Four people have been killed in fresh violence in southwestern Cameroon, where anglophones have launched an armed campaign for a separate state, sources said Thursday. Two students were killed by separatists on Monday in Buea, the capital of Southwest Region,” in an act of reprisal” for opposing the forced closure of schools, said a source close to the authorities.
The same day, a soldier was killed in the nearby town of Limbe, a local official said. On Wednesday, the body of a decapitated man was found in Buea, where shooting was also heard. His severed head bore a military beret, witnesses said.
An army officer in Yaounde confirmed the account but gave no further details. Since October 2017, Cameroon’s Southwest and neighbouring Northwest Region have been in the grip of an insurgency by anglophones demanding independence from the majority French-speaking country.
The two regions were previously ruled by Britain as the Southern Cameroons. They were folded into Cameroon in October 1961, 22 months after France granted the country independence. The separatists on Tuesday launched a 10-day “ghost town” campaign, aimed at closing down Buea.
The goal is to disrupt national youth day on February 11 — the anniversary of the 1961 referendum that led to the regions’ incorporation into Cameroon. The unrest in the two regions follows years of stalemate over demands to tackle perceived discrimination against English-speakers.
In 2017, the anglophone movement became radicalised, leading to the declaration of the self-described Republic of Ambazonia, which has never been recognised internationally. Ransom kidnappings and extortion have proliferated, along with attacks on troops and police, plus arson assaults on public buildings and schools.
The government has responded with a crackdown, deploying thousands of soldiers. More than 200 members of the security forces and at least 500 civilians have been killed since, according to the International Crisis Group think-tank. According to UN estimates, more than 437,000 people have fled their homes due to the unrest.
In Johannesburg on Thursday, 15 civil society groups urged the UN to probe alleged rights abuses. The signatories, including Civicus and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, accused the Cameroon government of “carrying out a systematic and ruthless military campaign” in the anglophone regions.