The world is still in shock after a 6-year-old was gunned down by a Gendarme officer in Buea, in Cameroon’s restive South West Region on October 14, 2021. More shocking however, is the fact that without thorough investigation, the spokesperson for the Cameroon Ministry of Defense was quick to issue a long explanation which appeared to blame the victim, while concurrently contradicting the initial sentiments expressed by the Governor of the South West Region, where the events unfolded.
Eyewitness accounts have since stood in stark contrast to the official narratives of the Cameroon government. Speaking to MMI, a motorist who happened to be at the scene and witnessed the events leading to the shooting of the little girl up to the lynching of the gendarme and protests that ensued all day, a clearer and more consistent picture is emerging.
The mother of the victim spoke to the gendarmes
The said motorist who opted to remain anonymous said he was transporting passengers when he came across a lady who was pulled over by two gendarmes along the road to the Buea Central market.
“I saw her drive past the Gendarmes. She told them she was going to drop kids in school and went her way,” he explained.
Wanting money however, “they stopped the next available taxi and chased her. They stopped her at the entrance to the co-cathedral. One gendarme stood in front of the car and the other behind it – the short one was in front and the shooter was behind the lady’s car. They were talking and negotiating with her. I pulled over, listened to them for a bit and realised it was something that would be resolved as soon as the lady gave them the money they were asking” the motorist explains.
“The gendarmes negotiated with her over what to pay”
“She kept telling them she was going to drop kids in school. Shortly after I passed them I heard a gunshot,” the motorist narrated, adding on turning around he realised the Gendarme opened fire as the lady moved away from them by about a hundred meters.
“She stopped and the Gendarme ran to her car before realising he had shot her child dead… An angry mob got to the scene and one of the civilians seized his gun … They later handed the weapon to the other Gendarme before they started beating the shooter, who started begging and asking to be arrested.”
Other security forces unwilling to intervene
To the driver who stayed at the scene observing the happenings, “… those that started beating the gendarme are those that witnessed the incident and that is why they didn’t touch the other person who didn’t shoot.”
The crowd, he told MMI, later sent the second gendarme away. “A police unit arrived at the scene and did nothing to attempt and stop the mob. They simply watched. Later on, some military persons arrived. The gendarme was still alive on the ground. He looked at them, hoping to be saved, but they did nothing” he continued.
“When the military men got there, one wanted to shoot but was warned by the population, causing them to retreat. By the time the Bishop and D.O got to the scene, the gendarme had already been stoned to the extent that he was unlikely to survive” he added.
Exploitation in place of service
To the taxi rider who plies the Molyko-Bokova stretch of road on a daily basis, the actions of the gendarme officers was not strange. Letting the lady get off without complying financially he believes, would have been out of the norm, given what they witness on the stretch of road and others in the town of Buea daily.
The gendarmes in question, he noted, “are posted at the Bokova government school to guard the premises. From there to the Central market is a long distance and they usually do control before the school, getting money from drivers.”
“However, many cars don’t pass that way so they often would come down to the Central market to get money,” he noted.
However, he remarked, “… they don’t control anything. You must settle them… The lady however denied to give them the money because she passes there daily.”
Lip service from the administration?
Following the incident, the Regional governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai promised to have the perpetrators punished. The governor is however known to have refered to those in his territory of command as “dogs” and has come under intense criticism, with some describing his remarks as an attempt to save face.
Some have interpreted his words as a threat to those who lynched the gendarme rather than a promise to properly investigate the incident. Such criticism were well founded as less than 24 hours after his promise, the governor retracted and echoed the narrative that came from Yaounde.
This narrative was from the Ministry of Defense, which appeared to expressed subtle support for the gendarme who gunned down the kid, describing his move as “warning shots”.
At press time, the head of state and other top dignitaries have characteristically remained silent.
(C) Mimi Mefo Info