Joseph Orock is a Southern Cameroonian who hails from the Manyu County. He stands regularly on the Nigerian side of the Mfum River- a poorly developed border crossing in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He wears a Manchester United tee-shirt and smiles friendly enough, but he carries an AK-47 by his side.
Orock was raised up in Yaoundé in Obili and spent most of his early life as a student in Essos, where he acquired a mastery of the French language. In 2000, he moved back home to Eyumojock and has since then been unemployed. This is not the future he had in mind when his parents moved over to French Cameroun as civil servants. He holds a first class degree in Linguistics from the University of Yaoundé but has never had a job.
Orock fervently believes the Francophone government keeps all job opportunities only for French speaking Cameroonians whose political elites are in control of the country. It is the community to which President Paul Biya who has ruled the country for 35 years belongs, as do the majority of senior figures within his administration.
Like many Southern Cameroonians, Joseph Orock thinks the Biya Francophone government is solely dedicated to keeping Francophones in power to continue to marginalize Southern Cameroonians. Biya is backed by the French government, his Beti Ewondo political elites, influential Fulani mafia in the Far North region headed by Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali and supported by the Joint Chief of Staff, General Rene Meka.
Joseph Orock is an Ejagham, a massive ethnic group that run across into Nigeria with strong ties with the people of Calabar. After French Cameroun army soldiers stormed and burnt down Kembong village, Orock joined the Manyu Warriors popularly known as the “Odeshi Boys” a movement associated with one of Southern Cameroons largest ethnic group and he is now one of the leading figures in the Odeshi.
We asked him how he thinks the Southern Cameroons resistance will bring about the political solution to the Anglophone problem; he laughed and observed that fighting was the only way to bring about freedom and equal opportunities in Southern Cameroons.
Joseph Orock’s comrade-in-arms, Enow Bessong, was a policeman in Yaoundé, in the Central Region in French Cameroun where he says he saw ethnic chauvinism first-hand. Enow Bessong claims Francophone police bosses fixed the books, adding dozens of ghost names to the payroll, and then shared out the proceeds just among them.
For two years since the Ambazonian revolution started, local anger has long been stoked by the encroachment of heavily armed Francophone army soldiers in Southern Cameroons killing innocent women and children, burning down towns and villages and above all, the disappearance of young men in the Biya government’s heavy-handed counter separatists operations.
Ambazonia Self-Defense Council Restoration Forces spreads
As armed groups bubbled up in Southern Cameroons, the Interim Government of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia has successfully grouped them under the banner of the Ambazonia Self-Defense Council Restoration Forces.
Manyu Division was previously thought of as one of the safest ruling CPDM constituency in Southern Cameroons. But Human Rights groups are now reporting numerous cases of abuse by the Cameroon government army soldiers against civilians as they hunted for the Odeshi boys and their supporters.
Among the most brutal of the French Cameroun government’s forces are the Rapid Intervention Battalion, BIR, created by the Biya regime some few years ago. They were instrumental in the purging of opposition elements in the Republic of Gabon and the fight against the Nigerian Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
Cameroon government violence in Ambazonia has increasingly united all Southern Cameroons in a sense of victimhood. It has also generated calls for revenge deep within the Interim Government. Recently, BIR soldiers attacked a bus on the Mbouda highway, separated the 30 Southern Cameroonians from the other passengers, and killed them.
The history of mass atrocities suggests that state terrorism is normally a political tool often used by French Cameroun political elites for – often petty – political purposes. The UN says the brutality under way in Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia has forced 40,000 Southern Cameroonians to flee to Nigeria and thousands of them – if not more – have crossed Joseph Orock’s Mfum Bridge. The UN also reported that 160,000 Ambazonians have been internally displaced.
Cameroon Concord News correspondent Rita Akana walked for days with her family from Mundemba to Ekondo Titit to reach safety and then Cameroon government troops stormed Bekora. She was quoted by Cameroon Intelligence Report as saying “If the French Cameroun soldiers get you, they will slaughter you like a chicken,” “They want to kill anyone because they have been told to so by their superiors in Yaoundé and they think you are hiding an Ambazonian Self-Defense force.”
Many Southern Cameroonians with tuberculosis and HIV have not been able to access medicine for months now, since the Biya war shut hospitals and supply lines down. At least 85 percent of Southern Cameroonians in refugee camps in Nigeria are women and children. The men have decided to stay and fight to protect the homeland.
It is genocide
The UN has still not use the term “genocide” but hopefully they will do. Recently, the United States ambassador to Cameroon, Peter Barlerin accused the Biya Francophone regime of “targeted killings” in Southern Cameroons. The Washington Post said Africa’s next civil war could be Cameroon. There is already a steady process of exterminating the English speaking population of Cameroon in several areas of Southern Cameroons using starvation, gang rape and the burning of villages.
No one knows how many Southern Cameroonians have been killed in the war. Cameroon Concord News Group puts the estimate at 3000, but there are reports that it may be more. By some strange happenstance, the French Cameroun government headed by the 85 year old dictator is the only actor in Southern Cameroons with the capacity to collect and verify death tolls and they chose not to.
Senior advisers to the regime in Yaoundé are now saying that they see no end in sight to this conflict in Southern Cameroons. What is actually going to happen will be unacceptable. This fighting will continue to the next generation of Southern Cameroons children.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai