By Boris Esono Nwenfor
For the second time this year, members of Cameroon’s defence and security forces have stormed the St. Elizabeth Catholic Hospital (Shisong Hospital) in Kumbo, North West Region of Cameroon and this time promised that when they come back they will “set it on fire”.
This information is contained in a letter titled “Report on the Military invasion of the St. Elizabeth Catholic General Hospital, Shisong by Dr Sr Anshoma Helen Mbuoh, the Director. The latter detailed the insensitivity, harassment and brutality that was used by the security forces as they carried out their search for suspected separatist fighters.
This is the second time this year that security forces have stormed the Shisong Hospital after they did so back on Monday, July 19, 2021. And in February 2019, soldiers stormed the Hospital in search of separatist fighters.
The Catholic Mission General Hospital, also known as St. Elizabeth Catholic Hospital Shisong or simply Shisong is the first and oldest of the health institutions of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis and also one of the biggest in Cameroon. Founded in 1935, it has grown to be the present-day structure with the General Hospital and the Cardiac Centre as two entities that belong together but functions autonomously.
On Sunday, November 14, 2021, at about 1:30 pm, members of the Cameroon military entered the Hospital, armed with sophisticated weapons and all dressed in combat gear, a frightful scene for patients in a hospital setting according to the Director of the Hospital.
“The Military personnel went through every inch of the Hospital from the consultation room and the exploratory laboratories, to the basement of the Cardiac centre, the emergency unit, the dispensary and from ward to ward in search of separatist fighters,” Dr Sr Anshoma Helen, Director of the Shisong Hospital said in her letter, copied to the Senior Divisional Officer, Bui and the Bishop, Diocese of Kumbo.
“Not finding the Amba Boys they were looking for, they started insulting and threatening the Reverend Sisters. They even threatened to shoot the sisters in the leg if they did not indicate where they had hidden and are treating the Amba Boys in the Hospital.”
Dr Sr Anshoma Helen added that: “In the meantime, two security officers on duty were arrested and systematically interrogated. They were asked, at gunpoint to show where the Amba Boys were hidden. The response from the guards was clear and concid=se. their responsibility starts with receiving all the patients and then forward to the Out Patients’ Department, where the cases are taken over by the Nurses and Doctors. From there they go back to their duty post.”
“Not satisfied with this explanation, the Military exercised brute force on the Security Officers. They were severely beaten with the butts of the guns and kicked with their military boots. They all sustained injuries and swollen faces…”
Since the crisis escalated back in 2017, health facilities have been increasingly unsafe. Some health facilities in other areas of the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon have also been under attack or threat in the crisis which does not yet look to abate.
The crisis broke out in October of 2016 after Cameroon’s defence forces clamped down and used live ammunition on protesters. The background of the protests goes as far back as the 1960s, as the English speaking minority of Cameroon has time and again raised grievances regarding marginalisation by the majority Francophone-led government. Armed Separatist groups are reported to have multiplied in the area, fighting to establish a state called Ambazonia. Civilians have been the victims of the gun battles between the state forces and Separatist fighters.