Cameroon Government Accepts Responsibility Over Valentine’s Day Massacre

The government of Cameroon has finally recognized its responsibility for the massacre of civilians in the village of Ngarbuh, North West region of Cameroon, which occurred on Valentine’s Day 2020. According to communication on April 21st by the Secretary-General at Cameroon’s Presidency, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, three women and ten children were killed by a detachment of soldiers aided by a government-sponsored vigilante group. The Presidential scribe also announced the arrest of the soldiers involved and ten members of the local vigilante group. The corpses of the killed persons would also be exhumed and a befitting burial accorded them while their families would be compensated.

National and international bodies have welcomed the communication by the government. The U.S. Embassy in Cameroon praised the government for the publication of the findings. Meanwhile, opposition leader Edith Kah Walla, who advocated for the publication of the report of the commission of inquiry, argued that the responsibility lies with the regime and the President who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces and from whom all orders are downloaded.  According to her, the Ngarbuh incident is just the tip of the iceberg as the military is accused of killing thousands of persons in the Anglophone regions and burning down hundreds of villages.

This is the first time the government of Cameroon has published the findings of a commission of inquiry on such sensitive matters involving state personnel and military members. Previous commissions of inquiry on matters like deadly university student strikes have never been published many years after. However, the publication can be downloaded from the immense international pressure on the Cameroon government and a deliberate coverage by some rare national rights groups and media and the global media, which validated its evidence using clear and precise satellite images. This consistent pressure on the government ensured that it could no longer conceal the facts. Even though the total number of persons killed as per the government report challenges figures presented by national and international bodies, it is an indication that with sustained pressure and media attention, especially international, coupled with the goodwill of the former colonial master, France can fast track the peaceful resolution of the four-year-long war in the Anglophone regions. It should be noted that days after the incident in Ngarbuh, a Cameroonian activist, Calibri Calibrio accosted French President Emmanuel Macron during the Paris Agriculture show on Cameroon’s situation, especially Ngarbuh. The unconventional meeting, which was recorded via mobile phones, went viral and showed the French President expressing regrets over the Cameroon situation and promising to call President Biya concerning the Anglophone problem and the release of political prisoners.

Ngarbuh is a small remote village in one of the two Anglophone regions of Cameroon. On February 14, soldiers aided by vigilante group members entered the village in search of separatist fighters. In their incursion, they killed many women and children as young as five and burned their bodies in an attempt to conceal evidence. This happened in the wider context of the war in the Anglophone regions. Successive years of marginalization of the Anglophone minority by Francophone regimes have pushed armed Anglophones to challenge government forces and declare a separate state called Ambazonia.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), 23 persons were killed, mostly women and children. Simultaneously, the Central Africa Network of Human Rights Defenders, known by its French acronym as REDHAC, said there were more than 35 bodies killed by the military. A similar version was made public by authorities of the Roman Catholic Church. Initially, through Communication Minister and Defense Minister, the government argued that only five persons were killed and claimed they were “collateral damages” and vindicated security forces. The government went further to call HRW a sponsor of terrorism in Cameroon while the country’s Interior Minister, Paul Atanga Nji, threatened to shut down local media houses and human rights groups trying to “destabilize Cameroon.” He claimed these civil society actors are on a mission of destruction and have received about $10 million.