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Caught between Cameroon’s separatist crisis, residents are fleeing into Nigeria

Residents in villages in the South West and North West Regions are fleeing into neighbouring Nigeria as fightng intensify between government forces and armed separatists who want to form a break away state they term Ambazonia.

According to the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, over two thousand civilians crossed last week into Nigeria while hundreds of thousands are caught in the fighting that has left close to 2000 dead according to figures of the International Crisis Group.

Since Government as well as separatist forces have been accused of rights violation on civilians as several local non governmental organisations call for an end to hostilities.

The whereabouts of Francis are still not known

In Kumba, a localitity in the South West Region of Cameroon where fighting has been intense, government forces rounded off several young men suspected of being separatist fighters and detained them in the capital Yaounde, a local NGO Redhac said.

Amongst those detained during the operation is Njimgou Francis Njuegah, a 38-year old business man who was accused of sympathising with the separatist fighters.

Francis, and others spent at least six months in detention at the Kondengui maximum security prison before they were released without any formal charge.

« The detention condition weret and they could not find any traces against my client. However, we continue to fear for his life because we don’t know what next will happen when he returns to his home, » Barrister Shey Hono, counsel for Francis Njimgou said.

Francis’ house was amongst those burnt in Cameroon’s Anglophone region (c)All rights reserved

Upon his return home, Francis who was the bread winner of his family had lost his mother who could not afford for treatment while his wife and children were living in abject poverty.

However, he had a bigger problem to face. Several youths in his Kossala neighbourhood in Kumba had joined the armed separatist groups and immediately welcomed asked his to join « the struggle to free their territory ».

After hesistating for weeks, he was picked up by separatists fighters of the ADF who forcefully took him into the bushes to join the movement.

Not long, his residence was attacked and burnt while his wife was raped. His wife has since accused men in military attire of committing the acts though we can not independently confirm her claims.

Women and children have fled their homes for the bushes

After one month in the bush, Francis succeeded to escape from the bush and took his family to kake, a small locality 30 kilometres away from Kumba, where they sought refuge.

« We stayed there for some time until a relative from Kumba called us and said soldiers had come looking for my husband with another warrant, » his wife (whose identity we have decided to protect) said.

She then advised her husband to look for escape routes into neighbouring Nigeria as several other young persons had done.

However, before Francis could escape to Nigeria, he was once again captured by the separatist fighters who had been tipped off of his whereabouts.

« My husband was only saved by one of the separatists commander who was his friend who helped him to escape from the camp. He later came to inform me that my husband had crossed into Nigeria. Till date I don’t know if it is true or if he has been killed, »his dejected wife said.

According to UN figures, over 45.000 Cameroonians have crossed into Nigeria for safety while 500.000 persons are internally displaced in the crisis that has led to at least 2000 perssons dead.

Schools, houses villages have been razed as soldiers continue to battle separatist fighters.

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