The Southern Cameroons war of independence, and the resulting carnage being visited on the people by the Cameroon army and some factional fighters has imposed untold misery and suffering on the people, especially on women and children.
24-year-old Shantal Enjei from Batibo- a locality 45-km North of the city of Bamenda, who resides now in Yaounde says she was brutally raped by a man she had never known.
“Last Year in March when I returned to the village from Bafang in the West Region where the father of my child abandoned me, I was approached by this ‘Ambazonian’ fighter (he claimed to be a pro-independence fighter) who during one of their patrols stormed our residence, took me, hostage, at gunpoint and raped me mercilessly,” she tells Timescape Magazine.
“He threatened to kill me, my child, and my siblings if I opened up to anyone,” she explains.
Shantal whose parents died seven years back leaving behind six children recounts that the late Batibo-based ‘Ambazonian General’ came back a few days later and told her uncle that he was coming to get married to their daughter immediately.
“I was never prepared to marry him, I had never known him, the worst is that he even raped me with a gun pointed to my head, threatened my family that if they didn’t give me out as his wife, he was going to set them up as “Blacklegs” to be killed,” she reveals tearfully.
She says anyone who is perceived by pro-independence fighters to collaborate with the mainly French-speaking government in Yaounde is considered a ‘black leg’ and therefore should be killed.
Shantal now lives in Yaounde. Her husband was killed recently by the Cameroon military, after paying her bride price.
She says life for her has been a continuous drama of pain, and sometimes, she wishes death could just take her off that agony.
“I left the Village with my sisters. Some went to Douala. I happened to meet this woman who recruited me to sell food at a roadside restaurant. I sleep among 19 other girls (all from Northwest and Southwest regions) in one small room. At times when I return from work late, I am forced to sleep on the floor,” she says.
Her Situation in Yaounde mirrors that of several other young girls. 23-year-old Mirabelle from the Northwest expresses the need for a return to peace through the discharge of justice so that she can go back home to pick up the broken pieces of her life.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsP2CJztlVg (Smoke Rises in Kikaikom, Southern Cameroons after Cameroun Military Unleash Carnage on the People)
“Can you imagine that I have been working for this woman (name Withheld) for close to three months without any salary? She promised to pay me CFA F 25,000 (USD45) every month but on my payday, she always comes up with one excuse or the other. She even threatens to chase me away from her house where I live. I also hardly feed. I just wish I could go home,” she tells Timescape Magazine, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Meanwhile, women initiatives have sprouted over the past years advocating dialogue on the root causes of the conflict so that peace could return in the region, but the advocacy seems unheeded.
Sally Mboumien, General Coordinator of the Southwest/Northwest Task Force says Women and young girls are paying a disproportionate price.
“It’s so pathetic that the woman ends up bearing the burden like a basket on her head, full of things she does not want to see. Hunger stares at her, look at the curfews, the lockdowns, it affects their daily businesses. Their children die, their husbands die, some of the women themselves die,” she laments.
To peace advocate, Dr. Magdalene Agbor Tarkang, it is the little things that women have been doing in their respective areas that have enabled Cameroon to stand together up till today.
“We don’t really care about the nature of this country, we are talking about atrocities, and we are talking about the deaths of precious, countless human beings. We just want this to Stop.
The cry of most of these women, young girls, is for a return to normalcy in their respective regions of origin,” she says, noting that military excesses, coupled with those of the pro-independence fighters need to be checked.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1es9SMJQtI&t=37s (Cameroon Military Burns down Kikaikom, Bui in Southern Cameroons, Villagers Flee for Safety)
Conservative estimates say at least 4,000 people have been killed in the nearly five years of conflict, and over a million more have been forced to flee from their homes. The Cameroon military continues to pursue a scorched-earth policy in the region, razing down hundreds of village settlements. The latest in the series of burnings is the torching of hundreds of homes in Kikaikom on Wednesday, October 6.