Gendarmerie officers deployed in Buea
By Danjuma Munfu
Julliet Ekang, sister of Francis Ekang, a fuel dealer who was in police custody, and reportedly fled under unclear circumstances has raised an alarm, saying that law enforcement officers have not relented in making life uncomfortable for her and consequently, the rest of her family.
Francis Ekang had been arrested sometime in March 2022. His arrest which caused a protest in the illegal fuel sector in Buea, the regional capital of Cameroon’s Southwest region, was in relation to the illegal sale of fuel, which according to other media reports, had links with separatist fighters. Ekang was accused of dealing in fuel, on behalf of separatist fighters. It is alleged that the fuel which was sometimes alleged to have been gotten through obscure means was used to fund separatist activities. The crackdown on the sector had left many dealers on the run.
It, however, remains unclear how the accused got released. Almost two years later, the sister of the accused says soldiers have continued to come to her house to intimidate her with threats of arresting her in case she fails to provide the accused. According to Julliet Ekang, the visits from law enforcement officers started at the end of 2023 but intensified in the early days of 2024. It was from her, that we learnt the accused had through some means, gotten out of the detention and fled out of the country.
She stated that she is traumatised by the harassment, especially given what she went through when her brother, Francis Ekang was arrested, as she feared he could be executed like several other suspects. “Seeing them every day is the worst feeling one can have. They have decided to make it worse for me. They bump into my house and call me ‘Amba’ (Separatist). I have nowhere to run to, the village (Kupe-Muaneguba Division in the Southwest region of Cameroon) is also very unsafe”, she said, furthering that all she wants is to be left unbothered so that she can only answer for her deeds and not made to suffer for the supposed action of her brother.
The targeting of families and relatives of accused persons in relation to the Anglophone crisis has become a strategy, especially for the government. The strategy aims at pressuring the accused to surrender themselves in, or desist from their activities, with the hope that the loved ones will be spared. The same tactic is also used on rights activists.
Families of persons accused of being separatist fighters or their affiliates have often been targeted by soldiers, and in worse case scenarios, some have been arrested and detained, a thing that many human rights organisations and activists have continually condemned.
The Anglophone crisis, classified as one of the world’s most underreported and neglected crises has disoriented the lives of many. Apart from the thousands detained all over the country’s overcrowded prisons, estimates now put the number of deaths at over 8000, while hundreds of thousands have also fled their country to seek refuge in other areas around the world. The crisis has forced the US government to give a Temporary Protected Status, TPS of 18 months to Cameroonians in the US, twice in a row. Calls for a negotiated solution to the crisis have often fallen on deaf ears, as the Cameroon government has pulled out of two peace deals, first that which was organised by the Swiss, and later another mediated by the Canadian government.