The world was disturbed when a video was leaked showing Cameroonian soldiers abusing and murdering women and children. The soldiers are seen slapping a woman walking with a young girl, then leading the two of them along with another woman with a baby on her back, to a side road where they were blindfolded then shot.
News agencies are unable to verify the authenticity of the video, including details such as when and where it was filmed. The U.S. Africa Command, which oversees U.S. troops in Africa, and American advisers working with Cameroonian soldiers, can confirm neither the video’s legitimacy nor military involvement. Cameroonian government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary maintains that the soldiers’ attire and weapons do not match those of Cameroon’s military.
Amnesty International, however, stands ground that there is “credible information” Cameroonian soldiers are involved. The organization says that “analysis of the weapons, dialogue, and uniforms that feature in the video, paired with digital verification techniques and testimonies…all strongly suggest that the perpetrators of the executions are Cameroonian soldiers.” For example, a Galil is an Israeli automatic rifle featured in the video and is considered rare in Africa but is used by a small section of the Cameroonian army.
This is not the first and only human rights abuse accusation faced by the Cameroonian army. Residents of Cameroon’s two English-speaking provinces (which accounts for 20% of the country’s population) are a consistent target of violence and mistreatment from the military. Cameroonian Anglophones have a history of disputes and hostility with the Francophone central government because of the marginalization they face with the French legal and education systems forced on them.
Anglophones in the country have reported being tortured by the military in various forms: from beatings to simulated electrocution. One man tortured in December reveals that the Cameroonian army “made [them] lie in the water, face down for about 45 minutes…[soldiers] beat [them] with shovels, hammers, planks and cables, kicked [them]…and poured hot water on [them]…one of [the soldiers] used the cigarette he was smoking to burn [the victims].” Local residents also told Reuters that soldiers are burning villages and killing civilians in the masses to quell the secessionist movement in these English-speaking regions. The military continuously rejects these accusations, but Anglophone residents are calling for international help against what they say is a genocide.
Cameroon’s politicians have been playing ignorant when confronted with accusations. The Cameroonian Ministry of Communication says that the government is investigating the claims. Bakary was quoted in local media that the video could be fake news and is only being used to tarnish the country’s reputation. Spokesperson for the army, Didier Badjeck, says that, “Amnesty is writing against the armed forces based on rumours.” He claims that they are trying to distract people from the work of the army to defend against the separatists who he refers to as terrorists.
President Paul Biya, who has led the country since 1982, announced his plan on Twitter to run for re-election on 7 October amid the violence and human rights abuses. He condemned “all acts of violence, regardless of their sources and their perpetrators.” However, some see the actions of military forces as a way to secure his 35-year grip on power. Given these statements, Samira Daoud, deputy director of Amnesty International West Africa, asserts that it is doubtful whether any investigation will be genuine. Amnesty is calling for anyone involved, including bystanders, to be brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts
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