By Basil K Mbuye
University of Buea footballers that were abducted in the early hours of Wednesday, March 20, on the campus while going for training, were released late Thursday March 21, following negotiations by the Southwest Regional Secretary of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, Christopher Tambe Tiku.
Following their release, after ransom was allegedly paid by the family of the footballers, The Post set out to get details of the abduction from one of the victims. He agreed to talk on condition of anonymity.
“On that fateful day, 20 of us arrived at the football training ground early and were discussing while waiting for the training session which was to take place from 8.00am. We saw three persons coming from the Mile 16 direction with one holding a white bag. Since it was morning and many people were going to their farms, we thought they were farmers. They later changed their direction and were coming towards us and we saw the one with the bag open it and remove a locally made gun and the others had pistols and a dagger.
“They ordered us to form a single file and in a straight line with one in front, another behind and the other besides. They asked us to jog as they take us along. At some point, they blindfolded us and asked us to hold our hands as we continue the journey. We walked through streams and climbed hills while blindfolded, praying that the worst should not happen to us.
“At a particular point, they removed our blindfolds. It was then that we discovered that we were in an Amba Boys’ camp. Immediately, they ordered us to strip naked and those who had underwear were asked to keep them while those who didn’t have were completely naked. We all sat down and were asked to hold our legs and they started beating us with machetes on our backs and also our soles.
Each time you moved away your legs; they will beat you the more until they are satisfied. They also asked our tribes and when they discovered that they were three Francophones among us, they had to put them aside and asked us to decide their fate. This was to be done by us choosing which alternative was best to pass judgment on them.
“They gave us alternatives of either chopping off their two fingers and toes, cut their wrists, cut their arm at the level of the elbow or they should be killed. At this juncture, we all started crying and pleading that they should just beat them and nothing more. They later stepped away from us and held a brief meeting to decide the fate of the three French-speaking guys.
They returned and started flogging them with machetes on their backs. They explained to us that they were flogging us because we are attending school while they are fighting for the good of all Anglophones. They said it was a crime and flogging us was a way to let us know that what we were doing was wrong.
“After flogging us we were crying, 15 minutes later, the leader of the group arrived the camp. He scolded the boys for beating us while telling them that it was against human rights. He then asked that they should give us our dresses and the things they collected from us and shared amongst themselves to be brought back.
When we had our dresses on, the three Francophones were asked to call their parents and tell them the situation. They did and ransom was sent for each of them. It was later the turn of the 17 Anglophones. We were also asked to call our parents and tell them the situation. We did and our parents started sending ransoms. They prepared us plantain but none of us had the appetite to eat.
“On Thursday morning, it was different as we prepared our own food and they bought us juice and we chatted and played cards with them. They treated us nicely and when they rotated the shift for the new set to come, the treatment was still the same. We had to appear in a video thrice: To denounce poor treatment by the Cameroon Government, in another we talked about the Ambazonian Interim Government, and in the last one we sang the Ambazonian anthem.
“In the evening, we were told we will be released and around 8.00pm. We were taken, this time not blindfolded, since it was night. The journey this time was not long. When we reached a particular area, we saw a bus and a Range Rover. It was when we reached there that we met Mr. Tambe Tiku and one of the guys said he was also negotiating for our release.
Sixteen of us entered the bus while four joined Mr. Tambe Tiku in his car. I only discovered myself when we were climbing Mile 17 hill. That was when I asked the bus driver where we are going to. He told me that all the drivers at Mile 17 Park refused to come and get us but he had to, since he is father and has children.”
Negotiations for the release of the footballers were reportedly done on different fronts. Tambe Tiku, in his capacity as the Southwest Regional Secretary of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms worked towards the release of the footballers, while the Coach of the UB football team also negotiated for their release as he met with some parents for their release.
The fate of the University of Buea football team in the Southwest Regional League is uncertain as the players were reportedly warned by their abductors not to play for the school.