The war raging in the English-speaking part of Cameroon for 5 years and counting took a different turn with the pronouncement of a 17-days Lockdown from September 15 to October 02, christened “the Guterres Lockdown”, named after the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres! It was pronounced by the Sako-led Leadership of the struggle for the Independence of Ambazonia based in the USA, and the communique states that it was imposed in consultation with the ARFs on the ground.

The reasons for the Lockdown are said to be to send a strong message to the United Nations General Assembly holding in New York, where Cameroon will present in her report that normalcy has returned to the two English-speaking regions and that the academic year 2022/2023, which started on September 06, 2021, has taken off hitch-free in the war-torn Northwest and Southwest regions.

The instructions on the Lockdown further clarified that Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are open for movements within the cities for people to get basic necessities and circulation is strictly limited to taxis and commercial motorbikes or okadas as they are referred to locally.

However, the Leadership of Sisiku Julius AyukTabe based in South Africa and the third faction of Ambazonia Defence Force of Ayaba Cho Lucas were quick to denounce the Lockdown, claiming that it is going to bring untold hardships on the civilian population who have had more than their fair share of suffering so far due to the crisis for these 5 years.

The AyukTabe-led Interim Government issued an official letter denouncing the Lockdown and many audio messages went out purportedly from members of the ADF of Cho Ayaba Lucas, and from some Generals of the ARFs asking the people to go about their daily routine and respect only the official Monday Ghost Town.

On Wednesday the people remained indoors in the major cities of the Northwest and Southwest regions, probably out of fear for reprisals and in a bid to assess the situation.

The start of the 17-days Lockdown on Wednesday, September 15 was further helped by the killing of a girl and the wounding of 4 others in a bus on the Kumba-Buea highway. The bus was caught in a crossfire between government forces and the ARFs, with the said girl killed on the spot by a stray bullet and the 4 other passengers sustaining serious gunshot wounds.

The first week of the “Guterres 17-days Lockdown” was observed all over the Northwest and Southwest regions. People respected and will respect the second week of the lockdown, not out of conviction but rather from fear of the unknown. The lockdown means religious activities will be limited to the weekends and schools will remain shut for the duration of the lockdown.

DHPI continues to note that it is the local population who are caught in the middle of the struggle for control between the Cameroon government and the leaders of the struggle for the independence of Ambazonia who are backed by their ADF forces. When is it going to be clearer to the Biya regime that the military option for the crisis is not and will never resolve the situation? An unconditional and all-inclusive dialogue between the government of Cameroon and the stakeholders remain the most practical way forward in resolving the crisis.

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