Kumbo Town is the second largest town in the North West Region of Cameroon, one of the restive English-speaking regions clamouring for autonomy. In recent times it has become an epicentre in the on-going conflict between Cameroon military forces and restorationist forces of the putative Republic of Ambazonia, often known as the Amba Boys. An unprecedented wave of violence has taken the town captive and is rooted in the New Year's message of President Paul Biya as he approaches his 86th birthday, to use crude military force to quell the uprising if the terrorist/rebels do not lay down their arms.
In the early hours of January 1st, at 00.05am, to show allegiance to Biya (now in power for over 26 years), there was a deafening and frightful salvo of gunshots in all military facilities in the town causing the inhabitants flee to safety. The war had started.
The Score Board
In this month of January 2019 areas of the town such as Mbev, Ndzenji, Squares, SAC Junction, Mantum, Ber, and Meluf have been deprived of the right to own and live in decent houses. The conflagration of military fire has reduced many houses to ashes and forced many people to flee to unknown destinations, paving the way for mass looting from the forces of lawlessness and disorder. Many doors of houses are standing ajar after their crude acts. Soldiers come in waves and depart with looted material, especially Android appliances and food items. This probably is a well orchestrated and planned tool and strategy in this war of attrition. Target killings, extra-judicial execution, disappearances and abductions have become the hallmark of their presence.
In Mbve on January 18th, a pregnant nurse on her way to resume work at Shisong General Hospital was mercilessly gunned down by soldier from a rooftop.
Two days later an early dawn raid was effected by the military within the premises of Shisong Hospital causing double trauma for the hospital patients as well as the Cardiac Unit. A young Internally Displaced boy of 17 who had never witnessed heavy military presence ran into the house where he was hosted for safety, but was unfortunately pulled out and riddled with bullets beyond recognition. Shisong, which hosted many IDPs, is experiencing a re-displacement, making a bad case worse. There is almost daily military presence and shooting around the hospital in the night and the IDPs plus their hosts have all flocked into the wards. No one can be certain of what is to come. There is an atmosphere of foreboding. Everyone seems resigned to their fate. The military units making their entry from the West Region into Kumbo are leaving behind a trail of destruction of houses beyond imagination. Food stuff for people's consumption is set ablaze. This is scorched earth policy. The civilians must pay the price.
January 21st a young bike rider at Squares-Kumbo round-about, who had just dropped off a passenger, ran into a military convoy returning from Shisong and was pulled off his bike and slaughtered with impunity. In Tankum Quarter, the story was no different; two young boys in their teens had their throats slit open by the military on allegations of being Amba affiliates. Minutes later military canisters were directed to another quarter, Kongir, setting a house ablaze, killing a two year old child therein, and wounding the sister and mother, who were lying in bed. Also, women have been raped with impunity. Goats and chickens have equally paid a price with their lives for roaming freely in town. They are shot and packed into military vans possibly for consumption. Beer parlours with stocks of beer that have been locked are invaded by these unfriendly visitors who consume the stock to excess and then shatter the remains into bits and pieces, thereby ruining the business of a proprietor.
Kumbo Town which used to be bustling with activity has become a dead town, a ghost town, a town abandoned to fate. About seven out of every ten houses have been abandoned. Frequent electricity black-outs or cuts are alarming. The cost of petrol and diesel has risen to absurd heights. The prices of basic foodstuffs have risen considerably. Getting water for use and consumption has become a Herculean task. Many people die in homes because they cannot afford the means to reach hospital. Many pregnant women have escaped into the bushes and far off villages for safety, disregarding anti-natal checks and clinics.
Commercial activities are at a standstill, with a gross shortage of basic commodities - even those that are available are sold at unbearable prices. Educational facilities are completely shut down and unemployment has soared. Dead IDPs are buried in the absence of relations by people of good will. Houses along the main road in the town are branded with bullet holes. Civilian farms within the precincts of military facilities have been torched and destroyed in order to create a buffer zone. Fugitives and IDPs moving into other regions are not free from harassment and death-threats. In Douala, IDPs are forced to pay a tax before being accommodated. Some are demeaned through innuendo and ethnic slurs. Many people wearing clothing of certain colours have become targets for the military. Wearers of black, the classic icon of tough guys, and red the emblematic insignia of Amba Boys, have become targets for elimination by the military. Bike Riders have not been spared from this fate.
On the other hand, Amba Boys that shoot for restoration forces, though defending and fighting for the marginalised, have equally left their own mark. Government sympathisers and those critical of them are whisked-off to unknown destinations where they are tortured beyond recognition and released only when a ransom is paid. They have frequently interrupted the little attempted commercial activity with death threats. Any Amba critic or sell-out receives the crown of brutality from the Amba Fist of Fury. Transit fees/fares demanded by Amba affiliates are heartbreaking. Moving from one Administrative Division to another is a nightmare with numerous check-points for both Amba and military forces. Having identity papers with a Cameroon Government Logo is nauseating and acrimonious to Amba Boys and a lack of them at Cameroon Government checkpoints is an occasion for arrest, torture, incarceration and death. This is the predicament of the inhabitants of Kumbo.
Reflection: "Actions that are designed for the methodical extermination of an entire people, nation or ethnic minority are always to be condemned as horrendous crimes" (Gaudium et Spes 79). "Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation" (Gaudium et Spes 80). The obligation of preventing war lies on all nations. A world organisation that has Supreme legitimacy and authority seem to be the most apt means of preventing war and promoting peace.
Conclusion: Pride which is the spurious feeling of superiority leads to errors of judgement with the consequences of disgrace, destruction, opposition and downfall. There is the need for upgrading the call to the international community to intervene and force the warring parties to the bargaining table in an inclusive dialogue; for the pen is mightier than the sword. If the present trend of events continues unabated, there will surely be a replay of the Rwandan episode, plunging the entire Central African Sub-region into a morass. A stitch in time saves nine! For now, "as wanton boys are to the flies so are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport."
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