The 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations opens in Cameroon on January 9, 2022.
Although the country has since been battling to spray perfume on its mess, human rights continues to suffer a huge blow.
Last week, the regime of 89-year-old Paul Biya, through military courts, jailed several members of the opposition and the civil society. The Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) les by Professor Maurice Kamto and Stand Up for Cameroon led by Edith Kah Walla are the biggest casualties of the tyranny that now stands as the hallmark of the Biya administration that has been in power since 1982.
Aside sharing jail terms to stifle opposition and critics, the government is concluding her plans to flush out all independent Non-Governmental and Humanitarian Organisations.
Doctors Without Borders (DWB) is being used as a guinea pig for an experiment whose results will have far-reaching repacautions.
Amidst a standoff with government, state forces dragged workers of the humanitarian medical organization into detention. After torturing them for days, they’ll be released without an apology.
In a statement, the military spokesperson, Navy Captain Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo, said after a tipoff, an ambulance belonging to DWB was intercepted by the military in Nguti, Kupe-Muanenguba division of the South West region with a wounded separatist fighter receiving treatment inside the ambulance.
Bilai, said he was surprised that DWB decided to help a dreaded self-proclaimed separatist ‘General’ who was wounded in an armed battle with government troops. He added that the dangerous fighter had killed many civilians and destroyed a great deal of property, including public and private structures.
Okalia, a francophone who has been Governor of the South West Region since 2012, said DWB was helping the criminal but the two DWB staff held by the military for questioning were released after two days.
In a statement, the humanitarian charity said it contacted Cameroon military authorities and informed government troops of plans to transfer a wounded patient for medical assistance to Mutengene.
In the statement, DWB said it treats people based on medical need, regardless of their background or affiliations.
But Cameroon’s Minister of Territorial Administration, the authority supervising the work of civil society groups insists that all activities of NGOs must be carried out only with government approval.
In his philosophy of traceability, Minister Atanga Nji says NGOs must take permission from him before they can act.
In 2020, DWB was suspended from carrying out activities in the North West region allegedly for having close relations with separatists. The humanitarian organization strongly denied the accusations and said its only goal is to save lives.
Following pressure from Cameroonian authorities, it withdrew teams from the North West region. The organisation said “this suspension significantly reduces access to medical services in an area where communities are badly affected by armed violence.”
Emmanuel Lampaert, DWB operations coordinator for central Africa, said intimidation against healthcare facilities are commonplace, and their teams are not spared.
“All parties to the crisis must respect healthcare providers, whether they are members of non-governmental organisations or the Ministry of Health. Any threats or violence against them or their patients is unacceptable,” he said.
On December 8, the organisation said just in the North West region alone it treated 180 survivors of sexual violence, provided 1,725 mental health consultations, performed 3,272 surgeries, and transported 4,407 patients by ambu- lance, more than 1,000 of whom were women about to give birth.
“… community health workers provided 42,578 consultations, mainly for diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections. Our medical staff also treated direct victims of armed violence in the region, in accordance with the principles of international humani- tarian law, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and medical ethics,” DWB said.
DWB has been of tremendous service to the people of the two English-speaking regions. And based on medical ethics they are supposed to treat wounded people, be they separatists, soldiers or civilians, which is also a requirement of the law of war.
What we at MMI think the government should do is to collaborate with the organisation and allow it to treat victims of the conflict without discrimination. The nation, which is engaged in bloody conflicts in the North West and South West regions and with Boko Haram in the Far North and a national healthcare delivery system lagging in all domains, needs the services of DWB. There should be no reason to doubt their commitment and professionalism, unless there is incontrovertible proof that they are in collaboration, militarily, with separatist fighters. But is there any evidence aside Atanga Nji’s plan to oust these NGOs that have shocking records of casualties in the war in the Northwest and Southwest Regions?
The other 23 countries taking part in the AFCON should sure be ashamed of Biya’s iron-fist rule.