BAMENDA, 9 February 2021 – The second biggest shopping center in the city of Bamenda, in the northern zone of the breakaway Republic of Ambazonia aka Southern Camerons, was torched Monday night, reportedly by Cameroonian soldiers.
Video posted on social media Monday night shows dozens of shops in flames in the market, known as Nkwen Market and Motor Park.
The red hot flames are leaping through scores of shops, burning brightly and irresistibly, illuminating the night sky.
The footage shows some shop-owners, who said they rushed to the market as soon as they heard of the fire, but had to watch helplessly as their shops burnt.
No real effort was made to put out the fire throughout the night, according to eyewitnesses. No fire rescue teams arrived the scene until the shops were all reduced to ash.
Eyewitnesses said French-speaking Cameroonian occupation forces were seen patrolling around the market Monday night and are believed to be the arsonists.
The soldiers, colonial administrators and unelected city officials in Bamenda have repeatedly expressed frustration at the solid support traders and shopkeepers have shown, religiously organizing and respecting the weekly “ghost town” campaign held every Monday.
On “ghost town” Mondays, shops, banks, transport services and restaurants are closed all across Southern Camerons aka Ambazonia in show of support for the campaign to restore the independence of the former United Nations British Trust Territory.
The territory won independence on 1st October 1961, some 20 months after French-speaking Cameroon was declared independent from France on 1st January 1960, within international boundaries that did not include Southern Cameroons.
The Two Cameroons were sanctioned by the United Nations General Assembly in 1961 to form a loose confederation of “two states, equal in status” – one English-speaking and the other French-speaking – each with their distinct government, houses of parliament, elected prime ministers and other institutions of government.
The French-speaking state elected, instead, to recolonize the English-speaking neighbor, laying the foundation for the identity and self-determination crisis that has degenerated into genocidal violence today.
French-speaking occupation forces have been heavily deployed in Southern Cameroons since late 2017 in an effort to prevent English-speaking Southern Cameroonians from reaffirming their independence.
Cameroonian soldiers who allegedly set the Nkwen Market ablaze were heard complaining about the success of Monday’s “ghost town” operation.
Colonial administrators assigned to Southern Cameroons, have tried every trick in the book to intimidate shop owners to quit supporting “ghost town” campaigns, which have been organized every Monday since late 2017.
The campaign of threats has been followed by the sealing of shops, but all these efforts have failed to kill the campaign of civil disobedience.
Two weeks ago, the unelected council members of Bamenda sealed dozens of shops in Nkwen Market and issued warnings on state-run radio and television that shopkeepers who fail to open on Mondays will be permanently prevented from opening.
Traders and pro-independence campaigners have long interpreted the threats to be thinly veiled promises of burning down the markets in the city of Bamenda.
In mid-January 2021, Bamenda City’s unelected council officials organized a rally outside the main market in the Mankon neighborhood during which they issued an ultimatum for traders to open on Mondays or face the prospect of being closed down permanently.
Several shop owners and leaders of the traders’ union in the Bamenda Main Market took to the rostrum at the rally to remind the officials that they were not elected by the people; and that they are unable to open their own offices on “ghost town” days.
Pro-independence campaigners claimed three weeks ago during those threats that they had intelligence that the military was planning to burn down the Bamenda Main Market.
Several audio messages posted on social media informed the officials that pro-independence campaigners were aware of their plans and would retaliate by attacking markets in French-speaking Cameroon if anything happened to the markets in Bamenda.
Last year, soldiers who were seen patrolling near the Kumba Main Market in the southern zone of Ambazonia later set fire to the market in a town whose main hospital French-speaking soldiers also set ablaze, burning patients alive in their hospital beds.
The torching of Nkwen Market is seen by pro-independence campaigners as an act of punishment by French-speaking soldiers and colonial administrators, targeting English-speaking traders and shopkeepers.