Traveling by Road from War-torn Southern Cameroons to Nigeria – A Dangerous
As colonial Paul Biya’s occupational war in the Southern Cameroons rages on, all the signs of a war-torn region are now clearly visible along major roads across the occupied territory. Deserted roadside towns and villages, burned villages, skeletons of burned trucks/vehicles and big logs of wood are the most commonly seen features along the roads as one travels across the territory of Ambazonia. The situation is even worst, as one travels by road from the Southern Cameroons Port city of Victoria to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
BaretaNews correspondent recently undertook a trip to the Southern Cameroons Refugee Settlement in Nigeria and presents a firsthand experience of the nightmares many Ambazonians go through every day as the warring parties – French Cameroun’s colonial terrorists and the restoration forces of Ambazonia engage each other in bloody skirmishes.
As one drives from Victoria into Mutengene, Miles 14, 16 and Muea in Buea, the lukewarm and deserted nature of theses once hustling and bustling towns and villages tells the story that all is not well. Entering the famous Ekona town, no one needs to be told that it is a tensed battle grown. Travelers are first of all welcomed by a mixed control post of colonial forces who often ask all passengers out of the vehicles for identification.
Male passengers are the most scrutinized and any suspiciously looking passenger is sent to meet the boss sitting far away from the scene, who does further screening on the passenger by asking the individual to undress for possible identification of anti-bullets ritual marks or amulets. He also collects and browse through his phone to examining it content. Sited on one of the makeshift benches at the control posts were two young men who were said to have been caught with “incriminating” pictures and WhatsApp messages. That’s their phones were said to contain pictures and WhatsApp messages related to the ongoing war. It’s clear Southern Cameroonians no longer have their privacy as colonial forces harass passengers by arrogantly browsing their telephones on highways.
Driving through Ekona, Muyuka, Malende, Mbalangi and Ediki, one sees nothing but complete devastation and desolate communities. Skeletons of burned vehicles, bullet shells and pellets are littered on the road, while makeshift colonial military cantonments have been set up in several strategic junctions along the road. Just about five hundred meters after one of the colonial military checkpoints along the Buea-Kumba road, our vehicle bombed into a road block with logs of wood and used tires. As the driver slowed down, he alerted the passengers in pidgin English; “Any man hold e support for hand”, meaning passengers should all take out their financial support for the Ambazonian Restoration fighters.
Two AK 47 wielding men suddenly emerged from the nearby bush on both sides of the road and were followed by two others with locally made guns. “Any Ekelebe (referring to French Cameron Soldiers) inside this motor”? “No one no dey Sir, the driver responded. Wuna trowey support for ground, the driver beckoned on the passengers” and that’s how some passengers responded by sending their hands out through the windows to drop whatever financial support they had for the boys, and the driver speed-off.
Driving from Kumba to Mamfe, is another nightmare. The situation is not different from that between Victoria and Kumba. More than 90 percent of the road side villages and towns along this road are completely deserted by the population. Examples of such include; Wone, Konye, Nguti, Mayemen, Babensi 1 & 2 amongst others. Upon arriving Tinto, in upper Bayang of Manyu County, all vehicles are parked and passengers sleeping inside the different vehicles. The time is 9:30 PM. After asking some questions, BaretaNews team was told that when its above 8 PM, no vehicle enters Mamfe town. These are strict instructions from the colonial military in Manyu County.
Its day break and the journey continued from Bakebe to Ekok, Southern Cameroon’s border town with Nigeria. In a very intense colonial military checkpoint in Okoyong, all the signs of a battle zone are visible – a deserted roadside community, with most buildings carrying bullet holes. The driver of the vehicle told BaretaNews that skirmishes take place in that area nearly every week and many colonial forces have lost their lives at that particular checkpoint due to surprised attacks from the Ambazonia fighters, who often attack from a hilly environment around the checkpoint. Why the colonialists have continued to maintain that check point despite the frequent attacks is what we did not understand. From Mamfe town to Ekok, the road is completely taken over my occupational forces as they mounted multiple checkpoints on the road.
Returning to Southern Cameroons from Nigeria using the same route was even a worst of nightmares. Colonial forces at each checkpoint had to ransack the luggage of passengers to be sure they are not transporting arms and ammunitions. Vehicles spent a lot of time on these checkpoints offloading for regular checks before loading again. In some cases, caned drinks and other edibles are collected from businessmen and women returning from their business trips in Nigeria. As our vehicle arrived a heavily armed checkpoint at the road junction to Kembong and other surrounding villages, one could see the road littered with bullet shells, while some fresh blood could be seen on the tar mark.
The colonial forces were looking very alert and wounded. After a hasty check of our luggage and identification papers, the driver was asked to go. As we kicked off, one of the male passengers made us to understand that the blockade on the road the previous day that had prevented movement was due to a bloody battle that took place at that checkpoint early in the morning. According to the passenger, six colonial gendarmerie offices lost their lives while two others were wounded after the Amba boys carried out a surprised attack from from a nearby bush.
“If not of God, we would have all be killed by these people yesterday… our vehicle ran into the fighting and the driver was confused and they asked him to immediately make a U-turn and go back to Ekok.” Said a lady passenger. As we drove out of Manyu County, we met a convoy of 10 Hillux of BIR soldiers escorting a BIR marked container into Mamfe. They were probably bringing in supplies for their colleagues. The road from Mamfe to Muea in Buea was full with many newly mounted road blocks and trucks still on flames.
Many people especially the international community seem to be undermining the intensity and seriousness of the conflict following their suspicious silence. But it is important to state here that the situation remains very grave. Every community in Southern Cameroons that we talked to now seems to have an armed group fighting the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons. From the experience of this writer from Victoria to Ekok, it is illusionary for any one to claim that Mr. Biya’s colonial forces can ever succeed in containing this armed insurrection in Southern Cameroons. The colonial force is already over stretched and the more innocent male Ambazonian civilians they kill every day, the more Amba recruits they make possible.
As we talk with some of the adolescent men especially in the rural communities, they expressed their willingness to become fighters to defend their vulnerable communities which have often come under the attack and decimation by colonial forces. What seems to be stopping them is the fact that they don’t yet have the necessary gadgets to engage. Like the former United States’ Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Cohen once noted; it is an unwinnable war by both sides and only a negotiated settlement with international mediation shall bring an end to this conflict.
James Agbor BaretaNews Political Analyst