Human Rights Watch Accuses Government Of Failing To Protect Citizens At Sunday’s Elections

Sunday’s twin elections in Cameroon have received a series of reactions from both the national and international community.

Marked by skirmishes between Ambazonia separatists and security forces in some towns in the North West and South West regions and post electoral violence clashes in the Far North and West regions, many say the process could have been better.

According to Human Rights Watch, HRW, “state security forces did not adequately protect civilians from the threats posed by the separatists but rather committed further abuses against them during the same period”.

While “separatist leaders should issue clear instructions to their fighters to end their crimes against civilians,” HRW’s Central Africa director Lewis Mudge says, government should also “ensure that its security forces put civilians first, by stopping their violations, prioritizing civilian protection, and holding abusers accountable.”

After interviewing 55 victims and witnesses of crimes committed by armed separatists and government forces since the elections were announced in November 2019, as well as opposition party members, candidates, and other residents of the North-West and South-West Anglophone regions, HRW says it went on to analyze satellite imagery and video footage to independently corroborate witness testimony.

“At least several dozen people have been killed in scores of incidents since November, based on a review of credible media accounts, records produced by some United Nations agencies, and Human Rights Watch research” the body states.

“However, with no official mechanism monitoring how many civilians have been killed over the crisis, reliable confirmation of the numbers of people killed, the circumstances around killings, and alleged perpetrators remains difficult” HRW explains.

Those targeted by Ambazonian fighters ahead of the elections “included members and supporters of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) party, which the separatists accuse of failing to show solidarity with their cause”.

To HRW, ” rather than protecting civilians from these attacks, government forces committed their own violations against them”, harming “several civilians, including two men with intellectual disabilities”.

Moments after the close of the polls, Territorial Administration Minister Atanga Nji Paul noted that the elections were a massive success all over the national territory.

Like other government ministers, he has also lauded the soldiers fighting in the restive Anglophone regions, stating that they carry out their tasks with professionalism.

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