When the president of France, Emmanuel Macron was announced in Cameroon for a 24-hour official visit, a faction of leaders of the pseudo Ambazonian Republic announced a controversial three-day lock down or stay home reportedly as a bargaining chip to shine visibility to the ongoing crisis in the Anglophone regions.
While President Emmanuel Macron went about his visit unperturbed and unconcerned, with the population of the south west region going about their businesses; the North West region respected the calls for the lockdown and stayed indoors.
Lockdowns, instituted in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon at the end of 2016 by the disbanded Anglophone Civil Society Consortium as a means of civil disobedience during the genesis of the ongoing crisis is gradually becoming a North West affair.
Since the crisis morphed into an armed conflict in 2017, calls for lockdowns and ghost town are still religiously followed in the North West, unlike in the South West region where the population are gradually defying the unproductive actions instituted by ambazonia propagandist who at times “do it for the fun of it”.
The North West’s deserted streets during the visit of French president echo the still heavy tension gripping the region. Unlike the relative calm observed in the South West, the North West is a hotbed of recurring violence.
However, although the secessionist militias remain very active there, the movement seems to have been greatly weakened by regular operations conducted by Cameroon’s army in recent weeks especially with the change of command at the 5th Military and Gendarmerie regions.
Lock downs, Ghost towns: Counterproductive, fueled by fear of reprisals
Instituted at the outset of the crisis by Anglophone separatists, the lock downs, ghost town days have been carefully obeyed, with serious consequences on the social and economic life of the population of North West and South West regions.
During these days, no activities are permitted and residents are forced to stay at home by armed groups who threatened to retaliate against any persons venturing to disobey the rules.
More than five years down the land, many a population of the two regions are unanimous that the actions are gradually being counter productive and are being fueled by fear of reprisals.
“The operations have become counter-productive,” admits Agbor Balla, a lawyer who is one of the Anglophone leaders who approved this method of action when the crisis first broke out (on an interview with The Africa Report).
Now, the activist is instead campaigning to bring an end to these kinds of initiatives.
“The people suffer the most from the ghost town days. It’s clear that they are tired of it and that’s why they no longer comply with the rules,” he says. “Those who still yield to the shutdown orders only do so out of fear of retaliation – not at all out of support.”