Kidnapped ex-judge freed in restive Cameroon

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A former top judge who was kidnapped in Cameroon's troubled anglophone region has been released, sources said on Thursday.

Martin Mbeng, who had retired last year as vice president of the court of appeal in the Southwest Region, was abducted on Sunday, escalating the crisis over the country's English-speaking minority.

Mbeng "was released" on Wednesday "and has undergone a debriefing session," a regional army officer told AFP, confirming information from an NGO.

There has been no claim for the kidnapping and the authorities have made no reference to it.

Cameroon's Northwest and Southwest Regions are home to most of the country's anglophones - a minority of about 20% in the predominantly French-speaking country of 23.4 million.

Violence erupted there last year, fuelled by resentment among anglophones, who say they suffer discrimination, and by a crackdown by the authorities, who oppose demands for autonomy.

Scores of civilians, police and soldiers have been killed and separatists have turned to kidnapping senior officials or representatives of the state.

The anglophone question in Cameroon is a legacy of the colonial period in Africa.

France and Britain divided up the former German colony under League of Nations mandates after World War I.

A year after the French-ruled territory became independent in 1961, the southern part of British Cameroons was integrated into a federal system.

Federalism was then scrapped 11 years later for a "united republic" - a centralised system that 85-year-old President Paul Biya has said will not be changed.

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