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Cameroonians Protest Torched Hospital as Military and Separatists Trade Blame


Mamfe and Bangem, Cameroon

In Cameroon, hundreds of people have protested attacks on schools, churches, and clinics in the country's troubled west after a hospital in the city of Mamfe was torched. Cameroon's military and separatists traded blame for last week's attack.

Cameroonian officials say several hundred people protested on the streets of Mamfe city on Monday against separatist attacks on civilian bodies in the southwest area.

Cameroon’s state broadcaster CRTV reported the protest was organized by community leaders after the largest hospital in Mamfe was torched on June 8.

Merchant Daniel Mbange spoke to VOA from Mamfe via a messaging application on why he took part in the protest.

"It is very very disheartening that people will attack a social infrastructure which has broad use for the entire community," Mbange said. "Who on earth will think of destroying a hospital where women and children, men, the elderly use it?"

Similar protests have been taking place in other towns, including Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde.

The military blames rebels for the attack and says its troops rescued about 50 patients from flames that injured several patients and nurses.

Capo Daniel is the self-declared deputy defense chief of the Ambazonia Defense Forces, one of Cameroon's largest rebel groups.

He denies they were responsible and voiced a common separatist claim that government troops carried out the attack to tarnish their image.

"There is a Cameroon military barracks not far from there, there was a joint Cameroon military patrol and check point close by," Daniel said. "Ambazonia fighters could not have been able to bypass these military installations, taking the time to remove patients while shooting in the air without any intervention of the Cameroon military. It was an action [attack] carried out by Cameroon military men dressed in civilian clothing."

Cameroonian officials rejected the rebels’ claim. Mengo Victor Arrey Nkongho is a Cameroonian minister in charge of special duties in Yaounde.

"Today, we hear them on social media accusing our defense and security forces," Nkongho said. "They no longer want to own what their products {fighters} have committed. A hospital that had about 49 patients and nurses. These are witnesses, they know who took them out of the beds. There were not military people. They {fighters} took the patients out of their beds, out of the wards before setting the hospital on fire."

Nkongho says federal troops rushed to the hospital and relocated patients to a nearby military hospital.

The protesters Monday called on the government and military to better protect hospitals, schools, and churches from separatist attacks.

Last week’s attack is not the first time Anglophone separatists have been accused of targeting civilian buildings in Mamfe.

In February, the Roman Catholic Church in Cameroon said armed men torched a renowned girls’ dormitory in the city.

The military blamed rebels, who vowed to investigate but are yet to publish a response.

The rebels have since 2017 been fighting for a breakaway English-speaking state from French-speaking majority Cameroon.

The United Nations says clashes between the two sides have since left at least 3,300 people dead and more than 750,000 internally displaced.

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