Issues at stake

Issues At Stake: Gnashing Under Weight Of Ransom Payment

Yerima Kini Nsom

By Yerima Kini Nsom

Before the Anglophones Crisis took an ugly kink in 2017, I had only watched scenes of kidnap and payment of ransoms in Nigerian movies. I watched them with such levity as the fictional tales of movie writers and fictive constructs were far from reality. I even concluded that, even if such scenes were portraying reality, it was the Nigerian, not Cameroonian reality.

Little did I know that, in only a few years, one of the fallouts of the Anglophone Crisis would be wanton kidnapping for ransom. Early this year, that cruel reality visited me when my sister-in-law was kidnapped in Bamenda. The news of her kidnap stormed my ears like a devastating hurricane. It left me tensed with indignation and frustration. I felt the brunt for the first time, because, even in my pecuniary ‘menses’, I fully participated in paying a huge ransom for the release of my sister-in-law. For a few days, the family was on anxious feet as the hoodlums sustained a blackmail campaign in which they threatened to harm her if we did not fix things. Some family members took loans just to ensure that the lady was set free. Others turned pockets inside-out while many others wracked their brains for the same purpose until she was released.

Our ordeal was nowhere nearer the agony that some families have gone through following the kidnap of their members. Once kidnapped, the victims have four roads to be talked about. They are: payment of ransom, maiming, long detentions in the camp or being killed. Until ransom is paid, victims go the whole gamut of torture, including the breaking of bones and the cracking of skulls. The armed groups that sustain the kidnappings and the collection of ransoms are fine in their luxuriant business. The various Separatist groups have all played Pontus Pilate to the effect that they are not the ones who carry out kidnap for ransom. Whoever is behind this money-making terror cannot claim to be fighting for independence. For, kidnapping for ransom has become an act of utter barbarism and heart-piecing affront to what has been termed, “the struggle”. Within this context, the bid is losing credibility and the war of human rights. Can independence flower where citizens live in perpetual fear of being kidnapped for ransom? The woes of Anglophone citizens in the two crisis-hit Regions are swelling geometrically on a daily basis. The area is becoming a demonically hypocritical hell where evil forces reign supreme. As their victims yawn in pecuniary want and deprivation, kidnappers live big in the glow of opulence. Besides the ransom-motivated kidnaps, it was preposterous that some Separatist fighters laid their filthy hands on Cardinal Christian Tumi (late) who devoted part of his life in search of a solution to the Anglophone Crisis. How did that psychological torture that the ailing Cardinal went through in the hands of his kidnappers, help the struggle? How did the kidnap of Bishop George Nkuo, a man who speaks the truth of the Anglophone predicament, push the struggle for independence?  Anglophones are in double throes of harassment.

Otherwise, why would the SDF chieftain, Ni John Fru Ndi, who has spent over three decades of his life articulating the grievances of Anglophones, be kidnapped and tortured twice by the Separatist fighters? Is this struggle still for the people or for the armed Separatist fighters who wreak havoc with impunity?

If it were for the people, this reign of terror ignited on the people while ignoring their sober whimpers, would not be at all. 

One thing we should learn is that dictatorship is dictatorship, irrespective of whether it is on the left or on the right. We should also keep it in mind that every dictatorship remains a sinking titanic whose reign cannot last forever, no matter how brutal it is. The unsettling whirlwind of abuses on the civilian population carries the potency of a curse that would provoke nemesis in every dictatorship. Are we still human beings or animals?

Why would the Separatist leaders ask for millions FCFA from an Anglophone who lost his three children at a go in Yaounde? Why further traumatise a man who is already devastated by the demise of his kids. Now that the man brought back the corpses of those children and buried in Yaounde, how is the trauma inflicted on that man and his family going to advance the struggle for independence? By the way, what crime did those little kids commit not to deserve a decent burial in their village, Bambalang?

Away from those who kidnap for ransom, they are those who just carry out blind raids known as kalé kalé. Civilians are arrested with no warrants and they have to buy their freedom with huge sums of money. Nobody can gainsay the police and gendarmes for carrying out such raids. But, there is something dangerously amiss when those who are not found guilty of any crimes are continuously detained until they pay some money to secure their release. Many of those who have been unable to pay have ended up being sent to detention camps in Yaounde as terrorists.

Following allegations that the Separatists are planning to attack certain towns, police harassment in Anglophone-dominated neighbourhoods has become the norm. Many innocent Anglophones who have fled from the crisis-ravaged Regions are being shoved into detention. Some unscrupulous officers are good at fabricating incriminating evidence against such people. Recently, police arrested one Anglophone journalist in Yaounde on claims that he wore a black t-shirt that resembled that of the police. It was only when he was taken to the police station that it was discovered that the t-shirt does not, in any way, resemble the t-shirt of the police. The police officer who brought him later tagged him an Amba activist and went further to commit further abuses like scrolling through messages in his phone. There was nothing incriminating but the journalist had suffered humiliating arrest and psychological torture for the simple reason that he is an Anglophone.

The crisis is taking a very dangerous twist as Anglophones in certain areas are treated with suspicion and scorn as if they were all Separatist fighters.

God Save Cameroon!

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