“The residents’ fury is based on unverified rumours”
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.
“The problem is that Cameroonian sites pass on rumours about witchcraft”
People there made a link between these two ‘events’. Some even showed photos where a woman is seen being swallowed by a serpent, taking it as proof that this was what happened in November. The problem is that these photos and information were being passed around Cameroonian web sites, in French and in English, as if they were real. This reinforced disinformation. However, a simple Google search would have revealed that the photos had nothing to do with Buéa.