2021 is yet another year shutting down without an effective breakthrough in the resolution of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon.
A crisis which began in 2016 in the form of protests across the Anglophone regions, degenerated like a wildfire into one of the deadliest conflicts in Africa in a decade.
Thousands of casualties have fallen as a result of the crisis, and the most affected of them are civilians caught in the middle.
The international community has made several calls for a dialogue process to be initiated to end the conflict in the crisis-hit regions to no avail.
Attacks have multiplied from both separatist and Government troops in recent years, which have exerted more misery on the local population.
As the guarantor of peace and protector of the people, the Government has done the polar opposite in the context of the Anglophone crisis.
Government troops in the Anglophone regions have been at the heart of some heartbreaking scandals such as murders and massive arson attacks on more than 200 villages in the North West and South West Regions.
These atrocities have been fanned to a large extent by the Head of the Communication Division of the Ministry of Defense, Colonel Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo.
His outings after such attacks along the years have all been about justifying military actions in the Anglophone zones no matter how malicious they were, even if it meant outrightly distorting reality.
Colonel Cyrille Serge Atonfack’s Lies
Where do we start from? Almost every press statement from the Head of the Communication Department of the Ministry of Defense almost always has a distorted fact to fuel public anger. Below we look at some of his distorted facts:
Colonel Cyrille Serge’s False Claims about Samuel Wazizi’s demise
The case of Buea-based journalist Samuel Wazizi remains one of the most shocking cases of press stuffing in Cameroon. The Journalists was arrested by the police in Buea on accounts of being an accomplice to Separatist fighters.
Samuel Wazizi was arrested in August 2019 and severely tortured in detention. He is believed to have died from his tortures and it was only discovered more than 10 months later.
The Head of the Communication Department of the Ministry of Defense quickly jumped into a squash of what had been a whirlwind of reports from the media. Colonel Cyrille Serge Atonfack claimed that the journalist was never tortured while he was in detention.
He claimed Samuel Wazizi died of a “Severe Sepsis” while he was in prison. Colonel Atonfack also had it that the Journalist was a “Logistician” for the Separatist fighters in the South West Region.
He also claimed in one of his outings that “he exchanged with family members while on his sickbed” and that they were informed about his death, a statement which was strongly debunked by Samuel Wazizi’s relatives, who termed it “outright lies.”
Faced with the question on the whereabouts of the Journalist’s corpse, the Colonel falsely stated in an interview with Equinoxe TV that “The corpse is sealed till the end of the ongoing investigation opened by the head of state.
“He had also previously claimed that “There were people that came to see Wazizi in hospital. He was in contact with his family on phone …”
Atonfack lied that Journalist Njoka Kingsley colluded with Separatists from Douala
Another journalist who was arrested in Douala by the forces of law and order offered Atonfack the opportunity to horn his lying skills.
Njoka is currently in jail on basis of being an accomplice to Separatists fighters as claimed by Colonel Cyrille Serge Atonfack.
After numerous reports of the tortures, the Journalist was made to go through, the Colonel claimed on Equinoxe TV that “Njoka Kingsley was the coordinator of Bui warriors … He has not been tortured. You can talk to him.”
He insisted that the incarcerated Journalists was an accomplice to Separatists, adding that it would be proved with ongoing investigations.
Colonel Cyrille Serge said on Equinoxe TV, “Unfortunately, Wazizi died but Njoka is alive today and better than you and me. He eats three times a day and wears a good shirt. But we have the proof that someone can be a journalist and terrorist.”
MINDEF justifies the action of Gendarme who killed 7-year-old Enondiale Carolaise
Perhaps the most shocking distortion of facts remains yet the incidents that led to the death of 7-year-old Enondiale Carolaise in Buea, in the hands of a Gendarme officer.
The MINDEF spokesperson infamously claimed, “the Gendarme fired warning shots to immobilize the vehicle.”
Many persons bashed the outing by Colonel Cyrille Serge Atonfack, arguing that the shots could have been fired in the air to scare the driver, and not at the car where the children were seated.
MINDEF Denies Military Involvement in Mautu Killings
In January of 2020, the inhabitants of Mautu village, in the South West Region were rocked by a raid by alleged military forces, who killed a host of villagers.
According to the MINDEF spokesperson, the raid was a preventive one on the positions of terrorist groups under the orders of the so-called “Spirito” and “Gabonais” in the locality of Mautu…”
He denied any villager was killed and stated that the operation was “Carried out in strict compliance with the rules of engagement.”
He said of the images which had been shared on social media platforms that they had been shared by Separatists who had been hard hit by the government forces, to pin the blame on them.
“Overwhelmed by the turn of events, conceived in their occult offices, a hotchpotch of gruesome images in a bid to blame our Defence forces, for a blind massacre perpetrated in Mautu,” he claimed.
MINDEF Spokesperson Denies Military Burnt Houses at Mbengwi road despite glaring evidence
In December 2021, residents of the Mbengwi road neighborhood in Bamenda, in the North West Region were taken off guard when alleged military men stormed the neighborhood and set dozens of houses on fire.
The incident is also believed to have led to the deaths of more than 7 others, who are believed to have been killed in the flames of the burnt houses.
To this, Colonel Cyrille Serge Atonfack denied the accusations and said it was “Secessionist propaganda supported by some media organs spreading rumors about the torching of houses belonging to civilians… These are nothing but false machinations directed at the elements of the defense forces.”
Other Government Kingpins Fanning Flames of Discord in the Anglophone crisis
An avalanche of calls from Anglophones and the international community for an inclusive and unconditional dialogue process to be opened has been largely swept aside by the government.
Key Government officials have also proven along time the Government’s unwillingness to resolve the crisis anytime soon.
In 2018, the Minister of Territorial Administration famously stated boldly that “Cameroon will not dialogue with Separatists.” He insisted then that military action was going to be used to quash the Anglophone resistance in no time.
Minister Paul Atanga Nji followed that up in 2021 when he also claimed that the Head of State had indeed already defeated the Separatists in the North West and South West Regions. He said “After a thorough examination of the security situation (of the North West Region),
“… I can conveniently say that the security situation is under control and that I have come to extend the encouragement of the Head of State to the local administrative authorities.”
That same year, the Minister of Higher Education Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo equally infamously declared the crisis over in the Anglophone Regions.
“In the Northwest and Southwest Regions, nursery school kids are going to school. Pupils are going to their different primary schools. Students are going to their different colleges,” he said.
“Amphitheatres of the different universities out there are overflowing with students. So, we cannot continue talking about a Crisis. There is no Crisis. The Crisis is over,” Professor Fame Ndongo added to the utter dismay of Anglophones.
Xenophobic utterances have also played big parts in fanning the flames of discord between Anglophones in Cameroon.
In 2017, former Prime Minister Peter Mafany Musonge, Dr. Nalova Lyonga, and Chief Tabe Tando were accused of making xenophobic remarks against North West citizens living in the South West Region.
The trio is accused to have blamed the growing Secessionists activities in the South West Region on “the Graffis” as they called them, and are believed to have urged South West Cameroonians to break away from the “Graffi” influence.
These remarks prompted a series of protests against the trio from youths in the South West Region, who denied all forms of division tactics between them and their brothers of the North West and South West Regions.
The then-mayor of Buea, late Ekema Patrick Esunge, is also believed to have washed his hands off the remarks and denied his involvement in the xenophobic utterances.