They changed the venue of the rendezvous three times. Finally they are sitting on bamboo stools in the living room of a mud house surrounded by fields of peanuts and maize.
The three men, in their twenties, come from Lebialem, in the South West, one of the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon with the North West. They say they have "Fought the military, kidnapped the enemies." Did they kill? They study the question several times: "There are deaths on both sides, we are fighting for the independence of Ambazonia," this imaginary state that the separatists want to see born.
Aris, John and Seh (the names they give) came AT" to rest » in this village in the French-speaking region of the West. For two years, the crisis that has rocked English-speaking Cameroon has turned into an armed conflict. Fighting between Cameroonian defense and security forces and separatists has pushed 530,000 people to flee for refuge in surrounding forests and French-speaking regions, according to the UN .
The West, bordering on English-speaking regions, hosts more than 65,000 displaced people. Among these are sympathizers of the Ambazonian cause, fleeing veterans, but also armed separatists who are still active. This is the case of the three young men, who claim to have left the front line AT" for a few days " after heavy fighting.
"No one here suspects us"
"We'll go back. We do it all the time. Here, nobody suspects us. We go through the bush and we arrive. We are recovering forces, " says John, 22. The youngest of the three explains that "A lot of brothers are in the French-speaking forests AT". He takes his smartphone out of the cracked screen and scrolls through dozens of photos. Here, we see him holding a weapon, his eyes hard. There, he is accompanied by several other fighters, in the middle of the forest.
"We are fighting so that our people will not suffer anymore, so that there is no more marginalization. They wanted to colonize us. Teachers, judges, doctors, government workers, all French-speaking. They wanted to eradicate the English speakers, " Aris wins. "We do not have a problem with the francophone inhabitants", Temper Seh. The three friends swear that they do not attack "The innocent francophones". Â € œThese are â € œfake ambasâ € [faux sÃ©paratistes] who do itsays Seh. We only operate in our territory, in Ambazonia. We are attacking only when our people are threatened. AT"
However, the West regularly suffers incursions attributed to separatists. Since the beginning of the crisis, villages, schools, health centers, markets in this region have been attacked, destroyed or burned. Residents have been kidnapped and some killed. Several French-speaking border villages have emptied, inflating the ranks of the displaced and increasing humanitarian needs. Faced with this situation, local authorities have banned or restricted, according to the localities, the circulation of motorcycle-taxis, privileged means of transport of the armed groups. Security has also been strengthened.
According to Awa Fonka Augustine, the governor of the West, for six months the separatist attacks have AT" substantially " dropped and are no longer "Daily as before". AT" We have a mastery of the field and we will not under any circumstances allow a rear base. The West is against the separatists, he says, explaining that the government has taken steps to put an end to the activities of the secessionists, wherever they are.
Fallback base and supply area
According to Joseph LÃ © a Ngoula, a political analyst and security expert at the head of Orin Consulting Group, the attacks recorded in the West are often the result of armed gangs taking advantage of the chaos for his supply through smuggling, racketeering, kidnappings, banditry and looting. However, he notes, when separatists attack francophone localities, they usually do so "Reprisals against some communities perceived as allied government forces or hostile to English-speaking dislocations". According to him, the secessionists see the West as a base of withdrawal and a zone of supply.
The West is not the only French-speaking region attacked. The Littoral, a southwestern border, is home to a large population of displaced people and is also experiencing incursions, but at lower intensities. According to a security source, this difference is explained by the fact that the West and the English-speaking regions have a lot in common: they share, according to the localities, the same cultures, the same languages , the same economic activities, and many people have married on both sides of the border. AT" This proximity makes separatists more easily infiltrate into the West, " underlines our source.
Ernest Folefack, professor of law at the University of Dschang and president of the association Fountain of Justice Cameroon, does not hide his concern. He finds, more and more, AT" a radicalization Â » displaced people who are struggling to eat, to stay and to send their children to school. "The humanitarian situation has deterioratedhe wonders. In the absence of sufficient help, the displaced are more and more bitter. They plunge into an unreal world, Ambazonia, where all their problems will be solved. AT"
Â € œIndependence is the only solution AT", ton a 72-year-old former Chief Warrant Officer. The man served for thirty-six years under the Cameroonian flag. Today, this anglophone and five of his sexagenarian friends have fled to Dschang and show themselves as Â "stay paratistes © Â» encourage "Troops on all terrain, including our children who are with us and want to go fight." And to conclude: "Too much is too much! AT"
"They will create a monster"
The anger is such that the English-speaking prisoners in Kondengui, Yaoundé, and Buea prisons in the south-west, have organized mutinies to protest their conditions of imprisonment, judicial delays and demand their release. In Yaoundé, 244 detainees were Â "called out © s Â» to be interrogated outside the prison, including Mamadou Mota, vice president of the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC), one of the main parties of opposition. They are accused of Â "Â Result © rebellion" "Flight in co-action" and "Attempt to escape".
Originally from the West, Maurice Kamto, the president of the MRC, who officially came second in the presidential election of October 2018 and who claims his victory, has been imprisoned since January. Many executives and activists have suffered the same fate. According to party members, the government, unable to solve the Anglophone crisis that has been going on since 2016, is seeking "Scapegoats".
Christopher Ndong, the secretary general of the MRC, says that "Everyone" know the conditions of detention Â "Â inhuman" abuse of the inmates, overcrowding, prohibition for some to see a doctor, their lawyer or, sometimes, members of their family. "Our activists were not complicit with anyone, martÃ¨le he. Soon, the authorities will say that it is the MRC that is behind the Anglophone crisis, when we were the first to recognize that there was a problem and to give solutions. AT"
At the seat of his association, Ernest Folefack constantly receives the dislocations. For him, it takes "Urgently put an end to the crisis", because fighting in the English-speaking zone, incursions into the West and the growing anger of displaced people are fearing the worst. "If nothing is done, they will create a monster," he warns.
In Cameroon, for nearly two years, a war has broken out of the eyes of outsiders. The two English-speaking regions of North West and South West have moved away from the media to a conflict where they are emerging on social networks. some rare and horrible images of exactions. Between the armed groups fighting for the independence of these two regions and the Cameroonian armed forces, the civilians pay the high price. According to the United Nations, 4 million people are affected by the conflict. More than half a million people have been displaced, nearly 2,000 killed. Kidnappings have become a growing business as the economy of the region collapses. Our reporter Josiane Kouagheu went to give the floor to the actors and victims of this tragedy.