23, November 2023
The United Nations called Thursday for the swift release of at least 10 civilians abducted during a deadly attack this week on a village in Cameroon, which is being blamed on Southern Cameroons Restoration Forces.
Cameroon’s primarily English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions have been gripped by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017.
That followed decades of grievances over perceived discrimination by the country’s French-speaking majority.
Armed anglophone separatists killed nine villagers early Tuesday in western Cameroon, the scene of seven years of unrest, local officials said.
“We deplore the November 21 attack on Bamenyam market in western Cameroon in which nine civilians were killed. Those responsible must be held to account,” UN rights office spokesman Seif Magango said in a statement.
“Suspected armed separatist fighters from the English-speaking Northwest region stormed the market in the French-speaking Bamboutos area, shooting randomly and setting businesses on fire. They also abducted at least 10 civilians and looted property.
“Attacks against civilians are unacceptable. We call for the prompt release of all those abducted, and for thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into all attacks on civilians with a view to ensuring justice and accountability.”
Cameroon’s state television said the dead included a woman, adding that two security guards were wounded in a gun battle.
Magango noted that it was the second major attack by armed groups this month, after at least 25 civilians were reportedly killed in Egbekaw village in western Cameroon on November 6.
“Thousands of civilians have been killed, injured, or displaced since the crisis began,” he added.
Both the separatists and government forces have been accused of atrocities in the years of fighting.
Armed groups are regularly accused of abducting, killing or injuring civilians whom they accuse of collaborating with Cameroonian authorities.
Security forces are also often accused by international NGOs and the UN of killings and torture against civilians suspected of sympathising with the rebels.
In July, Amnesty International reported that security forces, separatist rebels and ethnic militiamen had committed “atrocities” in the Northwest region, including executions, torture and rape.
President Paul Biya, 90, who has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist for 41 years, has resisted calls for wider autonomy and responded with a crackdown.
The conflict has claimed more than 6,000 lives and forced more than a million people to flee their homes, according to the International Crisis Group.