Tensions are mounting in many cities and towns in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon after a military tribunal slammed a life sentence on Southern Cameroonian leaders.
On Wednesday, gunmen chased local business people in Bamenda, Northwest region, from their business locations as they argued that there would be no business given that their leaders had been unjustifiably sent to prison in East Cameroon.
The gunmen fired in the air to advise the population that they were serious to disrupt business and that they were prepared to face up to the army soldiers who have been deployed across the two English-speaking regions of the country prior to the announcement of the life sentences in the early hours of Wednesday.
Many civilians are already packing out of Bamenda where there has been violent clashes between government troops and Southern Cameroonian
Fighters who are hellbent on challenging the soldiers.
In Limbe, Buea, and Kumba, the tensions are palpable. On Thursday, many people could be seen leaving the Southwest region’s largest city, Kumba, following the announcement of a long merciless lockdown designed to cripple government operations in the region.
Meanwhile, on Thursday in Muyuka, a notorious hotspot in the Southwest region, Southern Cameroonian fighters clashed with army soldiers and several casualties were reported on both sides.
The sentencing of the Southern Cameroonian president, Julius Ayuk Tabe, and nine of his associates seem to be a death sentence on any chances of dialogue that many hoped could help defuse tensions in the country
It should be recalled that Cameroon has been facing a tough political situation ever since the country English-speaking minority decided to revolt against the government which it said had an elaborate plan to marginalize Southern Cameroonians and crush their culture.
The demonstrations, which were designed to be peaceful, turned violent when the Yaounde government sent army soldiers into the two regions to crush any opposition to its rule.
The conflict has ruined the country’s economy and huge corporations which accounted for most of the jobs in the two regions have gone under, leaving many families desperate and the government in acute financial hardship, as many of its revenue streams have been ruined.
Despite calls from the international community for an inclusive dialogue, the Yaounde government has been indifferent to these calls.
From its actions, it has demonstrated that it will pursue its military option to a conclusive end, an option that has resulted in the death of thousands of Cameroonians – both civilians and soldiers.
As a result of its unpopular decision, the government seems to be very isolated. Its traditional allies are walking away from it.
The United States, Canada and the European Union have all urged the beleaguered government to embrace dialogue so as to spare the country the disaster that is hanger over it like the Sword of Damocles.
Even African organizations and countries have been urging the government to see dialogue as the best possible way out of the impasse.
Early last year, Equatorial Guinea through its representative at the UN security council, called on the Yaounde government to dialogue with Southern Cameroonians as a means of stemming the tide of refugees that have been leaving the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon to the small oil-rich Central African country.
Also, the African Union has been mounting pressure on Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, to embrace dialogue.
The continental organization has mandated some former presidents and prime ministers to engage the Yaounde government in a dialogue that could result in the resolution of the conflict.
But Mr. Biya seems to be ignoring the leaders and has ordered the deployment of more troops in the two regions.
An action that is very likely to make school resumption impossible in September.
Many observers are really concerned by the situation in Cameroon and people around the world are questioning the wisdom behind Mr. Biya’s brutal military crackdown in the two English-speaking regions of the country.
Many observers even argue that the 87-year-old president might not be in total possession of his mental faculties to make some of those decisions that have only made the conflict to escalate.
Many observers are also accusing his wife and a few of his tribesmen who are now running the show in Yaounde.
The world is watching the drama as it plays out, but not many are happy, as a beautiful country is being ruined by the greed and corruption of a few.
By Kingsley Betek in Yaounde