Suspected separatists in Cameroon 'kidnap 30' people

The people were kidnapped after suspected separatists attacked buses in the country's troubled Southwest Region.

    At least 30 people have been abducted by suspected separatists in Cameroon's troubled Southwest English-speaking region, local sources said.

    The people were kidnapped after suspected separatists attacked buses plying the highway, one of the sources said.

    "More than 30 people were kidnapped yesterday on the road between Buea and Kumba", a source close to the authorities said on Wednesday, confirming an account by a local NGO.

    Since October 2017, the Southwest and Northwest Regions have been in the grip of an armed revolt by anglophones demanding independence from the majority French-speaking African country.

    Ransom kidnappings and extortion, along with attacks on troops and police, have proliferated in the two regions. Public buildings and schools have also come under attack.

    The government has responded with a crackdown, deploying thousands of soldiers.

    More than 200 members of the security forces and at least 500 civilians have been killed since 2017, according to the International Crisis Group think-tank.

    According to United Nations estimates, more than 437,000 people have fled their homes since the crisis erupted nearly two years ago. 

    Long-lasting conflict

    The two regions were previously ruled by Britain as the Southern Cameroons.

    They became incorporated into Cameroon in October 1961, 22 months after France granted the country independence.

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    Over the years, anglophones have chafed at perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority, especially in law, education and economic opportunities.

    Demands for greater autonomy or a return to Cameroon's federal structure were rejected by the central government in the capital Yaounde.

    The conflict has emerged as President Paul Biya's greatest security problem in his nearly four decades of rule.

    The situation became more tense last year, as the country held presidential elections that marked Biya's victory for a seventh term, despite opposition claims of victory. 

    Politicians have repeatedly called on the president to initiate dialogue to stem the violence but the 85-year-old has refused, repeatedly stating that Cameroon is one and indivisible.

    The UN has condemned both the Cameroon military and separatists for using unnecessary and excessive force.

    Cameroon's President Paul Biya has been in power for nearly four decades (File:Sunday Alamba/AP]
    Is Cameroon persecuting its English speakers?

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    Is Cameroon persecuting its English speakers?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies