Ex-separatist fighters, Bamenda II Administration play Solidarity Football Encounter

A solidarity match has been played between repentant separatist fighters lodged at the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Centre in Bamenda and the administration of Bamenda II Municipality.

Organizers say the football encounter was aimed at encouraging interaction between ex-combatants, the administration, and the local population.

The Divisional Officer for Bamenda II, Nicholas Nkongho Machang says the encounter can be described "as a process of reintegrating them into society, as the teams comprise of all the services – the forces of law and order and those of the civil services".

"Yesterday, they were fighting and today they are playing. These are also indications that normalcy is gradually returning in Bamenda II," the Divisional Officer said.

According to Kum Henry, the Coordinator of the DDR Centre in Bamenda, the ex-combatants are upright; morally and socially prepared to engage in such a football encounters.

"The message is that everyone should stand behind these boys who've dropped their arms against the State and taken part in a football encounter with the administration of the Bamenda II. Yesterday they were fighting, today they are playing, and we can always sort out our problems without killing each other. We are calling on those still in the bushes to drop their arms and yield to the Head of State's call," Kum said.

The football competition named the "Peace and Unity Tournament” exposed some hidden talents in the ex-fighters.

This triggered calls for football promoters to harvest talents from the centre to play in some of the football leagues in the North West Region of Cameroon.

Nicholas Nkongho Manchang, Divisional Officer for Bamenda II says the population should stop stigmatizing the ex-fighters and promote values of living together.

"The match was organized for them to interact. It is a process to integrate them back into the society. We are also calling on the population to stop stigmatizing them," said Nkongho Manchang.

Kum Henry believes that with ex-combatants in the DDR, the era is different.

"Those who were fighting against each other yesterday are now playing as partners today. We should live as one and we can always sort out our differences without killing one another," Kum said.

Present at the competition was Peter Chenwi, Mayor of the Bamenda II Council who appreciated the centre with an envelope to entertain the ex-combatants after the encounter.

One of the ex-fighters said it wasn't an easy game and hoped that through such encounters, a lot of things will change and many hearts in the bushes will be touched.

"We are very happy to have won the match. Playing with the administration was not an easy task. It shows that we have changed for the better. Our only plea is that the authorities should reintegrate us back in to the society".

Another ex-fighter confessed that when he joined the Centre, he was very empty; had no skills or knowledge about reading and writing.

"Living in the Centre is like preventing someone from being killed. I lived 2 years in the bush with nothing achieved. I decided to lay down arms against the State. Now, we are involved in games with the administration and we have won the cup. We hope that we get reintegrated soon so that as we leave the Centre, those in the bushes will see the need to join the DDR".

The football encounter which ended with scores reading 2-1 in favour of DDR, was followed by the lighting of the Christmas tree at the DDR Centre as ex-separatist fighters celebrated the feast of nativity.

By Ndefru Melanie

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