Separatists in Cameroon’s Anglophone region have threatened to arrest journalists over protests against the killing of reporter Anye Nde Nsoh — the third journalist killed in the Central African nation this year.
Capo Daniel, the leader of a group of English-speaking separatists in Cameroon, issued a stark warning on his Facebook page: any journalist who is arrested must pay 2 million Central African CFA francs ($3,347, or €3,064) to secure their release.
Daniel’s announcement comes in response to journalists’ protests against the killing of a colleague, Anye Nde Nsoh, a regional bureau chief for The Advocate newspaper.
Daniel’s group the “Ambazonians,” who have proclaimed independence in the local area, had shot dead Nsoh in a bar in the regional capital Bamenda just days earlier.
‘Killed by mistake’
The separatists have earmarked Cameroon’s English-speaking regions for a new African nation, they named Ambazonia.
“It was a case of mistaken identity,” Capo Daniel said in a video posted on his Facebook page, admitting that the target was a commanding officer of the army “who frequented the bar.”
“These journalists must be reminded that the Amba boys [Amabazonia fighters] are fighting for them. “We have to break eggs to make an Omelette. The death of one journalist cannot stop the revolution,” he added.
“Therefore, I have instructed the Amba Dark Forces to arrest all these so-called journalists and collect two million CFA Francs each, and the money will be used to fund the struggle,” Daniel wrote.
Reporters at risk
An army officer who asked not to be named told the news agency AFP that Daniel calls himself the “commander” of the group’s Dark Forces and is one of the senior separatist leaders living in exile.
Cameroonian authorities describe separatists fighting for independence as “terrorists.”
Ignatius Njie, president of the Cameroon Journalists’ Trade Union in Bamenda, condemned the killings and the “reign of terror” separatists have imposed on local English-speaking communities.
“When a separatist leader says the killing of Anye was a mistaken identity, it is very despicable. You cannot go around killing people, and you turn around and say it was a mistaken identity,” Njie told DW.
Raymond, a reporter in Bamenda — who declined to give his second name for security reasons — told DW he’s worried for his safety now that the separatists plan to target journalists.
“We have now become targets — and after Nsoh’s death we don’t know who is next. The fighters have the arms, and our weapons are the pens and microphones. The threats mean we will operate from underground and not freely,” Raymond told DW.
“Don’t be surprised to hear that a journalist has been kidnapped for ransom,” he added. “We live in fear because no one knows what will happen to them in the coming days.”
Calls for an investigation
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on local authorities to conduct a probe into Nsoh’s killing.
“Cameroonian authorities must ensure that the killing of journalist Anye Nde Nsoh is thoroughly investigated, those responsible are brought to justice, and that his death is not used for propaganda purposes,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator.
“Journalists in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions find themselves under attack by both the government and separatist fighters,” she said. “Both sides must respect the rights of journalists to report freely and ensure their safety.”
Nsoh covered sports, culture, and local news as the Northwest bureau chief for The Advocate and as a correspondent for other media outlets — including City FM, Dream FM, and kick442.com.
The Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ) also condemned Nsoh’s death.
“This latest attack on a journalist is one too many. The long-drawn conflict in the northwest and southwest regions has put journalists in grave danger,” said CAMASEJ president Jude Viban.
Nsoh is the third journalist killed in Cameroon since the start of this year.
Cameroonian journalist Martinez Zogo was tortured and murdered in January, and Jean-Jacques Ola Bebe was shot and killed a month later.
Cameroon’s primarily English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions have been gripped by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017 after decades of grievances over perceived discrimination by the French-speaking majority.
President Paul Biya — who has ruled the central African nation with an iron fist for 40 years — has resisted calls for broader autonomy and responded with a crackdown.
According to the International Crisis Group think tank, the conflict in the former French colony has claimed over 6,000 lives and forced more than 1 million people to flee their homes.
Some 80% of Cameroon’s population of 24 million are French-speaking. The large English-speaking minority is a legacy of the colonial era.