13 March 2018

Cameroon: Separatists Threaten to Kill Kidnapped Official

Photo: International Crisis Group
Cameroonian forces

The crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions continues to escalate. In a new video, a regional government official kidnapped by armed separatists says he will be executed if the government does not reveal the whereabouts of 47 detained separatist leaders.

The video has been circulating on social media in Cameroon since Saturday, and has been shared by the accounts of several prominent separatist members. The video begins with a seal and the words “Ambazonian Defense Forces.”

“Ambazonia” is the name separatist groups have given to Cameroon’s English-speaking northwest and southwest regions, both gripped by a strike and violent protests since late 2016.

The video shows Aaron Abinbom, the delegate for social affairs in the northwest.

Aninbom looks unkempt and speaks in a dark room. He says his captors demand to know the whereabouts of 47 separatist leaders arrested in Nigeria and not seen in public since their extradition to Cameroon at the end of January.

"…because they have given me 48 hours that I would be sacrificed if these leaders are not shown to be alive," he said.

When contacted by VOA, Cameroon government spokesman Issa Tchiroma declined to comment on the video.

Animbom was abducted February 26 in the northwestern town of Batibo. He was abducted barely two weeks after Joseph Namata, the most senior government official in the Batibo subdivision, was taken from his residence. Namata has not been seen since.

The government and security forces have called for assistance from the local population in locating the two missing officials.

At the heart of the crisis is the tension between Cameroon's French-speaking majority and the two English-speaking regions, where many feel their language is being pushed out of schools, courts and government.

Violence has intensified in the Anglophone regions since Nigeria detained and extradited the separatist activists, including leader Ayuk Tabe Julius. Tabe declared himself president of the so-called English-speaking republic of “Ambazonia.” The government says hundreds of people, including 30 policemen and soldiers have been killed this year.

On Friday, Paul Atanga Nji, permanent secretary of Cameroon's security commission, announced that armed separatists had tried to kidnap children from a school in the English-speaking northwest.

Nji said one soldier and two attackers were killed in the shoot-out.

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