University campuses become battleground in growing conflict

Uneasy calm has returned to the University of Buea in the south-west of Cameroon after separatist fighters invaded the institution’s campus on 8 July and disrupted ongoing examinations.

The separatist fighters invaded the building of the faculty of engineering and technology where students were busy with their re-sit examinations.

“Some ‘strange men’ armed with machetes and guns stormed the hall in which we were writing exams,” said Ebong James, one of the students.

“They ordered everyone to lie on the floor. One of them asked the exams supervisor to come with him,” said Flore Ebangha, another student. She explained that, after 20 minutes, the fighters asked them to vacate the room within three seconds.

The University of Buea incident follows another at the University of Bamenda where, according to Human Rights Watch, separatists stormed the Bamenda campus in the north-west region, shooting in the air, causing panic among students and teachers, and leading to a stampede that injured at least five people.

The report said fighters attacked the university for not observing a lockdown imposed by separatists.

Separatist fighters have been imposing a ‘ghost town’ strategy, which is the shutdown of societal activities reminiscent of COVID-type lockdowns. It has become one of their weapons to express their disenchantment with the government, which they believe is pro-French.

The students, however, say the separatist-imposed lockdown in the town of Bambili, which hosts the University of Bamenda, was not observed.

“We continued with classes in spite of the ghost town order by separatist fighters,” said Ako Justine, a history student at the university.

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