Armed attackers suspected to be Fulani herdsmen (Mbororos) stormed the home of Chunte Denis and his wife, Bertha, in Nwa Subdivision of the North West Region, on Sunday night and severely injured them before vanishing into the darkness. The attack occurred at Gom village in Nwa on Sunday, September 18.
Denis, 42, died on Monday morning before he could be rushed to the hospital, while his wife Bertha, 36, is still in a critical state at the Bafoussam General Hospital in the West Region.
The attackers chopped off Denis’ left hand and inflicted huge wounds on his face, which made it hard for him to survive the long journey to Bafoussam.
“Horrible images of the attack might not be good to see, especially to hypertension patients, as they show how the man’s head has nearly been divided into two halves with his hand chopped into pieces and his manhood so horribly mutilated,” Jeremi Romi, a native of Nwa, told MMI.
The incident triggered wailing across Gom village. Residents were shocked and frightened at the same time.
On Monday morning, the fuming villagers marched to the Divisional Officer of Nwa, who is the closest administrative authority, to pour out their grief and demand justice.
However, they were told their earnest demand for quick action against the perpetrators was a long-term action. “Mr. DO did not say anything concrete aside from the usual slogan, ‘Investigations will be opened to bring the perpetrators to book’. That was all they could receive as a reaction,” Romi said.
Speculations in the village are that the attack was carried out by Fulani herders, who have been fighting the villagers over grazing land for years now.
“The reason behind the attack is that since the outbreak of the Crisis, the Fulani Militia have been targeting the Yambas from Nwa, especially those who try to stop them from grazing in farmland,” Romi said.
Jeremi Romi added that the attack at Gom village was about the eighth of such attacks carried out by alleged Fulani herders (the Mbororos) in Nwa Subdivision in recent years.
Most of the time, they ambush villagers with machetes and other weapons, kill and injure people, and burn their homes.
In 2021, MMI reported how suspected Fulani herders attacked three villages in Nwa Subdivision and burned down houses and markets.
Also, a 2021 report by the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy for Africa (CHRDA) detailed that farmer-grazier conflict was a critical problem in the North West Region of Cameroon and that the Fulanis had carried out several attacks on villagers in Boyo, Menchum, and Donga Mantung Divisions.
The Mbororos raided 18 villages in Nwa Subdivision in the first quarter of 2021; they killed 17 people and looted and burnt three Churches and about 100 houses, the report said.
Mbororo attacks also displaced an estimated 4,200 people in Nwa and Donga Mantung between February 22 and 27, 2021.
“The quest for grazing land in an environment with an increasing population of farmers put the Mbororos in daily conflict with their neighbouring farmers, however. Henceforth, the Mbororos were regarded as “undesirable aliens,” and the local farming population clamoured for their expulsion,” CHRDA wrote.
Farmer-grazier conflicts in the North West Region have multiplied since the outbreak of the ongoing conflict in the English-speaking Regions of the country.
Amid the increasing farmer-grazier clashes, administrative authorities in the North West have been quite detached from the problem, and villagers say the government is taking no action to make their lives better.
“But the administration and elites of the area have done little or nothing to halt the situation. For now, no official statement on the incident has been made by the authorities of Nwa,” said Jeremi Romi.
He said the villagers of Gom were disappointed with the Divisional Officer of Nwa when all he could tell them about the recent attack was that investigations would be conducted.
He said villagers have heard this administrative chant for years now, and usually no action is taken against perpetrators afterwards. They think administrative officials in the Region are fanning these acts of terror.
Reports say the government has been exploiting the farmer-grazier conflict in the North West for political gains.
In its 2021 report, CHRDA said the government was recruiting primarily Mbororos into vigilante groups formed to counter the activities of Ambazonia separatists, who have been fighting for an independent state out of Cameroon’s English-speaking Regions since 2017.
Armed by the government, these Mbororos are motivated to attack villagers, who are presumed to be supporting Ambazonia separatists.
“During the escalation phase of the crisis in 2018, the government—being aware of the local conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and native communities (people whom the government views as pro-separatists)—exploited the loyalty and allegiance of the Mbororos by recruiting them into local vigilante groups, promising them some favourable solutions to their longstanding conflict with the natives. Some of such promises include land rights,” CHRDA wrote.
In May this year, the Senior Divisional Officer for Donga Mantung, Nkwenti Simon Doh, restricted grazing in the Mbaw plain of Nwa Subdivision following numerous farmer-grazier clashes.
He said the measure aimed to stop illegal grazing in the area and maintain order.