On that famous Tuesday January 1, 2017, denizens from the Northwest and Southwest Regions, had intensified ghost towns across all Divisions.
Yanick Fonki & B. Shancho Ndimuh
The people had risen to the high call for ‘Mami-water’ ghost town, after Paul Ghogomu Mingo, Head of the Government delegation negotiating with the then Consortium leaders, had earlier on announced over the media that no further negotiations will be carried out again.
That declaration resonated anger in the minds of Anglophones who besiege school premises, sending children away from school, mounted road blocks across major highways, and intimidated defaulting business premises. Everyone residing in the Anglophone regions had to respect the two days ghost towns.
By 3:00pm that fateful Tuesday, the Northwest and Southwest Regions were indeed in a ghost era. Children played football on the highway as not even a single vehicle was spotted on the road. Security forces deployed by the Cameroon Government could only plead with the population to restrain from destroying properties; they could not do anything more than that.
Banned of Consortium
It was a very cool temperate evening when the national broadcaster (CRTV), during its 5:00pm (17h:00) news announced (in breaking news) that the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CASCC aka the Consortium) and Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) have been banned.
According to the news presenter, the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation (MINADT), ordered the cease-from-existence of the said groups. The reasons attributed to the ban were that, the two groups are fuelling hate and terrorist tendencies in Southern Cameroons.
Rene Emmanuel Sadi, Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, who issued the ban, noted that SCNC and the Consortium “are declared null and void for their purpose and activities, which are contrary to the Constitution and liable to jeopardize the security of the state, territorial integrity, national unity and integration.”
The ministerial order also proscribed meetings and demonstrations initiated or promoted by the outfits across the national territory.
Everyone was talking about the breaking news. Social Media was at its highest peak as messages trooped here and there regarding the said decision.
Arrest of Consortium Leaders
Though it was a bitter pill to swallow, and another salt added to the injury of the already aggrieved Anglophone population, the long Tuesday night was just beginning. As Anglophones WhatsApped, Twitted, Facebooked, and did all of those Social Media hypes about news of the banned consortium, things went from bad to worst.
At 6:30pm, news broke out that Barrister Agbor Balla, leader of the then Consortium, alongside, Dr. Fontem Neba, Secretary General of the Consortium, have both been arrested. The news spread like wildfire with all fingers pointing at the Gendarmerie Militaire d’Intervention(GMI) unit at Long Street Buea, being the destination were the leaders had been taken to.
Sooner than later, the population thronged the GMI premises, demanding the immediate release of their leaders. Some bouncer from the crowd struggled to raise the fence of GMI down if their leaders were not released. It was at that juncture that all of a sudden, two to three trucks of water cannons, trooped into the area, indiscriminately flushing scratching water on the population. Simultaneously, gunshots were animating the skies, as way of intimidating the population to leave the premises.
People ran away for their dear lives. Some wounding themselves, others losing valuable properties, and many others, stranded in bushes. One of these reporters lost his pair of sandals, phones, wallet, and sustained brutal cuts in his thigh, and elbows.
It was at 8:45pm, when the Government shutdown internet in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. This was so unprecedented. No one had seen it coming. Though it had been long speculated, many saw it a far-fetched dream.
One of these reporters called one of the internet providers, MTN. He was made to understand that internet had not been cut per se. According to the lady who responded from the MTN booth, it was just a network congestion and her company is working hard to get everything under control.
That thieving impression was dished out to many a curious population, who went investigating what must have happened. Finally, everyone, came to the conclusion that internet had been seized in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.
Transfer of Consortium Leadership Abroad
Prior to the internet blackout in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, the leaders of the disbanded Consortium, had issued out a Press Release, transferring control of the institution from Cameroon to Abroad. According to the release signed by Barrister Agbor Balla, and his executive, the Consortium was to be led from abroad. It was to be be manned by Mark Bareta (CEO BaretaNews and Rights Activist), and Tapang Ivo (Journalist and Rights Activist).
The duo in their first outing, called for a weeklong ghost town across the Northwest and Southwest Regions. They indicated, the initiative was to pressure government to release the Consortium leaders.
From thence, things moved on from a simple socio-professional demands from the Consortium, to a clarion call for outright secession.
The activities that unfolded after the famous January 17 2017 date, gave birth to a separatist movement, the Federal Republic of Ambazonia, which has remained a thorn in the flesh of the Cameroon Government.
Arrest of Mancho Bibixy, Ayah Paul
After the arrest of then leaders of the outlawed Consortium, the Coffin Revolutionary leader, Mancho Bibixy had no idea that he was next on the line. He was on this fateful Wednesday night at his girlfriend’s residence at Ntamulung-Bamenda, when the military broke in at 2am arrested and immediately ferried him to Yaounde that night, amidst tight security, where he was detained at the Secretariat of State for Defence in charge of the National Gendarmerie known by its French acronym, SED. This arrest, harvested a rather violent reaction from irate youths who stormed the street demanding for his unconditional release. As if to confirm with the adage ‘it doesn’t rain it pours’, two days after the arrest of Mancho Bibixy, it was the turn of Justice Paul Ayah. The Judge, who had been very vocal about the regime, was at his residence at the Tam-Tam Weekend neighbourhood on this fateful Saturday evening of January 21, 2017, when six armed men from SED got in, defiling his immunity, and without any arrest warrant, took him away. This made the month of January 2017 even bleaker in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon. A month which the people of these two regions will not forget in a hurry.