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Cameroon's Military Moves In On Separatist-Held Villages

Cameroon's military has taken over two villages held hostage by separatists the government says are terrorists. The suspects have been ...

Cameroon's military has taken over two villages held hostage by separatists the government says are terrorists. The suspects have been collecting taxes, rendering justice in their law courts and sentencing people who refused collaborating with them to prison time.

Hundreds of people have returned to the Bafia’s market in southwestern Cameroon nearly two months after they fled. Bafia is one of two villages that local government authorities said was occupied by separatists they describe as suspected terrorists.

Enow Basile, 31, says he and about 100 villagers were arrested by the armed groups and detained at a local government school where a man calling himself general Amstrong, leader of the group, had installed his headquarters.

"When you come, they tie your eye, they beat you up. If you don't have from 100,000 francs ($180 US) and above they promise to take your life so people were paying," he told VOA. " More than 100 and something people paid that money. And they always attacked trucks that were transporting cocoa to Douala. They attack them, each pay 50,000 francs ($90 US) to pay a pass, but if you don't pay, you will not pass. You don't take cocoa to Douala."

Muyenge village, situated some 10 kilometers from Bafia, was another village that the armed separatists occupied for a month. Resident Ayuk Lucas says the invaders were judging and sanctioning anyone who did not respect them.
Cameroon's Military Moves In On Separatist-Held Villages
“They even create a court. Every thing. A whole government where they send to come and collect some body and ask you to pay some money to them," he said.

Undeterred by army

Last week Cameroon military arrested 20 members of the armed group. But their supporters are still distributing recordings that preach their doctrine of total independence of the English speaking regions of Cameroon.

Muyenge resident Ebune Francis says the armed separatists are expressing anger over what he describes as the total negligence the government of Cameroon has manifested on the English speaking regions. He says he, however, does not support secessionists but stands for the early demands of a federal state that were made by teachers and lawyers when they began a strike more than a year ago that later degenerated.

“We had been supporting the government, supporting the government. Nothing is coming so we all are annoyed," he said. "We are abandoned by the government. We don't have water, sometimes we don't have electricity. You want us to be happy with the government? No.”

There are fears the armed separatists may be nearby. They have attacked and killed members of the military and police within the past two weeks. The government said it had dismantled some of their training camps, but officials said some of the fighters were crossing over to be trained in Nigeria.

Peter Mboua, traditional ruler of Bafia village says he has appealed to the government of Cameroon to assure people’s safety.

“I will appeal to the government to create a brigade here or a military base that will take care of these security issues here," Maboua told VOA.

Government reassurance

The government has assured the population of the English speaking regions that it will assure their safety.

Schools have been closed in most of the English-speaking northwest and southwest since November last year when lawyers and teachers called for a strike to stop what they contend is the overuse of the French language. Violence erupted when separatists joined in and started asking for complete independence of an English-speaking state.

On the first of October, they declared what they called the independence of the Republic of Ambazonia and asked the military to surrender and join them or leave their territory. They have so far killed at least 11 soldiers and policemen.

In response, president Biya labeled them as terrorists and declared war on them.