N Melo
by N Melo
April 29, 2022 0

By David Atangana

When it comes to human rights abuses, the government of Cameroon and its soldiers have made it a point of duty, not to be outdone. It is now common knowledge that over 40 commercial motorbike riders arrested in Oku a few days ago were the handiwork of the dreaded Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), an elite unit of Cameroon’s defense forces.

Cameroon government forces have been waging a war against armed English-speaking separatists in the North West and South West regions who are striving to create a breakaway state called “Ambazonia”. The war however, seems to be for the most part, against the civilian population than the armed combatants.

The war has been going on for nearly six years and counting. Both sides have recorded severe losses in human and material forms. These have made them always turn against the civilian population, making the transfer of aggression to become a common phenomenon. In most cases, the population is scapegoated and targeted by the warring factions.

The recent incident in Oku is not a new phenomenon and should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the conflict over the years. The axiom of ‘giving a dog a bad name to hang it’ holds true in this instance as Cameroon government forces rounded the said bike riders and tagged them Ambazonia fighters, thereby effectively transforming, civilians into enemy combatants. This claim was and is still being circulated by pro-government activists and military platforms. This raises serious concerns given that such allegations are sufficient grounds for summary execution or indefinite incarceration if we are to go by previous actions of the Cameroon government and its military.

The unfortunate young men who were traveling to Oku to bury a colleague, Mkong Roland, who was shot dead by government soldiers in Bamenda, will at this stage most likely be wondering if they will ever regain their freedom.

Locals were taken aback when the faces of these bike riders emerged on social media platforms tagging them as separatist fighters who have been captured alive by security and defense forces.

No weapons are reported to have been seen with any of the bike riders now believed to be detained somewhere in Bamenda, headquarters of the North West region. This, however, seems to be the least of the Regional government’s worries, as it is keen to prove to their ailing boss in Yaounde, that they are doing something worthwhile. It remains a mystery to many who question how a military force trained by foreign experts can go as far as implicating armless civilians in the name of fighting separatists without proof. Some critical minds however have argued that it should not be surprising, given that this has been the modus operandi of the Biya government for about 4 decades.

Describing the action of the military and by extension, the government of Cameroon as an act of cowardice will not be an overstatement given that the bike riders committed no crime nor have been proven to have links with the separatists. It is now clear that the Cameroon government and its military have decided to go for soft targets rather than engage their real enemy, the Ambazonian separatist fighters. Many people say if the soldiers are brave enough, they should go for the fighters and allow civilians in peace.

N Melo
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