HRW denounces armed attacks, murder of civilians and kidnappings in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon

HRW denounces armed attacks, murder of civilians and kidnappings in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon

June 27. (EUROPA PRESS) –

The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has denounced this Monday that armed separatist militiamen have killed at least seven people, injured six others, in addition to committing a rape against a minor and other serious abuses in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon since January 2022.

Cameroon’s Anglophone regions — Northwest and Southwest — have been rocked by conflict following the repression of separatist movements following Ambazonia’s self-proclamation of independence on October 1, 2017.

This area – another part of the British colonies in Africa but which decided to join French Cameroon – was the scene of peaceful protests to demand greater autonomy or independence, arguing discrimination by the central authorities, also on language issues.

Since then, armed groups have proliferated and support for the separatists, until then quite marginal, has increased. The government has responded with a harsh crackdown, during which human rights organizations have accused the security forces of committing atrocities.

“Armed separatist groups are kidnapping, terrorizing and killing civilians in English-speaking regions with no apparent fear of being held accountable by their own leaders or by Cameroon’s law enforcement,” said an HRW Central Africa researcher. Ilaria Allegrozzi.

For this reason, he has asked the leaders of these separatist groups to “immediately” instruct their militiamen “to stop abusing civilians and hand over abusive combatants for trial.”

HRW explained in a statement that it contacted 38 people by telephone, including victims and witnesses, as well as relatives, journalists and members of human rights organizations. The organization has also extensively reviewed medical records, photographs and videos.

One of the incidents occurred on April 5, when a group of armed separatists stormed the Bamenda University campus in Bambili, in the North West region, triggering a stampede that left at least five people dead. As reported by HRW, the militiamen attacked the building for being active due to the general closure order declared in the area.

“I saw three separatist fighters shooting from the campus soccer field,” a 28-year-old student told HRW, adding that “I was less than 50 meters away from them” and that they “kept shooting for 20 minutes.”

In their struggle to create an independent Anglophone state, separatist groups attack civilians who do not heed their calls to boycott schools. “These abusive calls trample on the basic rights of an already terrorized civilian population, and separatist fighters and their leaders must be held accountable and punished for their violent application,” HRW said.

Since 2017, armed separatists have kidnapped hundreds of people, including students, teachers, medical personnel, aid workers, clerics, and government officials, among others. They have also killed and tortured civilians and carried out widespread attacks on education.

Separately, on January 13, separatist militiamen attacked a rubber plantation in the town of Tiko, also kidnapping nine workers, including six women, and setting a tractor on fire.

“They had weapons, they invaded the plantation and took us,” one of the hostages told HRW, adding that they “threatened” to kill them if they continued working. All the workers were released on January 25 after the payment of a ransom, according to HRW.

Another incident recorded by the organization was an attack on a residential area in the town of Idenau, where separatist fighters kidnapped 30 people, including five women and an elderly man, on May 16. Nine workers eventually escaped.

The separatists beat and threatened to harm the remaining captives and abandoned them two days later. During the attack in the residential area, a separatist fighter also raped a teenage girl.

“Cameroon’s regional and international partners must intensify calls for the Government of Cameroon to be held accountable and to improve the protection of civilians,” Allegrozzi said, stressing that “specific sanctions, such as travel bans, should be imposed and the freezing of assets, to the separatist leaders responsible for committing abuses”.

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Written by Editor TLN

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