Anti-Balaka Fighters Kidnap Cameroonians to Press for Leader’s Freedom

Suspected anti-balaka fighters from the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) have kidnapped a dozen Cameroonians and are demanding the release of one of their leaders and 10 others detained in Cameroon’s capital.

Governor Samuel Dieudonne Ivaha Diboua of Cameroon’s eastern region told VOA that the suspected anti-balaka fighters were disguised as refugees when they kidnapped people in the border locality of Garoua Boulaï earlier this week.

He said the kidnappers have broken the law and they will have to answer charges in a court of law. He said they cannot expect to harass Cameroonians and go free.

The kidnappers are demanding the release of other anti-balaka militia, including one of the leaders, Abdoulaye Meskine, who was arrested by Cameroon authorities a year ago while hiding in a border town. The men are being held in Yaoundé.

The governor said the military immediately dispatched soldiers who managed to free four of the hostages shortly after the kidnapping.

Cameroon’s military spokesman, Colonel Didier Badjeck, said anti-balaka factions should not attack his nation while Cameroonian soldiers put their lives on the line as part of the International Peacekeeping mission to bring stability back to the C.A.R.

He said some Cameroonian soldiers have been killed while helping to maintain peace in the C.A.R. Badjeck said Cameroon’s wish is for the various factions to be conscious of all the effort they and the international community are making for peace to return to C.A.R.

The C.A.R. descended into chaos after Seleka rebels orchestrated a coup in March 2013 and installed the country’s first Muslim president. Brutal sectarian violence followed with retaliation by mostly Christian anti-balaka militias – bringing intervention from French and African Union solders to try to quell the bloodshed.  The United Nations took over peacekeeping this month, but fighting continues amid a humanitarian crisis.

The recent attack was the second attack in Cameroon by suspected anti-balaka militants in recent weeks.  

Cameroon shares a 800-kilometer long boundary with the landlocked C.A.R.   There are currently some 300,000 C.A.R. refugees in Cameroon.

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