- The DDR Centre’s Involvement, Drug business in Buea
Originally published by The Post, Cameroon Edition No 02096
BUEA, Cameroon- “It was not the first time the officers came. They have been coming, and Black will discuss with them, since all we did was smoke, they will just take their bribe and go back. Sometimes they even smoked theirs too. They have never covered their faces, but this time, they were all masked. As usual, Black told us not to panic or run. He went out to meet them.
“He talked to them, and he told them he had money to bribe. He had earlier told me he had FCFA 500,000 with him. I think they killed him and tried to kill all of us because Black told them he had FCFA 500,000, because that was when they shot him, and started firing at us.”
A survivor of Thursday, May 28 shooting in Buea that left four dead tearfully narrated to The Post. Unlike the other four, who were killed, one shot in the leg, another in the hand, he was one of those who survived the shooting and escaped the scene.
The Post learnt that about 11 boys were caught in the incident, and some managed to escape when the killings started. They were chased by their assailants, who were later identified as Gendarmes.
“All we did was smoke, we did not harass anyone. We begged them, we knelt down, Black offered to bribe them to let us go…Black! Black! Black! He said, crying.
“First of all, Black will never allow us to do that (steal, and Harass). He is the most gentle drug dealer I have seen. He had told us that he sold drugs because he wanted to raise enough capital to start a business. That is why he did not involve himself in crime, and that is why we became friends. I hear they say they found bullets and weapons in that house where we were smoking. That is a lie. I can swear on that. We take all hard drugs – that, I accept, Black sold all types of drugs, but it ended at that.
DDR Boys Invade Smoking Joint
One of those, who survived the shooting, told The Post that four days before the May 28 carnage, about 20 boys from the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Centre, DDRC, invaded the smoking joint, and got them severely beaten.
“They came and had us well-beaten. They told us that all drug points and dealers in Buea answer to them, and pay a prim (fee) to them. They told us that everyone, except us, was paying to them. After torturing us for a long time, we begged them, and paid a fine of FCFA 100,000 to them. They collected the money and left, but they kept coming there to take drugs too, and they often come earlier than us, and before we arrive, they had left.
“Recently, before the shooting happened, they came there and after they left, we came in to smoke and saw women’s underwear thrown there. We became afraid, but did nothing because the main person selling the drugs to us told us that he will try to negotiate and pay them off. I suspect that they might have told the gendarmes that we had money, since we bribed them with FCFA 100,000.”
On December 30, 2019, during the first graduation ceremony of the ex-fighters in Buea, the Southwest Regional Chief and Coordinator of the DDR Centre, Bernard Fonju, complained to the Prime Minister’s representative, Bertha Ndoh, that one of the problems they have been unable to handle at the Centre was drug addiction.
He said the ex-fighters were still consuming hard drugs at an alarming rate, and that they have fought hard to stop the practice, with little success. Requesting that a policy be put in place to reduce movement of ex-fighters in and out of the Centre, Fonju said they sometimes leave the Centre for weeks and even months.
One of the survivors told The Post that they might have been set up by the ex-fighters from the DDRC. “I also suspect that the women’s underwear they brought there was part of the setup and justification of what they were planning to do. The military officers and their bosses came after the shooting and told people that we were raping women there. If you ask any honest person, they will tell you it is a lie. None of us has ever raped a woman or girl, not there, as far as I know. Those in that quarter know, and can testify that we smoke marijuana and take all sorts of drugs there, but we have never hurt or trouble anyone.”
One of those who spoke to The Post on condition of anonymity corroborated what those who survived the Thursday, May 28 shooting told The Post.
The man explained to The Post that their neighbourhood has been calm. “They smoke, but they don’t trouble us. The tall commissioner was the one trying to force words into our mouths. He asked us why we were not reporting the boys to them. Why should we do that? In some countries marijuana has been legalised, and even if it is not, the punishment for that is not killing those taking it. The Commissioner also said they saw women’s pants in there, and that those boys were raping women and girls. Except they (officers) might have brought that there too, I don’t know how that could happen. No woman or girl has been raped around here. I know that they planned to kill those children, else, why did they not just arrest them and investigate?” he asked.
Another source who spoke to The Post, and whose identity we concealed for his own safety, stated that that the killer squad came in using an un-matriculated car painted in taxi colour, with tinted glasses.
“They drove in with the un-matriculated taxi car. We were not concerned, and did not suspect anything. But after they drove down that house, we heard gunshots. Everyone was scared, and ran away from the road. After a while following the shooting, people started gathering, that was when those who killed the children had finally gone, because they shot them and drove-off, and then speedily came back again. That was when the photographs circulating now were taken.
“After that, Government officials and local officials started coming in. They went and saw what was done, and then came out to speak to us. They told us that we were covering up for thieves and Ambazonia fighters. I am an old man, I am not Afraid to die, I am a Cameroonian, and I can swear to you that those boys were not Ambazonia fighters. They told us that the boys brought girls and women and raped them there. That is a lie too.
“Before, we had incidents of theft, and we formed a vigilante group, and it has been long, since anyone was harassed in the neighbourhood. We have seen Ambazonia fighters there too, but that was a long time ago. I remember how on returning back late with my wife, I had an encounter with the Ambazonia fighters. They were well armed. They questioned me, and asked what I was doing outside at such late hours, after questioning us, they told us not to keep late hours; that it was dangerous.
“I am not supporting the children that were killed, or what they were doing. What they were doing was wrong. I cannot support that, but they did not deserve to die that way. The Borstal Institute in Buea was created for wayward children like them, so that they can be reformed and brought back to the society. Those who killed them could round them up and arrest them.
“Those boys were in their early twenties. Most of them are just hungry children, they were not criminals. If they were criminals, we would have called the police to come and arrest them, and not that they be killed. Our neighbourhood has rather been made unsafe by that act. Now, we live in fear and panic. Soldiers now drive in at any time, and if the real Ambazonia fighters too come, we will have trauma and constant fear, plus fighting,” he said.
State and local Government officials who came to the scene blamed the local population, saying that they covered up for thieves, rapists and Ambazonia fighters.
The Administrators, comprised the Divisional Officer for Buea Sub-division, Abba Abdouraman, the Mayor of Buea, David Mafany Namange, and the Region’s military high command.
After the officials’ visit, information went wild that separatist fighters have been neutralised in Buea. Other information also circulated that a gang of thieves had been neutralised in Upper Bonduma Buea, but the young men were just marijuana smokers.
The May 28 killings came after Buea has been enjoying relative peace, after extra-judicial killings in the Regional capital had subsided.
When The Post visited the Buea Regional Hospital Mortuary, we saw the corpses of the four youngsters strewn on the floor- at a corner, with unfilled identification papers taped to their bodies. One of the survivors told The Post that the boys had always had their identity cards with them, and that they had probably been removed when they were killed and their pockets searched and emptied.