Anglophone Regions Narrowly Commemorate 20th May Amid Separatist Lockdown

  • Buea Ex-fighters Steal Show With Colourful March-past
Ex-combatants in colourful march-past during 20th May celebrations in Buea

By Hope Nda & Sendy Forlemu

The Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon have recovered from a five-day separatist-imposed lockdown that paralysed economic activities in some towns in the week gearing up to the commemoration of the 50th edition of the Reunification day on May 20.

In Buea and Bamenda, chief towns of the English-speaking Southwest and Northwest Regions respectively, some civilians and administrative officials nevertheless joined scores of security and defence forces to observe 20th May, amid a tensed security environment and separatist calls for boycott of the event.

The nationwide event that commemorates the 1972 reunification of the English and French-speaking Cameroons was celebrated this year under the theme: “Defence and security forces at the service of the people, for the preservation of social peace and national cohesion”.

This theme recognises the efforts of the Cameroonian military, paramilitary forces and police in sustaining the country through two armed conflicts – the secessionist conflict in the Anglophone Regions and the jihadist war against Boko Haram in the Far North Region.

With the Anglophone Crisis, which has exceeded five years now, separatists have been seeking to overturn, not just the 1972 referendum that resulted in the present Republic of Cameroon, but to break away the two regions and form a new state – a quest which the government says remains inadmissible.

As part of civil disobedience strategies, the separatists have often called for the boycott of national events and this year, they imposed a five-day lockdown that marred 20th May celebrations in most parts of the regions.

Commemorative activities nevertheless held in major administrative towns like Buea and Bamenda, Nkambe, Limbe, Kumba, Tiko and others.

In Buea, where most businesses and transport activities had been grounded since Monday, May 16, the 20th May commemorations took place in a two-hour-long ceremony held at the Buea Independence Square, under the patronage of Governor Bernard Okalia Bilai.

He was accompanied at the occasion by the Divisional Officer for Buea, Abba Abdurahman, several administrative and security officials, local representatives, traditional rulers, CPDM party pundits and other political parties’ militants, youths and students from the nine schools that participated in the march-past.

The celebration started with the award of medals to several personalities who were being recognised for their faithful service to the nation. Among them was the Member of Parliament for Buea Urban, Hon. Malomba Esembe, who was awarded the medal of Knight of the Order of Valor.

The event was an occasion for the police and the military to demonstrate their prowess and they did this patriotically through a military parade that preceded the civilian march-past.

The civilian march-past on the other hand was kick started by the International Committee of the Red Cross, followed by four secondary schools; two vocational training institutions and three higher learning institutions. Some youth groups also came out to demonstrate their love for the nation.

Meanwhile militants of two political parties also marched; including the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM party; the Union des Population Camerounaise, UPC; and Cameroon National Salvation Front, CNSF.

 “It is always said we have only one nation. So I’m happy that the population of this region, particularly the city of Buea, understands that when the nation is concerned, they must wake up and join the rest of the nation to celebrate,” said Governor Okalia Bilai after witnessing the march-past that unfolded hitch-free.

Ex-fighters Steal Show With Colourful Match-past

Dozens of ex-separatist fighters who are now undergoing demobilisation and reintegration in Buea left spectators at the 20th May event marveled, with their colorful parade.

Dressed in the national colors – Green, Red and Yellow – the ex-fighters’ march-past was the most cheered and officials seemed to be telling them they had made a good decision of laying down their arms.

This call for fighters to drop arms has been reiterated on several occasions by government officials, since the creation of the National Centre for the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of repentant Ambazonia and Boko Haram fighters.

Southwest Governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai, could not leave the grandstand without reiterating the call for separatists, whom he called “misguided compatriots”, to drop their arms.

“We must always remain vigilant because we have some misguided compatriots who are still roving around; we should sensitise them, talk to them and tell them that we have only one nation and we must protect our nation,” he told the press.

The DDR Centre in Southwest, located along the Tiko-Douala highway, had 258 ex-fighters as of 3 December 2021, according to the Centre’s coordinator, Bernard Ngone Ndodemesape.

Muea Court Area Chiefs, Elites Ask For Subdivision

The 20th May celebration was an opportunity for Chiefs, elites and youths of the Muea Court Area in Buea to openly make their demand for a Sub-division.

Marching in their numbers during the march-past, youths and some elites reportedly from the Muea Court Area in Buea, displayed a message which simply read, “We need a Subdivision”.

Youths supposedly from Muea Court Area in Buea display banner asking for a Sub-division during march-past on 20th May

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