The United States on Tuesday called on Cameroon to respect the rights of English-speaking separatists who have been extradited from neighbouring Nigeria.
“The US condemns the ongoing violence in Cameroon’s anglophone regions,” Heather Nauert, the US State Department’s spokeswoman, tweeted.
“We call on the government of Cameroon to respect the human rights, including due process, of the 47 Cameroonians forcibly returned from Nigeria’s custody to the Cameroonian authorities on January 26.”
Nigeria extradited Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, the leader of the separatist movement in two troubled English-speaking regions of Cameroon, and 46 of his supporters.
Ayuk Tabe is leader of the self-proclaimed republic of “Ambazonia,” named after Ambas Bay on the Atlantic Ocean, which was declared for the two regions last October 1 but has no international recognition.
Cameroon’s Southwest and Northwest Regions are home to an anglophone minority that accounts for about a fifth of the country’s population.
Longstanding resentment at perceived discrimination by the francophone majority fed demands for greater autonomy, and then secession, in the face of the government’s refusal for change.
Government forces have launched a crackdown and separatists have attacked troops and police, in spiralling violence that has prompted an estimated 30,000 Cameroonians to flee to neighbouring Nigeria.
The separatists were arrested in Nigeria in January and returned last week, despite claims that many of them had lodged asylum applications in Nigeria. The UNHCR has accused Nigeria of breaching international agreements.
Cameroon has called them “terrorists” and said they will “answer for their crimes”.
Nigerian National Security Adviser Mohammed Monguno has said the extradition was ordered to preserve Cameroon’s unity and sovereignty.
In a statement on Monday, he assured Cameroon that his country was determined to deal with secessionist forces attempting to use its territory to destabilise its west African neighbour.
He also urged the Cameroonian authorities to engage in constructive dialogue to de-escalate tensions in the anglophone regions and facilitate the return of displaced Cameroonians.