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Pirate Attacks: The New Reality Biya Must Face 

By Peterkins Manyong

In our last analysis, it was stated that criminality originates from the mind and that a hostile environment only acts as a catalyst to it. This week we are elaborating on this theme with a special focus on attacks by pirates, the latest challenge the Cameroonian security forces are facing.

The issue became really occupying when the pirates carried out a successful operation at ECOBANK in Bonaberi, Douala, after snuffing life out of five persons and carting away over FCFA 200 million. They started in Limbe where they also operated for approximately three hours and carted away gargantuan sums of money from Amity Bank.

Next, they raided a gendarme post in Bamusso Subdivision in Ndian; taking advantage of the high tides, and went away with large quantities of ammunition. Not long after they captured two expatriate experts working on the CDC oil mill in Illoani. The capture of more than a dozen people including a Mayor and a Gendarmerie Brigade Commander followed later.

The ECOBANK raid was, therefore, the fifth operation, which the pirates successfully undertook. What is really worth noting here is that the bank raids were not swift operations. Three hours is enough time for a housewife to purchase foodstuff in the market, prepare it and the family eats and take a nap. If the operations took place when there were yet no cell phones, in an area like Furu-Awa in Menchum Division, delay would have been understandable. Why then were the pirates not confronted?

The answer is obvious: fear. Our security men are so accustomed to confronting civilians that they are at a great disadvantage when relied upon to confront fellow professionals. When called upon to intervene in cases of armed burglary a security official on duty excuses himself by saying he is alone. After the hoodlums had achieved their mission and gone, our brave cowards appear on the scene acting tough and harassing innocent civilians.

The story about 18 of the pirates being shot and killed on the high seas is certainly a fabricated account to save face. If this happened, why were the bodies of the dead pirates not displayed on television? Where is the booty or even part of it? In a democratic country, one where incompetence is sanctioned, the Minister of Defence and the Delegates General for National Security and the Gendarmerie would have been fired instantly. Rather Biya sent thieves to catch other thieves.

Besides cowardice, there is lack of patriotism. Biya erroneously thinks that placing the military on very high salary scales guarantees their loyalties and strengthens their determination to defend Cameroon’s territorial integrity.

Far from it. Most soldiers, like other Cameroonians, have large families, the majority of whom are jobless because of embezzlement by Biya’s cronies. They are, therefore, obliged to spend a sizeable portion of their earnings paying fees or catering not only for their children, but also for those of relatives. Most of those who rush to the banks for overdraft soon after receiving pay are soldiers.

As indicated by the International Crisis Group, which recently published a very damaging report on Cameroon, many segments of the Cameroon armed forces are vexed in spite of earning huge salaries because the Regime has created elite forces, for instance BIR, which are better equipped and financially better treated.

In addition, people don’t join the army and other security forces in Cameroon because they love those jobs or possess the urge to serve their nation. They do so because they need jobs. No inquiry is carried out to determine how morally upright the aspiring soldier, policeman or gendarme is. They are also promoted not on the basis of performance, but because of loyalty to the regime unlike what transpired in the days of these Marquis.

Then a soldier’s rank was uplifted because he succeeded in subduing any of the alleged terrorists. If bravery were the determining factor in Biya’s era, how come that pirates succeed with so much ease in a country with so many generals and after the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Cameroon armed forces, during which so many soldiers were decorated?

The truth is that pampered soldiers can’t be relied upon to defend a nation in times of crisis. Rebel groups perform better than such soldiers because they believe in the cause for which they are fighting, unlike those soldiers who fight because they are paid. A regular soldier goes to the battle front with the hope of coming back to his family. A rebel goes to kill or be killed.

In the case of Cameroonian soldiers and the pirates, there is, annoyingly, the element of corruption. Apart from the fact that most of the guns used have been seized from Cameroonian security operatives, like the ones from the gendarme post in Bamusso cited above, top Cameroonian military officials are alleged to have looted arms from the country’s military  headquarters during the Bakassi crisis and traded them off to the Niger Delta rebels.

There is no official indication that the suspects were tried or sanctioned. Biya, the Commander-in-Chief of Cameroon’s armed forces, cannot take the risk of doing so because Cameroon is a diarchy, a government in which civilians share power with the military.

A direct consequence of this indiscipline within our armed forces is the impunity with which the pirates have been acting. Already the street they used to operate at the ECOBANK branch in Bonaberi in Douala, has been nicknamed “Route de Pirates”. That is the impact the attacks by pirates have on the psyche of Cameroonians. 

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