The killing of Chief of Liwuh La Malale: How Some Elites use the Social Media to Aggravate the North West/South West Divide

As the Anglophone crisis continues to take turns for the worst, Chief Ewome John Eko alias Moja Moja, of Bwassa village in Buea Sub Division of Fako Division, South West Region of Cameroon and a soldier in the Cameroon Defense and Security Force has continuously used hate languages against the people of the North West region and their Traditional Rulers. His vile attacks have particularly targeted those living in Fako Division.

Following the brutal attack and killing of Chief Molinga Francis of Liwu la-Malale village in Buea Subdivision by suspected armed separatists, According to accounts by villagers of Malale suspected armed separatist fighters murdered Chief Molinga Francis Nangoh around 7:30 pm on Friday, November 6, 2020. Chief John Eko warned people of North West origin to leave the Southwest region with 24 hours. .

His Royal Majesty Molinga Francis Nangoh, was not the first chief to be killed by belligerents in the Anglophone crisis.  He was the second traditional ruler in Buea Sub Division to be killed as the armed conflict in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions deteriorates.  In July 2018, separatist fighters kidnapped eight chiefs in Buea Sub Division including Chief William Njie Mbanda, the traditional ruler of Lysoka Moliwe Village who was killed on Friday, July 27, 2018, while in captivity.  

After the unfortunate dead of Chief Molinga, Chief John Eko made a 3 minutes 34 seconds video  wherein he threatens the people of North West region and their rulers. He vehemently warned them against ever stepping feet within his area of jurisdiction. He refers to the North Westerners as those supporting the Separatists Fighters. While recounting the abduction of John Fru Ndi, Cardinal Christian Tumi, and the Fon of Nso who were abducted and subsequently released by separatist fighters in the North West region, he claims that fighters ‘do no harm to their own people’ but always go ahead to kill the chiefs of the South West when abducted. 

According to him, the North Westerner wants to claim the riches of the Southwest people without any proof. “The North-West people want to manipulate us, Esoh Itoh, an Oroko chief was killed in the church, for the Bafaws, their children were massacred in school, in all the other division it is the same, they have dealt with our chiefs, but in the North West region they are fine, they drink Heineken when they are caught, but when we are caught, they kill us he claimed. 

In the light of all this ‘manipulation’, he invites all South westerners to chase out North westerners. “So all South westerners must join me to say no to these ‘graffi’ (a term commonly used derogatively to refer to people from the grass field areas of Cameroon, predominantly people from the North West Region of Cameroon). In a few weeks, I will surely launch a war, ‘graffi’ Vs ‘Sawa’ (a term used mostly to refer to the coastal peoples of Cameroon). If ‘graffi’ people don’t tell their children to stop this nonsense, I will push ‘graffi’ people out of here, innocent or not innocent. All of you are one; you have the same mentality, only a few ‘graffi’ people reason like us. Graffi or better still ‘came no go’ must go” he warns

After calling North westerners degrading names such as ‘graffi’, ‘came no go’, he promises to instigate a clash between Cameroonians from the North West region and the Sawa people. He also threatens to chase out all North Westerners from his village. 

Still in the month of November 2020, in a 33 seconds video, John Eko was seen harassing a man who is seen only with trousers, shirtless. The incident transpired in the presence of other armed men who carried guns at night. On hearing his name and region of origin, John Eko is shown beating the helpless man because he hails from the North West Region. Their conversation is in Pidgin English which translated

Moja Moja: Who are you?

Victim: I am Aboubakar

Moja Moja: Where are you from? Are you Bamenda or Southwest?

Victim: I am from Bamenda

Moja Moja: When did you come to Buea?

Victim: Yesterday 

Moja Moja: Where did I catch you?

Victim: You caught me at that bar opposite

Moja Moja: So why were you looking at me? Do you think I am a chief that can just be caught by anybody?

The controversial chief continues to divide opinion in the Southwest region with his views that people from the Northwest region are fueling the separatist war in the Southwest region. He expressed a lot of disdain towards people from the North West region, tagging most of them as separatists. 

In the same week, news of the capture and subsequent release of the traditional ruler of Nso by separatist fighters in Ndop aggravated the hate online as platforms which believed that South westerners were targeted by separatist fighters. from the North West region fired vitriolic attacks at North Westerners for using the separatist war to kill the traditional rulers of the South West region while protecting those from the North West region.

Recently, on Monday 14 December 2020, Chief John Eko was seen in a 3 minutes 57 seconds video circulating on social media, in which he sent a warning to all North Westerners living in Likoko village to leave the village within 24 hours. He said all the “graffi” people have just 24 hours, which as at the time of his message, said their time started the previous day. He said in Cameroonian pidgin “Any Bakweri man wey di keep graffi man for yi house, e means say the Bakweri man di support the graffi man for kill we chiefs dem, for kill we elites dem.” He went further to say “graffi, wuna get na limited time. ‘Cam no go wuna go’, enough is enough.”

In the video, he made it clear that he has passed across the same message in Molyko, Mile 14, Bonakanda, and Bokwango villages, all in Buea Sub Division. He warned against any landlord who hesitates in keeping North Westerners in his house, that the landlord or lady should expect attacks as a consequence of disobedience.

In his latest video  circulating on social media, the Chief of Bwassa village, Fako Division South West Region says North Westerners are “cockroaches and slaves” who were brought in to work in CDC plantations. 

He warned that “graffis should be very careful” and went forward to say he withdraws the apology  he issued after meeting with the Prime Minister in Buea. He concludes the video by vowing that “no graffi will be allowed to climb our mountain” alluding to the annual Mount Cameroon Race of Hope which usually takes place in Buea.

The chief’s nonchalant declarations have attracted criticism from many civil society organizations. The civil society organization called on the government to implement its laws against hate speech to ensure that the vitriolic attacks end.

Despite of Chief John EKO’s loathsome and shameless utterances and attacks against North Westerners, the Prime Minister during his visit and discussion with chiefs, failed to call out the traditional ruler

Many have however expressed dismay with the PM for failing to address controversial Chief John Eko who has been calling for the killing of residents of North West origin. 

The Rwandan genocide was also reiterated by the media the infamous radio Mille Collins. However, the Mille Collins of our times is social media if unchecked.

Such actions by the likes of Chief Ewome John Eko must be discouraged as they are a good breeding ground for anted in the people’s minds with the description attributed to the North Westerners as graffis, came no go, manipulators, murderers, and people who want to seize the property of South Westerners and to desecrate their traditions.

Sadly, the government has been tight-lipped on the alterations of the chief. His peers have neither condemned him in the South West region, the government, or by the Cameroonian military’s elite force to which he belongs. This lack of condemnation seems to be an endorsement since it appears to be spurring the perpetrator.

The government, civil society organizations and other organizations should be more proactive in responding to scenes of hate speech perpetrated against any Cameroonian from whatever part of the country.

We live in a fast paced society today with social media and instant messaging apps that have broken down the previous barriers to information that was created by the traditional media. With reducing cost of broadband, the possibility of regulating media content is one of the biggest challenge facing humankind today. 

While it is hard today to have a ‘Radio Mille Collins’, the social media presents an opportunity for advocates of hate speech and misinformation to groom their sympthisers. This is because they can have their exclusive groups where nobody can monitor and educate the audience who are being misled.

To overcome this challenge, governments and civil society organization must engage serious digital media literacy campaigns to educate vulnerable public. This campaigns must target especially people who are not well educated, not well exposed to credible media content, public officials and politicians.

Cameroon has laws in place to punish xenophobic outbursts from the like of John Eko, what seems to be lacking is the will of the government to carry out its duties.  The law on hate speech clearly punishes these kind of actions. Section 241 of the law on ‘Contempt of Tribe and Ethnic group’ states: “Whoever by any means makes hate speech against people or includes them to violence due to their tribal or ethnic origin shall be punished with imprisonment of from 1(one) to 2(two) years and with fine of 300 000 ( three hundred thousand) Francs”.

 Article by; by SHING TIMOTHY

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