(Reuters) – Separatists fighting to carve an independent state out of Cameroon’s English-speaking regions have increased the number of violent actions this year, including killings, kidnappings and attacks on schools, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
Anglophone insurgents began fighting the Cameroonian military in 2017 after civilian protests calling for greater representation for the country’s English-speaking minority were violently repressed.
“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 Human Rights Watch.
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.
The findings were based on 38 telephone interviews with victims, relatives of victims and witnesses, as well as a review of medical records, videos and photographs.
The group reported that on Feb. 26, separatist fighters killed Jenette Sweyah Shey, a 46-year-old nurse working for the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS), a medical organisation, as she returned from a humanitarian mission.
Shey was shot in the head as she sat in a CBCHS vehicle that was stopped at a separatist checkpoint in the North-West region, witnesses and colleagues said. Another nurse and a doctor were injured.
Human Rights Watch said it had shared its findings with representatives of the three main separatist groups and none had responded apart from Capo Daniel, defence chief of the Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF).
Daniel was quoted as saying that ADF forces were present at the checkpoint where Shey was killed, that “it was a case of mistaken identity” and that “we have apologised with CBCHS” for the incident.