Separatists kidnap, threaten voters in Cameroon

Armed separatists in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, on Wednesday, kidnapped more than 100 people and threatened voters ahead of Feb. 9, legislative and municipal elections, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

The International Human Rights Group said as the West African nation is awaiting election results, State Security Forces did not adequately protect civilians from threats posed by armed separatists and equally committed abuses against them.

According to HRW, Clashes between armed separatists and government forces, and among rival separatist factions, have resulted in civilian deaths, with people killed deliberately or in the crossfire.

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The group said that at least dozens of people were killed in various incidents in recent time, with those willing to participate in the elections particularly targeted by armed separatists, who had called for a boycott of the vote.

The organisation interviewed 55 victims and witnesses of crimes committed since November, upon the announcement of the date of the election and opposition party members, candidates and residents in the North-West and South-West Anglophone regions.

HRW also analysed satellite imagery and video footage to independently corroborate witness reports.

Cameroon has been facing security challenges since its two main English-speaking areas, North-West Region and South-West Region, announced in late 2016 that they wished to secede and form a new country called Ambazonia.

English-speakers have long complained of being treated like second-class citizens and getting less government funding in Cameroon.

Claiming the elections will not be free and fair, armed separatist groups and their supporters have vowed to boycott the vote.

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The government sent 700 gendarmes into the region to reinforce security.

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