Humanitarians battling to deliver aid in violence-stricken Cameroon
Cape Town - Humanitarian workers in Cameroon are caught up in the Southern Cameroons Anglophone Crisis, causing difficulties in delivering aid to the civilians.
Aid workers are facing threats and violence from both sides as they struggle to deliver aid, according to France based news agency, AFP.
Looting of convoys, attacks on food handouts, even kidnapping, are all part of the risks to aid workers in Cameroon's troubled Northwest and Southwest regions, where thousands have been displaced by fighting between separatist rebels and the military.
Three food distributions were halted in one week alone recently, according to witnesses who spoke to AFP by telephone.
A 29-year-old man was shot by soldiers at Ekona village in Southwest Region as people gathered on February 19 to receive rice and other rations from the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nation (UN) agency and villagers said.
This happened as soldiers sorted 220 internally displaced people by gender and age, witness said.
"They beat up everybody and took with them seven of the young guys inside one class of the primary school where they were supposed to do the distribution.
"They started intimidating the guys, (claiming) that they are separatists," the witness told AFP.
The soldiers pulled a young man out of the group and shot him in the groin, the witness said.
"He bled to death before the eyes of the military and everyone was there watching helplessly," he said.
The conflict has claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced almost 700,000 people to flee their homes. Rights monitors have said separatist rebels and the army are both guilty of atrocities or abuses.
Sources say they have carried out attacks on, or disrupted, humanitarian aid.
Army spokesperson Colonel Cyrille Atonfack Guemo dismissed reports of military brutality as "attempts at disinformation" aimed to "tarnish the image of our forces".
"It is inconceivable that the army, whose mission is to work to improve living conditions, should at the same time oppose the work of humanitarian organisations," the colonel said.
Witnesses said the same soldiers who disrupted food distribution at Ekona had been there before, on 24 December when they arrested a humanitarian volunteer and took him to a police station.
"His body, with signs of torture, was found in early January in the bush about 30 kilometres away," said one witness, whose account was backed up by an aid worker who asked for anonymity.IOL