After several days of accusations regarding the Ngarbuh Massacre, communication minister, René Emmanuel Sadi has finally broken the silence.
Despite high numbers from the UN, media reports and witnesses, minister Sadi confirmed the story of the army spokesperson in a statement Monday February 17, saying only five civilian lives were lost, one woman and four children.
In Ngarbuh “not far from the landmark chosen by the secessionist rebels as a logistical base for the storage of illicit goods, arms, ammunition of various calibres, as well as adulterated contraband products, narcotics and amulets, elements of our defence forces were violently attacked by a group of heavily armed individuals” Minister Sadi said Tuesday evening in a statement.
“The legal forces consisting if six elite elements, responded vigorously and professionally, neutralising seven assailants and routing other individuals from the armed secessionist group” the minister added.
With regards to burnt homes, Minister Sadi said “during the clashes that took place, a fire broke out in a fortified shelter that contained explosives and flammable materials stored by the armed rebels. This let to blasts, followed by tongues of fire that eventually spread and reached many dwellings”.
The UN however states, locals have attested that the military visited the village and killed civilians, setting ablaze nine homes in the process.
Also, media reports and eyewitness accounts hold that over 35 were killed including kids and pregnant women.
The communication minister insists this is “ungrounded stigmatization and slander” directed at the forces. “In fulfilling their mission, the Cameroonian defence and security forces are called upon to pursue armed groups in their entrenchments located both in the forests and sometimes in the homes of populations” he encouraged.
“How can one believe for a moment that an army as disciplined and civic-minded as ours can loot civilian properties and kill the people whose protection and security is their mission?” He questioned reiterating that “under no circumstances have our defence and security forces deliberately undertaken to perpetrate abuses of any kind against the civilian populations at the service of whom they are assigned”.
To him, the situation in the North West and South West regions” is gradually improving thanks to the quick implementation by the Head of State of the recommendations of the Major National Dialogue “.
Despite government’s refusal of any wrong doing, this is not the first time a similar statement is being made in the face of atrocities committed by soldiers. In several instances, government had placed the blame for crimes commuted against civilians on Ambazonian separatists, even in cases of lack of evidence.
The UN, US, rights groups and politicians have asked for an investigation into the massacre, demanding that witnesses be protected.