Armed separatists kidnapped John (his name has been changed), a doctor from the English-speaking region of northwestern Cameroon and took him to their camp. They accused John of ” not contributing to the cause “, pointing a gun at his back and threatening to kill him. He was released six hours later, after payment of a ransom in the amount of 300,000 CFA francs (US $ 544).
“ They said I had to give them money to support their struggle for independence, to buy weapons, ” John told Human Rights Watch. “ They told me not to tell anyone what happened to me, otherwise they would kill me and all of my family . ”
Stories like John’s have been heard too often in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions. Since 2017, armed separatists have kidnapped hundreds of people , including students , clergy , political leaders and aid workers , while calling on English-speaking regions to declare their independence. The separatists have also imposed a boycott of schools in these same regions to protest against what they denounce as the assimilation of the English-speaking education system into the central French-speaking system.
John’s recent kidnapping came against the backdrop of renewed violence by separatists over the past two months.
On February 13, separatist fighters killed three tribal chiefs in the village of Essoh Attah, located in the Southwest region, because they had refused to return the profits from their cocoa sales to them and had promoted the education, according to the media.
On January 9, suspected separatist fighters killed the headmaster of a high school in Eyumojock and injured the head of a high school in Tinto, both located in the South West region, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Affairs. humanitarian organizations (OCHA) and the media.
The separatists hampered the delivery of humanitarian aid , killing and torturing those they suspected of collaborating with the authorities and security forces. ” We are at the mercy of their guns, ” said a 35-year-old man from Bafut, in the North West region. “ The separatist fighters harass everyone. They demand money and if you are unable to pay, they threaten or kidnap you. ”
The Cameroonian armed forces, which have carried out multiple operations sometimes marked by violations in the English-speaking regions, should guarantee the protection of civilians more effectively. The UN Security Council and Cameroon’s international partners should make separatist leaders understand that these crimes have consequences, including by imposing targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes, on all those involved. whose responsibility is established in these abuses.
Source: Human Rights Watch