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Arrest Of Consortium Leaders Sparks Uproar In Buea 

By Azore Opio & Isidore Abah

Violent reactions ensued Tuesday, January 17 in some neighbourhoods in the Southwest after police arrested two leaders of the Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, ACSC.

Anti-riot police had picked Barrister Agbor Balla and Dr. Fontem Neba, ACSC President and Secretary General respectively, at about 6:40 pm and detained them at the Mobile Intervention Brigade, GMI, close to the 21st Battalion in Buea.

The arrest came on the heels of a communiqué banning the ACSC announced on the 5:00 O’clock national news, with an equal threat of the seizure of the Consortium leaders.

The capture of Agbor Balla and Dr. Fontem did little to reduce violent responses from the public as groups of visibly angry youths immediately leapt into action setting up barricades at the Checkpoint Molyko, Malingo Junction and Mile 16 neighbourhoods in Buea.

By about 7:00 pm, lawyers and lecturers of the University of Buea, where Dr. Fontem teaches, had congregated at the GMI headquarters demanding the release of Agbor Balla and Dr. Fontem.

In response, the police called in a water cannon truck and used tear gas and gunshots to disperse the crowd.

“I had to run for my life,” said a lawyer who had responded to the call that the Consortium leaders had been arrested and were about to be transferred to Yaounde.

A civil servant, who had driven to Long Street, a stone throw away from the GMI headquarters, said when police started firing tear gas and guns, he was left with little choice but to abandon his car and flee.

“Even soldiers complained why they too should be teargased,” said the civil servant.

Meanwhile, the scenario in Mile 16 was rather dramatic. Youths had erected barricades using makeshift stores, call boxes, stones, Pari Foot and PMUC kiosks.

A car was vandalised and burnt on the Mile 16 Bridge to prevent the authorities from taking the arrested Consortium leaders, Barrister Agbor Balla and Dr. Fontem to Yaounde.

In the scuffle that ensued between the armed security officers and the enraged youths, filling stations were vandalised, the windscreen of cars shattered, while many youths sustained injuries.

Because of repeated gunshots and teargasing, many young men in Mile 16 were forced to spend the night in the farms for fear of arbitrary arrest at night.

The population of Mile 16 was still recovering from the January 9 Ghost Town upheavals in which over 30 youths were arrested and whisked off to various detention cells for blocking the road.

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