Locals turn out massively to bury couple killed in Nacho shooting
By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE
Between July 15 and 16, 2023, the Northwest regional capital witnessed some of its most horrible killings since the start of the Anglophone crisis. 15 civilians were killed in two days and several others were injured. Faced with widespread condemnation, both government and separatist fighters have been doing all to distance themselves from the cruel killings.
On July 15, government soldiers stormed the neighbourhood of Abangoh and targeted a building inhabited by some youngsters. Neighbours said soldiers opened fire on the youths and killed five of them, and that no reason was advanced for the extra-judicial killings. Those familiar with it said it was deliberate given that soldiers just shot and killed, even as the victims were unarmed.
The next day on July 16, 2023, another macabre killing took place at Nacho Junction, still in Bamenda. Witnesses said two vehicles with men dressed in military attire zoomed into the junction, ordered people to lie down, called them black legs, and then proceeded to open fire on them. The shooting left 10 people dead and two others in critical condition.
So far, no one has taken responsibility for the killings. While separatists are accusing the military of carrying out the attack, the Ministry of Defence, has in a statement released on July 17, 2023, denied responsibility, saying the act was carried out by separatist fighters. MINDEF in its statement claimed that the separatist dressed like officers, with military uniforms, and carried out the act. “A group of about a dozen secessionists, deceptively dressed in military gear similar to those of the Army and carrying automatic riffles, gathered a few innocent citizens before firing heavily and indiscriminately at them, leading to the death of a few customers comfortably seated around a table”, MINDEF’s statement said. The statement signed by Navy Captain Atonfack Cyrille furthered that “combing operations are ongoing to apprehend the perpetrators.
A Separatist leader for one of the groups in the Northwest region, who is known as Wo Scandy, blasted MINDEF’s statement, stating that it was not strange, as government forces have never taken responsibility for any of their killings. Other separatist groups operating in and around Bamenda have also not taken responsibility for the act, as they claim it was carried out by government forces.
However, in their statement, MINDEF did not also mention anything about the killing of five unarmed youths in Abangoh neighbourhood, still in Bamenda, just hours before the Nacho Junction killings.
During a visit to the scene, His Grace Andrew Nkea, Archbishop of Bamenda Ecclesiastical province, which covers all of the Northwest and Southwest regions, condemned the killings, stating that it is not right to kill anyone, and that is high time all the killings stopped. He said the situation in Rwanda should not be allowed to happen in Cameroon.
Northwest Governor, Lele La’frique also condemned the killings, stating that investigations have been opened, as well as a manhunt to apprehend the perpetrators of the act. The act has also been condemned by civil society and rights activists in and out of Cameroon.
The killings in Bamenda, like others, do not only violate Cameroon’s laws but also international instruments that guide the conduct of war, to ensure respect for human rights and freedoms. In the preamble of its January 18, 1996, Constitution, Cameroon’s bedrock of laws forbids inhuman treatment of anyone, stating that, “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”. This has not been the case with the over 15 civilians killed in Bamenda, within two days.
In Article 3, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, pressing on the need to respect and preserve human life, states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.” Article 5, furthers that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
On its part, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, in article 5, says “Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.” The victims of the cruel killings were all deprived of these rights.
The government on its part, failed to protect its citizens, as per Article 2 (3) of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The state failed in its obligation to prevent the violation of their right to life. 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 life. This is as per Article 2 (1) of the Convention.
In a statement human rights lawyer and activist, Barrister Agbor Nkongho regretted that “widespread and systematic killing of civilians is gradually becoming the new normal”. He said such killings that target the civilian population amount to crimes against humanity.