Home NEWSConflict Big Babanki Fon’s Requested ‘Help’ Ushers In Turmoil As Soldiers Keep Dropping Dead Bodies

Big Babanki Fon’s Requested ‘Help’ Ushers In Turmoil As Soldiers Keep Dropping Dead Bodies

by Atlantic Chronicles

Soldiers standing over remains of victim after executing him in Big Babanki

By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE

On May 18, 2023, Anglophone separatist fighters operating in Kedjom Keku best known as Big Babanki in Tubah Subdivision of Cameroon’s Northwest Region, violently suppressed a women’s protest against exorbitant war levies imposed on households by separatist fighters. The fighters opened fire on the women, wounding many in the process. They later abducted the women and only released them later after wide condemnation.

The traditional ruler of the area, Fon Benjamin Vutsiboung who works and resides in Yaounde, on May 19, 2023, wrote a letter to the Northwest Governor, Adolphe Lele L’Afrique, requesting an immediate deployment of soldiers to Big Babanki to contain the armed separatist fighters. The request of the Fon was grated and so far, the records are dismal.

On May 26, soldiers went on a mission, and ended up burning five houses. Locals also reported the looting of several shops on that day. On June 13, the deployed soldiers shot and killed a man, identified as Kugow. The victim was a wine tapper. His house alongside several others was burnt down by the soldiers. There was also reported looting.

On Friday, June 16, 2023, locals the military executed about six civilians in the village. The victims had been arrested earlier on, on allegations that they had links with separatists. Locals say they got up only to discover their maimed remains dumped in the village. Gruesome pictures showed the victims with shattered limbs, broken legs, and other maimed body parts abandoned in spots around the village. Locals who identified the bodies said the victims included a community leader, two popular bike riders, and a kingmaker among others. According to sources on the ground, none of victims was a separatist fighter as insinuated in social media posts by pro-government propagandists.

Cars and commercial motor bikes have also been burnt by soldiers during their operations. On Monday June 19, soldiers are said to have executed a popular driver known as Joseph Acho. Witnesses say after buying garri from a shop, he was called by soldiers on patrol, who asked him to go after questioning. As he turned his back to leave, he was shot in the back and killed.

The operations have also led to a shutdown of various roads in an around Big Babanki, forcing many to be trapped in a very hostile area. The Senior Divisional Officer for Mezam, Simon Mooh in an outing described the mission as one to fish out bands of outlaws from the community. He is still to comment on the wanton killings.

So far, several persons are feared dead, as a result of the operations led by the military. Locals say since the coming of the military, separatist fighters who were operating in the village have all escaped.

The Voice Newspaper in its Issue: 457 reported that at least 14 persons had been killed by the military since their entry into the village. On its part, the military has maintained its claim that those killed were separatists. However, locals still maintain that since the deployment of the military, separatist fighters left the village, and that the victims are identified civilians. Some of those killed are said to be persons who were fleeing from the village after the military started a brutal operation that left many frightened.

The killings in Big Babanki violate Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person”.  It furthers that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” In Babanki, the military failed in this, as they maimed and arbitrarily executed arrested suspects.

Cameroon’s Constitution, in its Preamble says: “Every person has a right to life, to physical and moral integrity and to humane treatment in all circumstances. Under no circumstances shall any person be subjected to torture, to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.” In Big Babanki, the military did not have regard, even for Cameroon’s constitution.

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in its article 2 (2) frowns at torture, stating  that, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” This too has continually been ignored by Cameroonian Defence forces who justify their use of torture and other unethical war conduct in Anglophone regions. At one point, the spokesperson of Cameroon’s Defence Ministry, Col. Cyril Atonfack in responding a question on normalised torture and extrajudicial killings, simply said Cameroon has no place for “terrorists”.

The state on its part, has failed in its obligation to protect civilians in Big Babanki, and its forces like separatists, are making things worse for everyday people. By signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Cameroon has made an undertaking to respect and guarantee to all individuals inhabiting its territory the right to safety, life and other human rights. This is as per Article 2 (1) of the Convention.

Condemning the outcome of the military intervention in Big Babanki, a Kingmaker who sought not to be named blamed the Fon for acting unilaterally, and going against the counsel of his collaborators. “To be honest, I and others had argued that military intervention in Babanki was going to be dangerous. The Fon seems not to have heard that. He insisted that all those who have any connections with Amba in the village must be dealt with or picked up,” MMI quoted a Kingmaker saying.

In a statement asking for military intervention, following the abduction of women, the Fon of Big Babanki had said “in consultation with the different village institutions, notables, and the elite in general, it has been unanimously agreed that a military post or station be established in the village, to help or salvage these repeated acts of violence, looting, rape and the general threat to public peace and tranquillity”. The Fon too has so far not uttered a word in relation to the wanton killings that has left his subjects back at home fleeing for their lives with several killed already.

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