A Cameroonian refugee in Nigeria shows the scar from a wound by a soldier, in Ogoja, in January 2022. KOLA SULAIMON / AFP
Civilians in western Cameroon are regularly victims of“atrocities”, including executions, torture and rape, committed by the police and armed separatists in conflict in this predominantly English-speaking region, was alarmed on Tuesday, July 4, the NGO Amnesty International. The UN and international NGOs regularly denounce « crimes » committed for more than six years by both sides in the North West and South West administrative regions, populated mainly by the Cameroonian English-speaking minority.
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At the end of 2016, the regime of President Paul Biya, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for more than forty years, began to violently repress peaceful demonstrations by Anglophones who consider themselves ostracized and marginalized by the central power, dominated by the French-speaking majority. Then many English-speaking separatist armed groups took up arms and proclaimed in 2017 the “independence” of a region they call “Ambazonia”. Mr. Biya, intractable, has been sending massive troops there ever since.
In a new report titled “With or Against Us. The population caught between the army, armed separatists and militias in the English-speaking North-West region”, Amnesty International lists “extrajudicial executions”of the « homicides » civilians – including women and children –, « tortures »of the “rape and other sexual violence” perpetrated by both sides. Of the “recurring atrocities” relevant to “serious human rights violations”. The report is based on the testimony of “more than 100 victims”leaders of local NGOs and journalists.
Among the targets of the separatists, who carry out kidnappings for ransom almost daily, are civilians whom they accuse of “collaborate” with Yaoundé, and particularly of the Mbororo Fulani ethnic group. The army and the police are regularly accused by the UN and NGOs of attacking and devastating villages whose inhabitants are suspected of sympathy with the separatists, and of committing blunders and crimes there. Amnesty also accuses “Mbororo militias” to support the military in these attacks.
More than 6,000 dead
Amnesty also accuses of “human rights violation” THE “political and judicial authorities”in particular by imprisoning “arbitrarily” civilians, journalists, civil society leaders, and by having them tried by military tribunals for acts related to “terrorism”.
Read also: In Cameroon, a journalist killed by English-speaking separatists
The NGO is also concerned that “Cameroon’s international partners, including Belgium, Croatia, the United States, France, Israel, the United Kingdom, Russia and Serbia, have continued to cooperate with the country on the military level, including in supplying arms and military equipment” Who “risk” to be “used by armed forces, militias or armed separatists to commit abuses”. Amnesty asks these “international partners” of “condemn these violations of fundamental rights” committed by both sides, and to the government of “urgently carry out thorough, independent and impartial investigations”.
“Requests for meetings with government ministers”solicited in the context of this report, “remained unanswered”, assures Amnesty. The government never reacts to the press on the regular publication of NGO reports, and generally does so several days or weeks after their publication.
The conflict has killed more than 6,000 people and forced more than a million people to move, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, which has not updated this assessment for three years.