Cameroon minister ambushed in restive region, ‘assailants killed’

In this file photo taken on November 12, 2014 shows Cameroonian soldiers patroling in Amchide, northern Cameroon. (AFP)
Updated 14 July 2018
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Cameroon minister ambushed in restive region, ‘assailants killed’

  • UN says 160,000 people have been internally displaced and 20,000 have sought refuge in neighboring Nigeria
  • The French colony gained independence in 1960, becoming Cameroon

YAOUNDE: A convoy transporting Cameroonian Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo was ambushed in the country’s restive anglophone region, leaving several attackers dead, state radio said Friday.
Four soldiers and a reporter were also injured in Thursday’s attack, other sources said, while the journalist said the convoy was ambushed again just a short time later.
News of the brazen assault came as the country’s 85-year-old president Paul Biya — who has ordered a crackdown in the troubled region — declared Friday he would bid for a seventh consecutive term in office.
Journalist Gregoire Djarmaila, who writes for the state daily the Cameroon Tribune and was injured by flying glass, said the attack occurred as Beti Assomo was heading for a visit to a military position seven kilometers (about four miles) from the town of Kumba.
The convoy comprised about 30 vehicles, including an armor-plated vehicle that was carrying the minister and six generals, he said.
It encountered a roadblock about halfway along the route, “and our vehicles were riddled by gunfire, coming from houses that been abandoned because of the war,” Djarmaila said.
The military escort returned fire, enabling the convoy to reach the military post.
“But no sooner had we left the post than we were attacked again. This time, they looked more numerous and determined... (they fired) on all the vehicles in the convoy.”
Djarmaila said that “our good luck was that they were using home-made hunting guns” rather than military weapons, adding that he experienced “40 minutes of hell.”

The ambush occurred in the heartland of an armed campaign to gain independence for the Northwest and Southwest Regions, a predominantly English-speaking part of the French-speaking West African state.
Years of resentment at perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority fueled demands in 2016 for a return to the country’s federal structure.
Biya took a hard line, ruling out any concessions.
As the situation polarized, anglophone militants last October 1 made a symbolic declaration of independence.
They named Buea, the main town of Southwest Region which lies close to Kumba, as the capital of their purported state, Ambazonia. It has no international recognition.
A government crackdown then followed, plunging the two regions into almost daily acts of violence and retribution that have claimed scores of lives and forced tens of thousands from their homes.

Meanwhile, on Friday a non-governmental organization, the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, said 20 civilians were killed by the Cameroon army in two areas of the anglophone northwest region.
Fifteen civilians including a teacher and seven members of his family including his wife and three children, were killed on Thursday in Batibo, the group said in a statement posted on social media.
On Wednesday, it added, at Bambili, five students were ordered out of their beds during the night and killed.
Cameroon authorities were unavailable to comment on the allegations.
The violence has coincided with bloody cross-border incursions in northern Cameroon by Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadists.
The twin crises have cast a dark shadow over a presidential election scheduled for October 7 — a fact that Biya, who has been head of state for 35 years, appeared to acknowledge in his announcement on Twitter.
“I will be your candidate in the next presidential election,” he said, adding that he was “aware of the challenges that we must face together for a Cameroon that is even more united, stable and prosperous.”
The main opposition, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), has already designated its candidate, Joshua Osih.
Other declared candidates include Akere Muna, a lawyer and former vice president of Transparency International, and Maurice Kamto, head of the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC).
The presence of a large English-speaking minority in Cameroon dates back to the colonial period.
The former German colony was divided between Britain and France after World War I.
The French colony gained independence in 1960, becoming Cameroon. The following year, the British-ruled Southern Cameroons were amalgamated into it, giving rise to the Northwest and Southwest regions.
According to a government report last month, anglophone separatists have killed 74 soldiers and seven police since late 2017 while more than 100 civilians had died “over the past 12 months.”
The toll has risen sharply since then. Since the start of this week alone, at least three policeman, including a superintendent, have been killed, and fighting erupted for several hours in Buea itself.
UN says 160,000 people have been internally displaced and 20,000 have sought refuge in neighboring Nigeria.


Sri Lanka needs hangmen after resuming capital punishment

Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 min 19 sec ago
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Sri Lanka needs hangmen after resuming capital punishment

  • The president believes that punishment by state execution is the best way to combat the country’s drugs crisis

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government is on the hunt for executioners following its decision to bring back capital punishment.
A job advertisement published in the country’s state-run newspaper is seeking two people of “very good mind and mental strength” to fill the newly created posts.
The move follows President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to reinstate the death penalty within the next two months.
According to the advert, published on behalf of Sri Lanka’s Department of Prisons, the ideal candidates need to be aged between 18 and 45 with a basic education.
And the successful applicants will earn a generous $290 per month, an amount well above average for a public sector job in the country.
Sri Lanka’s prisons spokesman, Thushara Upuldeniya, told Arab News that his department had placed the advertisement on Feb. 11 but had not yet received any applications. The final date for applying for the executioner posts is Feb. 25.
Upuldeniya said that any applicants selected will have to undergo a viva voce test (oral examination).

“In addition to mental strength, the personality and physical strength of the applicant will also be taken into consideration,” he added.
During an address to the Sri Lankan Parliament last week, Sirisena said that those convicted of drug-related offenses will be the first to be sent to the gallows.
The president believes that punishment by state execution is the best way to combat the country’s drugs crisis. Sirisena’s decision is seen by some as mirroring Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s approach to crime, and could lead to 25 people, including two drug dealers, facing execution.
A list of detainees convicted of drug-related crimes was handed to Sri Lanka’s Presidential Secretariat on Jan. 25. There are an additional 436 people, including six women, on death row for crimes including murder.
A predominantly Buddhist country, Sri Lanka voted in favor of a UN resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015.
Sri Lanka’s judiciary imposes capital punishment, but the death penalty has not been implemented since June 23, 1976. The government reinstated the punishment for killings, rape, and drug trafficking in 2004 following the murder of a high court judge.
At present two jails in the country, Welikada and Bogambara, are equipped to carry out capital punishment whenever a presidential order is received.
However, finding the right people for the job of executioner seems an uphill task, at least for now.
After searching for an executioner for three years, Sri Lanka’s prison department appointed a hangman in 2014. He was given a week’s training, but on seeing the gallows for the first time, became distressed and immediately resigned.
Meanwhile, an official told Arab News that a new noose is being imported, as the current one had served its time.
The Sri Lanka Standards Institution said it had already requested the Foreign Ministry to order a noose from Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh or India. The previous one was gifted by Pakistan in 2015.