By Chief Charles A. Taku*
The catalogue of crimes targeting civilians in the Southern Cameroons and elsewhere in the territory of LRC bear disturbing common features. These features appear to be similar to the genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Southern Cameroons but for the dolo specialis or specific intent underlying the targeted massacre of vulnerable members of the civilian population among them, women and children.
The targeting of women for sacrificial rituals in the political landscape of LRC was well documented and denounced by one Eballe Angounou more than three decades ago. Corpses of lifeless decapitated women have been found in different parts of Cameroun, in Soa, Yaounde, Bafoussam and many other locations over several years, most of them killed and decapitated. No known reasonable action was taken to find and bring the perpetrators to account for these crimes. Targeted killings have also afflicted key religious organisations through these disturbingly similar methods. Again, no known reasonable actions were taken to find and bring the perpetrators of the crimes to book. There appear to be a culture of fear to even contemplate calling for accountability. Why?
In the result, over the years, a culture of impunity surrounding the violation of the sanctity of human life has become a tolerated, if not an acceptable official norm. It is this culture of impunity that has regrettably been interposed into the genocidal war in the Southern Cameroons.
I will not venture to second-guess or make assumptions about the responsibility for the crimes targeting women, children, clerics and religious personnel, healthcare personnel and humanitarian assistance personnel. It is irresponsible to make presumptuous accusations without demonstrable forensic indicia pointing in the direction of potential perpetrators. Yet the recent killings have aroused lousy opinion newspaper headings attributing responsibility, without investigation.
This is evidence of the dearth of investigative journalism which investigative journalistic giants such Chief Besong Etah Oben, Charlie Ndichia, Adolf Mongo Dipoko, Chief Jerome Gwellem, Tataw Obenson, D.A.T Williams and others were well known for. Who is to blame? Surely the system which colonised the Southern Cameroons and turned some of our people to paid parrots of the cultural genocide that has turned our human identity and sense of intellectual discernment on its head.
Be this as it may, I will venture to point to some disturbing trends surrounding these targeted killings during and in the context of the genocide and systemic crimes which are aimed at exterminating Southern Cameroonians on the basis of their Southern Cameroons identity. My concern at this point in time is to point out these common trends which if not reasonably explained may be reasonably construed as an implicit admission of criminal responsibility or attempts to conceal criminal responsibility for the crimes. In order words there is a reasonable perception to attempts at stifling reasonable enquiry and abate mounting calls for a deployment of a fact finding mission to investigate all the crimes and not just some and bring the perpetrators to book in an international transitional justice mechanism or in countries with universal jurisdiction.
In a keynote address which I presented in a workshop for Regional Military Commanders that took place in Monrovia Liberia from October 3- 6 2019, I emphasized the point that the law and customs of war and the Geneva Conventions are applicable to State Parties and armed combatants possessing an identifiable and reasonable command and the capacity to formulate and implement rules of engagement, deploy forces and impose punishment in case of violations. I also emphasized that the Geneva Conventions I-IV protect civilians in armed conflicts not taking part in conflict, soldiers and combatants hors de combat, prisoners of war, civilian targets and protected targets such as hospitals, places of worship, cultural heritage, palaces and civilian subsistence economy.
Also, certain weapons are outlawed in armed conflicts. The definition of weapon of war in the Cameroun Code of military justice until the legislation criminalizing civil liberties did not include Dane Guns and some outdated military ordnance that was available during WWII. I defended Arong Peter, a Games guard at the Korup National Park who was brought before the Military Tribunal in Kumba by the Nguti Gendarmes for the attempted murder of some Poachers. Lt Colonel Ndjock Presiding over the Military Tribunal in Kumba, acquitted him on the grounds that the case was wrongly brought to the Military Court because the weapons he was accused of using to attempt the crime did not fit the definition of weapons of war under the Military Code. I have to specify that the militarization for civil liberties law which is applicable today is extremely expensive and is a cobweb of terror over LRC French vassal prison state. It is a crucial tool in the execution of the ongoing genocide in the senseless war of choice in the Southern Cameroons.
I have stated before and must repeat that any pint of civilian blood lost will be accounted for in the fullness of time. The execution of civilians who are not taking part in the war and are not substantially engaged in the war effort, is reprehensible and unacceptable. Where the criminal responsibility for many of the crimes have been admitted by the perpetrators, I will not belabour the eliciting them. The disturbing trend that is subject to this posting is limited to cases where responsibility is admitted, and no further action taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.
General Melingui a Cameroun Government Commander, shortly before his transfer to a higher command position admitted candidly that soldiers under his command committed crimes. This admission should have led to the initiation of investigations to bring the perpetrators to account. This did not occur. It has still not occurred.
The execution of a Catholic Priest in Kembong was attribute by the Prelate of the Mamfe Diocese to the Cameroun Army. No one has been held accountable for the crime. The Cameroun Government made a public statement stating that it had apprehended the perpetrators of the murder of Florence Ayafor a Penitentiary officer of the Bamenda Prison. Little is known about whom these individuals are and the purpose of the gruesome crime. Also, no further action is known to have been taken to bring them to account for their crime.
The gruesome beheading of a civilian in Bafut was admitted by the government of LRC as haven been carried out by a senior officer of its army, whom it alleged was apprehended and taken to Yaoundé and nothing has been heard about the matter ever since. This was one beheading admitted by the Government too many. There are others which the government promised to investigate, and nothing has been heard so far.
The murder of an American missionary is a case in point. This was an easy case to investigate through forensic pathologists and experts in ballistics to identify the weapon that was used in the committing the crime. Was it for the lack of expertise or a cover up such as that in the Ngarbuh massacre? The answer points in the direction of a cover up.
The Ngarbuh massacre is a patent cover up. It was another simple case in which forensic pathologists, experts in ballistics and experts in technical intelligence would, if available and requested have established criminal responsibility and how far it went in the chain of command within a reasonable period. Only a nitwit will admit that foot soldiers of a professional army will deploy and with a militia to attack a target without specific command authority from civilian and military commanders. I am persuaded that a military operation in war time will not be commanded through military radio communication up the chain of command and that the commanders would be informed of the outcome of the operation through an alleged written report on the basis of which the high command of the army and civilian commanders made conflicting misleading explanations blaming the victims of the attack.
There is available information that the alleged perpetrators of the gruesome murder of a woman in Muyuka have been apprehended by the Cameroun army. This, if true should have ended the speculation about those responsible for the crime. But the common trend of allegedly apprehending alleged perpetrators of gruesome crimes and taking no known action to put them to trial raises the spectre of a cover up. It may be construed as some have alleged that the crimes are committed by Cameroun government soldiers and its allied militias purposively to blackmail alleged “separatist fighters” without specifying which, in attempts to paint all restoration fighters with the same brush during this emotive period of heightened international pressure for an internationally endorsed negotiation to address the root causes of the conflict, end the carnage and the humanitarian calamity.
Cameroun Government admitted in its report on the Ngarbuh massacre the use of allied militias by its military to perpetrate the crime. This was an official admission of the use and participation of armed militias on the side of Government forces, although a government minister, some government administrators and ruling party political elite have publicly admitted to forming, training and arming militias and armed gangs to bolster the governments war efforts.
These militias and armed bands are alleged to be active in the kidnapping and ransoming of civilians on the watch of government soldiers and the areas known to be under government control. They have also been accused for some of these gruesome massacres with impunity due to their apparent immunity from prosecution; an impunity which they appear to share with government soldiers who have blighted Southern Cameroons towns and villages baying for the blood of its citizenry.
The killing of humanitarian aimed workers and healthcare personnel has become so recurrent with no action, and no explanation by the government, even to defend the allegations made the victims that the perpetrators were government and its allied militia. This is impunity. Attempts at mimicking a shift of responsibility will deceive only the gullible. A state party to the Geneva Convention should respect its multilateral treaty obligation. Cameroun, I regret has not done so in this and many other cases during these 59 long years and in its prosecution of this senseless war of choice.
* Chief Charles Taku is an International Lawyer and a former President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association- ICCBA