THE EVIL FACE OF THE AMBAZONIAN WAR…MARRED BY RAPE AND MURDER- HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
THE EVIL FACE OF THE AMBAZONIAN WAR…MARRED BY RAPE AND MURDER- HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
Accused of supporting separatist armed groups in the North West and South West regions of Cameron, the international NGO Human Rights Watch surprises more than one with a damning report which details the abuses committed by Ambazonians since the beginning the beginning of the Anglophone crisis.
The resurgence of acts of violence against the civilian population in this English-speaking part of Cameroon worries the human rights organization which calls out to the separatist leaders. Indeed the year of 2022 is particularly deadly in Noso. The separatists are accused of having committed numerous common crimes against their compatriots (rape of minors, murders, kidnappings, etc.).
Human Rights Watch shared its findings with representatives of the three main separatist groups, the spokesperson and vice-president of the Ambazonia Interim Government (Sako), Christopher Anu and Dabney Yerima, the chief of defense of the Defense Forces of Ambazonia (ADF), Capo Daniel as well as the President of the African People’s Liberation Movement, Ebenezer Derek Mbongo Akwanga. Only Capo Daniel responded to Human Rights Watch.
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Since January 2022, armed separatist fighters have killed at least seven people, injured six others, raped a girl, and committed other serious human rights violations in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, Human Rights Watch said today. today. Amid an upsurge in violence, separatists also burned down at least two schools, attacked a university, abducted up to 82 people, including 33 students and five teachers, and threatened and beat 11 students.
“Armed separatist groups abduct, terrorize and kill civilians in Anglophone regions seemingly without fear of accountability, either to their own leaders or to Cameroonian judicial authorities,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior researcher on Central Africa to Human Rights Watch. “Leaders of separatist groups should immediately order their fighters to cease their abuses against civilians, and hand over fighters who have committed abuses for prosecution. »
Between April 1 and June 15, Human Rights Watch interviewed 38 people by phone, including 27 victims and witnesses of separatist abuses, three family members of victims, four Cameroonian journalists, and four members of Cameroonian rights organizations. humans. Human Rights Watch also reviewed medical records, 13 videos, and 56 photographs shared directly with Human Rights Watch researchers or posted on social media showing evidence of abuse by separatists.
Between May 1 and May 10, Human Rights Watch shared its findings with representatives of the three main separatist groups: Ambazonia Interim Government (Sako) spokesperson Christopher Anu and Ambazonia Interim Government (Sisiku ), Dabney Yerima; the Chief of Defense of the Ambazonia Defense Forces (ADF), Capo Daniel; and the President of the African People’s Liberation Movement, Ebenezer Derek Mbongo Akwanga. Only Capo Daniel responded.
On April 5, separatists stormed the University of Bamenda campus in Bambili, North West region, firing into the air and spreading panic among students and teachers and causing a stampede which injured at least five people. The fighters attacked the university for failing to adhere to the “lockdown”, or stay-at-home order, they had declared across the region.
The separatists, who have been fighting to create an independent English-speaking state of “Ambazonia” since 2016, have been targeting civilians who fail to heed their calls for school boycotts or widespread lockdowns. These abusive calls trample on the fundamental rights of an already terrorized civilian population, and separatist fighters and their leaders should be held accountable and punished for the violent implementation of these measures, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch spoke to five witnesses to the attack on the University of Bamenda, reviewed local media reports about the incident, and reviewed a 15-second video taken on campus the day of the attack, which shows students fleeing after hearing gunshots.
“I saw three separatist fighters shooting from the campus soccer field,” a 28-year-old student told Human Rights Watch. “I was less than 50 meters from them. They kept shooting for 20 minutes. According
to witnesses, the shooting was sustained for about 25 minutes before the gendarmes reacted. Residents of Bambili said that fighters from the separatist group Forces de Restoration (Restoration Forces) have their camp at Fonyah, located less than six kilometers from the campus.
This is not the first time that separatist fighters have attacked the University of Bamenda. Human Rights Watch documented the May 20, 2020 assault on a campus dormitory by separatists, who kidnapped nine students. The separatists took the students to their camp, beat them and held them for five days, until a ransom was paid.
On February 26, at around 3 p.m., separatist fighters stopped two vehicles of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS), a non-profit medical organization, at a checkpoint in Mile 90, in the North West region. They fired into a vehicle, killing Jenette Sweyah Shey, a 46-year-old nurse, and injuring another nurse and a doctor. The health workers were returning from Ashong and Nyonga, two localities where CBCHS had provided medical assistance to those in need.
Human Rights Watch spoke with two CBCHS staff, a nurse who witnessed the murder, and a man who saw Jenette Shey’s body. “They [separatist fighters] shot at the windshield of the first vehicle,” the nurse said. “The bullet went through him and hit Jenette in the forehead. She died while we were rushing her to the hospital. Capo
Daniel, the ADF deputy defense chief, said ADF fighters and fighters from another separatist group, the Buffaloes of Bali, were at the checkpoint at the time. , that “it was a matter of mistaken identity” and that “we have apologized to CBCHS” for this incident.
On February 28, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon condemned in a statement the murder of the nurse and called on the killers “not to obstruct access to health services”. In a March 18 statement, CBCHS provided information about the incident and said “Shey lost his life trying to save lives.”
Security forces and armed separatists have each attacked hospitals and medical personnel in English-speaking regions since 2017.
On July 6, 2020, separatists killed a Médecins Sans Frontières community health worker in the South West region, after accusing him of collaborating with the military. On June 10, suspected separatist fighters set fire to the Mamfe district hospital in the South West region, depriving 85,000 people of access to health care, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. .
On May 16, during an attack on a residential area where workers of the Cameroon Development Corporation (CBC), a public agribusiness, live in Idenau, in the South West region, separatist fighters abducted 30 people and one of them raped a young girl of about ten years old.
On April 7, armed separatists abducted 33 seminary students for ransom in Bachuo-Ntai, South West region. Catholic church authorities told media that the seminarians were released the following day. It is not known if this ransom was paid.
On May 30, local media reported that the body of Lukong Francis, a retired teacher at the public high school in Jakiri, North West region, and a member of the ruling party, was found on May 23 on the road. between Mantum and Jakiri, with signs of torture. Local teachers and former colleagues of Lukong confirmed to Human Rights Watch that Lukong was abducted by suspected separatist fighters for participating in public celebrations on May 20, National Unity Day, in which separatist groups had opposed.
Since 2017, armed separatists have abducted hundreds of people, including students, teachers, health workers, aid workers, clergy and government officials. They have also killed and tortured civilians, and carried out widespread attacks on education. They intimidated human rights defenders, including Akem Kelvin Nkwain, a member of the prominent human rights organization Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA).
Government forces have also committed human rights abuses, including burning down villages, homes, and shops, killings, torture, ill-treatment, incommunicado detention, and rape of civilians.
“Cameroon’s regional and international partners should intensify their calls on the Cameroonian government to be accountable and ensure better protection of civilians,” concluded Ilaria Allegrozzi. “They should also impose targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes, on separatist leaders who bear responsibility for abuses. »
Detailed information on recent abuses, testimonies
Multiple attacks in Buea, South West region
On January 12, separatist fighters who wanted to disrupt the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) African football tournament held in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6 carried out a series of attacks in the town of Buea. Some national football teams trained in the city. The separatists had declared a lockdown, and the three incidents that followed that announcement all took place on January 12, ostensibly to punish people who didn’t observe it.
Aggression, threats, injuries to students
Separatist fighters physically assaulted, threatened and humiliated a group of 11 students, including at least 4 girls, aged between 14 and 18, who were on their way to Bokova High School on January 12. They destroyed or seized the school materials of these students and shot one of them in the right leg.
Human Rights Watch spoke with an official of the victims’ school as well as two victims, and viewed a video showing at least one armed fighter beating two students, a boy and a girl, as well as 11 students who received the order to undress. In the video, which had been circulating on social media and confirmed to be authentic by the school official and students, separatist fighters can be heard threatening to kill any student who disobeys their orders.
A 16-year-old student said:
There were about 15 separatists, they ordered us to take off our school uniforms. Once we were all naked, they beat us, kicked us and threatened to kill us. They said the schools had to be closed. They shot my friend in the leg at close range. I was terrified.
The school official said that after the incident, the students were traumatized and did not come to school for more than a week.
In a statement broadcast on the radio on January 13, an army spokesman, Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo, blamed the attack on separatist fighters. In a Jan. 14 video shared on YouTube, Capo Daniel, the ADF’s deputy chief of defense, praised The Mountain Lions fighters for the attack on the students, but said the students would not have had to be undressed.
Killing of civilians
Separatist fighters shot and killed a 30-year-old taxi driver and another man in the Bwitingi market area on 12 January.
Human Rights Watch spoke to a witness to the killing and three people who saw the bodies, including a relative of one of the victims. Human Rights Watch also reviewed six photographs showing the body of the taxi driver in the Buea hospital morgue and five photographs showing the taxi after the attack.
A witness said:
I was hiding behind a building. I saw how separatist fighters stopped a taxi and shot it repeatedly. I do not know what happened. That day was a “ghost town” day because of AFCON. When the situation calmed down, I rushed to the scene and found the bullet-riddled bodies of the driver and his passenger.
The taxi driver’s family did not file a complaint with state authorities for fear of reprisals.
Attack on a lawyer
On January 12, armed separatist fighters shot a lawyer, wounding him in both legs and in the stomach, in the area of the checkpoint near the Bwitingi market. The fighters stopped his car, ordered him to get out and shot him at close range. “I saw the amba [separatist fighters] stop his car,” a witness said. “When he came out, they shot him at least five times. It was rough! »
Human Rights Watch also spoke with a friend of the lawyer who visited him at Buea General Hospital and reviewed a report from a local human rights organization that documented the incident, three photographs showing the lawyer’s injuries, as well as a video taken after the incident showing him covered in blood.
The lawyer is still undergoing medical treatment for the injuries he sustained.
Abduction of workers in Tiko and Idenau, South West region, and rape of a young girl
On January 13, separatist fighters attacked a Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) rubber plantation in Tiko, kidnapped nine workers, including six women, and set fire to a tractor. “They were armed, invaded the plantation and took us away,” said a man among those abducted. “They threatened to kill us if we continued to work for the CDC and said we should join their fight instead. The workers were all released on January 25 after paying a ransom.
On May 16, separatist fighters from the group known as “Ten Cobo” attacked a CDC residential area in Idenau, went door to door and abducted 30 people, including 5 women and an elderly man. . Nine workers eventually escaped. The separatists beat and threatened the other captives, then abandoned them two days later. During the attack on the residential area, a separatist fighter also raped a young girl in her 10s.
Human Rights Watch reviewed international and local media reports about the incident, and spoke with two of those abducted, a relative of the rape survivor, and a journalist who covered the case.
A 37-year-old woman who was among those abducted said:
We had to walk all night to reach their camp. Some of us, especially the elderly, were exhausted. They beat us on the soles of our feet with machetes. They shaved my hair as a punishment. They said we shouldn’t go back to work and the CDC should be closed.
A relative of the rape victim said: “I found her in great pain. I took her to the CDC clinic, where she was treated. She is traumatized. »
Since 2018, separatist groups have attacked and kidnapped dozens of CDC workers in an attempt to cripple the country’s economy. CDC is Cameroon’s second largest employer and operates banana, palm oil and rubber plantations in the South West region. Human Rights Watch documented at least three incidents involving CDC workers who were beaten or maimed, and in one case, shot dead by separatist fighters in 2018.
Abduction of lawyers for ransom, North West region
On January 16, separatist fighters abducted a lawyer from his home in Bamenda in the presence of his family. They blindfolded him, took him to their camp and threatened him with death. They released him four hours later after paying a ransom of 2.3 million CFA francs (about US$3,700). The lawyer said:
Two separatist fighters armed with guns broke into my house. One of them shouted, “Get down, or I’ll kill you.” My wife and children were present and terrified. They told me that the lawyers were traitors and that I had better pay the ransom if I didn’t want to end up like lawyer Kemende.
The lawyer said his captors abducted an opposition senator and lawyer, Henry Kemende, and killed him because he failed to pay the ransom. The lawyer also said he saw Kemende’s car in the separatist camp where he was being held. Human Rights Watch was unable to verify this information.
The kidnapping and murder of Kemende, a member of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) party, sparked national and international outcry. Human Rights Watch has documented how separatist fighters have repeatedly targeted SDF members and supporters since 2019, including its leader John Fru Ndi, accusing them of not supporting their independence struggle.
The kidnapped lawyer said he filed a complaint with Bamenda police on January 18, but as of early June the investigation had still not made progress.
On May 29, separatist fighters abducted Valentine Velieh Yenshia, a 54-year-old lawyer, from his farm in Babanki. They kept him in solitary confinement in a container for three days without food, and threatened to harm him, then finally released him on June 2 after paying a ransom of 1.1 million francs. CFA (about US$1,760). The lawyer said that on June 2, he filed a complaint with the Attorney General of Bamenda. He added that he continues to receive threats of violence from separatist fighters.
Abduction of teachers and injuries inflicted on students, Lycée public de Weh, North-West region
On January 19, a group of seven separatist fighters attacked the school at around 8:30 a.m., kidnapping five teachers, including two women, and injuring two students, including a 14-year-old.
Human Rights Watch spoke with two of the kidnapped teachers and with one of the students injured in this attack. Human Rights Watch also reviewed three photographs of the students’ injuries and their medical records.
The two teachers said that the separatist fighters, whom some recognized as their former students, told them they were kidnapping them for not respecting the school boycott ordered by the separatists and for not contributing financially to their fight for independence. One of the teachers said:
I was in class with 27 students when separatist fighters burst in. They forced us out at gunpoint. The students panicked and ran away. I was taken with four other teachers. We had to walk a whole day in the bush until we reached their camp. The female teacher and an elderly teacher were exhausted and could not walk. But the fighters threatened them with death if they stopped. They said public schools should be closed.
One of the students injured in the attack said: “They wanted to kidnap me, but I resisted, so one of the fighters cut off my finger with a machete. I screamed in pain. He let me go. I went to the hospital where I had an operation, but my finger was eventually amputated. The teachers
were released on January 24 after paying a ransom. According to teachers, the incident caused the closure of all schools in Weh for a week.
Witnesses said no members of the security forces were near the school at the time of the attack. Teachers and residents of Weh said that there is a military base in Weh, about 2 kilometers from the school, but the soldiers and gendarmes based there have no means of transport, which limits their ability to patrol and secure the area.
Primary school arson attack in Buea, South West Region
On February 7, in the early morning, suspected separatist fighters set fire to the classroom of a public primary school in Molyko Group 1.
Human Rights Watch reviewed credible media reports about the incident, interviewed two people who went to the school the next morning, and reviewed 10 photographs showing the damage caused by the fire. “I saw an entire classroom burn with everything in it,” said a reporter. “The gendarmes outside the school said they intervened to chase away the separatists but they did not catch up with them. The teachers said it was not the first time their school had been targeted and they had received threats from the separatists asking them to close the school.
On April 5, another classroom in the school was set on fire. Human Rights Watch spoke to a man who saw the classroom on fire, and a journalist who visited the school on April 6 and reviewed three photographs showing the damage caused by the fire.
Arson attack at Queen of the Rosary College, Okoyong, South West Region
On February 11, between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., separatist fighters set fire to three dormitories of a secondary school boarding school reserved for girls. Human Rights Watch reviewed media reports and several nongovernmental groups about the incident, interviewed a school official and a student who witnessed the attack, examined three videos showing the dormitories on fire, and five photographs illustrating the aftermath of the arson. In the videos, which the school official confirmed to be authentic, students can be heard screaming as several fighters threaten them not to march on February 11, Cameroon’s National Youth Day, at the on which occasion parades of students are traditionally held.
The attack took place while the children were sleeping. There were 120 girls in the dorms. We heard screams and saw smoke and flames. The girls fled as the arsonists burned their beds and belongings. Some students were slightly injured.
The school official said soldiers and the mayor of Okoyong visited the college the morning after the attack and promised an investigation. It is not known, however, whether such an investigation has been opened.
The arson was condemned nationally and internationally. On February 14, diplomats present in Cameroon, including those from Canada, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, issued a joint statement calling on all stakeholders to the Anglophone crisis to respect the right to education and to stop attacking schools.
In a statement issued on February 11, Dabney Yerima, the vice president of the separatists of the Interim Government of Ambazonia (Sako), acknowledged his group’s responsibility for the attack and said that he “will take measures to disarm gangs of thugs operating in Ambazonia”.
Attack in Mamfe, South West Region
On April 28, around 1 a.m., separatist fighters attacked the taxi and bus station known as the “moto-park”. They burned at least five cars and allegedly killed three men, a teacher, a driver and a porter, accusing the station’s employees of having operated while the confinement had been decreed. Human Rights Watch reviewed local media reports about the incident and spoke to three people, including a witness to the attack and two family members of two of the victims. Human Rights Watch also reviewed a photograph showing one of the burned cars and a photograph showing the body of one of the three men. A 24-year-old student said:
I was in a taxi waiting to leave when I heard gunshots. I got out of the car and saw a group of ambas [separatist fighters]. I hid behind a bush. I saw them burn the taxi and four other cars. They were accusing people of not respecting their orders to stay at home on Mondays. I saw them shooting at random. When they left, I saw the body of a man, a loader [carrier], who had been killed.
The brother of the driver who was killed said: “I saw my brother’s body in the morgue. He had three bullet wounds. He was shot from behind and the bullets went through his chest. »
Kidnapping of a senator and her driver in Bamenda, North-West region
On April 30, ADF fighters abducted a ruling party senator, Regina Mundi, and her driver in Bamenda. Human Rights Watch reviewed local and international media reports about the incident as well as a video circulating on social media on May Day showing the senator in an undisclosed location with ADF insignia behind her, making a pro-separatist statement.
Capo Daniel, the ADF’s deputy defense chief, confirmed the authenticity of the video and said the ADF “arrested the senator for high treason”, adding that she would be used as a bargaining chip for prisoners.
In a May 11 YouTube video, Capo Daniel said the ADF was preparing to execute Mundi if President Biya did not release the English-speaking prisoners. In a May 31 statement, army spokesman Atonfack said that on May 30 soldiers freed Regina Mundi and “several” other hostages in Ashong, North West region.
Attempted kidnapping of a journalist, Bamenda, North-West region
On May 26, around 6 p.m., at least six heavily armed separatist fighters attempted to kidnap Frédéric Takang, BBC Cameroon correspondent, and took him stripped of his possessions, in a street in Bamenda. Human Rights Watch spoke with the journalist who said:
They fired in the air to scare people. They stole everything from me. They took my car, my computer, my microphone, my money and my phone. They also stole money and other items from at least 10 other people who were there. They said they were going to kidnap me, take me to their camp because they wanted me to send a message. They didn’t say what message. Then one of them took me on his motorcycle. Along the way, I managed to push him off the bike and escape.
On May 26, Takang filed a complaint with the Bamenda gendarmerie, but by mid-June he had still not been informed about the progress of the investigation.