Gunfire, the ‘popcorn’ that deafens, traumatizes old people

*By Nchanji Nadesh

Residents of the war prone regions of the Northwest and Southwest are rather becoming used to gunfire that there recent jokes are being cracked even as hails of bullets fell people. The average toddler now knows and would advise a first timer to duck, to hit the floor or even get under the bed when guns begin to “cough.”

Young men and women refer to the rattling sound of gunfire as popcorn or better still as corn being parched. It is a derivative of the popping sound of corn in a frying pan. But inasmuch as the young can, and easily joke about this deadly game of firing at human targets, the elderly are left in the lurch each time the guns belch, especially loudly. Those with a history of high blood pressure or cardiac issues say their last prayers more or less.

Some of them have been complaining aloud of the eardrum bursting effects of Kalashnikovs and AK47s, revealing the various ways in which gunshots have enormously contributed in putting them in the precarious conditions in which they are find themselves today.

One of them, Pa Kinge Joseph, 83, an ex-politician of the CPDM party revealed that he is a cardiac patient who is always jolted out of himself, frightened by the cracking sounds of semi-automatic weapons. He said gun firing causes him lots of trauma, thereby inducing him into unconsciousness. He said it often takes him a pretty long time to come back to himself.  

In apparent reference to splinter Amba groups, he referred to the what is going on as a two edged situation in which protagonists have been quarreling and in extreme cases shooting themselves. He mentioned certain respected persons like Dr Ni John Fru Ndi, the founding chairman of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, and the clergyman like the bishop who tried to open the eyes of the citizens to see the need of peace but he, alongside his priests were kidnapped and tortured.

According to him, secession was never an option due to a plebiscite which was conducted in 1961 and a referendum was held in which they decided on their fate. “So, separation will be difficult and so we should not compare with countries like Eritrea and South Sudan.”

 He concluded by saying that “a father is a father. When you ask for something, don’t press him to the wall; let us all spread the message of peace.”

Another victim of gunfire from Muyuka  who refused to reveal her identity noted: “I am addicted to my late husband’s house and due to this I have  been badly affected due to the numerous gunshots. I am now a high blood patient and was hospitalized for over two weeks with very little income to sustain my family.”

Yet another elderly person who lives in Muea testified on behalf of her grandfather who is 89 years old. “He has since started behaving abnormally due to the constant loud and frightful sounds of gunshots. He has been mentally affected and besides the fact that this excessive gun firing has rendered him deaf.

He would want for there to be a quick return to peace so that many more deaf, cardiac and generally traumatized cases are not unnecessarily registered.

UB JOURNALISM STUDENT ON INTERNSHIP

Killing fields expand, economy goes into summersault

Slightly more than a month ago talks of Swiss authorities opting to mediate between the government of Cameroon and separatists seeking an independent nation of Ambazonia made news headlines. Teeming victims of the war were more than expectant. The hope was that the shooting war that has been on for three years could possibly end. That hope has practically faded away even as we write, with new tensions rising. More blood continues to be spilled, while properties and villages are razed to the ground.

There is bickering in the camp of the Diaspora separatist propagators. Bandits have infiltrated the ranks of separatist fighters and are wreaking quite some havoc. As reported elsewhere in this edition, gendarmes and soldiers are dropping their weapons and fleeing. According to Barrister Eta Besong Jr, former President of the Cameroon Bar Association, many soldiers are currently being prosecuted in military tribunals for “dropping their weapons and running away in time of peace…” Other information posted online is to the effect that soldiers from a particular ethnic group are grumbling and threatening because they are singled out and sent to the war front to face ubiquitous deadly militias.

But all of this notwithstanding, the economy has clearly gone under, with erstwhile thriving businessmen practically melting under its scotching heat. In short, they are said to be between the hammer and the anvil, the hammer being government authorities and the anvil separatist interests. On the one hand, government is suspicious of some entrepreneurs of English speaking expression funding the separatist venture and on the other, separatists are coercing, even blackmailing them to fund the “liberation war” or face ugly consequences. The story is told of a certain “Commander Ebube” who scammed millions of francs from a Director of one of the bilingual pilot centres dotted in all 10 regions of the country. It did not stop there. Not only was such monies extorted from the man who was at the time lying sick in a hospital bed. But he was also compelled to supply the militia with a motorcycle as “your own contribution to the struggle.” Today, the impoverished man who recently retired from the public service is cursing, while publishing one open letter after the other to the faceless “Commander Ebube.”

The man who has since disappeared from public view is now writing from exile. He is said to have run into trouble with creditors who raised the cash for his ransom. But if separatists blackmail and collect cash from those they consider as affluent, government has as a silent policy to “nip the Anglophone dissent in its teenage bud.” Quoting a top security official, a Buea based lawyer told this newspaper that the regime is not very concerned with elderly dissidents as they would soon peter out. Rather they are very disturbed by vibrant youth who have a potential to upset the political applecart. “The top security operative told me that the strategy is to subdue by all means, fair and foul, all those still bubbling with youthfulness and exuberance; that they are the potential boat rockers and our brief is to deal with them summarily…”

However, Anglophone entrepreneurs, whether young or old, are systematically frustrated out of business. Most of them who do carry out direct government contracts have been systematically asphyxiated, economically speaking. Their bills are either not paid up or they are denied new contracts outright. Alternatively, they are penciled down and physically eliminated.

The story is still being told of a certain Felix Ngang who was murdered at his home early in 2018 in the dead of night. Ngang, like many of his friends was a prosperous businessman, having made his wealth mostly from government contracts. There are many versions of why and who murdered him. One such version states that Ngang’s friend and fellow businessman, Martin Ndenge Che reportedly got a hint from a top security contact in Yaounde advising that he and Ngang should immediately go into hiding because their names were on the regime’s hit list. Che passed on the tip to his friend and advised that they go underground. But that apparently protective of his sprawling business empire and banking on his connections with people in the corridors of power Ngang didn’t take heed and was slaughtered like chicken on the night following.

Yet another version has it that hit men were hired by some of Ngang’s disgruntled relations to do him in. This particular version was even posted on social media by one of Ngang’s daughters studying abroad. She points a direct accusing finger at the late dad’s one time female acquaintance who would have taken advantage of the politico-social chaos in the country to take her dad’s life and unduly benefit from his massive estates.

Whatever the case, Ndenge Che on the other hand let go his own business empire which like many others in Anglophone Cameroon is today lying in ruins. We are told that while at least one of Che’s children, by name Lum Ndenge Che is marooned abroad, unable to continue with her education on account of her benefactor parents’ awful plight, she at least, still has hopes of one day returning to reunite with those parents. Not so for Ngang who lost his life, whose kids are languishing abroad, unable to pay for tuition and whose business empire crumbled following his assassination. By the way, Ngang, Ndenge and others were highly suspected of using what was perceived as their business might to fund the current Ambazonia insurrection. Those who rule the roost, it was bandied about would not be invariably sponsoring traitors. “those who use what we offer them almost for free to backstab us.”

In a separate case, a multi-billionaire who made his wealth from selling imported frozen fish also recently made big headlines in the local media after strong regime interests openly tagged him with carrying out illicit business transactions, evading taxes and funding terrorist activities. This man from the Western region took the bull by the horns, threatened to sue certain individuals and the government to court. But even though the issue seems to have died a natural death, the tycoon’s fortunes have, from the look if things dwindled and he is said to be treading very carefully, just in case familiar unorthodox methods are applied to contain him.

Meanwhile security goons have adopted a subtle, nay, disturbing and clearly illegal methods of getting at regime opponents. They simply abduct close relations of dissidents, hold them in distressful conditions and incommunicado. Such is the case with the 80 year old mother and junior sister of Anu Chris, the US based Secretary of Communications of the “Republic of Ambazonia.” Chris’s family reportedly moved the mother and sister from the insecurity of their village in Anglophone Cameroon to the relative safety of Yaounde. But about a month ago, they were picked up and as we write, they are said to be still the unwilling guests of security operatives.

All in all, hundreds of thousands on both sides of the political divide have been forced into the army of the unemployed. It is worse off in English speaking Cameroon who have seen thousands of her youths either summarily killed or thrown into jail, in most cases without charge. Of course, there are also those thousands whose kiosks and sheds that used to serve as work places have been destroyed in the name of fighting dissidence.      

Commercial Bikers Victims of patriotism, hunger & militia interests

The ticking clock does not wait for any one making minutes gone to be irretrievable. This can be seen in the speed with which one year has elapsed since a municipal edict pushed bike riders within the Buea Municipality into confusion. Relying on the excuse that these youths were or could become accomplices to crimes perpetrated by separatist militias, the maverick head of the municipality sometime in September 2018, banned the movement of commercial motorcycles within his jurisdiction.

The effect of the otherwise salutary decision on the bikers and the population at large has been variegated. There is the beneficiary population that has been induced into avoidable drudgery on the one hand and the bikers themselves on the other. This, in any case does not preclude the municipality itself that was beneficiary to council taxes paid by these bikers, most of whom were strugglers. Nevertheless, no matter the angle from which it is viewed, one thing is certain. And this is the fact that many of these disenfranchised riders have swelled the ranks of gangsters and bandits that now pass off for separatist militias.

Bike riding despite its negative impact like accidents and endangering denizens’ lives and road users, equally serves as a plus to the economy of Cameroon, rendering help and going a long way to solve many problems. Small wonder, President Paul Biya in one of his end of year speeches singled out commercial bikers for praise. He told them they were contributing wonderfully to the economy of the nation and gave them his thumbs up. But these commercial bikes are no longer seen plying some designated streets of Buea.

This decision is a result of the socio-political crisis which started since 2016 with no shadows of solutions looming over it. Many supported this act by the local administration but today, tears are inevitable in the eyes of such denizens.

While scores of biking youth are roaming all over, providing the proverbial workshop for idle minds, denizens are invariably feeling the bitter pinch of the ban. With no operational, let alone functional mass transit system on Cameroonian roads in general and Buea in particular; with the dirt roads that criss-cross Cameroonian municipalities, making it practically impossible for taxicabs to access neighboughoods, commuters have been the worse hit. With the sheer lack of access roads in Buea, women are forced to convey their market shopping by head load, drenched often by heavy rains or sweat induced by scotching heat.

Neighboughoods like Sand Pit, Small Soppo, Tole, Bomaka, Muea, to name but these had hundreds of bikers eking out a living and facilitating transportation in the process. Today, it is no longer the case, with these teeming youths either fooling around or giving meaning to the militias which the commercial biking ban sought to avoid in the first place.  

That aside, quite a good number of these bike riders, who hitherto solely relied on this line of commerce to cater for their daily needs and those of their dependents, are presently experiencing pretty devastating effects like the inability to pay health, other utility bills and handling sundry challenges. It has been a sharp fall in fortunes according to many of the victims. Plus, tontines (njangis) which used to go a long way to boost their investments have more or less been laid to rest.

An affected biker who would not want to be identified for obvious reasons, captured the precarious situation thus: “I can’t meet up with my house rents, electricity bills and the funding of my children’s bills and doing my manly duties in my house and because my only means of survival has been rooted off.”

Wisdom is a Buea based university student who depended on part time commercial biking for his fees and other academic requirements and needs. He told us: “I cannot meet up with my transportation, handouts   and a good phone to carry out my school work since my bills are on me.” He is just one, out of many other students that are self sponsored, that ride their way to university degrees and post varsity employment.

Come to think of it, the banning of commercial bike riding has not only affected bike riders, but has also plagued the activities of petty businesses (buyam- sellams) who are forced to trek long distances with their luggage, sometimes in very bad weather. The interdiction on commercial bike riding has also rendered most elderly people helpless, as they complain, they have to walk long distances through bad roads which is taunting to their health. That notwithstanding, cart pushers are in a sense, the direct beneficiaries of “disenfranchised” bikers. They may be fewer in number, cheaper and slower. Yet, the make up for part of the economic deficit left by the banned biking industry.

Despite the unbearable effects, hardships and slipping into criminal gangs by some banned commercial bike riders, it is worth noting that many of them managed to stay honest. They have resorted to menial jobs like cart pushing, hawking, “dog cooking business” tomato farming and, wait for this… grave digging! Grave digging by the way has come into the fray on account of the young men, women and children slaughtered indiscriminately on a daily basis by government soldiers drafted to fight an insurgency that has been going on for the past three years. Otherwise, a good number affected people including young girls whose bike riding parents have been put out of work now indulge in illegal activities such as prostitution and pick-pocketing. Many others have simply slipped into separatist fighters’ ranks.

Despite the hue and cry, in spite of the apparent boomerang effects of the ban, little or nothing has been done by the banning to assuage or at the very best provide a soothing alternative to the blanket ban. Wisdom adds, “the Buea council after banning our means of livelihood has not helped the situation but instead, they send the police to go after us when we try going out to work even in the neighbourhoods”

A varsity don, Professor Yenshu Emmanuel Vubo holds that commercial bike riders can still ply the streets if they are matriculated by the council for easy identification, plus, they should also show good faith.

“Although this action by the Buea authorities has its negative sides, it has equally resulted to some positive outcomes such as a reduction of the rate of road accidents and road traffics,” he noted.

According to him, many of them engage in this bike business because they do not pay taxes, but there are other businesses that they can engage in that are tax free, like tomato farming, coffee farming and others. “If the government says this activity should not take place it means they should look for other activities,” he stated.

However, some commercial bike riders we contacted have sworn to still ply the streets despite the deadly threats of being gunned down by ubiquitous security operatives now parading the town.

But then, being the corrupt prone society that Cameroon is, a handful of “privileged” commercial bikers are still seen plying Buea municipal streets unperturbed. These few have “spoken” the familiar language of bribery, understood even by those that have orders to shoot riding defaulters on sight.*

Dialogue prescribed as option to ghost towns, destroying business premises

By *Sengue Carine, Takie Esther,

Nicole Cecile, Ambia Lilian, Anu Alice

Pauline Enanga, Aderline Bokengo & Ekongwe Catherine

Denizens of Buea who are often caught in between amba boys threats and the mayor’s sledgehammer have been suggesting that the town’s chief magistrate should gun for dialogue and negotiation with warring parties instead of brute force. The consensus opinion is that this approach would serve every interest, including that of the state which is losing billions in prosecuting a war against separatists.

Most people The Rambler approached thought that the town’s economy in particular would be saved if the mayor adopts a talking as opposed to a breaking approach to ending ghost towns in Buea municipality.

Meanwhile, following the mayor’s current in sealing and breaking spree, certain business operators, despite the fear of the unknown sneak to their shops if only to forestall huge losses they would incur when their shops are sealed or broken by Mayor Ekema. These businessmen insist that there are several options or remedies that the mayor could adopt rather than sealing or breaking their business premises.

A shop owner we interviewed expressed his dissatisfaction with the whole trend, adding that “what the mayor is doing is for his parochial benefit and not for the shop owners.” He suggested that the mayor should meet the shop owners and the separatists for negotiations. He noted; “when a shop is being burnt and destroyed, it is the shop owner who suffers, since he will have to rebuild the landlord’s building.”

 The shop owner suggested prayers as a better remedy to these ghost towns and the Anglophone crisis. He said though the mayor wants the town and businesses to be functional and operational on Mondays, people most likely not to open their shops because there is a big problem in the country. “Added to that, shop owners pay a certain amount after the shops have been sealed,” he bemoaned.

Another interviewee made mention of the fact that, he at first felt bad about not working on Mondays, but noted that he is now used to “ghost towns” and has no problem with the phenomenon. He also mentioned that sealing of shops on Mondays and leaving it sealed for a month has no effect on him because, he has adapted to and now considers it as a continuation of the multiple lockdowns.  

This businessman said that he prefers his shop sealed because it will be open after a month than it being burnt by separatist fighters or broken by the mayor. The only time he would open on Mondays will be against an undertaking from the mayor stating that he (mayor) will be responsible if anything untoward happens to them.

According to a salesgirl at a restaurant, she works on Mondays due to instructions from her boss. Though not all workers and menus are available because food items cannot be purchased on Mondays since markets are not operational, they use the food stocks available to serve those few customers who come on Mondays. She suggested that, the authorities that be, should see into how they can ameliorate the situation by calling for a dialogue.

In a nutshell, these businessmen and women would want the authorities to drop all forms of hostilities and engage in a comprehensive dialogue.

*UB JOURNALISM STUDENTS ON INTERNSHIP

Frequent power blackouts sinking Cameroon’s economy

By Achaleke Ashley*

The issue of tempestuous power outages in Cameroon has begun attaining unbearable levels, leaving many a citizen to opine that the country has fallen apart completely. Cameroonians are being deprived of a necessity. Bribes are taken daily regarding this issue, be it in Buea, Bamenda, Mamfe or any other town in Cameroon. The litany of woes associated to this phenomenon of regular power outages that have made electricity supply epileptic in some communities and comatose in others is a veritable cause for concern.

Citizens pay bills daily but do not get the end product as per bills paid. Light is rather infrequent in most parts of the country. Managers would rather be seen gallivanting around during working hours instead of being at their duty posts. Insipid speeches and other banal propaganda more or less light up the nation a lot more than functional turbines, kilowatts and megawatts. Cameroonians are subjected to offering huge bribes just to ensure they are supplied with electricity. Cameroon is a blessed land with so many areas where big rivers, dotted all over the national territory can be harnessed to supply electricity for its citizens. There are other nations on the African continent with less means of generating electricity but they seldom face shortages, let alone outages. Botswana is one such, where good governance exists, where there is zero tolerance for corruption and ineptitude and whose institutions work almost with the accuracy of a Switch watch.

Decayed poles dangle precariously, constituting huge deadly danger for denizens. Transformers are of fictitiously low capacity, yet quixotic speeches and promises are regularly made to the effect that every nook and cranny of the nation “has either seen the light” or would be connected to a functional grid before the start of an ostentatious soccer jamboree. Hardly anything is done ensure the comfort of citizens who now celebrate a rare shining bulb or fluorescent tube. Assurance speeches and propaganda are spewed even as lights flicker and go out, sometimes leaving certain big towns in pitch darkness for months. Hardly have the citizens been apologized to, when their electrical appliances were blown or when their homes were burnt, thanks to electrical power fluctuations. Yet, disconnections are hurriedly carried out when one defaults in paying one’s bill for the month.   Poles decay and eventually crumble before ENEO staffers start fidgeting. Little attention is turned towards this and more, but workers find pleasure in petty offerings to fill their pockets with no work done in return.

Electricity is a basic necessity and if one is deprived they rather feel uncomfortable, with businesses crumbling. Some nursing mothers are in need of electricity to be able to nurse their babies; others use it to store their beverages or perishables in their refrigerators. The instability of light generally causes the destruction of phones, television sets, radios among others. Some could lose their houses due to the force in which light is brought back after it is cut off.

Individuals grope in darkness daily, while technicians fold their arms, blaming everything else on bureaucracy. They act like they do their work whereas the work done is not satisfactory. It is ironical that with one of the highest potentials of hydro-electrical power potential in the continent, the most that Cameroonians have enjoyed in this sector so far are the speeches that promise heaven but deliver hell.

Electricity is important to every individual in particular and every sector of the economy in general. This inconsistency of power supply has been for a while and consumers begin to wonder if their suppliers are aware of the huge losses incurred and overall damage done to the national economy. The simple replacement of rotten poles are suggestions laid out by consumers and also the replacement of transformers to ones of high capacity to supply its consumers. This costs practically very, very little to achieve. But corruption, inertia and a general work ethic that is daily sinking the nation has almost always ended in spending the pound to catch the penny.

The same bureaucrats refraining “emergence by 3035” in every other speech, are either shamelessly unaware or criminally compromising on what pivotal role electricity power supply plays in every facet of national development.

*Siantou journalism student on internship

Military brutality getting out of hand

It is no longer news that the military assaults or even kill civilians in the Anglophone part of the country for very incomprehensible reasons; what is strange is the fact that, they no longer molest only the energetic young men but just anybody. They now accuse just anyone of being an accomplice of their opponents; ‘Amba boys.’ It is either they accuse one of supplying them with food stuff, arms or simply having something to do with them.

On Thursday, January 24 in Muea, a locality in Buea Sub-Division, the military indiscriminately molested civilians; the young, the old, men and women alike on the very casual unverified excuse that they have ‘something’ to do with the ‘Ambazonian Fighters.’

Going by Gerald Alioh, one of the victims, it was about 9:30am when his dad and he were heading to a relative’s house in the Muea neighborhood when the soldiers, dressed in mufti stopped their car, ordered them out. They were made to sit on the ground and tortured. Alioh explained, “They asked me out of the car and before I could step out, one of them kicked me on my buttocks, the other fetched for a solid stick and gave me serious lashes on my back. They also made my dad who is over 65years old to sit on dust after one of the soldiers slapped him on his jaw. My dad suffered an injury in his mouth because for some time now he has been having problems with his teeth.”

The Buea city dweller noted that, like others, the militia accused them of working in collaboration with the ‘Ambazonian Forces’. “They said it was elderly people like my dad who are sponsoring ‘Amba boys’. After interrogating us, the military boys insisted that we must bring to them the person to whose house we were headed. We had to reach him on phone and he came, and that was when they left us, not after they had also beaten that my uncle up too for no reason,” the victim stated.

Another victim of military brutality, Emmanuel Neba told ‘The Rambler’ that, he was walking past when the men in uniform called him and just started commanding that he should provide the ‘Shut Gun’ which he was in position of. He said he was lost because he had no idea of what they were talking about but they didn’t listen to him. On the contrary, he said they started beating him, claiming that they have been told that he is the one transporting weapons to the ‘Amba boys.’

“The more I tried to explain that I was innocent, the more they got annoyed and were kicking me on every side; it was God who rescued me from them otherwise, they might have even killed me and no one will ever know what happened to me,” Neba said.

Such cases abound. There are also times when the military will just invade a neighbourhood and arrest randomly; those arrested will in the end pay FCFA 25,000 each, at least before regaining their freedom. The people say their only wish is for God to intervene so that a lasting solution is found to the ongoing crisis.

By Nester Asonganyi

How war victims are adapting to bush life

“Life is gradually becoming very normal for those who fled into the bush especially in Munyenge, in the Southwest Region due to unrest and insecurity that has highly hit their area,” says a Cameroonian youth. For almost a year now living in the bush, Oforka Rebecca a 24 year old lady recounts how they fled into the bush and how life has been for eight months now.

“Military people have settled in our area and there are constant shootouts between warring parties, endangering the lives of natives, so we ran into the bush. One Sunday morning we were home and suddenly heard as people were heading to our village. We were not even aware of their mission or motive but we just ran into the bush. After that they came and were burning houses because they wanted to make their camp in Munyenge. Documents of people were burnt, houses as many were rendered homeless even at the moment,” she narrated.

Oforka added: “They were shooting to scare off people so that they could establish. Their reason, according to what we heard was that they got information that our land is a training ground for ‘Amba boys’ but which is not true. Even though the boys are actually in Munyenge, the truth is, they live far away in the bush and only come out when they want to operate.  Most of us don’t even know where they live particularly because they don’t even permit people to go close to them except if one is a member of their group.

“Bullets were flying over our heads while we were even scampering for safety into bushes.”

How life was during the first month in the bush

“It really wasn’t easy for the first one to two months living in the bush. During that period, life was just so tough, as many fell ill and died since our bodies were still to adapt to that of regular animals in the bush; no good source of drinking water, mosquito bites but gradually life became very normal.

Life at present in the bush

“Life in the bush at the moment is even better than our houses to the extent that even if we are asked to go home, we would even prefer the bush.All activities that took place normally in the village also take place in the bush. People do their businesses only in the bushes. They buy from Muyuka and sell in the scrubland, and others do their traditional marriage there, birthday celebrations just to name but these.

“We also have mosquito nets that were provided by the Government before the crisis, so we took them to the bush and built our small huts since we cultivate mostly cocoa. We put our mattresses on ovens designed to dry cocoa and sleep.

“We also have cocoa buyers who stay with us and buy cocoa then transport to Douala. There are tailors, shoe menders, we go to church and do everything as in the village.

How marriages are done in the wild

Questioned on how marriages are carried out in the bush, she stated that if a man and woman wish to get married, the two families meet, if they approve the union, they then organize a small area still in the bush where people will meet, eat and drink and life moves on normally. The only difference from home according to Oforka is potable drinking water because we just have but small streams which farmers used to use to spray their cocoa but we now use it as a source of drinking water. So most us do suffer from malaria and typhoid which is being caused by our surroundings and poor hygienic methods.”

Health units in the bush

“We also have small health units. The nurses and doctors who were with us before the war also ran into the bush and have built small health centers were people visit when sick or for child birth, except when the cases are bad that they are referred to the hospitals in the towns. The hospital bill is also very expensive and the absence of a medical laboratory to run tests makes life difficult because for complex situations which require that a test be done, they are referred to hospitals in town.”

Number of deaths and unfriendly surrounding

“We have recorded cases of snake bites because of the surrounding and the lack of electricity since we use but bush lamps at night. Snakebites are very common and almost inevitable in our area. We have been in the bush now for about eight months and about 20 people have died while in the bush. A majority of them died and there was no means taking them to the village so most of them were buried in the bush but when it is possible for burial to take place in the village, we go bury the corpse then do the entertainment in the bush.”

Natives caught in the web of military and Amba

“Apart from the military we also face challenges with the ‘Amba Boys.’ They are noted for suppressing farmers. They demand huge sums of money from poor farmers. They demand high amounts from those they think have money, for others who have their bush guns, they forcefully take their guns, but we are gradually coping with them.

“We are caught up in the web of the military and ‘Amba.’ Most often we bewail that it would have been better that we remain and suffer the way we had been before the crisis than running from all fronts, both the military and ‘Amba.’

“Most people are even scared of going back to the village because the military can arrive at any moment and no one knows his or her fate in such situation. There have been times when people ran back and homes were searched, people taken out and killed. That is why most people are scared of going back to the village.

Even though we are being suppressed by ‘Amba,’ if opportunity is given for us to choose between the ‘Amba’ and the military we would choose the ‘Amba’ because they don’t shoot us with guns but the military does and very casually.”

Respect of imposed ‘ghost town’ in the bush

“While in the bush we still do respect ‘ghost town.’ There are days that they will inform us of a three day ghost town dubbed “mami water ghost town” and on such days, we just wake up make our food and eat, then sit in our huts but when it is evening, we can open our market centres.”

On how a common market centre was created in the bush, she stated that it started by the help of a pharmacist who one day displayed drugs on a land belonging to no one and as people saw him; they started building their market sheds which has now become a big market centre. The 24 year old girl added that for those who don’t have land in the bush, they have built their own houses by the market side while others stayed back home alerting those in the farm by phone or ringing of bells whenever the military is around.”

Councilors created to dissolve disputes

She revealed that in the bush, councilors have been created who settle disputes amongst settlers in the bush and that like in towns; they have names of different localities in the bush. Some areas she said have been dubbed Dubai and the market named ‘number one water.’

“We really want the crisis to come to an end because I as an example, my education has stopped for the moment. I pray the Government makes things better for people to live peacefully. Even if we were asked to go back to the village, I don’t even know where we would live because our houses have been burnt down,” Oforka lamented.

By Relindise Ebune

‘Sealing’ Mayor resumes shuttering business places

It is becoming something of a circus show, with rented clowns performing to entertain a bored audience by any means possible. Practically everyone who lives in Buea is unaware of how dangerous it has become in the past one year to venture out of their homes, let alone open business places. Soldiers and “Amba boys” alike are an impediment. They are feared. The army may not have set any business premises or homes ablaze in Buea, but the “Amba boys” have.

No denizen yet, has lost their fingers or other limbs for “disrespecting ghost town edicts.” But it has happened in neighbouring towns. Very unlike the mayor of Buea, who is heavily protected by armed to the teeth soldiers, other teeming masses of residents of the town are condemned to ensure their own security in an environment where human life is taken like that of chickens. Legal experts have so far proven the criminality of shuttering private business premises because their owners did not open. One of them is the former Bar Council president, Eta Besong Jr.

Yet the Buea mayor, protected by dozens of well armed troops and municipal police still takes delight in going about on ‘ghost town’ days, sealing business premises with idiotic glee and subjecting their owners to subsequent colossal losses. He was at it again on the first Monday of the year just beginning.

After Ekema Patrick Esunge, rallied stakeholders and economic operators in the Buea municipality on January 04, 2019, who came swearing and promising to cast out the Monday “ghost towns,” which has understandably brought the nation to its economic knees, three days later, the Mayor went on rampage again, sealing shops and other business premises that bowed respected the traditional Monday “ghost towns.” It should be recalled that over 99 percent of all business premises in Buea did not and often don’t open their doors on such days. The few that attempted it at the level of the commercial hub of the town in Mile 17 were burnt to ashes and no one compensated their “patriotic” owners.

During his latest outing on Monday January 7, the mayor sealed about 20 shops. As usual, he went about it, protected by a platoon of military men. Despite all measures, foul and fair, put in place by the council to put an end to the traditional ‘ghost towns,’ denizens have preferred to save their heads than money, as Mondays in recent times have proven to be the deadliest and most unsecured days in Buea, as many shops and even vehicles have been burnt down by unidentified men for operating on Mondays. The town was totally paralyzed just like most other towns in the Southwest Region.

With the intensity of the “ghost town” observed on Monday, January 7, the council may have felt betrayed as the decision taken by the mayor and other economic operators was not heeded. It should be noted that, most shops in Bongo Square and Buea Town are owned by the Buea Council. Consequently, it would want to do everything possible to be able to open its own doors in the face of adversity, even as business operators occupying those shops, argue that the pay all their rents on time and any other bills, and so have the right to operate the way they want. Besides, they argue that operational periods or times were never part of the contract they signed with council authorities. Others say they are being violated, while majority admit the fact that, their lives are in danger if they operate on Mondays and wouldn’t want to die.

This is not the first time the Municipal authorities are sealing shops and business premises in Buea for respect of “ghost towns.” Last year the Mayor of Buea crippled many businesses after he sealed hundreds of shops in the Buea Municipality for more than a week. Motorbikes were also banned from circulating in Buea. Insecurity still lingers around Buea, while denizens live in fear and panic.

BY ATEMBEH NGEWUNG LORDFRED

Heaps of garbage, stench of decay

In 2014, President Paul Biya on a visit to the town referred to Buea as a clean, beautiful town. He was even more charitable when he endorsed the “Legendary Hospitality” pet name with which the town had come to be identified. But in the ebbing days of 2018, the Buea mayoral authorities abruptly changed the Legendary Hospitality sobriquet to “City of Excellence.” Unfortunately however, the town didn’t have a facelift commensurate with the status of the city it had been bestowed with.

Workers of the waste disposal company, HYSACAM had downed tools, following the destruction of their garbage trucks by the so-called Amba boys and the fact that it was increasingly dangerous for them to perform their duties freely, without being hurt by the rag tag army. But a newspaper report had it that the Buea mayor had, by his magnanimity, personally funded HYSACAM and gotten the disposal company back to work.

However, despite the claims of magnanimity and all that, heaps of garbage and other waste material still litter the town, constituting a health hazard. Desperate denizens have resorted to burning their refuse, further compounding the risk of respiratory related diseases. Otherwise, refuse is now dumped at every other street corner. Certain people The Rambler approached thought that municipal authorities ought to have reverted to the pre-HYSACAM era, during which refuse disposal in the town was handled directly by council workers. At that time they claimed, the town wasn’t suffocating from the stench of decay surrounding residential houses as is presently the case.

On a similar note, residents of the town have intensified their criticism of the so called monthly ‘Keep Buea Clean’ campaigns which entails devoting one or two Wednesdays per month for everyone else to come out and clean the town. It should be recalled that on such days, civil servants keep off their offices for at least four hours, ostensibly to participate in keeping the town clean. All business places stay shut while taxis are forbidden from plying the streets.

However, it is an open secret that these special Wednesdays have more or less been converted to public holidays. Offices stay closed throughout; hardly any one engages in the cleanup campaign and the only beneficiaries are local administrators who are known to provide special dispensations for certain cabs to ply the streets against prescribed amounts of money paid, but which is widely believed to be unaccounted for.

It was expected that with HYSACAM’s job of clearing garbage having been compromised by marauding gangsters in the name of an army of liberation, the ‘Keep Buea Clean’ campaigns should have been upgraded and closely supervised to make up for the shortfall. But that is not quite the case. And the situation is gradually but surely getting out of hand. Instead, the only visible form of development in the municipality is the mushrooming of boutiques, courtesy of the local council. Someone recently joked that one out of every three residents of Buea can now be said to be a trader, selling one commodity or the other, going by the uncountable number of boutiques with which the council is littering the town.

Elsewhere, running water is a luxury. Long lines of children and other denizens are often seen trekking long distances to fetch water from brooks and streams. Access roads are practically nonexistent. Respective neighbourhoods are known to contribute money with which they grade their own roads or open up new ones. The banning of commercial biking in the town has made transportation, especially in the peripheries a big social headache. The town council has been conspiratorially silent in the midst of all of these social constraints. But it has been sporadic in ensuring that cars and other automobiles are not carelessly parked in the public space or along the roads as to block free circulation. Those in charge are known to clamp poorly parked automobiles, only having them released against a fee of FCFA 25,000.

That said, if the Buea municipal authorities are really serious about lifting the town to the status of a city and ensuring that it is one of excellence, then they face the urgent challenge of taking crucial lessons in waste management. In which case, the collection, transportation, disposal and recycling of waste ought to take precedence over the proliferation of boutiques.

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.