The ongoing separatist conflict in Cameroon has left civilians the targets of unlawful killings, kidnappings, and house destruction, Amnesty International has disclosed.
Gathering eyewitness testimonies and analysis of satellite images, the rights group in a statement on Wednesday disclosed how dozens of civilians have been killed and multiple villages destroyed in the four-year conflict.
In 2017, after demonstrations against discrimination and marginalization were doused by authorities, while violent clashes broke out between government forces and armed Anglophone separatist groups. Since then, fighting between various armed groups and the Cameroonian armed forces has continued unabated for the past three years.
Fabien Offner, Amnesty International’s Central Africa Researcher, noted that without strong local and international interventions, civilians will continue to bear the brunt of the fightings.
“All parties to the conflict in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions have committed human rights violations and abuses, and civilians are caught in the middle. In one particularly appalling case, armed separatists shot dead two elderly women with barrage rifles; in another, Fulani vigilantes burned hundreds of houses and killed four people in a terrifying attack,” Fabien Offner, Amnesty International’s Central Africa Researcher, said.
“It is difficult to obtain accurate information about the human rights crisis unfolding in these regions, which are hard to reach by road and have poor telecommunications networks. But this is no excuse to look away – without strong action by the authorities and the international community, civilians will continue to bear the brunt of the crisis.”
Quoting the UN, the rights group said about 22 civilians – including 5 children and two pregnant women – were killed in Ngarbuh between 13 to 14 February 2020 in a military operation.
Amnesty International said, “… between June and July 2021, at least four policemen were killed in an ambush near the town of Bali Nyonga in the North-West region.
“Two gendarmes were beheaded in the town of Babadjou in the West region, bordering the North-West in an attack attributed to armed separatists by officials.
“Other examples include the killing by the army in Bamenda 3 subdivision of a civilian man driving a car and the kidnapping of six local officials in the town of Ekondo Titi in the South-West region.”
In a series of attacks in February 2021, 4,200 people were forced from their homes in Nwa, North-West Cameroon. They were targeted by Fulani vigilantes who are accused of siding with Cameroonian government forces. No fewer than eight people were killed in the incidents.
According to the Centre for human rights and democracy in Africa (CHRDA), the Fulani herders “have carried out over a dozen raids against the natives in the villages of Nwa in less than a month”.
According to unofficial figures Amnesty International received from Mbororo groups, in the absence of official data from the authorities, since 2017, in the seven divisions of the North-West region: 162 Mbororo have been killed; at least 300 homes have been burned; 2,500 cattle have been killed or seized; 102 people have been kidnapped, resulting in the payment of almost 270,000 euros in ransom.
One Mbororo traditional leader in Nwa subdivision told Amnesty International: “Armed separatists came to attack me six times. They destroyed my compound, burned down my brother’s houses. Seven people were killed in my compound. They gathered them in a house, locked the house and burned it. “
Four members of one family, aged between 15 and 80, were killed, and three others were injured, including two elderly women who were shot in the forehead, legs and thighs with barrage rifles. The attackers also set fire to 30 homes, the mosque, and looted property, including motorcycles.
A victim and eyewitness whose identity has been verified by Amnesty International said:
“We were coming out of the mosque after prayer, when armed separatists came on three motorcycles and attacked us. They burned all our houses. Two hundred people could not sleep because their homes were razed.”
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