In the South-West area of Cameroon, where separatists insurgencies have fueled protracted inter-ethnic wars for territory, at least 26 locals were slain in an attack on Saturday.
After peaceful protests by the country’s English-speaking minority were severely suppressed in 2017, insurgents started engaging the Cameroonian military in combat in the country’s South-West and North-West regions.
Following the attack on Ballin village, which is close to the Nigerian border, on Saturday, Enow Daniel Kewong, the district medical officer for Akwaya, informed newsmen that the bodies of 26 locals had been recovered that more were still missing.
He noted that the Integrated Health Centre for the village was also set ablaze. Aka Martin Tyoga, the district’s member of parliament, claimed to have learned that 32 victims, including six Nigerians, had been buried in a mass grave.
According to two local reports, the attack was related to a long-running land dispute between the Olitis from the nearby village of Mavass and the Ugare ethnic community of Ballin that was exacerbated by separatist gunmen joining forces with the Olitis.
Sources say that the assailants broke into a house where a wake was being held and opened fire randomly on innocent and defenseless locals.
According to civil society organisations, this blending of the lines between various forms of violence has become more frequent in the English-speaking districts of Cameroon where law and order have largely crumbled.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) had earlier claimed that separatists in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions had escalated the number of violent actions this year, including murders, kidnappings, and attacks on educational institutions.
“Armed separatist groups are kidnapping, terrorising, and killing civilians across the English-speaking regions with no apparent fear of being held to account by either their own leaders or Cameroonian law enforcement,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior central Africa researcher at HRW.
The campaign group said that since January, armed separatists have abducted up to 82 individuals, including 33 students and five teachers, torched at least two schools, injured six people, raped a girl, and attacked a university.
Meanwhile, Cameroon’s Rapid Intervention Battalion, BIR combed Banten, Mborshia, and Yere in the Bui division of the North West region of Cameroon have exterminated five separatist fighters in a gun duel.
The armed separatists fighters were ambushed in a ramshackle building in Yelum forest. After gun battles, five separatists were shot dead and others escaped, a military source said. Eight people were arrested by BIR elements but their families have not heard from them. Among them are seven men and one woman.