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Stories in Support of TPS for Cameroon

Justin, CASA Member, a cocoa farmer

In Cameroon, I had a cocoa farm. I used to spend all of my time at the farm but one day in May of 2018, I left to get some supplies.  When I returned, the military was at the farm and one person was masked.  The masked man pointed at me and said I was the one.  They took me into custody and interrogated me.  As they were interrogating me, I learned that they were accusing me of providing food and information to the separatists. I denied that I was working with the separatists but they still beat and tortured me and locked me up.  I was able to escape the prison in the chaos caused by a fire. I ran to my farm to get my wife and infant daughter then escaped together to a neighbor’s farm where we could hide on their property.  We were there living in the bush for two months until around August when I was able to contact an uncle. I described the horrible situation we were living under, with my daughter very sick from mosquitos, and he invited us to join him.  I sent my wife and daughter on the bus but it was too dangerous for me to travel with them because the military was looking for me. I took a dirt bike through the small plantations so I wouldn’t have to get on the public roads. This way I was able to get to my uncle’s compound.

In October of 2018, I thought things had died down and returned to my home town to pack some things so I could find another place to live with my family.  As I was inside the house packing, I saw some movers I had hired run frantically away.  The soldiers were back.  I was told that because I had escaped the last time, this time they would have to kill me.

They beat me mercilessly and handcuffed me.  As they were trying to transport me to a prison, gunshots started firing from both sides of the bush.  With the soldiers firing back, they stopped watching me.  With my hands still handcuffed, I crawled away.  A good samaritan helped me get up and get me some clothes. I found a commercial bike and went to the hospital.  They treated me but then the nurse advised me to leave because the hospital was regularly stormed by the military.

I returned to my uncle’s house but he was scared. He moved me to a friend’s house for two weeks and while I was there, the military did go to my uncle’s compound (no one was home.)  At that point, my uncle told me it is no longer safe anywhere in Cameroon and you must flee.

It is another story how I came to the US.  But here, I was held in detention for two years.  I tried my very best to tell my story the best I could but I didn’t have an attorney or any help and I lost my asylum case. I am currently appealing.

It would mean everything to me if President Biden grant Cameroonians through DHS a temporary protected status (TPS). I plead with the Biden administration to please grant Cameroon TPS, so Cameroonians like me who flee for our security are not deported to our death.

Fabrisk, Student

I left my country due to persecution and false allegations that I was part of the separatist movement. I came to the United States because I thought it was the safest place for people like me seeking refuge. I grew up admiring the United States for human rights advocacy so I thought it was the best place for me to come. It was unimaginably difficult to leave my beloved home and family under tension and insecurity, and come live in a completely different world. I miss everyone I had around me, the food, the culture. freedom, love, and hospitality. I miss my family, and the people I’ve lost.

On the 20 of May 2018, the police in a mixed patrol with the gendarmerie military stormed my house and arrested me for taking part in a peaceful protest in my community against the violations of human rights and massive unlawful arrests and killing of youths. At the police station, I was accused of being in support of the separatist activities and being one of them. I was mistreated and tortured in an unclean condition for three days. Three days later, after interrogations, they took copies of my ID card and got all necessary information about my family and a sum of money after I had pleaded to attend an examination class. Before I was released, they told me that they were watching me closely. From there I went to the hospital for a checkup and got some drugs for pain relief and infections.

In early September, I witnessed more serious gun battles than ever before as the separatist freedom fighters used charms to launch attacks on the military. The separatists began to visit homes asking for financial assistance and recruiting more youths who are unwilling or unable to pay. On the 6th of September 2018, the separatists came to my house and asked me for support to fight against the government. When I told them I didn’t have money to give them, they said I should join them but I still didn’t accept. They got me on my knees at gunpoint and got out with my late granddad’s dine gun alongside his traditional bag then made me sprinkle water on the gun in front of my house to break all curses after which they loaded it and shot it three times in the air and threatened me before leaving.

Two days later, the military came to my home at about 4:00am in the morning, got me well beaten. They arrested and locked me up, accusing me of giving a gun and preparing charms for the separatists. They made me go through hell for nine days. No one was allowed to see or talk to me. They used their guns, boots, swords, belts, and buckets of ice water and beat me at random daily. I was fed once a day, mostly garri, rice, and plantains. They didn’t even give me the chance to explain what happened. On the ninth day, they took me and five other detainees at about 03:00 am into their truck and transported us to Bamenda. On our way, we got attacked by the separatist fighters where I managed to escape into the bush where I wandered until morning and found my way to a friend’s house who then carried me to the hospital for checkup and treatment. From there, I called my mom and she started processing my travel documents which took quite a long time through her friend who works at the immigration. 

My journey to the United States was horrible. I left my country for the United States of America transiting through Morocco, Brazil, and Mexico, hiding from place to place. When I finally arrived at the US border, I was asked to register my name on a waitlist and wait for my turn to get into the U.S. I waited at the port of entry for over three months before I was accompanied into the U.S by Mexican immigration officers. When I handed myself to the U.S border patrol, they took me into custody for four days, from there I was transferred to Arizona where I spent a week, then to Tallahatchie, Mississippi for a month and a week, and finally to Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center where I spent over 16 months. In all, I was in US detention for over 18 months. It was horrible in ICE facilities as they mistreated and intimidated us, provided no safety measures against Covid-19, limited medical care, and unfair court judgements. We were treated like animals and at some point, we felt like animals were treated better than us. The most shocking and surprising part of it is that I expected the U.S to be the human rights giant of the world. I have been badly mistreated by the very country I trusted most. This was supposed to be the country that shows examples to other nations on human rights protections but it is doing the worse within its territory

On top of that is the constant fear of deportation. It is one of the worst instruments that was used to demoralize and depress us. This alone brought a lot of sicknesses like anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, and more, followed by the use of physical force to pressure detainees to sign for deportation. This is in fact the worst instrument used by the ICE.

We need the support of the American people because they have the power to stop this inhuman treatment that is taking place every single day in this country. I plead with them to stand for us in solidarity and justice for we are all human and deserve to be treated fairly. I also plead with the President to grant TPS for Cameroon, for it is an emergency situation known worldwide. The president has good knowledge of the Cameroonian crisis and so I plead with him to take this bold step to save thousands of lives.

Denis, CASA Member, a nurse

I was a nurse in Cameroon. I took an oath to save lives. As a nurse, I provided treatment for all the people in Southern Cameroon- Anglophone and Francophone. On November of 2016 – together with other nurses and medical workers – I was arrested and taken to the police station where I was tortured and beaten to within an inch of losing our lives. I was in custody for a week after all sorts of inhumane treatment including physical assault resulting in injuries to my stomach and legs. The guards refused to allow my family to visit me. Thanks to the intervention of my family lawyer, I was released after bribing the commissioner with the sum of 300,000 CFA (approx $350 US dollars).

I continued advocating for the rights of all English-speaking Cameroonians and as a result, my family house was burned down by the military; the final in a series of attacks in which the military conducted illegal searches for anti-government documents. 

On September of 2017, I took part in a peaceful march. I was arrested alongside many others and detained. The cell in which I was detained was very small and overcrowded, housing about 37 persons, both men, and women, with no toilet and window.  We were forced to use a bucket as a toilet. I was released 4 days later.

When the crisis became violent in 2018, the government issued an order to healthcare professionals not to treat separatist fighters who come to the hospital with injuries. Being a nurse I worked in the surgical ward, which was monitored by government agents and spies. My colleagues and I were bound by our professional ethics and oath to save lives and so we did not give in to the government order.  But meanwhile, the government was planning my abduction for violating the order not to treat separatists.

A friend alerted me that a warrant had been issued for my arrest. And so I escaped. I walked through the bushes to get to the neighboring town where I took an overnight bus to my elder sister who was also hosting my wife and daughter at the time. The military was informed of my escape and they went to my village in search of me. When my uncle could not provide the soldiers with my whereabouts they burned down his house and gunned down my cousin Ngecha Gildas. Yes,  I will say his name because his life will not go in vain. I am fighting for us, my dear cousin.

I escaped my country and took the long and grueling journey to the US. President Biden, I am pouring my heart out to you. What I suffered still haunts me to this very day! Cameroonians that are deported end up missing! Please don’t allow us to get deported to our deaths. Please protect black immigrants and grant us Temporary Protective Status for all Cameroonians! 

Rose, a mother who sold vegetable oil for work 

Rose is from Cameroon and worked selling vegetable oil. One day when she was at the market, two Gendarmes (French for police) approached her and asked her who she was selling oil to. She said not to anyone specific, just the general public. They told her they would beat her if she didn’t tell the truth. She reiterated that she sold the oil to the public.

In front of her five-year-old daughter, they began beating Rose with cables then arrested her. They charged her with selling oil to separatist fighters, the government’s opponents. She was detained for three weeks and five days and for each of those days, she was beaten with cables by the police.

One day two officers with guns came into her cell and pulled her outside of the building and raped her. They said they would shoot her if she made any sounds.  They called her an Anglophone dog and continued to rape her on other days: “I became very sick. The commander sent me home because they knew I was going to die.” 

When she was released, all of the hospitals were closed because they were accused of supporting the separatists. Medical workers gave her some injections and antibiotics at her home and treated the wounds on her legs. It took her two weeks to recover. 

But the police came back to her house and arrested her again, and “they told me that since I did not die now I will have to die by boiling and that they will transfer me to another prison.” They said her life would end there.

Escaping to the United States for safety, Rose is afraid of the Cameroonian government and fears for her life if forcibly returned.

Martin, University Student

Martin was a student at a university in Cameroon. He and others, including lawyers and teachers, were marching and protesting against the government because of conditions at the school. Classes and exams were in French, but he and other students were from an English-speaking section of Cameroon. 

At the protest, the police shot and killed one of Martin’s friends and chased after him. The police arrested him and threatened to kill him or take him to prison. They accused Martin of being a leader because he carried a sign – a sign that said that the government should help the students. Multiple police officers beat, kicked, slapped, and hit him with guns leaving scars on his back. He was jailed for two days, without food or water, and beaten a total of four times.

When asked how he escaped, Martin said: “In the cell you have to use a bucket for the bathroom, and in the morning you have to go and throw the waste outside. In the morning, on the second day, they removed the handcuffs from my legs and arms, and then when they were taking me out to throw out the waste, the policeman behind me was on the phone and got distracted so I ran into the bush and kept running. And then I was just sleeping on the streets.” He couldn’t return home because the police were there looking for him.

Several weeks later, he was arrested again. The policeman slapped him and said he would be sent to jail and wouldn’t come out alive. As he was being transported in the police car, he jumped out and ran away. He lived on the streets for a while before getting to Nigeria.  

Seeking asylum in the United States, he established a credible fear of persecution. Before he was able to reunite and live with his aunt in the United States, he was detained by US immigration authorities for almost three years before he was finally released.

Austen, CASA Community Organizer, a teacher

I now live in the beautiful county of Prince George’s right next to the capital. I am an organizer for an organization that never stops fighting for the community, CASA. I am here because unfortunately, my home country of Cameroon is not safe. It is hard to stand here and have to relive all the horrible things that happened to me and my community in Cameroon but I am doing it because my people need safety. My people need protection. My people need a chance to stay alive and live their full life without being targeted for who they are. 

In Cameroon, I was a teacher. The government forced me to teach while the separatists told teachers they would be targeted if they taught. Before I was targeted, I knew teachers whose fingers were cut off or beheaded with their heads hung on trees for teaching.  Teachers were caught between the military and the separatists.

In May of 2019, when I arrived at school one day, the separatists caught and beat me and stole my belongings. They did that because I refused to tell them I would support them. The military, after hearing the separatists had been at school, came to the school and arrested me, other teachers, and students.  They took me to a station where I was interrogated. I was locked up for days – without food or water – and tortured every single day. 

They went to my family compound to do a search then accused me that they discovered anti-government materials (a flag). I was told I would be transferred to the Central Prison for my region to appear before a military court. At that point, human rights lawyers intervened and bribed the guards so that I would be released. The only reason I was released is because one of the guards recognized me. I had taught his daughter.

After my release, I went to the bush to hide. The military told my lawyer there was a warrant for my arrest. They went to my father’s compound because they thought they would find me there. Because my father would not tell them where I was, they killed him.  They then went to find my brother, who was mentally disabled.  When he also refused to provide information about my location, he was also killed. Then they burned down the family compound. I knew that I had no choice but to leave; otherwise, I would die. I fled Cameroon.

Cameroon was not safe for me. It was not safe for my brother and father. Many of my Cameroonian brothers and sisters who I have met that managed to escape share the same feeling. We would rather die here than be deported back to a horrendous death at the hands of the vicious and brutal Cameroonian military.

 I, therefore, plead with the administration of President Joe Biden to designate urgent TPS for Cameroon. 

Joseph, CASA Member, a teacher

I did not choose to be here in the United States. I had to escape from Cameroon because my life was in grave danger. Because I was a teacher, I was targeted by the government and military who accused me of sponsoring separatist fighters because I marched for the rights of English-speaking Cameroonians.

I was falsely arrested on several occasions, tortured for days in the hands of the military.  It was thanks to the help of some humanitarian lawyers that I was released. 

My very close colleague was shot dead by the Cameroon military and I knew that only meant that if they did that to him they are capable of doing it to me. I was considered  ”l’ennemi dans la maison” as they often call us which translates to “the enemy in the house.” I fled because, after being arrested and tortured, I knew I was the next to die. 

I have friends who have been deported back to Cameroon and their families have never heard from them again. We believe they have been sentenced to life in prison; others have been killed and buried in mass graves. I, therefore, ask the Biden administration to hear our cry and grant TPS for Cameroon.  

Madeleine, a daughter and a sister

My father, my older sister, and I were in our house watching tv; my sick mother was inside her room sleeping. Suddenly, we heard some noise outside and I went to look out the window to see what was happening. The place was filled with military people – well-armed. As I turned to tell my father, people started kicking our door in. I immediately ran into my parents’ room where my mother was sleeping and hid myself behind the door. The soldiers came inside and asked my father and my elder sister to tell them where the armed separatist fighters were hiding, and my father and my elder sister told them they didn’t know anything.  The military people asked them to sit on the ground and asked them again, and they said they didn’t know anything concerning the armed separatists groups or fighters. The military people said they were lying and shot and killed both of them.

When my mother heard the sounds of the guns, she woke up and demanded to know what was happening. A soldier came inside the room and killed my mother on her sick bed. When I saw this, I screamed and almost passed out. I started crying and the wicked military man dragged out from behind the door where I was hiding. The military man hit me on my head and I started bleeding through my nose. I begged him not to kill me, that I am innocent. The military man asked me where the armed separatist fighters were hiding. And I said I don’t know anything concerning the armed separatist fighters. But the military man said I was lying.

The soldier said that he knows my parents and elder sister, including me, are all members of the armed separatist groups. He shouted that separatists held meetings at a bar my mother owned in the village. My mother did have a bar with many customers. The military people thought that – the customers coming in and out of the bar were armed separatists but we were just selling drinks to customers and didn’t know who is who. He took pictures of me, making a mockery of me. He released the handcuffs and pushed me to my knees, saying if I told him the truth, he would not kill me. He said now they would take me outside to kill or bury me alive.    

Outside, the villagers were running around trying to escape. There were gunshots, which distracted the officers. I ran away and hid under a table outside.  When things got quiet, I escaped to the bush. I spent two weeks outside – very sick, suffering, traumatized.

How did I get here? Someone finally offered me food and shelter. I told him that I wanted to escape to another country where my life will be safe and protected. This good man helped me escape to Nigeria. Every day of my life, I pray to God almighty to bless this good man who helped me without even knowing me.

While in Nigeria, I was very worried about my parents and elder sister’s corpses. I called my auntie to find out what happened. She told me that the military people carried the corpses of my parents and sister, and together with other people that were killed on that same day, buried them in a mass grave in the village. She said that the military people had come again to look for me in the village. That they had pictures of me and were saying I was wanted. And that if anyone had any information about me, that they needed to provide it to the authorities.