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Exclusive: Unmasking the masquerades behind the mysterious disappearance of young people in Buea

The Anglophone Crisis which started off with the lawyers and teachers’ demands, then metamorphosed into the burning down of houses, extra-judicial killings, kidnappings, looting of business premises, arson on private and public properties, has now taken another ugly twist.

Denizens of Buea in the South West Region of Cameroon have raised an alarm about a surging phenomenon in the past three months, where masked men cruising around the metropolis in white pick-up vehicle with tinted glasses have been mysteriously disappearing young men of the metropolis.

White pickup vehicle use by masked soldiers

These masked men have been abducting young men even in broad day light and their corpses are later discovered either the following day or after two days in nearby bushes. Nobody has been able to say with exactitude who these masked men are. While, some people hold that those behind the masks are military men since most of the military trucks circulating in the Region are white, others claim that those behind the mask are gunmen, who have surfaced in the wake of the Anglophone Crisis and are kidnapping for ransoms.

Those accusing the military of being behind the disappearance of young men, argued that such acts are not uncommon with the Cameroonian military. According to them, the on-going silent killings are synonymous to that of the early 1960s and late 1970s, where critics of the Ahidjo regime where kidnapped and their corpses later found in the bushes.

Meanwhile, the new trend used by masked men in the white pick-up vehicle with tinted glasses to disappear young men in surrounding neighbourhoods in Buea, prompted The National Time team to probe into the matter.

The decision of the team was informed by an online message, which was circulated last month, warning Buea denizens to be aware of a white pick-up vehicle with dark tinted glasses.

The online message (unedited) read thus: “there is a white military pick-up in Buea and is specialized in kidnapping. Many persons have witnessed it kidnapped young men and drove away with them to an unknown destination. If you are in Buea be on the watch and don’t go close to any white pick-up with glasses tinted black. Please tell others.”

However, The National Times learnt that on Tuesday June 19, 2018, a young man in his late 30s, whose name we got only as Godlove was picked up at Malingo Street Buea by masked men in a white vehicle.

An eye witness told The National Times that: “a dark white pick-up vehicle with tinted glasses and soldiers drove in and parked in front of Ndefi Hostel Malingo and ordered a guy to get into the car. They spoke in French. The guy was drinking in a small bar with friends. When I spotted the car, I ran into my hostel close to drinking spot. The people drinking did not run, the soldiers approached him and ordered him to follow them, which he majestically did. The white pick-up drove out on speed and people started running to different directions. All this happened in broad day light”, the eye witness narrated.

A lifeless body was later discovered, which The National Times later learnt that it was the lifeless body of Godlove, who was picked up days back by masked soldiers. The corpse was ridden with bullet wounds.

The National Times traced the family compound of the deceased and later found out that the family lives in Mile 14, a neighbourhood along the Buea-Mutengene Highway.

Approaching the compound, The National Times spotted a grave at the entrance of the family compound. A little child who lives directly opposite the compound of the deceased stopped us and said “don’t enter; wait here let me check if grandma is at home.”

A grand mother came out from the compound, spotted us and told us to come inside. The National Times team introduced themselves to the 70 year-old grandmother. The grandmother accepted to talk to the team, but requested for anonymity. The interview was done in pidgin but later transcribed to English.

“My children (referring to National Times team) my son Godlove was killed by military men. On that day, my neighbour came to me that she has seen a picture of a dead body on social media which looks like Godlove, but I didn’t understand what he was saying. Few minute later, my last daughter who lives in Limbe called me to ask if Godlove was at home and if he was fine. Then later my first son also called asking the same question. I became worried. Few minutes later, people were rushing into my compound and some were crying and others trying to comfort me. Within one hour, all my children had gathered in the compound and my first son got a call that there is a lifeless body lying in a bush behind the Molyko Omnisport Stadium towards the Market. We quickly rushed there and saw military men around the place. We went closer to the corpse just to find out that it was Godlove. The military men asked us if we recognised the corpse and we accepted. The military carried the corpse into their car alongside myself and five of my children to the Central Police Station Buea. After staying at the Police Station for four hours, some papers were given to us to sign before collecting the corpse. I don’t know what was in the papers, but my first son who signed the papers knows what he signed. We were given three hours to burry Godlove, which we did. That is the grave of Godlove….,” the 70 years-old grandmother narrated to The National Times team.

Grave of late Godlove

The National Times contacted the first son of the grandmother via phone to know the content of the papers he signed before collecting the corpse of his younger brother, but the he told The National Times that the Commissioner of the Buea Central Police Station warned him not to disclose the content to anyone.

The National Times also gathered that a certain young man by name Paul Ewang was kidnapped by the same masked men at Mount Carmel Street Muea-Buea.

An eye witness, a woman who owns a petit provision store told The National Times team that Paul Ewang was abducted on Friday July 6, 2018 at about 7:15am. She added that the white pick-up car used by masked soldiers stopped Ewang as he was about to cross the road to board a taxi to the Mile 17 Motor Park.

“Ewang greeted me early that morning as we met at this junction when I was about to open my store. Suddenly, I saw a white pick-up with dark tinted glasses ordering Ewang in the French Language to get into the car. Ewang tried to resist, the masked soldiers hit him with their guns and he fell on the tarmac, then they dragged him into the white pick-up. The pick-up quickly made a U-turn and drove towards the Mile 17 Motor Park. I am sure they took him to the Central Police or somewhere else”, the business woman recounted.

The business woman, who requested for anonymity said “I don’t really know him, but I know he leaves in this Mount Carmel Street because I see him daily coming out of this street and he always greet me and buy most of his provisions from  my store. I know his name as Paul Ewang because I have done Mobile Money transaction with his number bearing that name. He is a quiet and calm young man…”

The National Times team tried calling Paul Ewang’s phone number, but the number was unreachable. Till date, no one has an idea of the whereabouts of Paul Ewang and all efforts in locating his family were fruitless.

Another disappearing case The National Times learnt was that of a car cleaner, who also picked up by the masked men in the white pickup vehicle. The National Times gathered that the incident happened on Wednesday July 25, 2018, at the Mile 18 car wash opposite the BOCOM fuel filling station along the Mile 17-Muea Road Buea.

The National Times learnt that Police Van frequently visits the car washing point to check on the identification cards of the workers at the washing point.

According to one of the workers of the washing point, one of his friends, Nickson aka Bosco was arrested and whisked away. He wept that he may never see his friend again.

“That day a white pickup car entered into the washing point. As usually, two of my colleagues rush to the car, fighting over who will wash the car because we always do that. Surprisingly, three masked soldiers came out of the car, pointed at Nickson (Bosco) to come closer. Overwhelmed with joy that he has been chosen to clean the car, he waved at me smiling saying “boy they want na me for wash their motor.” He walked towards them but the masked soldiers forced him into the white car and drove off. We all got confused and ran way. We later converged on the washing point the next morning, asking questions to ourselves as to the whereabouts of Bosco. We agreed to go to the Central Police Station to see if he was detained there and to know his crime. Upon reaching there, I met a friend who is a Police Officer standing at the entrance to the Police Station. I narrated what happened the previous day. My friend (the police officer) whispered to me that we cannot see Nickson and that I should forget about him because he is gone and gone forever. The Police Officer insisted that we should leave immediately because we can be arrested. We came back to the washing point demoralised. Since that incident, I have quit working in that washing point again. Today is Nickson, tomorrow might be me…” he said.

The National Team also learnt out about a recent abduction case of man at Miss Bright Street, Bomaka-Buea by these masked men.

According to our findings, on Saturday August 18, 2018, a man whose name The National Times got only as Azie Timothy was abducted at his resident at about 7:00am while brushing his teeth by masked men.

“Azie Tomothy was standing on his veranda, brushing his teeth with an empty body when suddenly the white pick-up appeared. I saw the white pick-up coming and I ran into an uncompleted building while spying from there. The masked soldiers ordered him to enter the car, which he did immediately. The white pickup drove out of the street on high speed,” our source narrated.

At the compound of Mr. Azie Timothy, The National Times met with his wife and other concerned neighbours. According to the wife of Azie Timothy, “I was inside the house when I heard a car parked in front of my house. I overheard the people talking in French so I came outside only for me to see masked soldiers talking to my husband to enter their car. They forced him into the car. My husband even requested to take his Identity card and to dress properly but the masked soldiers refused and insisted that he should enter the car and they drove away”, Azie’s stated.

Meanwhile, the Quarter Head of the neighbourhood mobilised some elderly men in the quarter to move to the Central Police Station to demand an explanation for the abduction of Azie.

There was a huge crowd at the resident of Mr. Azie when The National Times team visited. The people narrated similar incidents among themselves. Many feared that Mr. Azie might have been killed and dumped somewhere.

However, following the many allegations levelled against elements of the forces of law and order, The National Times decided to find out if the masked men are indeed security operatives or some armed men are impersonating the military to give them a bad name.

According to a security officer at the Buea Central Police Station, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, the masked men are members of a special force which has been dispatched from Yaounde with specific instructions and are only answerable to their hierarchy in Yaoundé.

“The masked soldiers in the white vehicle are special forces sent to the capital cities of the two Regions. They receive instructions from Yaoundé not from the Governors. Their mission here is determined by Yaounde….” our security source said.

Meanwhile, human life in the two English-speaking Regions has not only been debased, but it has also become meaningless as the Crisis persists. Many Cameroonians hope and pray that things should get better so that the spilling of human blood may end in Cameroon.

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