A separatist leader in Cameroon, Cho Ayaba, says people in the English-speaking regions of the country are “fighting for survival” and “for existence”.
Thousands of people have been killed and many more displaced in a conflict that has been going on since 2016.
Mr Ayaba is leader of a group called the Ambazonia Governing Council, which wants to create a separate state – Ambazonia – for the English-speakers in the country.
Government troops have been accused of extrajudicial killings and burning villages, but recently there has been a focus on abuses committed by the many separatists groups, including kidnapping.
Speaking to the BBC’s Newsday programme, Mr Ayaba said it wasn’t a choice for separatists to take up arms. He said: “Villages are being burnt and it’s a kind of a scorched-earth policy by what I describe as a retreating army that has lost legitimacy and political control.”
Mr Ayaba said they were other organised groups not affiliated to his movement that have been “carrying acts of brutality against the civilians”, and added his group has stopped kidnapping and ransom taking.
The conflict has displaced more than half a million people, with the UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet who travelled to the region in May, warning that the situation is spiralling out of control.