The last two weeks have been the worst for Cameroon’s military. Many soldiers are walking around with lots of butterflies in the stomachs. Southern Cameroonian fighters have struck fear in their minds and many of them are thinking twice. The profession they chose just to earn a decent living has become the source of a nightmare that is not going away anytime soon.
Southern Cameroonian fighters have stepped up their game. They are disabling military trucks and rendering the soldiers powerless. The “boyses in the bushes” have turned the heat on army soldiers who thought their mission to Southern Cameroons was going to be like a walk in the park.
In Manyu Division, which is where the fighting started, three army soldiers were killed in the border town of Otu and many others are still reported missing. Their families are still waiting for their loved ones, but the jungles of Manyu might not be throwing up anytime soon these murderous killers dressed up in national military fatigue.
After more than one week, those who jumped into the Manyu jungle for safety only landed into greater danger. In Manyu Division, forgiveness is a rare word, especially if the intention to kill is manifest. The army soldiers sent to Otu were not angels. Their mission was well-defined. They had a shoot-and-kill order if they suspected anybody. But things hardly go as planned. Their best plan was upset by Southern Cameroonian fighters who now have more sophisticated weapons and are ready to blow up anything in Cameroonian military uniform.
Even if the jungles throw up the missing soldiers, they will not be fighting again. They will be heading home in body bags, as the “boyses in the bushes” have helped to put them out of their misery.
According to a voice note sent to the Cameroon Concord News Group’s Mamfe Office, two of the missing soldiers – both of Beti extraction – have been killed in the jungle. Those who made the voice note clearly said the missing soldiers would never be heading home. The missing soldiers were located by Southern Cameroonian fighters in the jungle between Otu and Eyumojock and they were killed in the most gruesome manner. Their uniforms were seized, and their bodies buried in a shallow grave.
The war in Southern Cameroons has assumed new dimensions. Southern Cameroonian fighters are now dictating things. They have the right weapons to face army soldiers who, for a long time, thought they had a monopoly of killing whoever crossed their path.
The fear triggered by those killings in Otu has changed the dynamics. There is a wave of apprehension and demoralization blowing among Cameroon’s army soldiers. They know the government will never win the war, especially with the arrival of Russian-made AK47s that are considered the deadliest and the best in the business of killing.
Many have been looking for a way out of the pretty mess the government has lumped them into. In the past, many army soldiers simply pretended to be sick to avoid being posted to the two English-speaking regions of the country.
But now that Southern Cameroonian fighters are gradually diminishing the number of those soldiers in the war zone, the sick certificates presented by many of those soldiers are simply rejected by their superiors. Nobody is safe! All the soldiers must head to the war zone to do the job they had signed up for when joining the military. Many of these young boys and girls who joined the military just for the money now spend many weeks without sleeping, especially when informed that they must head to Southern Cameroons where the determined Southern Cameroonian fighters are waiting for them with open arms.
With those sick certificates no longer popular, the new strategy is to head to the war front and simply defect. Two weeks ago, a bunch of seven army soldiers simply travelled to Nsanaraki in Eyumojock Sub-Division and divulged their intention to surrender to the villagers who could not understand French.
Thanks to one soldier of Manyu extraction who interpreted for them, the villagers offered them clothes and their military fatigue and protective gear were handed over to Southern Cameroonian fighters who were not far from the village. The deserters are now in Nigeria, seeking to leave the continent for greener pastures in Europe or North America.
In Ndian Division, Southern Cameroonian fighters are still proving that they are a force to reckon with. Last week, they arrested some government civil servants who thought they could move around freely in total disregard of the rules rolled out by the Ambazonia Interim Government. These lawless civil servants are still being held in various locations where they are being interrogated and they are doing their best to help Southern Cameroonian fighters in their investigation into who has been encouraging them to violate the laws of the land.
Ndian Division is in the hands of Southern Cameroonian fighters who are in no hurry to give it up. Also, last week, they quietly dismembered an army soldier and put his body parts on display for other soldiers to see and understand that they were the masters of that land. The gory images were very demoralizing to young army soldiers who had to head to Ndian to fight in a jungle they do not even know. Success in Ndian Division, like in Manyu Division, clearly depends on a better understanding of the terrain.
The dense equatorial forest is providing much-needed cover to fired-up Southern Cameroonian fighters whose main objective is to bring about total independence in Southern Cameroons. This is messing up the government’s apple cart.
But the mother of all humiliation was somewhere else. The situation in Manyu Division looked like a very serious situation, but it clearly pales in comparison to what happened in Bamali in Ndop a week ago. Army soldiers were simply treated like animals. They were butchered like little rats. The way seven of them were killed simply spoke to the poor training they get and the lack of motivation that drives true soldiers.
Ever since these incidents took place, the government has been silent, giving the impression that it is not bothered by the numerous setbacks it has suffered in a war it hastily declared. But sources close to the minister of defense, Joseph Beti Assomo, say the warmonger is very disappointed with the way things are turning out.
Southern Cameroonian fighters have been emboldened by their numerous victories and the purchase of modern war machines which have struck fear in the minds of many army soldiers has only bolstered their confidence. Even the top military brass in Yaoundé is at a loss for words.
But General Valery Nka, the man who claimed he would clean up the Northwest Region of Southern Cameroonian fighters had to admit to the BBC that things were really headed in the wrong direction following the humiliation in Bamali.
“It is a disgrace for an army to be treated that way. They are attacked, killed and weapons carried away. They don’t take to instructions. It means there are no sentinels at their various command posts. This is disgraceful for a trained army such as ours,” a frustrated and disappointed General Valery Nka said.
At the Presidency, nobody wants to discuss the failure, though they all know that they are losing their authority. The soldiers do not want to fight, but they do not have many options in life. Politicians are burying their heads in the sand, hoping that time will help them out of the quagmire they have created for themselves and the country.
Whatever options the Yaoundé government chooses, Southern Cameroons will forever be a huge scar on the collective conscience of a country predicated on brutality and arrogance. Southern Cameroonians never wanted to quit their French-speaking counterparts, but the government’s military response to calls for an overhaul of a political system that is spreading death and destruction among the English-speaking minority has pushed many Southern Cameroonians to the brink. Many want to leave the lopsided union and their support for the fighters is total and unwavering.
With so many killed, it will be tough for Southern Cameroonians to accept anything short of independence. The pain is excruciating, and the anger is spilling out of control. Recently, some government hawks have been talking about discussions on federalism, but a few years ago, it was against the law to talk about federalism in Cameroon. Could this latest move by these regime hawks be seen as a testing of waters or a simple acknowledgment that the government’s policies and strategies over the last four years in the prosecution of the war have simply failed?
A source within the country’s presidency has revealed that senior government officials are mulling the possibility of engaging with Southern Cameroonian leaders at the Yaoundé Maximum Security Prison on how best to end the bloodshed and unnecessary destruction of human life and property in the two English-speaking regions of the country.
The source said that members of the ruling party’s inner circle were currently strategizing on how best to engage with a group of people the government had clearly branded as terrorists. The ruling party wants to ensure that the country’s president, Paul Biya, comes out of this mess in a way that makes him look like a hero. But some ruling party stalwarts hold that the situation is dire and that pulling it off to give Biya a hero’s tag will require more humility than trickery.
“The people are smarter today and Southern Cameroonians are determined to inflict huge losses on the government. If they must be brought to the table, it will be through objective, sincere and humble negotiations and not through the arrogance and trickery that have become the government’s hallmarks,” the source stressed.
As army soldiers keep on dropping like flies in Southern Cameroons, the government knows that if it does not employ other approaches, it will be humiliated, and the independence of Southern Cameroons will continue to be more probable than impossible. Currently, there are silent efforts in the Diaspora to put more sophisticated weapons in the hands of the fighters who have proven that they can take the war to the enemy.
If the government wants to save its face, it must acknowledge reality, take corrective measures, and engage with Southern Cameroonian leaders abroad and with those in jail. Last week’s setback has left the government with a bloodshot eye and there is more bad news for the government if it does not act promptly. With its forces defecting, deserting, and demoralizing, the days ahead will only bring more pain and humiliation to a government that sees negotiations as a sign of weakness.
With things going south for the government, it must learn how to bend over backwards if it really wants to stare down the barrel of peace. The situation is dire. The population is sick and tired of the bloodshed and state coffers are running dangerously low. Negotiations and not war will help the government save its bloody face. The ball is in its court!
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai
Cameroon Concord News/Cameroon Intelligence Report