Today, however, infighting between pro-independence groups has resulted in what the DHPI director has described as “dissident interim governments”, each claiming to be the legitimate representative of the Ambazonian people.
The different factions often engage in armed attacks against each other, Mr. Viljoen said, and explained: “The atrocities committed against civilians by the Cameroonian army hardly happen anymore. Kidnappings and attacks on villages are now mainly carried out by separatists.
The tide is turning in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon as people who have suffered immeasurable suffering at the hands of militias now express a preference for the government led by President Paul Biya, according to DHPI Director compared to separatist fighters.
“Grassroots sentiment is now turning against the separatists, with many locals saying that if it is the army and police of an independent Ambazonia, then they are probably better off under the Biya government,” Mr. Viljoen told ACI Africa on September 20. .
He expressed concern that attacks on churches and kidnappings of church staff, including priests and nuns, have increased, and said: “We really fear for the safety of our priest, our sisters, our seminarians and other church personnel”.
Asked why the Catholic Church was targeted, the DHPI director said: “I have no idea. We cannot say that it is the Christians who are targeted because the Anglophone crisis has no religious significance.
He continued, “I would say the Church is a sore spot. There has also always been the perception that the Catholic Church has a lot of money. Anyone who works in the Church would say that’s a misperception.
Mr Viljoen referred to the September 16 arson on the Catholic parish of St. Mary’s Nchang in the diocese of Mamfe, during which five priests and a Catholic nun were among those kidnapped, and said that these people “have not been heard from since then”.
Director of Catholic Bishops Peace Entity of Botswana, Eswatini and South Africa has stressed the need for separatist fighters to stop attacking locals in order to regain support from local communities in the English-speaking region .
“The independence movement now faces two choices. Either unite, refrain from attacks and kidnappings against local people and churches and win back the hearts and minds of local communities. Or end up like Somalia, eastern DRC or South Sudan, trapped in an endless cycle of turf wars and killings,” DHPI said in a report shared with ACI Africa on Monday, September 19.