Lawmakers from Cameroon’s troubled English-speaking regions are calling for more troops to protect officials, government workers, and their families from separatists. Addressing Cameroon’s parliament Wednesday night, the lawmakers said the rebels have abducted hundreds of officials and their family members and killed at least 20 workers in the past month.
Cameroon lawmakers say the heavy presence of government troops in the country’s troubled English-speaking western regions has not stopped separatist atrocities on civilians.
Cavaye Yeguie Djibril it the speaker of Cameroon’s National Assembly, called the lower house of parliament. He said Wednesday that several hundred elected officials, government workers and their families are being held captive by separatists in the western regions.
He says insecurity caused by separatist rebels and their brutality is increasing by the day and lawmakers, village chiefs and government workers are among the highest victims. Djibril says lawmakers are pleading with civilians to denounce fighters hiding in their villages and towns and report all suspects and their hideout to the military. Djibril says militias should be created in all English-speaking towns and villages to assist government troops to protect civilians and fight separatists.
The lawmakers say separatists have killed at least 20 government workers in the last month.
Leke Besongoh Akemfor Phillip is a lawmaker representing the Southwest region in the upper house of parliament. He says a majority of English-speaking lawmakers, mayors, local councilors and village chiefs and their families have relocated to Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, for safety.
“The government should increase security because terrorists [separatist rebels] kidnap senators, parliamentarians and other state functionaries and demand ransom," said Akemfor. "So, if the government can get security operatives to wipe the hideouts, those terrorists will not be able to stay within settlement areas. When this is done, we can go back and know that our security is guaranteed.”
Capo Daniel is the deputy defense chief of the Ambazonia Defense Forces, one of Cameroon’s separatist groups. He acknowledges that separatists are attacking and abducting Cameroon’s government workers and elected officials who represent the central government.
He says the attack on government workers and elected officials is part of their campaign to make English-speaking regions ungovernable by the central government in Yaounde.
“Every Cameroon government official in our territory will be arrested. We will intensify our attacks against the administrative representatives," said Daniel. "We are fighting to free ourselves from occupation and recolonization.”
Capo acknowledged that scores of civilians accused of collaborating with the central government are being held hostage in camps by separatists, and did not say if they will be freed.
He denied that rebels with separatist groups kidnap people for ransom, but said armed groups in the western regions carry out that practice.
The military says it will protect all civilians and their goods, and the central government says elected officials, government workers and village chiefs who need additional security can apply to the military.
A June 2022 Human Rights Watch report accuses Cameroon separatists of brutality in their attacks and says fighters have carried out at least 80 abductions since January.
Cameroon’s separatist conflict has killed more than 3,300 people and displaced more than 750,000 others since 2017, according to the U.N.