CHDRA Human Rights Report covering acts of violence committed by the Cameroon Military and Non- State Armed Groups against civilians in the North-West and South-West Regions of Cameroon of Cameroon in the period August and September 2020
During the months of August and September 2020, the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) has noted, with great concern, disturbing reports of serious violence occurring in the North-West and South-West Regions of Cameroon. These include attacks against civilians, extra-judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and illegal detention, enforced disappearances, destruction of property, retaliatory attacks, abductions, rape, and other forms of violence, which seriously and disproportionately affect women and children.
The wave of attacks, which have occurred in towns and villages, have given rise to a new wave of population displacements in and from towns and villages including Lysoka, Maumu, and Muyuka. Raids by the army, gun battles, and deadly skirmishes continue to take a heavy toll on unarmed civilians. The culture of impunity and the lack of security in recent weeks in these two regions have further exacerbated the plight of vulnerable groups. This report contains details of human rights atrocities committed by both the Cameroon military and the armed separatist fighters in the two English-speaking regions, between August and September 2020.
A) VIOLATIONS COMMITTED BY THE CAMEROON MILITARY AND STATE AGENTS
- OPERATION ‘BAMENDA CLEAN’ AND GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
On 8 September 2020, three commanding officers in the Cameroon Defense and Security Forces (DSF), issued a joint a press statement, initiating a special operation called ‘Bamenda Clean:’ Brigadier General Nka Valerie, Commander of the Joint 5th military Region; Brigadier General Ekongwese Divine, Commander Joint 5th gendarmerie brigade and Police Commissioner Gousmo Emile, Regional Delegate for National Security in the North-West Region. The idea behind the operation ‘Bamenda Clean’ was to remove all separatist fighters and stop criminal activity in the town. Although this was initially a welcome attempt to end violence in the region, the operation turned into a nightmare for civilians, because it was characterised by gross human rights violations.
Before the launch of operation ‘Bamenda Clean,’ the town of Bamenda was hit by unabated armed violence perpetrated allegedly by armed separatist fighters and notorious criminal gangs. Some of the violent activities include inter alia:
- On 1 September 2020, alleged separatist fighters shot and killed a Police Inspector known fondly as Petit Bikolo at City Chemist roundabout in Bamenda. Witnesses of the shooting said to CHRDA: “while we were parked at our ‘Okada junction’ waiting for passengers, a motorcycle with two passengers approached City Chemist roundabout from the direction of Small Mankon and the next thing I heard was the sound of gunfire. We rushed and hid behind a nearby filling station. On our return, a crowd was standing around the body of the police officer. The military arrived, firing sporadic shots into the air and brutalising unarmed civilians.
- One eye witness and a relative of one of the victims of military brutality said to CHRDA during a telephone interview: “My brother was kicked in the eye after they were asked to sit on the tar. He bled profusely and might have died if were not for the timely intervention of Doctors without Borders.” Another victim also narrated how he was kicked in the stomach, fell unconscious, and only regained consciousness at the hospital. Some women also narrated their ordeal of being rough handled by the military who, they said, extorted money from them.
- CHRDA has received and analysed a short video, lasting one minute and 16 seconds, depicting a number of soldiers forcing roadside vendors away from their places of business in Bamenda, and pillaging retail businesses around the Bamenda food market. A trader (Nanga M), not his real name, in Small Mankon, said: “I used to be a petty trader at Small Mankon until that fateful day when my only source of livelihood was shattered by soldiers. They were shooting indiscriminately, causing everyone to flee to safety. On my return, I found my wares in the gutter, smashed. Since then I have not had work.”
- Another video shows a state of total confusion, with the population running helter-skelter from one end of town to another, as the military shoots indiscriminately in collective reprisal for the killing of their colleague. According to city dwellers, that area of the town shut down that day because movement in and out of was prohibited by the military.
- Following the chaotic incident the day before, at about mid-day on 2 September 2020, the Bamenda population was restricted from accessing the market and other parts of town. Those already in the market were sent home by the DSF. One motorcycle rider was tortured by two soldiers for attempting to access a restricted area.
- BAN ON CIRCULATION OF MOTORCYCLES BY MR ACHOMBONG TEMBENG PAUL, MAYOR OF BAMENDA CITY COUNCIL, AND RETALIATION BY SEPARATISTS
On 3 September, there was another exchange of gunfire between the DSF and separatist fighters on speeding motorcycles at Mile Three Junction. This incident brought greater tension and fear on the local population. The following day, 4 September 2020, the Mayor of Bamenda City Council and the Senior Divisional Officer for Mezam co-presided a security meeting and subsequently issued a communiqué banning the use of motorcycles in the city indefinitely. They have subsequently replaced motorcycle taxis with six buses to transport residents over short distances in town. This ban caused widespread exasperation and anger, especially from the commercial motorcycle riders. separatist fighters retaliated by banning all forms of transport, both private and commercial, in and out of the Bamenda.
The civilian population bears the brunt of the extreme actions of the government city authorities and the separatist fighters. People have to cover long distances on foot and some people have even said that they could not transport sick or injured relatives and friends to the hospital as there is no means of transport, public or private. A witness told CHRDA that he had to use a wheelbarrow to take his paralysed mother to the hospital as there was neither a bike no a car to take her.
In reaction to the restriction, the motorcycle riders’ trade union wrote to the City Mayor and the Governor, through their representatives Barrister Walters Shanshan Mbinglo and Co, notifying him of a pre-litigation suit if he does not withdraw his decision to restrict the movement of commercial motorcycles within the Bamenda urban area. The riders say that they are duly registered commercial motorcycle riders, that this is their principal economic activity and that they should therefore be allowed to do so unperturbed.
On 5 September, the body of the notorious fugitive Fonteh Lucas Ndefru was discovered abandoned at City Chemist roundabout in Bamenda. Known for his criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom, murder, armed robbery, and others under the pretext of being an ‘Ambazonian General.’ He had, in the previous week, led a gang of thieves to break into the offices of Mitanyen Cooperative Credit Union in Bamenda (MitaCUUL) with assault-type weapons and robbed the credit facility. He was caught on CCTV camera. CHRDA also received and has examined an audio recording of an incriminating telephone call which he made to the bank manager. According to witnesses, he was killed by the military on the night of 4 September 2020 and his body dumped at City Chemist roundabout in the early hours of Sunday 5 September 2020 to send a message to the separatist fighters responsible for killing the Police Inspector Petit Bikolo.
Following these criminal activities, the three top regional military commanders launched Operation Bamenda Clean on 8 September 2020. Ostensibly intended to protect civilians from separatist fighters, it has resulted in serious human rights abuses. Victims and eyewitnesses have told CHRDA that, in the course of ‘Operation Bamenda Clean,’ soldiers carry out arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, extortion, unlawful killings, and rape. They also search homes, confiscating items for which the owners do not have proof of purchase, and only returning the said articles after a bribe has been paid. Several young men have reportedly disappeared and families search for their relatives, reportedly arrested by the military. There has also been witness testimony against soldiers for killing and dumping young men in a river in Bamenda. On 27 September, 4 bodies were retrieved from Naka River, allegedly blindfolded and shot by the military at 02:00 am before being dumped in the river.
On 10 September, a gun battle ensued between the DSF and armed separatist fighters at Cow-Boy Junction in Bamenda. As a result, one civilian died and another, a lady, sustained bullet wounds on her waist. An eye witness told CHRDA that after the crossfire between the two groups, the military killed the civilian. The witness said: “This guy stepped out of the house and, upon seeing the military, ran back inside in fear. After catching sight of him, the military followed him into the house, dragged him out, shot him dead, and took off.”
On Friday 11 September 2020, three unarmed civilians, two men, and a woman, identified as Suh Ngwa Wilfred, Ngallah Gilbert, and Akum Charlotte were found dead in a public transport bus going to Bamenda, after a funeral in Bali. According to eyewitnesses, the Cameroon military opened fire on the bus, under Operation Bamenda Clean. The murder of these three people brings to 9 the number of persons summarily executed in the very first week of Operation Bamenda clean following the death of the police officer, Petit Bikolo, on 1 September 2020.
Still in the context of ‘Operation Bamenda clean,’ the military invaded Ntarikon on 13 September 2020. They specifically invaded ‘K-place,’ a neighborhood in Bamenda, disrupting church activities and ordering inhabitants not to go to church so that their homes can be searched. They carried out door to door searches, checking purchase receipts for household equipment and appliances such as televisions, refrigerators, and gas cookers. A witness told CHRDA that the military arrived at K-place at about 08:00 am as he and his family were leaving their compound for church service. The soldiers asked them to go back to their houses, claiming to have an order to search for homes. In the words of the witness, “we went back home and they searched everywhere in the house. They threatened us, saying – “we hope there are no terrorists hiding here, or else you all will be in deep trouble.” They searched my house, removed my gas cylinder, and asked for its purchase receipt – for a cylinder which you simply refill and take home a different bottle. I wonder if there is a single individual with receipts for a gas cylinder in all of Bamenda. In the end, they tookXAFI five thousand (5000) XAF from me before they left. They also took two thousand (2000) XAF from my neighbor after he failed to provide a receipt for his old Panasonic TV which he has been using for close to 20years.”
Another witness narrated his own experience with the military, saying that the military stormed into their house, raising voices at them, and searched through everything going as far as searching the utensils in the kitchen. “They even asked us to present receipts for all electronics in the house including our handsets and in a case where we could not; we were mandated to pay some money for them or risk losing them.”
- RAPE OF A 23-YEAR-OLD MOTHER OF TWO IN NTARINKON, BAMENDA, NORTH-WEST REGION
Still in the course of ‘Operation Bamenda Clean,’ military officers were sent to different neighbourhoods on different days to conduct house-to-house searches. On Sunday 13 September 2020, military officers targeted Ntumazah Hill and K-Place all situated in Ntarinkon to carry out searches. In one of the houses, three soldiers entered and raped a 23-year-old girl, who is a mother of 2 children. Her last child is 1 year, 6 months old. To document this case CHRDA has visited the survivor and spoke with her. CHRDA has also received her medical reports from hospitals in Bamenda and interviewed her family members and eyewitnesses, who confirmed that she was raped.
The survivor narrates that at about 15:00 on Sunday 13 September 2020, she was at home with her aunt and her two children. In her own words: “We heard a heavy knock on our door. It was so hard and because I was carrying my 1-year 6-month old child, I delayed to open. They threatened to break open the door if I didn’t open in 1 minute. When I reached for the door, I saw 3 soldiers wearing brown and dotted uniforms and with guns. One of them asked me to keep the child I was carrying and step outside. All this happened while my aunt and other child were inside the room. When I stepped out as commanded, one soldier went into the sitting room. I don’t know what he did in the house but when he came out with his colleagues still outside, he asked me to follow him to the back of the house. While there, he asked me in French to choose between him sleeping with me or killing me, I don’t understand French, so he was mixing words in Pidgin.”
The survivor further narrates all attempts by her to beg the soldier not to rape her proved futile as he lifted her gown and forcefully raped her and while she screamed for help and in pains, he threatened to strangle her to death. When she was screaming, the other two soldiers in front of the house responded with sporadic gun firing in the air so as to distract people from getting her loud cry and to come to her rescue. When this was happening, they spotted two boys coming from the other side of the house so they abandoned me and chased after those boys.
“When they left, my aunt, who had been inside the house and heard everything that was happening but had been afraid to come out for fear of being shot, as well as our neighbour, came to see me, only to discover that I had been raped. After this incident, we went immediately to the Quarte-Head’s compound and reported the incident. He called Doctors Without Borders and they came and took us to St Mary hospital. While at the hospital, the Quarter-Head reported the incident at the Brigade Ter Ntarinkon, and I was later summoned by the Commander for interrogation. At about 18:00 the Commander sent us to the police station to meet the commissioner in charge of the soldiers who were searching houses around Ntarikon, and as we got there, we met a police commissioner who told us it was already late and that my aunt and I should come back the next day. On Monday 14 September, when we got up to go as invited by the doctor, I had my bath before leaving the house. This was because I hadn’t had any bath since the incident happened, and when we got to the police station, the commissioner said he cannot help me again because I have taken a bath and so there was no big evidence again. When he said this, he asked us to go back and speak to the commander who sent us to him, and that he would give us CFA 15,000.
As recounted by the survivor and corroborated by her aunt, from Brigade Ter at Ntarikon, they were sent to meet the director of the Bamenda General Hospital. At the hospital, they were received by Dr. Denis Nsame N, who carried out several tests on her. “From the hospital until we were sent home, they have been taking me from one place to another but I don’t know what they were saying. The Commissioner at Brigade Ter asked me to identify the perpetrator but the other one in charge of soldiers refused.” The young girl fears her life will be at risk as it involves military officers yet she seeks justice.
- MILITARY OPERATIONS IN THE SOUTH-WEST REGION
4.1 THE MURDER OF FIVE UNARMED CIVILIANS IN LYSOKA-MUEA, BUEA SOUTHWEST REGION
On Wednesday 23 September 2019, the Cameroon army in an offensive operation raided the village of Lysoka, situated a few kilometers from Muea, in the Buea Sub-division of the Southwest region, and arbitrarily executed five unarmed civilians: 4 young boys and a woman. This incident happened in the early hours of the morning as the military was scouting for separatist fighters. The victims were pulled from their beds, tortured summarily executed.
carcasses’ of some youths killed during the Lysoka attacks
To document this case, CHRDA spoke to survivors and eyewitnesses. They said that at about 02:00 am, the military invaded the village and forcefully entered several houses located adjacent to the CBC (Cameroon Baptist Convention) church Building in Lysoka. The area has street lights, provided by the Baptist Church, and so the frightened population could peep through their windows and witness the military smashing down doors and making their way into people’s homes.
According to one witness, at about 02:00 am, he heard a strange sound and thought someone was snoring. When the noise persisted, he peeped through the window and saw that the door to his neighbor’s house was open. In his words “I tried opening my door to go out and see what was happening, but my wife pulled me back. A few minutes later, we heard distant noises around the Baptist church. This activity continued until about 05:00 am when we heard two gunshots in the church area”. According to the witness, the military, dressed in army fatigues and some wearing balaclavas, broke into an older man’s house. Seeing his son, Tate Tomeh, 29 years old, they forcefully pulled him out, took him behind the Baptist Church building, and beat him severely with cement blocks from the churchyard. They smashed the bricks on his heard and, after that, slit his throat with a machete, killing him. The father of the murdered boy said that the soldiers broke into his house while he was asleep with his only son. When he got up and saw that it was the military he raised his hands above his head in surrender. The soldiers asked him, who else was with him in this house. He said it was just him and his son who is sleeping in his own room. The soldiers ransacked his house and destroyed his television and radio. They took a sum of CFA 200,000 which he had at home and threatened to kill him. They went to his son’s room and pulled him out, beating him severely with the butt of their guns before taking him to the churchyard where he was slaughtered.
woman killed during the attack at Lysoka
In one house, the soldiers found an older woman named Joan Ngomba Eposi Mukole and asked for her eldest son. The woman had two sons, the older one had fled through the window and escaped when he heard the military talking. The younger one, Moses Ngoma Efimba, 19 years of age and also known as Papi, stayed back and was taken out by the army. The older woman, in her 60s, tried to prevent the soldiers from taking her son, which allowed him to escape through the window. The soldiers shot her in the ear, and she fell. The soldiers tried to fire on the older brother who was fleeing. The soldier leading the operation shouted for them to stop, as he wanted to catch him alive. Having failed to apprehend the older brother, the soldiers executed Moses, his younger brother.
Another witness said that after they had killed Mama Eposi and her younger son Moses, they went to the next house, which is occupied by three male Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The three young men had escaped the violence in Ekona, in Muyuka Sub-division and found refuge in that house in Lysoka. The soldiers dragged the three teenagers from the bed and brought them out to the yard of the Baptist Church, where they had just killed Tate Tomeh. They shot two of the boys: Godwill, 17 years old, and his brother Samuel, 19 years old. The third boy, a native of the Bakweri tribe, was let go.
Witness said that when the soldiers brought the boys out into the yard, they asked the boys in Bakweri if they know a notorious separatist commander known as Mendoze. The two boys who were killed later on said they didn’t know him. The one whose life was spared, and who spoke Bakweri, said he knows Mendoze but that he was not in Lysoka. He said Mendoze lives in Maumu village. The soldiers also asked if he knows a traditional chief called Mokwa Moja. The boy said he knew him, and the soldiers ask him to get up and go. They ordered him not to change his statement from what he had just told them. After the third boy left, the soldiers opened fire on the two other boys, killing them.
When they shot the two boys, they went back to the house of Mama Eposi, carried her body and her son Moses’ body, into the churchyard where the other three boys were lying dead, and left. When the population came out in the morning, they counted five corpses.
The soldiers left after completing their operation. In the early hours of the morning, another contingent of soldiers arrived in two Hilux cars, one white and one green. They surveyed the corpses and beat people who came out to see what was happening severely. One soldier slapped and an older man, and when he was leaving, he went back to the man and asked for forgiveness. The mother of the two boys who had been killed, Samuel and Godwill, was weeping at the scene, sitting in-between the dead bodies of her two sons. A soldier took a picture of her with his phone. Another mocked her, saying she was crying over the death of her children and yet no tears were flowing.
After the operation in Lysoka, the military went to Maumu village at about midday. Maumu is a locality under Buea Sub-division. They gathered over 30 people from their homes, both young and old, and ordered them to sit in mud.
A witness to the incident in Maumu told CHRDA that when the military got to Maumu, they went round and arrested over 30 people, both young and old. They assembled them in one place and split them up into three groups: the young, the old, and the children. They interrogated the population, asking them where they had been hiding during the military patrols through the village.
The witness told CHRDA that these people who were arrested were taken to Buea later on, and asked to pay the sum of CFA 30,000 to secure their release. The military also told them that if they fail to pay this amount, and spent the night in their custody, they would have to pay CFA 50,000 subsequently to be released the next day and that they should be ready for whatever fate might befall them.
While the operation was going on in Maumu, two soldiers who had separated themselves from the contingent spotted two boys at the back of their house. They accused them of being separatist fighters and ordered them to undress. The mothers of the boys went down on their knees, weeping and begging the officers not to take their innocent children away or kill them. The two soldiers told the mothers to pay CFA 20,000 per child before they would let them go. The money was paid. The soldiers told the young boys to escape into the nearby cocoa farms, and not to come back until all the soldiers had left the village.
CHRDA condemns these killings of unarmed civilians by the Cameroon military, perpetrated in both the North-West and South-West Regions. CHRDA notes further that in less than 48 hours, between 21st and 22nd of September, soldiers executed 11 people: 5 in Bamenda and 6 in the Southwest Region.
CHRDA also notes that this is not the first time that the military is carrying out raids in Lysoka. They raided the village in 2018 and 2019 as part of their regular patrols. On one occasion, worshippers and their pastor were pulled out of a church and beaten with a metal rod from a construction site close to the church.
This happened in September 2018, when the military raided the CBC church in Lysoka as the congregation was rehearsing for their upcoming ‘Praise Sunday,’ the very next day. The soldiers went behind the church and returned a few minutes later with several locals who they had arrested. The soldiers ordered them to join those inside the church before changing their minds and ordering them to lie on the ground. They asked the worshippers for information regarding the hideout of armed separatist fighters. The latter replied, saying that they did not know their whereabouts.
The soldiers beat them up with a metal rod and palm branches, firing gunshots in the air and threatening to kill them if they did not indicate or tell them the whereabouts of the armed separatist fighters. As they were beating the population, one of the Christians of the Baptist Church shouted “that is our pastor,” when she saw the soldiers beating their clergyman. When the soldiers heard this, they called the pastor and told him that while the government was preparing children to go back to school, he and his congregation were hiding in the bush instead of sending children to school. They asked him why he had not prayed for an end to the crisis. After interrogating the pastor, they asked him to take the congregation back into the church. They nevertheless took one congregant away, releasing him in Ekona later on.
4.2 REPORT ON MASS KILLING IN MUYUKA
photo of a young man killed in Muyuka
Since the killing of Comfort Tumasang, by separatist fighters in Muyuka on 11 August 2020, the Sub-division has remained under military control. On Saturday 12 September 2020, 17 young men were executed in Muyuka, some alleged to be separatist fighters, and 11 unarmed civilians, who were rounded up and shot at close range. These incidents happened at Candev and Malende, all situated in Muyuka Sub-division, Fako Division of the South West Region.
To document this case, CHRDA interviewed a number of witnesses, who said that “on Saturday 12 September, the military raided Candev in Muyuka Sub-division and began shooting indiscriminately. They launched an attack in a place known to be a separatist hideout and were boys gather to smoke cannabis. In the cause of the shoot-out, over a dozen persons were killed. The village was taken by ambush and in the course of the indiscriminate shooting about 6 unarmed civilians were caught up and shot dead.” Another witness told CHRDA that in trying to escape the military invasion, two boys (unarmed civilians) ran into the River Mungo and drowned. Their dead bodies were later seen floating in the water. The others ran into the bushes and did not return. As they returned to their base in Muyuka after the operation, the military took three dead bodies with them, abandoning two of the bodies on a lonely street in Malende and another at the entrance to the former council building in Muyuka.”
On the same day, a group of young men were rounded up while extracting sand at a sandpit in Malende and shot dead. CHRDA has received and analysed images and videos recorded and circulated on social media, showing dead bodies of at least five young men all covered in sand and being removed and carried away by inhabitants in a heavy-duty truck for burial. In total, at least six separatists were shot dead, and about 11 unarmed civilians lost their lives.
- THE SENTENCE OF SISIKU JULIUS AYUK TABE AND NINE OTHERS TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT
On 17 September 2020, the Appeal Court in Yaounde, presided over by Justice Mindjimba Mindjimba, upheld the decision handed down on 20 August 2019 by the Military Tribunal in Yaounde, sentencing Julius Ayuk Tabe and nine of his close associates to life imprisonment, and jointly fined them the sums of CFA 250 billion and CFA 12.5 billion for damages and costs of proceedings respectively. The life term of the ten leaders of the Anglophone struggle for a separate state came at the end of a trial that lasted more than one year, and which itself was preceded by their controversial abduction from Nigeria where they were seeking asylum. This sentence comes at a time when the national and international community is encouraging the government of Cameroon to release and grant amnesty to all persons detained in connection with the Anglophone Crisis as a show of goodwill toward finding a lasting solution to the protracted crisis. The defence lawyers of the accused persons have widely criticised the less than 25-minute session to which they say the presiding magistrate arrived with a pre-prepared judgment.
Mr. Ayuk Tabe
CHRDA expresses deep concern regarding this sentence
The fact that Julius Ayuk Tabe, his nine associates and other Anglophone Cameroonians incarcerated in perpetuity in prisons in Yaounde and elsewhere represent the life wire of the Anglophone struggle for independence suggests that their life imprisonment could have the effect of hardening the position of the separatists.
The life sentence handed down to the Anglophone leaders amid calls for their release by well-meaning stakeholders within and outside of Cameroon demonstrates the Cameroon government’s insensitivity to the wishes of its citizens and the international community.
The life sentence imposed on Julius Ayuk Tabe and his associates could potentially spark spates of renewed violence by separatist loyalists with dire consequences on civilian populations living within the already beleaguered English-speaking regions.
The life sentence imposed on Julius Ayuk Tabe and his associates may be viewed as evident that the government is determined to not resolve the Anglophone Crisis, despite knowing that the release of the leaders is an important first step towards finding a durable solution to the current crisis. The life sentence on the leaders of the Anglophone struggle may also jeopardise the dialogue process already started by some moderate members of government and leaders of the Anglophone struggle in the Yaoundé Central Prison.
This decision could mean that the war in Anglophone Cameroon will continue to weaken the government’s ability to meet its responsibilities vis-à-vis its citizens and could lead to further instability throughout the national territory.
B) ABUSES BY NON-STATE ARMED GROUPS
- TORTURE AND EVENTUAL KILLING OF A MAN IN BANGA, MUYUKA SUB-DIVISION OF THE SOUTHWEST REGION
Between August and September 2020, the human rights situation in the English-speaking regions has deteriorated due to the activities of separatist armed groups. They have continuously launched attacks against the Cameroon military, killing several soldiers and, in reprisal, the military has retaliated and shot unarmed civilians.
The gruesome murder of Comfort Tumasang, whose head was chopped off on a seemingly busy street of Muyuka in the South-West Region on 11 August 2020 by armed separatist fighters who labeled her a blackleg, was widely condemned by the human rights community, including the spokesman of the UN Secretary-General during a press briefing on 14 August 2020. After this act, leaders of armed groups were called upon to discipline their soldiers and take steps to put an end to the gross human rights abuses perpetrated against unarmed civilians by non-state armed groups. Unfortunately, these condemnations and exhortations seem to have fallen on deaf ears as an even more shocking video emerged online on 7 September 2020, depicting a group of armed separatist fighters, gradually chopping off the limbs of a man and slowly killing him while he yells out in agony and begging for mercy with blood oozing out of several machete wounds in his body. They accused him of being a blackleg.
In the 1-minute 18 second video, the killers are heard telling the victim: “show that hand let him cut it off. Put it on the bench. Shut your mouth and cover your face.” Another person can also be seen in the video asking the victim angrily: “Do you know how many of your brothers have died because of you? Here you are crying, you shall eventually die anyway. This is the starting point of your death.” After saying these words, they chopped off his limbs and left him to die.
On 22 August 2020, armed separatist fighters in Sob village, situated in Ndu Sub-division of Donga Mantung Division in the North-Weest Region assaulted a third-class traditional chief, who later died of excessive bleeding from his wounds. He was attacked on the farm by armed separatist fighters and butchered with a machete. They accused the traditional leader, who is also a nurse and works in a clinic in Sob Village, of collaborating with the Divisional Officer.
Similarly, in Boyo Division, non-state actors shot a civilian in the leg on 28 September 2020, after they had accused him of being a blackleg. They shot Isaac Ngam in Belo, at his compound at Acha, for cleaning the compound of the Mayor who they say is a government collaborator. A witness told CHRDA that the victim was employed as caretaker by the Mayor of Belo Council, who resides in Bamenda. He went to cut down tall bushes which had grown in the compound and separatist fighters warned him not to do so. He did nevertheless. In the night, the separatist fighters came and shot his leg, which had to be amputated at Mbingo Baptist Hospital. Before he was taken to the hospital, he had bled profusely as he had been abandoned by his assailants in his own pool of blood. At the time of this report, Bobe Isaac Ngam is still in a coma. The shooting of Isaac Ngam is the second in one week as another old man was also shot in the leg in the locality of Jinkfuin in Belo Sub-division for calling the separatists illiterates.
Before the shooting of Isaac Ngam in the leg by separatist fighters, Boyo Division had become the epicenter of violence in the last weeks of July 2020, as the army battled to flush them out of the area. On 25 July 2020, the military launched a week-long operation in Belo that led to many civilian casualties, including the arson of homes, theft, and arbitrary arrest as well as murder.
The military launched an offensive attack at a separatist camp in the village of Aboh, where they met with stiff resistance from the separatists. In the course of the battle, the military recorded some casualties and separatists also retreated. In reprisal, the military burned down some houses at Anyajua while looting phones, a piano, sewing machines, beer, and potatoes. They also arrested many people and took them to Bamenda where they presented them to the public as terrorists, whereas most of them are civilians. Among those arrested was Yuh Kuma Toh, a farmer who works in Makenene in the Central Region, and who had arrived in Belo only two days before the military invaded. The young man went to the village for the funeral of his younger brother Kuma Dickson who was shot and killed in Bole-Bakundu in Meme Division of the Southwest Region by the military, before being arrested in Belo.
When the military eventually left the village on 31 July, the separatists came out to prove that they still exist and blocked the roads between Mbingo and Bamenda, so that patients could not get to Mbingo Baptist hospital for treatment. The lockdown on that stretch of road was originally intended to last only for few days but lasted for weeks as they also wanted to deter the Governor of the North-West region from visiting Fundong, the headquarters of Boyo Division. In the midst of the fighting, only the civilian population suffered must. A resident of Bamenda told CHRDA that the lock down prevented him from reaching Fundong to give his diabetic father his monthly delivery of medication, leading the old man to die. Another witness told CHRDA that they had left Bamenda with the body of their relative whom they were going to bury in the village in Boyo. At the checkpoint where the road was blocked around Mbingo, they were sent back to Bamenda with the dead body, leading them to incur additional costs for keeping the body in the mortuary for more days than they had planned to.
On 18 August, Mr. Njamsi Nelson Ndi, a teacher in the North-West Region was shot and killed by armed separatist fighters after a failed attempt to kidnapped him and his daughter. He was shot while driving home after picking up his daughter who had just finished writing her GCE examination paper for the day before their car came under attack by the armed men. They wanted to seize his daughter for going against their orders for a school boycott and, in trying to protect his daughter, the men opened fire and he was fatally injured. He later died while receiving medical attention in a hospital in Bamenda.
On 27 August, separatist fighters shot and killed a Muslim cleric in Bamessing, Ngoketunjia Division of the Nouth-West Region, after his persistent refusal to be recruited into a separatist armed group. A witness told CHRDA that the victim, Ban Malam Yahaya, had been beaten by the assailants a few months back and had sustained a serious eye injury. This time they shot and killed him for refusing to join their group, being the only male youth left in the village. Before the killing of this Muslim cleric in Bamessing, armed separatist fighters had conducted an offensive raid on 21 August 2020 against the Mbororo community in Ntombuw, situated in Ndu Sub-division of the North-Weest Regional and razed the entire community to ashes.
Similarly, on 28 August 2020, separatist fighters in Limbe, Fako Division of the Southwest region, abducted a lawyer, Barrister Agbor Benjamin Jomo, and made a ransom demand of CFA 1,500,000. He was only released after the Bar Council threatened to boycott all proceedings pending before military courts against Anglophone detainees incarcerated in connection with the crisis in the two English speaking regions.
On 11 September 2020, a group of young men alleged to be members of a vigilante group in Mile 5 Bamenda, North-West Region were captured by armed separatist fighters. According to witnesses, the vigilante group had discovered the path used by the armed separatist fighters from Bafut to Bamenda and thus went to capture them, and things turned out sour as they were captured by the separatists. The said separatist fighters have since subjected the captured vigilante group to inhumane and degrading treatment. A three-minute video received and analysed by CHRDA depicts members of the vigilante group being asked to crawl in the mud with their bellies over a very long distance and with their faces blindfolded. Another source told CHRDA that the separatist fighters are asking the DSF to release one of their colleagues, in exchange for the vigilante group members.
CHRDA emphatically condemns these gross human rights atrocities and reminds stakeholders of the necessity to urgently prevent further violence and to protect all civilians from grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. CHRDA also calls on the Government to immediately discharge its primary responsibility to protect its population by addressing the root causes of violence and ensuring that victims of the attacks are provided with the appropriate protection and assistance.
As it stated in February 2020 after the Ngarbuh Massacre, the Government should fully investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the serious violations and abuses that have been committed.
CHRDA urges the President of the Republic and the entire Government of Cameroon to ensure full respect for human rights, including the rights of women and children, and to ensure that the humanitarian needs of civilians are met.
CHRDA also calls on all stakeholders to engage in frank and veritable dialogue, to find a lasting solution to the crisis as soldiers and armed men continue to commit human rights atrocities.
CHRDA urges the government of Cameroon to grant the 10 convicted leaders of the Anglophone struggle, also known as the Nera 10, all due process guaranteed in any further legal processes available to them and to consider making use of available amnesty mechanisms that would create a conducive climate for dialogue.
On 14 August 2020, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General spoke of the deteriorating human rights situation in Cameroon. He stated that the Secretary-General’s Office had seen recent reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in the country, and strongly condemns these atrocious acts of violence. He 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. Finally, he also called on the warring parties to embrace the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire as the world fights the Covid-19 pandemic. In conclusion, he reiterated the readiness of the UN to work with all stakeholders. They would do this to find a political solution to the crisis in the Anglophone regions of the country, through meaningful dialogue.
This report is based on research conducted in the North-West Region and South-West Region by CHRDA human rights monitoring and reporting officers. It includes the testimonies of victims and eyewitnesses, collected through interviews and written complaints forwarded to CHRDA by victims and concerned individuals. Documentary and audio-visual evidence, showing acts of violence committed by the military and separatist fighters, were also received and analysed by CHRDA.
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