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.