Two civilians and four Ambazonia separatist fighters were killed Sunday, October 29, in Lebialem Division, after the Cameroon military ambushed a group of separatist fighters, a local has told MMI.
The gun exchange reportedly took place between 11 pm on Sunday and 5 am on Monday around Malengha-Bechati, in Wabane Subdivision.
Military officers stationed in the neighbouring Besali village reportedly ambushed a group of separatist fighters who were taking some hostages on motorbikes to their camp at Ewae, in the North West.
The attack left four men dead and a woman injured on the spot.
“Early in the morning of Monday, October 30, 2023, four corpses were lying at the junction, and the military called on the population to identify their corpses and collect them from the area,” a resident of Bechati told MMI.
Among those killed were two civilian men from Besali and Ewae villages, who are believed to have been taken hostage by the fighters.
Two separatist fighters were also killed, among them Ernest, a popular fighter from the neighbouring Agong village in Upper Banyang, Manyu.
Another two separatist fighters, who escaped the attack with serious injuries, were later found dead in Bechati and Besali villages on Tuesday, October 31.
MMI could not independently verify what we were told. We also cannot say if the military recorded any casualties in the gun battle.
The resident of Bechati, whose identity is concealed for security reasons, said the shooting “brought fear and shivering”.
The villagers had not witnessed such gunfire for several months.
He said most villages in Wabane Subdivision have been relatively calm for months now.
But the villages continue to suffer sporadic attacks and kidnappings from separatist fighters who are based in Batibo Subdivision in the North West.
The Bechati resident said most of the fighters killed in the recent attack belonged to a group of Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF) based in Batibo.
The group, controlled by one “General Big Number” has continued to carry out attacks on villages in Lebialem.
Reports say they have been forcing men and women in all villages in lower Mundani (Wabane Subdivision) to pay levies to support their cause.
Those who resist paying them are either kidnapped and their families forced to pay ransoms, or they are tagged as blacklegs and killed.
“They have imposed high levies on cocoa and palm oil farmers,” the Bechati native said.
“It’s like a tax. For men, it’s FCFA 10,000 and for women, it’s 5,000. When you don’t pay on time, they add a penalty to the amount and instead of 5 or 10,000 you can pay like 50,000.”
On Sunday night, the fighters had reportedly kidnapped civilians in Besali village and were taking them to their hideout in Batibo when the military confronted them that night.
For over six years now, many villages in Lebialem have been self-governing. Civil and traditional administrations had long collapsed due to the armed conflict.
This is the case with many villages in the North West and South West Regions, where armed conflict has been raging since 2017.
Most traditional rulers, Mayors and other local authorities had long escaped to safer areas, leaving their populace at the mercy of separatist fighters.
Until now, many villages in Lebialem are still under the subtle control of separatist fighters.
In the lower parts of Wabane Subdivision, for example, the only semblance of government administration is a military camp located in Besali village.
However, they cannot be present in all the villages at the same time and are not trained for civilian administration.
The Fons of these villages have been living out of their villages for years now. Separatist fighters are filling this leadership void.
The native of Bechati said separatists continue to launch attacks on the village because “there is no Fon or any administration in the village and the military is right in Besali”.
Last year, soldiers killed one of the area’s most dreaded fighters, Oliver Lekeaka, aka Field Marshall.
His death, coupled with continuous military attacks, has weakened many armed groups in the area. Total peace, however, remains far-fetched.
In Buea, the South West Regional capital, authorities believe calm is returning.
Mimi Mefo Info