Cameroon Crisis and the Normalisation of Death

I can remember vividly the day I first saw a corpse. I was about 8 or 9 years old at the time, and heard that someone had died. I left, ran with my friends and went in to see. It was a police officer and he was dressed in his official uniform. When we got back, we were told to wash our faces with water to avoid seeing the corpse in our dreams. It was a rare occurence to learn that someone had died, but over the years all that has changed drastically.

Watching the above video, I was shocked at how casually, the young persons therein, were carrying corpses, some of which were their friends. This video is a clear depiction of how far Cameroon has degenerated during the reign of 86 year-old Dictator Paul Biya.

Over the last couple of years, English-Speaking Cameroon has seem so much death, that it is no surprise that kids now carry corpses around in the back of a pick-up truck as if they were some sort of fancy toys.

My heart bleeds for my country. My heart bleeds for the country that was once known as “Africa in Miniature” because of its amazing riches. My heart bleeds as I watch helplessly and see my country slump into the morass of conflict that has engulfed most of Africa.

Death has been normalised in Cameroon, in the same way corruption, nepotism and lack of governance and development. I fear for the future of these children, I fear for the future of Cameroon.

Ambazonia’s ‘General’ Ivo Killed – Who Next?

He has been one of the most valiant faces since the crisis in the English-Speaking Regions of Cameroon turned into violent conflict. He made videos from an office in a school, which was subsequently captured by the Cameroon military.

In some of his earlier videos, he appeared to be the voice of reason, calling on others to unite and avoid attacking other English-Speaking Cameroonians. However, as would be expected in a situation where he received his orders from a Commander who was many thousand miles, his wishes did not always translate into real action. No unity ever arrived. Rather, rumours began emerging of how ‘General’ Ivo was going around kidnapping other soldiers.

 

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The tales were soon reversed and it emerged that Ivo had also been the victim of an attack from other Ambazonian fighters. In one of his most recent videos, he made the case that since his rifle was taken away from him, there has been an increase in the number of casualties on the Ambazonian forces. He was, therefore, implying that if he had his weapons, things would be much different.

With Ivo constantly appearing on live videos, it was only a matter of time, before his location was exposed. Hence, it came as little surprise when the Ambazonia Governing Council Secretary of State announced that Ivo had been killed. In a short message shared on social media, he wrote:

😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡
BREAKING SAD NEWS

This is sad indeed. Unfortunately, our one and strongest ADF General Ivo is no more. He was Killed this morning in KUMBA. I’m short of words to say the least Now and how I feel. He was indeed the greatest soldier Ambazonia ever had.

There’ll be an official statement to this effect soon
May your soul RIP & Rest in Perfect Peace BRAVEHEART

Sec of State

There is as yet, no indication, as to who might have killed Ivo. It could either be the military, or one of the many ‘enemies’ he has made during his short career as a fighter.

Whatever the case, this is just one of many young people who has needlessly lost his life in what is turning to be mayhem for English-speaking Cameroonians. The real architect of the problem and the person with the power to resolve the conflict has been untouched by any of the things happening in the English-Speaking Regions.

85 Year-old Dictator Paul Biya has not engaged with the conflict in any of his official statements. The recent formation of a Commission for Disarmament appears to be as useless as all the other commissions before it. Without a call for dialogue and an effective cease-fire, it is not clear how the disarmament commission can operate.

It should be noted that a number of prisons were attacked and prisoners released in parts of the North West Region of Cameroon when the conflict was still in its infancy. It is, therefore, safe to assume that many of the ex-convicts, joined in the fighting, and became tagged generally as Ambazonian fighters.

As the conflict protracts, kidnappings for ransom have become rampant. Recently it has emerged that some of the ‘leaders’ in the diaspora are colluding with their groups in Cameroon to kidnap people for ransom. Many people who can afford it have either fled the country or gone over to the French-speaking areas of Cameroon.

There appears to be only one solution to the crisis – a political one. And this solution, from every indication, would not come from Paul Biya, who has shown time and again, to have no will to resolve the conflict. It is time all Cameroonians united to demand that the dictator leaves power, to pave the way for a new political dispensation that can resolve the conflict and stop the mindless killings.

 

Twenty Years After Apartheid – Religious Segregation Takes Over

It has been a weekend of festivities in South Africa and for many Africans across the globe who share the solidarity. Sunday in particular was glammed by street parades, speeches, prayers, music and military salutes and and many more fanciful displays.

Credit: SAnews
Credit: SAnews

 

While a parochial glance at the African continent makes such a celebration worth the while, a more synoptic view will only reveal one fact: as far as segregation and conflict go, Africa is in a relay race. So, while South Africa celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first ever all-race, democratic election that ended decades of sanctioned racial oppression under the apartheid system, other countries in Africa have taken the baton of segregation and mass murder. In most cases, it has not been much about race or ethnicity but about religion.

The paradox of it all lies in that Christianity played a crucial role in providing theological rationalisations for maintenance of apartheid, in the same manner it did with colonialism. The South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church was unwavering in its support of the regime until the late 1980s. There were only a few voices, like that of Desmond Tutu, crying in the wilderness. Little wonder the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report, Volume 4 Chapter 3 clearly states that:

Some of the major Christian churches gave their blessing to the system of apartheid. And many of its early proponents prided themselves in being Christians. Indeed, the system of apartheid was regarded as stemming from the mission of the church…Religious communities also suffered under apartheid, their activities were disrupted, their leaders persecuted, their land taken away. Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples – often divided amongst themselves – spawned many of apartheid’s strongest foes, motivated by values and norms coming from their particular faith traditions.”

So today, being Low Sunday, the Sunday in the Octave of Easter, the Sunday in which Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were canonised and millions gathered at the Vatican to witness the event,  in the Central African Republic, another kind of service was being held by ‘Christians’ in a Mosque.  In a conflict that has already accounted for thousands of deaths and 700,000 IDPs and a further 290,000 who have fled to other neighbouring countries, I am apt to wonder if many Churches or Church leaders so much as thought of what is happening in the Central African Republic (CAR) in their sermons and prayers as they marked this Easter Octave.

The conflict in the CAR began since March 24, 2013. Muslim rebels known as the Seleka seized Bangui, the capital of the CAR, sparking the division between Christians and Muslims. As soon as François Bozizé was ousted, the Social Contract ceased to exist and there was a swift return to the State of Nature where chaos an anarchy is the only language the people understood .

central-african-republicIf there is one thing I know about Christianity and Islam, it is that the adherents of these religions have an almost unquestionable loyalty to their leaders. The mind-boggling question remains therefore whether the leaders have not spoken to them in this instance or whether they have simply decided to kick the can down the road and look the other way as has been the case with other past atrocities.

In the case of South Sudan. its church leaders have urged expansion of peace talks to include the religious leaders probably because many Christians played a crucial role in South Sudan’s independence, reconciling fighting factions, providing services and building structures. But the fragility of the first mediation must be questioned and questions asked of this conflict which began  after Salva Kiir alleged that his former deputy Riek Machar was planning a coup and arrested several senior politicians.

In Nigeria, it seems as if Boko Haram is the only faction gaining from the many Inter-religious Dialogues that have been taking place. The recent kidnapping of 230 young school girls and the bombing in the Nigerian Capital Abuja  are silent testimonies that much more has to be done by the religious leaders in Africa than holding dialogues.

Wole Soyinka was spot-on when he said that The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” And since according to Henri Frederic Amiel “Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence“, the silence or half-hearted condemnation by religious leaders, of the mass murders going on in different African countries under the banner of religion, makes the leaders not only ‘dead men’, but given that these religions claim to be based on truth, out-rightly challenges the core of whatever these religions profess.