Cameroon Separatists Turning to Cattle Rustling, Ranchers Say

Cameroon authorities say anglophone separatists have stolen thousands of cattle from ethnic Mbororo ranchers since July, forcing them to move livestock hundreds of kilometers away to more secure areas. Authorities say the rebels’ cattle rustling appears to be motivated by food shortages.Forty-one-year-old Mbororo rancher Sule Kerla leads several hundred cattle to graze in the French-speaking village of Balamba, in central Cameroon, near Bafia town.  He says the cattle belong to five Mbororo, an ethnic group of ranchers, by tradition, located mainly in Cameroon’s Northwest Region.   But, Kerla says the Mbororo are fleeing the English-speaking region because anglophone rebels are stealing their cattle.   “Areas like Wum, Bui Division, Boyo Division, Mezam Division, there is no place where they {separatist fighters) have not seized cows from the Mbororos,” Kerla said. “When the military goes out for their work, you see them bringing cows that were seized from the Mbororo community.  And then most of the Mbororos have carried their cows to the Western Region, Center Region.”President of the Mbororo Cultural and Development Association (MBOSCUDA) Jaji Manu Gidado has also moved his 400 cattle to the town of Bafia.  Gidado says rebels have stolen at least 3,000 cattle from Mbororo ranchers since July.He says ranchers have relocated about 2,500 cattle to safer, French-speaking towns like Bafia, to escape the rebels. “Why they {ranchers} are the target group is because those guys {fighters} met the Mbororo people and asked them {Mbororos} to join them {separatist fighters} to disturb the administration {government} from functioning,” Gidado said. “And the Mbororo people told them, ‘No, we are here to rear our cattle and send our children to school.’”
Cameroon’s livestock ministry says since the separatist conflict began in 2016, the rebels seized about 300 cows each year.   Cameroon’s military says the rebels seem to be stealing more cattle these days because of food insecurity and to sell across the border in Nigeria to fund their revolt.To crack down on the rebels, the military says it has reinforced control along the border with Nigeria.  Felix Njie Ewumbwe is the officer in charge of helping ranchers in the western town of Bafoussam.  He says host communities should support the ranchers and their families.Ewumbwe says the government gives them financial and moral support and informs them of opportunities in neighboring towns and villages, where they can sell their farm produce.  Separatists took up arms in 2017 to carve out an English-speaking state from French-speaking-majority Cameroon. The United Nations says the fighting has cost more than 3,000 lives and forced half-a-million to flee to French-speaking regions or into neighboring Nigeria.

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