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Fulani Herdsmen crisis - What's at stake?

FG sets up committee to tackle Herdsmen/Farmers conflict

The National Economic Council rose from its first meeting this year in the State House, Abuja, thursday and announced that it has set up a committee to address the protracted conflicts and bloodletting between herdsmen and farmers in the country.

Fulani Herdsmen crisis - What's at stake?
Farmer vs Herdsman. Photo: This Day

Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, Kano State governor, Ibrahim Ganduje, disclosed that the committee was mandated to collaborate with the federal government in addressing mindless killings and violence between the two groups, and according to him, the committee chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and consisting of nine state governors, will deploy attendant commitment to the task with a view to ensuring that those engaging in impunity and violence are severely punished.

He listed the nine other members of the committee as Governors Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Bindow Jubrilla (Adamawa) and Samuel Ortom (Benue).

Others include Darius Ishaku (Taraba), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), David Umahi (Ebonyi) and Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo)

Ganduje said: “On the farmers-herdsmen crisis, council constituted a working group to collaborate with the federal government in addressing the issue of impunity regarding the killings and violence.

“The committee consisting of nine governors, under the chairmanship of the vice-president, will work in accordance with commensurate commitment to ensure that all perpetrators of violence are brought to book.

“The committee consists of the governors of Zamfara, Kaduna, Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Edo, Plateau, Ebonyi and Oyo States. The committee has started its meeting right after this NEC meeting,” he said.

Ganduje who also gave an update on balances in three Federation Accounts up to January 15, 2018, said the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, told the council that so far, N700 million had been disbursed to 11 states which had complied with the requirements for the disbursement of the budget support facility.

According to him, the minister insisted that the remaining states must comply with the criteria for the disbursement of the facility, in accordance with the federal government’s fiscal sustainability plan.

“The Minister of Finance reported to council that the balance in the ECA (Excess Crude Account) as of 15th January, 2018 stood at $2.317 billion, the Stabilisation Account: N9.730 billion, and the Natural Resources Development Fund: N115.108 billion.

“The Minister of Finance informed the council that N700 million has been disbursed to 11 states and the states that have outstanding payments are required to meet and complete the necessary obligations before the disbursement is effected.

“The minister told the council that the criteria for disbursement is tied to the federal government’s fiscal sustainability plan which the NEC and state governors had already approved,” he said.

In his briefing, the governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, said the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, informed the council that the federal government was addressing the economic situation through the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020.

According to Umahi, the minister enumerated the drive for implementation of the plan to include: stabilising the macro-economic environment, achieving agriculture and food security, ensuring energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, improving transportation infrastructure and driving industrialisation with a focus on small and medium scale industries.

He added that the federal government was required to back its efforts in delivering the ERGP targets within the three years left and delivering quick and fast results on investments and job creations in some areas.

He listed such areas to include agriculture and transport, manufacturing and food processing, and power and gas.

According to him, focusing on these areas was meant to achieve two pillars: investment in critical projects and resolution of complex inter-agency problems which he said usually impede private sector investment.

“Council agreed that each state will have a contact point, which means that we will have 36 states plus the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) that will now start the process to implement these programmes with the Minister for Budget and National Planning,” Umahi added.

Furthermore, the Ebonyi governor said council approved the recommendations by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole and the Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), that between 0.5 and 1 per cent of the monthly allocations to the states be set aside to finance the implementation of a sustainable roadmap for tackling HIV/AIDS.

He also said council approved the recommendation for free antenatal services aimed at preventing the transmission of HIV from affected pregnant mothers to their babies.

He said council approved the presentations of the health minister and head of NACA for increased funding for HIV/AIDS treatment with a view to achieving the goal of eliminating the disease by 2030.

“Council considered an update on the need for domestic funding for the treatment of persons living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. The Minister of Health and Director-General of NACA made presentations seeking increased funding for HIV/AIDS services in Nigeria in order to achieve the goal of eliminating HIV/AIDS by the year 2030.

“The presentation stated that the increase would reduce the dependency on donor funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and the attendant development indicators. They also called for investment in HIV/AIDS treatment that will lead to increased life expectancy in the country and a proportionate increase in GDP.

“They added that the need to invest in HIV/AIDS treatment is important because donor funding is on the decline because of economic circumstances.

“Reducing the gaps between those who require HIV medicare and treatment and those who are actually able to access it is another reason adduced for increasing investment in HIV/AIDS.

“The presentation asked NEC to consider and approve the resolution of the 59th Council on Health that at least between 0.5 and 1 per cent of the monthly federal allocations to states be earmarked for financing the implementation of the HIV/AIDS sustainability roadmap.

“Council was also asked to consider and approve the universal free antenatal services and abolition of user fees associated with the prevention of mother to child transmission services.

“Council was also asked to request that the state health insurance scheme including HIV/AIDS is an indicator for both testing and treatment, particularly as it relates to the community health insurance programme. Council noted and approved the recommendations above as requested.

“Let me also state that the minister presented the emergency situation on Lassa Fever, especially in Ebonyi State, where some health workers died from the disease last week.

“So, the minister said that it was agreed that the federal government was going to intervene very quickly in the cases of Ebonyi and Ogun States where this epidemic has developed,” Umahi submitted.

A statement issued later by the vice-president’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the NEC was also briefed on how the federal government had committed N2.8 trillion to the construction of roads and bridges.

According to him, this commitment had made it difficult for the government to fund such projects from consolidated government budget in the country.

He said the situation forced the government to resort to bond financing for roads and tax credit schemes.

Part of the bond issues, he said, included the N100 billion Sukuk bond to fund 25 priority roads; private-public partnership arrangements and tax credit for organisations to fund highway projects; the Road Trust Fund (RTF) approved by Federal Executive Council (FEC); and tolling and load control at some selected locations nationwide with modern facilities.

Sultan Exonerates Miyetti Allah

But even as the federal and state governments set up a committee to resolve the violent conflicts between cattle herders and famers, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammad Sa’ad Abubakar III thursday exonerated the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria of the recent killings of farmers in some parts of the country, which has been blamed on members of the association.

The sultan, who is the grand patron of the association and spoke at the General Assembly of Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP), contended that the association has no control over any Fulani man.

Abubakar observed that rather than attributed the massacre of innocent lives to Miyetti Allah, the blame should be laid on criminal elements.

He urged the federal government and the security agencies to immediately fish out the perpetrators of the heinous crimes and prosecute them.

“How is it possible for Fulani to attack settlements or communities to carry out killings of innocent people, destroy property and disappear without trace?” the Sultan asked.

Sultan Abubakar said the Miyetti Allah was formed over 32 years ago to cater to the welfare and advance the growth of Fulani businesses.

He said any Fulani man carrying arms was not a member of the Miyetti Allah because the group, which is now under his leadership as grand patron, was never a criminal group.

Abubakar, who deplored those calling for the ban of the group, asked them to also call for the proscription of other socio-cultural organisations in the country.

He said: “Miyetti Allah doesn’t control any Fulani man. Calling for the proscription of Miyetti Allah is the equivalent of calling for the proscription of other ethnic organisations like Afenifere, ACF, Ohanaeze and others.

“It was formed 32 years ago and these crises were not there. I am the patron and we have never asked Fulani herdsman to kill anybody.

“Any Fulani man caught killing is a criminal and should be treated as such. What are the security agencies doing? If they have failed, they should accept that they have failed.

“What is going on is not an ethnic problem; it is not a religious problem. It is an economic problem.”

The sultan further harped on dialogue, adding: “What we need is to sit down and dialogue. As religious leaders, we have to be very careful with what we say, because it carries weight and our followers listen to us very seriously.

“We must believe in one another, trust and love ourselves because that is what our two major religions advocate. We must continue to speak with one voice. We should not be labelling everybody a criminal because his brother is a criminal.”

The traditional ruler also kicked against those who had advocated for the labelling of Miyetti Allah as a terrorist group.

“No, we are not terrorists and can’t join terrorism,” he said.

On the Benue killings, he said: “This thing didn’t start today. In the past eight years, I have been to Benue many times to discuss this issue. We met for hours and agreements were reached, yet nothing has been implemented. Why? The former governors of Benue are still alive and they know all this.

“Even the present governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom had written to me to come again on a peace mission, but we had not had the opportunity before this round of crisis.

“But we must get to the crux of this issue, how come these Fulani men are carrying guns without the security men knowing.

“I keep on repeating it, things are not okay, but they are not as bad as they are made to look especially on the social media. Let’s go round and speak to one another, not just staying in our comfort zones.”

In his submission at the event, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Dr. Samson Ayokunle accused some religious leaders of being insincere while commenting on the issue of the killing of innocent people in the country.

Ayokunle, represented by the Bishop of Yola, Bishop Stephen Manza, observed that as religious leaders, “we need to condemn evil in this country”.

“We are seated here today as religious leaders, but how sincere are we in what we say? Christians at all levels believe in peace. This is a time for us to speak with one voice.

“But my concern is whether we are sincere in what we are doing. We religious leaders, we deceive people a lot. We say one thing when we have another thing in mind. Our tribal and religious affiliations have overshadowed our Nigerianness.

“The problem is that we keep mute once a person is killed and a member of our faith is not the victim. Another thing is that we identify with people of our faith even when the person is doing the wrong thing.

“We all know that President Muhammadu Buhari is not handling the security situation in the country well but certain persons are not talking may be because he is a Muslim.

“And when Jonathan was there, some Christian leaders kept quiet because he is a Christian.”

The Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Dioceses, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, however, assured Nigerians that the problem of insecurity threatening the soul of the nation was surmountable if Nigerians built trust among themselves.

“There is nothing happening in this country now that is beyond us, it is within our hands. But just like the Bishop of Yola has said, we need sincerity.

“We shouldn’t be praying for peace, when in the real sense, we are the ones causing crises everywhere. Seeking for peace will bring peace if there is truth.

So, we must learn to build trust, trusting one another. We must join hands to do what is right,” he said.

Pregnant Woman Killed

However, as government and religious leaders tried to fashion out measures to stop the killings, a pregnant woman of Tiv origin was killed thursday by suspected cattle herders in Orin-Ekiti village, Ido-Osi Local Government Area of Ekiti State, barely a week after a herdsman was murdered in the Irele-Oke Ako axis of the state.

The woman, according to residents of the community, was shot dead before being hacked by those referred to by the locals as “Bororo (pastoralist) herdsmen” in the village’s farm settlement in the early hours of thursday.

The woman was said to have been shot in the head and her eyes plucked out.

Fayose had on Wednesday held a meeting with Fulani residents and those of Tiv ethnic stock from Benue State on the need for peaceful co-existence.

The meeting was held after the discovery of the dead herdsman in the Irele-Oke Ako community.

An indigene of the town, who was a former chairman of Ido/Osi Local Government Area, Mr. Sanmi Olubummo, and confirmed the killing of the pregnant woman on the phone, disclosed that another victim of the attack was receiving treatment at a hospital.

Olubummo said policemen from Ido-Ekiti divisional headquarters visited the scene of the killing, saying the situation was calm.

“The incident happened inside the Orin farm settlement. Nobody knows what led to the crisis in the early hours of Thursday but our people said the Bororo herdsmen killed the pregnant woman.”

SOURCE: This Day

War awaits as Niger Delta Avengers vow to attack oil companies within days

Nigerian militant group Niger Delta Avengers said on Wednesday it planned to launch attacks on the country’s oil sector in the next few days.

Niger Delta Militants

The group claimed responsibility for most attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta in 2016, which cut Nigeria’s crude production from a peak of 2.2 million barrels per day to near 1 million barrels per day. That was the lowest level seen in Africa’s top oil producer in at least 30 years.

“This round of attacks will be the most deadly and will be targeting the deep sea operations of the multinationals,” it said in a statement on its website.

The group, which wants a greater share of Nigeria’s energy wealth to go to the impoverished Delta region, said its targets would include Bonga Platform, Agbami, EA Field, Brittania-U Field, Akpo Field. In November, the group said it had ended a ceasefire.

In 2016 the Niger Delta Avengers bombed the Forcados sub-sea pipeline, a strike which involved the use of divers.

Since January 2017 no substantial attacks have been carried out by any groups in the Delta, Nigeria’s southern oil production heartland.


English-speaking Cameroonians flee government troops as President Biya declares war

At least 12,000 displaced Cameroonians taking refuge in Nigeria – UN

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said at least, 12,100 displaced Cameroonians are taking refuge in Nigeria.

The UNHCR Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Antonio Jose Canhandula disclosed this at a Press conference on Thursday in Abuja.

English-speaking Cameroonians flee government troops as President Biya declares war

He said from the said number, 8100 are camped in Cross River State while the other 4000 are in Benue State.

According to him, many of the refugees are women, children and the elderly, and they are currently being hosted by locals in Nigerian communities near the border with Cameroon.

The UN official who said more refugees were coming into the country everyday, warned that the situation could worsen if a solution to the crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone region is not quickly found.

“UNHCR is concerned that as the crisis in Cameroon continues and the government adopts extra security measures, more asylum seekers will arrive,” Canhandula said.

He said the UN is committed to working with the Government of Nigeria to ensure a safe community environment for the Cameroonian refugees and their host communities in Benue and Cross River states.

“As such, our recommendation is that the refugees should be moved away from the border per international standards”, he added.

Meanwhile, the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Sadiya Umar Farouq said Nigeria is in discussion with the Cameroonian government over the political crisis in the country.

She assured that the federal government will do everything possible to ensure that the problems in Cameroon are amicably resolved.

SOURCE: Daily Trust

2017 has been a 'very difficult year' for children in Central African Republic - UNICEF

2017 has been a ‘very difficult year’ for children in Central African Republic – UNICEF

For children and women in the Central African Republic, 2017 has been a very difficult year and sadly, the situation is not expected to improve in the coming months, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Tuesday.

2017 has been a 'very difficult year' for children in Central African Republic - UNICEF

“2017 has seen a dramatic increase in violence. The previously unstable regions, such as the center and the north west, have remained very tense. In addition, the entire south-west that had previously been spared by the crisis, is now the worst-hit region,” said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF Representative in the country, at the regular press briefing in Geneva.

Children and women are of course the first victims: half of the population in CAR is in need of humanitarian support, that is 2.5 million people, including 1.3 million children.

Currently, 20 per cent of the schools are closed because of insecurity, and those that are open have too many pupils and not enough teachers.

Reports of children’s rights violations are on the rise. In 2017, 50 per cent more documented incidents than the previous year, twice the number of children recruited into armed groups.

Immunization campaigns have been disrupted in several regions due to persistent insecurity, and basic healthcare needs are not met especially in regions where the NGOs are no longer able to operate.

“As UNICEF Representative, I am very concerned about the lasting impact this crisis is having on children. We have a whole generation at risk of growing up traumatized, without proper education, without healthcare and constantly exposed to the most horrific violence,” she said.

UNICEF has helped provide temporary learning spaces for over 50,000 children in 2017, and plans to do so for 85,000 children in 2018.

The agency also provided support for children released from armed groups to reintegrate into society.

Through a rapid response mechanism, UNICEF has been able to provide non-food items, such as mats, mosquito nets, blankets, and cooking supplies, to nearly 25,000 households and emergency water and sanitation interventions to almost 72,000 people.

At the same time, the agency received only 46 per cent of the funding needed to meet the humanitarian needs this year.

“In 2018 the needs are growing: we are going to need every support we can get, if we do not want the children of CAR to be left to a terrible fate,” she said.


ICC awards $10 Million compensation to DR Congo child soldiers

The International Criminal Court has awarded compensation to child soldiers recruited by a convicted Congolese warlord. Rights groups hope the decision sends a message to those who recruit child soldiers.

International war crimes judges on Friday awarded $10 million (€8.5 million) in compensation to former child soldiers forcibly conscripted by Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands said Lubanga was liable to pay compensation of $3.4 million to 427 victims recognized by the court, and another $6.6 million to “hundreds or even thousands of additional victims” who have yet to come forward.

Lubanga was convicted by the ICC in 2012 for recruiting child soldiers into his Union of Congolese Patriots during a 2002-03 conflict in the Ituri region in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ICC recognized that Lubanga, who is serving a 14 year sentence at a Congolese prison, did not have the money to pay the compensation.

A court Trust Fund for Victims, which is funded by ICC member donations, will pay part of the compensation.

However, the fund said it would be “challenging” to come up with the full amount. The judges instructed fund to reach out to the Congolese government to contribute to the compensation.

The award is collective and will help provide psychological support, job training and education to the victims.

The nongovernmental organisation Child Soldiers International said it hoped the ruling would “act as a catalyst in showing that those who recruit and exploit children in conflict will be held accountable for their crimes.”

Lubanga can appeal the decision.

SOURCE: Deutsche Welle (Bonn)/ cw/rt (AFP, Reuters)

Nigeria’s role in Cameroon crisis

The leadership of western sub-Sahara Africa, African continent and indeed the whole black nations, lies on the shoulders of Nigeria. With a population of over 180 million people, endowed with immense natural and human resources. It is no longer obligatory for Nigeria to assume the leadership role, but a destiny, notwithstanding their internal crisis, Political Instability, Financial and Corruption challenges.

Her Economy strength, vast market drive, very high level of human resources available, have made them the Chief Principal of Africa. This is evident in their role in the continent especially in AU, where they have defended and protected the interest of Africa. She has demonstrated in many occasions her unparalleled leadership role, very instrumental as a front line state in obliterating colonial rules, apathy regime in South Africa.

Nigeria has consistently engaged in peace keeping mission, committing largest human and financial resources to ECOMOG, peace keeping operation in the Chad, Liberia , sierra Leone, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Cote D’ Ivory, Somalia Sudan, etc. She has devoted so much to ensure conflict and crisis resolution in the continent.

However, in Cameroon a proximate country that shares borders with Nigeria, has a lot of internal and fast developing crisis at the moment. Going back to the history of Nigeria and Cameroon diplomatic relationship since independence have been a fluidity state. The friendly relationship of the two countries was experienced in 1960, which later shifted to a cat and dog situation that even resulted to military confrontation.

The conflict deepened to constant clashes which consequently took a very dangerous dimension. This brought the action of International court of justice judgement, in which Cameroon won in reclaiming of Bakassi Peninsula and Nigerian villages around Lake Chad. Today Cameroon needs Nigeria more than ever before, and it is binding for her to play the big brother role once again.

Cameroon has a very distinctive political configuration where the country is divided into two, francophone mostly from the north and Anglophone mostly from the south. This major incongruence has brought so much internal conflict that have necessitated the southern part to violently seeking to secede from the country.

For over a year there have been so much violent, hate and seditious expressions from the both side of the country, in what is progressively turning to a civil war if not urgently attended to. The southern Cameroonians who refer to themselves as Ambazonians have alleged that the current francophone establishment led by the autocratic President Paul Biya who has been in power for over 30 years of total bad rule, marginalization, deprivation, and every possible inhumane treatment you can imagine.

Speaking to Bloomgist, a native of Mamfe, one of the areas on facing the heat and total occupation of the Cameroonian soldiers share his experience surving everyday in the current crisis developing in the country;

I graduated with a very good grade as a lawyer, but we don’t practice. President Biya is scared of raising the brains that would challenge him. The government operate with authority that is consolidated by intimidation, oppression, suppression and disempowering of the citizens. I was in Yaoundé before going back to Mamfe, it is time for revolution and the restoration of our land. We do not plan to back down at any threat, we are ready for them. I tell you, we do not sleep well at night. The military occupation of the southern Cameroon is intense at the moment. They abduct our youths, beat, kill the boys and rape the women. They are doing everything to stop us, we are resilient and will not allow that with the last drop of our blood. We are calling on the international communities to intervene. We have every right to self-determination.

David who spoke confidently to Bloomgist after we promised his anonymity revealed that they (the Southern Cameroonians) are ready to fight back and defend their land and their people being suppressed, killed, raped and taken for slavery by the Cameroonian soldiers;

“We have our governing council which is doing enormous job and over 200k fearless army on the go, David said. We are doing all these on the basis of the UN classification on international crisis. There must be a war and casualty rate of over 1000 deaths before they will intervene. We are hoping of our eventual freedom from the francophone controlled government. There has been more than 1 year of civil disobedience. Schools are under lock and key. Everything is in comatose and has reduced the revenue flow into the government pocket’’. Said David who lives in Mamfe.

The crisis has taken another dimension late November, due to the militarization of the Southern Cameroon, leading so many displaced, dead, or injured. Apparently the people have resolved to fight and defend themselves against the government. Paul Biya has completely ignored the sincere and inclusive dialogue which UN asked the government to organize. There are over 1000 military men in Mamfe and Kumba, killing and maiming the youths. In retaliation, the people have taken up arms against the army as there are reports on number of soldiers reportedly injured or killed in the region.

Interestingly many of them, the southern Cameroonians have high hope on Nigerian Federal government to intervene. Their excitement were evident among the supporters when the news of Ayade, The Governor of Nigerian state of Cross River condemning the lackluster and lip services by the United Nations on what he called ‘debasing of humanity’. In his words, ‘’you cannot watch the dislocation of family structures, kids being separated from their parents, husbands separated from their wives and all you do is rush with food to their corridors, create squatters and camps for them and you think that is aid? You have failed. If we are indeed united, the issue of Cameroon should be at forefront of UN today.’’

He also frowned at the alleged closure of the Cameroon international border against the Anglophones, which he described the act as ‘’criminal’’,

Governor Ayade enjoined Buhari as a leader of Africa not to be involved in politics of Cameroon but to interfere in the lives of every Black man on earth. He also recounted the problems bedeviling the southern Cameroon where everything is completely shut down. This action alone has given them so much optimism that Nigeria is coming to intervene. The hope is very high that they have gone as far as showing solidarity to Nigerian Senior National Team, Super Eagle against Cameroon to spite the francophone led government. (Show some of their comments)

This has not been taken lightly by the francophone Cameroonians who do not want to imagine that their country is divided. They are throwing their weight behind the regime to stop the secessionists at all cost. This group of ‘’pro’ Biya people have so much bad and criticism on Nigeria. To them, they believe that Nigeria is the reason why they are having all the problems. One was quoted as saying on one of their popular social media that ‘’Nigeria has always been a hide out for terrorist, from Boko Haram to Ambazonians terrorists. We will get rid of our enemies at all front, defeat them by the grace of God”.

What this means in a clear term is that Cameroonian government, backed by francophone citizens have so much contempt for the Nigerian state, while the Anglophone who have shown so much love  to Nigeria, and would support Nigeria to spite the Cameroon.

Currently the United Nations High Commission for Refugees recently hinted that over 40,000 southern Cameroonians are expected in the Ikom, and Calabar local government Areas in Nigeria. We also gathered that other southern Cameroonian groups are expected to give their voices to the campaign initiated by the interim Head of State Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, a Computer Engineer, who hails from a village called Ewelle in Mamfe, currently in asylum in an unknown country.

Cross River state Governor on his part, has declared his readiness to welcome the refugees from the neighbouring Cameroon. In the same vein the Nigerian Comptroller General Mr Mohammed Babande said, the Cameroonian refugees should be well protected just as they did for us during the crisis period of Boko Haram in the north Eastern part of Nigeria. The state government is currently hosting some of their leaders who are now fugitive, and over 40,000 of the refuges are being camped by the Cross River state government.

Nigeria has a huge responsibility of policing the African continent. Unfortunately they have so much to contend within, the Biafran agitators, Fulani Herdsmen, Boko Haram, Niger Delta militants, etc. The people of Southern Cameroon are seriously in dire need of a voice, protection, and leadership from Nigeria to establish their influence and capacity.

SOURCE: The Bloomgist. Extra reporting by Eyewitnesses in Cameroon and Cross River state government

English-speaking Cameroonians flee government troops as President Biya declares war

English-speaking Cameroonians flee government troops as President Biya declares war

People fleeing villages in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon accuse government troops of killings, rape and harassment. Thousands are on the run after President Paul Biya declared war on secessionists.

English-speaking Cameroonians flee government troops as President Biya declares war
The insignia of the rebel Southern Cameroon Defence Force. Photo: Irin

The new Kumba-Mamfe road in the English-speaking South West Region of Cameroon, built to improve traffic and commerce, is almost deserted. It is the road that allows trade to flourish between Nigeria and Cameroon. But 32-year-old merchant Ethel Takem told DW that she and her peers had to suspend their trading when Cameroon President Paul Biya declared war on local separatist groups last weekend: “The number of check points is just unbearable,” Takem said. She likened the president’s soldiers to hungry lions let loose on a defenseless population. “Those who want to be killed can travel. I still have my life ahead, so I will not move,” she said.

The situation is also tense in the towns of Mamfe and Eyumojock, where at least six soldiers and a policeman were killed last week. Mamfe is also the home town of Julius Ayuk Tabe, the man who calls himself the first president of Ambazonia. Ambazonia is the name separatists gave to the English-speaking regions which they hope to turn into an independent country.

The Yaounde government maintains that separatist fighters are being trained in the region and across the border in neighboring Nigeria. According to Mamfe resident Peter Ayuk, most young people have fled into the bush to escape the military. “The village of the present president is now is on fire. The military men are burning houses. All the young men are in the forests,” he said.

Human rights abuses

Ayuk told DW that many people have lost trace of their relatives, including him: “I have not seen my father and my mother. I have not seen them since yesterday when they started chasing us. Everywhere there are military men. Please, people should help me. Young boys are being killed. They abduct some, now everybody is in the bush,” he said.

Nyeke George Likiye, a member of the civil society in southwestern Cameroon, said he wrote to the government to complain about the troops’ excesses.” There are some unreasonable arrests being done. People are being tortured, people are being beaten. This is not correct,” he told DW.

But General Melingui Noma, one of Cameroon’s highest military officers, denied that the southwest had been militarized and rejected all accusations of human rights abuses leveled at the soldiers. He said the military was there to protect the population: “We know that if we want to overcome this crisis we have to make sure the population is with us. How can you go and embarrass and harass people whom you want to take information from? If they cannot give us the correct information, if they cannot tell us the truth about what is happening in the field, you will see that the population will then turn and follow those secessionists.”

Negotiations not an option

Schools have been closed in most of the English-speaking northwest and southwest since November last year, when lawyers and teachers called for a strike to stop what they believe is the overuse of the French language. Violence erupted when separatists joined in and started calling for total independence.

On October 1, they declared what they called the independence of the Republic of Ambazonia and asked the military to surrender and join them or leave their territory. So far, they have killed at least 11 soldiers and policemen.

President Paul Biya has not softened his intransigency towards aspirations for more autonomy and has refused to negotiate. Separatist groups have said on social media that they will only enter into a dialogue with the government on the terms for secession.

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/DW. Extra reporting by All Africa News and Bloomgist journalists