Shots have been fired at a Cameroon Airlines passenger jet in Bamenda as it approached the Bafut airport in the restive northwest of the country of Cameroon.

The flight that departed from Douala for Bamenda with 19 passengers aboard according to the Airlines landed safely and with no casualties. Cameroon Airlines confirmed the attack and stated that the plane has been grounded to assess the damage. “Thanks to the bravery of the captain, the aircraft was able to land smoothly despite the impact on its fuselage,” the airlines added.

The English-speaking regions of the country which was formerly British Southern Cameroons have been a battleground since 2017 between the army and rebels seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia.

More than 400 people have been killed and half a million have been forced to flee their homes according to the Cameroon government. However, other independent sources and rights groups put the death toll at more than 2000 and over a million internally and externally displaced.

Sunday’s incident appeared to mark an escalation in the danger they face travelling to and from the richly forested region.

Speaking to Reuters, Cho Ayaba, the Ambazonian separatist leaders and president of the Ambazonian Council noted that commercial planes were being used to transport soldiers and weapons and that he had warned Cameroon Airlines and its passengers that planes will be shot at if they do not provide flight schedules ahead of time.

“If we cannot confirm, we will consider all planes coming in as a security risk,” Dr Ayaba Cho said. “This is war” he added.

The current conflict started as peaceful protests in the English speaking regions by lawyers, teachers and students calling for respect of the English system in Bilingual Cameroon. The government responded with military suppression leading to the death of peaceful protested. Anger at the situation coupled with sentiments of more than five decades of marginalisation, suppression and assimilation pushed the local population to take up arms against the Cameroon government in what is being described as the Ambazonian War of Liberation

Despite tentative efforts to sue for peace, fighting has continued, with both sides accused of atrocities, including the use of bombs and kidnappings by separatists and indiscriminate killings by the armed forces.

The Ambazonian leaders and self-defence fighters have been calling the UN and the international community to intervene to stop the widespread killing and prevent what they now call another genocide. So far, their calls have been met with very little responses.

Cameroon has a very highly centralised government with power centred in Yaounde, the Capital. Its president Paul Biya who is 89 yrs old has been in power since 1982. The country is plagued with corruption and gross mismanagement according to Transparency International and the World Bank. In 2018 the African Nations Cup – AFCON was withdrawn from Cameroon due to lack of infrastructure. The US has threatened to remove Cameroon from AGOA if the country fails to take genuine measures to resolve the current conflict.


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