Understanding The Bangolan Crisis
Bangolan is one of the 13 villages that make up the Ngoketudjia division in the North West region of Cameroon.
The village is situated in Babessi sub division and has about 20.000 inhabitants. Ngoketundjia division is known for a litany of tribal wars between villages which has often caused lives of many, left others displaced and houses destroyed.
Over three decades ago when Fon Chafah XI of Bangolan was enthroned as new traditional ruler of the Bangolan people, the village has known peace since then. But in February 2016 the village witnessed a dramatic turn of events.
Surviving King Makers said the Fon Chafah Isaac is no more practicing the tradition of the people by not respecting the king makers and elders; what duly belongs to them by right is not given. One king maker on basis of anonymity said when HRH Chafah Isaac XI was enthroned, he used to be a respecter of the tradition by performing all rights to the king makers but suddenly he changed from and seized consulting them on how the village was going to be handled.
Village Elders are reported to have washed their hands off affairs of the Fondom, while King Makers went underground in search of a new Fon. The last straw on the Camel’s back was the covenant Fon Chafah made with God by publicly attending a Crusade organized by renowned Apostle John CHI. It is alleged that he, Fon Chafah Issac renounced traditional believes and gods saying that the only person who can heal, comfort is God the Almighty.
Villagers even claim that he brunt some palace artifacts to proof his closeness to God.
This angered the people of Bangolan who secretly dethroned Fon Chafah and enthroned Salim his half-brother in early February.
Bangolan was therefore plunged into crisis, which took a different twist on February 27, 2016 when Fon Chafah in a crisis meeting at the Babessi Council hall said he was not an angel and could have hurt the people in one way or the other. He pleaded for merci and promised to lead them better in future but the people did not want apologies; they simply wanted his departure.
On March 16, 2016 the villagers stormed the Palace demanding his immediate departure from the Village but they were met with resistance from palace Guards and security forces which were stationed there. Gun shots were heard, one, two…four villagers fell on the ground wounded by bullets. The son of Fon Chafah, a university Student who came visiting was reportedly shot.
The incident of March 16 marked a dramatic beginning of what has now become the Bangolan crisis. Orders from Divisional Officer of Babessi for security to be beefed up around the palace only made matters worse. Elements of the Rapid Intervention Battalion, BIR and Gendarmes were sent to the village to maintain peace. Dozens of persons were arrested, some youths fled the village and hide in neighboring mountains, some went to Fumban in the West region and a relative calm returned to the village.
But damages were enormous; stores, houses, business sites, cars, motor bikes were destroyed. Dr Oscar C Labang writing on the crisis says “As of July 15, 2016, the Bangolan crisis had resulted in damage that is estimated at about 116, 020, 000frs CFA. About 26 homes had been burnt or destroyed, and an average of 156 children, women, youth and elderly people had been displaced. Also, 4 people had died while 9 critically wounded people are still hospitalized. In the midst of crisis, 22 bikes had been burnt and 3 shops had either been burnt or looted. This is in addition to the public damage on infrastructure. Other atrocities like rape and human rights abuse mostly perpetrated by troops in the Rapid Intervention Unit (BIR) cannot be reported at this time because rape and sexual harassment is still a taboo in the community. Also, the helpless victims have no one to talk to because of the heavy militarization of the village by the Governor of the North West Region.”
But the Peoples Fon Salim later died few months after his release from prison, Dr Oscar Labang writes that “The sudden death of Fon Salim on 15th June 2016 (not long after release from prison) sparked a new set of controversies, and heightened tensions as the villagers demanded that Fon Salim must be buried according to the traditional procedures for the burial of a Fon in Bangolan. The royal remains of Fon Salim is held at a mortuary in Foumban, and Fon Chafah is currently in Yaounde. The village of Bangolan is still in an unpredictable state as life is yet to return to normal and the presence of forces of law and order is still very conspicuous.”
The people of Bangolan lived for one more year certainly a bitter pill to swallow knowing well that there is one man whom they do not like but who continues to rule over them with Gendarmes in the palace.
One year after, hundreds of Villagers in Bangolan stormed the village square demanding the departure of their Fon Chaffah Isaac XI.
The villagers; women, men and youths say the say Fon Chaffah has overstayed his welcome in the village. According to them, he is no longer their traditional ruler and must leave.
April 16 protest comes one year since the people of Bangolan staged a fierce demonstration which led to the death and several persons injured by bullet wounds.
On March 19, 2016, the Bangolan palace was under attack when angry villagers besieged the palace demanding the Fon to leave. The alternate Senator who sued for peace in February last year has never seen peace in his village.
Fon Chafah XI has always maintained that the coup plotters are being sponsored and that he knows who is behind the act but has never said who the person is. The fon has remained steadfast in the face of rising tension among his subjects. If Fon Chafah Issac had ever enjoyed allegiance in the past, the situation today is different.