YAOUNDE, Jan 12 (Reuters) - At least eight people have been killed in the far north of Cameroon in ethnic clashes triggered by a dispute over fishing in a local pool, a regional government officer said on Friday.
The fighting between members of the Musgum and Kotoko communities broke out after a quarrel last week over control of the pool, located inside the Waza National Park in Far North Province. This extreme northern part of the central African country extends to Lake Chad and borders with Chad and Nigeria.
"While Musgum fishermen were fishing, they were attacked by their Kotoko colleagues, and in the violent confrontation that followed, one Musgum man was killed," an aide to the senior divisional officer told Reuters.
The aide, who asked not to be named, said Musgum fishermen then carried out a revenge attack on three Kotoko villages, setting fire to huts.
At least six Kotokos and one Musgum were killed in this follow-up fighting and some media reports put the death toll from the escalating violence at between 14 and 17 killed.
A number of people were also injured in the several days of fighting.
Police had rushed reinforcements to the area, where fishing becomes the main activity each year at the end of the rainy season when the Logone River overflows its banks and inundates the flood plain for a period of three months.
Musgum and Kotoko fishermen earn their annual income from fishing in these months.
"The pool which triggered the clashes is very prized because it’s a source of significant revenue during the flood period. To avoid clashes, the Musgums don’t usually go near the pool when we’re there and vice-versa," a Kotoko fishermen, Mahamat Shifa, told local reporters.
Fearing clashes, local authorities had recently banned fishing in the pool, but poor villagers from both communities had ignored the prohibition.