Africa

Cameroonian farmers in anti-rape protest

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Thousands of women are refusing to work on farms in north-west Cameroon's Wum district after a spate of rapes and assaults blamed on cattle herders.

The women say young girls are among the victims and one woman died of her wounds on Monday night, the BBC's Randy Joe Sa'ah in Wum reports.

A group of women have protested outside the palace of a traditional ruler to demand protection, he says.

The area is affected by land disputes between rival communities.

Government officials in Wum called a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the problem between the women from the Aghem ethnic group and leaders of the Akuh group, to which the herdsmen belong.

However, some of the women walked out of the meeting, saying no clear solution had been found to end the attacks, our reporter says.

Suspects beaten

Earlier, an 11-year-old girl from the Aghem ethnic group told our reporter she narrowly escaped being raped by two herdsmen from the Akuh group.

"They first of all beat me and threatened to cut me into pieces with a machete if I shouted again. Then, one of them ripped off my underpants and tore my dress," she said.

"Then they pinned me to the ground and tried to force themselves on me."

The girl said she was lucky not to be raped, as two other herdsmen came to her rescue.

Her four-year-old sister told our reporter she managed to run away before being caught by the suspected rapists.

"I went with my sister to carry potatoes. I noticed two herdsmen. I alerted my sister and she told me to run away. She threw her load down but she was caught. I ran to the house and told my mother that my sister had been caught by the herdsmen," she said.

Our reporter says angry men hunted down four suspects and beat them up so badly that they they are being treated at a hospital in Wum for their wounds.

He says he met one of the suspects, chained to a hospital bed by the police.

"They [a group of men] accused me of raping a girl but I did not. I was sleeping at the time," the suspect told our reporter.

"I was picked up by a mob of youth who beat me to pulp. Then, I was handed to the gendarme."

A large group of women have protested outside the palace of the paramount chief of Aghem, Bah-ambi III, for a fourth day to vent their anger over the rapes and to demand greater protection, our reporter says.

The two communities tend to co-exist peacefully, but conflict erupts sometimes over grazing rights, he says.

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