Pastor Chris Anu, the US-based Communication Secretary for Cameroonian secessionists, released a video from the United States on Friday, calling on Anglophones to stop the 2018 presidential election from taking place in “Southern Cameroons”.
Anu called on their foot soldiers, especially those at “ground zero”, to target and spy on “the enemies of the revolution”, and ensure that no election takes place in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions.
Why it matters: Cameroonians go to the polls in October to elect a new President. President Paul Biya of the ruling CPDM in power for 36 years, is expected to face Joshua Osih of the opposition SDF, and several others.
Anu’s latest message on Friday came only days after he warned parents in Southern Cameroons on Tuesday against sending their children back to school, saying that school compounds were not safe, and their children would be targeted and assassinated by Cameroonian soldiers.
Anu, a pastor in the United States, has enjoyed along with his family a serene life here since he left Nigeria about two decades ago after working for TheNews magazine and Tempo.In Nigeria, former colleagues remember him as a hard working journalist who was passionate about his job.
And he has remained a fighter even as a pastor, an activist, a journalist and a publisher. Anu has been calling for injustices in Cameroon to end. At the heat of the Cameroonian crisis in 2016 and 2017, Anu called on Southern Cameroonian activists to target the daughter of President Paul Biya, Brenda Biya, who was living in Los Angeles.His newspaper, Cameroon Journal, has since been pulled down. It was not immediately clear why the publication was pulled off the web.
In the audio message he broadcast on Tuesday from the United States as well, and sent to Today News Africa in Washington DC, Chris Anu, whose official title is Communication Secretary of Ambazonia’s interim government in exile, said 99.9 percent of schools in Southern Cameroons were not safe and had been transformed into military camps.
He said parents should make their own choices, but Ambazonian leaders would not be able to guarantee their safety in those schools.
“Should parents deem that the right environment exists, and that it is safe to send their kids to school anywhere in Ambazonia, schools where anything French, including French teachers are kept away, they alone, and they only are in the position to make that call,” Mr Anu said in the audio broadcast.
“However, the interim government cannot vouch for the safety and security of any child and any school campus open for business. The choice of any child going back to school will have to be the sole discretion of his or her parent.
“The interim government is of the view that 99.9 percent of schools in Ambazonia remain very insecure, unsafe and unfit for any schooling. Most school compounds have been transformed into military camps for invading French Cameroon terrorist soldiers.
“The interim government equally holds very strongly that most of the soldiers mean to target a young population of Ambazonia of school going age for assassination.
“Knowing this, the interim government will not by any means encourage such young people to leave their current abode of safety to uncertainty only to be assassinated by the soldiers.
“Your children (can) go to school (but) they go at their own risk, and your own risk,” he said.
Why it matters: It’s been two years now since many children in Southern Cameroons last went to schools as the raging battle between security forces and secessionists escalated. With school resumption slated for next month, many children may spend their third year at home without any education.
Apart from children affected by the conflict, as the raging gun battle between Cameroonian security forces and Anglophone secessionists escalates by the day, many innocent people are also caught in the crossfire and paying with their lives.
21-year old Ngoa Naronate Akum, who was shot in the face and teeth by Cameroonian security forces on July 13, has narrated her near-death experience in a heartbreaking video released on social media.
Struggling to speak, and still under visible excruciating pain, she said she had gone to the market with her mother on July 13 when Cameroonian soldiers opened fire on the population.
“Everyone was running,” she said. Minutes after, a bullet hit her in the face. She collapsed to the ground and was rushed to the hospital where she spent three weeks.
At the hospital, she underwent surgeries and would be reporting to the doctors again for follow ups.
For her, and many others, there would be a long road to freedom and recovery.
Many people like Ms Akum are caught in the crossroads of violence in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions as attempts to break up from French speaking Cameroon are met with violence.
Mr Gregory Fojong, a teacher at the technical high school of Molyko, was one of the victims.
Local media reported that he was shot in the head and mouth by Cameroonian soldiers when he went to Buea central market along with his wife for shopping.
Details remained sketchy, but local media said he was waiting for his wife while seated on his bike when soldiers opened fire and shot him in the head and mouth.
He was rushed to Buea General Hospital but they could not handle his case. He was then rushed to Solidarity Hospital in Buea where his condition remains unknown.
Many like him are continuing to pay the high price as the raging battle escalates even further.
On August 19, Anglophones took their quest for independence to President Donald Trump’s White House, and to the Washington National Press Club the next day, vowing that there would be no retreat and no surrender.
At the White House, hundreds of activists sang songs of freedom and called on the international community to finally hear their case and cries, after two years of struggles and running battles with Cameroonian security forces.
They were mainly peaceful, but united in their determination to finally break up from French speaking Cameroon, and to be recognized as citizens of the “Federal Republic of Ambazonia”.
On August 20, at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC, the activists said the government of Cameroon and its security forces would have to kill eight million Anglophones to stop the irreversible independence of what they refer to as Southern Cameroons.
They announced that they would be shutting down Southern Cameroons on September 30 until October 1 to celebrate their “independence”, and may even start repatriating French speaking Cameroonians from their regions.
For two years now, there have been running battles between Cameroonian security forces and armed activists in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon where Anglophones mainly reside.
Thousands have been killed, activists say, while hundreds of thousands have been displaced in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon referred to by the activists as the Federal Republic of Ambazonia, an independent country, according to them, but not, however, recognized by any other country around the world.
The Cameroonian government has said that the activists have killed dozens of security forces, burned down classrooms to prevent children from going back to school to draw sympathy from the international community, and have taken up arms against the state.
With all that, President Paul Biya of Cameroon and his government have labelled the activists terrorists, and vowed to crush them to free ordinary people who want peace in Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon.
The Anglophones have defended themselves, saying that they were not terrorists but had to take up arms against the state to defend themselves in the face of widespread abuses and atrocities committed by security forces sent by Yaounde.
The protests, started in late 2016 by teachers and lawyers who were demanding justice and equality quickly snowballed into calls for independence, following the draconian reaction of the central government in Yaounde led by 36-year-in-power President, Paul Biya.
The teachers and lawyers called for the protests to demand that the flood of French speaking teachers and lawyers into their regions be stopped.
But the government saw the protests as being hijacked by some politicians in an attempt to revive calls for independence that took place in the 1990s. Back then, they were bloody, and they are now, several decades after.
At the press conference in Washington DC, led by the “interim President” of the Ambazonia Republic, Dr Samuel Sako, Ambazonians made their position clear: independence or nothing.
Those who addressed journalists included Chris Anu, the director of communication of the Ambazonian government in exile, as well as other activists, including Professor Martin Ayim, Mr Ntumfoyn Boh Herbert, Mr John Litumbe and John Nsah.
Although they spoke confidently, the activists were unable to name a single country backing them.
Even the United Nations, they said, whose resolution 1608 they were quoting, had not shown any appetite or interest in their quest for independence, they recognized.
There were also no official line of communications between Yaounde and the activists, they admitted.
Anglophones had long complained that they were being marginalized in Cameroon by the French speaking majority, but ordinary French speaking Cameroonians being bombed by Boko Haram since 2014 or millions others who live in squalor and hopelessness far away from the presidential palace, had repeatedly said that Anglophones were better off than them.
But there has not been any serious dialogue or attempt to have a serious dialogue from all sides: The Cameroonian government has said independence and federalism are not on the table, and Anglophone activists have argued that it would be independence or nothing.
At the press conference in DC on August 20, Anglophones stuck to their guns. The government of Paul Biya in Yaounde has not also shown any desire to shift ground. As a result, the crisis may linger for a long time with more killings on all sides, and more displaced persons in the Anglophone areas.
This article was written by Simon Ateba, a renowned African journalist based in Washington D.C.