3 US citizens charged for allegedly financing separatist groups in Cameroon


The U.S. Department of Justice has unsealed charges against three individuals who allegedly financed separatist groups in Cameroon amid conflict in the Anglophone majority regions of the African country.

The three defendants, U.S. citizens of Cameroonian origin, were arrested on Monday and charged with “conspiracy to provide material support for kidnappings” and “use of weapons of mass destruction in a foreign country”.

The defendants have been identified as Claude Chi, Francis Chenyi and Lah Nestor Langmi, who are suspected of “supporting and raising funds for separatist fighters in Cameroon since January 1, 2018.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has highlighted that they all “hold senior positions in an organization that supported and gave orders to an armed separatist group known as the Ambazonia Restoration Forces and other separatist fighters in the Northwest Region.”

In this regard, he stressed that the accused allegedly raised funds to buy equipment, supplies, weapons and explosive materials “to be used in attacks against Cameroonian government personnel, security forces and properties, as well as civilians who would support the government”.

The funds were allegedly obtained through Internet applications and payment platforms, after which they were transferred to bank and cryptocurrency accounts through intermediaries to be delivered to “separatist fighters”.

In this way, the defendants allegedly raised more than $350,000 (a similar figure in euros) in donations, while “conspiring with others to kidnap civilians in Cameroon and hold them for ransom”.

“On some occasions, U.S. citizens were extorted for ransom payments to secure the release of their abducted family members living in Cameroon. The ransoms were subsequently turned over to separatist fighters to finance their operations,” the U.S. Department of Justice reiterated.

Cameroon’s Anglophone regions–Northwest and Southwest–have been rocked by conflict following the crackdown on separatist movements after Ambazonia’s self-proclamation of independence on October 1, 2017.

The previous year, this area–formerly part of British colonies in Africa but which decided to join French Cameroon–was the scene of peaceful protests to demand greater autonomy or independence arguing discrimination by central authorities, also on language issues.

Since then, armed groups have proliferated and support for the separatists, hitherto rather marginal, has increased. The government has responded with a harsh crackdown, during which human rights organizations have accused the security forces of committing atrocities.