Over 100 Feared Dead In Cameroon After Security Officers Opened Fire On Protesters

It has been revealed that more than 100 persons were killed by security officers following protests in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon by members of pro-Southern Cameroons groups to proclaim the Independence of the country last Sunday, October 1, 2017.

The revelation was made by the Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network also known by its French acronym as REDHAC. The report was presented to the press on October 3 by the Executive Secretary of the NGO, Maximilienne Ngo Mbe. In her presentation, she stated that these gross human rights violations were the result of excessive force used on unarmed civilians exercising their right to protest, by security forces. REDHAC published the names of 38 duly identified dead persons and confirmed that most of them had gunshot wounds on their bodies and in some cases died out of suffocation from tear gas launched in very closed environments. Amongst the dead identified is Martin Fon Yembe, Deputy Mayor of Ndu in the North West Region of Cameroon. According to REDHAC, more than 50 persons were seriously injured with gunshot wounds, while more than 200 have been arrested and being detained in inhumane conditions. The NGO decried the use of hate speech by the country’s Communication Minister and some members of the administration who referred to demonstrators as rats, dogs, terrorists etc. REDHAC has petitioned the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the UN to set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the matter for justice to take its course.

Condemnations have equally come from the Anglophone Catholic Bishops of Cameroon who decried the excessive use of force by the military on peaceful protesters. Equally, the leader of the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, John Fru Ndi has equally questioned why military officers would use live rounds on protesting civilians. The U.S. government has also denounced the gross human rights violations.

Concurrently, one of the leading Anglophone newspapers in Cameroon also reported on October 6 that more corpses are still being fished out of the bushes. According to The Post, on October 2, 10 corpses were fished out of the bush in Buea, the capital of the Anglophone region of the South West. Some were found behind the Governor’s Office while others were discovered behind a local Catholic Church.

October 1 is a famous day in the History of Cameroon because, on this same day in 1961, former British Southern Cameroons (also known as Anglophone Cameroon) became independent by joining the Republic of Cameroon (or Francophone Cameroon) which was already an independent country at that point. Since then, the marriage has not been an equal one, with successive Francophone regimes imposing a second-class treatment on the minority Anglophone population with policies Anglophone activists claim are geared at annihilating their Anglo-Saxon culture and assimilating them into the French culture. After raising their voices over the years and calling for dialogue with the government which the latter has shut down, the crises escalated in October 2016 with Lawyers and Teachers’ Trade Unions leading a series of protests and strike actions which later engulfed every sector of public life in Anglophone Cameroon. With the government not open to dialogue but quick to use force on protesters, activists opted for the total restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons or Ambazonia. At the approach of October 1, 2017, they called on the population to march onto the streets, hoist the flag of the ‘new nation’ and symbolically proclaim its independence. On October 1, protesters came from every village and town and were met by thousands of combat-ready soldiers including an elite wing of the military specialized in the fight against Boko Haram. Despite the brandishing of green leaves by protesters as a sign of peace, ground forces that were supported by helicopter gunships opened fire, killing more than 100 protesters, according to REDHAC. However, some of these killings took place after October 1 as security forces broke into homes of protesters, killing and wounding persons indiscriminately.

With the government bent on using force to solve a monumental problem, the next days seem worrisome as Anglophone activists are also calling on their people to engage government forces militarily. A spirit of anger and revenge now looms amongst Anglophones who have criticized the international community and especially the UN fiercely for doing nothing to avert the bloodshed. The idea of fighting for themselves is now gaining ground with calls for the creation of a Southern Cameroons army on the agenda. The international community especially the UN, African Union, United States, United Kingdom, France (the latter two being former colonial masters of Cameroon) would do some service by creating an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the violent acts committed, as well as providing good office and a mediation team for talks to begin so that it does not degenerate into what the world may be unable to contain. The UN can also send a peacekeeping force to the two Anglophone regions so as to thwart any aspect of revenge as well as stop the daily arrest and harassment of civilians by security officers.