On my way to Bui division
On the 14th of March around 7 am, the Bishop of Kumbo came to Bamenda at the Bishop’s House, to transport us, that is, I and Cardinal Christian Tumi, the divisional capital of Bui. The Bishop of the Kumbo diocese is a courageous man. Besides the Senior Divisional Officer of Bui and several heads of the military, the Bishop of Kumbo is the only high personality left in a town that appears as though it has fallen in the hands of an invading army. She is desolate. The town which produced the first football club in Anglophone Cameroon to win the Cameroon Cup and the only Cardinal in the country has lost its luster.
Bishop of Kumbo
As for the Bishop of Kumbo, seems to know all the Amba boys and the regular military along the road, as we drove. And both belligerent forces respect him. The only modicum of respect and humanity left in both belligerent forces and also a sign that, there is hope. I also noticed that, Kumbo’s Bishop travels with a bag full of rosaries that he gives out to Amba boys and regular army alike, not after having advised the first to abandon their rifles and the second, to refrain from burning houses and killing people willy-nilly.
After ditching out advice, he offers both prayers and benedictions. On this trajectory I was also convinced that, Cameroonian security forces in spite all the propaganda and refusal to face the reality from the central government, they can’t win militarily and I think the infantry men and women I saw, knew that, it is only through dialogue that normalcy can return in this restive land. The Army knew that, Amba boys had check points erected before or after theirs. Some even told us in French before we could get to the next Amba boys check point that: Les Ambas sont devant, soyez prudent. To which the Cardinal snapped back in French: Que faite vous alor ici mes enfants?
The soldiers responded in unison: Nous somme des soldats si nos patrons nous des orders nous les executon simplement. The Bishop of Kumbo understands the reasons behind the rise of armed Anglophone movements generically referred to as Amba boys. The Ambas are not a marauding band, but they can on occasion be violent and ruthless, ironically with those they rose up to protect and defending from those they refer to as La Republique soldiers. However, while the Bishop understands them, as a man of God, he doesn’t support the violent tilt the movement has taken. The mutual killings, the hates, the envies and the destructions that the weaponisation of the resistance has created exasperate him and many others.
The State can’t win this war
As I saw military and Amba control points succeeding each other on the 110km Bamenda-Kumbo road and this, in spite the presence of a mobile armed convoy of the Rapid Intervention Brigade or BIR,I concluded that, unlike the triumphant speeches of Cameroon’s minister of territorial administration, Paul Atanga Nji, the central government was gradually losing control of a large swath of land to the rag tag band of young men and women in arms who were devoid of any ideological background but driven by anger and despair.
My perception along the road was reminiscent to what I had seen and written about Mueli and Muyenge, in the South West, two miniature territories controlled by the Amba boys with their courts and prisons. Strangely enough, Mueli and Muyenge are not far from Idenau, which has one of the largest military bases in Anglophone Cameroon. Like Cameroonians soldiers on the Bamenda-Kumbo road, those at Idenau seem not to have the zeal to fight a war created by politicians in Yaoundé.
The current war is a war of attrition, with no certain victor or vanquish. Regarding Mueli and Muyenge, they were what I referred to as the embryonic Ambazonia, where the new rulers can’t run schools but imposed fines between FCFA 500,000 to FCFA 1000000 to any farmers desiring to export or sell his or her cocoa to Douala. It was a harbinger for what to expect if what appears currently as an illusion or a dream actualises one day.
To their discharge, the Amba boys of Mueli and Muyenge are not alone, even the regular Army are also involved in this racketeering of farmers and the poor masses. Between Bamenda and Kumbo, the distance is about 110km of mostly macadamized road. The journey helped me to discover once again that, the government was lying about the reality. The government’s perception was different from the reality on the ground.
To be continued