“Cameroon’s international partners and the UN Security Council should impose targeted sanctions on separatist leaders who bear responsibility for abuses, including torture and occupation of schools,” Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.
The call came after the vocal critical group unveiled a video showing armed separatists torturing a man in an abandoned school in the North-West region of Cameroon in mid-May, 2019.
“Once again material is circulating to support allegations that armed separatists are abusing civilians,” Lewis Mudge, Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch lamented.
“Separatist leaders should immediately direct their fighters and followers to halt attacks, including torture and other abuse aimed at civilians.”
“The separatists should know the world is paying attention and those responsible for torture will face the consequences,” Mudge said.
“Armed separatists should let children return to their studies and stop using the schools to carry out their campaign.”
The video, verified by a dozen sources including five people who recognize the school and its location, corroborates previous accounts of torture and occupation by armed separatists documented by Human Rights Watch.
The footage shows at least four separatist fighters threatening and torturing the man, who is wearing only his underwear, forcing him to sit on burning pieces of paper and beating him with sticks and machetes.
An analysis of the dialogue in the video reveals that the victim is a driver from the village of Bali who had been transporting products for Brasseries du Cameroon, a state-owned company the separatists oppose. They have banned the marketing, purchase, and transport of its drink products within the areas they control.
Separatists can be heard accusing the driver of selling Brasseries’ products in the Bali and Batibo parts of the North-West region. The victim, who has yet to be identified, begs his torturers to stop, but they instead threaten to “wash him with gasoline,” implying they will kill him.
The attackers and the victim speak Mungaka, a language common among communities in Bali. The video appears to have been filmed at the Government Technical High School in Bali, as the writing on a school desk shows at the 05:41 mark in the video. Five people from Bali who know the school well told Human Rights Watch that this is the school in the video.
They also said separatists hold and abuse hostages there. The school, which had a capacity of over 800 students, has been closed since mid-2017 due to violence and the separatists’ boycott of education to make the area ungovernable and to signal that the situation in the Anglophone regions is untenable.
Human Rights Watch suspects, the separatists are most likely from a group that controls Bali, whose leader was known as General Koraman. In March, a video surfaced of Koraman declaring that he and his men would intercept vehicles from the Brasseries du Cameroon. HRW suggest that the video was filmed in the first half of May.
Human Rights Watch says Armed separatists have killed hundreds of members of security forces and assaulted and kidnapped hundreds of people during their increasing attacks and growing calls for secession of the North-West and South-West regions. The watchdog also adds that, armed separatists have used schools as bases, deploying fighters and weapons and holding people hostage in and near them.It also revealed that, Separatists have disrupted normal life in the areas they control by enforcing strikes, consistently targeting school buildings, and threatening education officials and students with violence if they did not comply with separatist demands to boycott schools.
Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases of torture by armed separatists against workers of the Cameroon Development Corporation, who work in the company’s banana plantations near Tiko, South-West region.
The workers according to HRW have been beaten or maimed because they refused to participate in a general strike called by the separatists. It also brought forth the case of the kidnap of two students in Nkwen, Bamenda on June 8 and the recent kidnap of 40 persons along the Bamenda – Bafut road on June 18.
The Human Rights Watch condemnation comes one months after the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa briefed the UN Security Council on June 4. Nine rights groups had urged the Security Council to focus on the humanitarian and human rights situation in the Anglophone regions.
The Anglophone regions of Cameroon have been gripped by deadly violence since late 2017, causing the death of at least 2000 people and forcing half a million to flee their homes according to Human Rights Watch.
By Nsoesie Peter
Mimi Mefo Info