Few were surprised Monday, August 23, 2021 when the Cameroonian army denied killing a Christian and wounding a pastor in Bali the day before.
Addressing the situation, army spokesperson, Navy Captain Cyrille Serge Atonfack said the authors of amateur footage of the incident at the Presbyterian Church Bali, located at the Ntafoang junction blamed the military.
“The attribution is nothing but a hoax, an absolute hoax. The sad event in Bali was the result of failed cohesion and coordination among the elements of the same criminal terrorist faction which has now been clearly identified and which is responsible for scores of deaths in the Bali area,” he claimed.
The said separatist faction known as the Buffalo fighters of Bali, he stated, operate “under the command of the so-called General Grand Pa.”
Deja Vu military narrative
Recounting the army version of the incident in approximate English as usual, the spokesperson said “the advance elements of the Defence and Security Forces on routine patrol on the Batibo-Widikum highway stopped at the Ntafoang junction, at the level of the Bali ceremonial ground, not far from the Presbyterian Church facing the Law Court.”
Describing the move as swift and tactical, he said it was meant to surprise separatist fighters “who had previously invaded some alleged Defence and Security Forces checkpoints.”
“Upon arrival of the Defence and Security Forces elements, an improvised explosive device (IED) was prematurely detonated, causing havoc among the worshippers and neighbours,” he went on.
Contrary to what eyewitnesses and even the Presbyterian Church Moderator established, the army narrated that separatist fighters “… took refuge in several groups, in the church and in the buildings of the square, before opening fire at the advance element of the patrol in an intense and confused manner from their different hideouts.”
Despite the gunfire opened on them by separatists, the army captain claimed, “no response was triggered from the Defence and Security Forces,” as they tactically took shelter waiting for reinforcements.
In what is seen as another attempt to ‘swim dry’, the army remarked that it had ballistic proof that the civilians killed and injured, were hit by separatists’ weapons.
“The first ballistic observations,” Captain Atonfack stated, “clearly show that all the victims were hit by shot and buckshot, local weapons produced illegally by the terrorists.”
The army, he went on, neutralized several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the same locality.
Many have questioned the soldier’s alleged decision to hold their fire against separatist fighters shooting at them, a move hardly ever seen since the start of the armed conflict.
Many have also questioned the timeline of events as recounted by the army as well as the nature of the said ballistics test. This, is given the swiftness with which it was allegedly done, as compared to the timeline of events.
To the army spokesperson noted for such surreal narratives, the concerns raised are all propaganda.
“This new episode of demonization Of our Defence and Security Forces is clearly part of a scheme aimed at demoralizing them, even demobilizing them in the conduct of their missions of defending the territorial integrity of the country and protecting people and their property,” he stated.
Different day, same story…
The Cameroon army however is not new to such utterances. It has in several instances denied any wrongdoing only to be proven otherwise. Such was the case with the murder of civilians in the Far North Region years back.
More recently, was the February 14, 2020 Ngarbuh Massacre where soldiers gunned down civilians including children and pregnant women.
In similar releases punctuated by half truths and broken English, the army categorically denied any wrongdoing only to be proven otherwise.
Its latest outings on similar human rights violations including the case of Mautu, Samuel Wazizi and most recently, the Bali Church shooting, fall in line with government’s denial policy.