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Those Enemies Of B’da Peace (The Harder They Come) 

By Peterkins Manyong

"The harder they come; the harder they fall". Lovers of reggae music in the 80s (like your humble analyst) will never forget the lyrics of this hit song by ace Jamaican artiste, Jimmy Cliff. The message of violence contained in the song and a movie on it, is regrettably as relevant to the Bamenda people today as to Jamaicans who lived the experience.

The announced visit of President Paul Biya to Bamenda is undoubtedly the cause, judging from both the timing and a number of recent happenings in town. Following the announcement of the visit and despite the deployment of troops, hold-ups continued for a long time. Hoodlums, knowing that security patrols begin at 10 pm, have decided to carry out operations much earlier. A popular drinking spot at City Chemist Roundabout was attacked not long ago as early as 9 pm.

The hoodlums seemed to have inside information that drinks were to be bought the following day and so funds could be available that evening. Their calculations proved correct. They not only made away with more than FCFA 300,000, they also seized the cell phones of the proprietor and the customers after ordering them, as is the custom, to lie on their bellies. Not long after there was a broad daylight robbery at another business premises in the town. The armed robbers struck at 5 pm while it was raining.

Two weeks later, inhabitants of Azire Quarter were kept fearfully awake following a series of gunshots that started at about 11 pm. It was only after judicial police had gunned down two members of a four-man gang, suspected to be at the centre of the terrorist acts, that calm returned to that neighbourhood.

Before long a new wave of terror gripped the town, when two buildings hosting cybercafés and some other lucrative businesses went up in flames. Observers attributed the burnings to an electrical fault in each of the buildings. One of the buildings, situated on Fon Street, hosted Allied Engineering Cybercafé and ANUCAM Books; the other on Foncha Street Junction, also hosted  a cybercafé.

Soon after the public learnt that some prominent elites and businessmen in town had received text messages ordering them to send FCFA 100,000 in the form of credit or lose their building premises to fire. But since then, nothing has been heard about the matter. The fact that no other burning has taken place suggests that those targeted are paying up since they can’t rely on the police to protect them.

The only organisation known to have taken a step to avert a recurrence is the SDF, whose National Chairman, John Fru Ndi, held a meeting with mayors of the areas affected. He ended up putting SDF vanguards on night patrol around structures owned by the party. Another development is the circulation of tracts warning Biya not to set foot in Bamenda without releasing Forjindam. These are the exact words on one of the tracts: "Biya Should Not Come to Bamenda without Forjindam. We Are Not Happy With The Bias And Unfair Judgment.

Is It Because Forjindam is From the Northwest? What about the Ondo Ndongs, Mebara, etc? Laurent Esso and co. Should Kill The Talented Engineer And Send Our Forjindam To Us".
The wordings of the tract, like those on some placards which some self-styled "Takumbeng" women in Santa took to Santa DO’s office recently suggest that they were written by very educated people. There is, however, an unwritten message conveyed by the circulation of the tracts which is an unmistakable demonstration of cowardice.

The message is that the freedom to express discontent, a human right, is absent in Cameroon despite the existence of the 1990 laws on freedom of expression and association. An occasion like Biya’s visit to Bamenda is an opportunity for persons with grievances to air them. If there is any justification for the Biya regime’s opposition to any manifestations of inward frustrations, it is the fact that the Bamenda visit is essentially a military event. But then the military celebration will be followed by a civilian reception.

But that is beside the point. What is preoccupying is the fact that those who should have curbed the insecurity in town are propagators of it. The insecurity of Bamenda is rather being intensified by Presidential security. They harass and arrest people in taxis, bars, cabarets and even hotels. Quite often they don’t even ask for or insist on seeing identification papers. The victims are simply taken to detention centres and released only after their captors had fleeced them of substantial sums of money. To say that there is an undeclared state of emergency in Bamenda at the moment is to call things by their true names.

The state of affairs in Bamenda has been summed up in the lead story of a local English language newspaper. In it the writer states that Bamenda is in the process of becoming a military (the author means militarised) town. Ironically, the same paper states that there will soon be a population explosion in Bamenda. The irony is that heavy military presence inevitably leads to intimidation of the population.

Logically, therefore, the population of a militarised town should be moving away from it, not moving towards it. The exception to this rule is the town of Basra in Iraq during the US-led attack of 2003. Insurgents rather moved into the town to confront the allied forces. Bamenda is anything but a town of insurgents and fundamentalists.

The insecurity situation in Bamenda threatens to worsen as the date for Biya’s visit approaches. Not only will markets and major roads be blocked, many more arrests will follow. If the intention is to make the visit a success, then there is nothing to quarrel about. But if it is only to indirectly punish Bamenda people for their (hitherto) opposition inclination, then the harder the (in) security men come, the harder they fall.
 

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