By Noelia Celina Gutiérrez, Wednesday, October 17, 2017
Southern Cameroons Journal, Costa Rica – Mbang Atanga Azehfor died ten thousand kilometers away from his native Cameroon, while trying to reach the United States as a refugee. He died on a Nicaraguan highway on September 29, the day he turned 23.
He and his three older brothers left Cameroon three months ago: June 29. “We had to flee because of the crisis,” says Azeh Maclaire, his 30-year-old sister.
With 11 thousand dollars altogether, the four Mbang brothers fled walking to Nigeria, border country, and from there they took a plane to Ecuador. “That country does not require a visa, that’s why we get there,” explains Maclaire.
From Quito they traveled by bus to the northern border with Colombia. After crossing the whole country, they took a boat to Panama. From there they crossed Panama and Costa Rica, also by bus, through safe-conduct.
They arrived at the northern border of Costa Rica on September 28 at night and attempted to enter Nicaragua through the border post of Peñas Blancas. “When we arrived at the border we were denied entry, they told us that they did not accept the entry of immigrants. So, we had to find another way to get to our destination, “says Maclaire.
Crisis in Cameroon
Since November 2016, clashes between English-speaking and French-speaking peoples, the two most important population groups in Cameroon, have hardened.
“Anglophones have been discriminated against and marginalized since they started asking for separation. The Francophones refused and began to arrest and kill Anglophones, whom they call terrorists, “says Maclaire, who is part of the Anglophone minority that represents 20% of the Cameroonian population, according to official reports.
“They burned our house and so we all fled at the same time,” says Maclaire, who says that before the crisis “we had lived a normal life, we had no lack.”
Atanga Azehfor was a university student, with no children, no wife. He studied Food Processing at the University of Buea. “He was very respectful and sociable, he loved sports, especially football,” confesses his sister.
Victims of coyotes
At the border crossing, on the Costa Rican side, two men approached the Cameroonian group. “One of them spoke to us in English and told us that for 500 dollars they would take us to the border with Honduras. So, we paid them to show us the way, “recalls Azeh Maclaire.
They walked through a jungle area about eight hours until they reached a road. It was 3:00 in the morning of Friday, September 29 and while they were walking, Maclaire had time to promise his brother that they would celebrate his birthday once they arrived in Honduras.
“Two cars were already waiting for us by the side of the road. The two men who passed us through the woods only told us: ‘fast, fast, enter’ (to the vehicle), so we entered. The two men did not enter the car, they returned.”
According to Maclaire, her brother boarded the first vehicle, a Toyota Corolla black, and she and her two other brothers climbed the second, a Pathfinder pickup.
That morning, there were troops from the Nicaraguan Army and the National Police deployed from Peñas Blancas to the La Virgen community in Rivas, “on information about possible drug trafficking and other criminal activities,” according to an official statement.
According to the Army version, “on the Las Lajas bridge … a combined checkpoint of troops from the IV Regional Military Command and the National Police issued a halt to two suspicious vehicles, they disregarded the same, fired shots and attempted to run over the staff of the check point, who responded to the aggression with their weapons of regulation. ”
Mbang Atanga Azehfor was killed in the shooting and two of the traffickers were injured: Yaser Eduardo García
López, 22, of Rivas, and Bayron José Jarquín López, 27, from Tipitapa. Another man identified as Kiver Steven Martinez Sánchez, 20, from San Juan del Sur, was arrested. The second vehicle fled, according to the statement from the Army.
Maclaire remembers that after receiving the shots, the driver of the truck in which she and her two brothers traveled accelerated. “The driver continued for about 5 minutes at full speed. He stopped by the side of the road, opened the door and said, ‘Come on, let’s go’, so we could get out, “he said. The driver, apparently wounded, fled at that moment.
One of the women traveling in the same vehicle was injured in the arm. “We left and were looking to stop the blood of the woman who had been injured inside the car. We did not know the situation of the other people in the other car. We were looking for the police to rescue us, “recalls Maclaire.
After walking on the road, an army patrol found them and took them to the place where the black vehicle had been stopped. “I did not see my brother and I asked about him. They told me that he had been shot and taken to the hospital, “says Maclaire. After receiving the news, her sister fainted.
“When I asked the police about my brother, he told me to calm down, because I was going to get some bad news. Inside the hospital, they opened a door and there was my brother, bloody, in a morgue, “recalls the woman, who could not help her tears every time she remembers the scene.
After leaving the hospital, they returned to the police station, where they were given a statement. “On Saturday the policeman came in the morning and told us he had to take us to court to testify.” This was done by each of the eleven migrants of African origin who had been captured.
“The judge told us that it was not a crime to go through the country, that we should not be scared because we were not criminals,” recalls Maclaire, after which they returned to the Rivas police station. From there, they were driven back to the border of Peñas Blancas.
They want to repatriate the body
Now Maclaire and her two brothers are in an immigrant camp in Costa Rica, where they have water, shelter and food. They lost what little money they had left after paying $ 2,000 to the coyotes.