Three Cameroon-born U.S citizens could face hefty jail terms for four counts regarding their action on the armed conflict in Cameroon’s English-speaking North West and South West regions. The three, Claude N. Chi, aged 40, Francis Chenyi, aged 49, and Lah Nestor Langmi, aged 46, were arrested on Monday November 28, 2022 in the United States of America.
They are accused of among others, kidnapping Cameroonians, demanding ransoms from U.S. relatives to fund separatist militia groups in Cameroon and planning to use weapons of mass destruction. The three “are charged in a four-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri, on Nov. 18, 2022. The indictment was unsealed and made public today following their arrests and initial court appearances,” the Office of Public Affairs at the US Department of Justice noted in a release.
“The federal indictment,” it added, “alleges that Chi, Chenyi and Langmi have supported and raised funds for separatist fighters in Cameroon since Jan. 1, 2018. As alleged, they each held senior level positions within an organization that supported and directed the militant separatist group known as the Ambazonian Restoration Forces and other separatist fighters in Cameroon’s Northwest Region.”
The three are accused of soliciting and raising funds for equipment, supplies, weapons and explosive materials “to be used in attacks against Cameroonian government personnel, security forces and property, along with other civilians believed to be enabling the government.”
If found guilty, they stand to face at least 15 year jail terms for each of the first two counts, and at least 3 year-long jail terms for each of the other counts. This tallies to a cumulative jail term of 36 years and a $1,250,000 for all four felonies. This, is alongside a $100 Mandatory Special Assessment on each count.
Abductors of Fon of Nso, late Cardinal Tumi?
With the arrest of the three, more light has been shed once more on the abduction in November 2020 of Fon Sehm Mbinglo of Nso and the now late Christian Cardinal Tumi in the Ngohketunjia division. Both men were taken at Baba I in Ngoketundjia Division as they made their way to Kumbo. They spent close to a week in captivity.
“According to the indictment, the defendants authored a document that included a list of expenditures related to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), firearms and ammunition. Other expenditures included funds related to the kidnapping of Cardinal Christian Tumi and of a Cameroonian traditional leader named Sehm Mbinglo II on Nov. 5, 2020,” read the release.
The 10-page indictment also details circumstances surrounding the abduction including how Nestor Langmi in a Facebook video, confessed to tracking the travel plan of the Fon and Cardinal, and coordinating their kidnap. The same plan was outlined in the separatists’ 2020 end of year statement justifying funds spent in the operation.
Manner of operation
The exchange of funds between separatist fighters on the ground and diaspora supporters has been reported in the media for a long time now, with the increase in abductions, kidnappings and demands for ransom. According to the Department of Justice, the funds of the three accused “were raised through online chat applications and payment platforms from individuals located in the United States and abroad. The funds were then transferred from various financial and cryptocurrency accounts controlled by the defendants through intermediaries to the separatist fighters to support attacks in Cameroon.”
“In addition to more than $350,000 the defendants raised through voluntary donations, the indictment alleges Chi, Chenyi and Langmi conspired with others to kidnap civilians in Cameroon and hold them for ransom. In some instances, U.S. citizens were extorted for ransom payments to secure the release of their kidnapped relatives living in Cameroon. The ransom payments were subsequently transferred to the separatist fighters to fund their operations,” it added.
In line with the ongoing investigation, the release urged anyone with information related to the investigation to make it available to facilitate the process of rendering justice.
More heads to roll…
This is not the first time the US government is curtailing efforts aimed at supporting the violence being unleashed by Cameroon’s separatist movement. In June 2021, three US-based Anglophone Cameroonians were taken into custody and charged with gun running and conspiracy. This, was for their effort to provide high-grade weapons and ammunition to separatists back home.
With the US government now openly taking action against supporters of the Cameroon separatist human rights abuses living within its borders, it is believed many more arrests could be made in the weeks ahead. This, is as many diaspora-based secessionist activists have the country as their base.
Over the years, the government of Cameroon has lobbied for the arrest and trial of some of these actors. To severe these links and restrict communication that it ceased internet connectivity in the Anglophone North West and South West regions twice in recent years.