Gross Human Rights violations by government forces and separatist fighters in English-speaking regions sink Cameroon again in State Dept Report

By Amos Fofung

Hundreds of supporters raise their arms and wave the national flag while waiting to greet the Cameroonian opposition leader Maurice Kamto in Yaoundé on Oct. 5, the day of his release from prison. STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

The United States has chronicled a series of human rights violations committed in Cameroon by both separatist fighters and government security forces in the restive Anglophone regions wrecked by civil protest for four years now.

Numerating the violations in its just released 2019 Human Rights report on Cameroon, the US Department of state observed that “the sociopolitical crisis that began in the Northwest and Southwest Regions in late 2016 over perceived marginalization developed into an armed conflict between government forces and separatist groups.”

The report released Wednesday March 11 states that significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, extrajudicial killings, by security forces, armed Anglophone separatists, and Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA) fighters continue to be on the rise.

Blaming security forces for “forced disappearances; torture by security forces and nonstate armed groups; arbitrary detention by security forces and nonstate armed groups; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners;” the reports was categorical that significant problems with the independence of the judiciary further compounded the issue with little or no prosecution of perpetuators of such inhumane acts.

As if to applaud the baby steps taken by the government of Cameroon to check the excesses of its security forces the U.S. States Department observed that the failure of the government of Paul Biya to publicly make known the proceedings and punishment spurred some offenders to continually to act with impunity.

Citing instances of Politically Motivated Killings, the report condemned government security forces for indiscriminately executing civilians and suspected separatist fighters in the English-speaking region.

 The brutal killing of a nurse who was on his way to his duty station at the Oku health district in the Northwest Region, and the burning alive of 13 civilians, including seven businesspersons who were returning from a business trip to neighboring Nigeria by government forces was highlighted in this year’s reports.

Anglophone separatists also got called out for their persistent and inhumane attack and killing of members of defense and security forces, as well as civilians considered loyal to the central government.

“For example, during the night of April 23 and the morning of April 24 in Muyuka, Southwest Region, separatist fighters decapitated and dismembered gendarme Adam Assana and scattered his body parts on the highway,” the report cited.

Cases of politically motivated arrest such as that of opposition leader, Maurice Kamto and his supporters and the politically motivated reprisal against individuals located outside the country such as the arrest and repatriation of Ayuk Sisiku and some members of his circle further drowned Cameroon.

Pushing for the Respect for Civil Liberties, including; freedom of expression and the press, internet, the right to peaceful assembly and movement, the annual rights report urged the government to look into the situation of Internally displace persons, IDP, forced out of their homes by the Anglophone crisis and also ensure the protection of refugees.

Regretting the fact that a “number of domestic and international human rights groups investigated and published findings on human rights cases, government officials impeded the effectiveness of many local human rights NGOs by harassing their members, limiting access to prisoners, refusing to share information, and threatening violence against NGO personnel.”

The report also adds that some “human rights defenders and activists received anonymous threats by telephone, text message, and email,” but regrettably, the “government took no action to investigate or prevent such occurrences… at times denied international organization access to the country”.

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