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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

Cleared ex-Congolese VP not entitled to compensation – ICC

Bemba’s lawyers had sought a total of nearly 69 million euros including compensation for the time he spent in jail and damages for legal costs.

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Leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo's political party Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) Jean-Pierre Bemba attends a joint press conference with DRCongo's opposition leaders on September 12, 2018 in Brussels. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

Judges of the International Criminal Court have rejected a multimillion euro compensation claim by a former Congolese vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba who was cleared of war crimes charges after spending a decade in the court’s custody.

Bemba filed a claim for compensation and damages after he was acquitted on appeal two years ago of war crimes and crimes against humanity alleged to have been committed as a military commander of troops fighting in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

He originally was convicted in 2016 and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

Bemba’s lawyers sought a total of nearly 69 million euros including compensation for the time he spent in jail and damages for legal costs and losses in the value of assets frozen by the court including a Boeing 727 passenger jet.

The court said in a statement on Monday ruled that Bemba “failed to establish that he had suffered a grave and manifest miscarriage of justice” and therefore rejected his request for compensation for his time behind bars.

The ruling came even though judges acknowledged that “10 years is a significant amount of time to spend in custody, likely to result in personal suffering, which would trigger compensation” in many national legal systems.

The 34-page written ruling called for the court’s governing body, the Assembly of States Parties, to urgently review whether it should impose limits on the length of trials or the amount of time suspects can be jailed before and during their cases.

Judges also dismissed Bemba’s request for damages to cover losses linked to his frozen assets, saying they didn’t have the power to rule on the claim.

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Central Africa Politics

Cameroonian separatists kill mayor in Mamfe

Ashu Prisley Ojong is one of the first senior elected official to be killed in the conflict between Cameroon’s army and English-speaking militias.

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Late Ashu Prisley Ojong, Mayor of Mamfe killed by separatists in Cameroon. /Google

Cameroonian separatists have killed the mayor of a town in the restive Anglophone South West Region, state broadcaster CRTV and a senior military official confirmed on Sunday.

Ashu Prisley Ojong, mayor of Mamfe, around 500 km (300 miles) from the capital in the southwest of the country, was killed when his convoy came under gunfire from Anglophone separatist fighters, broadcaster CRTV said.

A senior military officer in the region, who requested anonymity, told Reuters that two soldiers were wounded in the attack.

Ashu Prisley Ojong is one of the first senior elected official to be killed in the conflict between Cameroon’s army and English-speaking militias.

The insurgency began after the government cracked down violently on peaceful protests by lawyers and teachers in 2016 who complained of marginalization by the French-speaking majority

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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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