YAOUNDE (Reuters) – At least 26 villagers were killed in an attack on Saturday in the Akwaya district of Cameroon’s South-West region, where separatist insurgencies have added fuel to long-running inter-ethnic conflicts over land, local sources said on Monday.
Anglophone insurgents began fighting the Cameroonian military in the South-West and North-West regions in 2017 after civilian protests calling for greater representation for the country’s English-speaking minority were violently repressed.
The Akwaya district medical officer, Enow Daniel Kewong, told Reuters 26 bodies had been found so far and people were still missing after Saturday’s attack on Ballin village, near the border with Nigeria.
He added that the village’s Integrated Health Centre had been burnt down.
The member of parliament for the district, Aka Martin Tyoga, said he had been told 32 people had been buried in a mass grave, including six Nigerians.
The local military authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.
Two local sources said the attack was linked to a festering dispute over land between Ballin’s Ugare ethnic group and the Olitis from the nearby village of Mavass, aggravated by separatist fighters joining forces with the Olitis.
The attackers stormed a home where a wake was taking place and shot indiscriminately at the mourners, one source said.
Such blurring of the lines between different types of conflict has become increasingly common across the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, where law and order has largely broken down, according to civil society groups.
Earlier, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said separatists in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions had increased the number of violent actions this year, including killings, kidnappings and attacks on schools.
“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 had killed at least seven people, injured six, raped a girl, burned at least two schools, attacked a university and kidnapped up to 82 people, including 33 students and five teachers.