Heavy Gun Battles Foil Reopening of Kumbo

Kumbo Town

Kumbo, unlike many other towns and settlements in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, did not go into a 10 day lock down from 4 – 14 February 2019. This is because Kumbo, the second largest town in the conflict-hit North West Region had shut down since September of 2018, with social and economic life grounded. This recent lock-down was called for by some leaders of pro-independence movements, who seek to create a new state of Ambazonia. The territory corresponds to that of the former British Southern Cameroons. The change for Kumbo during the lockdown was the absence of electricity supply to Bui and Donga-Mantung Divisions of the North West Region, which at press time is already a day short of two weeks.

However, like any other area in
the two English speaking parts of Cameroon, inhabitants of Kumbo – the remnants
of those who have fled the town and surrounding settlements – looked forward to
a reopening. This only turned out to be an aborted miracle.

The morning view of Kumbo, Friday
15 February 2018 was misty. And that was only symbolic of how uncertain the
projection for the day could be. A few shops opened. A handful of commercial
motorbikes could be heard around. There was a trickle of pedestrians along the
major streets. Voices were audible from a few miles, a rare occurrence in
recent weeks.

In the late hours of the morning,
gunshots could be heard from a distant location that was hard to determine.
Unconfirmed information said it was from state soldiers on their way from
Nkambe, the headquarters of the Donga-Mantung Divisioin. It is said that they
were reopening the road (N11) linking Kumbo and Nkambe. By mid 2018, it had
already become habitual for denizens to start taking precautions at the sound
of such distant gunshots. By 13:45 it was no longer a story of distant
gunshots. It was already gun battles between the state forces and the armed
separatists who are said to have been awaiting the arrival of the soldiers. In
the twinkle of an eye, Kumbo had been ghosted again, to continue the series of
weeks that have characterized the dead town.

Many people have already deserted
the area since the violence escalated. Civilians have been caught between the
separatist fighters and the government forces.

There have been repeated reports
of abductions of civilians by pro-independence fighters, and in some of the
cases, reports of torture and demands for ransom. Movement had earlier been
grounded by the same fighters since September of 2018, with many roads blocked
by the same. The separatist fighters have also been alleged to have carried out
summary executions in nearby settlements, especially of elements of government
forces, and of persons they have considered as sell outs.

The government defence/security
forces, on their part, have burned down houses in a number of localities, and
killed civilians in the ongoing offensive on the separatist fighters. Gun
battles in civilian residential areas and around health facilities have been a
growing concern. Lives and homes have been wasted by state forces in areas
where roadblocks have been erected by separatist fighters.

This Friday’s gun battles in
Kumbo and environs ruined the much hoped-for reopening of the area. In any
case, in recent weeks, whenever there has been the slightest opening for movement
into and out of Kumbo as was the case in the early hours of this 15 February,
it is the latter movement that has taken place.

The morning signs of life spoke
of a suffocating people that was eagerly awaiting an opportunity to get food
and other provisions. The answer to why Kumbo appears to be paying an unfair
share in the crisis is complicated. It is expected that life can return to
normal in the event of the realisation of the dialogue to end the
socio-political crisis. This much talked-about dialogue, for the time being,
has been seen by many as nothing but a cliché.

Source: Radio Evangelium Kumbo

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