At least 22 people were killed in an attack in Cameroon's Northwest region on Feb. 14, a UN official said—the latest incident in a wave of violence to shake the country's restive English-speaking regions. The attack in Ntumbo village left 14 children dead—including nine under the age of five—according to the official. Opposition groups said the army was responsible, but the military blamed the explosion of fuel containers during a gunfight with separatists. Some 8,000 people have fled anglophone areas in recent weeks for Nigeria, following rising violence involving the army and separatist groups, who called for a boycott of parliamentary and municipal elections earlier this month.
Cameroon's two western regions saw a dramatic surge in political violence ahead of parliamentary and municipal elections held Feb. 9. Amnesty International has accused the army of dozens of killings, the burning of villages, and the displacement of thousands of people in operations over the past weeks against the separatist movement in Northwest and Southwest regions. (See map) The anglophone militants demanding independence from the rest of francophone Cameroon vowed to disrupt the polls and also stepped up their attacks. They ordered the closure of schools and markets in the western regions, and told people to stay indoors between Feb. 7-12. The crisis has shuttered more than 40% of the health centers in the two regions, and more than 600,000 children are out of school. At least 3,000 civilians have died since the conflict began in 2016, and 730,000 people have been displaced.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on May 6 described the abuse of detainees at a detention center in Cameroon's capital city of Yaoundé, identifying violations of domestic and international human rights law. Torture and arbitrary detention have been "endemic in Cameroon's law enforcement and military system," carried out by gendarmes and other security forces of the State Defense Secretariat. These tactics are employed against suspected members or supporters of Boko Haram or armed separatist groups.
The 10 Ambazonian leaders facing trial before a military tribunal in Cameroon's capital Yaounde are disputing the tribunal's authority to judge them, denying Cameroonian sovereignty over their homeland. They also deny their own Cameroonian nationality, asserting that they are citizens of Ambazonia, or the former British Southern Cameroons—a country the Yaounde tribunal says "does not yet exist." The defendants are known as the "Nera 10," for the hotel in Abuja, Nigeria, where they were detained by security agents in January 2018 and forcibly deported to Cameroon. They had been seeking asylum in Nigeria following Cameroon's violent crackdown on the Ambazonia independence movement.
In Episode 27 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Eben Egbe and Amy Dalton of the Global Initiative to end the Cameroons Colonial Conflict (Gi3C), who discuss the independence struggle in Ambazonia—a territory that was illegally annexed by Cameroon following the end of colonial rule in 1960. The past year has seen a terrible increase in state terror in Ambazonia from the French-backed neo-colonial Cameroon authorities, with protesters fired upon by helicopter gunships, and finally villages burned by military forces, sending the residents fleeing into the bush. Some 400,000 people have been internally displaced, with a further 20,000 having crossed the border into Nigeria as refugees. Cameroon also receives military aid from the US, ostensibly for the fight against Boko Haram in the north of the country—but this same military is now being unleashed against the civilian populace in the unrelated conflict in Ambazonia in the south. The Gi3C has issued an urgent call for the UN Human Rights Council, which convenes for its 40th annual meeting this week in Geneva, to send a fact-finding delegation to the region. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Thousands of women and girls who survived the brutal rule of the Boko Haram armed group have since been further abused by the Nigerian security forces who claim to be rescuing them, said Amnesty International in a new report released May 24. Entitled They Betrayed Us, the report reveals how the Nigerian military and its paramilitary arm, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), have separated women from their husbands and confined them in remote "satellite camps," where they have been raped, sometimes forced to submit in exchange for food. Amnesty International has collected evidence that thousands of people have starved to death in the camps in Borno state since 2015.
Amnesty International in a report issued July 20 accused Cameroon of torturing suspected supporters of Boko Haram in its military campaign against the jihadist group. According to the human rights organization, hundreds of suspects have been "subjected to severe beatings, agonizing stress positions and drownings, with some tortured to death" at the hands of government authorities. Amnesty documented 101 cases of secret detention and torture within the last four years. Alioune Tine, Amnesty's regional director for West and Central Africa, said, "These horrific violations amount to war crimes." Amnesty also observed American and French military personnel at one of the bases while the detention and torture was taking place. The organization is calling for the US and France to investigate the extent of knowledge that their military personnel may have of war crimes in Cameroon.
Niger's army on July 6 killed at least 14 displaced persons who were apparently mistaken for jihadists in the restive southeast, where Boko Haram militants have staged regular attacks. Soldiers were patrolling a militarily restricted zone around the village of Abadam near Lake Chad when they opened fire on what turned out to be unarmed peasants. Yahaya Godi, official in charge of the Diffa region, said: "Any individual seen in the area is considered Boko Haram." Thousands of people have been displaced from the southeastern Diffa region, and civilians have been banned from many areas in response to raids by Boko Haram from across the border in Nigeria. Many, however, have been returning to their lands to tend their crops, fearing hunger and permanent displacement.