By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The state defence and security forces continue to engage in gross human rights violations in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon. As per a report published by CHRDA documenting these atrocities between May and August of this year, civilians have witnessed abuses perpetrated by the security forces. The non-state armed forces were also faulted for their human rights abuses against the population.
According to the report titled “Human Rights violations committed by the Military between May and August 2020 in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon” seen by PAV, there have been extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, looting and extortion, poor prison condition, and inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees, all committed by Cameroon’s security forces.
CHRDA strongly condemns the conduct of soldiers against the population in the NWR and SWR, whether committed against armed separatist groups or the civilian population. Torture, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, as well as extra-judicial executions, arbitrary arrests and arson of homes, is unacceptable in any civilized society and completely prohibited under international law. This institutionalised culture of impunity, unaccountability, and widespread and systematic human rights violations and abuses, which has become the norm in the Anglophone regions, must stop.
The organization has called on the Government to investigate all the atrocities documented in the report, bring the perpetrators to justice and put an end to human rights violations and disrespect for the rule of law. The Government must protect, promote and fulfil human rights. “Doing this will rekindle trust and collaboration between the rights bearers (civilians) and public authorities, the release stated.”
The UN SG has called on government authorities to swiftly and unequivocally conduct investigations into these crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. He also called on non-state actors to respect international human rights and humanitarian law and refrain from attacks against the civilian population.
Some atrocities committed by the security forces
On Friday 17 July, soldiers set fire on five houses belonging to Messrs. Nsemeng Emmanuel and Mbah Julius Kese, in Pinyin, Santa Sub-Division, NWR. This occurred during a raid against separatist fighters in Pinyin. The attack resulted in a new wave of displacement as civilians fled into the bushes with their belongings. The attacks in Pinyin were followed by a similar operation on Saturday 25 July 2020, in which the military reportedly set fire to houses in the village of Mbuasoh in Bangem, Tombel Sub-Division, SWR.
According to victims’ testimonies, the incident happened at about 6 am. The smoke from the burning houses and the sound of gunshots woke inhabitants. Another witness told CHRDA that he had to use his whistle to alert others of the danger so that everyone could flee. Soldiers burnt the houses after the military accused inhabitants of keeping and conspiring with separatist fighters. Although no death was registered, inhabitants lost valuable property.
On 17 July 2020, soldiers set fire in the village of Ikata, Muyuka Sub-division of the SWR. The burning of the village happened during a long week of military oppression in Muyuka. This was preceded by the gruesome beheading of a woman by separatists on 10 August 2020.
The execution of Ebangi Brice in Bangem, SWR
On Saturday 4 July 2020, Ebangi Brice, a native of Bangem was shot at close range and killed by the military. The military killed him for ringing a church bell. They claim he was alerting the local population to escape after they arrived in the village to carry out an operation.
A family member of the victim told CHRDA that Brice was a very calm young man and youth leader in the Presbyterian Church in Bangem. Before his murder, he had accompanied the church pastor, who had been transferred from Bangem to Tombel. When he returned to Bangem, he stayed the night in the church house. In the morning, he went out and rang the church bell, as usual, to call Christians for morning prayers.
On that day the military was conducting a raid in the village, and when Brice rang the Church Bell at 5 am, the army came and shot him dead. They said he had alerted separatist fighters to flee. They killed him and arrested dozens of persons, forcing them to sit on the grass. The army tortured some of them and wounded a young man in his right arm. He was beaten with the butt of a gun and bled so profusely that he had to seek medical attention outside the village. They also burnt down a private house and looted property.
Military operations in Menchum Division, NWR
On 20 July 2020, the military stormed Modelle Village, in Menchum Valley Sub Division, and attacked the civilian population in reprisal for the death of three soldiers killed by separatist fighters. A witness to the attack told CHRDA that when the forces of law and order arrived Modelle, they burnt down houses and shot three people. Among the victims was Igang Mica, a young man resident in Bamenda, who had arrived in the village that same day for his father’s memorial service and was arrested by the military. An eye witness said he pleaded with the soldiers, offering the sum of CFA 100,000 for them to spare the victim, to no avail. The military later took him in their vehicle to an unknown destination. Igang Mica’s corpse was discovered one week later by a woman on her way to the farm.
To get the full details of the report visit CHRDA.org