The much awaited 11 February celebrations have come and gone unobserved in most parts of the South West region despite calls and threats made by administrative authorities and some regime barons intimidating schools and colleges to show up and march.
With the highly communicated ghost town message by the Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, most people in major divisional headquarters in the region stayed home. Every street corner was militarized and major ceremonial grounds were packed filled with military men ferried from elsewhere.
Mamfe’s celebration grounds deserted, only SDO, Mayor and a few security officials can be seen here in the ground stand.
At the regional capital, Buea, the Governor and Mayor tried to organize a march, but it turned out to be a sham as described by a student from the University of Buea. In the past, the turnout used to be massive, he said. But in the place of students, he said the Buea event saw many military men dressed in T-shirts posing as students. From their speech, well-shaved hair for both men and women, and their uncoordinated steps, which didn’t represent the Anglo-Saxon maneuvers, there was every reason to believe that these so-called students and youths were ferried from elsewhere.
In some schools like the Bulu Blind Center just about 12 persons represented the school, while the populated Public Works School, Buea Annex could only ferry in about 40 students mostly Francophones while other schools that were part of the occasion could only be represented by as low as 5 students. Generally, the march pass was uncoordinated, boys and girls could be seen marching on the same lane, something that has never happened. Majority of the students and youths were merely strolling passed the Governor, Okalia Bilai Bernard.
It was all ghost in the rest of Buea.
The scenario was worst in Kumba where many people preferred to remain indoors in strict respect of the ghost town. The famous grandstand was heavily militarized and just a handful of persons showed up for the March pass. Many empty seats could be seen at the grandstand and the parade lasted for less than an hour in a town that used to host parades for more than three hours. Worst still there was no brass band to grace the occasion, and people as few as five represented some schools that even bothered to be represented. In some cases, teachers march in the place of students. In the past, not less than four school band clubs used to animate march pass in Kumba.
While at the Manga Williams Avenue in Limbe, nothing seems to be happening. The chairs were well set and the area well decorated. In attendance were heavy military presence with a naked street. No sign of students or youth groups.
The boycott was also visible in rural areas where the heavy militarization instead forced the people indoors. In Eyumojock, a worker in one of the services presented a letter to our reporter signed by the DO asking them to turn up and march or face the consequences. However, their hierarchy asked them to defy the DO’s orders because he would not be responsible for them should anything happen.
In most areas of Lebialem, there was no march pass at all. Some persons we spoke to in these areas did not even know there is 11 February celebration. The SDO for Lebialem was nowhere to be found. The Francophone section of GBHS Menji had been burnt down the previous day.
Prior to today, authorities in the South West region had gone out promising huge packages to people and students who show up to march. In some cases threats were also dished out.
A student from the University of Buea confessed to us how he was accosted by guards at the entrance of UB promising him some huge financial benefit if he joins the marching train on the D-Day. “I passed as if he was not talking to me, no matter the amount of money, I can’t sell my conscience,” he said. Even the threats of sanctions did not move some teachers who spoke to us in Buea and Limbe. In one government school in Limbe (names withheld), the teachers made a mockery of the Principal when he asked them to march.
Even though state Television heralded the Buea event as a big success, the bogus nature of the celebrations would send a strong message to the government that Anglophones are more determined than ever.
By Tapuka Gerald, February 11, 2017