The horrifying reality of Cameroon’s Anglophone ‘civil war’

Children in Cameroon are bearing the brunt of the Anglophone crisis with schools becoming “battlefields,” says one resident. 
Since 2016, a wave of violence has swept the North West and South West regions of Cameroon – where English-speaking people in Cameroon reside.
The conflicts left children as young as seven in regions like Bamenda and Kumbo witnessing the everyday violence, says South west born James.
“A lot of these children have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What they have seen and experienced I can not  explain it. It’s too awful and there are not enough services that can help them deal with this.”
“Anyone who speaks the Anglophone will be shot and killed, and when this is happening you cannot film, you can not even bring your phone out or else you will be targeted too,” he told The Peoples News.
Over the last three years 80% of schools closed as a result of the “crisis”, denying more than 600,000 children access to education. 450,000 people within the NW and SW regions – half of them children – have been displaced to neighbouring areas, according to a report published by the UN. 
The violence, which has often been described as a civil war, started after English-speaking lawyers and teachers protested against their perceived marginalisation and called for more autonomy away from the French regions. 
Instead, President Paul Biya used force to break up the Anglophone demonstrations – which James believes radically changed the atmosphere in the country and started an uprising of violence. 

Impact of violence 

 In November  2018, 80 people were kidnapped from the region of Bamenda from the Presbyterian Secondary School Nkwen.
Several months later a total of 176 people, mostly students, were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen at Saint Augustin’s College in Kumbo, in the North West region of Cameroon. They were released the next day – after negotiations to shut down the school were made.
James admitted that over the last three years it was not just the French-speaking who incited violence. 
He said: “They (Anglophones) kidnap or hurt you if you advocate for school resumption, just like my uncle who is a pastor in Bamenda was kidnapped because he is in support of schools continuing.”
“ To them they think when schools are not functioning, it will push the government to negotiate. But this is not the case.”
The two Anglophone regions have requested greater authority from the government since former territories held by the British and French were federated into one central African nation in 1961.
The 25 year-old said people, particularly the young, have become “scared to the point where they avoid going outside to identify their families bodies.”
This is to ensure no one identifies them as also being part of the English-speaking community.
“I had to move from the South West to escape everything that was happening but my family was still living there so I would visit often. But like others they have all moved from there now to neighbouring regions {Limbe}. No one is left in my home town,” James said.
 He added: “It makes me sad knowing that children in some of the cities in these regions can’t go to school, it’s almost like a battlefield for them. And the fact that my father cannot go back to the house he recently built before the crises began.”
“All of these things have had a toll on me mentally and sometimes I wake up at night when its raining thinking about those in the bushes in those regions with no shelter it sends chills down my spine each time I think about it.”

Resolutions

James believes that one day the violence in Cameroon will change the same way Rwanda’s violence did. 
“In my opinion I think the United Nations and African Union needs to set up some sort of a peace keeping mission to keep the military and the separatists at bay so the civilians can return.”
“The UN and other organisations push for dialogues by urging a monitored negotiation  but unfortunately the government is reluctant,” he said. 

Names of individuals mentioned in this article have been changed for their protection.

Image by: Stringer 2019