Cameroon Says Separatists Abducted Rubber Plantation Workers

YAOUNDE — Authorities in Cameroon are blaming anglophone separatists for the abduction of eight rubber plantation workers Friday in the country's volatile Southwest region. The country’s Agricultural Workers Trade Union is pleading for the workers’ safe release.

A man speaks in pidgin English as he presents eight men and women as enemies of separatist groups fighting to carve out an independent, English-speaking state in western Cameroon.

In the audio, extracted from a video widely circulated on social media, the man says fighters abducted the civilians for collaborating with Cameroonian government troops.

The video also appears to show the men and women holding rifles. The speaker in the video says separatists expect the civilians to use the rifles to fight the government.

The civilians are also forced to sing a song the speaker in the video calls the national anthem of Ambazonia. Ambazonia is the name of the state separatists say they are fighting to create.

Cameroon's military says people seen in the video are rubber plantation workers abducted Friday from the town of Tiko.

Bernard Okalia Bilai, governor of the Southwest region where Tiko is located, says the eight abductees are employees of the Cameroon Development Corporation.

Gabriel Nbene Vefonge, president of Cameroon Agriculture and Allied Workers Trade Union, called for the workers’ release.

"We are appealing to who so ever group of persons that is keeping these workers, to kindly release them. Workers have nothing to do with the armed conflict. They should leave workers alone," he said.

Speaking over a messaging app from Tiko, Vefonge said a breastfeeding mother is among the abducted workers.

Adamu Chinda, who works at the Tiko rubber plantation, says workers took the woman’s three-month-old daughter to the Tiko hospital Monday.

"I am going there now to see how we can raise money and buy the essential things that she [the baby] needs. Let them even release that breastfeeding mother so that she can take care of the child rather than the child dying because of lack of care," he said.

This is not the first time Cameroon Development Corporation workers have been attacked. In 2020 officials of the agro-industrial complex said that more than 6,000 of its 20,000 workers had fled attacks, killings and kidnappings.

Cameroon’s separatist conflict began in 2016, after teachers and lawyers in the North- and Southwest regions, where English is the predominant language, protested alleged discrimination from the country’s French-speaking majority.

The conflict has killed an estimated 4,000 people and displaced more than three quarters of a million.

Source: Voice of America