The Colbert Factor:
In the name of Amba fighters
Muteff may be a little-known local village kaleidoscope but what happens there sometimes have unimaginable ramifications, not only locally but internationally. Home to the most dreaded mystical juju in Komlland, nantang yoh, the deity is believed to surveil the village and surrounding communities. Despite such heightened surveillance with regular outings during country Sunday nights to denounce any wrongdoing and warn the perpetrators of the punishment that awaits them; (and given the fact that crime is always one step ahead of criminology), some witchcraft practitioners in the village always outsmarted the juju’s surveillance.
One of such villagers was a certain bobe Bamteh, an otherwise quiet and humble man, unsuspiciously loved and respected by most villagers. He was later discovered and reported to have been using the faces of rather innocent persons in the village to torment his real and perceived enemies. Different villagers were victimized innocently on grounds they were tormenting others at night when in effect, it was him that raised manipulative witchcraft through facial deformation technology (as opposed to facial recognition technology), to the level of fine arts. It was only after a combined effort of natang yoh juju and the menopausal women’s fraternity, ‘febuien’, that bobe Bamteh was unveiled to be the real perpetrator of such heinous crimes against humanity and finally ‘ex-communicated’ from the village to other lands.
Since an isolated example has no statistical value, many examples abound as to people in communities using others’ good or bad names to commit crimes or earn undue favours. As kids, I and another village brother, Muam, always usually used the good name of his older brother, Yama Yong, to get freshly downloaded milk and butter from the wealthy mbororo cattle rearer, Yamsah, at Ijim-Muteff. To make sure neither Yamsa nor Yama Yong ever discovered our tricks, we would bring a little bit of the milk and butter home to Yama Yong and let him know we were just passing and Yamsah gave us the milk to come give him.
Perhaps the best example of people who have done things in the name of others comes directly from the holy Bible, the one book christians the world over profess to be their users’ manual. Of the 27 books of the New Testament, 14 are traditionally attributed to Paul. Yet, only seven of these pauline epistles are accepted by theologians, bible historians and scholars as being entirely authentic and dictated by Paul himself. As one of the most prolific contributors to the New Testament, the authorship of the other books is debatable, and commonly thought to have come from contemporary or later followers of Paul who wanted to benefit from his popularity to pass their message, without being challenged. These authors, it is believed, likely used material from his surviving letters and might have had access to his letters written by him that no longer survived.
The letters of Paul to the Ephesians, the Collosians, the second letter of Paul to the Thesalonians, the first and second letters of Paul to Timothy, that to Titus, and Paul’s letter to the Hebrews were certainly written by his other followers, and in his name. Most of the disparities in the letters come from the style and form, and especially from the fact that those authentically written by Paul start with salutations.
And so, just as people would use the good or bad name of others to achieve their objectives or commit heinous crimes, so too have people been using the name of amba fighters (those fighting regular government forces in a bit to obtain independence from francophone leadership for the two English-speaking regions ; and since 2017), to commit all unimagineable and heinous crimes in this part of the the country.
Just like in the must-watch Nigerian film, ‘Kidnappers’ Union’, produced and directed by prolific film maker, Onyekwelu Ifeanyi-where armed robbers from across Nigeria kidnapp everything for ransom-from human beings to animals-the comedy movie full of laughter, parodies what obtains today in the two English-speaking regions of the country, where miscreants from all over the other regions have decided to converge on the restive zones, and be raining havoc on innocent citizens, in the name of amba fighters.
Just like almost half St. Paul’s Letters were written by others in his name, the same feat is being repeated today by hardened criminals or should I say, rebels in search of a cause, in the name of fighting for the independence of Southern Cameroons otherwise referred to by activists as the state of Ambazonia. Gangs are birthed everyday across the région, and especially in Bamenda, to kidnapp people for ransomware, and, in the name of amba.
Just like the authenticity and populaity of St. Paul made others to use his good name to continue perpetrating the gospel, so too the authenticity and popularity of the Anglophone cause made many more youths of doubtful character and commitment, to carry out atrocities in the name of amba fighters. Some knowing that it is already established in people’s psyche that the fear of self–styled Field Marshall No Piety is the beginning of wisdom, would actually call and threaten you that they just finished having a meeting with him and he ordered that you be taken because you talk ill of them or don’t contribute to their well-being, when in effect they have no idea where he is.
Not only those fighting or mascarading to be fighting for the independence of Southern Cameroons use the name of amba. Regular forces, security agents and politicians also use it to subdue their enemies or gain undue favours from Yaounde authorities. When security operatives want to exploit a wealthy individual in the two English-speaking regions of the country, they tag his activities to amba and request for ransom or he/she be arrested and detained in distance Yaounde. Politicians have been quick to accuse their political rivals of sponsoring amba activities, and some have effectively been eliminated. In the name of amba.
Individuals within the community that have either had boundary/land problems with family members and neighbours, have had to either report them to security forces or to those passing for amba fighters, to be eliminated. A case in point was the brutal elimination of a man and his two sons in Bambui, said to have been reported to the military by his brother (as they quarelled over ownership of family land). Differences that people have had with neightbours over the years (and even over girlfriends), and they were thought to have been forgotten, have resurfaced with unbelievable intensity, and the name of amba has been used to do a clean job. With little or no traces.
This is not unrelated with events in Edgar Allan Poe’s book : ‘The Cask of Armontilado’, where Montresor brutally burries his friend, Fortunado alive, in his family catacomb. This, ostensibly to revenge a crime he committed against him long ago, and which Fortunado had equally long forgotten. With no one having knowledge of the whereabouts of Fortunado except the machiavelic Montresor, it was only some 50 years after the act that he confessed to committing such a heinous and dreadful crime.
And so, the war economy in native West Cameroon continues to flourish as government equivocates on its understanding of a lasting solution to the conflict that equally dates back to errors committed some 50 years ago during the drawing up of the articles of association that were to bind together West and East Cameroons.
*Colbert Gwain is a public intellectual, digital rights advocate, author, radio host and content creator @TheColbertFactor
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