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Cameroon forces rescue 24 abducted school children held hostage by separatists1 minute read

The children were kidnapped early Tuesday from their school in the southwestern city of Kumba and “taken to the forest where the camp of the separatists is located,” an official said.

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Cameroonian soldiers at battlefield./Wikiwand

Soldiers have rescued 24 abducted Cameroonian school children held hostage by armed separatists in the country’s restive English-speaking region of Meme division, an official has said.

The children were kidnapped early Tuesday from their school in the southwestern city of Kumba and “taken to the forest where the camp of the separatists is located,” Ntou Ndong Chamberlain, senior officer of Meme division, told reporters.

Chamberlain said the two armed separatists were shot dead during the rescue operation and that weapons and ammunitions were found.

The children, aged 5-10, have been reunited with their families, a Xinhua news agency report said.

Abductions have become rampant in the northwest and southwest Anglophone regions of Cameroon as general elections draw near.

Armed separatists have been clashing with government forces since 2017 in an attempt to establish an independent nation in the two regions.

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Central Africa Politics

Cameroon set for Feb. 9 parliamentary polls despite threat of opposition boycott

More than four dozen parties are taking part in the two elections, which should have taken place in 2017 but were twice postponed.

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A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Yaounde on September 30, 2013 for legislative and local polls set to shore up the strong parliamentary majority of the President's ruling party. AFP PHOTO / REINNIER KAZE (Photo by Reinnier KAZE / AFP)

Cameroon will on Sunday hold its first parliamentary and municipal elections in seven years despite an opposition boycott, terrorist attacks in the north and a bloody separatist struggle in the west.

Maurice Kamto, who mounted the strongest challenge to President Paul Biya’s rule in 2018, has kept his party out of the vote because of the violence.

Once again, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC) formed by 86-year-old Biya looks well placed to sweep the polls.

Here is a snapshot:

Dominant party —

More than four dozen parties are taking part in the two elections, which should have taken place in 2017 but were twice postponed. 

The behemoth is the RDPC, which has a majority of 148 in the current 180-seat legislature. In many constituencies, its candidate is not even being challenged.

The leadership of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), historically the main party of English-speaking regions and the main opposition party in parliament with 18 lawmakers, finally decided to contest after threatening a boycott.

“In the last elections, the SDF lost ground. It needs to regain the lost seats,” said Stephane Akoa, a researcher at the Paul Ango Ela Foundation for geopolitics in Yaounde.

A third contestant to watch is the Cameroon Party for National Reconciliation (PCRN) headed by journalist Cabral Libii, 39, which hopes to knock the SDF into third place and become the main parliamentary opposition to Biya’s forces.

Kamto, winner of second place in the 2018 presidential poll, pulled his Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) out of the elections.

— Conflict —

Terrorist attacks in a region called the Far North as well as a separatist uprising in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions have battered Cameroon’s image as a relatively stable zone in troubled central Africa.

On top of the 3,000 people estimated killed in the west according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

During the presidential poll of 2018, turnout in the Northwest and Southwest regions barely reached 10 percent.

The Far North is wracked by terrorist attacks by Boko Haram from neighbouring Nigeria and a splinter faction, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).

— Logistical problems —

Ensuring security in these troubled regions and enabling a vote among a total of almost one million displaced people will be very difficult, non-governmental organisations say.

Jailed for nine months after his supporters demonstrated against the official outcome of the presidential poll, Kamto says a fair election is impossible given the problems.

“To hold elections in Cameroon today… is to send the message that the population (of these regions) are not Cameroonians and thus bring about a de facto partition of the country,” he said.

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Central Africa News

Militia behead 16 people in new DR Congo massacre – civil society

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Suspected militia fighters have decapitated 16 people in a new village massacre near Beni in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, civil society sources said Friday.

Three more civilians were wounded in Beni town by an explosive device on Thursday night, an official source said, in a new tactic in a region beset by militia violence for decades.

The killings on Thursday in the Mbau region north of Beni have been blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia group responsible for a string of massacres since the start of November.

“Sixteen decapitated bodies have been found in searches that started in the evening,” Jamal Moussa, spokesman for the network of civil society organisations in Mbau said.

The massacre targeted the small village of Mantumbi.

“The ADF terrorists attacked in daylight (on Thursday), first in the bush where people were in their fields, and then in the village,” Moussa said.

DR Congo forces launched operations against the ADF in the eastern region at the end of October. But in response, the ADF has carried out massacres, in an apparent bid to discourage civilians from helping the military.

At least 100 people have been killed since November 5 in attacks blamed on the ADF, an Islamist-rooted militia with origins in Uganda.

No military sources would officially confirm Thursday’s report, but the Congolese army and UN troops deployed to the vast country have announced joint operations against ADF forces in the Beni region.

Another civil society group, Lucha, reported a toll of at least nine people killed near Mbau.

The administrative chief of Rwenzori, one of the four districts of the town, Alois Mbwarara,  said two passengers on a motorbike reportedly threw an explosive device which blew up in the market, wounding three people.

“The ADF, on the run from the Congolese army, now uses their stooges in the town for acts of sabotage,” he said. 

The army is analysing debris to determine whether it was a homemade bomb or a hand grenade.”

The last time an explosive device was used in Beni was in 2007, the official added.

The Congolese army has discovered “a factory for large-scale production of homemade bombs” at a seized ADF camp, military spokesman General Leon Richard Kasonga said on Wednesday.

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Central Africa News

Hundreds gather as DR Congo buries 27 massacre victims

Mourners gathered in silence around the Oicha morgue, near the Ugandan border and east of the DRC town of Beni

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Hundreds gather as DR Congo buries massacre victims
People gather in Oicha, on November 29, 2019, as 27 victims of the latest massacre in the country's volatile east were being burried, with hundreds paying homage while lashing out at security forces for failing to stop attacks. - The victims were hacked to death with machetes on November 27, taking to 107 the number of people killed in and around Beni since November 5. The vast majority of the killings have been carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia that has plagued the Democratic Republic of Congo's east since the 1990s. (Photo by Bienvenu-Marie BAKUMANYA / AFP)

The DR Congo town of Oicha on Friday buried 27 victims of the latest massacre in the sprawling country’s east, with hundreds paying homage to the dead.

Mourners gathered in silence around the Oicha morgue, near the Ugandan border and east of the DRC town of Beni, the scene of repeated deadly attacks.

Workers wore face masks as they wrapped the corpses in shrouds. Wooden crosses marked the graves and many wept as the bodies were lowered.

During the mass funerals, gunfire broke out from the nearby bush but it was unclear who was firing.

The victims had been hacked to death with machetes on Wednesday, taking to 107 the number of people killed in and around Beni since November 5.

The vast majority of the killings have been allegedly carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia that has plagued the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east since the 1990s.

The massacres have sparked protests against the local United Nations peacekeeping mission, known by its acronym MONUSCO.

Meanwhile, a general shutdown was observed in Goma, the main city in DRC’s east, in solidarity with the beleaguered residents of Beni and Oicha.

The UN refugee agency said there has been an exodus of locals from Oicha to Beni, about 30 kilometres away.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Friday announced that among other things”… alarming reports from the region suggest people being trapped and under threat from the armed groups, with daily reports of loss of life.”

Abductions and attacks on schools, health centres and indigenous communities are also on the rise.

Information remains difficult to verify, as the movement of humanitarian workers is restricted due to insecurity around the city and in the territory of Beni, as a result of violence.”

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