Many were taken aback today when the government of Cameroon decided to make public findings of the inquiry commission on the February 14, 2020 massacre in Ngarbuh village, Donga Mantung in the North West region.
Following pressure from within and out of the country, president Biya created the commission to shed light on the circumstances under which the massacre took place and establish responsibility of the perpetrators.
Major Nyiagono Ze Charles Eric, commander of the 52nd Motorized Infantry Battalion and some of his subordinates are set to face disciplinary action for their role in the incident with disciplinary proceedings instituted against the Major for failing to “personally supervise the operation carried out by his troops”.
After field visits in Kumbo, Nkambe, Ngarbuh, Bamenda and Ntumbaw, the commission established that “a reconnaissance mission” was authorized on February 12 to combat separatist fighters in Ngarbuh. “The terrorists were engaged in all sorts of abuses against the local population” a communiqué from Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh states.
Led by Sergeant Baba Guida, the unit made up of three servicemen and two gendarmes enlisted the support of some 17 vigilante members, mission that later proved fatal as three women and three children were killed alongside five separatist fighters.
“Panic stricken, the three servicemen with the help of some members of the vigilante committee tried to conceal the facts by causing fires.” The Sergeant later “submitted a deliberately biased report to his superiors, a report in which government initially based its statement.”
With Sergeant Baba Guida, Gendarme Sanding Sanding Cyrille and Private 1st class Haranga Gilbert already “at the disposal of the military tribunal in Yaoundé,” government says “the concerned members of the vigilante are actively being tracked down.”
Subsequent action outlined include exhuming the corpses of the Massacre victims “to give them a decent burial at the cost of the state … [and] identification of the rightful claimants of the victims by the administration to enable the state to pay appropriate compensation and indemnities.”
Government has also promised the creation of a military base in Ngarbuh village, alongside “setting up other services which should help ensure better protection of civilians against the abuses of armed groups and the easing of intercommunity tensions.”
Ngarbuh massacre sanctions: concern or pressure
Weeks back in an impromptu discussion with a Cameroonian protester in France, President Emmanuel Macron revealed that he had pressurised president Biya to release the MRC’s Maurice Kamto, am observation that has once more come into question over the Ngarbuh incident. Several regime apologists after the massacre were quick to downplay the incident. Conflicting reports saw some government officials deny the role of soldiers while others played with the figures, pointing fingers at separatist fighters.
With pressure from local and foreign rights groups and media organs, president Biya ordered the creation of a joint commission of inquiry. The fairness of the body was later called into question as it remained mute after its working period elapsed, later reveling that government alone had the final say.
With sanctions and measures for restitution coming days after president Biya met with French ambassador to Cameroon, Christophe Guillou, critics say it is possible that the regime’s arm was twisted once more with releasing the findings of the inquiry commission as precondition for aid.
Days back ambassador Christophe expressed his country’s willingness to help Cameroon reconstruct the restive North West and South West regions, but will do so only in a peaceful atmosphere.
Over three thousand have been killed due to the crisis with hundreds of thousands more displaced.
Will government also tender an apology to NGOs, media and organizations accused of incitement?
Ministers of the Paul Biya regime and other supporters had waged a verbal war on mainstream and online media platforms against local, international press and organisations which reported the fact behind the Ngarbuh-Ntunbaw killings.
The Cameroon government slammed a Human Rights Watch report that blamed its soldiers for “deliberately” killing civilians in the English-speaking North West region as “overtly biased and incriminating.” Women and children were among those killed when the army attacked Ngarbuh village on February 14, the international organization said.
The Yaounde government said Human Rights Watch of acted in “bad faith”. Equinoxe TV, Balafon other local and international media were also accused of publishing unfounded articles.
Mimi Mefo Info