A sophisticated road blockade operation carried out by Separatist fighters, popularly referred to as ‘Amba Boys’, on Saturday night breaking Sunday September 9, brought movement in and out of Bamenda to a standstill as they dug a trench across the road, making it impossible for cars to cross to either side.
The action of the fighters irked the administration, who through the North West Governor has slammed a dusk to dawn curfew and banned night travel.
Travellers on the road recounted their horrible experiences, as their short and long journeys came to a halt at Akum, in Bamenda I Sub-division.
The commuters reportedly came to the bitter experience of their journey when unidentified gunmen in their numbers, surfaced with an excavator, ordering drivers to halt and then started digging a deep trench across the road, cutting the main road into two.
A passenger who was trapped on her way to Bamenda narrated that “they dug the road, hindering movement…, they took the phones of the various passengers so as to stop them from communicating with other people, but they later on gave back the phones” she narrated.
Other accounts hold that the perpetrators of the act forced the travellers out of their buses and cars, after which they were reportedly checked and identified and asked them to on the muddy road.
Amour Mezam Buses Destroyed
The incident that culminated in the crippling of movement on the said road, later got worst and complicated when the armed men, after digging a deep trench on the road, proceeded to destroy buses belonging to Amour Mezam Travel Agency with the excavator said to have been seized from a road construction company.
Eye witness accounts claimed that about five VIP buses, belonging to Amour Mezam were smashed by the gunmen, rending the cars almost useless, as the bodies of the buses, glasses, and windows were all shattered to degrees almost beyond repairs, except for some vital parts like engines that might be pulled out and reused in other cars.
Though the reason for targeting Amour Mezam has not been made clear by the actors, rumours in the quarters and drinking spots, are that the company was targeted because of its refusal to respect calls for ghost towns by pro-independence activists.
Some accounts also hold that amongst the items targeted and reportedly smashed, were boxes packed with school items of students.
Driver Killed In Operation
Another ugly twist in the operation was the tragic killing of a driver, said to be of the Moghamo Travel Agency. Witness accounts hold that the driver reportedly alighted from his drivers’ seat and engaged in a bitter exchange of words with the perpetrators.
What is said to have caused the killing of the said driver, was the fact that he spoke to gunmen in the French Language, which separatists abhor, calling it “the language of the oppressor”
The National Times further gathered that as the operation started at about 9:00pm on Saturday September 8 went on, commuters caught in the operation were made to lie down for over three hours, but for children who were spared from being forced out of vehicles into the rain and cold.
The gunmen reportedly ended their operation at about 1:00am on Sunday, September 9, but the travellers could not move due to the destroyed road. Help only arrived at dawn before efforts were made to resume activities and movement along the said road.
The excavator used in destroying the road was burnt after the operation.
Governor Responds With Travel Restriction
In response to attack, the Governor of the North West Region, Adolf Lele L’Afrique, reacted to the situation, by swiftly imposing a curfew and night travel ban in and out of the Region.
“Movement of persons and property is hereby restricted as from the date of signature of the present order from 6:00pm to 6:00am within the North West Region till further notice…During the said period, movement of vehicles, persons and goods shall be strictly forbidden; all off licenses, snack bars and night clubs shall remain closed. Motor parks shall remain closed and night travel suspended. The circulation of motor bikes shall completely be suspended during said hours,” the Governor declared in a press release.
He further said that the order will not apply to administrative authorities, forces of law and order, ambulances, as well as vehicles with special authorisation. Governor Lele L’Afrique promised prosecution of those who will be caught disrespecting his orders. one, since the crisis evolved to an armed conflict.