By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE
Since the Anglophone crisis started, many suspects arrested for supposed anti-government activities, or links with separatists have been summarily executed without trial, or even further investigations.
The most recent of some of the callous killings is the incident in Mautu on January 10 where, in an alleged hunt for separatists, some locals, including an elderly woman and her grandchild, alongside seven others were killed. Another grandmother and her grandson are still battling for life, after sustaining gun injuries. Like in other similar cases, the spokesman of the Ministry of Defence, stated that, “…some terrorists were neutralised, and others who were injured took to their heels…”
The broad reference to those killed as terrorists, waters down the excesses of defence and security forces, whose extra-judicial misdeeds are not called to order. Some locals have refuted claims that those killed were separatists.
In many cases, suspects arrested in connection to the crisis, like those who testified during the Ngarbuh killings, easily go missing, and are never heard from, or accounted for. Others, in groups, are killed based on whim, and mere suspicion that they are pro-separatists. Even groups of unarmed youths have been killed based on impulse, and such cases are hardly ever looked into, even when the concerned complain.
On Thursday, 28 May 2020, the military conducted an offensive raid in the neighbourhood of Upper Bonduma in Buea, chief town of the Southwest region, which led to the killing of four unarmed young men. Others escaped with bullet wounds. One of the survivors, who escaped with a gunshot in the leg, was arrested and charged with terrorism and other related crimes. He is awaiting trial at Buea Central Prison, despite confessing that all they did was smoke. Locals have also attested that the youngsters were drug addicts, and not separatists, or bandits as claimed and charged by state prosecutors.
A resident of the Bonduma neighbourhood, who knew and worked with one of those killed, told The Post there were neither criminals nor armed with anything when they were killed. Locals attested that one of the victims was working at a construction site, and when he went to take a smoke, the soldiers swooped in on them.
“They smoke, but they don’t trouble us. The tall commissioner was the one trying to force words into our mouths. He asked us why we were not reporting the boys to them. Why should we do that? In some countries marijuana has been legalised, and even if it is not, the punishment for that is not killing those who taking it. The Commissioner also said they saw women’s pants in there, and that those boys were raping women and girls. Except they (officers) might have brought that there too, I don’t know how that could happen. No woman or girl has been raped around here. I know that they planned to kill those children, else, why did they not just arrest them and investigate?” a witness in his early 50s whose identity we concealed for his safety, asked, when we first investigated the killings on May 28, and 29, 2020.
The people of Bakweri Town in Buea, on Monday, 30 July 2018, experienced one of their greatest horrors in their neighbourhood, when masked elements of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) moved into Bakweri Town and killed five youths, took some away and executed them in neighbouring Muea, leaving the communities wailing and mourning.
The former Quarter Head, Mola Samuel, whose house is located directly opposite the scene of the killings, narrated the horror he witnessed alongside his children. Back then, he told The Post that the place, under a Mango tree, was a smoking joint where even some elements of the security force will drive by, take a smoke and leave.
The official story was that elements of the BIR dismantled a separatist’s camp which in reality was a Mango tree with bricks and stumps of cigarettes, and empty sachets of whiskey littered around. The story of what happened in Bakweri town was narrated by Barrister Ikome Ngongi at the Constitutional Council, when the issue of security in the region and atmosphere for elections was brought up.
In September 2018, there was another incident, which led to the killing of seven in Buea Town, early in the morning. Though it was later established that those concerned were not armed, and were youths of the neighbourhood, no investigation or action was taken to bring those behind the extra-judicial killings to book.
One of the rights abused by these acts, is stated in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person”. This is also supported by Article 5, which demands that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its article 10 states that everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him. It also furthers in its Article 11(1) that, “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.” Those arrested and summarily killed, or those accused verbally and executed in a non-threatening incident, or use of disproportionate force, without giving them the opportunity to be tried in court, are robbed of this right.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its Article 6 also frowns at extra-judicial killings stating that, “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” It further states in its article 9 (3) that, “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release…”
In a reaction to the recent killing of eight in Mautu, a village in Muyuka Subdivision, the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy for Africa, CHRDA, headed by rights defender, Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho, condemned the killings, like most others.
In a statement, the organisation stated, “The persons killed included women and children, who are classified under the group of vulnerable persons. Young and unarmed boys were also killed. This attack brings back to the minds of Cameroonians the Ngarbuh and Kumba Massacres, which occurred in 2020.
“Sequel to this, CHRDA strongly condemns this attack and killing of civilians. CHRDA notes that the recent attacks on the civilian population in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon have become rampant in the first 10 days of 2021.”