Friday, September 9, 2016

Challenging Obnoxious Traditional Practices: Woman and Son Pays Price

In the past only those who visited cinema halls would tell stories of movies in which people are kidnapped at gun-point or tricked to unknown destinations. But nowadays, the story is very different as reports of people kidnapped at gun point are rampant in almost every community. Since 2013 when the Islamist group Boko Haram in neighbouring Nigeria began incursions into Cameroon, kidnapping of foreign and local nationals have steadily increased. The unstable security situation has served as a platform for other radical local groups with various agendas to thrive. While kidnapping and child trafficking had been common in the three northern regions of Extreme North, North and Adamawa, it is on the rise in the North West. While the dust is yet to settle over the case of little Happi Prety, a nursery school kid who recently died in the hands of kidnappers, villagers of the mile 25 area, located in the outskirt of Ndop are still wondering whether life will ever be the same again. This follows the kidnapping of a certain Regina Lagbor and her son Joel who were whisked off at gunpoint by unidentified men on the night breaking 21st August, 2016. The story goes that after a fire attack in 2015 that destroyed their entire house and belongings, and subsequent death threats, the pair had been living in hiding taking refuge in the houses of friends and church members. On the night of the attack, their host was brutally attacked upon return from using the external toilet. At gun point, she was severely beaten while her hosts were taken away to an unknown destination. The population immediately pointed accusing fingers at her family and traditional loyalists who had constantly clashed with her over her opposition to established traditional customs, practices and institutions. According to what we gathered, the rivalry was so deep and open to the extent that some traditionalists used to mockingly greet her like a chief (bowing and clapping their hands), openly saying that they had never seen a woman who considered everything about the tradition as bad and outdated. A member of her church group (whose name cannot be disclosed for security reasons) disclosed that “Ma Regi (as she was commonly called) will always insist that she will prefer to die rather than see her children go through the horror she has been through in the name of respecting family and tradition.” Despite the fact that the rich and middle classes used to constitute fertile grounds for kidnappers because of their ability to pay huge ransoms, kidnapping is now used to settle scores regardless of societal class. Some people have been kidnapped inside and outside their residences, on the streets, on the way to the farms, etc and in bright day light as well as at night. Other recent cases of kidnappings in the North-West region include: a primary school pupil, Asanji Romirro Andu, who was kidnapped near their home in Bamenda last November; and the son of a certain Maurice Viban whose child was kidnapped in the playground of Government School Bamkika’ai in Bui Division. When contacted for information regarding the disappearance of Ma Regi and her son, the central police station in Ndop refused to comment on the matter. We were asked to provide a list of specific information we required and they will contact us. All attempts to acquire additional information from the police and other state representatives have been fruitful. Usual excuses for failing to appropriately exercise their duties have been: the absence of specialised skills to deal with new challenges (such as kidnapping); and insufficient human and financial resources. The case of Ma Regi is especially troublesome as her friends testified that she had complained several times to the police and social services but no effective actions were taken. Various human and women’s rights advocates have constantly decried the lack of effective government actions to enable traditional institutions to integrate fundamental human rights and dignities into local cultures. On their part, most western embassies continue to warn their national to avoid visiting particular areas of the country for fear of being kidnapped

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)

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