1 February 2016

Cameroon - Victim, Not Culprit!

editorial

The Minister of Communication and Government Spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary was in a particularly irate posture when he summoned the press last Friday to speak of a recent Associated Press report linking Cameroonian armed forces involved in the battle against the dreadedsect Boko Haram to the killings of innocent Nigerian citizens in some villages just across into the Nigerian territory. The Minister's anger is understandable. On countless occasions, similar press reports, usually unfounded, have tended to undermine the huge financial sacrifices involved in prosecuting such an imposed war on the peace-loving people of Cameroon and the stupendous toll in human lives, involving not only servicemen, but civilians among who were some of the finest brains in the armed forces and in civilian life.

The situation has virtually wrecked the finances of the nation with some very important life-saving or face-lifting development projects being shelved aside because of the high-demanding war effort in terms of generally costly military equipment and the sustenance of the forces at the front. Development is literally at a standstill in most parts of the Far-North Region where the main theatre of the war is. Schools and health facilities have been shut up while movement is greatly impeded by the high risk of getting attacked. Ordinary citizens, to say the least, have been scared out of their wits with the prevailing situation of strife and instability. As if the situation was not serious enough with these difficulties of coping with everyday life, death has also been one of the main features of this new-found configuration. It is not in tens or hundreds! It hit the thousand mark a few weeks ago.

In fact when the Government Spokesman met the press on Thursday, January 14, 2016, he announced that some 1,098 Cameroonian civilians had been killed either in clashes with the Boko Haram or in armed attacks on unarmed civilian populations while 67 military personnel and three policemen had also been killed. With the recent attacks registered in other parts of the far-North, the figure could be around 1, 200 today. This is a bit too much for a country which does not blame itself for anything and which has not declared war on anyone except that suggested by the need for self defence. The entire economic system and the life-sustaining organization of the entire region is in shambles with farms either overrun or crops harvested by invaders ostensibly to feed members of the decried sect.

The quantity of food stolen is so high that the Region is facing a food shortage problem of multifaceted dimensions, not to talk of cattle-hustling which has become a favourite pastime for the Boko Haram marauders. In 2015 alone, some 4, 200 heads of cattle, not including smaller breeds such as goats and sheep, were stolen. The huge financial losses and the deficit in the food and nutritional needs of the people are easy to fathom. This gloomy setting, rather than attract the sympathy of international bodies and, more especially those working on the ground, has given rise to generalized apathy sometimes bordering on sadism.

One cannot understand that a country suffering from such blatant and enormous injustice should rather be constantly accused for human rights abuses very often without proof and sometimes with unreliable testimonies from villagers who can neither make a difference between a genuine soldier, a Boko Haram renegade or simply an armed robber. It is even more disturbing to observe that in virtually no situation has the international community, let alone the field non-governmental organizations, reacted with any form of dispatch to the numerous bloody attacks on Cameroonian citizens.

The feeling many Cameroonians have is that there is some kind of conspiracy against their nation in the face of the generalized indifference to their plight with the sole consolation coming from its development partners, notably those supporting the military and intelligence effort to defeat Boko Haram. International Human Rights bodies and NGOs, where are you? Cameroonians are dying in their numbers and no word from you!

Cameroon

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