Inhabitants of Muea, a locality on the outskirts of Buea, South West Region of Cameroon have been victims of frequent police and gendarme impromptu mass arrests popularly known as “calé-calé”.
One of those recently rounded up by the forces last Thursday, September 9, said dozens of young people are still at the Buea Central Police where they were arrested and kept.
Speaking to MMI, the victim who preferred anonymity, said he has spent more than FCFA 100,000 ($118) to bail himself from the police twice in the last two months.
“They called for me when they saw me and asked for my identity card. They then told me to enter their truck and we were taken to GMI. From there, we were taken to the Central Police Station. The cells were full and some of us were kept in the female cell. They passed our hands through a machine to see if we have ever held guns,” he said.
Although his hands signalled green, meaning he has not held a gun, he was locked up until Saturday afternoon, September 11, when he bailed himself with FCFA 37,000 ($43).
He said most of those kept in custody are people who did not immediately bribe officers when they were arrested and those who could give money were released before reaching the station.
Another inhabitant of the locality who survived the mass arrest told MMI that officers usually release people who can immediately bribe them with money and those who have no money are taken to the station and sometimes detained until when they are bailed.
Narrated a victim of mass arrest in Buea
“They took my Identity Card and asked me to follow them to the station. After moving a little distance, they said I should give them something (money) for them to let me go. But when I hesitated and preferred to be taken to the station. They then said I should go. I don’t understand why they should always come around harassing people and collecting money from others,”
During last Thursday’s arrest, this inhabitant says the officers said, while arresting him, that they were instructed to take everyone aged below 40.
He said the Anglophone crisis has made life difficult, still, the uniform officers are making matters worse by collecting from people the meagre income they make from their daily struggles.
On Monday, September 14, he says, tens of boys were again arrested by patrolling police officers and most of them bought their way out by paying FCFA 10,000 each.
Mass arrest (calé-calé) has been a common moneymaking tool for the military since the escalation of violence in the Northwest and Southwest regions.
The police and Gendarmes usually use this as a pretext of tracking separatist fighters from among the population, yet, many have wondered if this method has helped the security situation as some of those arrested usually bribe officers and get released, without any note on whether they are a threat to peace or not.
However, relative calm has returned to Muea, which had been one of the most insecure areas in Buea as gunshots are now less rampant, says an Inhabitant.
Most road-side businesses have reopened and life is gradually normalising with the population, mostly farmers, resuming work at their once abandoned sites.
By: Tata Mbunwe
(C) Mimi Mefo Info