14 Children Among Dozens Killed In Attack In Ntumbo, Cameroon

According to a report released by the United Nations, at least 14 children were among dozens of people killed last weekend in an attack in Ntumbo, an English-speaking region of Cameroon. 

CNN reported that the attacks were carried out by national security forces, who were looking for separatist rebels. Separatists in Cameroon, who primarily live in English-speaking regions like Ntumbo, have been battling government forces and state-sponsored militias for the past four years. The separatist movement took off in 2016, after people living in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions began to protest the French-speaking national government. Many separatists are seeking a complete severance of the Anglophone regions from French-speaking Cameroon. 

Since it began, the conflict between anglophone and French-speaking regions of Cameroon has displaced nearly 700,000 people and led 60,000 Cameroonians to flee to neighboring countries, primarily Nigeria, to escape the escalating levels of violence. The February 14 attack comes only one month after the Cameroonian government began criminal proceedings against seven military personnel accused of executing groups of women and children in an altercation with insurgents affiliated with Boko Haram. 

Both the government and separatist groups have been accused of crimes against civilians, and details of the most recent incident of violence emerged two days following the attack. James Nunan of the United Nations spoke on the incident, saying that an unspecified number of residents were injured, and dozens were killed; he also stated that 600 people had since fled Ntumbo. 

Rignyu Solange, who is from Ntumbo, spoke to CNN, saying that nine members of her family were slaughtered in the attacks. “My sister and her family were killed in their sleep as the military torched houses because they suspected that separatist fighters were hiding in the village. I want the perpetrators of this act to be severely punished.”

Felix Agbor Nkongho, a Cameroonian activist and human rights attorney from the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, told CNN that the death toll from the Feb. 14 attacks has since risen to 32. He added that “the military officers responsible for these heinous crimes must be brought to justice.”

Cameroonian army spokesperson Atonfack Guemo, however, disputed the reported death toll, claiming that only one woman and four children were killed in the crossfire between separatist individuals and the Cameroonian militia. 

Guemo reported that the security forces engaged a group of separatist fighters, killing seven of them, and that as the fighting continued into the night, containers full of fuel were struck by gunfire, causing a blaze that spread through homes. This, he claims, “caused the death of five persons; a woman and four children, contrary to social media reports.”

The conflict between the Cameroonian government and separatist movement is an example of lacking diplomatic relations and a tendency towards violent tactics to achieve their respective agendas. Cameroon is a current member of both the United Nations and the African Union, both of which promote diplomacy and peaceful conflict resolution for domestic conflicts. Cameroon also, at present, has a positive relationship with France, China, and the United Kingdom, also member states of the United Nations. 

Although the conflict is of a domestic nature and involves varying political ideologies within the nation, it is ultimately the responsibility of the national government to initiate conflict resolution that avoids violence and does not result in a rising death toll. Unfortunately, the Cameroonian government is not upholding this value of both the United Nations and African Union, and has resorted to acts of violence against the separatists that have resulted in deaths within the civilian population. Due to the fact that this conflict is four years or more in the making, this is an issue that must be addressed by the United Nations as quickly as possible in order to minimize future violence.