Kidnappers release prominent Cameroonian opposition leader

The SDF leader was abducted while leading a funeral procession, his party said in a statement
cameroon crisis
Cameroon’s Social Democratic Front (SDF) leader Ni John Fru Ndi arrives to address his party congress in Bamenda on February 22, 2018, where he announced that he would not be standing in this years presidential elections. (Photo by Reinnier KAZE / AFP)

The chairman of Cameroon’s main opposition party Ni John Fru Ndi has been released after being kidnapped earlier Saturday in the Northwest Region, one of two English-speaking provinces in the grip of an armed conflict for over a year, his party said.

The SDF leader was abducted while leading a funeral procession, his party said earlier, without giving any indication of whether the kidnappers were believed to be separatists.

“President Ni John Fru Ndi has just been freed at 1834 (1734 GMT),” Social Democratic Front (SDF) official Jean Robert Wafo said in a statement.

A number of officials and members of the SDF have already been targeted in similar attacks.

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In October 2018, Fru Ndi’s home was attacked by arsonists and his sister kidnapped and later released.

His party is the main opposition to 86-year-old President Paul Biya who has ruled Cameroon since 1982.

It has always opposed any partition of the country and defied separatists in the English-speaking regions who called for a boycott of the last presidential election in October.

Conflict in Cameroon, a majority French-speaking nation, broke out in October 2017 when anglophone militants declared an independent state in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.

The International Crisis Group has said the death toll since the start of the fighting had topped 500 for civilians and more than 200 for members of the security forces.

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Around 530,000 people have fled the fighting, according to the United Nations.

English-speakers, who account for about a fifth of Cameroon’s population of 24 million, have chafed for years at perceived discrimination in education, law and economic opportunities at the hands of the francophone majority.

The self-declared entity, the “Republic of Ambazonia,” which has been named after the local Ambas Bay, has not been recognised internationally.

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