At least 400 people have been killed by both the security forces and the armed separatists in an escalating violence in Cameroon’s English speaking Northwest and Southwest regions, Amnesty International said.
The London-based human rights organisation, in a report on Tuesday, said it had recorded more than 260 incidents, including kidnappings, killings of security forces and armed separatists, as well as destruction of private properties by both sides since the beginning of this year.
It said it had documented the deaths of more than 160 members of the security forces at the hands of armed separatists since late 2016, noting, however, that the toll could be much higher as some attacks went underreported.
The group further said it had authenticated two videos it received last week; one showing graphic images of a beheaded security officer, adding that forensic experts verified the clips.
An armed group
Another video captured a voice of a man saying he had taken the gendarme’s rifle. The individual identifies himself as a member of the “Ambazonia Liberation Forces;” an armed group that has been fighting for the secession of the English speakers from the predominantly French speaking country.
Amnesty pointed out that it was not yet in a position to independently confirm the exact location where the videos, which made headlines on the local media, were shot, but that analysis pointed to the area of Belo, in the Northwest.
Neither the government nor the separatists had reacted to the human rights’ watchdog’s latest claims at the time of filing this report, but the Yaoundé regime has rebuffed previous claims by the organisation.
The escalating violence that has gripped the English-speaking regions started as an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers in 2016, but snowballed into an internal armed conflict since last year when separatists joined and started demanding secession.
Amnesty’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa Samira Daoud warned that there could be an upsurge in violence with the upcoming presidential election.
“We may well see an escalation in the number of security incidents and increased activity by armed separatists threatening to disrupt the electoral process at all costs in the Anglophone regions,” she said.
Ms Daoud called on the government to “act immediately against this in an attempt to restore peace in the Anglophone regions”.
Several people have been fleeing the regions ahead of the poll due for October 7.