from the fact that for more than two weeks, there had been speculations about the whereabouts of Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, 85, who had been missing in action.
Mr. Biya was expected to deliver a live speech on Saturday, February 10, 2018, directed at the youths to urge the country’s impoverished and unemployed youths to continue persevering in their efforts to find work.
He used the occasion to point out that though the economy had not been delivering the results expected, it was more because of a combination of external factors such as declining oil prices, the Southern Cameroons crisis and the Boko Haram insurgency.
However, Cameroonians had been very concerned about the absence of their president. Many analysts held that the country’s president might either be dead or that his health situation might have taken a turn for the worse.
However, yesterday’s speech did not reassure many people, as they hold that it had been taped many weeks before it was delivered. They justify their claim with the fact that the president did not make any reference to the arrest of Southern Cameroons leaders and the creation of a constitutional council a few days before the youth day.
It should be noted that Mr. Biya has been having serious health issues for some time now and a source close to the ailing dictator had intimated that the 85-year-old Biya was suffering from prostrate cancer and a failing heart.
Cameroonians no longer have faith in the government. They hold that the government speaks from both sides of its mouth and that current actions by the president’s collaborators give to understand that there is something fishy unfolding behind the scenes.
Cameroonians are still looking for assurances that their president is alive. They want to be sure that Mr. Biya’s collaborators are not working behind the scenes to change the country’s constitutional order just to ensure the Betis who have been mismanaging the country for more than three decades do not wrestle power out of the hands of the real constitutional successor.
According to a source at the Presidency which elected anonymity, the Secretary General at the presidency has ever since Mr. Biya disappeared from the public’s eye, been holding a series of meetings with some of his collaborators who have been advising him to issue decrees that would usher in constitutional changes on Mr. Biya’s behalf.
They point to the appointment of Clement Atangana early last week as president of the constitutional council as one of the changes aimed at changing things to the advantage of a Beti Mafia that has been running the show for many years.
The scheduling of senatorial elections next month is considered as one of the measures designed by the Beti Mafia to kick out the current senate president, Marcel NyatNjifenji, so that it could retain power even after Mr. Biya’s death.
Under the country’s current constitution, the constitutional successor is the president of the senate, Marcel Nyat Njifenji, a man many hold has played a key role in the corruption and mismanagement that have become the country’s hallmark.
Today’s violence in many Southern Cameroons towns and cities is a reminder that military violence will not address the issues Southern Cameroonians have complained about. It is also a reminder that Cameroon is on the war path and if care is not taken, the conflict could degenerate.
It should be recalled that ever since the conflict started in October 2016, more than 500 civilians have been killed by the country’s military, while more than 300 uniformed officers have lost their lives, especially in Manyu Division where there were violent clashes in December 2017 and January 2018.
By the Editorial team with field reports by Kingsley Betek, Rita Akana and Meshack Enowmbi in Cameroon