Issued on • Modified
African Press Review 26 July 2018
How are newspapers in Cameroon covering the armed conflict between Anglophone separatists and mostly Francophone government forces? The answer? Not as well as they should.
As we reported on Paris Live this morning - the UN Commission for Human Rights is alarmed at the deteriorating situation in the north and the west of Cameroon. Reports of violence by Anglophone minority separatists seeking independence from the Francophone majority and government forces have increased in recent days.
We wondered what coverage the newspapers in Cameroon were giving to this.
In the Cameroon Tribune - the state-owned daily in French and English - the answer is not much.
The only vaguely related story I could find is headlined "Morality Within The Army: Defaulting Soldier Under Custody."
Below is a press release signed by the Minister of Defence - which informs readers:
"On Monday morning, 23 July 2018, in Bamenda, headquarters of the North West Region, there was a registered case of violation of public morals by a private first class soldier deployed within security operations to protect the population desiring to carry out the activities normally against 'ghost town' declarations by activists.
"Private Mbita Arthur violated a lady by name Violet Ndikahu whom he maliciously called aside for questioning under the pretext of a routine check of national identity cards."
The soldier was immediately arrested by the gendarmerie, we're told, and will suffer disciplinary action.
"The Minister profoundly deplores this act perpetrated by a wayward soldier and reassures the public that the image and professionalism of our defence and security forces will not be tarnished."
Lastly, the said act, just like any other act of indiscipline, "will be heavily sanctioned by High Command in accordance with military law to consolidate the precious and solid army population relation in the regions of the country."
I could find no mention of a recently released video showing soldiers killing two women and their children in the Anglophone region.
Earlier this week, the privately owned English language paper, the Cameroon Post, ran a story headlined "Gov’t Announces 12.7 billion CFA francs Humanitarian Plan For NW, SW Regions." That's around 20 million euros.
The story is exhaustive, telling readers that statistics in a report by the prime minister show that, as of mid-June, 123 attacks had been carried out claiming 84 lives, including 32 soldiers, 42 gendarmes, seven police officers, two prison wardens and one eco-guard assassinated in a cowardly manner.
Several victims were mutilated or beheaded and their corpses displayed on social media. “These devoted civil servants, whose job was to protect citizens and their property, died in the discharge of their sacred duties. Their comrades are carrying on with their duty to preserve peace and the safety of the population with courage and determination.”
There's plenty more about the alleged crimes of Anglophone separatists, said to include the recruitment of child soldiers. They are characterised as "extremists" and "terrorists". But, there's not a word about the many innocent civilian victims of the armed forces.
Trying to look on the bright side, yesterday the Post reported that Barrister Michael Techoukwi Lekelefac - described as a "Human Rights Defender" - said "peace, love and reconciliation are a panacea for Cameroon’s fraternity."
According to him, the Anglophone crisis is a result of mistakes made by Cameroon’s former president - Amadou Ahidjo - who changed the date of National Day celebrations from 1 October to 20 May.
“This was a grave mistake as it made the English-speaking Cameroonians to feel like strangers," he says.
The barrister describes the 20 May celebrations as "mere idol worship, during which, Cameroonians blindly chant the praises of President Paul Biya, who cares very little about the plight of citizens slaughtered in the North West and South West Regions of the country."
Lekelefac said he prayed for the fighters in the Anglophone regions, urging both the military and the separatists to see one another as brothers and sisters instead of as animals only good to kill.
Let's hope his prayers are answered.