In the ongoing war between separatists and the Cameroon government, there is no winner but there…
As with the loss of life and property, the civilian population is bearing the brunt of the economic impact of this conflict. Apart from waging armed war against “La Republique”, the separatist fighters have taken measures to make the impact of the movement felt by the government, economically and otherwise. One such measure is the weekly shutdown of commercial activity on Mondays. While this practice took some time to spread and is not equally severe in all areas, the work week has effectively been altered throughout English speaking Cameroon. In many schools in Limbe for example, classes no longer hold on Mondays — some schools hold Saturday classes and/or extend the school term to make up for this lost time. Some shops which normally would be closed on Sunday have altered their hours to open on Sunday in an attempt to make up for business lost on Mondays. For other establishments, changing hours is not an option and the work week has simply been shortened to 4 days. For other businesses which operate throughout the week including taxis, bikes and buses, the lost productivity and income simply will not be recouped. I spoke to a nurse who lives in Mile 4 and works at the regional hospital in Limbe — she says she and other colleagues who live outside of town no longer go to work on Mondays. The workers who live in town and can make their way to the hospital do so. This is clearly detrimental to a healthcare system which is already lacking in many ways.
Despite compliance by the general population some business owners do defy ghost town strikes. Shopkeepers shut their doors but will sit outside or in the back, waiting to sell to customers who come by. Stubborn bikers will ride without their official vests, transporting passengers within the quartiers (neighborhoods), avoiding main roads and highways. They do so however at risk of damage and violence to their property and/or persons — people who are perceived to not be in solidarity with the strike are threatened (sometimes by impostors/copycats) and may be asked to pay money as atonement.
From talking with residents of Limbe and nearby Buea, I got the sentiment that Anglophone Cameroonians generally share the grievances held by the separatists against the government, however most civilians do not support the violence and other measures of rebellion which have negatively impacted the Anglophone population. For instance, early in the conflict the separatists called for schools in the anglophone regions to be shut down, and in some areas, they kidnapped and otherwise threatened staff and students of schools which continued to operate. Attendance of boarding schools in particular dropped significantly, and some schools remain closed to this day, their students having either transferred to schools in the Francophone region or been consolidated into other schools which are still operating in the North West and South West. While government teachers continue to be paid, staff and teachers of non-operational private/mission schools have lost their income if they were not fortunate to be posted elsewhere.
In March of this year a group of student athletes (footballers) at the University of Buea were abducted during their early morning practice. They were initially stripped naked, beaten and threatened with death by their captors who identified themselves as Ambazonia separatist fighters. In a bizarre turn of events as recounted by one of the students, when the leader of the unit arrived, he chastised his soldiers for mistreating their captives, who were then subsequently fed and treated “nicely”, according to the report given. They were later released after each of their families paid a ransom(3). This is one of several incidents of kidnapping and ransom demands which have occurred between 2018 and 2019. Some are carried out by separatist fighters while others appear to be orchestrated by opportunists impersonating the fighters for their own personal gain. While the separatists are often referred to in terms of a singular movement, there appear to multiple groups organized in different regions, although the degree of collaboration among them is not clear.