“The residents’ fury is based on unverified rumours”
Mathias Mouendé Ngamo is a blogger from Douala and a reporter for 'Le Jour', a daily newspaper. He arrived at the scene a day after the violence began.
16 homes and 10 shops were destroyed. There were also the shells of burnt-out cars on the streets. By talking to the residents, I collected a few amateur photos of the night of violence. We could see that there were around 100 people burning things under the eyes of police officers and the sub-prefect, who were completely overwhelmed by what was happening.
People told me that, among the objects recovered from the homes, there was tree bark, sanitary napkins wrapped in plastic, a mirror ‘with bizarre symbols’ and other cult objects that they say are proof of witchcraft.
The rioters accuse some Tolé residents of poisoning a teenage girl with a potion on the night of New Year’s Day [editor’s note: medical sources say the 16-year old girl died after drinking a chemical product for abortion]. The day before her death, someone on the streets of Buéa said that residents in the Tolé neighbourhood were part of a cult that made human sacrifices. That was all it took for people to attack alleged cult members. But thanks to the intervention by the security forces, no one was killed or injured.
The residents’ fury was based on unverified rumours. We know absolutely nothing about this alleged cult. Besides, among the people whose homes were burnt was a rich Nigerian who made his fortune in the banana trade. It’s therefore possible that simple jealousy could be at the heart of the violence.
When contacted by FRANCE 24, Buéa’s sub-prefect, Paul Ouakam, said he regretted that “unfounded rumours" had "caused the displacement of a dozen families who can’t return to their homes”. He said that those families have launched legal proceedings, and that a judicial inquiry has been opened. He added that the town was relatively calm but “in some neighbourhoods, youths with nothing to do tried to attack other homes in the neighbourhood on Thursday.”
Meanwhile, the mayor of Buéa, Patrick Ekema, explained that an extra police station has been opened at a village near Tolé. He has called on people to stay calm and hopes to organise a crisis meeting.
Last November, another rumour over the death of a female student in a hotel unleashed a wave of anger among residents of Buéa. On social media, some users said she had been swallowed by a man she met at a hotel. They then said that the man had turned into a python. Residents then tried to attack the building in order to lynch the 'sorcerer'. Hotel managers eventually had to let local journalists visit every room in the hotel to convince people that there was not a grain of truth in the rumours.
On November 9, several hundred people gathered in front of a hotel in Buéa. They believed that a 'man-python' sorcerer was inside. Photo @mambenandje.