Traditional rulers in Buea and environs have reportedly gone into hiding, following the abduction of Chief Johnson Njombe Njoke of Wokaka Village, as well as the alleged abduction of other Chiefs in Buea.
Information of Chief Njombe’s abduction filtered to the public on Wednesday, July 11. The news led to fear among traditional rulers, who panicked not knowing which of them could be targeted next.
A meeting was reportedly called, following the Buea Chiefs Conference President’s abduction, for the Chiefs to meet at the Southwest Chiefs’ Secretariat in Buea, after which they were going to forward their deliberations to the Governor of the Southwest Region, and then hold other talks with him.
On the day of the said meeting, July 13, Southern Cameroons pro-independence activists issued warnings and threats, hinting that they were going to attack and abduct any Chief either on their way to the meeting, during the meeting, or after the meeting.
At the planned time, 9.00am, on July 13, the venue of the meeting remained locked and no Chief could be spotted around. At the end of the day, the meeting reportedly did not take place as the traditional rulers allegedly did not want risk their troubled chiefdoms.
Though the reason for Chief Njombe’s abduction still remains unclear, Separatist activists accuse the Chief of working alongside the administration to cripple their activities, especially in the Southwest Regional headquarters, Buea.
Chief Njombe, who has served as the President of Buea Chiefs, was among those who vied for the post of the President of the Southwest Chiefs Conference, SWECC. His decision to run for the coveted office attracted backlash from other chiefs who challenged him on grounds that a 2nd Class Chief cannot lord over first Class Chiefs, and also that he was morally unfit to stand as their leader.
Though faced with a lot of setbacks, Chief Njombe apparently had the backing of the administration, which he had strategically worked with. After several postponements of the SWECC elective general assembly, the acting SWECC executive meeting in Buea in a gathering that was boycotted by Fako chiefs, decided to withdraw Fako Division’s right to host the elective general assembly.
This made Chief Njombe and his supporters to declare Njombe as the President of Southwest Chiefs. Though not made official, Chief Njombe of Wokaka has carried himself around as the President of SWECC, until his recent abduction by gunmen.
Chief Njombe has also faced resistance from a section of his village that challenged his being Chief. His claims to the throne have been challenged with some villagers purporting that Njombe is not from the royal family, and that his father, who is alive in another village, isn’t of the royal family blood.
Land squabbles have also pitted the Chief against his fellow villagers, with a plethora of cases filed against him, accusing him of grabbing and selling their land in complicity with some administrative and judicial officials. At one instance, Chief Njombe, with the help of some administrators, arrested the villagers en mass and detained them for challenging his claim to certain plots and farm lands in Wokaka Village.
Following his abduction, some Chiefs in Buea allegedly went into hiding while others have temporally taken up residence in Douala and other towns where they feel safe. Others, who have chosen to hide within the community, have reportedly done away with their traditional paraphernalia and elected to appear unsuspectingly as common men, and going about their daily activities.
The Post Newspaper