French-speaking cities of Cameroon on the border with the English-speaking western regions are creating militias to stop separatist incursions. Militias claim separatists infiltrate French-speaking cities to steal food and weapons for their movement, or act independently as armed criminals.
Cameroon’s military said Monday it has held several summits in the capital Yaounde to study the spread of the separatist crisis from the English-speaking western regions to the French-speaking.
Cameroon Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo said the military would never allow militants to transfer the danger they pose in the English-speaking southwest and northwest regions to the French-speaking border areas. He said he was strengthening the military presence and increasing financial and material resources to prevent separatists from infiltrating French-speaking cities and villages.
Speaking on state radio, Assomo did not name the number of troops deployed to stop the separatists.
The military says the French-speaking regions that the separatists have infiltrated include Mbuda, Galim, Babaja, Babisenge, Fumban, Fumbot and Bafoussam. Two of these locations, Fumbot and Bafoussam, are large commercial areas.
The military says separatist fighters have carried out at least 60 attacks in French-speaking communities, killing dozens of people.
On social media, separatist groups deny that the militants are looting. But they admit to attacks on several military positions, saying that they are doing it to seize weapons.
Rigobert Nchinda, a livestock breeder who moved from Galim to Mbuda, said last week that suspected separatists had stolen five cows and money from him.
Nchinda said the civilians live in complete fear. He says many people are leaving the border villages due to the recent frequent attacks and looting by suspected separatists. Business stands still. In truth, those of us who remain in border areas with English-speaking regions are not comfortable with the growing insecurity caused by infiltrating separatists, Nchinda adds.
Defense Minister Assomo said civilians should help the military by reporting suspects and strangers in their communities.
François Franklin Etapa is the highest-ranking government official in Bambutos, the area where Galim is located.
Etapa reported that militia groups were formed in all villages and towns along the border with the English-speaking northwest to stop the incursions.
Etapa said that Bambutos is constantly being attacked by separatists due to its geographic location close to the English-speaking regions. He said the separatist attacks had undermined the mood of the civilians. He said he decided to create vigilantes in all villages to help fight separatists who are moving from English-speaking areas to commit atrocities in the French-speaking border areas.
Etapa said that people should not think that by promoting vigilantes, the country is transferring its duty to protect citizens to the militias. He said the militias should work with traditional rulers, community leaders, the administration and the military to report strangers and armed men in cities and villages.
Civilians and NGOs are already donating food and money to help militias. Many militias take to the streets with local guns, machetes, bows and arrows to counter intruders.
The military also says that the vigilantes should send a signal to the troops when armed people are found in towns and villages.
The separatists of Cameroon have been fighting since 2017 to create an independent English-speaking state in the western regions of the country, where the majority of the population speaks French.
According to the UN, the conflict claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced 550,000 people to flee to the French-speaking regions of Cameroon or to neighboring Nigeria.