Developments within the lingering Crisis in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon have placed people of Bamileke extraction from the country’s West Region in a dilemma.
The argument at the surface level is the accusation of them being spies for the Government.
Some Restoration Fighters view Bamilekes as a threat to their activities. Yet, the reasons for the mass exodus of Bamileke business persons, families and farmers remain complex.
The National Times embarked on a month long investigation to understand the motives for the crusade against people from this tribe. It is a tale that takes one into empty neighbourhoods in cities and villages in the English-speaking Regions.
Authors of the attacks and threats on this group of people known to be industrious have been faceless. The threats have surfaced either through anonymous calls, tracks, rumours and outright kidnap. In some rare cases murder.
Given the fear of the unknown, respondents opted to engage in a discussion with The National Times on the basis of a concealed identity.
Across Bamenda , Nkambe, Ndop in the North West to Kumba, Muyuka, Matoh, Mbonge, host to thousands of Bamileke families, the plight for over one year has remained delicate.
From our findings, their quandary is on a larger scale linked to their economic fortune. The wealth and achievements of Bamilekes 58 years since independence is part of the hidden source of ‘jealousy’.
In the South West for instance, families linked with a faction of the Union des Population du Cameroun(UPC) party that found a safe haven in Kumba around 1955 when it was banned today own thousands of hectares of land.
The Bamileke across Meme and Muyuka Sub-division, own one of the largest cocoa plantations. They determine the pace of business across these areas.
Before the Anglophone Crisis, these people, most of whom are known to be diligent, borrow money to people based on personal arrangements. They employ hundreds of Cameroonians on their farms and in their businesses.
A host of them we interviewed ascribed their predicament to debtors using the current Crisis to give them a bad name.
According to one of them “people are owing me over FCFA 5 million…. Then in the last six months, I have been under threats from unknown people to support the struggle…. When I say I don’t have money they feel I am stringy…. Things have become difficult to some of us…business is not moving. Debtors now threaten us that… ‘Amba Boys’ will visit us,” our respondent claimed.
Across Mbonge and Konye Sub-division, The National Times learnt that some gunmen are already auctioning farms belonging to people from this tribe.
Others are reported to have taken control of such property and employ labourers as the real owners continue to run for fear of the unknown.
In Kumba, neighbourhoods such as Mile I and parts of New Layout and Three Corners Fiango are now deserted. These are major areas host to Bamilekes. Most of them have build mansions and set up families here. Some were born and bred in the same city, but the Anglophone Crisis brought in a different trend of history to them.
Series of kidnappings in the Mile I neighbourhood for instance first pushed them to leave. Some had out rightly been threatened. Business premises, makeshift shops and livestock rearing are now threatened. These are areas of interest to the Bamilekes.
In Kosala for instance, an inhabitant told The National Times that “one evening, I sat in front of our door and suddenly two men on a bike stopped at our neighbour’s house…. It was a ghost town day I remember… They started asking where is this Bamilekeman who lives here? The wife of the man told the guys they were from Manyu, but the guys insisted the owner of the building is Bamileke. Truly they are Bamileke. It was just four days after the landlord announced an increment of FCFA 1000 rents for tenants. Some even grumbled,” the Kosala III inhabitant stated.
Another victim of the same scenario confided in The National Times that “I had sent all my children to the village… one night I heard a bang on my neighbour’s door… I got up and went to work. But I started getting rumours after the incident that I am the one who called in the military to come and arrest my neighour’ s child for supposedly being an ‘Amba Boy’…. Since I could not trace where the information was coming from… I was forced to park out of Kumba,” the business man lamented.
Findings into the Monday September 10 abduction of D A Takougang points to the same scenario. Takougang, is a stalwart of Adamu Ndam Njoya’s Cameroon Democratic Union, (CDU).The retired tutor has thought across all Government Secondary Schools in Kumba.
Confirmations which The National Times got from a family source indicated that a man to whom Takougang borrowed FCFA 1million hired gunmen to kidnap and kill him. Our source claim, the gunmen were brainwashed to kill Takougang as an element in the elections rigging machinery in Kumba.
Our source said, the gunmen made findings and discovered that their informant was owing the victim money. The family source said that is how Takougang got his freedom.
Our source said, following his release, Takougang has opted to rest out of the troubled South West Region for a while.
Besides this, hundreds of Bamilekes have been forced to relocate owing to incessant demand for money from unknown gunmen. Some have auctioned their houses and property. Others have simply escaped leaving behind all they have laboured for.