15 rights groups call for UN probe into Cameroon’s anglophone crisis

The signatories, include Civicus and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa
Men arrested in connection with Cameroon’s anglophone crisis are seen at the military court in Yaounde, Cameroon, on December 14, 2018. – Nearly 300 people who were arrested in connection with Cameroon’s anglophone crisis will be released on Friday, a day after being pardoned by President Paul Biya, the defence minister said. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

Fifteen rights groups have called on the United Nations to investigate possible “serious” human rights violations in the troubled English-speaking region of western Cameroon.

The signatories, including Civicus and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, accused the Cameroon government of “carrying out a systematic and ruthless military campaign” against people in the country’s English-speaking regions.

An “impartial, rigorous investigation is urgently needed,” they said in a letter to the UN and released at a news conference in Johannesburg.

“We strongly believe that a UN-mandated independent international fact-finding mission would have the immediate effect of quelling violence and saving lives.”

Since October 2017, the southwest and northwest regions have been in the grip of an armed revolt by anglophones demanding independence from the majority French-speaking country.

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The government has responded with a crackdown, deploying thousands of soldiers.

More than 200 members of the security forces and at least 500 civilians have been killed, according to the International Crisis Group think-tank.

According to UN estimates, more than 437,000 people have fled their homes.

Patrick Ayuk of the Sam Soya Center for Democracy and Human Rights said Thursday more than 200 villages have been burnt down by the military, adding that over 2,500 activists have been abducted.

Anglophone communities have chafed at perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority, especially in law, education and economic opportunities.

Demands for greater autonomy or a return to Cameroon’s federal structure have been rejected by the government in Yaounde.

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