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Alarm as Militants in Cameroon Pursue Victims to Their Forest Hideouts

"The villagers live in perpetual fear of the unknown, as they struggle to get their farms and go about their daily activities."

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Alarm as Militants in Cameroon Pursue Victims to Their Forest Hideouts

DOUALA , 25 March, 2021 / 5:56 PM (ACI Africa).- 

Fulani militants operating in the Northwest region of Cameroon are chasing after their victims up to their hideouts in forests after ejecting them from their homes, a Catholic charity organization working in the Central African country has reported.

In an update shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, March 23, the leadership of Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), an initiative of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC), notes that for over a month now, the people of Nwa Subdivision in Donga Mantung Division of Cameroon’s Northwest region have been “consistently tormented by Fulani gunmen, who burn down houses, kill and loot at pleasure.”

This, according to DHPI leadership, has left more than seven villages in the region completely deserted.

The leadership of the organization notes that almost all the houses in these villages have been burnt down, and the villagers have all fled to the bushes.

“Fulanis go after them (villagers) in the forests, harass and forcefully take away any valuable they have need of,” the leadership of DHPI reports in the update on Cameroon, adding that a section of the villagers who are not strong enough to make it to the forests have gathered at the Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish of the Catholic Diocese of Kumbo.

In the March 23 report shared with ACI Africa, a Priest serving at the Parish says, “As at now, I have 55 people to feed, and this number consists of women, girls and mostly children below 8 years … Please pray for me and the poor hungry, tired, sick and frustrated population coming from different villages.”

The tense relationship between the Fulani and Anglophones in Cameroon’s Northwest region has been widely reported.

According to The Africa Report, members of the Fulani, better known for their herding activities, “have become full-fledged actors in the conflict in this English-speaking region of Cameroon, accused of meting out abuse.”

Further, there have been allegations that the Cameroonian government is using the local Fulani militia who have their own “identity-based interests”, to wage attacks against English-speaking locals.  

In the report, DHPI leadership faults the nature of participation of the Cameroonian military in the conflict, noting that the militants receive back-up from the government forces amid increased suffering of innocent civilians.

The leadership highlights a particular incident on the night of March 13, where a gun battle ensued between separatist fighters and members of the Fulani.

“The next day was characterized by an even more intense exchange to such an extent that the Fulanis got reinforcement and backup from the Cameroonian military,” the leadership of the SACBC initiative reports.

It quotes a source who opted for anonymity saying, “The Fulanis have been officially recognized as a vigilante group in the subdivision, and the local administration is not convinced that they are responsible for the havoc.”

Another source told DHPI that on March 17, an authority of Donga Mantung paid an official visit to Nwa where he spoke in favor of the Fulanis, to the displeasure of the local population.

The charity and peace institute, which has a direct contact with people at the heart of the conflict zone in Cameroon, reports that on March 16, the military stationed at a village in Momo Division of the country’s Northwest region fired shots into the sky.

“A few minutes later, separatist fighters, whose camp is in Enyoh (another village close to Ambo) approximately 12km from the military post, responded by firing sporadically into the sky as well,” the leadership of the SACBC organization reports.

It adds in reference to the sporadic firing, “This scene set the whole village into panic and the atmosphere remained tense for the remainder of the day. Towards evening, the military drove into the village and started firing shots and detonating explosives.”

A source who witnessed the shooting told DHIP that no one was killed in the onslaught, although some four unarmed civilians were taken by the military to their camp, a situation that brought tension in the village.

Referring to the March 16 exchange, DHIP leadership reports, “We were also told that this situation happens almost on a weekly basis and the villagers live in perpetual fear of the unknown, as they struggle to get their farms and go about their daily activities with the full awareness that things could change for the worst with the blink of an eye.”

The peace institute, which examines roots of conflicts in several other African countries reports that the situation in Nwa Subdivision shows that local people are at the mercy of the Fulanis.

The organization also expresses concern that IDPs living in various parts of the country are malnourished since they cannot go to their farms for fear of attacks.

SOURCE: ACI Africa. Published with permission.

PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Conover

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