In a new report published on Thursday 11 August 2022, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses the Cameroonian army of “killings” and “disappearances” in the crisis-ridden North West region.
The report says that « Cameroonian soldiers summarily killed at least 10 people and committed several other abuses between 24 April and 12 June during counter-insurgency operations” in this part of the country, the human rights NGO says. It also claims that “soldiers burned 12 houses, destroyed and looted health centres, arbitrarily detained at least 26 people and allegedly forcibly disappeared some 17 others“.
HRW refers in particular to “a reprisal operation against a community suspected of harbouring separatist fighters” carried out on 1 June by soldiers of the 53rd Motorised Infantry Battalion (BIM) in the village of Missong, which resulted in the death of nine people, “including four women and an 18-month-old girl”. On 7 June, the army admitted to killing nine civilians in the “inappropriate reaction” of a detachment of the 53rd BIM “on a mission to search for a missing comrade” in Missong, Menchum department.
“In an inappropriate reaction, unsuited to the circumstances and clearly disproportionate to the refusal to cooperate by hostile villagers fearing the worst for themselves and their missing comrade, the soldiers will use their weapons,” said the head of the communication division of the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), Captain Cyrille Atonfack, in a statement. The latter indicated that as a “precautionary measure”, the “4 soldiers were demobilised (…) and placed under arrest at the Gendarmerie Company of Bamenda”.
The Cameroonian army has already acknowledged blunders in the context of this conflict, but has assured that measures are being taken to ensure that “exactions that may be perpetrated by a few errant soldiers are systematically investigated and, if necessary, lead to appropriate sanctions”, following the instructions of the Head of State. The military and separatist groups are regularly accused by international NGOs and the UN of committing abuses against civilians in the North West and South West regions, theatres of bloody conflict since 2017.