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Deadly clashes erupt in Cameroon’s restive English-speaking region

Zohra Bensemra, Reuters | A Cameroonian elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) member patrols the streets of Buea in the anglophone southwest region, Oct. 4, 2018.

Twenty-five separatists were killed Tuesday in fighting in a restive English-speaking region of Cameroon, security officials said Wednesday.

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"Twenty-five 'Amba Boys' were killed in three clashes in Mbot," a village near the town of Nkambe, a source in the capital Yaounde told the AFP, confirming a security source in the troubled Northwest Region.

"Amba Boys" refers to separatists who last year launched an armed campaign for the independence of Cameroon's two Anglophone regions, which they call Ambazonia.

The conflict between Anglophone separatists and government forces has killed more than 400 people in western Cameroon since last year and has turned into Cameroonian President Paul Biya’s greatest security problem in nearly four decades of rule.

The two sides often provide conflicting accounts of the fighting, but both have reported heavier casualties in recent weeks, with dozens killed.

An ageing, 'absentee president'

The latest clashes came a week after armed men released more than 80 people, most of them schoolchildren, who were seized in the western city of Bamenda.

The central African nation faces a number of security problems, including a Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.

At 85, Biya is one of Africa’s oldest rulers. But while he has kept an iron grip on power for over three decades, in recent years, he spends much of his time abroad, earning the moniker, of the “absentee president".

Last month, Biya won his seventh term after a controversial presidential election that saw a crackdown on the opposition during the campaign season.

A conflict with roots to colonial times

The Anglophone separatist crisis was sparked against the predominantly Francophone central government after authorities violently repressed peaceful protests against perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority.

The army has burned villages and killed unarmed civilians, according to residents, forcing thousands to flee to French-speaking regions or neighbouring Nigeria.

The linguistic divide harks back to the end of World War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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