Armed conflict in NW, SW: No security in feasting with ‘ghosts’.

The frenzied effervescence of preparations for the Christmas and New Year festivities is on and President Paul Biya has summoned his security top brass to ensure Cameroonians feast in peace.

At the security meeting in Yaounde on Monday, the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of Defence, Joseph Beti Assomo, instructed military and security chiefs nationwide to place special efforts on preventive actions against the high crime waves that usually characterise end-of-year festive periods.

The who's who in the security mechanism in attendance, to underline the importance of the issue, were the Secretary of State to the Minister of Defence in charge of the National Gendarmerie, Yves Galax Etoga; the Secretary of State to the Minister of Defence in charge of the Ex-Servicemen and War Victims, Koumpa Issa; the Delegate General for National Security, Martin Mbarga Nguele; the Secretary General at the Ministry of Territorial Administration, amongst others.

Minister Beti Assomo explained that the festive season is often accompanied by comprehensible excesses and increased crime wave by nebulous individuals.

“We must be fully aware that the country’s security at this particular time concerns the whole of the national territory. We must do everything we can to prevent and avoid the emergence of any additional source of insecurity, endogenous and exogenous, in the country,” the MINDEF boss said.

In his assessment of the security situation, he said the country is breathing well, but there are still troubling indicators that call for caution and increased vigilance. He stressed that “emphasis must also be placed on preventive action”.

These actions, he said, will be against crimes on roads, ensure close monitoring of pockets of social discontent, control of movements of people and goods, pro-activeness in dealing with social upheavals, anticipation in the management of man-made and natural disasters as well as the relentless fight against urban and rural violence.

The hotspot to be marked by pockets of insecurity concerns, he pointed out, are notably in the Far North, North West and South West Regions.

But the situation in the two English-speaking Regions is more challenging. 

“With regard to the North West and South West Regions, terrorist groups have for some time favoured gratuitous violence against the civilian populations of these two Regions, by destroying their property and kidnapping them,” the minister stated, adding that: “...these outlaws take advantage of any occasion, such as festivities or areas where there are gaps, to carry out perfidious acts of violence against civilian populations who oppose their criminal actions”.

What the minister omitted was the "ghost town" phenomenon every Monday in the two Anglophone Regions. The ‘ghosts’ have been roaming invisibly for the past seven years and all attempts from the ridiculous traditional incantations to punitive penalties for those who lock up their stores to luring incentives of free fuel to commercial motor bike riders and cab drivers to induce free movements have not chased the ‘ghosts'.

In that bleak situation, how can the residents of the two Regions celebrate Christmas and New Year fiesta with "ghosts"?

It would appear government has forgotten about the Monday ghost town, which remains the most devastating instrument the separatists are using to inflict pain on the population and the economy.

Yaounde has just been intensifying its pursuit of a military solution, hoping to take advantage of widening fragmentation among the armed separatist groups and use their atrocities to project them as terrorists, to gain international support.

The devastating socio-economic and political impact of ghost towns remains the ugly face of the conflict, felt mostly by residents of the two Regions who have defied fear to stay on in the Regions, while others have been displaced and in refugee camps.

There are credible reports that the Cameroon government has lost about 5.9 billion FCFA from taxes due to the conflict. 

About 6,000 fatalities have been registered, an estimated 60,000 refugees and 900,000 Internally Displaced Persons. World Bank estimates have even shown that national Gross Domestic Product, GDP, could drop by 9% and household welfare by 5% if the conflict lasts until 2025, with the ghost menacing.

There is no doubt that the people in the two Regions will celebrate the festivities of the seasons in the shadow of frightening insecurity and the "ghost".

But it should be a reminder that as long as the ghost looms, the conflict lives, the economy limps.

It's been like that since the conflict started seven years ago. 

The Guardian Post gives kudos to Minister Assomo for his concern to ensure that Cameroonians celebrate the festive season in serenity, fanfare and peace. 

But at a time the national campaign is focused on "living together," government must strive to ensure that citizens enjoy peace in unison.

On that gloomy background, there is the urgency for the government to take appropriate action to chase the ghost so that the nation can celebrate the festivities together in peace, not when the two English-speaking Regions feast with ghosts.

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