Today News Africa | He is little known to the Cameroonian public and the world, but Ayaba Cho Lucas, a ‘guerrilla’ fighter for years came to the public consciousness weeks ago after he was said to have masterminded the kidnap of a government official in Cameroon.
The shocking kidnap was reportedly meant to send a strong message to the government of President Paul Biya that the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon should be granted independence, or there would be a lingering bloody war in the West African country.
Background: Professor Ivo Leke Tambo, a local government official in Batibo, was kidnapped weeks ago and emerged in a video afterwards pleading for his life. He is the Northwest Social Affairs Delegate and the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Cameroon General Certificate of Education (GCE) Board.
In the video released by Cameroonian secessionists, the government official, an under-prefect in Batibo, said he would be killed if secessionists leaders arrested in Nigeria on January 5 and extradited to Cameroon on January 28 were not released.
Cameroonian secessionists from Anglophone regions have been fighting for independence for more than a year. They have killed about 40 law enforcement officers and lost hundreds of their fighters to the Cameroonian military.
The secession, funded in the state of Maryland in the United States and organized from neighboring Nigeria, suffered a setback in January when secessionists leaders were arrested in Abuja, the Nigerian capital and extradited to Cameroon for prosecution.
With their arrest, the secessionists escalated attacks on government forces and properties in Cameroon, urging the government to show them a proof their leaders were still alive. They also began kidnapping government officials they accused of conniving with Mr. Biya government to keep English speaking Cameroonians in bondage.
Ayaba Cho Lucas, the leader of the Ambazonia Defense group proved to be a crucial piece of the puzzle. He is described as the man who heads the armed wing of the separatist movement in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.
Born in August 1972 in Buea, Ayaba Cho Lucas, whom his family nicknamed “Mister Aspen”, became involved in English-speaking activism very early on.
In the 90s, the man known for his volcanic temperament organized and led a demonstration against an increase in tuition fees at the University of Buea. The protests led to the expulsion of the former Secretary General of the Southern Cameroons Youth League (SCYL) by the university authorities in 1993.
He fled to Europe where he published “Not Guilty”, a book recounting his experience as a political refugee. It was during one of his European tours that he met several other activists who shared his separatist visions for Southern Cameroon.
Among them, Nso Foncha Nkem a former US soldier with whom he now plans and coordinates actions against the security forces and the Cameroonian authorities.
Today, the man is at the head of an army embryo made up of a few dozen fighters formed by separatists from the diaspora. To finance their struggle, Ayaba Cho Lucas and his family would resort to smuggling including the trafficking of cigarettes, medicines, perfumes, clothing and even car parts. They have all been under an international arrest warrant since October 2017.