In Cameroon, Fru Ndi captured and released in grinding Anglophone crisis

By Benjamin Falanga
Posted on Monday, 1 July 2019 21:36

John Fru Ndi of the opposition Social Democratic Front has twice been seized by secessionist rebels in Cameroon. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

For the second time in less than a year, John Fru Ndi, leader of Cameroon's main opposition party, was kidnapped by separatists on Saturday night.

The 77-year-old leader of the Social Democratic Front opposes the demands of the separatists for the creation of an independent state in the English-speaking regions of the north-west and south-west of the country. The current crisis started when Anglophone teachers and legal practitioners launched protests about their marginalisation by the central government. After the government took a hard line about the demonstrations, the conflict worsened.

Released 24 hours after his abduction, Fru Ndi claims that his captors accused him of ordering the army to destroy separatist camps after the fire in his residence in English-speaking areas in 2018. Contacted on Sunday by RFI, Fru Ndi confided in the reasons for this kidnapping : “They are doing all this because they accuse me of not supporting them and they want me to remove my members from the Cameroonian parliament. I wasn’t really in the mood to negotiate, but I asked them to let me go so I could talk to my deputies, senators and mayors to see what approach to take.”

Injured oppositionist

Fru Ndi suffered from a swollen head and an elbow injury resulting from his detention. Shortly after his first abduction last April, Fru Ndi offered to act as a mediator in Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis, which has caused the deaths of nearly 2,000 people since 2017. The Cameroonian government has initiated negotiations with the backing of the Swiss government, mandated by a majority of stakeholders, to mediate with secessionist groups.

Demonstrations have been taking place on the margins of the meeting with various Cameroonian opposition groups organised in Geneva to prepare for future peace negotiations between the Cameroonian government and the political opposition. On 25 June, some 40 Cameroonian oppositionists forced the entrance of a large hotel in Geneva where President Paul Biya is staying to demand that Cameroon launch a democratic transition.

Confusion and conflict

Protests continued on Saturday when 250 people demonstrated in a square near the European headquarters of the United Nations against the man leading the country since 1982. Alerted by the Cameroonian embassy in Bern about the planned demonstration, police officers were present in large numbers, repelling protesters with tear gas and a water cannon.

These clashes illustrate the complexity of the crisis in Cameroon where, after twenty months of clashes, Yaoundé and the separatists are standing firm in their positions. Between the secession sought by the separatists and the opaque decentralisation proposed by the government, new solutions could be explored to meet security challenges during the discussions in Geneva.

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