Beyond explosions at Mountain Race.



Three frightening explosions almost disrupted the Mountain Race of Hope on Saturday that drew national and international participants.

Unlike in previous years, the scoop was not about the winner, the ambiance and effervescence that traditionally are associated with what is christened as "Race of Hope".

It was about pain, panic, fear and injuries sustained by some 19 athletes and the shadow of terror that engulfed the atmosphere not only in Buea but in the neighbourhood where troops, armed to the teeth, patrolled the streets to ensure security.

According to various international and national reporters, 529 athletes started the race and minutes later three explosions were detonated.

"Nineteen athletes have been brought to our facility with injuries. We have operated upon three of them. Their condition is stable and we haven't recorded any deaths," Martin Mokake, the Director of Buea Regional Hospital annex told Reuters by phone.

One of those being treated was a Gabonese citizen in a race that included participants from Kenya, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Chad, France, Uganda, Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, United States of America, Tunisia and Morocco.

A video shared widely on social media showed spectators cheering on a runner before dashing for cover when an explosion went off in the distance. Another video showed a different explosion near a pack of runners elsewhere on the route.

Eyewitnesses said later that the first explosion occurred near the OIC market, about two kilometres from the Molyko Stadium, where the race kicked off. The other two exploded less than a kilometre from the stadium with one having been concealed in an old car...

Those affected by the explosion had knee and foot injuries. After the incident, like applying medicine after death, security was reinforced in the city of Buea, with systematic searches of all trash cans and the arrest of suspicious persons. Spectators without national identity cards were also arrested.

Helicopters criss-crossed the city as spectators watched in fear as the race continued with athletes from the North West regions dominating as in previous years.

The armed wing of Ambazonia Governing Council, one of the separatist militia groups, claimed responsibility for the blasts.   

"Our primary target was the Cameroon elite forces...that were providing security for the athletes. We will not allow Cameroon to continue its occupation," the group's spokesman, Capo Daniel, told Reuters.

Whatever their motivation, the separatist fighters would have known that sports and politics do not mix. Their dastardly assault on innocent spectators and athletes was not warranted

But looking beyond the Mountain Race, the attack should, after all the warning by the separatists that they were going to disrupt the race, be as another reminder to the Cameroon government that the military has never, no matter how powerful, revolved a political logjam.

The explosions are also indicative that the separatist fighters are not going anyway so soon, despite being in factions.

If they could detonate three explosions in Buea, which is supposed to be one of the very few safe havens in the two English-speaking regions, then they need to be taken more seriously and dialogue with, rather than the sour singsong of "peace returning" gradually.

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