The Colbert Factor 29/9/18
How both Amba Fighters and Government Forces Take Hostages for Ransom
This reflection is inspired by the fact that although the two forces on the ground are fighting to eliminate each other in order to take complete control of the territory, both forces seem to have consciously or unconsciously formed what could today be referred to as a ‘ kidnappers union’ with the peace loving and defenceless members of the public as target.
It is the.more informed by the fact that while both forces originally engaged in hostage taking for political aims, they have all changed strategy and in the process, transforming it into a lucrative revenue source.
It is also inspired by the fact that although a huge body of research and literature exist on the typology of hostage takers, no corresponding research or literature exist on the characteristics and typology of those likely to be taken hostage especially in the ongoing Anglophone conflict.
When the Anglophone crisis that was ignited by the lawyers and teachers’ strike in 2016 started, several incidences of forced disappearances of activists were reported. At the time, activists claimed government was abducting Anglophones and detaining in undisclosed locations outside the two English speaking regions. Those abductees who were lucky to be later released narrated how family members paid heavy ransoms to the men in uniform in exchange for their release. At the time, the men in uniform employed the strategy more for dissuasive purposes.
It was not until the Anglophone activists took up arms that people started noticing kidnappings and hostage taking on the side of the freedom fighters.
Although done at the time as a form of exerting political pressure on government to give in to their demands of unconditional release of their leaders abducted from Nigeria and deported to Yaounde, the first high profile kidnapping case by the freedom fighters was that of the D.O of Batibo.
This was later followed by that of the Regional Delegate for Social Affairs for the Northwest. Both were later seen on separate videos gone viral on social media presenting demands in exchange for their liberation to the Yaounde regime. Since government proved adamant to giving in to any political demands, the Ambazonian freedom fighters were fast to abandon the strategy of hostage taking for political aims.
Kidnapping for ransom saw the light of day with the high profile taking of hostage of Professor Leke Tambo, newly appointed Chair of the Cameroon GCE Board. After days of negotiations between the family and top leadership of the restorationist group, a ransom of circa 20 million frs was paid in exchange for his freedom. This very move acted as an incentive to the armed groups for further kidnappings.
Since at the same time the government of Cameroon was zeroing in on, and drying up their sources of funding from abroad and since news was also reaching the fighters that their leaders abroad were raising funds and fighting over the sharing rather than sending to them on Ground Zero, they decided to indulge in hostage taking for self sustainance.
With armed groups sprouting up in virtually every community in the two English speaking zones, and with the Diaspora loosing grip of central control of the armed groups, the local, decentralized and franchise cells had to increasingly rely on hostage taking for funding, which funds would in turn be used for recruiting, training, equipping of camps, purchase of communication tools and all types procurement.
Realising that kidnapping individuals and held hostage to be ransomed by moneyed relatives was very lucrative because of the value society places on human life, armed groups moralized on reasons and justifications why people were taken hostage or kidnapped. The reasons range from collaborating with their enemies, betraying them or disrespecting their ultimatums or simply operating on Ghost Town days.
Hostage taking by armed Ambazonian freedom fighters became a widespread phenomenon after the April 2018 Senetoral Elections in Cameroon where the Ambazonian leadership proscribed elections in the two English speaking regions. After the voting and the victory of the opposition SDF in the North West, many SDF Councillors in Belo and elsewhere were kidnapped and held hostage until ransomed by moneyed family members.
When the spate of kidnapping SDF councillors to pay for their sins of taking part in an ‘illegal ‘ election died down, other categories of kidnappings emerged. This time around, the heat was turned, and has continued to be turned on CPDM militants and sympathizers who were and are being suspected of collaborating with the Cameroon military or authorities. It is for this reason that CPDM local leaders suspected of taking part on national day celebrations were systematically being kidnapped and held hostage until ransomed. As the list of targets was dwindling, armed groups turned attention to the aristocratic members of the community whom they fault for not supporting the struggle.
Ransom would naturally range from anything between 200000 to 5 million frs. Exceptionally, some aristocrats are held hostage until ransomed for upwards of 10 million frs. As it stands, those who are vulnerable to be taken hostage are members of the community whose political views are well known, who openly make declarations on the ongoing conflict, people holding public offices and individuals who are suspected of disrespecting ultimatums.
As if the pressure from the armed groups and the military fighting the freedom fighters is not enough, a new kind of hostage taking by some renegade men in uniform is increasing at an alarming rate in the two English speaking regions. The phenomenon is spreading like an epidemic. A group of uniformed men would approach a member of the aristocratic society, accuse him of finding Ambazonian fighters, blindfold him and transport him to an unknown location. He would be ordered to produce anything between 5 millions to 10 million frs within hours or would be taken to Yaounde and charged for supporting terrorist activities. It is so organized to an extent that if the target is unable to produce the said ransom, a rendezvous can be fixed for the following day.
No statistics exist so far on the number of hostages taken but conservative estimates put the number of individuals taken hostage both in the South West and North West by armed groups at 80 and upwards of 100 million frs paid in by families as ransom. As concerns renegade military hostage taking, it should simply be noted that at least one person is picked up every week on trumped up charges.
From all indications, hostage taking for ransom would increase in alarming proportion after this October 7 Presidential election. Given that Ambazonian activists banned campaigns and voting across the two English speaking regions, the probability is high that those suspected to have voted would be targets. We already have enough of jurisprudential evidence from the kidnapping and taking hostage of the opposition SDF Mayor of Kumbo and Chairman Fru Ndi’s relation. On the other hand, renegade uniform officers would also take the excuse of the fact that not voting at this year’s election meant supporting Ambazonoa to further kidnap targets for ransom.
Kidnapping is the unlawful carrying away or asportation and confinement of a person against their will. Although an age old phenomenon, kidnapping for ransom is relatively new in international relations studies. Since biblical times people have been kidnapped for criminal and political purposes.
As a lucrative source of funding, kidnapping in the course of the escalating Anglophone crisis by both sides would continue to prosper. As both sides continue to grumble that their hierarchies are not allowing enough resources to trickle down to them, they would turn to hostage taking as an alternative and independent source of funding.
The Muteff Boy’s take