Human Rights Watch (HRW) has decried the violence against civilians in the ongoing armed conflict between Cameroon’s armed forces and separatist fighters in the North West Region.
The army, it remarked, continues to violate civilians’ rights, killing, maiming, and injuring some, as well as razing houses and carrying out extrajudicial killings.
“I lost my entire house, and I am now homeless,” a 55-year-old trader who lived on Mbengwi Road in Cameroon’s North West Region told Human Rights Watch.
Ironically, the attack was carried out by the forces of law and order, the trader testified.
Among them were those of the highly trained Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) who too “… were shooting and burning. In my home, everything was burned: all the kitchen stuff, books, mattresses, chairs, tables, clothes, bed sheets, blankets. They burned room by room”.
The attack, HRW noted, was one of many others carried out against civilians by the army in December 2021 leaving enormous damage and at least three deaths including three children, two women, and an older man.
In another ‘nasty’ December attack, HRW recounted in a recent report, soldiers from the elite BIR unit “… searched door-to-door in Chomba village, about 10 kilometers from Bamenda in a separatist-held area. The soldiers gathered about 80 residents in the village square, accused them of harboring separatist fighters, and threatened them with death”.
Four villagers taken away by them were later found dead, shot on their heads.
“Human Rights Watch also reviewed satellite imagery showing over 35 buildings affected by fire along Mbengwi Road and 19 videos shared directly with Human Rights Watch researchers and posted on social media platforms indicating extensive destruction of the property there”.
“The killings of civilians, including children, are serious crimes that should be credibly and independently investigated, and those responsible held to account,” Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch pressed.
Army spokesman, Col. Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo, known to often deny any military wrongdoings, HRW noted, denied to comment on the latest incidents.
“The incidents in December follow previous spates of violence and human rights violations by government forces during the crisis in the Anglophone regions, most of which have gone unpunished,” HRW noted.
Despite attempts to see an end to the violence including a recent resolution by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the violence multiplies, and civilians continue to bear the consequences.