By Tata Mbunwe
Ex-separatist fighters in Buea have expressed disappointment at a sensitisation meeting organised in Buea by the National Coordinator of the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission, (DDR).
Francis Fai Yengo was in Buea on April 19 and 20, respectively, to sensitise stakeholders in the Southwest Region on the need to join forces with government in the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, DDR, of ex-separatist fighters in the region.
Over 50 ex-combatants who attended one of the two sensitisation meetings on Tuesday, April 20, left the Buea Council Hall disgruntled that their yearning for reintegration and greater freedom was still far-fetched.
Talking to them at the meeting, the National Coordinator, alongside peace experts said DDR is a huge and complex process and reintegration, which is the last stage, is slow and consistent.
“So it is a slow process. It is not something you say tomorrow you are going to be reintegrated and it just happens…,” he said adding that: “every day you hear our children saying ‘they promised us that we will go in six months…”
“The DDR has never promised anybody that after three months or one month they will go out,” he went on.
After organising two strikes in February and March this year, the Buea ex-fighters say the recent meeting with the NDDRC Coordinator does not meet their aspirations, the most important being reintegration into society.
With no identification documents to permit them leave the centre, some ex-fighters who spoke to the press on the basis of anonymity said they are “disappointed” and feel “frustrated”.
The authorities in charge of the DDR centre denied any interviews with the press, but a few ex-fighters who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they are being trained mostly on agricultural skills.
‘DDRC Is Moving Forward’
Government says the “DDR process is working” and “we are moving forward to peace”. According to Coordinator Fai Yengo, the three centres in Mora, Buea and Bamenda now host at least 850 ex-fighters, with the Mora centre containing about 400 of them.
With two burning conflicts in Cameroon’s Far North (against Boko Haram) and in the two Western regions (involving separatists), many a Cameroonian had thought the setting up of the DDRC in 2018 was untimely.
“Our DDR here is what we call a second-generation DDR. It means simply that the peace process has been put in place when hostilities are still going on,” says Fai Yengo, a former governor.
“In our country, our Head of State was fore sighted, he was forward-looking, and he decided that we cannot wait until the day that everything will be peaceful before we start the DDR process.”
Plans are underway to construct “multipurpose vocational training centres” for both the DDR Southwest and the Far North, after that of the Northwest was completed recently.
“Today, in all our centres, we have about 850 young Cameroonians, both women and men and even small children. You can imagine if we waited that this will end before we start the process – we may be unlucky to lose them. The crisis might have consumed them,” Francis Fai Yengo said.
Mimi Mefo Info