The Cameroon military will soon be answering for its crimes in Manyu Division following its actions in that region. It is now emerging that after the government’s military operation in Manyu Division, many residents of the Division’s leading city are talking of mass graves in and around the city. Cameroon Concord News Group West Africa Bureau Chief, Kingsley Betek, who is currently in Mamfe, has gathered that there is a huge mass grave behind the former Council Office which is located just in front of deep valley.
Residents of the area have been advising our correspondent of the eerie sounds and cries of young men being beaten as the military sought to check the “Odeshi Boys” who were chopping down army soldiers sent from Yaounde to come and quell the rebellion in Mamfe.
“We used to see many young men being dragged to that location by angry soldiers. The boys were being maltreated and despite their plea that they were not responsible for the killing of army soldiers, government troops beat them up like animals. I know that many have been killed and dumped behind the former council office located on the way to Banya. I am prepared to testify whenever the international community comes to investigate the crimes committed by the soldiers,” a resident of Mamfe, who elected anonymity, said.
“The army is supposed to protect civilians, but when the troops came here, they beat up everybody for a crime that was committed by a few people. We do not even know those who have been killing the soldiers, but each time that happens, soldiers go on a rampage. They have completely destroyed Kembong and other surrounding villages and this makes it hard for us to go to our farms and send our children to school. It is like they are instead helping to enforce ghost town operations here,” the angry resident of Mamfe added, stressing that “government has to change its strategy. We would not be in this mess if the government had seen things differently.”
“The government does not even seem to see the folly in its actions. Intimidating and killing civilians makes it hard for the civilians to work with the police or gendarmes. For any real security to return to the environment, the government must consider the local population as its ally instead of its enemy,” he stressed.
There are also reports that there are other mass graves on the way to Eshobi, a little town some 40km from Mamfe town where government troops had set up camps, giving the impression that they wanted to construct the road. Many residents are today accusing the government of employing that strategy to hide its evil deeds in the area.
Residents of villages in Manyu Division are still bitter about the military action against them. They accuse the soldiers of having stolen their cocoa, coffee and petrol as they swept through those villages in their search for the young and determined fighters who actually gave the soldiers a run for their money.
It is alleged that huge bags of cocoa and coffee are being stocked at the Besongabang military camp and some soldiers are using this produce to make some fast money. Besides using the conflict as an excuse to enrich themselves, army soldiers are stopping business people from plying their trade in the region. Many rice exporters are being asked to give more than CFAF 2,000,000 as bribe for them to carry their products to Nigeria and this is done with the knowledge of the top military officials in the region. This is not only robbing the people of their revenue, it is also rendering many young men unemployed and these young men are those who are swelling the ranks of the dangerous fighters.
Meanwhile, the fighting in Southern Cameroons has intensified following the extradition of the Ambazonian President, Julius Ayuk Tabe, to Yaounde. Many young Southern Cameroonians have stepped up attacks on soldiers and gendarmes in a bid to express their frustration and anger.
Two gendarmes were attacked on Thursday in the North Western town of Mbingo by masked men, who shot the uniformed officers point blank, killing the male officer on the spot. The female officer is struggling for her life in the town’s main hospital.
In Bangem, a town in the Southwest region of the country, Amba Tigers have been fighting running battles with Cameroon’s military in the city’s downtown core where it is reported that an ELECAM official has been killed alongside some army soldiers. Unconfirmed reports indicate that more than four people have been killed in Bangem since the Tigers showed up to carry revenge attacks against army soldiers following the extradition of Mr. Ayuk Tabe who has become the incontestable poster child of the Southern Cameroons struggle.
It has also been reported that civilians in the town of Bangem are heading out of the town in large numbers to surrounding villages in a bid to seek refuge from army soldiers who have been attacking and killing unarmed and innocent civilians.
Other towns such Pinyin and Batibo in the Northwest region have also witnessed clashes between Ambazonian fighters and government troops. The increasing attacks had been predicted by many analysts and politicians who had posited that the arrest and extradition of Mr. Ayuk Tabe would only exacerbate things as more people would be radicalized.
Many international observers are calling on the government of Cameroon to use this moment to smoke the pipe of peace as military violence and intimidation have not produced the results the government had expected. They contend that the government must change its strategy as the current one is gradually pulling the country towards a bloody civil war that is unnecessary.
It should be recalled that the government of Cameroon which is stuck in the past is using old tactics that had been employed in the 60s against French Cameroon freedom fighters popularly known as Maquisards in the pious hope that the Southern Cameroons population will submit to its will.
Critics point out that it has unfortunately failed to understand that times have changed. People are more educated today and the existence of the Internet have made it hard for such tactics to produce the desired results. Besides, with a huge and prosperous Southern Cameroons Diaspora, it will be hard for the government of Cameroon to obtain an outright victory.
The Diaspora is propping up efforts of the young and determined fighters who sincerely hold that with a little luck they can successfully bring the government of Cameroon to the negotiating table or get Southern Cameroons out of the mess in which short-sighted politicians like Muna and Foncha had dumped the region.
The Southern Cameroons Diaspora will continue to destabilize Cameroon for a long time if the government does not make permanent dialogue a way of life in a country that was hastily stitched together by the United Nations. The Southern Cameroons Diaspora is rich and it has successfully transformed marginalization into a huge opportunity.
The government therefore stands to gain if it changes its policies to recognize the Diaspora as a strategic partner in the country’s efforts to attain sustainable levels of development.
Mr. Biya and his government must now embrace dialogue as the ideal way to pull the country from the brink. From reactions obtained following the arrest and extradition of Mr. Ayuk Tabe, it is obvious that more blood will continue to flow, as Southern Cameroonians are determined to follow through with their threat of splitting the country.
By Kingsley Betek in Mamfe