After more than one year of an unnecessary tug of war between the Biya government and Anglophone Cameroonians, the country is gradually sliding to the brink, with its economy taking a hit. Scarce resources that could have been put into development projects are today being used to pay huge per diems to soldiers and to settle other expenses just to prosecute a war that could have been averted if the country’s leaders had listened to the international community and fostered dialogue as a tool of choice in the management of a country that comprises people of various cultural backgrounds.
The chaos playing out in the Anglophone regions has now made the country to become a byword for anarchy and chaos. A simple dispute that could have been addressed through frank and sincere discussions was allowed to degenerate due to the government’s arrogance, violence and condescension.
Today, many lives have been lost and the anger has gone up by many notches. The Anglophone minority no longer believes it is part of a country that has marginalized it, killed its people and sent many into exile in countries they never thought they could live in.
There are currently more than 32,000 Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria and many are still thinking of fleeing Nigeria following the arrest and detention of Anglophone leaders in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, some two weeks ago; a situation that has altered the entire equation and made it hard for any reasonable solution to be found to this crisis that spells doom to the Biya regime.
Today, government troops are engaged in running battles with Ambazonian Defense Forces who are determined to inflict as much pain on government troops as possible and though the government has decided not to release figures of fallen soldiers, it is alleged that more than 200 army soldiers have been rushed to an early grave by the determined and feared Ambazonian Defense Forces also known as “Amba Tigers”.
Their hit-and-run tactics have taken a huge toll on the military and news of their success in Manyu Division has been spreading like wild fire across the region. While Manyu has noticed some respite, the fighting has been exported to Meme Division where army soldiers have taken huge casualties. These victories by the Amba Tigers have infuriated the government and they have triggered a wave of revenge in many parts of the South West region of Cameroon.
The soldiers’ retaliatory measures which, in many cases, consist in intimidating the local population and setting houses ablaze like they did last week in Kwa Kwa, a little village less than 50 km from Kumba, the Meme Divisional headquarters. The burning of an entire village resulted in the death of a 96-year-old lady and this has resulted in more revenge attacks, especially in Kombone, Meme Division, where a colonel and two of his colleagues were attacked on Sunday, January 21, 2018, while picking up the remains of their fallen colleagues in an ambulance. It should be recalled that army soldiers have been running amok in Kwa Kwa following the killing of nine of their colleagues by the Amba Tigers who have proven to be experts at hit-and-run tactics.
Instead of winning hearts and minds, government troops are working hard to radicalize the local population which was initially for a federal system of government. But ever since the government opted for violence and repression as its weapons of choice, many Anglophones have gradually migrated from federalism to secession; a movement that has gained a lot of traction in recent months. This is really motivating the young fighters who hold that this is the time to put an end to the Francophone domination and government marginalization that have dogged the country’s English-speaking minority for over 55 years.
With Anglophone leaders still sitting in a luxurious villa in Abuja, the young and determined fighters who have been infuriated by the arrests are continuing to give the government a lot of food for thought. They hold that by using the forest to inflict pain on government troops, the Biya regime that is unpopular at home and abroad will finally sue for peace and call for the genuine and comprehensive dialogue that many around the world have been urging it to embrace.
Speaking to one of the fighters who has recently shown up in Abuja where he has sought asylum, it could be figured out that despite their lack of appropriate weapons, the young fighters are high on courage and determination and this is driving them into achieving many of their objectives.
“We do not have the right weapons. If we had AK-47s, I think we would have successfully exported the fighting into French Cameroon. Cameroon soldiers may be well trained, but they lack the courage and experience to fight in a dense equatorial forest. We have rattled them in the Manyu jungle and this has caused many to flee and desert the army. Some have defected and are helping to organize our efforts. I am sure that in six months’ time, we will be able to bring the government to the negotiating table against its wish,” the young Mamfe fighter who elected anonymity said.
He added that “I am using my asylum case as an excuse. My objective is to ensure that Southern Cameroons becomes independent. I hear our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora are quietly raising funds to get us more sophisticated weapons and once we lay our hands on those killing machines, the government of Cameroon will regret its decision.”
“Many people thought that the arrest of our leaders would dampen our determination. It has only ramped up our desire to inflict more pain on the soldiers who have been killing and maiming our people. The Southern Cameroons crisis is an idea. Our movement is bigger than anyone. It will be hard to kill the idea even if the government arrests the entire North West and South West regions. Every day, there are many young university graduates who are heading to Nigeria to carry weapons against a government that has reduced us to second-class citizens. You can see the joy on their faces. I am also a graduate, but when soldiers came and killed my brother in Mamfe, I knew it was time for me to revenge and I think my brother’s spirit should be happy wherever it is today,” he said.
With such language, it is clear that the days ahead will be rough. Cameroonians want peace, but their leaders have opted for war, a war that is consuming soldiers and civilians in huge numbers. While the country’s economy has taken huge blows, the country’s politics is gradually taking a different shape. New players are joining the race for the Unity Palace scheduled for this year and the news of a single opposition candidate seems to be appealing to many Cameroonians, though it is a nightmare to the government and the ruling CPDM which have for 25 years rigged every election.
Though it seems like the clouds of self-destruction are gradually gathering over Cameroon, many political analysts still hold that there is still time for the government to spare the country an unnecessary bloodbath. The government’s arrogance and violence have pushed the country to the brink. A little introspection on the government’s part might reverse the storm that is gathering over the country. 2018 is the year that will make or mar Cameroon. The choice is the government’s and Mr. Biya, according to many observers, is the only person who can defuse the bomb and pull the country from the brink.
By Kingsley Betek
West Africa Bureau Chief (Abuja, Nigeria)
Cameroon Concord News Group