17-Year-Old Raped by a ‘Security’ Personnel in Cameroon

Between uncontrollable sobs, she tries to recapture the gory moments. As her interlocutors film her and encourage her to tell her story, every single detail, she has no choice but to relive the horrible moments she is raped by someone who is paid by the State to protect her and keep her safe. This is the tale of many young girls in Cameroon.

This is one of the many tales of woe that streams every day from Cameroon, West of the Mungo. After a few hours of outcry on social media, a communique will be released indicating that the perpetrators have been arrested, and everyone will happily move on to the next gory story.

What has particularly struck me with this young girl’s story is that no one got to know her name as it is not mentioned in her video, yet everyone knows her face. Few people will remember her after a week when other events will overtake this, but she will live her whole life scarred by the incident.

She narrates how, she was stopped, asked for identification, which she did not have, and was subsequently raped, but her biggest fear, is that she could have been infected with a disease. The nursing mother of 17 pleads with her assailant hoping that it might deter him to know she is breastfeeding. That falls on deaf ears. The place is identified as Africa Petroleum at Veterinary Junction.

This case is symptomatic of the many unreported cases of teenage pregnancies and wanton rapes that have pervaded the English-Speaking regions of Cameroon. When the first batch of refugees fleeing the country arrived in Nigeria, it was reported that many of the teenage girls were pregnant. At the time, no one thought to ask the question. Could this have been through forced intercourse, due to the volatility of the situation?

As clearly indicated by the girl in our video, the reason there were no people to deter her assailant, was down to the fact that there was ‘Ghost Town’ on that day. This mandatory boycott of all activities on specified days of the week, far from having any impact on the government, has been affecting the very people it purports to be fighting for. Small businesses have gone burst and while citizens are indoors afraid to go out, the streets are manned by either state ‘security’ personnel or armed groups of ‘separatist fighters’ looking to enforce ghost towns. Another group, not reported are armed robbers who have taken advantage of the security vacuum to operate in broad daylight.

Unless the regime of Paul Biya takes active measures to engage with the current crisis, we will continue to see such images coming from Cameroon. We will continue to have kids being killed or raped, we will continue to live and wonder if that little girl has been infected by a disease, which she might ultimately pass on to her baby.

One act of sexual violence can have a lifetime of repercussions for the victim. And simply telling the world that the assailant has been arrested, without any information on whether the young girl in question has received any medical attention, does not resolve the problem. Simply arresting one rapist, does not provide protection for the millions of other girls who are at risk. Urgent action needs to be taken by the regime of Biya to address the situation. One of such actions does NOT involve calling an election for which the 86year old demagogue is also a candidate.

Cameroon: Catholic Church Hit, Again, By Ongoing Political Turmoil

The Catholic Church in Cameroon has again been hit by the ongoing crisis in the country’s English-Speaking Regions. This time it is the death of one of its Priests, who is reported to have died from gunshot wounds.

From the start of the current crisis, the Catholic church has not been far from centre of the brewing storm. As a major education provider, the Catholic Church faced serious challenges when civil disobedience at the start of the struggle used school boycotts as a way of pressuring the Regime in Yaounde. Things first got bloody when Bishop Balla was murdered.

Following Dictator Paul Biya’s Visit to the Vatican, the Pope came under fire first, for accepting to meet with him, and secondly, for his remarks, caught on video, in which he tells Biya to go and “continue in the path of peace“. Whatever the Pope meant by the ‘path of peace’, Biya might have understood it in a completely different light, as no sooner had he returned to Cameroon, did the strongman resort to a crackdown, not known before in the country. A violent response from separatist fighters in Cameroon has led to the escalation of the conflict, with many commentators blaming both sides of gross human rights violations.

As the Bishops of the Archdiocese of Bamenda, were trying to counter rumours by a blogger that they were helping the regime, the Diocese of Buea has been hit by the news of the untimely death of Fr. Sob Alexander, who was killed today in Muyuka in the South West Region. It is not clear as yet, who could have committed the act, but it could be anyone from the military, separatist fighters or armed robbers, who now operate with impunity as the security apparatus continues to disintegrate.

REV Fr Sob

Fr. Sob Alexander is just one of the thousands who have been killed in the crisis, that seems to be intensifying, with no end in sight, and no signs of an amicable resolution.

Maybe, with the storms hitting the Catholic Church, it might be time the institution stands up to its creed of being the voice of the voiceless and challenge the barbaric regime of Biya and its intransigence in resolving the current crisis. As Biya is nominally a Catholic Christian, the leaders of the Church can speak to him as one of their flock, and this would not count as meddling into politics… Though this is not to say, that the Church can be immune from political interventions, given that it is on politics that the foundations of Christianity were laid.

Agbor Nkongho Accepts Nelson Mandela Memorial Award

When the recent crisis in the English-Speaking Regions of Cameroon began in 2016, Human Rights Barrister, Agbor Nkongho (Balla) was one of those at the forefront. It came as no surprise that he became the first president of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, which became the unified civil society organisation championing the demands of teachers, lawyers and trade unions.

When the Biya regime banned the Consortium in January 2017 and arrested Agbor Balla and others, it was assumed the quest for freedom will die. Things have unfortunately spiralled out of control. After several months in Cameroon’s maximum security prison in Yaounde, Balla was released.

He came out to a completely changed struggle for freedom. The Consortium was no more, and in its place, were several groups, all claiming to be fighting for independence, yet not united in purpose, in any shape or form. Balla soon became a victim of the derailled struggle, as he was branded a ‘sellout’ for daring to continue advocating for the same things he had stood for, before going to jail.

Undaunted and unfazed, Balla forged ahead, working in his capacity as a Human Rights Barrister and under the auspices of The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, to continue to challenge the gross violations of human rights perpertuated against the people of Anglophone Cameroon by the Biya regime.

It therefore did not come as a surprise that on receiving the prestigious Mandela Memorial award, Balla dedicated it to the Southern Cameroons struggle. Below is his full acceptance speech.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

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It is a source of great pride to be present at this event and to receive the Nelson Mandela Memorial Award from Nkafu Policy Institute. We are deeply honoured to receive an award which incarnates the values that President Nelson Mandela stood for.

We accept this award at a moment when 8 million Southern Cameroonians are engaged in a struggle to end the long years of marginalisation, oppression, human rights abuses and assimilation. We accept this award on behalf of a movement to establish freedoms, rule of law, good governance and recognition of a people with a unique culture, history and system within the diversity of a bicultural, bilingual and bijural nation.

I am mindful that only yesterday civil disobedience swept over South West and North West, and as of yesterday we have 50,000 Southern Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria, 200,000 internally displaced people living in the rainforests of Meme, Ndian, Momo and other divisions, we have 1500 Southern Cameroonians in maximum security prisons in Yaounde, Buea, Bamenda and Douala. I am mindful that 78 villages have been burnt down, over 50 schools burnt down, dozens of administrative buildings burnt or destroyed, more than 3000 civilians have died, over 150 soldiers have been killed, several chiefs and civilians kidnapped and daily fighting between armed groups and government soldiers.

Therefore, I must ask myself why this prize is awarded to a movement of people who were called terrorists, to a struggle that has not won the freedoms, justice and recognition it is fighting for.

After much reflection, I conclude that this award I receive on behalf of the Southern Cameroons struggle is a sincere recognition that nonviolent resistance is the answer to fight against marginalisation, violence and oppression. I reject the notion that a nation must spiral down towards yearlong armed conflict with human and material casualties before leaders sit down to talk to each other.

Accepting this award is accepting a pledge to continue till we overcome and in the words of Mandela, “We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.”

I will like to dedicate this award to the people of Southern Cameroons, the girls and women living in refugee camps, shelters and forests, children prevented from pursuing education, the unjustly detained, hundreds in exile hiding from persecution and the amazing lawyers who have dedicated their legal services in defending the rights of those affected.

While we continue resisting oppression, fighting against marginalisation, assimilation and bad governance, the answer doesn’t reside in kidnapping chiefs, civilians or people we disagree with.
The solution is not tribalism or ethnic division. Attacking Anglophone Bamilekes, Bassas, Ewondos or Francophones, goes against the very model of freedoms which we seek. We must end hate speech against North westerners or South westerners for we are one people. To our Francophone brothers, the Southern Cameroons struggle has never been Anglophones versus Francophones, rather it is Southern Cameroonians against the current system of government and institutions which have provided little opportunities for the Anglophones while eroding our culture, system, language and rights. You are not our enemy, you are our ally.

1 Corinthians 16:14 tells us, “Let all that you do be done in love.” Like the grandmother who gave me 2000 FCFA in court while I was facing trial for terrorism at the Yaounde Military Court. Following the example of the young boy who met me in a restaurant, took my phone number and surprisingly sent me 2000 FCFA airtime. That is love without boundaries and if we love each other hate will have no place in our society.

I congratulate my fellow nominees for the work you have done to impact our society and your sense of leadership. May we continue working together for the journey ahead is still long and we will need each other during our various obstacles and successes.

I will like to thank the Fako Lawyers Association for their sacrifices, all Common Law Lawyers for the dedication to defend justice, all Cameroonians from both sides of Mungo including the diaspora who supported the movement and fight against marginalisation and oppression, we recognize your sacrifices and support as we ask you to continue for us to arrive the finish line. To all organisations, supporters and citizens of the world who continue advocating for us, we are very grateful for your voices. Thank you, to my family, friends and to the brilliant staff of Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, you sacrificed your time, families and lives to advance the work we have done so far. To all with views different from ours, we hear you and we hope to work together on issues of common interest to advance democracy and peaceful coexistence.

The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa has provided a clear view of the human rights, socio-political and economic implications of the Anglophone crisis during consultations and recommendations to our local, regional and international partners, diplomats, world superpowers and belligerents of the crisis. It is in our best interest to see a quick end to the conflict through meaningful negotiations and for this to happen we need a ceasefire and measures in place for confidence building on both sides. As Mandela said, “Negotiation and discussion are the greatest weapons we have for promoting peace and development.” I think Madiba will know what I mean when I say that in the spirit of humanity, justice and peace, I accept this award. In the spirit of peace emulated by our people who protested with peace plants despite confrontations with armed soldiers, I humbly accept this award. I believe that we shall overcome.

Cameroon: Biya Regime’s Monstrosity Exposed

Social media across the world has been outraged by a video of Cameroon miliary extrajudicially killing women and children in what appears to be the North of the Country.

As activists took to social media to denounce the acts that left some people traumatised, one would have expected that the Cameroon government would, for once, do the right thing. This, unfortunately, was not to be.

Instead of opening an investigation into the killings, Cameroon’s Minister of Communications – Issa Tchiroma Bakary – went on State television to proclaim the video ‘fake news’. There have been subsequent reports that an investigation will be opened. How far this will go is left to conjecture.

A release by Amnesty International, after careful analysis of the video, has presented credible evidence that the act was actually carried in Cameroon and by members of the Cameroon military, who can easily be identified. This is corroborated by A non-governmental organisation, the Network of Defenders of Human Rights in Central Africa, known by its French acronym REDHAC, which released a report stating that they had cross-checked details in the video and could attest to its authenticity.

This would not be the first time that such acts have been carried out in Cameroon. Since the beginning of the current crisis in the English-Speaking Regions, there have been several reports of similar extrajudicial killings and burning of villages by members of the Cameroon army. All such reports were challenged by Tchiroma, in the same manner, as he did with the current video.

Cameroon tethers on the brink of a civil war as Restoration forces of the proclaimed Federal Republic of Ambazonia have been engaged in violent confrontations with Cameroon’s security forces, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides.

In the midst of all these, Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya who has been in power since 1982, has not directly addressed the situation but has rather announced presidential elections slated to take place on October 7th, 2018.

This current situation exposes the monstrosity of the Cameroonian regime which has time and again, shown very little regard for civilian lives and would do anything to maintain its grip on power.