Cameroon Condemns Separatists for Abducting Village Chiefs

YAOUNDE VOA | There has been widespread condemnation of separatists in Cameroon for a string of attacks and abductions of traditional village chiefs. Anglophone rebels released two chiefs on Monday but killed another for defying their demand not to participate in Cameroon’s December 6 regional elections.

Scores of Dibanda villagers, near southwestern Cameroon’s Buea town, are mourning their chief, whose body was found Sunday after he was abducted by rebels. 

Cameroon authorities say Chief Emmanuel Ngalle Ikome was abducted on December 13 with two other village chiefs – they were freed on Monday unharmed.  

His daughter, 37-year-old Libonge Epossi, says the anglophone separatists also abducted four family members when they attacked the palace.  

She says a few dozen people who were in the palace escaped to neighboring houses and bushes when the rebels were shooting indiscriminately in the air.  Epossi says Chief Ikome was abducted along with two other village chiefs who had come for the inauguration of the newly constructed Dibanda palace building. 

Cameroon’s government says rebels abducted four other village chiefs in the northwest region last week.  Two were immediately released but the whereabouts of the other two is unknown.  

Buea lawmaker Donald Malomba Esembe, who visited the bereaved family on Monday, says the rebels killed her father because he took part in Cameroon’s first regional elections on December 6.

He called for villagers to arm themselves against the rebels.  

“It is very preoccupying that the chiefs are specifically being targeted,” Esembe said. “I am calling on the people of Buea, people of goodwill, each of us has to become a vigilante{militia group member} in our villages and communities.”

Cameroon’s rights groups and political parties condemned the attacks on village chiefs as a desecration of African traditions.

The separatists accuse the chiefs of collaborating against them with the central government in Yaoundé.   

Buea administrative official Abba Abdouraman also visited the palace of the slain chief.  

He says the military will collaborate with militias to stop separatists from attacking village chiefs.

“We have come to condole with the bereaved family, but to a larger extent to condole with the entire community,” Abdouraman said. “We have also come here to assure the bereaved family of the unflinching resolve of the state of Cameroon to stand by them, to fight those who are against peace.”

Cameroon authorities in 2018 said a majority of village chiefs in the troubled western regions were fleeing the area to escape rebel attacks.  

Cameroon’s government in September pleaded with the chiefs to return to their palaces to take part in the December regional elections.  

Cameroon organized the elections in part to help resolve the four-year separatist conflict, which the United Nations says has claimed more than 3,000 lives and displaced over 430,000.  

But separatist leaders in social media threatened to kill anyone who supported the polls.  

The separatists are fighting for an independent state for English-speaking Cameroonians, who they say have been marginalized by the country’s French-speaking majority.

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