There is outrage in Cameroon after a separatist fighter who chased several traditional rulers from the English-speaking Lebialem district enthroned himself as king. Raids by the military to capture the fighter and ensuing battles led to the deaths of 11 suspected fighters and the beheading of a police officer.
Heavily guarded by his fighters and accompanied by several women he said are his wives, Lekeahka Oliver, dressed in local traditional regalia, announces that he is the only king of Lebialem.
Recently, Oliver’s fighters attacked and chased away many local traditional rulers and notables. He said they supported the central government in the war to make the North-and Southwest regions independent from the rest of Cameroon and its French-speaking majority. At least two of the traditional rulers were killed.
Andreas Lekunze Nembo, traditional ruler of Bamumbu village and president of the Lebialem chiefs conference, said the escaped chiefs are outraged by the desecration of their palaces.
“There is fire in the house. Fire because our customs, tradition and cultural heritage continue to be abused. The desecration of a palace by separatists. Secondly there is general insecurity, intimidation and barbaric actions to our greatest surprise,” said Nembo.
In an attempt to capture Oliver, the military said it mounted raids on separatist camps in Lebialem, killing at least six fighters within the past three days.
Other battles were reported in the northwestern towns of Bamenda and Ndop, killing another five separatist fighters.
The fighters also beheaded a policeman.
Colonel Sone Joseph Ajang, director of administrative and regulatory affairs in Cameroon’s Ministry of Defense, said the separatists have beheaded seven people over the past month.
“We ask ourselves, why do you chop off the head of someone they have already killed? This is to send some warning waves to the mind of soldiers, but we stay resolute as far as our duties are concerned irrespective of all the atrocities we have,” he said.
Deben Tchoffo, governor of the English-speaking Northwest region, said security services are attempting to stop the barbarism.
“It is unbearable and on behalf of the government of the republic, we condemn it strongly and investigations are ongoing to uncover those that have done [are responsible for] that devilish act,” said Tchoffo.
Early this month, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya organized what he called a national dialogue to solve the separatist crisis that has killed close to 3,000 people since 2016. Separatist groups on social media called the dialogue a non-event and refused to participate.