The Rapid Intervention Battalion, known in French as the Bataillon d’Intervention Rapide, BIR, an elite and combat unit in Cameroon’s military has come under the scanner for all the wrong reasons.
This is the unit that has excelled in committing untold atrocities, evidenced by several extrajudicial killings evidenced by torturing and killing detainees at its hidden detention centres around the country.
In 2018, Amnesty International indicted the force for carrying out the horrific extrajudicial executions of two women and two young children.
Although government was quick to deny the info, it would soon come back to accept it and announce that those behind the killings will be tried at the military court in Yaoundé.
A viral video that emerged in 2018 showed soldiers using either a Galil or a Zastava M21, in addition to Kalashnikov-style rifles to executive two women and their babies.
While AK-type weapons are common, the weapon we strongly believe was used in the execution – either a Galil or the very similar Zastava M21 – is comparatively rare, Amnesty International said.
Amnesty International has documented crimes under international law, some amounting to war crimes, as well as human rights violations by members of the Cameroonian security forces, especially the BIR specialised in widespread use of torture to extract ‘confessions’ from hundreds of people accused – often with little or no evidence – of being affiliated with Boko Haram in the Far North or the Ambazonia movement in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon.
In June 2018, the BBC analysed footage which showed 12 elements of the BIR setting houses in Azi, Lebialem Division on fire. The BiR has also burnt houses in Mankon and several other locations in the restive Anglophone regions, coupled with extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests.
African Arguments on June 23, 2020 published results of its investigation that found that Israeli citizens have been training Cameroon’s most notorious military unit, the BIR, for years, making huge sums in the process.
“The BIR is sort of Mr Biya’s private army because they are not answerable to the regular army chain of command,” African Arguments quotes Kah Walla, President of the Cameroon People’s Party, CPP, as saying. “You have a dictatorial president, who has shown himself to be repressive [and] then created a private armed force. And, of course, this has increased the level of repression.”
General Erez Zuckerman, ex-Israeli serviceman and Meir Meyuhas, a former secret agent working for Israel, according to African Arguments, are among those training the BIR, Biya’s private army, making huge sums of money from the job – they are each paid as much as 1,000 USD per day.
They lavished lifestyle of Meir Meyuhas was expounded in the African Arguments investigative report, pointing to the fact that 87-year-old Biya who has been in power since 1982 is bent on using this military unit to perpetuate his stay in power.
The role of the BIR in rigging elections in years past and quelling political dissent cannot be overemphasized. Pundits also blame Israel for arming Cameroon against its own population.
Mimi Mefo Info