Officials in Cameroon say separatists have killed two election officials in Cameroon , capital of the Northwest region. The rebels have vowed to disrupt Cameroon's March 12 Senate elections. The government says election preparations will continue, despite the killings.
Cameroonians say they got up on Friday morning and noticed that the military presence in major streets of Bamenda, the capital of Cameroon's Northwest region, had increased.
The military said several homes, especially in the area around Foncha Street, a popular neighborhood, were searched Thursday night but did not say why the search was carried out or if any arrests were made.
It is on Foncha Street that the body of Gilbert Yufela Tateng, district chairman of Cameroon’s elections management body in Jakiri town, about 90 kilometers north of Bamenda, was found Thursday morning.
The military said Tateng was shot and killed Wednesday night.
The elections body, ELECAM, said Tateng was preparing for Cameroon's March 12 senatorial elections.
ELECAM also said John Fai, its official in charge of organizing elections in Momo, an administrative unit in the Northwest region, was also killed on Thursday. Both ELECAM and the government of Cameroon say the officials were killed by separatists.
Capo Daniel, spokesperson and deputy defense chief of the separatist Ambazonia Defense Forces, said the two officials defied separatists’ orders and were involved in election preparations.
"Any Ambazonia citizen that participates in Cameroon's senatorial elections will face serious consequences. The officials of Cameroon that are charged to conduct such elections, will be hunted by our forces for charges of enabling colonialism," Daniel said. "Two officials of ELECAM have already suffered the fate for collaborating with an enemy state to enforce its laws on our people."
Separatists dismiss local media reports that Fai was killed by an angry mob.
Ambazonia is what English-speaking separatists call the breakaway state they are fighting to carve out from majority French-speaking Cameroon.
President Paul Biya last week announced that Senate elections will be held March 12. ELECAM staff are in their offices accepting candidate applications ahead of the January 28 registration deadline.
ELECAM chairperson Enow Abrams Egbe told a news conference in Yaounde this week that security has been improved following separatists’ threats to disrupt the elections.
"We must be ready to meet the challenges ahead, and in so doing, bring our efficient contributions to the peacebuilding process, dialogue and national cohesion in our dear and beautiful country," Egbe said. "Our vision and ambition is to increase voter turnout and preserve citizens’ rights to vote as guarantee for inclusive and universally accepted electoral process in our country,"
Cameroon’s government says the elections must take place as planned.
About 15,000 councilors in 60 divisions across Cameroon make up the electoral college that will vote on March 12.
Lawrence Tangwa, a councilor from Bui, an administrative unit where Jakiri is located, says voters, candidates and elections officials should not be punished for organizing or participating in elections.
"I know that there are threats quite alright, but it is the right of the state to protect citizens and property," Tangwa said. "It is a civic responsibility to take part in elections, it is your own way that you participate in local development because if you're not there to choose the persons that will lead you, certainly people will make wrong choices for you and I think that they (voters and candidates) are all mobilizing towards the 12th of March."
Separatists in English-speaking western Cameroon launched their rebellion in 2017 after what they said was years of discrimination by the country’s French-speaking majority.
The conflict has killed more than 3,500 people and displaced more than a half-million, according to the United Nations