“Fundong turned to be a desert place”.
In those days, Fundong was booming with music all time. A new comer to Fundong would not sleep till after he or she got used to the loud music. The bars were operating and busy all the time. Noisy motorbike riders were all over town, pupils and students were flooding the streets walking to and from schools, that is, the Government Bilingual High School and the Government Technical High school among others. Driving to Mbam and Boyui mission stations for morning Masses was never easy because of students’ congestion along the road. Business was booming, since Fundong had the biggest market in Boyo Division. Government offices were always open from 8:00 am to 3:00pm. Banks too were busy with their customers doing financial transactions.
From November 2016 with the start of the Teachers and Lawyers strike in the Anglophone region the situation has started to change gradually in Fundong. Monday was declared as “a ghost town” day. That is a day in a week on which no movement or business is allowed to take place. Sometimes it could go on for two or even three days. Initially, the “ghost town” was not strictly observed by the residents of Fundong but, later, people started to fear for their lives and loss of property, thus respecting the ghost town strike. This fear was instilled in people when they witnessed the burning of the Government Primary School and six stalls in the market in Fundong Town by unknown assailants. This was meant as a signal to the government that something was wrong and something should be done.
As the Anglophone crisis continued, schools stopped completely apart from the Government Primary School Fundong and the Government Bilingual High School Fundong, which were protected heavily by the military. Despite the tight security, the administration block of the Government Bilingual high school was burnt down. This was because it was the only school in Boyo Division where students were writing their exams. The answer sheets were also burnt in the process – the students had to rewrite their papers. It was indeed gain another signal to the Government.
At the moment, no learning activity is going on in the area. All schools are closed. The parents who can afford to pay the school fees for their children have taken their children to Yaoundé, Baffoussam, Douala and other Francophone regions where schooling continues uninterrupted. Children and students from poor families in Anglophone West Cameroon continue to suffer without education.
The climax of the crisis came to Fundong in early June when the Amba Boys (Ambazonia Defence Forces – opposing the Government) who were baptized “freedom fighters” invaded Fundong Town from 11.00am – 3.00pm. No army was seen around till the Amba Boys had completed their operation. They moved freely and told civilians to move away from the town. They targeted the Grand Stand and burnt it to ashes. They also targeted one restaurant the owner of which they claimed continued working on ghost town days , cooking for the army. So the restaurant was burnt to the ground. They proceeded to Meli and killed one man whom they accused of collaborating with the army. After their operation they left without any hindrance.
After their departure, when everything was quiet, the army returned and killed eight people whom they suspected of having collaborated with the Amba Boys. These people were right inside their houses, they broke into their houses and shot them. The picture that was portrayed was that the military killed the Amba Boys. Yet these were innocent civilians. That was indeed a bloody day for Fundong.
Since the attack, Fundong has turned into a desert place. The well-to-do people have left Fundong and gone to the Francophone regions and some to Bamenda. The market is completely closed. The schools are completely closed. The government offices are closed. All the Government workers have fled for their lives. The Council offices have remained closed till today. We are left with only the Senior Division Officer who is always in and out. He is airlifted out when he wants to go somewhere. He does not go to his office, he is only at his residence and he is guarded day and night.
Many poor people have fled to the villages for their lives. The roads are always blocked. Fundong is now a land locked place. Driving to mission stations in the villages for Mass or any other pastoral activity is difficult and risky. Sometimes, we are turned back by either the army or the Amba Boys. When we come across bad magical “juju” objects on the road, stepping on them would give the impression that a priest or any pastoral agent is against the freedom fighters. This can lead to severe punishment. Therefore turning back to the main mission is the lesser evil. Travelling by motorbike to the villages for mission activity is also not safe. The army associates the pastoral agent with a bikerider and their first reaction is to be suspicious and shoot. So we are in a dilemma. To be on a safer side we drive or ride in cassocks to reach out to the people of God in mission stations.
Going to the villages one has to carry one’s identity card all the time. This is because the Amba Boys on the road ask for the identity and the voter’s cards. The army also asks for the identity card. Fundong Town is divided into two camps. The side going to Bamenda after the bridge is for the military, while the side across the bridge to Fundong Town is for the Amba Boys. No one crosses each other’s territory. The villages are full of Amba Boys. They have their check points and their law courts for settling disputes in villages. Few cases are reported to the police stations in Fundong these days.
I was once going for Mass to Nteghum Mission station using a motorbike, I was rushing to catch up with time. The road was very bad, rocky, full of potholes and slippery. I was very tired and annoyed with the motorbike because it would not move. I kept trying and succeed at last. After crossing a bad spot, I decided to speed up but failed to notice a young man who was trying to stop me. It was raining heavily. When I looked at the side mirror and saw the young man running very fast trying to stop me. I stopped then! He asked for my identity card, which I did not have. He was annoyed with me. I saw him removing bullets from his pocket and putting them in his pistol. So I opened the bag and showed him the hosts, wine and the vestments. I told him that I was a priest and was going for Mass. The young man was very apologetic and warned me to stop whenever I was asked to and always travel with my identity card. He added “Father, we are in bad times, I do not want to lose you”. After listening to him, I thanked him and I continued with my journey to the mission station for Mass.
(Compiled by Noah Monday mhm and Lawrence Otieno mhm)