Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Cameroon: In Bamenda, Secessionists Braved The Bullets To Proclaim Their "Independence"

In the early hours of Sunday 1 st October Bamenda was under siege and Cameroon held its breath. The streets of the big English-speaking city, where secessionists announced they wanted to declare independence from their two provinces, the Northwest and the Southwest, have been gridded since Friday of riot trucks. 

No taxis, no motorbikes , not a sound of voices. Pick-up hooded men, armed ed to the teeth, circulating at high speed. There are also elements of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), an elite unit of the Cameroonian army in the front line to the north in the fight against the terrorist group Boko Haram. Shops and bars are closed, the Internet connection hardly works, social networks are inaccessible.

Only a few furtive silhouettes of the faithful slip into the arteries of the ghost town. "If the righteous turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and dies for it, he dies because of the iniquity he has committed. " At the St. Joseph Cathedral Mankon Father Roland Ayissi chose his homily with care: Ezekiel chapter 18, verses 25 to 28. At this Mass 8 pm, where they are usually half a thousand, unless a hundred faithful have braved fear to come and pray. They fully understood the allusion to the Youndé regime, which they accuse of treatingCameroonian anglophones as second-class citizens. Since the autumn of 2016 there have been peaceful protests, strikes, "dead city" operations and arrests. Repression has intensified over the months. Then, about fifty prisoners were released in early September, following a decree of President Paul Biya signed on 30 August, but the trialof other anglophones continues before the military justice of Yaounde. Some risk the death penalty.
Cameroon: In Bamenda, Secessionists Braved The Bullets To Proclaim Their "Independence"
" The only solution "
"With everything that happens to us, I could not stay home," sighs Elias, 46, gray beard and bible in hand. Like Ezekiel, we need God to tell us which way to go and avoid other deaths. " This practicing Catholic believes that " independence " is the only solution, " the only way that will stop the blood that has been pouring for months " . Evariste, a young businessman of 29 years, shares his opinion. "I'm not afraid because I'm not a criminal. We fight for our right, given the way this government is treating us. I am for independence, he said angrily at the end of the cult.

Two days earlier, the authorities had announced the closure of land and sea borders for the two English-speaking provinces of the country and the prohibition of mobility of men and vehicles. They had instituted a curfew in effect until Monday. Nearly 1,000 additional policemen, gendarmes and soldiers were deployed in the area. Access to Bamenda on Saturday was made virtually impossible by a triple dam. At the entrance to the town, in Santa, no public bus was allowed to enter. Only pass vehicles with special authorization or belonging to the administrative body and to the forces of the order. The second dam is the most difficult. Armed men, with handguns, bulletproof vests, nervous air, repress the men, women and children who beg for them. A driver of "carrying-all", too stubborn, was slapped. Lucky few cross the passage to fall on the third barrage held by both policemen and soldiers and behind which wait a few taxis, which doubled their rates for the occasion. "Tomorrow they will see," said the passenger of one of these taxis. The balls no longer frighten me. "

Tomorrow, Sunday, October 1st . A date that was not chosen by chance by the secessionists. Since 1961, the 1 st October is the anniversary of the birth of the Federal Republic of Cameroon after the reunification of French Cameroon and British Southern Cameroon, inherited from the first world war. A federal state which had been abandoned in 1972 in favor of unity and centralization.

The separatists had decided to raise their flag in the northwest and southwestern cities , which represent about 20% of the population and to proclaim "independence" of Ambazonia by singing the anthem of the imaginary state in which they dream of living without "marginalization" : respect for specific Common Law to the two English-speaking regions, teachers and judges who speak English in schools and courts, roads without potholes, chicken, leaders ' worried about their well- being and incorruptible " ...
First shots
Towards 10 am, the tension rises. Groups of young people, whistles on their lips, trees of peace for some and Ambazonia flags for others, are announced in some districts of Bamenda: Travelers, Nkwen ... A man who went to the airport, escorted by two armed policemen, turned back on the order of the police. "The situation is not good," it was said.

The morning moves forward and shots are heard. A military helicopter patrols the skies while on land police and military activate. Suddenly, a rally was announced in Liberty Square, a mythical place where six activists from the Social Democratic Front (SDF), the main opposition party, were killed on 26 May 1990 during a historic march.

In the Old Town district, residents are sitting on the doorstep. Some argue. Others look, anxiously, at the deserted street. There is no soul that lives in the direction of Commercial Avenue. Banks, petrol stations and other large commercial complexes are guarded by security guards and anti-riot police . Two of their trucks are stationed at Liberty Square. The helicopter flies over the area.

Around 13 hours, a witness announces by telephone two seriously wounded by bullets to Travelers. "The military and police are still there. They throw tear gas bombs at us and shoot at us, "he says. During the conversation, we hear the sound of bullets and the whistling of tear gas.
A first count of at least 8 dead
Donatus Njong Fonyuy, the mayor of Kumbo, counted seven dead in his locality about 70 km from Bamenda and described as "rebel . " "Around 6 am, Kumbo prison caught fire, " said the aedile, his voice hoarse. It is not known what triggered the fire but five prisoners were killed by the military . Two others were seriously injured. They're in the hospital. A protester fell under military bullets. "

According to the mayor, the inhabitants of Kumbo went out to demonstrate . A first group set up the Ambazian flag and was dispersed by the military. Another headed for the traditional NSO palace. "They declared their independence. The soldiers fired and a man died, says Donatus Njong Fonyuy. Two others were seriously injured. A young woman who was in her yard was mowed by a bullet. There were 7 deaths and 4 serious injuries in Kumbo. "

In the city of Bamenda, several witnesses affrimé have seen "at least two deaths" Sunday. "I'm not aware of anything," retorts a safe source over the phone before hanging up harshly. In the south-west region, a journalist announces at least one death in Buéa and two in Kumba, a city located some fifty kilometers from the capital of the region.

On Monday morning, clashes between the population and the security forces resumed after a brief night of lull.

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