Southern Cameroons: Government Officials, Soldiers Shutdown Schools, Unleash Mayhem on Teachers & Prelates
There has been commotion in Bamunka, Ndop a town some 45 km out of Bamenda- one of the largest cities in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons. The situation that has been degenerating by the hour was ignited Wednesday, October 21, when the Divisional Officer of Ndop, flanked by the Gendarmerie Brigade Commander, the Mayor and other military personnel armed to the teeth stormed the premises of Presbyterian School (PS) Bamunka brutalized teachers, arrested school children and dumped them in armoured cars.
A relation to the Head Teacher of PS Bamunka told Timescape Magazine by telephone that the soldiers and administrators manhandled everyone present and “Threatened to detain or kill anyone that would continue to operate these Mission schools in this area while all government schools are deserted and rendered not operational”.
According to a teacher at one of the Catholic Mission schools in Ndop who offered to speak anonymously for fear of retribution, “The school pupils arrested are carted away to government school premises, forced to sing the anthem of the Republic of Cameroon and then guarded around there at gunpoint until later in the afternoon when they are taken back to their homes”.
Even while back home, the pupils and their families have still been subjected to intimidation and threats by the soldiers. One of the parents who reportedly fled into the forest with his entire family for fear of military brutality told Timescape Magazine that what he experienced was horrifying and a clear indication that 2020/2021 was not going to be an ordinary school year.
Said he “The soldiers came to our house, asked my wife where I was and when I came out, they gave me two slaps and warned me never to send my children again to ‘those illegal schools run by the Churches’. They told me that when I hear them ring the gong at the Government School, I must bring my children, or they will kill me and lock up my wife. They threatened that if we run away and they come to our house and find nobody, they will burn down the house”.
Another family head contacted by Timescape Magazine on basis of anonymity explained that the administrators have expressed worries that government schools have remained closed with no pupils or students enrolling and “…they are angry that we are respecting instructions from Southern Cameroons’ pro-independence movements that ordered that only Mission and Community schools go operational so that Francophone teachers brought in to teach our children in strange languages, idle around”.
No Government Schools, No Mission Schools
Dion Ngute Joseph, Prime Minister of Cameroon
Authorities of Catholic, Presbyterian and Baptist Mission schools that spoke to Timescape Magazine, expressed surprise that government officials all over the territory of the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons, for the weeks just before the reopening of schools for the 2020/2021 academic year, have been silently disseminating the slogan “No Government Schools, No Mission Schools”.
One of the Clergymen told Timescape Magazine that “Even pastors and priests are being killed and if you mention my name, I shall be shortlisted for death, but note that government does not want schools to resume as long as they cannot use that for political gains. They have been the main reason schools have been shut down for almost four years, we negotiated a truce for Mission schools and now they are again after us”.
The Clergyman revealed that “Our leaders say they have reached out to people at the Prime Minister’s Office for intervention and we are hoping that the government intervenes fast before the situation escalates. What is happening in Ndop is also happening in Bui where children are harassed by soldiers every morning and taken to government schools to honour the flag of the Republic of Cameroon and sing their anthem before television cameras, and this is traumatizing the children further”.
In the locality of Kumbo in Bui, soldiers have reportedly been spotted closing down community schools and burning down structures erected to accommodate pupils and students. The same kind of scenario has been reported in Kupe-Muanenguba, Meme, Ndian, Boyo and Momo.
Civil Servants between the Hammer and its Anvil
Handerson Quetong Kongeh, Senior Divisional Officer for Ngoketunjia, Southern Cameroons
Local administrators across the war-torn Southern Cameroons have in recent weeks issued warning letters to civil servants posted to their areas of competence and who have been away for prolonged periods because of the armed conflict, ordering them to return to work immediately.
Taking Timescape Magazine’s questions by telephone, the Senior Divisional Officer of Ngokentunjia, Handerson Quentong Kongeh said: “If these civil servants do not regain their duty posts within the timeframes stipulated in the calls to order sent out to them, they will face sanctions ranging from total salary suspensions to outright removal from the government payroll”.
According to an official communiqué signed by Mr. Quentong on October 9, a “…regrouping centre with special security dispositions has been created at the Ndop courtyard for all those who are in fear”.
The release details further that “Roll call shall be conducted on the spot each day at 7:30 am and 3:30 pm and attendance sheets forwarded to the competent authorities for immediate action and those absent will have themselves to be blamed”.
Reacting to the release, some locals considered the SDOs decision out of place, arguing that the security situation on the ground remained unfriendly and no one would sacrifice their lives to please the government.
A high school principal in the area who would not be named for fear of reprisals told Timescape Magazine that “Let him send away his bodyguards and military officers protecting him and see how it works…I doubt if despite all those bodyguards protecting him, he even steps out of his home on a ghost day, such decisions are bound to fail”.
NB: This article, initially published on October 23 was updated on October 24 and some noticeable misspellings on names corrected. The editor.