By Innocent Kum
Defence and security forces have reportedly launched a manhunt for a gym owner, Alemchong Betrand Fotabong, who is alleged to have been using his gymnasium to train Ambazonia separatist fighters.
Alemchong, who owned a gym known as Fotabong Gymnasium in Muyuka, Fako division of the South West region, is said to be on the run, after having been accused by the military of using his gym to train separatist fighters on combat and other martial arts.
We gathered that sometime in August 2017 soldiers stormed Alemchong’s gym, beating him, his sister and trainees who were at the premises. The marauding soldiers are said to have accused Alemchong of training separatist fighters. It is alleged that one of the female trainees and Fotabong’s sister were raped by the soldiers, though we could not independently confirm this.
After the physical torture, while Alemchong and the other trainees were whisked away to be detained, a female trainee and Alemchong’s sister are said to have been ferried away to an unknown destination. Their whereabouts is still not known till date.
Alemchong Betrand Fotabong was detained at the Muyuka police station under horrible and inhuman conditions during which he is said to have been tortured every day. However, one month later, Alemchong was released on bail. He was hospitalised to be treated for some of the wounds and illnesses he had been afflicted with while in detention.
Nonetheless, Alemchong’s ordeal was far from over. Sometime in February 2018, the quarter where his gym was located and where he lived, was raided by soldiers, who beat up residents. The soldiers are reported to have also burnt down houses in the neighbourhood. The building where Alemchong’s gym was equally set ablaze by the soldiers.
Alemchong, his wife and children were among the inhabitants of the quarter who narrowly escaped into the forest. An 84-year-old woman, who was Alemchong’s neighbour, and who could not escape like the others because of her ill health, was burnt to death in her house.
Since Alemchong’s escape into the forest, nothing has been heard of him and his whereabouts is not known. If arrested, Alemchong Betrand Fotabong will be tried in a military tribunal, under the anti-terrorism law, whose maximum punishment is the dead sentence. That is if he is not killed outright, like many others who have been victims of extrajudicial killings.
It should be recalled that the Anglophone sparked in October 2016 when Common Law Lawyers in the North West and South West regions went on strike, paralyzing the courts. They were demanding for a return to the federal system of government, redeployment of Civil Law Magistrates back to Civil Law Courts among other grievances. Not long after, teachers in the North West and South West regions also went on strike, demanding the redress of several issues concerning the English sub-system of education.
Things got worse when concerned citizens in the North West and South West regions, who had been fed up with the unfavourable political and especially economic stagnation of Cameroon at large, but more importantly in these regions, joined the strike.
The crisis later metamorphosed into an armed conflict, when some Anglophones particularly the youth, took up arms to fight for the independence of a country they have christened Ambazonia. The military has since then been clashing with the separatist fighters, also known as Amba Boys.
While the armed conflict continues to escalate, many people, both civilians and defence and security forces, have been killed, many more internally displaced and over 30,000 have fled to neighbouring Nigeria where they are living as refugees.
International organisations and other Western powers have called on the government to address the root cause through genuine and inclusive dialogue.