HRW report on rights abuses 'outrageous, provocative', says Cameroon

Cameroon soldiers

A file photo shows Cameroonian soldiers patrolling in Amchide, northern Cameroon, one kilometre from Nigeria.

Photo credit: Reinnier Kaze | AFP

Cameroon has rejected a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) accusing the country’s defence and security forces of abuses in the fight against separatists in the Anglophone region.

The country accuses the watchdog of aversion to the military.

In a statement on Thursday, military spokesperson, Col Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo, said the US-based rights group’s latest report about the central African country’s forces was “outrageous and provocative”.

In the report published on August 2, HRW accused the military of killing civilians, rape, destruction of homes and shops, looting, desecration of a traditional ruler’s palace and destroying artifacts in the North West and South West region in recent months.

“Unfounded assertions”

Col Atonfack rejected the claims, saying the rights group is known for aversion to Cameroon’s defence and security forces and support for irredentist movements operating in certain parts of the country.

The Cameroon military spokesperson said Monday’s report, “just like previous” ones about the country, is the “umpteenth jumble of unfounded assertions”.

“Everything seems to clearly indicate that the multiple positions taken by HRW are intended only to discredit the defence and security forces, committed as they are to the accomplishment of their sovereign missions,” Col Atonfack said in the statement.

He said, however, that this “umpteenth trick” by the rights group will not weaken the morale of the troops who“operate across the country in strict compliance with human and people’s rights.”

Thousands killed

The government of President Paul Biya, 88, responded with a military crackdown in 2017 to an industrial protest against perceived marginalisation of minority English speakers in the country.

Since then, many militia groups have developed and engaged in a bloody conflict with the military, the aim being to push for the secession of English speakers and creation of an independent country they want called Ambazonia.

More than 3,500 people have been killed, according to humanitarian organisations, and over 712,000 forced to flee their homes as a result of the bloody conflict.

Over 67,000 other people have fled across the border and are now living as refugees in Nigeria due to the conflict that has consecutively topped the Norwegian Refugee Council’s list of the most neglected displacement crises in the world.

Both the military and non-state armed groups stand accused of atrocities in the drawn-out conflict with seemingly no end in sight.


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