YAOUNDE— At least 20 people are reported dead and thousands have fled Cameroonian villages on the border with Nigeria following a conflict between armed Nigerian cattle ranchers and Cameroon farmers.
Eyewitnesses say hundreds of Fulani herdsmen fleeing conflicts in Nigeria's Taraba and Benue states reacted violently when Cameroon village farmers called for them to leave the area.
Cameroonian member of parliament Walang Richard tells VOA the Fulani were armed and caught the villages by surprise on Tuesday.
"These guys are heavily armed. Heavily armed, I repeat. They have burned down schools, they have burned down houses, they have destroyed crops, it is a disturbing issue," he said.
The villages involved include Efung, Afu, Gayama and Mayi, situated about 20 kilometers from the nearest military post.
This is not the first violent incident involving Fulani herdsmen who have long been embroiled in conflicts over land rights with regional farmers. In 2012, they raided the village of Baoro. Cameroon’s government responded by creating a military post in that village.
Walang says more needs to be done to protect citizens in his district. He also says the number of dead is probably higher than what the military initially reported - given that people have been scattered on both sides of the border.
"They are so many. There are even some we are looking for and not seeing. They are taking the thing lightly, but we must secure our border," he said.
Cameroonian soldiers have been deployed along the country's borders to deal with violent spillovers from the conflicts in Nigeria and the Central African Republic.