Updates

Uncategorized

PSS Kwen Kidnapping: The Truth Prevails

Despite the release of the 80 or so students at PSS Kwen, very little information has been forthcoming about the circumstances of the incident and their release. This project has always been about the truth and nothing but the truth, and this morning I am pleased to be able to share crucial new evidence that sheds significant light on the incident.

Importantly, the video is confirmed as stemming from this kidnapping incident. Some students are wearing PSS Kwen shirts, whilst others can be matched up to images of the students during their release. Examples of this are shown in the slideshow below the video.

Presented without comment- a video that gets at the heart of both this incident and the Anglophone Crisis as a whole.

Billy Burton

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Uncategorized

The Death of Charles Wesco

Today we learned of the tragic death of Charles Trumann Wesco, an American missionary, near Bamenda, in Northwest Cameroon. Mr. Wesco arrived in the country two weeks ago, working as a missionary with his wife and eight children. The Wesco family initially began their relationship with Cameroon in 2015 during a survey visit, and had arrived only two weeks ago for their latest stint in the country. On a shopping trip to Bamenda, Charles Wesco was struck by a bullet whilst travelling in a Toyota 4×4 with his friend and members of his family, later dying in a local hospital. Initial reports immediately placed the blame on Cameroonian security forces, although this will inevitably be subject to significant debate in the coming days.

Firstly, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the Wesco family, their fellow missionaries and friends in Cameroon, and their wider church family in the United States. There are no words that can alleviate their shock, horror and loss at this time. I take solace in the fact that Mr. Wesco’s journey as a missionary was guided by a profoundly deep calling to serve his lord in Cameroon, and that he was thus where he thought he was needed- and belonged. A family with deeply religious connections, I have no doubt that the Wesco family will find themselves enveloped in the love and healing of their community. For now, though, I wish them nothing but the best in recovering from this traumatic event. This was not your war, not your conflict, and yet it has changed your lives. May you find peace.

The blame game for this incident has already begun. Local sources reported immediately that he had been killed by Cameroonian security forces, however the Cameroonian government have taken the line that he was killed by ‘terrorists’ (separatist fighters) in the region. It is not my place to speculate on what really happened.

What I will say is this:

The Anglophone Crisis has spiralled out of control. Cameroon’s security forces no longer have a firm grip over the region, being challenged across Northwest and Southwest Cameroon by a variety of separatist groups. Their campaign of brutality, littered with clear evidence of significant human rights abuses, has not only alienated the local population but also fuelled the conflict itself. Far from ‘crushing’ the Ambazonian movement, it has invigorated it- given it life, given it blood, created martyrs. Cameroon’s Special Forces, the Israeli-trained and equipped BIR, led a campaign marked by similar abuses against Boko Haram, but now these tactics, similar to a combination of ‘Search and Destroy’ and ‘Scorched Earth’ has seen hundreds of villages burnt, hundreds of civilians killed, and sources of food destroyed. Evidence has shown summary executions, torture, and people burned to death. The myriad abuses of Cameroon’s forces are severe enough that they will one day form part of an evidence dossier at an international court.

Whilst Cameroon’s tactics were to crush the Ambazonian movement, instead it has enlarged it, with armed groups increasing both in size and number. Where they once may have found a sympathetic local population, they now find ghost towns and cities where people have fled the violence, either to elsewhere in Cameroon or in neighbouring Nigeria. The Ambazonian armed groups have also become increasingly well-equipped over time, replacing their obsolete ‘Dane Guns’ with weapons captured from Cameroonian troops, with some evidence of arms reaching them from further afield. They do not have the firepower to go toe to toe with Biya’s troops by any means, but they are certainly in a stronger position than they were.

In every village, there is a story of brutality, a tale of death and destruction. If President Biya is not careful, behind every blade of grass he will find a rebel.

At the same time, abuses have also been perpetrated by separatist groups, and these too must be addressed. Whilst in scale they are outweighed by the actions of Cameroonian forces, it is important to recognise that separatist groups have committed acts that would be considered abuses. The enforced closure of schools across the two regions is denying a generation of children an education, and the summary justice dished out to suspected sympathisers must not go unnoticed.

The Anglophone Crisis was once the Anglophone Problem, but now it is an Anglophone War. This represents an absolute failure of Cameroon’s government to address Anglophone concerns in the past, but also that of the international community to put sufficient pressure on Biya’s regime to prevent abuses, or even to attempt to prevent the slide into conflict. The Ambazonian diaspora and NGOs have been calling for international attention and monitoring of the situation, however these calls ultimately went unheeded.

Instead, the Anglophone Crisis has spiralled out of control into a serious conflict that further destabilises the fragile Great Lakes region. The lack of international leadership is nothing short of a disgrace, and had up until this point been measured by South Cameroonian blood- but now a price has been paid in American blood too.

Enough is enough. The time for international dialogue is past- the time for international action is now. It is imperative that the cycle of violence is broken, that aid is allowed to flow to the communities that desperately need it, and that the grievances of the Anglophone population are properly addressed.

In the past I have called for an international, impartial monitoring mission (as supported in theory by the UK) to establish the facts on the ground. I believe that the window of opportunity for this operation has now passed. The situation has deteriorated too much- Peacekeepers and Peacebuilders are now required. The notion of a UN-sponsored independence referendum has been mooted on a few occasions, and this would be a logical step if Cameroon’s government is unwilling to compromise on any form of renewed federalism. Biya’s controversial election has also created discord in the Francophone population, with Maurice Kamto still proclaiming victory- Cameroon is as weak as perhaps it has ever been, and the Anglophone Crisis threatens the integrity of Cameroon itself, as well as the wider region.

There will be masses of media attention over the next few days, as the tragic loss of Charles Wesco will reverberate around every corner of the United States of America, and further afield.

As utterly awful as Wesco’s death is, it is a dreadful indictment of the international community that it took the death of one American to put the Anglophone Crisis on the international agenda- and not the deaths of hundreds of Africans.

Yet again.

Rest in Peace, Charles Wesco. May your legacy be that of righteous peace.

Political

Election Violence Fears in Anglophone Cameroon

Planned election sparks escalation fears in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions.

Approaching national elections in Cameroon are feared to further destabilise the Anglophone regions of the Central African country, which have been in a state of crisis for months. Due to be held in October, the elections have already met stiff, hard-line resistance from separatist leaders in the area, denouncing their legitimacy and banning local populations from taking part. This has been met with considerable enthusiasm on the ground, however Cameroon’s growing military presence in the area suggests that this will be heavily contested during the election period. Previous articles by the ACMP warned correctly of a surge in violence, which has been reflected in widespread skirmishes, ambushes and killings across the entirety of the Anglophone Regions. The ACMP believes that the threat posed by the elections is far more significant, due to the political ramifications of further years under the authority of President Paul Biya. Namely, separatist elements believe that now is the time for change- and are very unlikely to accept anything less.

bir.jpg

It is evident that little is going to change under the leadership of 85-year old Paul Biya, who has ruled Cameroon since 1982. If including his period as Prime Minister from 1975, President Biya is the current longest serving non-royal head of state in the world, which has naturally attracted significant international scrutiny over the years. Regular accusations of electoral fraud and irregularities, particularly associated with his 1992 re-election, have led to widespread voter abstention in the past, with an air of resigned inevitability about his re-election. Presidential term limits, the only real obstacle to Biya’s continued rule over Cameroon, were removed in 2008, clearing the path for Biya to rule Cameroon for as long as he desires. At 85-years old already, Biya would be into his nineties by the time of the next election, and rumours regularly abound about the state of the veteran President’s health. It has been suggested that there could be a link between Biya’s health and the extraordinary amount of time the President spends abroad, particularly in Switzerland.

With extremely limited dialogue between the Anglophone Separatist leadership and the Cameroonian government, major clashes during the election period seem inevitable in the Anglophone Regions. There is a deeply rooted desire to prevent the elections from taking place in the Southern Cameroons, with separatist elements vowing to target electoral infrastructure, whilst hard-line stances from commanders on the ground have seen populations banned from voting, and voter cards destroyed so as not to endorse the Cameroonian government. With a vast backdrop of violence, destruction and discrimination perpetrated against the Anglophone population, it is understood that the planned disruption has widespread support in communities across the Anglophone region. With increasing Cameroonian military forces being deployed to the area- in particular the Western-trained, Israeli-equipped BIR (‘Brigades Interventions Rapides’), ACMP has serious concerns about the level of violence anticipated during the election period.

Recent evidence has shown that the Anglophone separatists- fighting for the independence of ‘Ambazonia’- are having some success in a guerrilla war campaign against Cameroon’s forces, with regular reports of Cameroonian government losses, even to its famed BIR. However, separatists have also suffered some significant losses, with the loss of a base containing dozens of firearms, including captured assault rifles, representing a blow to their cause. The election period has the potential to deeply embed the Ambazonian cause in the hearts and minds of Anglophone Cameroon, with every Ambazonian loss perhaps considered a martyr at a time of great political consequence.

Ultimately, there is a serious risk of a major escalation in violence during the election period, with the only saving grace being that the country will be under greater international scrutiny during this time. With widespread violence now raging across the region, the ACMP encourages dialogue between the sides to establish common ground in the hope of securing a peaceful future- be it through a referendum, greater autonomy or unilateral independence. The ACMP proposes a future conference between the sides, held in a neutral state, at which possible solutions could be discussed. Without this, the Anglophone Crisis will become interminable.

Billy Burton (Anglophone Crisis Monitoring Project)

 

 

Uncategorized

On the Brink- Escalation Imminent in the Southern Cameroons.

With consistent violent incidents and clashes between separatist fighters and LRC government forces in recent weeks, the Anglophone crisis shows little evidence of calming down. No meaningful diplomatic solution has been attempted by either side, and targeted killings continue to draw the attention of the international media. It is evident that Biya’s military forces are now under the gaze of the world, with the UN and other organizations making statements on the crisis. International action has not followed, however, and so it is imperative that the ACMP, activists on the ground and the wider Ambazonian diaspora continue to ensure that the situation in Cameroon is not ignored.

Today, the Anglophone Crisis Monitoring Project calls for international mediation between the belligerents in order to avoid a major escalation that is possible to follow in the coming months. ACMP has become aware of unconfirmed plans for escalation by an individual separatist organization or organizations that follow the model of successful insurgencies across the world, involving the attacking and destruction of economically important resource sites in the region. Notably, separatists have already attacked multiple sites of political significance- police facilities etc., however economically vital sites such as major infrastructural routes (train lines), pipelines and other facilities would all be vulnerable under such an initiative. This approach is a logical evolution in the strategy of separatist fighters that do not have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with LRC government forces.

Images of Ambazonian separatists continue to show them using hunting rifles and shotguns, together with occasional Kalashnikov rifles or the Serbian derivatives used by Cameroon’s military, including the Zastava M21. Serbian weapons in separatist’s hands are few and have likely been captured from dead Cameroonian soldiers or government facilities. These weapons remain few and far between, however, and traditional hunting rifles are by far the most common weapon type in the hands of separatists. These weapons are militarily obsolete, and despite the best efforts of some separatists, they are not appropriate for a head-on engagement with Cameroonian forces due to the vast disparity in firepower and equipment.

There is an obvious desire within separatist units for more effective and more advanced weaponry, and ACMP has long considered the reality of this prospect to be highly likely for two reasons. Firstly, there are a number of armed groups operating in the region including Boko Haram, from whom it would be possible to buy weapons fairly easily. Secondly, Cameroon shares a long, porous border with both Chad and the Central African Republic, between which it would be relatively easy to move arms shipments. ACMP has been waiting for evidence and confirmation of intelligence that suggested that an arms shipment had been received, which would indicate an imminent escalation of hostilities.

ACMP can today reveal that we believe this to be the case, with a cache of what are believed to be Chinese Type 56 rifles and other derivatives being received by elements that are sympathetic to the Ambazonian cause, complete with ammunition and magazines. Whether they are currently in the region of the Southern Cameroons is currently unknown. These weapons are very common in conflicts across the world, being Chinese-made versions of the Kalashnikov, but they represent a step-change in capability and firepower for separatist ‘restoration forces’. The issue of LRC armoured vehicles remains, however, occasional images of RPGs have also been noted in the use of restoration forces.

ACMP has been warning and lobbying British and European politicians for a considerable amount of time with the regards to the potential for this conflict to accelerate into a much more serious situation approaching a full-on civil war. Despite our efforts, little to no action has been taken on the international stage to begin resolving this crisis. The Cameroonian military continues to commit unlawful targeted killings and other recorded major incidents. Restoration forces continue to attack facilities and individuals with ties to the Cameroonian government.

This is the most dangerous moment in the Anglophone Crisis to date. In response to continued Cameroonian abuses in the region, separatist elements have acquired vastly more effective weapons, and we stand on the precipice of a very serious war developing in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. ACMP again repeats its call for an immediate international observer mission excluding France and other involved parties, together with a diplomatic approach aimed at mediating between the two sides.

The warnings of the ACMP have been left unheeded- and so now we are headed into a new stage of the Anglophone Crisis.

 

 

CyberWarfare, Uncategorized

Cyber Warfare tools in the hands of Biya, activists, journalists targeted?

This is a developing story which we will update if new information becomes available

Unconfirmed reports tell us that the Cameroon regime led by President Paul Biya is using Cyber security tools like FinFisher’s FinSpy to target civilians who are having a critical position against the Francophone regime and / or support the secession of the Anglophone provinces.

As much as there is no proof yet to such allegations, it is publicly known neighbouring countries Gabon and Nigeria did in the past acquire such tools and currently have them available. [1].There is no technical reason as to why Gabon for instance could not share the toolkit with its neighbouring country

FF
Citizen Lab in 2015 did an extensive search on servers where FinFisher could be linked to, and came back with these verified results.

The functionality of the FinSpy suite includes the collection of address book information, calendar and phone call records; collection of files, screen captures, and photos, monitoring geolocation, surreptitious eavesdropping through enabling the victim’s microphone or placing hidden calls; as well as collecting communications and media, files from messenger apps like Line, WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Skype, Facebook, Messenger, Kakao, and WeChat[2]

Gamma International / Lench IT, the company behind FinFisher says in a product brochure on FinSpy, published in 2014 the following: [3]

FinSpy has been proven successful in operations around the world since many years and valuable intelligence has been acquired about Target Individuals and Organizations.
When FinSpy is installed on a computer system or mobile phone it can beremotely controlled and accessed as soon as it is connected to the internet/network, no matter where in the world the Target System is based.

Usage Example 1: Intelligence Agency

FinSpy was installed on several computer systems inside Internet Café’s in critical areas in order to monitor them for suspicious activity, especially Skype communication to foreign individuals. Using the Webcam, pictures of the Targets were done while they were using the system.

Usage Example 2: Organized Crime

FinSpy was covertly deployed on the mobile phones of several members of an Organized Crime Group. Using the GPS trackingdata and silent calls, essential information could be gathered from every meeting that was done by this group.
As many of us could argue such tools can be useful in the hands of legitimate and democratic governments to assure the safety of their citizens and protect them against organised crime or terrorism, this argument becomes harder to defend if these tools enter the hands of dictators who most surely will primarily use them against political opponents without any democratic or legal oversight.
Even more worryingly is a statement in this same brochure claiming that as of 2014, a new feature is capable of stealing the private PGP key of breached individuals rendering anonymous communication of activists and Journalists impossible.
Of course this would greatly play in the cards of the users of such spyware because international media depend on reliable sources on the ground for their reporting.
With respect to this, an apparent statement from Peter Essoka on July 12th, who is in charge of Camerouns Conseil National de la Communication (CNC) the overseeing body of all media outlets and Journalists active in Cameroon, according to certain news sites, being cited as stating:
Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 12.17.31
This is a rather open threat to Journalists reporting on atrocities committed by the military of Cameroon.
Another toolset made available to customers is FinSpy Mobile, with interesting features as well according to their brochure:
FinSpy Mobile has been giving successful results to Government Agencies who gather information remotely from Target Mobile Phones.
When FinSpy Mobile is installed on a mobile phone it can be remotely controlled and monitored no matter where in the world the Target is located.

Usage Example 1: Intelligence Agency

FinSpy Mobile was deployed on BlackBerry mobile phones of several Targets to monitor all communications, including SMS/MMS, Email and BlackBerry Messenger.

Usage Example 2: Organized Crime

FinSpy Mobile was covertly deployed on the mobile phones of several members of an Organized Crime Group(OCG). Using the GPS tracking data and silent calls, essential information could be gathered from every meeting that was heldby this group.
With such a toolset, which we know is available to two neighbouring countries namely Gabon and Nigeria, it would be very easy for any individual of an oppressive regime to target any (suspected) opposition member or, in case of unregistered SIM, simply knowing the (rough) location of a person or group of persons. This could explain the setting ablaze of houses and areas as recently seen.

Another pointer towards the Cameroon government at least being very aware of the possibilities of tracking user behaviour is the fact that they are already  since at least 2013 in possession of BlueCoat devices on their public network, as discovered byCitizenLab[4]

While these BlueCoat appliances themselves are designed to do Deep Packet Inspection if traffic over the net, to quickly see who is using which application and mainly used to enforce company policy rules on web-access, the use by oppressive governments to cut certain areas off Internet and check who uses which application for what without democratic oversight is a different issue.
It would be a very positive move if the international community would put pressure on Gamma International / Lench IT to stop providing these tools and / or support to dubious regimes which could use it to oppress its own people.

[1] https://citizenlab.ca/2015/10/mapping-finfishers-continuing-proliferation/

[2] https://www.accessnow.org/cms/assets/uploads/2018/05/FinFisher-changes-tactics-to-hook-critics-AN.pdf

[3]https://wikileaks.org/spyfiles4/database.html#product_1[3]https://wikileaks.org/spyfiles4/database.html#product_1

[4]https://citizenlab.ca/storage/bluecoat/CitLab-PlanetBlueCoatRedux-FINAL.pdf

 

 

Political, Uncategorized

The Crisis in Cameroon is finally making its way to the EU Commission

Over the past months, I have been surprised many times on how little is being reported in International media concerning the aggressions in Southern Cameroon provinces.

There were some articles in The Guardian but things seemed to halt there. Even those articles seemed to mainly make their way to those impacted and not really to the desk of politicians. I have quizzed a number of politicians (and journalists) I happened to know or got in touch with and most were not aware of any “situation” in the Southern Cameroons. Specifically the absence of articles in (usually quite comprehensive reporting) outlets like BBC, Africa News, Deutsche Welle and RFI was notable.

All compelling evidence submitted to ACMP and it’s members however was in our opinion definitely warranting political attention, so we actively pursued journalists on this matter. The reality unfortunately is that usually politicians act based on international attention in the media. Absence of this makes it hard for politicians in their usually full agenda to act, basically because of lack of awareness.

IMG_6764
The EU might play a vital role in getting the situation in Southern Cameroons on the international agenda.

In this situation that was also the case, and when I alerted my political contacts at EU level, most were not even aware of any issue in Cameroon. The last known status was the internet blockage of beginning last year.  When I met with Hilde Vautmans, who is member of the Foreign Committee and has a passion for Africa. She also acted as president of the Rwanda commission and therefor perfectly positioned to have an opinion un this matter.

Luckily, all efforts were not in vain and EU Parliamentarian Hilde Vautmans (ALDE) has asked written questions to the Foreign affairs commission of the EU, EEAS headed by Federica Mogherini.

Federica_Mogherini_Official
EU Commissioner responsible for EEAS, Federica Mogherini

The following questions were raised:

Clashes between insurgents and government forces for a breakaway republic in Cameroon’s English-speaking region have recently intensified.

The conflict began following peaceful protests by Anglophone teachers, who felt discriminated against. Anglophones, who make up 20% of Cameroon’s 23-million population, have over time felt marginalised in the socio-cultural, political and economic spheres by the Francophone-dominated government.

The separatist forces capitalised on the teachers’ protest, and stepped up pressure on the government, which responded to the crisis with counter-insurgency operations. While most Anglophones simply wished that their grievances be addressed, the more radical factions have called for independence for the self-declared state of Ambazonia. The security forces responded violently to these protests, killing scores of people and displacing 160 000.

What is the VP/HR’s position on the intercommunal violence in Cameroon, and what has been done so far in response?

What specific steps does the European External Action Service plan to take to alleviate the tensions in Cameroon and move towards a peaceful resolution?

According to some reports, FinFisher surveillance software, which was produced by European companies, was used by the Cameroonian Government to target the opposition. How will the VP/HR counter the indirect export of such cyber tools to Cameroon?

We now have to wait for the official answers from EEAS, and will update this story when they get available.

Uncategorized

Southern Cameroons struggle enters a new phase

Last week the world witnessed a horrendous video showing apparent military of La Republique Cameroun (The official army of the state of Cameroon) and / or affiliated militia, executing unarmed women and children in the Northern state of Cameroon.

IMG_7163
A still from the horrendous video alledgedly showing Cameroon Military executing children in Northern Cameroon.

This hideous act shocked the world and that might be the silver lining on a dark cloud looming over this Central African country. This video finally made its way to the international media, unlike a lot of other videos and footage recently shot from the English speaking Northwest and Southwest Provinces in Cameroon. There, the Cameroun army also is witnessed committing crimes against humanity and over the past years, the atmosphere in this part of Cameroon has gradually fallen into a civil-war like status. A good part of this English speaking population is no longer accepting being ruled by the French speaking majority in this country, and have called for the installation of an independent nation, they call Ambazonia.

The English speaking opposition in these two provinces have for log been oppressed and chased by the official Government of Cameroon, headed by long ruling president Paul Biya, who recently announced wanting to extend his reign for another 5 years in this years election.

Yesterday, the French celebrated Quatorze Juilliet, its National Holiday commemorating the storming of the Bastille which is by the French seen as the birthday of the Nation in its current form.

Many Ambazonians consider France to be an accomplice in these atrocities, either actively through supply of military equipment and assistance (even in the form of French Military being deployed in Cameroon) but at least passively by not openly condemning the atrocities. Truth is that many French news outlets have focussed on the official communication of the French Speaking Cameroon government, who accuse the English speaking part of the country to kill its military and police officers ( https://www.ouest-france.fr/monde/cameroun/crise-au-cameroun-81-militaires-et-policiers-tues-dans-les-regions-anglophones-5836236 ) and hardly spent a word on the opposite side of the story, its age long oppression and marginalisation of the English speaking community.

Ambazonians have taken the opportunity of the French National Holiday to start a political cleansing of its own, enforcing a deadline on all political representatives from the Anglophone regions to officially resign their positions or on refusal of this, being seen as a terrorist against the state of Ambazonia. (https://www.facebook.com/100002251434436/posts/1752023348216029/ ).Untitled

 

As much as such a request was expected, and one can see the reasoning behind it, the sheer wording of it brings possibilities which can be compared to abhorrent historical events where cleansing of certain groups of people were made subject to any form of violence apparently condoned by the institutions. We are as we speak still tracing down its origin and legitimacy. UPDATE: we received official response from the Interim Government that this post is NOT endorsed by them; “This is not official, No official information from any of the liberation movements, it happens to be one of those random posts.” However, it is also acknowledged: “some guerrilla commanders met in Kumba and issued this ultimatum“.

Looking forward, one can only fear what will happen in the coming weeks. Will this call for action be followed by all MP’s and Senators? And if not what will happen to those not complying? One thing is sure, this action, if supported by the shadow government of Ambazonia, is definitely making any political and diplomatic solution harder. There will after this ultimatum, no longer be any political representation of Ambazonia in the Cameroon government. Bloodshed will likely intensify, and the possible execution of their own political representatives only obfuscates an already (for foreighn observers) very diffuse situation. This will give the Cameroon official government even more ammunition to throw accusations to the Ambazonians, which in the short term not help their cause. A more diplomatic approach to this situation would have been way more preferable, but diplomacy seems to have left Cameroon already for some time.

Update: This post seems to be the work of someone independent and not speaking on behalf of the Interim Government of Ambazonia. This is good news, since it at least does not show any sign of violent and escalating approach from the Interim Government itself. However, this post quickly made its way through different networks and therefor its destructive power is not any less. People can act simply believing this is a true statement from an authority, leading to further escalations. It would be good if the Interim Government could therefor quickly disarm such posts by denying their support.