By Tata Mbunwe
British watchdog media, Declassified, has implicated the British Government in its secret role in helping President Biya’s 40-year rule, especially by training the Cameroonian military, which has been accused of committing human rights abuses in the country’s two ongoing conflicts.
There is evidence that British Lt Col Purser, war veteran, and marine commando, is stationed in Cameroon as Britain’s “senior military adviser” to the Cameroon military.
Alongside military support, Declassified also says Britain has aided the Cameroon Government financially as it signed a 200-million Euro (FCFA 177.5 billion) trade deal with Cameroon last year, and a British foreign minister met President Biya in March 2021 to discuss “investment opportunities”.
The Cameroon government has been fighting rebellion on two fronts: in the Far North region against Boko Haram (since 2014), and the Northwest and Southwest regions against separatists (since 2016).
Declassified UK writes that the British Government is strongly behind President Biya’s regime in fighting these wars and has conducted six secret counter-terrorism operations in Cameroon since 2021.
“Most of the operations involved training and “capacity building” for troops tackling the Boko Haram and Islamic State groups. This included UK activity at a barracks in Cameroon’s Far North, Salak, where Amnesty International says terrorism suspects were tortured,” Declassified noted in a report published on Wednesday, January 26.
“Britain is building training villages in Salak for elite Cameroon units, documents obtained by Declassified show. Those forces are also accused of severe human rights abuses against an English-speaking “Ambazonian” movement,” the media institution wrote.
It furthered: “Training includes ‘mountain maneuvers and targeted use of intelligence (to reduce collateral damage). The Minister of Defence claims the training has made Cameroon’s state security forces ‘highly effective”.
Britain’s passivity on Anglophone Crisis
The secession conflict in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions has triggered several human rights cases of abuse, including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, killings, forceful displacement, and several others, which the British Government has taken no public action to address.
The human rights situation is deplorable for civilians in the two regions, which were governed under British colonial rule for 45 years. Some people hold that this colonial connection puts Britain at the fore of efforts towards ending the five-year conflict facing the regions. But this has not been seen this coming.
Human rights watch, Amnesty International, Reliefweb, CHRDA, and a host of other human rights NGOs, have pointed out gross rights abuses committed by non-state armed groups and the Cameroon military in the two English-speaking regions.
Citing Fabien Offner, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, Declassified said: “Over the past five years, the human rights situation has grown increasingly bleak as people from Anglophone regions, including journalists, human rights defenders, activists and supporters of political opposition, have been arrested and jailed for expressing their opinions or peacefully protesting.”
Despite advocacy from some British parliamentarians on these abuses, Declassified noted that London has been “offering considerable support to Biya’s regime” and, by this, is indirectly complying with these human rights misdeeds.
“The UK Government is aware of such abuses,” says Declassified, adding that, “British officials have privately noted President Biya’s ‘frequent detention of opposition activists and unjustifiably broad use of the anti-terrorism law’”.
Documents which Declassified acquired show that British diplomats overlook President Biya’s lapses on human rights and democracy, partly because he voted with the UK to condemn the use of chemical weapons by Russia and Syria at the UN General Assembly.
On the quest for independence by Anglophone separatists, Declassified noted that British authorities believe, “There is no chance of — and little popular support for — independence… But the conflict will continue to simmer unless and until the Government addresses the reasonable demands of the moderate majority.”
Despite organizing a “Major National Dialogue” in 2019, which was criticized for not being inclusive of separatist leaders in the English-speaking regions, the Biya Government has been resolute on military action as a way of resolving the crisis.