Source: | Mafany Tande Myles, Cameroon

Let’s take a trip through time. Place is Bamenda, Cameroon and time is October 2016. We ride…

Che is a pupil at one of Bamenda’s primary schools. Che is well dressed, his blue short sleeved shirt tucked into his brown khaki shorts. His white socks perfectly complements his black polished shoes, labelling him as ready for another day’s lessons. Che has had his breakfast and has picked up his bag, ready for school.

Che’s face lightens up when his mother dashes into the room to meet an eager boy waiting to be seen off to school. Without instructions, he rushes to his mother and grabs her left hand, ready for the usual stroll to school. 

As they walked, they could not help but notice the unusual serenity of the community: no other person dressed like Che is spotted. Was this some prank? They arrived at an open square and froze. People garbed in black robes and perukes swarmed the streets, some carrying placards and others wielding megaphones.

Che and his mother are dumbfounded. Seemingly, they were unaware of the obvious demonstration currently happening. They lived in a secluded locality, without access to basic informatory services, even word of mouth. The glee vanished from Che’s face, now replaced with exasperation. Che would not be going to school for a while…

Fast forward to October 2017… Ngwa is ready to take on another start of the week. He grabs his rucksack and other basic supplies necessary for a short voyage. He leaves his one room apartment into the daylight, bidding his neighbours goodbye and walks away. They know he is a student, but wonder over the necessity of such a huge bag for another day at school. They mind their business, refraining from asking any questions. It is a cold Tuesday morning, visibility clouded by the fog dawning from Mount Cameroon.

Ngwa is Che’s older brother by 9 years. Ngwa has relocated to Buea, capital of the South West Region of Cameroon for his undergraduate degree. He studies Accounting at one the post-secondary institutions there. Although resident in Buea, Ngwa frequents the economic capital – Douala – and is there more than he is in Buea. He leaves for the economic capital each Tuesday and returns each Friday. 

The Internet services, without prior notice, have been shut down in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon by the government in response to ‘curbing the spread of false information’. This exodus has been Ngwa’s fate since January of that year. Ngwa needs study materials for his coursework, and he works online, but the services Ngwa requires for his studies and work are on the other side of the River Mungo. 

All businesses are closed shut. No one is out. The streets and neighbourhoods are buzzing with the sound of silence. All is calm, except for the military vehicles patrolling the streets. The day is October 7, 2018; election day! You would expect citizens in that part of Cameroon (Northwest Region and Southwest Region) to vote for the person they want as leader… the masses stay indoors. 

The incumbent president lost the elections – Paul Biya is no longer the president. Maurice Kamto, one of the main opposition leaders has been declared winner… at least this is what he claims. Youth rallied in the capital of Cameroon two days after the elections were held and claimed victory for the president of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) Party. Kamto was accused of exploiting the naivete of the youths and sent them into the streets in an effort to win power at all costs.

The results of the October 7 presidential election are out: Paul Biya wins the presidency for a seventh term. Kamto is defeated.

It is total chaos in the streets of some cities in Cameroon. CRM supporters are protesting. They are not in favour of the just announced presidential results. Meanwhile, their leader has been imprisoned.

The Grand National Dialogue is well on course. Announced to begin on September 30, 2019, the dialogue seeks to address the ongoing crisis plaguing the North West and South West regions of Cameroon. In a bid to remedy the situation, some prisoners, including Maurice Kamto and other prominent figures associated with the crisis, have been released. After three years of conflict, internal displacement, deaths and destructions, there seems to be a ray of hope penetrating the thick cloud of darkness.

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