Cameroon’s Ministry of Defence has denied claims its soldiers roasted a child alive in Batibo, a locality in the conflict-hit North West region.
Reacting to a viral video on social media in which a man (alleged father) is seen crying over the corpse of a burnt child, Cameroon Army Spokesperson, Navy Captain Atonfack Guemo Cyrille Serge said it was a hoax.
“The authors, who posted this macabre video attributed the origin of the fatal fire to elements of the Defence and Security Forces, accused of having carried out a raid and set houses on fire in the Batibo locality, Momo Division, North-West Region.
This is a hoax. An absolute hoax,” Atonfack stated.
The sad events of Batibo,” he explained, “rather refer to a settling of scores between two identified terrorist criminal factions, which are causing death and disarray in the administrative regions of the North-West and South-West”.
He further accused the Ambazonian Defence Forces, ADF, and the Southern Cameroon Defence Forces, SOCADEF.
“In the present case, underlings from the Ambazonian Defence Forces led by the pseudo general “BIG EFANG’! alias “BIG NUMBER” were charged by AYABA CHO to murder the alleged general “COMMANDO”, responsible for SOCADEF terrorist operations in the Batibo sector.
Informed of this punitive expedition, the so-called “COMMANDO” fled with his wife, urgently abandoning his baby in the hideout which also served as a depot for adulterated contraband fuel as well as homemade gun powder,” Atonfack explained.
Highly flammable and explosive products, Captain Atonfack said, helped fuel the house fire, burning the baby in the process.
“This new episode of demonization of our Defence and Security Forces clearly seems to be part of a scheme programmed to demoralize and even demobilize them in the conduct of their defence missions of the territorial integrity of the country and protection of people and their property,” the Ministry of Defence added.
What the defence ministry failed to say
In the said video, a man believed to be the victim’s father is seen weeping as he carries the child burnt to death.
The government in its release confirmed that the incident took place in Batibo in the North West region, but failed to show proof of having conducted in-depth findings.
Details of the incident remain sketchy as the Ministry of Defence has not mentioned the name of the village, the family concerned, the name of the victim and other key aspects of the crime.
This and the relatively short response period have left many doubting if the ministry conducted an investigation.
It should be recalled that this is not the first time government or the army is denying grave rights abuses and misuse of power in the North West and South West regions, an assertion that has often proven false in the long run.
Why the crisis remains underreported
The Anglophone conflict which began five years ago has claimed thousands of lives. Some of the areas most affected by the prolonged war are interior and hard to access areas.
This alone makes the spread of information slow and hard. Despite daily rise in deaths, figures were only updated nearly two years ago.
The situation is further exacerbated by the lack of power supply and slow or inexistent internet connectivity, leaving residents cut off from the rest of the world.