Barrister Agbor Nkongho Balla in his 27th June, 2018 statement to the United States Congress maintained that almost 1000 Southern Cameroonians were murdered on 1st October 2017 when citizens went out peacefully to demonstrate. In categorically stating this as the apex which escalated the crisis, Agbor Nkongho painted the right picture when he wrote “On October 1st, 2017 the people of Southern Cameroons in their millions peacefully went out to symbolically declare independence from The Republic of Cameroon. It was a peaceful demonstration that saw the young, the old, women and children come out to create a new country called AMBAZONIA. This day goes down in history as very symbolic for the people and also very bloody. The military responded by shooting unarmed civilians at close range and according to amnesty, over 44 people were shot dead that day, however Centre for Human Rights and Democracy documented almost 1000 killed…” continue reading Balla’s take on US Congress
Tensions started to gain momentum in May 2015, when Common Law lawyers (after a meeting in Bamenda) sent a memorandum to the head of state asking him to review the Southern Cameroons identity in the union. This was a direct consequence of the systematic and continuous dilution of the common law practice in Southern Cameroons by civil law trained magistrates who couldn’t speak or understand the English language. It is worth mentioning that, English language is the natural language of expression in the Anglophone regions. Thus dispensing justice in a language the people do not understand was tantamount to injustice.
The letter of the lawyers saw no response, neither in action or administrative formalities. One year later, the lawyers met in Buea and made a second declaration reaffirming that initial declaration made one year ago. Still, there was total silence, nonchalance and disregard.
In October 2016, the Common Law Lawyers decided to call for an indefinite peaceful strike. They were met with heavy repression from the central government. Lawyers were beaten and professional regalia seized. The people were still on the watch and were totally disappointed with the treatment given lawyers.
By November 21st 2016, after a series of warnings, the teachers of the English Educational subsystem decided to down their tools for an indefinite strike. At this point, it had moved from Common Law Lawyers to teachers and again due to the high handedness of the regime, no solution was given to the request of the teachers. It soon moved into a community problem for all Southern Cameroonians. There were many questions than answers. The police brutality and political denial of the problem further estranged the people.
The crisis reached its peak and collective acceptance from all Southern Cameroonians in December 2016 when an Anglophone Civil Society Consortium was formed to speak on behalf of the Southern Cameroons which I was the president. On the 8th of December 2016, some 4 protesters were killed in Bamenda raising more questions from the people. Government then started dialogue with Consortium leaders in December 2016. But after failing to convince them of any concrete and factual decision taken, the government turned around and arrested these leaders from Buea and Bamenda and were taken to Yaoundé and tried in a military court. It must be mentioned here that, these people were arrested from an Anglophone region and deported to a Francophone region where the language of expression is French, thereby validating the very grievances raised by Anglophones.
These leaders were arrested alongside many other peaceful activist majority of whom have been sentenced to 15 years in jail. Thousands of such activists are still in prison in Yaounde and across the countries, some missing or in mass graves. Some have had their fate decided using the inhumane anti-terrorism law giving them heavy jail terms. Within this period, there were still continuous arrests and killings.
Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has documented more than 1200 detainees in several prisons across the country all linked to peaceful protests or activism.
Two Crucial Moments
1. On October 1st, 2017 the people of Southern Cameroons in their millions peacefully went out to symbolically declare independence from The Republic of Cameroon. It was a peaceful demonstration that saw the young, the old, women and children come out to create a new country called AMBAZONIA. This day goes down in history as very symbolic for the people and also very bloody. The military responded by shooting unarmed civilians at close range and according to amnesty, over 44 people were shot dead that day, however Centre for Human Rights and Democracy documented almost 1000 killed. This was done under the control and coordination of an interim government.
2. On January 5th, 2018 some leaders who formed an interim government were arrested in Nigeria and deported to Cameroon. They have since been held incommunicado. Nobody has seen them, no sign of life and no access to lawyers, or family members. The Red Cross has not been able to have contact with them. This further intensified a military campaign by civilians, supported by the diaspora to fight for their rights, protect the innocent people that were been killed, protect families that were burnt in houses by the Cameroonian military.
By Agbor Nkongho Balla
To be continued