Bali: Military Restores Circulation On Major Highway

Col. Matiang saluting Gen. Nka Valere

For over 72 hours the circulation of goods and persons on the Bamenda – Enugu trans-African highway was completely brought to a halt when armed separatist fighters (Amba boys) barricaded the road notably at Bali. Several traders and their vital supplies were stranded at either side of the blockade, forcing the prices of some commodities like fuel, drinks, soap, and rice to rise as a result. Also blocked were several persons trying to access medical health, family events, funerals and professional activities on either side. These were some of the reasons that forced the military to act swiftly to restore circulation on this road axis, very vital for the economy of the NW region on beyond.

For five days, close to 300 soldiers from the 51st motorised Infantry Battalion, the gendarmerie, 501 air force base, paratroopers, military health personnel, drivers and gun operators were involved in a vast operation known as “Widi-Bali”, to clear strong holds of armed fighters interrupting circulation in an area stretching from Bali to Widikum and up to Pinyin. The operation also aimed to fish out amba leaders dead or alive.

According to Col. Matiang Charles Alain who commanded the operation on the field, Widi-Bali was carried out in two phases. The first phase saw task forces sent into three zones, This included Widikum where one task force clear out bases operated by armed fighters in Tiben, Numbeng, Bifang and Bambeng.  Another targeted the Batibo area where they attacked Amba bases in Ashong, Besong and Ewea. The third task force targeted Baba II and Pinyin.

These task forces cleared their respective areas and converged on Bali where they carried out the dismantling of bases operated by the fighters and clearing the road for normal circulation to resume.

Col. Matiang described the operation as very difficult due to the bad state of road in the area, heavy downpours during the five day operation and breakdown in communication.

Two production units where local guns and IED are made were destroyed in the process. A total of 13 armed separatists were killed, several artisanal cannon guns, fire arms, several kilograms of gunpowder, solar panels, and motorcycles were amongst items recovered during the operation.

Amongst these items was a rocket propelled launcher and an automatic machine gun. The machine gun according to the military had been a prime objective since it was taken from a slain soldier in 2018 in the locality of Ambo.

A gendarme was killed in Pinyin, while another was wounded during the operation. Col. Matiang called for operation Widi-Bali 2 to finish remaining pockets of resistance.

Brigadier General Nka Valare

Brigadier General Nka Valere, Commander of the 5th Joint Military region on behalf of the Minister of Defense and the Army Chief of Staff congratulated the soldiers for a brilliant success and encouraged them to keep up the good work and to bring back peace in the NWR.

He however warned against any military excesses especially against the population. He said such illegal actions make the public distrust the military and not cooperate with them. He urged them to respect the rules of engagement and all international human rights instruments. Gen. Nka announced that a special gendarmarie unit will be placed in all military operations to monitor and uphold the respect of the rules of engagement and the rights of the population.

He also issued a stern warning to security men at various control check points who are extorting traders on the Bamenda-Ekok road. He announced that the Police and gendarme bosses will work out on ways to fish out culprits who will be severely sanctioned.

military officials inspecting items recovered in the operation
Gen. Nka has asked the gendarmes to do everything possible to return these bikes to the rightful owners
some of the items recovered

Earlier the General met with the D.O for Bali, Dolingo Dzongo at his official residence. Mr. Dolingo was concerned that separatist activities were intensifying in Bali thanks to support from fraternal groups in Mbengwi, Alabukam, Pinyin and Batibo. Gen. Nka assured him the military will secure Bali and the highway. He said the government and the African Development Bank has pumped billions into the construction of the road and promotion of inter-african trade and will do all to protect it.

Gen. Nka also used the opportunity to announce other successes recorded by the security forces in Menchum and Bui.  11 separatists he said were killed and several ammunition seized in Jakiri and in Zhoa in Menchum. Gen. Nka was accompanied by Col. Signe Bosso, deputy cammander of the 5th Gendarmarie region, representing Gen. Ekongwese Divine.

By Abongwa Fozo in Bali

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