Three soldiers were charged with the “assassination” of civilians, including ten children, in February in the English-speaking part of Cameroon. This massacre had sparked an international outcry, forcing the government to admit the responsibility of its soldiers, long denied.
For nearly three years, separatist groups and the army have clashed in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions, where most of the English-speaking minority live, some of whom feel marginalized by the majority French speaking country. The fighting, but also the atrocities and killings of civilians by the two camps, according to numerous NGOs, have left more than 3,000 dead and forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes.
The army initially spoke of a “Unfortunate accident”, before Yaoundé admitted in mid-April that ten children and three women had been killed on February 14 by soldiers supported by a Peul ethnic militia in the Ngarbuh district of the village of Ntumbaw, in the North-West region . According to the UN, at least 23 civilians, including fifteen children (nine under the age of 5) and two pregnant women, were killed. This drama moved many Cameroonians. Famous bass player Richard Bona even paid tribute to the victims in a song called Ngarbuh.
The three Cameroonian soldiers, arrested in mid-April, “Have been charged” especially“Assassination”Army spokesman Colonel Cyrille Atonfack Guemo told AFP on Thursday (June 11th). For two months, Yaoundé had denied the killing, saying that five civilians had died following the explosion of fuel containers following an exchange of fire between soldiers and “Terrorists” separatists.
The “pressure” of Emmanuel Macron
The massacre had caused an international outcry and in particular the intervention of France, ally of Yaoundé and former colonial power: President Emmanuel Macron had denounced “Intolerable violence” and promised to “Put the maximum pressure” on the head of state, Paul Biya, in power for thirty-seven years, who had ordered an investigation.
In mid-April, the presidency finally recognized that three soldiers “Uncontrolled”, disobeying orders, had killed, with the help of auxiliaries, ten children and three women, then “Tried to mask the facts by fires” before falsifying their reports. These two non-commissioned soldiers and a sergeant were also charged with “Violation of instructions” and “Destruction and fire”said the army spokesman on Thursday.
“We welcome the opening of this investigation”, responded Ilaria Allegrozzi, a researcher with the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) for Cameroon, on Thursday: “However, we believe that all those responsible for these heinous crimes, including those higher up the chain of command, should be held accountable and punished appropriately. ” According to HRW, quoting witnesses, between ten and fifteen soldiers participated in the massacre, including elements of the elite unit of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR).
“We are not satisfied”, adds Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, director of the Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa (Redhac): “The sponsors of this massacre must be heard and brought to the bar, no high-ranking army official has been named and as long as the sponsors are not worried, impunity in the army will continue. “
Journalist dies in prison
Charges of abuses by the military have increased in recent years. At the beginning of June, also under pressure from NGOs, she acknowledged the death in detention of Samuel Wazizi, an English-speaking journalist arrested ten months earlier, ensuring that he had been killed by a septicemia two weeks after his arrest and accusing him of working for the separatists. Cameroonian journalists’ unions say he died of torture.
Eleven months ago, a trial began in Yaoundé of seven soldiers accused of having executed in 2015 two women and their two babies in the north of the country, prey to numerous jihadist attacks. But the hearing has been constantly adjourned since. At the time of these murders, revealed by a video, the government had spoken of “Fake news” and D’“Horrible trick”, before retracting and arresting the seven soldiers.