Cameroon: Bamenda Under Martial Law with Extortion, Torture, Extrajudicial killings as Daily Realities
Bamenda, a historic city in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons has been transformed by Cameroon soldiers into a typical police state. French-speaking men in uniform have taken total control of civilian life and are seen at checkpoints mounted every 200 to 500 meters especially at road junctions.
City dwellers say this has been the new normal since the advent of what is now referred to as “Operation Bamenda Clean”. With the motorbikes circulation restriction, only a few taxis have been attempting to ply the streets and, the presence of the military scrutinizing even pedestrians has caused a huge drop in the density of activities in the city.
A shop owner told Timescape at city chemist roundabout while trying to find his way home in an overloaded taxi, that the soldiers currently have just one objective: to squeeze out money from civilians at all cost.
A lot of the streets in Bamenda remain deserted as denizens fear military harassment
“...If your identification papers are in order, you are accused of not wearing your facemask properly by a uniform officer who is himself not putting on a mask.......if you are wise at this juncture just pull out CFA F 1000 (about USD1,79) and give them else before you know it you be tagged as one hosting volunteer fighters in your neighbourhood,” he explained.
An old woman trading in cooked food along the devil street behind the Commercial Avenue told Timescape that from Ntankah, a precinct in Mankon village where she resides to her marketplace passing through Mulang is a huge challenge.
“Motorbikes don't go on tarred roads because of the restriction. From my neighbourhood to the tarred road junction I pay CFA F 200 and getting a taxi which is even scarce costs me CFA F 700 to Commercial Avenue. Today I spent CFA F 2,500 to transport my food items to the market, whereas something I used to pay just CFA F 700 from my house at Ntankah to the Commercial Avenue,” the woman lamented.
A young businessman who prefer to be called Ngakitum, said the measures put in place for security were good, but regretted that the military was imposing taxes on taxi drivers and civilians. He wondered aloud why the soldiers were not respecting a decree of the Prime Minister of Cameroon declaring the entire territory of the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons a tax-free zone.
The numerous extortionist checkpoints created by the military everywhere in town has left businesses from around SONAC street to the Commercial Avenue still shutdown.
Because of the hardship imposed on the people by the military who themselves have been enforcing lockdowns, the Bar Council representative in Bamenda, Barrister Mbah Eric Mbah recently wrote to the Attorney General, drawing his attention to the excesses perpetrated by the military under the guise of operation “Bamenda Clean”.
Barrister Mbah said if care was not taken the said operation “Bamenda Clean” would be turned into ethnic cleansing. On Sunday, September 27, farmers in Bali, a locality 15-km out of Bamenda discovered several corpses of young men killed and dumped in a river. With word going around about the incident, several people in the area told Timescape they saw the military unloading remains of young men from their trucks, probably boys arrested and later killed.
Peaceful demonstrations by teachers and lawyers in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons, later joint by several civil society organizations in 206 to demand greater autonomy for the region turned deadly when the mainly Francophone government in Yaounde cracked down on protesters with excessive force. In late 2017, armed groups emerged to respond to military brutality, leading to a full-scale civil war that has so far claimed over 12,000 lives according to several sources. It has also displaced about 1,5 million others, with over 600,000 others living as refugees in neighbouring countries.