Rights groups call for UN probe in anglophone Cameroon

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Fifteen rights groups on Thursday called on the United Nations to investigate possible “serious” human rights violations in the troubled English-speaking region of western Cameroon.

The signatories, including Civicus and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, accused the Cameroon government of “carrying out a systematic and ruthless military campaign” against people in the country’s English-speaking regions.

An “impartial, rigorous investigation is urgently needed,” they said in a letter to the UN and released at a news conference in Johannesburg.

“We strongly believe that a UN-mandated independent international fact-finding mission would have the immediate effect of quelling violence and saving lives.”

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 country.

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, according to the International Crisis Group think-tank.

According to UN estimates, more than 437 000 people have fled their homes.

Patrick Ayuk of the Sam Soya Centre for Democracy and Human Rights said Thursday more than 200 villages have been burnt down by the military, adding that over 2,500 activists have been abducted.

Anglophone communities 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 have been rejected by the government in Yaounde.