By Sylvester Atemnkeng
The Government of Cameroon has announced an FCFA 12.7 Billion Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Plan for the Northwest and Southwest Regions.
The plan was unveiled on June 20 by Prime Minister and Head of Government, Philemon Yang, during a press briefing in the conference room of his cabinet.
The call for solidarity to finance the humanitarian plan, according to the Prime Minister, is not new, because, a similar show was recorded in the case of the humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram.
Going by the PM, areas of priority will include: Protection of displaced persons; food and basic needs; healthcare; education; the resumption of the economic and agricultural activities; housing and the reconstitution of individual administrative documents.
Statistics in the PM’s report shows that as of June 11, 2018, 123 attacks had been carried out claiming 84 lives, including 32 soldiers, 42 gendarmes, 7 police officers, 2 prison warders and 1 eco-guard assassinated in a cowardly manner.
Several victims were mutilated or beheaded and their corpses displayed on social media.
“These devoted civil servants, whose job was to protect citizens and their property, died in the discharge of their sacred duties. Their comrades are carrying on with their duty to preserve peace and the safety of the population with courage and determination,” he said.
Genesis Of Crisis
Presenting the situation in the two English-speaking Regions, Yang said Cameroon has been experiencing socio-political unrest in the Northwest and Southwest Regions since 2016.
“This situation partly resulted from socio-professional grievances to which the Government, through consultation and dialogue with the relevant trade unions, provided appropriate solutions that, at times, even went beyond the expectations of the social partners.”
He said despite Government’s good will, extremists in the Diaspora and their local networks moved from socio-professional grievances to secessionist plans.
“After provoking a stalemate in dialogue by raising the stakes, engaging in intimidation and exerting various forms of pressure, they created and sustained an atmosphere of fear and tension through misinformation, dissemination of hate messages and incitement to violence. Finally, they formed armed groups and embarked on terrorist attacks against the authorities and civilian populations in a futile attempt to concretise their pipedream of partitioning Cameroon,” he said.
In addition to calls for hatred and violence on social media, going by the PM, the terrorists have committed many crimes and abuses in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, mostly against the education sector, economic activities, members of the defence and security forces, administrative and traditional authorities and, especially, the civilian population.
Fallouts Of Crisis
“The civilian populations, mostly in rural areas, have paid the highest price of the ugly war imposed by the terrorists on the Cameroonian people. Victims of numerous atrocities (assassination, theft, rape, abduction, extortion, among others) gripped by the fear created by threats, intimidations, fake news, many of them have sought refuge abroad or in other Regions of Cameroon,” he added.
Going by the PM’s presentation, although the Cameroonian people once more demonstrated their hospitality and great spirit of solidarity towards their compatriots in distress, the Government thought it necessary to prepare a structured and overall assistance plan to address the urgent and essential needs of the populations living under terrorist threats or forced to abandon their homes and their activities, and to flee from the murderous madness of these terrorists.
The Education Sector
The education sector, according to Yang, was and remains one of the prime terrorist targets.
“Schools are repeatedly attacked by armed terrorist groups. Students and teachers have been threatened, brutalised, mutilated and killed right in their classrooms and dormitories.
“Since the outbreak of the crisis, more than 120 schools have been burnt down in the two Regions. A bomb was planted on the premises of Presbyterian Comprehensive Secondary School Aziri in Bamenda on October 20, 2017, but it was fortunately deactivated by the security forces,” he said.
“Because of these attacks, which are part of an obscurantist and senseless strategy, thousands of students and teachers, eager to continue their educational career or their professional activities in peace, have migrated to other Regions of Cameroon. Apart from the break-up of family units, this has led to the degradation of one of the most reputed and efficient educational systems of the country and even the continent.
The consequences of such a situation will be felt for a very long time after the inevitable return to normalcy. Meanwhile, the master-minders of these terrorist acts living abroad are flooding social networks with pictures of their children celebrating the award of their certificates,” he added.
Children As Sacrificial Lambs
Regarding conscription of children into militia groups, the Head of Government remarked that, for some time now, child soldiers have been seen in the propaganda videos of the terrorists.
In fact, many minors going by the presentation are taken out of school and recruited by militia groups as combatants. Drug consumption and magical and occultist rituals (Odeshi) are used to control these children’s minds. They are then forced to commit atrocities, including against their family members.
On incitement to violence through the social media, he remarked that the social media have played a particularly noxious role in the degradation of the humanitarian situation in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. The climate of terror created by these social media is, indeed, the source of the fear observed among the populations and the forced displacements of these populations internally and out of the country.
“Through the social media, the terrorists and their sponsors carried out a sustained campaign to spread fear, hatred and violence. The hate speech calls for the killing of members of the defence and security forces, as well as the assassination of administrative authorities and other State representatives. The terrorists even called for attacks on ethnic or linguistic bases. The hate campaign on the Internet is also fuelled by fake news through which the terrorists accuse the defence and security forces of imaginary atrocities and even of perpetrating a genocide in the Northwest and Southwest Regions,” he said.
To him, such false accusations are often echoed by irresponsible politicians seeking notoriety, increase the fear and dissuade the populations who fled their villages from returning.
Those Fuelling Crisis
Many of the people inciting the population to hatred and violence, according to the report, are based abroad: Mark Bara, alias Bareta (Belgium), Ayaba Cho Lucas (Norway), Tapang Ivo Tanku, Akwanga Ebenezer, Dereck Mbongo, Nsoh Nkem Foncha, Chris Anu and Yinkfu Nsangong (United Stated of America), Shey Kaavi Wo Melim (Austria), Akoson Pauline Diale and her husband Akoson Raymond and Brado Etchu Tabenyang (Nigeria), John Mbah Akuro and Larry Eyong (South Africa).
These terrorist networks even organise fundraising from their country of residence to purchase weapons and fund terrorist activities. The Cameroonian Government has approached the authorities of the said countries to put an end to the terrorist support activities carried out on their territory.
Impacts On Dev’t
On the disruption of economic activities, PM Yang said, addressing the concerns raised by the population during Government field missions, the Head of State ordered the release of special funds for the implementation of a number of development projects, especially infrastructure projects in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.
“On March 15, 2018, four employees of SOROUBAT constructing the Kumba-Ekondo Titi road were kidnapped. One of them, a Tunisian, was later killed by his abductors; on December 12, 2017, seven employees of the Geotechnical Research, Studies and Control Firm (BRECG), hired to conduct geotechnical studies for the construction of the bridge over River Ebinsiont, were kidnapped in Akwaya Subdivision and are believed to have been assassinated by the terrorists.”
The objective of the terrorists, according to the report, seems to be to destroy the economy of the Northwest and Southwest Regions.
“Ghost town” operations imposed through intimidation and threat are having disastrous consequences on economic activities and household incomes. Due to these “ghost town” operations, burnings and explosive attacks, many businesses and markets have closed down.
The activities of industries in the Southwest Region (PAMOL and CDC), which are victims of repeated attacks, are being paralysed and their survival threatened. Thousands of people, thus, run the risk of losing their jobs.
Agricultural activities are also affected by the criminal actions of terrorist militia groups. Many families are compelled to abandon their agro-pastoral activities.
Driven by greed, the terrorists also attack goods, transport and travelling activities, increasing hold-ups and looting.
Administrators As Scapegoats
On attacks on administrative and traditional authorities the report equally noted that administrative authorities have been regular targets of the terrorists who, in their propaganda, have continued to call for the murder of these representatives of the State.
Examples going by the report include: February 11, 2018, kidnapping and assassination of the Divisional Officer of Batibo, Northwest Region; March 20, 2018, attack on the convoy of the Lebialem Senior Divisional Officer at Mockmbie.
The SDO was seriously wounded and the Divisional Delegate of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure killed; April 22, 2018, attack on the convoy of the Governor of the Southwest Region in Lebialem Division; May 20, 2018, kidnapping of the 2nd Assistant Divisional Officer of Lebialem; March 17, 2018, kidnapping of Professor Ivo Leke Tambo, Chairman of the GCE Board Council in Alou Subdivision; at least 15 attacks have been carried out against traditional chiefs; February 5, 2018, assassination of the 3rd Class Chief of Esukutan in Toko Subdivision; February 19, 2018, burning down of the residence of the traditional chief of Etam (Kupe-Muanenguba); February 13 and 24, 2018, burning down of the residences of the Chiefs of Myerem in Akwaya Subdivision (Manyu) and Nguti (Kupe-Muanenguba).
On abuses against the population, the report underscored that, since the beginning of the crisis, the people of the Northwest and Southwest Regions have been victims of all sorts of violence and atrocities from the terrorists.
Instigated by the people behind the scene, most of who live abroad, hordes of armed youths under the influence of drugs, scour villages and rural areas where they kill, rape, loot and extort the populations. Just in the first half of 2018, more than a hundred properties were destroyed or torched by the terrorists.
Many women and girls, going by the report, were victims of sexual abuse (rape, false marriages, unwanted pregnancies, and so on). Such is the case of three teenage girls who were raped by terrorists on May 23, 2018, in the locality of Matazem, Mezam Division. Several persons suspected of collaborating with the authorities were murdered. This abuse against civilian populations was confirmed by Transparency International in its latest report in June 2018.
Innocent Civilians Pay Supreme Prize
During the past twelve months, the two Regions have recorded more than a hundred civilians killed by these bands of armed terrorists.
Recent cases, according to the report, include; in the Northwest Region: Bangha Antony and Chia Emmanuel, killed on March 23, 2018, in Belo by terrorists who accused them of collaborating with the defence and security forces; Awira Joseph Wirba, abducted and beheaded by his abductors on February 14, 2018 in Kitiwum, Bui Division; Salman Fasil Lemnyuy, murdered on March 27, 2018 in Kikaïkom, Boyo Division; Fosso Taka Armel Shelia, killed on March 7, 2018 in Batibo, Momo Division; Nganyou Robert, killed by terrorists on January 25, 2018 in Tadu, Bui Division; Boumzina Albert, killed on April 24, 2018, in Ngie, Momo Division; Gallega Emmanuel, killed by terrorists on March 26, 2018, in Widikum, Momo Division; Acha Clarisse, killed by terrorists on March 23, 2018, in Batibo, Momo Division.
Cases in the Southwest Region: Netomba Simon, killed on June 1, 2018, at Bamuso; on April 7, 2018, the irredentists abducted eight people in Ebonji Village, Tombel Subdivision. The brother of the Village Head, Eboka Samuel, who resisted, was murdered in cold blood; on April 4, 2018, businessman, Budze Tayoh, alias DJ Plaza, was murdered by the irredentists in the locality of Nteho, Bangem Subdivision (Kupe-Manenguba).
They accused him of providing supplies of beverages to the defence and security forces; on March 17, 2018, a bus transporting 30 passengers, including many students on their way to Menji, was attacked by terrorists, its occupants illegally confined and despoiled of their property; on April 6, 2018, the terrorists forced villagers to contribute to the “war effort” in Balangi, Mbonge Subdivision (Meme); on April 13, 2018, the terrorists attacked the villages of Ediki and Balangi, on Highway No. 8 (Muyuka-Kumba) in Mbonge Subdivision (Meme). Fleeing these acts of violence, 210 people crossed River Moungo through the Kumba-Mbanga railway bridge and arrived in Mbanga (Moungo) the same day.
The acts of violence and atrocities perpetrated by the terrorists undoubtedly forced some members of the population of the Northwest and Southwest Regions to seek refuge in other regions of Cameroon and in neighbouring Nigeria.
In the face of the insecurity created by the terrorists and its humanitarian consequences, the Government, aware of its responsibility to protect citizens and their property, embarked on two types of actions.
Gov’t Efforts To Restore Peace
Firstly, it focused its efforts on restoring security to protect the populations and create conditions to enable displaced persons and refugees to return to their usual places of residence. These efforts are beginning to bear fruit with the recent annihilation of several bands of terrorists.
They will continue, resolutely, until return to normalcy in these areas. Civilian and military actions will also be taken with more intensity by the defence and security forces, in order to reassure the population and dissipate the intense fear created by the terrorists’ noxious propaganda.
Secondly, worried about the condition of the population in distress owing to the situation created by the terrorist bands, the Government sent out teams in the crisis Regions and beyond, to assess the humanitarian situation and bring urgent and appropriate humanitarian assistance to these people.
On the current situation, the report envisaged humanitarian assistance concerning internally displaced persons (IDPs) estimated at 74,966, including 66,412 in the Southwest Region and 8,554 in the Northwest Region.
In addition, there are victims of abuses in the host localities and communities.
The needs identified are food security, health, education, housing, security and psycho-social assistance.
Regarding the action already taken, the report stated that the fight against Boko Haram showed the wonderful solidarity of Cameroonians with their compatriots in distress.
This has also been confirmed during the crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. As part of this spirit of solidarity, tolerance and hospitality typical of Cameroonians, many displaced persons were received by their family members living in major urban centres such as Bamenda, Buea, Limbe, Yaounde, Douala and Bafoussam.
Other displaced persons have also benefited from assistance by administrative authorities to care for them at the local level. Such measures include: reception and resettlement of displaced persons; and distribution of beddings, toiletry, food and essential items.
Such has been the case for displaced persons in Ediki and Bombe-Bakundu Villages in Meme Division, who were received in Mbanga in the Moungo Division, under the supervision of local administrative authorities.
Similarly, persons from Lebialem Division in the Southwest Region have been resettled in Fongo-Tongo Subdivision in Menoua Division, under the same conditions.
Measures for the enrolment of students from crisis-prone areas into schools in the Littoral, West and Centre Regions continued during the 2017/2018 academic year.
The defence forces carried out civilian and military actions for crisis victims in Akwaya Subdivision, through the construction of water points, healthcare delivery, rehabilitation of classrooms, distribution of health kits, provision of educational materials and food items.
The various actions taken to that effect were particularly appreciable and of great use to the beneficiary populations. The magnitude of the needs, however, requires more efforts by the Government, with the contribution of all persons of good will.
On thrust treas, Government’s actions will focus on the following areas: access to accommodation, supply of food items and essential goods, education, housing, protection and reconstitution of personal documents.
These actions will be supplemented by visits to provide assistance and comfort to persons who have sought refuge in Nigeria.
Regarding health, Government’s actions will consist in rehabilitating health centres that have been damaged, abandoned or closed down. Awareness campaigns on hygiene and sanitation measures will also be conducted to reduce risks of waterborne diseases or epidemics.
Regarding agro-pastoral activities, the emergency plan will support the supply of agricultural inputs and livestock in order to revamp the activities of affected rural people.
Concerning education, schools will be rehabilitated and measures taken to protect teachers and students in view of a smooth start of the 2018-2019 academic year.
In the area of housing, emergency accommodation will be provided to IDPs and damaged houses rebuilt.
To ensure the protection of vulnerable groups, awareness campaigns against gender-based violence, early marriages and early pregnancy, child labour, drogue use, enrolment of youths in armed groups, will be carried out.
The humanitarian emergency plan also provides for the delivery of psycho-social assistance to victims and the reconstitution of lost or damaged civil status or identification documents.
Regarding the implementation of the action plan, the PM said an ad-hoc Committee under the authority of the Minister of Territorial Administration, assisted by the Minister of External relations, will be responsible for coordinating the humanitarian response to the situation in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.