Gunmen who kidnapped the younger brother and two employees of Cameroon’s main opposition party leader are demanding a ransom of FCFA 6million ($10,290).
They are also demanding five guns in exchange for the three men, Ni John Fru Ndi, the chairman of the leading Social Democratic Front (SDF) party has disclosed.
Mr Fru Ndi told the media on Monday the abductors are members of an armed separatist group pushing for the independence of Cameroon’s English speaking regions and the creation of a new state called Ambazonia.
“They have said if I don’t give them FCFA 6 million ($10,290) with five guns, I shall never see my brother again. I have told them that if I don’t see my brother again, they themselves shall not see the light of day,” the Cameroon opposition leader explained.
He said they accuse him of sending the army after them.
“My cows were stolen a couple of weeks ago and as my junior brother and two other people were looking for these cows, some misguided Ambazonia fighters abducted them. The fighters are accusing me that I sent the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) of the army after them,” Fru Ndi told Canal 2 English television. He denied sending the army after the separatist fighters.
Kidnappings for ransom have become common amid the growing unrest between separatist groups and government troops in the English speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon.
Last month, the separatists abducted a former government minister, Ngafesson Emmanuel Bantar. Local media reported that the family of the former secretary of state in the Ministry of Justice in charge of prison administration paid a ransom of FCFA 10 million ($17,150) to secure his release two weeks after his abduction.
Violence erupted in the Cameroon’s two English speaking regions when an industrial strike by aggrieved lawyers and teachers in 2016 over perceived marginalization turned into a clamour by armed separatists for outright independence of the region.
Ambazonia, as the separatists identify the region, was administered as part of Nigeria as a UN trust territory under British control prior to reunification.
In November last year, the International Crisis Group (ICG) reported that the fighting had already killed between 450 to 500 civilians, 185 members of the security forces and hundreds of armed separatists.
ICG estimated that around 10 armed separatist groups had gained control of “large rural areas and a number of main roads” in the two English speaking regions.