ELECAM Board Chair prescribes courage, optimism against insecurity

Last week’s outing by Enow Abrams Egbe, ELECAM Board Chair and Erik Essousse, Director General of Elections to the Southwest turned out to be a crusade by avowed optimists and Pastors’ sons to overturn the impossibility of holding elections under ambient insecurity in the Region. In the opinion of the Board Chair, he is an impenitent optimist and, propelled by such mindset, he sees no reason why elections should not hold in the Region.
Enow Abrams was reacting to a welcome address presented by Mewanu Divine Mokoto, newly appointed Interim Regional Delegate for the Southwest wherein he had catalogued a plethora of adversities that had been plaguing the smooth functioning of the elections management body here.
In this connection, he had euphemistically concluded that “with the current scenario of mutual animosity between separatist forces and the regular army that has induced massive exodus from the rural areas where fighting is most endemic, only a spectacular turn-round of circumstances shall permit ELECAM to organize, manage and supervise any of the scheduled elections this year in the Southwest Region.”
But, the Board Chair seems to have been viewing matters from a different perspective, underpinned by an entrenched desire to ensure that no circumstance; not even the prevalent insecurity in the Region shall prevent elections from holding on scheduled dates.
As encouragement, he counseled staff in the Region to be optimistic and collaborate fully with the administration in their various Council and Divisional Branches. He assured that strategies to be revealed at the appropriate moment have been conceived to circumvent some of the hurdles engendered by the current political upheaval in the English speaking Regions.
As reassurance to staff who had already been de-motivated by the opaque management of his predecessor, Abdoulaye Babale, the Director General announced a series of palliative measures intended to induce renaissance in the morally sapped working force of the Region. The goodies from the Essousse generosity consignment include realignment with the National Social Insurance Fund, NSIF, from which workers had not been benefitting from family allowance and maternity allocations for more than three years even as their contributions were regularly deducted on a monthly basis. Worse, even is the fact that those proceeding on retirement were to have found payment of their pension imperiled. Workers were assured of immediate regularization of the situation. Other allowances and gratifications also, came under review, including issuance of irrevocable salary transfer attestations to banks to facilitate loans suspended under dubious circumstances for more than three years and bonuses for registration and successful conduct of elections. These, the Director General of Elections assured, are not promises but measures already activated.
As part of the catalogue of impediments to hitch-free organization, management and supervision of elections in the Region, the Interim Southwest Regional Delegate posited that activities have been completely shut down in some localities. To concretise his assertion, he revealed that Konye and Mbonge Council Branches in Meme Division, Alou, Menji and Wabane in Lebialem Division, Tinto, Eyumojock and Akwaya in Manyu Division, Nguti in Kupe-Muanenguba Division, Muyuka in Fako Division and Toko and Dikome Balue Coucil Branches in Ndain Division have been deserted by their staff due to unbearable persistent insecurity caused by marauding militia in these areas. As a result, there has been a drastic drop in registration and card distribution figures, restriction of movements to hinterlands due to far flung distances between villages and polling stations and also, interferences by assailants who see the forests separating villages as convenient hideouts.
“Other factors that impede efficient and effective acquittal of our bounden duty include hostility towards ELECAM staff that have materialized in the kidnap of staff of Tinto Council Branch, and arson attempt on Kupe-Muanenguba Divisional Branch, Nguti Council Branch and Limbe II Council Branch and restrain from open sensitization and registration exercises. Your working visit nationwide will definitely reinstate confidence amongst the personnel,” he stated.
The delegate regretted the fact that there has been complete rejection of and heightened apathy against ELECAM by communities in distress, just like civil disobedience epitomized in the boycott of major national events like Youth Day, Women’s Day, Labour Day, National Day by the population hence, stalling their targeted massive registration given the difficulty in movement of staff and electoral materials owing to administrative edicts barring movements in most parts of the Region.
“Given our current situation of lined-up elections this year, the current rolling stock (vehicles and motorcycles) cannot meet up with the magnitude of tasks.
On behalf of the Southwest ELECAM family, he hoped the resolve of the Chairperson of the Electoral Board, Enow Abrams Egbe and the Director General, Dr. Essousse Erik to embark on a joint working visit on the heels of his recent appointment underpins exceptional stewardship and a crusading determination to curb some of the deficiencies that had been robbing ELECAM of the natural shine that it was supposed to radiate. Mokoto added that their “current action evokes palpable zeal, strengthened by concern for your immediate collaborators, the entire ELECAM family and our beloved nation Cameroon; all the glory of God through servitude, competence, transparency and reliability that will certainly result in total satisfaction for all.”
By Nester Asonganyi

Election deferral bill smuggled into parliament after statutory deadline

The draft bill to initiate postponement of House of Assembly and Municipal elections statutorily due this year has finally reached the House of Assembly after it fuelled speculations and debates among Cameroonians and on the social media. Tabled to the National Assembly for deliberation and eventual enactment into law five days behind statutory deadline, the bill takes root from an earlier presidential edict to the Speakers of the Senate and House of Assembly and President of the Constitutional Council intimating them of his intention to postpone elections into the concerned bodies by one year, effective from October 29, 2018.
The decision to postpone the elections although justifiable at face value judging by the ambient insecurity in the Grand North, Northwest and Southwest Region, which has provision in the constitution, appears to be linked more to a national treasury afflicted by chronic and acute impecuniosity.
The president’s edict relies on the closeness of the three elections that evokes probable skewedness in handling them and the possibility of disenfranchising many eligible voters as well as triggering disenchantment among those who might feel slighted by a poorly handled national assignment of sovereign dimension.
Cameroon’s constitution has provision for the president of the republic to postpone elections in the country for up to 18 months in the case of elections into national assembly and municipal councils. For this to happen, he must consult the presidents of the constitutional Council, National Assembly and the Senate. This is precisely what Mr Biya has done, even as his action is ultra vires, having exceeded the deadline of Thursday, June 21 by five days. According to the constitution, this was supposed to be within 40 days of the expiry of the mandate of the beneficiaries.
However, many wary observers have begun gainsaying the president’s current posturing, predicating their assertion on the fact that the prevailing circumstances in the country also affect election into the office of the President of the republic. Why then would the president choose to postpone elections that have to do with the welfare of grassroots Cameroonians and those who would have been mandated to represent them at the national level? They read in the president’s decision, a ploy to perpetrate his unenviable regime that has brought sorrow, tears and blood to Cameroonians in the last 36 years.
The bill shall be defended by Amadou Ali, Vice Minister in charge of Relations with the Assembly, whose passage will just be a formality given the cavalier approach to the examination of bills at the CPDM dominated National Assembly.
Interestingly, there is a complicit silence being maintained by opposition parties, including those that have candidates vying for the upcoming presidential elections.The contention from the public is that those currently aspiring to be president of the republic have adjudged themselves unfit to unseat Biya and have resigned to fate, barely waiting for the elections to be done with so that they can get their campaign money. They give teeth to their assertion by evoking the fact that it is more than two weeks since Mr Biya sent the memo to concerned parties but, there has been no reaction from political parties.
However, another school of thought leans on the fact that the bill was yet to reach the Assembly where its passage into law is a fait accompli. In furtherance of this opinion is the claim that political parties ought to be given the benefit of doubt, pending when the bill shall have been passed into law for them to react.
Be that as it may, one thing is certain and it is the incontrovertible fact that Mr. Biya is out to perpetuate his stay in power and intends to die in office. At over 85, he still gets his kick from being cajoled by court jesters who deceive him that he is “infallible and invincible,” thereby imbuing him with an aura of inflated importance that makes him feel he has been elevated to deity.
By Sampson Esimala

Who rules the roost? ‘Amba’ or army?

“Even though I was scared stiff, my journalistic instincts remained alert. At least, I was able to establish that there were 10 of them. They brandished sophisticated guns, which nozzles they trained tauntingly at us. One of them said: ‘this car has a CE registration number, so it must be from Yaounde. You are the people we are looking out for. You have put us in this mess and must pay accordingly.
“We pleaded, explaining desperately that even though our car was matriculated in the Centre Region, we don’t necessarily hail from there. We are actually from this part and we came to bury one of our brothers.”
This was part of a difficult conversation with ‘Ambazonia boys’ last week in Boyo Division, Northwest Region. Like elsewhere in the English speaking Regions of the country, they now man checkpoints, check passengers and in some rare cases collect small ransoms from them. Occasionally they would pick out an unfortunate security operative or saboteur/informant and abduct him to their camp.
Barely some two kilometers from here, the once bustling Belo town that was sacked some two months back by regular security forces is as dead as a graveyard. But for patrolling troops in armoured cars, it is difficult to see any sign of life here. The tens of thousands of inhabitants have fled into the bushes. Many others were brutally killed by the forces, reason it is claimed, the ‘Amba boys’ decided to constitute their militia.
Very often traffic between Fundong, the chief town of Boyo Division and Bamenda is blocked by the ‘Amba boys.’ They only open it to travelers when “Biya’s soldiers behave themselves by not harassing the innocent,” someone told this reporter.
Ironically, regular soldiers are stationed less than two kilometers away from their ‘Amba’ opponents. From the look of things, the soldiers are aware of the activities of this militia, but are rather reluctant to confront them for reasons best known to them. What they perpetrate, which annoys both the militia and villagers is that they shoot to kill anyone on motorcycle, regardless of whether the one is a certified member of the militia or not.
A middle aged lady by name Juliana Fung called The Rambler from where she said was her hiding place and claimed that her eldest son was summarily executed by regular soldiers who also burnt down homesteads in the Sub-Division.
“I am now in hiding with my other children, especially as I witnessed how a man and his entire family were burnt alive in their own home,” she claimed.
Narrating his ordeal further, the Yaounde based journalist who was home to bury a departed relation said the ‘Amba boys’ requested that every adult passenger in his car hand over their voter’s card. “We all said we didn’t have any but they would not believe and almost proceeded to body-search each and every one of us. It was then that I quickly pulled out my national identity card and presented it to them. On seeing that it was preserved in a CRTV folder, they got even more furious.
“So you work at CRTV? We have to go to the palace where your case would be determined by our boss. They added for effect in Pidgin English ‘… na dat Yaounde people dem dis wey we di fine am. Why wuna want disgrace we so?’”
He said although this lasted for some five minutes only, it appeared as though the whole episode had taken a life time. “We were apparently saved when upon sighting an oncoming vehicle, their attention was divided. The one who looked to me like their commander instructed that the vehicle be intercepted just in case it had on board a military man or anyone else in uniform.
“Then he turned his attention back to us and without as much as raising his voice he requested: ‘give the children water.’ This was a euphemism for a bribe or tip. My wife took out a FCFA 10,000 note from her purse and stretched it. They politely asked that it be placed on the ground. And then with the admonition; ‘God bless you, wuna waka fine ya, they let us go.
The Rambler learned that a member of the newly constituted Constitutional Council was, during the same period a victim of the militia. That he had to both sweet-talk and buy his freedom from the boys. While members of the regular army are said to have gone haywire, looking out for whom to brand and summarily execute, the ‘Amba boys’ have seemingly had employment in compiling names of potential ‘elite sponsors’ of their ‘independence project.’
Fung Juliana quipped: “The military have killed my first boy child and I won’t wait here with my other children to be also brutally murdered. Neither would I wait to be caught in the eventual crossfire of ‘the boys’ and soldiers.

Digression from matters of the moment

Penultimate week, the social media was awash with reactions to what has now come to be termed the Messanga Nyamding challenge. The substance of this gibberish is the self-acclaimed Biyaist’s contention that Southern Cameroonians are supposed to be grateful to President Biya whose so called magnanimity has permitted them to enjoy the luxury of elite professional schools whose doors would ordinarily not have been opened to their dim-witted tribe. My take on it is to refer all those who feel their feathers have been ruffled to the anecdote in one of Chinua Achebe’s novels that throws up the scenario of a mad man in rags who went into a stream where villagers usually bathe and carried away the hanging clothes of someone who had gone into the steam. The narrative continues that instead of reflecting for a while on the issue so as to come up with a palatable solution, the victim jumped out of the stream and set out behind the mad man in his nakedness.
The account continued that, the madman ran into a crowded market with his pursuer valiantly behind him. Note that in African mythology the simple act of a mad man entering a market automatically renders his affliction incurable. To aggravate issues, mad man was known all over for his weird attitude but, the victim whose clothes he had taken from the improvised hanger at the stream had been known to be a rational being. However, his appearance in the market in Adam’s suit conjured up no other explanation than that he too, had suddenly gone mad to the point where he had entered the market and cannot be cured. The lesson here is that when somebody who is supposed to have been educated up to a certain level suddenly opts to rant using statements that cannot withstand the cannons of incontrovertible data especially, if such a person more than usually associates himself with the CPDM, the conclusion is that very little rationality should be ascribed to him.
Not being inclined to waste useful time on worthless name-droppers and mean attention seekers like Messanga Nyamding the suggestion here is to redirect our energy to more poignant issues that foretell grave danger to Southern Cameroonians if requisite attention is not brought into play. The issue is of course, is Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo’s revelation on Radio France International, RFI, that the CPDM party is ready to discuss federalism with the aggrieved component of Cameroon. Straight-out nonsense! What a cheap form of digression! Where has the indivisibility of Cameroon been consigned? Are they now willing to negotiate with terrorists? Or, like the Southern Cameroonians who have opted for separation as worst case scenario in their quest for greater autonomy they too, are giving the impression of embracing federalism to entice moderate Southern Cameroonians.
Without subscribing to the extremism of those who want out of Cameroon, the temptation nevertheless arises to query the sudden capitulation? And, why is it that it is coming from the ruling party and not the Government even though such a distinction is irrelevant in our skies underpinned by politics of next of kin. If there is any realism in Fame Ndongo’s claim, then it must be borne out of avowed impossibility of imposing their will on Southern Cameroonians. Should this be the case, then its import must be relied upon heavily in the event of any negotiations for a federal system of Government in Cameroon. They shall be negotiating from a position of weakness and so must not be accorded the privilege of dictating the pace of deliberations. The worst case scenario of a return to the status quo antes 1972 but, without the one party system instituted by Ahmadou Ahidjo in 1966 must be relied on as our pathfinder.
While conceding that this might be the first step towards an armistice in the current mutually devastating hostilities, the fact that this is coming so suddenly and more than half a year since President Biya declared war against unseen terrorists, floats the perception of weary warmonger pretending to be inclined to peace when the reality is that underestimation of the opponent has occasioned a drastic reversal in fortunes. In the event, what Southern Cameroonians had begun clamouring for since the late 70s, and followed up in the 80s and 90s is now being proposed on the airwaves of a foreign radio.
Our president is too big or has surrounded himself with an aura of inflated importance such that he cannot address the nation on the issue. A lesser being must be the one assigned to talk down on people he still considers second class citizens. How unrepentant and daft!
Granted that a modicum of seriousness can be ascribed to Government intention to discuss federalism; did it have to take so much loss of lives and property for the regime to be jolted to reality? How are the mighty fallen! Fame Ndongo, of all people in Cameroon was the one saddled with the announcement that the regime is disposed to engage in discussions on federalism after he had derisively posited that “Southern Cameroonians are just two cubes of sugar in a basin of water, ” meaning their grieving voices do not count. Nevertheless, circumstances including resilience of Southern Cameroonians and pressure from the international community even though not enough is rubbing off on the abysmal callousness that the Biya regime has brought to bear on governance and conflict resolution in Cameroon.
When international observers voice what trenchantly reflects its modus operandi of their governance, the regime opts for trading insults with an organization that will still do the same thing the next time the opportunity arises. Driven by a disposition that sees every issue as being susceptible to quick fix provided a reasonable wad of money comes into the fray they had hoped Amnesty International would succumb to fleece bait. Unfortunately, for them, not having their umbilical cords buried in our skies, the same indicting reports with corroborating evidence have kept rearing their heads to the chagrin of an irredeemable regime mired in ruthless abuse of the rule of law.
The desperation is clear. What is certain is that the country is down and out! Stone broke! But this does not seem to mean anything to an old man whose very close association with an avaricious wife has induced puerility and outright freebooting into his mind-set. And, so no matter the hue and cry out there, he is steadfast to clinging onto power until his dying day. He wants to see the stadium named after him go operational like a kid anticipating new dresses at Christmas. A man who chooses to host Africa in a sports fiesta whose alternative is many more hospitals, schools, houses and improved livelihood for every Cameroonian is certainly not in tune with the prerequisites of android-age governance. He wants to be adored, venerated and even pampered. Too bad, the nimbus clouds are gathering and soon the storm will appear with a ferocity whose end will be difficult to determine.
Oh yes, the diversionary tactics will not change what God has reserved for those who have wholeheartedly embraced the devil and are occasioning avoidable pain on ordinary citizens whose only request is an enabling environment for peaceful living. Nemesis has decreed retribution and the price shall be incalculable.
By Ngoko Monyadowa

Cavaye dribbles MPs on elections delay bill

Against a backdrop of effervescent anticipation from the public in general and lawmakers in particular emergent from a Presidential edict to Senate and House of Assembly Speakers urging them to facilitate postponement of parliamentary and municipal elections, Speaker, Cavaye Yegue Djibril took lawmakers and the lone Government Minister in attendance on Tuesday during deliberations at the National Assembly complex completely off guard when he instead announced the lone item on the agenda to be a bill authorising upward review of the 2018/2019 budget.
The surprise evoked by failure or deliberate eschewal of discussion on the much anticipated bill stems from the monumental import it ill will eventually have on Cameroon’s political landscape and, more significantly, the fact that Government statutorily had up to yesterday midnight to table the bill to the national assembly for eventual deliberation and promulgation into law. This is in addition to common knowledge of the eventuality of such a discussion, given that it had already been posted on social media and by that token would be accorded priority.
In the event, pundits are lost in contemplation as to whether a regime not known for respect of constitutional provisions will keep to its requirement that the head of state consults the National Assembly and Senate presidents for such an issue to be discussed and eventually given quietus for enactment into law.
Cameroon’s constitution, the supreme law of the land provides for postponement of elections under special circumstances including palpable insecurity and acute treasury malaise that may impinge on hitch free organisation of the ecercise. In the event that the constitutional provisions are met, the head of state has the prerogative to postpone elections for up to 18 months. And, this must be done 40 days before expiry of current mandate of the body whose mandate is to be extended or abridged.
This currently being the case in Cameroon, it is not surprising that the head of state had to write to the Presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly intimating them of his intention to postpone parliamentary and municipal elections for a period of one year, predicating his decision on the impossibility of organising three elections of universal suffrage within a month.
However, badmouths have been adroit in gainsaying the president’s inclination on grounds that he was very much aware of the task ahead of Government and confirmation of this is his allusion to it during his end of year’s message on December 31, 2017. How come it is only now that he is realising it shall not be possible?
They further contend that Biya is just a trickster who is seeking legality to perpetuate his stay as head of state after being convinced by prevailing circumstances in the country that he has lost legitimacy. More so, they continue that given the intensity of the crisis pitting his regime against Southern Cameroons separatists, Boko Haram insurgence in the Northern Regions and dire straits financial standing of the national treasury, he ought to have also, postponed the presidential poll.
The general impression is that postponement of the elections although justifiable at face value is a ruse to keep afloat a moribund regime that has been disavowed by the citizenry. They give teeth to their contention with occurrences like the invasion of the social media by a memo from the presidency that was yet to be acted upon by those to whom they were directed.
The president is said to have even been dumped by staff of his office who are supposed to have maintained a level of confidentiality commensurate with its stature and status. It is upon realisation of this uninviting turn-around of events and his avowed determination to cling to power until death that he has resorted to the current election roguery.
By Sampson Esimala

Akere sees Esso’s hidden hand in Muna family feud

It is certainly not what the venerable Honourable Solomon Tandeng Muna would have loved to be happening. Unfortunately, it is the case. But, thank God he did not live to see it.The media is awash with news of Akere Muna accusing the Government of attempting to foil his presidential ambitions by prodding his younger sister, Ama Tutu Muna to engage in a succession battle over their father’s estate.
Akere, who has declared to run for the Presidential election, was dragged to court earlier this year by sister and former Minister of Arts and Culture.
The former head of the Cameroon Bar Association, Akere, has since denied charges of forgery and attempts to side-line his sister in the partition of property left by their late father, one of the architects of Cameroon’s reunification, Solomon Tandeng Muna.
In a press conference to give his own version of facts on Thursday at his Bastos residence, Akere Muna didn’t pull any punches in addressing his sister.
Akere does not believe his sister would have engaged in such a battle after the family stood by her in all difficult moments, paying her debts and saving her from going bankrupt on several occasions.
He, also, dismissed the notion that he and his brothers are ganging up against their sister to side-line her from the family property.
“All the family has done is to assist her in her business, pay her debts all along, the only person who has benefitted to that degree from the estate is her (Ama Tutu Muna),” Akere said.
“She has risked two buildings to be sold; my brother, Humphrey (Muna) sold his only property…to pay her debt, my brother Humphrey was put to ridicule in Dakar (Senegal)…Hussiers (bailiffs) came to her house and carried all the things outside to sell because of her debts.
“So to think we will be ganging up against her is unfair and untrue,” Akere cried out.
However, the former Bar Council President feels the ensuing legal battle today is the handiwork of the Government through Justice Minister Laurent Esso, who wants to foil his presidential ambition.
“I am a declared candidate for the presidency, the Ministry of Justice is campaigning for another candidate (incumbent Paul Biya) If I am sentenced to jail (then) I am disqualified to be a candidate. I can only assume that if I am sentenced to a prison term, it will serve the other candidate, hence his surrogate,” Akere lashed out.
“So I don’t think there is any doubt about the fact that this matter is being handled from somewhere else and I can only see the Ministry of Justice.”
He went ahead to reveal the case has l taken a heavy toll on him financially as well as in his various legal battles but has vowed not to give up and even promised a “tsunami” if he was to be disqualified from the presidential race as a result of the succession battle.
Ama Tutu, last born of the Munas has remained tight-lipped since her brother’s outing but, a close aide who was contacted by The Rambler dismissed all claims made by Akere and promised to retaliate at the “appropriate” time.
By Francis Ajumane

Inside Aso Rock: The Day Abacha Died

Friday June 5, 1998, was a cool bright day. Before we left the Villa, the Press Corps was informed that the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, would be making a brief stop-over at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, en route to Morocco. And he was expected to hold a brief discussion with the General, Sani Abacha.
We were therefore expected to be at the airport to cover the event on Sunday, June 7. It was a topical assignment in view of Nigeria’s neutral position in the Middle East conflict. Besides, the rest of us were keen to meet Mr. Arafat, the man at the centre of the storm.
That Sunday morning, the Press Corps headed for the airport to await the arrival of Yasser Arafat. We did not have to wait for too long before the Palestinian leader arrived, accompanied by a very modest delegation. President Arafat and General Abacha immediately went into private discussion at the VIP lounge of the Presidential wing of the airport. The Press outside waited curiously for the possible outcome of the talks between the two leaders, a kind of joint press conference, on all issues involved in the Nigeria-Palestine relations.
After the meeting, which was very brief, there was no press conference. Rather, Yasser Arafat inspected a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the 3 Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army, and departed for Morocco. The whole airport ceremony lasted about two hours and we all returned to the Villa (Aso Rock).
Before leaving the Villa, I decided to cross-check with protocol officials if the Head of State would still be traveling to Burkina Faso to attend the OAU Summit, which was already at the Ministerial Session in Ouagadougou. The advance team of the Head of State’s entourage had already left on Friday night. I was to be in the main entourage expected to leave for Burkina Faso on Monday morning, after Abacha would have declared open an International Information Conference expected to begin in Abuja Monday June 8. The Federal Ministry of Information organized the conference. It was normal during General Abacha’s regime, that his movement was always kept topmost secret. As a matter of fact, those of us who used to travel with him would not know until few hours to our departure. So was our trip to Burkina Faso. They told me it was still on course.
With that assurance, I drove straight to NICON Hilton, Abuja where I had passed the previous night as a member of the Organizing Committee of the Information Conference. Six o’clock in the morning, Monday June 8, I 1eft for the Villa, with my luggage to join the delegation to Burkina Faso for the OAU Summit. General Abacha was to head the Nigerian delegation. At the time I got to the Villa everything appeared quite normal. I met some of my colleagues who were also to be in the Head of State’s entourage to Burkina Faso. At 7 a.m. that fateful day, we all assembled at the Press Centre waiting for the necessary directives. However, when it got to eight o’clock, and no signal was forthcoming about our movement, we decided to go and have our breakfast and reconvene in the next one hour. At that point everything in the Villa still appeared normal. Various officials were seen in their duty posts doing their routine jobs.
From the Villa, I drove straight to my house, had a quick breakfast, and decided to go through NICON Hilton hotel to inform my colleagues in the Organizing Committee about the uncertainty of our trip. On getting to the hotel, I saw people standing in groups, discussing. But I did not give a thought to their attention. I imagined that some of them were delegates or participants at the conference. So I quickly dashed into my room, returned immediately to the Villa to join my colleagues, to wait for further developments.
On driving to the Villa gate, a new atmosphere had taken over. The first gate had been taken over by new set of security operatives. I was not familiar with virtually all of them, except one Major whose name I could not remember immediately. The Major knew me by name. He was fully in charge of the new security arrangement, dishing out instructions in a very uncompromising manner. Initially, I did not take it as anything very serious. As a well known person in the Villa, I was confident that my entrance was just a matter of time more so when I was hanging my State House identity card around my neck. All my expectations were wrong as I was bluntly ordered to go back. All explanations and introductions on my mission to the Villa were helpless. The instruction was clear: ‘go back! go back!’ they shouted at all visitors. At that delay many cars had formed long queues. My immediate reaction was to seek the assistance of the Major, whom I had identified earlier, to save me from the tyranny of his men. Before I could approach him he shouted, “Ogbonnaya go back!” While I was still battling to wriggle out of what was seemingly a hopeless situation, I noticed a woman right behind me, almost hysterically screaming, that she had an early morning appointment with the First Lady, Mrs. Maryam Abacha. The woman apparently must be coming from the National Council of Women Societies from her dressing. My shock was the way she was instantly assaulted by those stern looking security operatives. At that point, I quickly got the message; I drove away from the scene as quickly as possible. Though my mind was everywhere but my immediate conclusion was that there was a coup because I could not imagine any other thing that could have caused such a high level of security alert. I therefore decided to drive straight to the International Conference Centre to alert my Director General on the latest development. He was attending the conference as a participant.
At the International Conference Centre, I saw some Ministers standing at the lobby in anticipation of the arrival of Abacha and his team. Immediately they saw me, they became very agitated, and almost simultaneously asked me, “is the C-ln-C already on his way?” I said, “no, I am not really sure he is coming. But let us hope he will still make it.” I knew, as a matter of fact, that I had not really provided them with the desired answer, but that was the much I could tell them. While they were still pondering on the uncertainty of my reply, I left and quickly walked into the hall where I met my Director-General, Alhaji Abdulrahaman Michika. He was already seated with other participants. I called him aside. “Sir, I don’t really know what is happening in the Villa. I suggest that you leave this place now!” Without betraying any emotion, he quickly asked me what was the situation in the Villa like, I told him all that I saw. I repeated my advice and that I had not been able to confirm what exactly was happening. I then made it clear to him that it was no longer safe for him to continue staying in the conference, and so should quietly take his leave. Alhaji Michika immediately went back to his table, took his pen and papers and followed me out of the hall.
The moment we were outside, I asked him if he came with his car. He said yes, but because of the extraordinary security arrangement put in place in anticipation of the arrival of the Head of State, it was difficult locating his driver. I then suggested that we should use my car which he obliged. I drove him straight to his house instead of the office. Both of us agreed that he should remain at home for the time being, while I promised to keep him informed about the development. This panic measure was as a result of the usual trauma which Radio Nigeria Management Staff often pass through each time there was a military coup d’état in Nigeria. The first target usually is the FRCN Broadcasting House. The management and staff on duty usually pass through hell in the hands of the military boys in their desperate effort to gain entrance into the studios at record time for the usual “Fellow Nigerians” broadcast.
From my Director-General’s residence I decided to get to NICON Hilton Hotel to assess the situation there before heading back to the Villa. At the hotel the atmosphere was rather sombre. There were a few clusters of people; some of them who recognized me, rushed and demanded to know what was happening at the Villa. “Orji, is it true that there is a coup at the Villa?” they asked. I said, “Well I don’t know”. At that time, the BBC, CNN and International Media had begun to speculate on the confused situation.
From their countenance I could see they were not satisfied with my answer. They thought probably that I was withholding some information. But they never knew I had none. I felt very uncomfortable. As a reporter covering the State House, I was equally restless that I could not give a valid answer on what was happening on my beat. I recognized too that it was utterly wrong to depend on others for information about events unfolding in my beat. I instantly felt challenged to get back to the Villa. I was equally aware that such an adventure was fraught with a lot of risk. But that is the other side of journalism as a profession.
On getting back to the Villa, I decided to avoid the main gate because of the heavy security presence there. Instead, I used the maintenance gate through the Asokoro District. I was amazed that no single security man was there at the time. There was therefore no difficulty in passing through into Aso Rock. I drove my car to the Administrative Gate and parked there, and decided to walk. Initially everything had appeared normal in some parts of the Villa until I met a Body Guard (BG). I queried, “old boy wetin happen? Why una boys full everywhere?” It is easier to obtain information from other ranks with informal English. “Ah! Na wa oh! You no know say Baba don quench?”. The boy answered also in Pidgin English. “Which Baba?” I shouted. “Baba don die, Baba don quench just like that. Na so we see am,” the boy concluded, clutching a cigarette in his left hand. I still could not understand what he was saying. “Which Baba do you mean?”, I queried further. “Abacha don die! You no hear?” He shouted at me angrily. It was a very funny way of announcing the passage of a man who was feared and dreaded by all. I was nonetheless confused by its reality. My immediate reaction was that if truly General Abacha was dead, it meant the end of an era. What future does it hold for Nigeria? I pondered over the development as I advanced further into Aso Rock. As I moved down, the reality became evident. The environment was cold, cloudy with uncertainties among the faces I met.
They confirmed it was a reality. General Abacha was truly dead. All were in groups discussing it with fear and subdued silence.
I quickly reached for a telephone to relay the sad story to my Director-General who must be anxiously waiting to hear the latest. Moreso, I was still far away from my news deadline at 4 p.m. But I was disappointed to discover that all the telephone links to the Villa had been severed. There was no call coming in or going out, the Villa at that critical moment was almost totally isolated from the rest of humanity. It was a deliberate measure. When I could not get through on telephone, I decided to drive out fast to break the news. But on reaching the gate through which I had earlier entered, I discovered that some fierce looking soldiers who told me that nobody was allowed to go out or come in had effectively barricaded it. This was happening at about 9.30 a.m. I was helplessly trapped in the Villa from that time till about 5 p.m. when we conveyed the remains of General Abacha to Kano for burial.
I felt particularly disappointed that I could not break the news to anxious Nigerians early enough. It was even more embarrassing and certainly very disheartening to learn that some foreign broadcast stations like the BBC and CNN, which had no accredited correspondents in the Villa, were the first to break the news of General Abacha’s death. It did not entirely come to me as a surprise because the system we operate in Nigeria respects the foreign media more than the local ones. It is equally a well-known fact that most foreign media subscribe to policy makers in our country, who always feed them with first-hand information about any event or issue in the country. The foreign media organizations are no magicians. They pay for news sources especially in situations where they have no correspondents. The pay is usually so attractive that the source is efficient. Thus, generally, access to information in developing countries is fraught with discrimination against local media in preference to foreign ones.
That morning, June 8, 1998, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the Chief Security Officer to General Abacha, was said to have called key members of the Provincial Ruling Council (PRC) including strategic military commanders for an emergency meeting. We learnt he refused to disclose that Abacha was dead. At about 11a.m., members of the PRC had begun to arrive at Aso Rock for an emergency meeting. Most of the members were informed only on arrival for the meeting except the very powerful ones.
That day, Major Al-Mustapha looked very sharp and smartly dressed in his Army tracksuit and white canvas. The Major was simply too busy running from pillar to post, looking confident but certainly confused about the future without his boss. He was finally in charge, distributing orders to the rank and file to get the Aso Council Chambers ready for the meeting. We watched at a distance in utter disbelief of the turn of events. For Mustapha, the situation was a bleak one. The fear was a possible fall from grace to grass for a man who was dreaded and respected by both the lowly and the mighty. But that morning, he conjured such a pitiable image as he presided over the wreckage of a collapsed regime.
Emotions took over the whole environment. One of the female Ministers worsened the situation when she arrived the Villa by shouting and weeping openly. Nobody looked her way to console her as everybody was simply on his/her own. Cigarettes were a scarce commodity that morning, the only immediate source of reducing tension and grief. Most PRC members who were informed on arrival immediately asked for cigarettes, but none was easily available. Those who had some hoarded them jealously. Elsewhere in the Villa, a gloomy atmosphere, mingled with subdued excitement and relief pervaded. Flurry of activities were taking place at breathtaking speed two crucial meetings were in progress simultaneously. One was a meeting of Principal Officers in the Presidency and the venue was Aso Rock Wing of the Chief of General Staff. The other meeting of members of the Provisional Ruling Council, PRC, was shifted to Akinola Aguda House. The two meetings later merged at Aso Council Chambers for another crucial session. The joint session began at 2 p.m. and ended at 4.45 p.m. I imagined that the items on the agenda of that meeting were:
_ Selection of a new Head of State and Commander-in-Chief.
_ Arrangements for the burial of General Abacha.
While the separate meetings were in progress, we in the Press Corps were held hostage. We had all the information but no means of communication. Hunger was also a problem. However, for the first time we were free to assess the regime openly and objectively. The open discussion and arguments centred on what Abacha did and did not do.
While the meeting at Aso Council Chambers was in session, Major Al-Mustapha sat in the chair at the entrance, holding a newspaper in his hands, which he occasionally glanced at. He looked rather relaxed after ensuring that every necessary arrangement had been put in place. He occasionally responded to our discussions with selected and reserved comments. His aides quoted him as saying that nobody would leave the Council Chambers unless a new Military Head of State was selected by the meeting. His fear, I learnt, was that a vacuum was dangerous before General Abacha’s burial later the same day. Mustapha declined all efforts by the few Pressmen around to narrate how General Abacha died. All efforts to bring him fully into our discussion also failed. Insiders at the “red carpet” revealed that shortly after Abacha died, Major Al-Mustapha took some strategic decisions that were of national significance. One of such decisions was the immediate evacuation of the condemned coup plotters in Jos Prison to a more secured place. The measure was probably to pre-empt any intention to summarily execute the plotters by possible overzealous forces.
From morning till 5 p.m., no official press statement on the death of General Abacha from any quarters was issued, even when the incident was already known all over the world. It was difficult to reconcile how such a major sad event could happen in the country and up till that time, nobody deemed it necessary to issue an official statement. We then decided to mount pressure on the then Minister of Information, Ikeobasi Mokelu, to make a pronouncement. It was after much pressure that an official statement was eventually issued. The press statement was five paragraphs in all, issued at about 5.25 p.m.
The atmosphere in the Villa then was overcast. On June 8 in Aso Rock, hierarchy of command collapsed. It was a day everybody was free. Shortly after the statement was issued, people began to troop towards the Red Carpet area (official residence of the Head of State). I immediately imagined that the body of the General might be Iying in state. I quickly followed, not certain if it was going to be possible to be allowed to have a glimpse of it.
However, on getting to the house, I quietly walked in and saw the body of General Abacha wrapped in white cloth and laid in a small private sitting room in the residence. And I said to myself, “vanity upon vanity”. His death to me was as dramatic as his ascendancy to power, equally evoking tragic memories of a nation that was unsafe of itself.
I returned to the Aso Council Chambers to wait for the outcome of the special session of the Provisional Ruling Council. The outcome of the meeting was all that the media was awaiting. The meeting was to answer the question “who succeeds Abacha?” But before long, the picture of who succeeds General Abacha began to emerge. Shortly after the meeting at Aso Council Chambers had ended, I saw General Abdulsalami Abubakar walk out of the meeting ahead of other senior military officers. This immediately conveyed the message that he had been chosen as the new leader. My conclusion was based on the tradition in the military, there is much respect for hierarchy and seniority. All other military officers and PRC members lined behind Abdulsalami, confirming the saying in the military that appointment supersedes rank. Besides, I watched and saw that he was dishing out orders which all complied to, even his seniors. He took control of the ad-hoc arrangement to convey the body of General Abacha to Kano for burial. He was seen giving orders to both high and low to arrange vehicles for movement to the airport.
The journey to Kano was already far behind schedule, given the fact that the burial must take place that same day in keeping with the Islamic injunction. We left Aso Rock for the airport at about 6 p.m.
It was indeed a big tragedy for the members of former first family as they packed their belongings to join the convoy which took the corpse of the once powerful General home. I wept when I saw Madam, Mrs. Abacha being helped into the waiting car. She stared at Aso Rock in tears, a most difficult and tragic way to say good-bye. Tears rolled freely from all gathered as Madam was driven out of the Villa with her husband’s corpse in front of her in a moving ambulance. The ambulance is normally one of the last vehicles in the usually long Presidential convoy. But on June 8, 1998, the ambulance was in the front with General Abacha’s corpse. All other vehicles lined behind in a day-light reversal of history. The ambulance drove through the IBB bye-pass connecting the airport link road as the entourage made its way to Nnamdi Azikiwe airport. I was surprised that there was instant jubilation by passersby. Taxi drivers lined up at major junctions shouting shame! shame!! as the convoy drove past. Men and women ran after the convoy in utter disbelief of the turn of events. Some other people formed queues in groups with green leaves in their hands singing solidarity songs in a loud tone that suggested liberation from bondage. It was a day in which my biro refused to write and the lines in my jotter went blank. The journalist in me was overtaken by emotions as most of us in the convoy found it difficult to speak to one another. We simply lacked the words or the topic for discussion as our minds went blank and our brains went asleep.
On our arrival at the airport, the body of General Abacha, which was still wrapped in white cloth was carried into the hold of the presidential aircraft, zero-zero one. There was no particular arrangement on who should be in the aircraft, except that members of the first family and some PRC members were given priority. I however noticed that most PRC members at the airport were not even keen in accompanying the corpse of the late General to Kano.
While the aircraft was being positioned, Madam and her children waited at the Presidential lounge with a cluster of relatives and very few associates. The usual crowd around the first family had begun to disappear. That day, it was as though the Abacha family was for the first time in many years on a lonely journey to an unknown destination, even though the aircraft was heading for Kano. It was incredible to imagine the Abachas without General Sani Abacha. As the saying goes, “when the big tree falls, all the birds will fly away”.
The aircraft ready, Madam and her children left the lounge with the heavy burden of making their last flight on the presidential jet, with the corpse of the former Head of State on board. Mrs. Abacha climbed into the aircraft in tears with measured steps. Her children joined too, then some few friends and relations.
Inside, the plane was taken over by grief, tears and open weeping. We had already boarded the aircraft and almost getting set to take-off when General Abubakar curiously asked, “where is the corpse?” He was told that it was kept in the hold. “No, no, no, bring it inside!” the General commanded. And it was brought in and kept few seats away from where I sat. As the journey progressed, whenever there was turbulence, the body would shake, exposing the legs, which were partially covered. I sat in that aircraft speechless. My reflections were on life, death, power, influence and the vanity of human desires.
Our flight to Kano was barely thirty minutes, but I felt it was more than two hours. The usual conversation and jokes in zero-zero one was overtaken by subdued silence, grief, pain and weeping. Everybody on board was on their own. I could imagine how other people’s mind worked at that sober period. But mine went into a comprehensive review of the Abacha era beginning from the night of November 16, 1993 when the General took over. Within my reflections, my mind was everywhere, the good, the bad, the very bad and the ugly. My mood was interrupted by a sudden announcement from the cockpit that we were few minutes away from Aminu Kano International Airport.
The situation on our arrival at Aminu Kano International Airport was rather chaotic. There was no precise arrangement to receive the corpse on arrival. Apparently, our arrival caught Kano and the people unaware. Apart from the first family, and few officials, everybody was expected to sort out his/her own transport arrangement out of the airport. Eventually I had to arrange for an airport taxi to convey me and two others to the private residence of the late Head of State. Unfortunately, there were few taxis at the airport. While this arrangement was on, the main convoy had left with the corpse. We therefore quickly hired a taxi at a high fare dictated by the driver, who was very rude and uncooperative. We were shocked that the driver showed little or no sympathy, but was rather quick to explain that he never benefited anything from the Abacha regime. In his view, his condition had even worsened. We discontinued the discussion as it was becoming volatile.
The Abacha family house on Gidado street, GRA, Kano is a modest twin duplex located in a rather small compound. By the time we arrived there, the place was already besieged by a large number of sympathizers struggling to gain entry. As there was no time to start identifying who was who, we were all being pushed by the security officials who had a very hectic time trying to contain the rapidly surging crowd. In the midst of the pushing and kicking, I suddenly realised that the person who was being pushed against me was the highly respected Governor of Lagos State, Col. Buba Marwa. It therefore became clear to me that at that moment, everybody was regarded as equal, courtesy of the security at the gate. I was then encouraged to continue pushing, until I finally managed to squeeze myself inside the compound.
Inside the compound, I observed scanty presence of newsmen, because security was deadly. I also discovered that the grave was still being prepared, an indication that no proper arrangement was made. Earlier, the body of General Abacha was taken to Kano Central Mosque for prayers. From the Central Mosque, the body was laid on the floor of his private mosque just by the gate with two soldiers standing on guard. I peeped several times to assure myself that it was actually the former powerful Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces that was on the bare floor. One was expecting a more dignified presidential burial, with due respect to the modest way the Muslims conduct their burials. Even at a point, a soldier asked, “Why is there no burial party here?” I immediately wanted to know what burial party was all about. I was told that it was the usual twenty-one gun salute line-up of soldiers will give to a fallen officer as his last military respect. But before any of such arrangement could be made, the body of General Abacha had been lowered into the grave. There was certainly no fanfare in the burial, it was simple and brisk. In simple comparison, I had accompanied General Abacha himself to the burial of a top military officer and member of the Provisional Ruling Councils who had died sometime ago and was buried in Minna during his regime. I observed that all the procedures at that burial in all consideration was better managed, more respectful and dignified than that of the former Head of State, their difference in rank and position notwithstanding.
There were quite a number of very important personalities who witnessed the burial. But I particularly took notice of former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida and his wife Mariam, who were seen talking with Mrs. Abacha, probably trying to console her. There were also some Emirs and other top Northern leaders who were able to make the trip at such short notice. At about 9.48 p.m. when Abacha’s grave was being covered with sand, a powerful businessman from one of the South Eastern States who was very prominent in Abacha’s campaign for self succession arrived and broke down weeping and wailing openly. Some faithful Muslims who dominated the burial reacted negatively to such an un-lslamic approach to the dead. They threatened to whisk the man out of the premises if he failed to comport himself. The businessman was among those who threatened to proceed on exile or commit suicide if General Abacha failed to become President.
As the burial ended at about 10.05p.m., we hurriedly left for Abuja. I expected that there could probably be some other ceremonies. But I was wrong as we left barely 20 minutes after the body had been interred. We arrived Abuja a few minutes to 12 midnight and drove straight to Aso Council Chambers in the Villa for the swearing-in of General Abdulsalami Abubakar as the new Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Nigeria Armed Forces.
The swearing-in ceremony was rather brief. It was preceded by a formal announcement by the Principal Secretary to the former Head of State, that General Abubakar had been appointed to succeed the late General Sani Abacha. General Abubakar was then invited to step forward and take the oath of office and allegiance at about 1.43 a.m. on June 9, 1998. That ceremony marked the end of the Abacha era.
After the oath-taking, General Abubakar signed the register to herald the beginning of the new era. That era ushered in a new dawn, a brighter future and hope for a sustainable democracy in Nigeria. The rest is now history. Back to the newsroom at 3 a.m., June 9, with series of events that had taken place in the past 24 hours, my diary was full. It was difficult to decide a headline for the 7 a.m. news bulletin. I do remember that, that morning, at the FRCN Network News studio there was a problem over which of the two important stories should come first; that Abacha was dead or Abubakar has been sworn-in as the new Head of State. Coverage of the events of that day without food and water was among my most challenging assignment.

* Excerpts from the book, Inside Aso Rock, written by respected broadcast journalist, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji who for seven years covered the State House for Radio Nigeria. Published by Spectrum Books Ltd. It is available in major bookshops.
By Orji Ogbonnaya Orji

Sani Abacha: Anatomy of a sadist, dictator

“I quietly walked in and saw the body of General Abacha wrapped in white cloth and laid in a small private sitting room in the residence. And I said to myself, “vanity upon vanity.” His death to me was as dramatic as his ascendancy to power, equally evoking tragic memories of a nation that was unsafe of itself.”
Ogbonaya Orji, a seasoned broadcast journalist who covered ‘Aso Rock,’ Nigeria’s Presidential Palace summarises the ephemeral nature of power in the above statement after he watched the lifeless body of the tin god being exposed like the cadaver of a disease-ridden animal declared unfit for human consumption by veterinarians.
Like Abacha, other “natural leaders” in Egypt, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia refused to come to terms with the transient nature of power and fell from it like overripe, nay, rotten mangoes. The lure of power and perks that surround the authority it generates derailed them into the erroneous belief that such reverie could last for eternity.
Abacha incarnated the very essence of power. He participated in several coups d’état before he actually ascended the Supreme Commandership of the Nigerian Armed forces in 1993. His stay in the army up to the time of his swearing in as Head of state was a product of serendipity. Like other cunning, sneaky political spiders elsewhere in Africa, the not so brainy Abacha schemed, bided his time.
Sheer bravery and commitment to purpose endeared him to his superiors and, in particular General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, then Army Chief of Staff, who, through a special dispensation permitted him to ascend the rungs of senior officer. As head of state, Abacha looted billions of dollars from the state treasury. He hanged human rights activists and jailed everyone with a dissenting voice for life. Obasanjo, who became first civilian head of state following his demise, served time in Abacha’s gulag.
His reign of terror will remain indelible in the minds of several generations who saw in him an unrepentant and irredeemable autocratic dinosaur.
When he died, Nigerians mourned him on dry cheeks; in fact, they poured into the streets in celebration. The story told in our inner pages reads like the “anatomy or framework of a sadistic dictator.” It is a collector’s item.

More ‘Anglophone terrorists’ to face military tribunal today

Just over a week after the Yaounde military court slammed heavy jail terms on seven Anglophone suspects, another batch of them is expected in court today.
Five of them are being charged with secession, actions of terrorism, illegal possession of firearms, revolution and insurrection, amongst others.
Abeng Gerald Ndam, Tamina Terence , Ignatius MbendeWenda, Braidnard Fongoh alias Fiango and Chungong Kelly Stecy Ngwe were all arrested in Bamenda at the start of the year and ferried to Yaounde where they will be appearing before the court for the second time since their detention.
Each of the five was arrested under different circumstances but that of Chungong Kelly Stecy Ngwe has left many wondering.
The lady in her late 20s, married and a mother of one, was reportedly arrested in Bamenda as she was visiting her sister’s fiancé, Tamina Terence who had been arrested for illegal possession of arms, one of the defence counsel, Barrister Honoratus Ndi Shey said.
Sources say she was caught filming the detainee she was visiting before being bundled into the cell and later accused of complicity in acts of terrorism.
After spending over a month at the judicial police in Bamenda, she and the other four were moved to various cells in Yaounde where she will be later assaulted at the Judicial Police at Elig-Essono, a family friend told The Rambler.
Though her lawyer claims not to be aware of any assaults carried out on his client, he has vowed to thoroughly investigate the matter and prosecute the perpetrators if the allegations are proven.
Kelly and the four others will be appearing in court for the second time after their case was adjourned on May 8, by the judge for a proper constitution of the file by the State prosecutor.
On June 6, it will be the turn of the trio of Ade Kenneth Chi, Anyangwei Lelly Anyangwei and Fonyuy Terence who will be appearing before the Yaounde military court for the eighteenth time as the court is yet to establish any clear charge against them.
For the moment, the military court has taken just under two years to sentence about a dozen Anglophone activists arrested within the ongoing crisis with over two hundred detained at the Kondengui maximum security prison.
By Francis Ajumane

MP donates to refugees

Impelled by the plight of displaced persons that have flooded Kumba, Meme Divisional headquarters in the wake of the fratricidal war pitting Government against Southern Cameroonian separatists, Honorable Atinda Martin Mboni, sitting Parliamentarian for Meme West constituency has donated a consignment of food stuff comprising of bags of rice, family Maggi cube packets and some cash.
He did this recently at his Barombi Kang residence to close to thirty families who were present at the occasion.
To him, it is a show of solidarity and concerns for his people. He told them that though his donation cannot solve all their needs it will nevertheless go a long way to help them in one way or the other. He equally called on them to be calm and stay away from any negative activities during this period.
Just a few months behind Hon Atinda donated some farm inputs like ‘gamalin,’ and other tools to some farmers. He promised that in the days ahead he would be extending his generosity to some other families within the Division.
Note should be taken of the fact that Kumba, has become home to more than 50,000 internally displaced persons, IDPs, who have been pushed into destitution by the ongoing attacks and counter attacks on villages and persons by both Government and separatist forces.
Their plight of the IDPs has been aggravated by persistent burning of villages in retaliatory expeditions by Government forces that have left desolation in their wake on many villages that have now sought solace in bushes of Kumba and other urban areas of the Division.
By NGENDE ESTHER