BUEA, Cameroon — A soldier’s crumpled corpse at a traffic circle. Young men gunned down in their living room while partying. A teenage boy killed by a stray bullet while watching television. Outbursts of gunfire so frequent that children call them “frying popcorn.”
The horrors residents recount here at the base of cloud-covered Mount Cameroon are part of a conflict that has been upending the English-speaking regions of this country in recent months.
Cameroon is still grappling with a tangled colonial past that involved three European powers — Germany, France, and Britain — and in recent years, it has become a vital partner of the United States in the battle against Islamist extremism in Africa.
Now, the country is on the brink of civil war.
It's like that comes in our wake no matter where we go.
Longstanding anger at the government has erupted into one of the nation’s biggest uprisings in decades. Separatists are waging a violent battle to break away and form their own country, called Ambazonia. The estimated 2,000 fighters are armed mostly with homemade guns and take orders from activists living overseas.
Known locally as “Amba boys,” the separatists are up against a US- and Israeli-trained elite military force that has been widely accused of human rights abuses. The government crackdown has been ruthless, with residents and local officials providing frequent accounts of troops burning homes and buildings in more than 100 villages, indiscriminately shooting or detaining civilians, and sometimes executing innocent young men as they search for separatists who scurry away into the dense forest after attacks.
Must be why we never see much about Cameroon, 'eh?
Tens of thousands of people have fled English-speaking areas to get away from the violence and about 400 civilians have died, according to an Amnesty International estimate, a figure that doesn’t include security forces and separatists who have been killed in battle.
In the middle of this melee, the country is trying to hold an election. One of the world’s longest-serving presidents, Paul Biya, 85, who has already been in office 36 years, is asking voters to give him seven more Sunday. Biya has been in office so long that most of the nation’s population has known no other leader.
Biya has been traveling the country to rally support in a contest expected to be highly lopsided given his tight grip on the nation. Separatists have vowed to do all they can to disrupt the vote, escalating an already volatile situation.
Cameroon is already fighting another war — against Islamist extremists in the region. In the north, Americans have provided the country with military equipment to battle Boko Haram as the war has spilled across the Nigerian border.
Time to head for the airport.
Mindful of its shaky international reputation, Biya’s government has hired a Washington public relations firm, after another signed and then quickly dropped him as a client, but the election will do little to settle the uprising against Biya in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions, contiguous areas along the Nigerian border. Turnout in them is expected to be extremely low — largely because few people are left to vote. In some areas, locals officials estimate more than 90 percent of residents have fled.
That's the solution to any problem!
Communities like Ekona, a small town near a dormant rubber plantation, have been completely abandoned. Burned homes, crushed tin shacks that housed businesses, and a blackened beer truck attest to the fierce battles here. Many of the concrete homes and stores along the road were riddled with large bullet holes.
Ekona had been a flash point of fighting. A military captain blamed the damage on separatists, accusing them of lashing out at residents who didn’t respect their calls to create a “ghost town,” by abandoning the streets and staying home, but local news reports offered a much different explanation: a gun battle between separatists and security forces in June that sent residents escaping into the forest.
I'm more inclined to trust them now rather than the national outfits like the Bo$ton Globe, NYT, WaComPo, etc.
English-speaking areas make up a fifth of the population, and with their palm oil, rubber, and banana plantations they are a significant contributor to Cameroon’s economy. Most of those operations are now closed because of the violence.
Residents of Anglophone areas began protesting two years ago, saying they were tired of teachers and judges who did not speak English well but were being appointed to their schools and courts nonetheless. After the government’s security forces opened fire on people at rallies, separatists armed themselves.
The protests were part of a broad sense of marginalization that had been mounting since the post-World War I era, when the League of Nations appointed France and England as joint trustees of what was then German Kamerun. Colonialists pushed their own cultures on each region.
Though the nation officially recognizes both languages, Biya, who governs from the French-speaking capital of Yaoundé, has concentrated power and resources in Francophone areas, while people in Anglophone regions complain bitterly about unpaved roads and a lack of other infrastructure.
Separatists in some areas, including the English-speaking city of Bamenda, have blocked roads by felling trees and destroying bridges in an attempt to thwart soldiers from what is expected to be a major offensive, but the actions have also trapped civilians who are desperate to flee.
Some others don’t want to leave.....
People seldom want to leave their homes.
"Armed Anglophone separatists burned buses and blocked traffic in the capital of the English-speaking northwest region, Cameroon’s military said Sunday as it deployed troops. Separatists said the action in Bamenda was meant to disrupt next month’s presidential election; they say voting can’t take place in what they call the independent state of Ambazonia. The months of deadly unrest in Cameroon pose a serious challenge to 85-year-old President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982 and is running again. The government has sought to assure voters they will be protected. The unrest began in 2016 when English speakers began calling for greater autonomy in the French-speaking country. The United Nations says 300 people have died."
They just don't understand each other.
"Boko Haram defeated, Cameroon’s leader says" Associated Press September 30, 2018
YAOUNDE, Cameroon — President Paul Biya, 85, said Boko Haram has been defeated in Cameroon, the first such announcement since he declared war on the extremist group four years ago.
He spoke during his first visit to the Far North region since 2012 as he campaigned on Saturday ahead of the Oct. 7 election. He has been in power since 1982 and is likely to win again; the opposition has been unable to put forward a strong candidate.
Security is a major issue in Cameroon, a US and French military ally, as it also faces a bloody English-language separatist movement.
According to the Sunday article, it's mostly government forces doing such things.
Biya said he would focus on rebuilding what was destroyed in the Far North ‘‘now that terrorism has been defeated.’’
The region for years has been the target of attacks by Boko Haram fighters from Nigeria. Nearly a quarter-million people in Cameroon have been displaced.
Globe never told me who won.
"Voting appeared to be peaceful on Saturday in Sierra Leone’s runoff presidential election, which had been delayed a few days after a court challenge of the first round. Turnout was lower than in the first round on March 7. The West Africa nation is still rebuilding after the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic and a mudslide in August that killed 1,000. The opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party took 43.3 percent to the ruling All Peoples Congress party’s 42.7 in round one (AP)."
"Moroccan state television reported that at least 15 people were killed and 5 others injured Sunday in a stampede as food aid was being distributed in the village of Sidi Boulalam, in the southern province of Essaouira. Distributions of food aid are common in the North African nation, notably in remote parts of the country. They are organized by private sponsors and groups as well as by the authorities.
In a separate development Sunday....."
Look what they found in South Africa.
Zuma is under fire, and I guess they will never learn.