It is a new phenomenon in Cameroon. It started off with the burning of schools by members of dissident groups claiming an independent state of ‘Ambazonia.’ Regular soldiers took the relay baton and reduced whole villages to ashes. High profile victims of arson include Professor Paul Nchoji Nkwi, member of the Constitutional Council of Cameroon. His village home in Njinikom in Boyo Division of the Northwest Region was burnt down by soldiers, barely months after his appointment to that council. Another is Doh Jerome, Secretary of State in charge of Penitentiary Administration in the Ministry of Justice. His home in his native Bali in Mezam Division was burnt by suspected Amba boys. We are told that Fon Chafah, a Senator and traditional ruler of Bangolan in the Northwest Region also lost his palace to separatist fighters.
On January 3, it was the turn of Chief Dr. Dion Joseph Ngute of Bongongo Barombi 1 near Lobe in Ndian Division of the Southwest Region. Some 24 hours after arsonists suspected to be ‘Amba boys’ torched his palace, a presidential decree appointed him Prime Minister and Head of Government.
The modern structure, constructed in his native Bongongo 1 village, in Ekondo-Titi subdivision of Ndian Division in the Southwest Region which also serves as his palace alongside some trucks used in his palm plantation are were reduced to ashes.
Pictures which circulated on social media showed a building whose windows and some house hold equipment have been reduced by flames. Like the proverbial phoenix, Ngute rose from the ashes of misfortune or better still of his burnt palace to be named Prime Minister and Head of Government, taking over from Philemon Yang who had served in that capacity for slightly over nine years.
The incident also came barely two days after President Paul Biya addressed the nation vowing to restore peace in no distant time in the restive Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon. Biya had went the extra step to state how he was going to order the army to annihilate militants who failed to surrender to the newly created commission for Disarmament and Rehabilitation. But as if to dare the head of state and show their defiance for the commission, suspected separatists set the house of the one he was about to name as Prime Minister on fire.
Dion Ngute is a long-serving time Cabinet Minister in the Biya Government. He served for over a decade and a half as Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relations in charge of the Commonwealth. His last “Ministerial port of call” was Minister of Special Duties at the Presidency of the Republic.
Meanwhile other Ministers whose village homes have been torched during the ongoing war in the two Anglophone Regions include Victor Arrey Mengot of Manyu and Paul Tasong of Lebialem.
One of the most daunting tasks facing the new occupant of the Star Building would be seeking a permanent end to the raging war that has destroyed both precious lives and countess property in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon.
BY NGENDE ESTHER