Inhabitants of the city of Bamenda in the North West region of Cameroon have for one month been subjected to what some have described as “hell on earth”.
On September 8, 2020, three top defense and security officials in the region signed a joint decision imposing a military operation code named “Bamenda clean”.
According to general Nkah Valere, commander of the 5th joint military region, the operation is intended to weed out all Ambazonia fighters and other criminals causing havoc in the city of Bamenda, one of the epicenters for the fight for the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroon since 2016.
A month into the operation, most inhabitants are in tears.
To a woman that opted to be identified only as Carine, operation “Bamenda clean” has watered down all their rights as human beings.
“Here at Ngomgham Quarter in Bamenda, people are treated as animals by the military.In one of the routine unannounced search of houses by the military as part of operation “Bamenda clean”, they forced me to pay the sum of FCFA 5,000 for not having a receipt for my gas cylinder. My neighbor paid FCFA 2,000 for an old television set the military found in his house without a receipt,” she said.
To these victims who spoke to Mimi Mefo Info, the military is using the operation to extort money and intimidate locals.
The frequent discovery of corpses dumped in different places in the town of Bamenda is another cause of worry for the denizens.
A resident says “…four bodies were found at Naka River that separates Bali and Bamenda on the 27th of September. People are suspecting the military for summarily killing and dumping the suspected collaborators of the fighters in the river.”
Earlier on the 11th of September, residents of Mile 90 in Bamenda woke up to discover the bodies of two men and a woman in a car. The people accuse the military for killing the civilians while they were returning from Bali village after attending a funeral.
According to Bongwong Justin Berinyuy, North West regional Coordinator at the Center for the Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA), there have been several complains of human rights violations committed by the military during this period of operation “Bamenda clean”.
“Part of the measure of “Bamenda clean” is the demarcation of areas of activities by motorcycles either private or commercial. This has not only rendered movement within the city difficult but has brought about financial hardship in homes where they depend on the income from commercial motorcycles for a living.
“Today, you see people standing at the finance junction for several hours because of the scarcity of taxis since bikes have been seemingly put out of business,” Bongwong Justin Berinyuy added.
In an interview granted to Mimi Mefo Info in the month of September, the City Mayor of Bamenda denied claims that demarcating the place of business for commercial motorcycles in Bamenda as part of “Bamenda Clean” was not a punishment but a method to maintain order.
To City Mayor Paul Achombong Tembeng, “Mortorcycles should work in places where they are known. This will permit the riders to easily identify a criminal and report to the military. In this case,we will stop the rising wave of violence in the city of Bamenda”.
With the start of the implementation of a decision demarcating the place of work of motorcycles in Bamenda, separatist fighters retaliated by banning all other forms of transportation while demanding the government to cancel the decision.
“…the tussle between separatists and the government over the decision resulted to an unannounced two weeks lockdown as military men paraded streets and quarters in search of the fighters,” an inhabitant of the Mbengwi Road neighborhood in Bamenda told Mimi Mefo Info on phone.
To our source, his neighbor was forced to transport his sick mother to the hospital by pushing her in a wheelbarrow simply because there was no taxi or motorcycle to transport his mother.
All attempts to get to brigadier general Ekongwese Divine, commander of the 5th gendarmerie region in the North West, to react to accusations of military excesses in the course of Operation “Bamenda Clean” failed.
Operation Bamenda Clean was launched on the 8th of September 2020 but the military hierarchy are yet to state when it will end.
In one of his security coordination meetings, the governor of the Northwest region stated that the operation will be extended to other parts of the region.
To him, arresting all separatists and their accomplices will reinstate peace in the region.