Peace and Security, a Dream in the Blues for Anglophone Cameroonians

This blog is part of a series of stories that came from Our Secure Future’s partner World Pulse, who assisted in collecting stories for the Women, Peace and Security Global Polling Project.

This blog is part of a series of stories that came from Our Secure Future’s partner World Pulse, who assisted in collecting stories for the Women, Peace and Security Global Polling Project. To view these results, click here. To view this story on World Pulse’s website, click here

Having lived for sixteen years in the economic capital city of Cameroon, Douala, I moved to Yaoundé, Cameroon’s political capital city in 2006, where I’ve spent the better part of my days. I seldom travel but only did if I had an Emcee job to deliver. Apart from Douala and Yaoundé, most Emcee jobs took me to Buea, the capital city of the South West Region, or Bamenda, the chief town of the North West Region of Cameroon. Whenever I received that call to host an event out of town, it was a great touristic trip for me as I used the opportunity to discover the town in question.

I remember when I visited Buea for the first time in 2015, I was a total stranger. The clean straight streets, the cold breeze, the stony ground and the friendly pidgin speaking hookers who kept screaming “congo meat, congo meat” (snails) were a warm embrace. I had vowed to deal with the “nyama” (another name for snails) once I stepped foot at the Mile 17 moto park but the enthusiasm could not permit me to eat up to ten sticks. I was however happy, somewhat accomplished; there I was in Buea, the much heard-about town with high profile girls commonly referred to as slay queens.

Gazing through the glass window of my brothers’ three-bedroom apartment, a beautiful view of the town I had. Such a fine apartment and relatively cheap. No one will give you such a house in Yaoundé for that amount of money, not even by charm.  Quickly, I dressed to hit the mic at the event that brought me to town. I knew just a few people in town but the night was long, fun but freezing too. Each time I tried to loosen up and dance, the icy-cold climate would remind me that “hey you are in Buea”.

Practically the same feeling I had in Bamenda. Just, the climate in Abakwa (the popular name for Bamenda) is frosty and piercing. At this time, Yaounde had become humid so, visiting Bamenda meant no contact with cold bathing water, I could kill for a cup or two of warm water.

I had more friends and acquaintances in Bamenda, they made me discover amazing places like the Saddle Hill Range where we rode in small tractors. Entering into one of the very popular snack bars in town, Njieforbi, the friendly ambiance was well coordinated than what Yaounde offered and there was no fear in staying out late. No unexpected gunshots and unwarranted arrests. It was 3 am, my folks and I strolled back home, safe and sound “gisting” at the top of our voices. We were in our country, we felt at home.

But soon, the friendliness that characterized these towns was gone, late nights out with pals is not a thing to dream about anymore. The dust that rose while children played in it is permanently asleep as the former have been deprived of the innocence of childhood by a diehard government that has given deaf hear to the people’s plea. Formal education which is a fundamental human right has been forcefully taken away from them with no hope of return. Happiness and liveliness have long traveled and young hearts have been sold to war, bent on fighting with the last drop of their sweat to regain their motherland which has been misused, assimilated and tortured.

Though longstanding, the Anglophone crisis took a lethal turn in 2016 when what was a peaceful protest by lawyers and teachers of the two English speaking regions of Cameroon, demanding the reorganization of the English sub-system of Education and the common law judicial system, soon escalated into an armed conflict. As usual, the Biya government thought it was one of those mushroom strikes that would rise and be quenched with threats and counterfeited promises. As the protest persisted, the ruling regime started arresting and detaining Anglophone journalists, activists and shutting down media organs that seem like a threat to their maneuvers not sparing internet service either which totally shut the Anglophone regions from the rest of the world. But, the truth will always meander its way to the light.

Within the conflict, other revolutions emerged like the “coffin revolution” of Mancho Bibixi, an intransigent fighter who bought a coffin of his size, gathered a mob, standing inside the coffin, made daring declarations that spread with the speed of light.  Having escaped death from the hands of the Cameroonian military forces, he was snared in to arrest and flung into jail thence. Nonetheless, you might kill a leader but never can you kill his ideology in the mind of his followers. Seeing the arrest of their acclaimed leaders, the separatist group of Ambazonia became even the more bent on separating the English Regions from the rest of the national territory.

With the escalation of the socio-political crisis in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon and the October seven presidential elections presenting a further threat of increased conflict, the social unrest in that part of the country is worth noting. As the economic situation of the Anglophone regions become even more deplorable, coupled with incessant curfews from government delegates and governors of the regions which caused life and business to move at a snail pace, over 160,000 Anglophone Cameroonians have been forced out of their homes to seek shelter in the forests and more than 26,000 have become refugees in neighbouring Nigeria. These set of people have become known as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); from a newborn to the grey-haired.

Feka Parchibell Parch is a mother of one, female entrepreneur and the founder of Hope for Vulnerables and Orphans (HOVO), a not for profit organisation that provides reusable sanitary pads and other personal hygiene items to women and girls in low-income areas. Due to the increasing upheavals in the Anglophone regions, she became an Internally Displaced. She lives in the uncertain bushes with hundreds of other people, young and old.

“I was forced to flee my house because I received death threats. My family and I were no longer safe, so we had to take to the forest. My daughter had to stop school like every other child in the region, she is traumatised. Like the activist that I am, I will continue calling on the Cameroon Government and the Anglophone leaders to give peace a chance. Only meaningful and inclusive dialogue will resolve this problem. Let them all keep ego aside and look at the suffering and dying masses, a people they are supposed to serve.” She speaks

Just like many other Internally Displaced Persons, Feka hopes to regain her freedom and pursue her projects peacefully. 

Relentlessly, the groups that have emerged to advance the Anglophone rights have so far advocated different interest points. A majority advocate for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, but as government repression augmented, groups that push for secession have become even more eminent. And the promising life of the younger generation is dragged between the two. While some advocate for federalism, others call for secession and the establishment of an independent state called “Ambazonia” which already has an interim government.

The Ambazonian fighters have been stamped terrorists by the Biya government, comparing them to Boko Haram and declared war on them.  Actions taken by the government and the armed separatist group continue to worsen. What lies ahead? Hope! Had the government engaged the initial protest by lawyers and teachers, the jacked-up crisis may have been averted.

As the long-awaited October 7 draws near, many fear for their lives. Ndicham hails from the North West Region but lives and works for an old man and his sick wife in the South West Region of Cameroon where he has found a home, made a family of his own. But the fear and uncertainty of times push many like him to relocate to the forest.

"We are not safe anymore, we don't know what might happen the next minute. I found a place far away into the forest where I am presently building a hut for my physically impaired boss, his wife, my own wife and my children so we can quickly move into the bush in case our village gets invaded by the military force. The village next to ours has been completely burnt down, so we don't know, our village might be the next. It is better we take measures to move now before we get killed unexpectedly. Life has become so insecure. We go to sleep in fear and are angry to wake up because suddenly, our dreams have become more peaceful and secured than our reality" He laments

With October seven in mind, the outcome of the votes may amount to increased tensions. Avoiding an uprising of this kind, and successfully changing the state of the current situation, requires selfless dialogue between Anglophone activists and the Cameroonian government.