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I spent a week embedded with Anglophone armed separatists [+audio]

RFI | Ex-farmers, armed with basic weapons and little training, are taking on the might of the Cameroonian army in the country’s Anglophone regions, according to an exclusive series of reports published by the IRIN news agency.

Journalist Emmanuel Freudenthal spent a week embedded with rebels from the Ambazonia Defence Forces who have been fighting against security forces sent by Yaoundé to quell unrest.

His two-part series documents alleged abuses by the security forces and the stark choice some Anglophones felt they were left with – either flee across the border to Nigeria and become a refugee, or take up arms and fight the Cameroonian military.

The crisis in Anglophone Cameroon has escalated since the end of last year when the separatists declared independence for so-called Ambazonia. Grievances among Anglophones over the lack of English in courts and classrooms originally took the form of protests and demonstrations.

However, the situation has escalated with a crackdown by security forces and the arrest of several Anglophone leaders.

There have been a number of clashes between the Cameroonian army and armed separatists as well as attacks on schools and villages, kidnappings and targeted killings.

RFI spoke to Emmanuel Freudenthal…

What I’ve seen when I was there was perhaps 50 men in one camp and most of those used to be farmers who have been driven to attack the Cameroonian army in order to defend themselves. And to reclaim independence for the country they call Ambazonia.

How many people would you say are in the Ambazonia Defence Forces?

Cho Ayaba, who is the leader of the Governing Council that is linked to the Ambazonia Defence Forces, says there are about 1,500 people spread around 20 camps in Anglophone Cameroon. I’ve personally witnessed around 50 people in one camp and in total probably 100 fighters – adding up everyone I saw. Obviously, I haven’t been to the 20 camps. So 1,500 does sound quite possible, but it’s hard to establish exactly how many.

They say 20 bases or camps. Did you get any idea of their geographical reach?

I think they’re operating throughout the Anglophone regions. I stayed in one specific area in the south west, so I haven’t visited the 20 camps, I think that would probably take a very long time. But in that specific area they actually controlled a surprisingly large amount of land. That’s partly to do with the fact that the state hasn’t developed roads or means of access to many of the areas which means that the army can’t go there either. Ironically that’s also part of why many of these fighters are fighting and part of why many of the Anglophones are quite annoyed with the Cameroonian state. This lack of infrastructure, lack of roads – which is now biting back against the state when they would like to access a lot more of these areas.

How sophisticated is their weaponry? Are we talking about automatic weapons?

No. The weapons I’ve seen were mostly hunting rifles that are made in Nigeria. People for years have been hunting with them in the bush. Basically, to fire them you have to first unscrew it at the bottom of the rifle, then open the rifle, push a cartridge in, then close the rifle, then screw it back so that locks it in place. So it takes – even just to explain it, as you can see – it takes quite a while. They’re facing an army that has automatic assault rifles which might fire 600 bullets every minute. So you can see that it’s not quite the same weaponry. I’ve seen a few assault rifles within the ADF forces. And I’ve seen photos of a few more, but the majority of the troops don’t have them, they have these very basic hunting rifles.

Did you get a feeling for how frequently they’re clashing or fighting with the Cameroonian security forces?

That’s quite difficult to assess. I’ve seen some videos where they are clashing and they have carried out targeted killings. Amnesty International just published a report that says that the separatists have killed 44 members of the security forces. Not all of those would be part of the Ambazonia Defence Forces, but that’s the number they are giving. While I was there they were planning an attack, but that attack didn’t work out because of logistical issues. They were waiting for some ammunition, which never came.

Did you get a sense of how well-trained these fighters are?

Many of these fighters are people who were pushed out of their villages because those villages were attacked by the army. Many of those, a few months ago, before October, used to be just farmers. So that’s also why they have these hunting rifles, just because they used to hunt with them. They had to leave their village and become fighters or become refugees – that’s basically the two options they had. So they’re not well-trained fighters at all. And they’re facing an army that has been trained by France, the US and other countries because of the fight against Boko Haram.

The ADF isn’t the only armed separatist group in these Anglophone regions. Does the ADF have links with other armed separatist groups do you think?

I think they do have links with them. Exactly the nature and the extent of those links – it’s quite difficult to say. Sometimes the ADF will take a local armed group under its wing and that armed group becomes federated under the ADF. There are also other groups acting on their own, there are some people that might claim that they’re part of the wider movement that don’t necessarily have connections to the ADF. Another thing that I found that was quite interesting and that surprised or intrigued me was that the hierarchical structure of the ADF is actually pretty well established. So the troops on the ground are listening to orders coming from above. The main limitation to that, apart from the fact that it’s not a professional army, is that those orders are difficult to deliver because there’s no [telephone] network in much of the area.

You say there are orders coming down in some sort of command structure – what about accusations that the ADF were responsible for attacks on schools and also for a number of kidnappings? Did you hear anything about that?

So in the recent Amnesty report they say that separatist groups have targeted around 40 schools and some of them were burnt. I asked the ADF whether they were responsible for that and they said they had nothing to do with it. And that anybody who was upset with the schools could go and burn them. In terms of the kidnapping – the ADF has claimed a number of kidnappings. They would not actually call them kidnappings, they would call them arrests. There’s basically two ways to see their actions. One way to see their actions is a unilateral action by an armed group that violates human rights. They see it that they’re trying to establish an independent state and that the ADF is their police and army. So when they’re putting in place laws or rules, that armed group is tasked with enforcing those. When one is talking about kidnapping, they will see it as an arrest.

Just tell us a little bit more about their endgame – because in your story the fighters talk about defending communities against alleged abuses by Cameroonian soldiers. What do they want? What’s their endgame?

Their endgame is very clear. Its separation of the country they call Ambazonia from Cameroon. That’s very clearly what they’re fighting for.

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  1. “We must purge the occupiers out of the homeland by inflicting maximum damage in their most delicate opening..”………..Dr Ayaba L. Cho, Commander In Chief.

    • Saying it while in a safe location in Europe. What a leader!!!

      • Rain onto others

        Is Paul Biya in the English region fighting ? Is he even in Cameroon ?

        • Hahaha! ROO, what a takedown. You see people like Theman have no war knowledge so all they think is that fighting means pick up a gun and go to the bush! Mr Theman, let me give you a little military lecture: over 80% of any military incursion has to do with financial might. Simply put, if you have money, you can take down any military power. That is why the United States remains number one! We in the diaspora are bent on sponsoring our boys. We feed them well, pay salaries on time, provide medical services, and make sure they are imbued with supreme psychological upstanding. The opposite is true of La Republique: poor infrastructure, psychological decadence, moral defeat, financial lack, etc. If one soldier is able to use a piece of red cloth to send the other running for dear life, …man

        • @ Rain onto others
          Very apt!
          The beauty of your remark is that indirectly you draw a parallel between two situations which the earlier observer misses.

          Similarly, another keen observer likens Ambazonia pulling out of LRC to BREXIT or Britain pulling out of the EU.

  2. This is just prove that cameroon as a country has a big internal problem to solve..People are being killed, children running to join a liberation struggle but again some fools and self centered ambitious thieves still play it down by claiming its a small group being manipulated..
    Some dont even want to see there is a problem..
    Others fool themselves that NWP are coming to cause problems in the SWP…
    What have we learned from this problem?..Cameroon is a group of egoistic people, not honest, have no love for Cameroon, and are masters of the blame game..Any dull or stupid man knows that when there is a problem, you look for the cause, propose solutions and make sure it doesnt happen again..We are making noise now for 2 years and nothing is happening and but Country is falling apart..

    • Truth and Facts

      Sadly a very true analysis of Cameroonians as a group. It is unfortunately a very huge failing within Cameroonians: individually perhaps very intelligent & competent people but as a group of even as small as 5 individuals, totally incapable of achieving anything tangible.
      Travel anywhere in the world & just observe any group of Cameroonians, you will see consistently the same picture: loud arguments, trading insults, intrigue & the worst display of EGO.

      Take a look at this forum. It says it all.
      Our already fallen apart country is now heading straight to a bloody & dangerous civil war & for two years now one only get to read the same sh*t being posted here by Cameroonians…

      • Very succinct observations. What you call “ego” is really pent-up frustrations seeking an outlet but often being vented at the wrong persons, places or times. Such things do happen especially where there is a break down of law and order, the well-placed lording it over the others because of their connections.

        • Truth and Facts

          Very true John Dinga but what do we do about it? That is the question now.
          We have know this situation for years. How do we collectively find a solution.
          I do believe that if we start a constructive discussion, we will inevitably show the way.
          Unfortunately, I bet you if you take five Cameroonians from where you currently live and start a dialogue with them, it will end up by you creating at least one enemy.
          Maybe we were never taught to constructively debate and find ideas. Our ego is preventing us from compromising.

          My point is, we should start learning to have constructive dialogues and make room for other ideas. I am sure the government would have been better advised to take such an approach. It would have been definitely cheaper, less bloody and better accommodating for all.

        • Do we need rocket science to fix the society ruined by human hubris? No!!!!

          All we need is learn from our past mistakes or the mistakes of others and rectify things. #1) Compensate Merit #2) Punish bad work #3) Put the right leader in place

          The truth is that when a person (man/woman) does the right thing (campaigns and convinces fellow citizen of his/her leadership qualities) and is voted into office, the chances of doing things right are increased. The aberration of entering high office through the back door has been the Cameroon’s curse!

          A good leader with a good team can deliver the goods. If a choir master intones a song, is it not natural that the rest of the choir will sing along? But it has to be the right choir master!!!!!!!!!!

    • Truth and Facts

      … people come here everyday and post insults, do finger point, wish the killings of other Cameroonians by Cameroonian, rejoice the killings of Cameroonians etc.
      How can people seriously so much hate one of theirs?
      What is wrong with humanity?
      Seems to me as if we have been damn permanently.

      Why are we not using this forum to come together and find a solution to our problem. Why all the insults instead of constructive ideas. And most of us are out of the country. Meaning we acknowledge that there is a problem in Cameroon. Otherwise, we would not have left.

      Sometimes I am inclined to think that people use this Forum only as a platform for trading insults. Let me single out Bah Acho among others. Right or wrong at least you keep up the spirit of making construction suggestions.

      • I sat down and listened to @Truth and Facts talking, my priority is to hear people talking like this. Even when we are not concern. I am tongue-tied to what Cameroon have turned into, killing of humans is very normal in Cameroon. Thanks immensely for the contribution God bless you bless Cameroon as well.

  3. Lrc,the sooner you withraw your terrorist troops for us to sit down and negotiate our terms of separation,the better.
    There is no turning back.
    Lrc had been pushing us out of the union we had for the past 57 years though we did everything possible to stay with them.

    We the Ambazonians had sacrificed a lot,even bringing about multipartism at a heavy price,but still to be called derogatory names by citizens of lrc.the killings of our civilians by their birs has been too much.

    Their terrorist sodiers still continue to wreak havoc on our innocent civilians, as was the case of the vidoe of two girls being forced at gun point to swim in mud by the terrorist birs around CPC Bali.many more such atrocities have gone undocumented.
    Separation is inevitable.

    • And CPC Bali happens to be the alma mater of Prime Ministers Philemon Yang and Simon Achidi Achu as well as the fief of Fon Gahnyonga the Senator.
      If the appointment of “one of ours” was such an event worth celebrating, that disdainful treatment meted out to innocent citizens in such a locality would have generated a storm of protests. Did it?
      You be the judge.

      • John Dinga,BBC had to go looking for the senator from the region in one of its most recent edition,to get his take on the situation.the others are mute as usual.

  4. The so-called policy of “national unity and integration” of LRC was, in reality, a diabolic agenda of annexation and assimilation of the people of SC.
    This diabolic agenda led to the total loss of the identity of SC as a “people” with a right to self-governance now reduced to two regions in LRC, intentional deprivation of development in the regions, marginalization, etc.
    Thank God, Southern Cameroonians have FINALLY taken their collective destiny into their own hands to reverse the diabolic policy of “national unity and integration”.
    No Southern Cameroonians in his right mind will accept to cohabit with the same people who have tried to annex and assimilate them.
    The war will, therefore, continue until SC frees herself from the tentacles of LRC and by extension France.


    • “Ex-farmers, armed with basic weapons and little training, are taking on the might of the Cameroonian army….”.

      It is very shameful and humiliating that the so-called BIR cannot defeat these “ex-farmers, armed with basic weapons”


      Dictator Biya has postponed the elections to 2019 because SC is almost ungovernable.

      The weak BIR and Chadian mercenaries could not defeat in 2018 the ex-farmers, who defend themselves with “basic weapons”

      How will the weak BIR defeat the ex-farmers in 2o19, who will defend themselves with the modern weapons from Georges Soros ????

      The truth of the matter is that Dictator Biya’s so-called “one and indivisible” LRC is DIVIDING before his own eyes. The momentum is UNSTOPPABLE, the war is UNWINNABLE.


  5. Wao, the names are many: rebels, separatist, armed separatist, terrorist, dogs, Biafra, armed farmers
    etc etc. It is like the games kids play, but damage is going on.
    The IG is slow, looks confused and planless up to now, inspite of the willingness of the masses, to go
    head on.
    How i wish, we regroup with BH, Biafra and the Delta boys, so this war of Paul Biya, makes good

    • @Joshua

      This Igbo man is so funny “ I wish to see an Igbo man be president of Nigeria one day “ hahahahahaha.

    • Now you needs help from your People Igbo kikikkkiki you wished

  6. “some Anglophones felt they were leftwith – either flee across the border to Nigeriaand become a refugee, or take up arms and fight the Cameroonian military.” What a grammar! By the way the author just want to tell us WHERE HE BELONGS TO. I’ surprised that THE OPTION OF THOSE DISPLACED WITHIN OTHER REGIONS OF KAMERUN (WHO ARE THE HIGHEST NUMBER) IS NOT MENTIONED. Let’s them occupy & develop the bush if they want to live long. Bush is for animals.
    You are lucky that Biya is an incompetent leader, knows nothing about war & is a politician not a warlord. Also the fact that KAMERUN has three war fronts makes Ambazombians think they are powerful. THE WAR IS GOING ON, NO SURRENDER, NO DIALOGUE INVOLVING AMBAZOZO.

    • @Mbamois – I am sorry I do not understand your comment. What do you mean by “What a grammar! By the way the author just want to tell us WHERE HE BELONGS TO. I’ surprised that THE OPTION OF THOSE DISPLACED WITHIN OTHER REGIONS OF KAMERUN (WHO ARE THE HIGHEST NUMBER) IS NOT MENTIONED.”? Are you sure you have a better handle of grammar than the author of this article?

      Why is it necessary to mention “THE OPTION OF THOSE DISPLACED WITHIN OTHER REGIONS OF KAMERUN (WHO ARE THE HIGHEST NUMBER)”? Are those that he met in the bush not a subset of the internally displaced population you claim are not mentioned? Is this article about “Cameroon” or “Kamerun”?

      Your las di smell, I beg go wash am before you come teach people grammar. Water na water!

    • LOL. What are you saying, mon frere? Je peut difficilement comprendre ce que tu as écrit en Anglais.

  7. @Mvomeka. You like this article because it helps advertise your people eventhough it’s reproduce by RFI. Once Tchiroma or Badjeck will come & entertain us, you’ll claim foul. BTW There is evidence that ”farmers” who have been killed are terrorists & army had the right to seize farming tools.
    Also I would like YOU to tell us how many BIR did you kill ON THE BATTLE FIELD? if not isolated killings while hiding among civilians. How many CHADIAN & FRENCH SOLDIERS have you killed (you inform us that they were there).

      That is a resounding victory for Southern Cameroonians


      • @Mvomeka

        Shame for what ? It’s the best way to kill all the terrorists peoples like u “ hahahahahhahah

  8. @Mbamois – I am sorry I do not understand your comment. What do you mean by “What a grammar! By the way the author just want to tell us WHERE HE BELONGS TO. I’ surprised that THE OPTION OF THOSE DISPLACED WITHIN OTHER REGIONS OF KAMERUN (WHO ARE THE HIGHEST NUMBER) IS NOT MENTIONED.”? Are you sure you have a better handle of grammar than the author of this article?

    Why is it necessary to mention “THE OPTION OF THOSE DISPLACED WITHIN OTHER REGIONS OF KAMERUN (WHO ARE THE HIGHEST NUMBER)”? Are those that he met in the bush not a subset of the internally displaced population you claim are not mentioned? Is this article about “Cameroon” or “Kamerun”?

    Your las di smell, I beg go wash am before you come teach people grammar. Water na water!

  9. @Mbamois We called the shots…When we told Biya that he will not organise any elections in Ambasonia,he bragged that he will organise elections.What is happening? he is now saying that there is no material…ha ha ha ha..i go die laugh…I was thinking that he has balls…..

  10. Please make your citizen monthly contributions at http://www.ambagov.org

    This little contributions will go a long way to help the guys on GZ

  11. @KONGOSA

    I understand your level of thinking; so to your prostpone the election it’s sign of winning “search of frog head “ kikikikiki

  12. @Bamendaboy Why is Biya not organising elections in his country?Cameroon is politically stable. I see no reason why Biya should postpone elections.As for Ambasonia,the law enforcement officers will enforce Ambasonian law,until Biya’s terrorist soldiers leave Ambasonia.

  13. @ Kongossa & Mvomeka. If there is no election in Kamerun, does that mean that Biya will leave his seat? There are many ways to find some reasons for not organizing election so to use that excuse before international community to KEEP POWER LEGALLY. You can now see how your terrorists are helping Biya to keep his throne without any challenge. NO ELECTION IN KAMERUN, BIYA IS STILL PRESIDENT, AMBAZOMBIANS ARE STILL IN THE BUSH NOT IN BUEA. WHO IS WINNING IN THAT CASE? DOES THIS NOT FAVOUR BIYA INSTEAD? FOOLS.

    • @ Mbamois – Since when did elections in Cameroon represent an opportunity for Biya to leave his seat? Our strategy at this stage of the resistance is to render our territory ungovernable by LRC and judging from elections being postponed, the plan is coming together.

      Interpreting our success as a victory for Biya says a lot about your french education (read miseducation) given that we, the people of Ambazonia have no interest in challenging Biya`s postion as President for Life of LRC. Ambazonia is on the path to glory with or without your acknowledgement. Water na water.

      • Forget about that Yambassa man who calls himself Mbamois.
        He knows that Biya postponed the elections because SC is now almost ungovernable. ELECAM members are afraid to enter SC.

        Voters from SC were airlifted to LRC to vote during the PHONEY senatorial elections. Airlifting millions of southern Cameroonians during the legislative and presidential is NOT feasible. LRC lacks the logistics. That is the reason the elections were postponed. Simply put, Southern Cameroonians forced Dictator Biya to postpone the elections.

        It is therefore imbecile nonsense for Mbamois to try to misinterpret the facts.

        BTW, Dictator Biya is a Francophone Question. Southern Cameroonians are no longer interested in the slogan ” BIYA MUST GO “. He is no longer considered as Presidnt by Southern Cameroonians


        Significant successes have been achieved by Southern Cameroonians:

        1. SC is now ALMOST ungovernable: Southern Cameroonians do not listen to orders from Proconsuls from LRC. Elections have been postponed
        2. Timber vehicles from LRC no longer enter SC. The few that attempt are burnt down
        3. The distortion by LRC of the history of SC has been reversed. Every child in SC now knows that SC and LRC are two different nations
        4. The forces of lawlessness and disorder no longer stand on the road to collect FCFA 500. They are afraid of the so-called “secessionists”
        5. Terrorist soldiers from LRC are returning in droves to their country in body bags
        6. The so-called ‘ministeres de souverainete’ is no longer a NO-GO-AREA for Anglophones

      • 7. LRC Proconsuls are now hostages of the Restoration Forces
        8. The whole wide world is now aware of the Anglophone Question
        9. Proconsul Okalia Bilai sleeps in Douala and works in Buea.
        10. Proconsul Lele Afrikaner sleeps in Mbouda and works in Abakwa for fear of the so-called “secessionists” ( the right word is SEPARATISTS) .
        11. LRC has started promising the tarring of the Ring Road and the construction of the Victoria Deep Seaport
        12. The words NATIONAL INTEGRATION have disappeared in the dictionary of LRC
        13. LRC is almost bankrupt because of the UNWINNABLE war. Cancellation of cycling race because of lack of funds, payment of salaries of civil servants prefinanced by DANGOTE, loans. That is just the beginning because the war open-ended.

      • 14. The CPDM crime syndicate has started talking about a FEDERATION. The FORM OF THE STATE is no longer considered as a NO-GO-ARE
        15. Amnesty International and the ICC have turned their radars on SC. The last chapter of this struggle will be written at the ICC
        16. etc


        Believe me or not,

        1. The momentum is UNSTOPPABLE
        2. The war is UNWINNABLE
        3. The FINAL resolution to the Anglophone Question will be gotten this time around come rain come shine
        4. Dictator Biya will be the Most Valuable Casualty (MVC) of this struggle. His days as President are numbered.

        5. The entity illegally referred to as “one and indivisible” LRC will soon be history


  14. Les derniers remous d’un cafard agonisant.
    Ambaland must be free to raise her children as she deems fit.

  15. Let The War Goes On AS YOU WISH. Besides I Have NO FAMILY MEMBER INVOLVED & MY VILLAGE IS SAFE. You Have Enough Money To Fund A War But Cannot Care For Your Refugees In A Territory You Control. If You Were So Kind, You’ve Used That Money For Scholarship To Those Youths Not Your Family Members. One Day The 40 Million Kamerunians Will Also Contribute For Their Army If Any Need Arises. Hypocrits Kam No Go.