Human Rights Watch Unearths more Atrocity Crimes by Cameroun Soldiers in Southern Cameroons, Outlines Pattern of Mass Rape

Human Rights Watch has indicted the Cameroun military for committing rape, arbitrary arrests, and the killing of a man in Ebam village in the Southern parts of the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons on March 1, 2020. According to the report, Ilaria Allegrozzi of Human Rights Watch described the attack as barbaric and unpardonable. According to the report, some 20 women were raped, 35 men were arrested, and one man was killed. 

This incident, like that of Ngarbuh, took place on February 14, the same year when government forces backed by local militia went on rampage attacking, raping, killing unarmed civilians. The Ministry of Defense is yet to react to this report. In Ngarbuh where 13 children and a pregnant woman were killed, and some burnt in their houses, the government denied responsibility just to turn around and admit guilt.

This recent report on Cameroon comes on a day the US is allegedly demanding that the UN terminate Cameroon's membership at the Organization’s Human Rights Council. 

“There has been little to no accountability for military abuses in the English-speaking regions over the past four years, and atrocities by members of national armed forces remain largely unpunished,” the report reads in part.

 

 

Survivors of military atrocities in Ebam village continue to live in fear (C) Human Rights Watch

 

According to Human Rights Watch, rape has become a pattern and almost a way of life for Cameroon soldiers deployed to the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons. The organization indicates that it “…interviewed 20 women, ranging in age from 23 to 42, who said they were raped by soldiers during the attack in Ebam on March 1. Human Rights Watch corroborated their accounts with a medical doctor who screened and treated them, and a humanitarian worker from an international group that provided psychological counselling and material assistance to the survivors”.

Some excerpts of victims published in the report tell a story of horror, dehumanization, and outright cruelty. One such account reads: One masked soldier broke into my home where I was with my little daughter,” a 23-year-old student said. “He pointed a gun at me, searched everything and everywhere. He spoke French to me. I speak little French. He ordered me to get undressed and raped me. He said I should remain silent and not shout; otherwise, he would kill me. I was afraid and allowed him to have intercourse with me because he threatened me. When he finished with me, he took my money, my phone, my food, and drinks, and left. I ran into the bush where I spent two weeks”.

Rape is clearly not the only ‘punishment’ meted out to the people for being Southern Cameroonians, the soldiers loot as well and in some cases close the matter by killing. As Human Rights Watch indicates, even disability is not a deterrent, the soldiers rampage on everyone and everything they find alive.

“A 27-year-old woman said: I have a physical disability due to an accident. I cannot walk well. One of my legs is bad. When the military came, they arrested my husband and took him outside. Two of them remained in the house and forced me into the bedroom. I was wearing just a pagne [cloth covering] around my chest. Both of them raped me. ‘If you alert anyone, we will kill you,’ they said. I opposed some resistance and in the struggling, I hit my bad leg against the bed. It swelled and hurt,” the rights organization reveals.

 

Ilaria Allegrozzi, Senior Researcher for Africa at Human Rights Watch (C) legideon.org

 

These atrocious acts get exacerbated by the reality that some of the women were unfortunate to witness mass rape with all the consequences imaginable. The Report indicates that “At least three women said that they were raped by more than one soldier. One of them, a 35-year-old teacher, said that two soldiers sexually assaulted her at home,” an experience that could result in the transmission of multiple infections, and leave lasting trauma on the victim.

The teacher’s account of her experience is more revealing: “They were both in army uniform and had guns. They spoke French and broken English. They asked me where my husband was, and I replied I didn’t know. They were upset they could not find him, so they revenged on me. They undressed me. I was afraid of their weapons. They raped me, both of them. Then, they stole my phone”.

The scars left on the communities is certainly great, but those whose humiliating experience is tear-provoking are the men. Besides having to go through the trauma of being held at gunpoint while their wives, daughters or mothers are raped before their eyes, death is always so easy.

 

Kwa-Kwa village in Meme, Southern Cameroons was one of the first communities to witness the Cameroun military's deadly scorched earth policy

 

The ordeal of this 53-year-old farmer is horrifying: “The soldiers did not shoot; they entered quietly and took all of us by surprise. Few managed to flee. The whole village was taken, hostage. They broke into all the homes, including mine. They were four, well-armed. I was home with my wife. They stole my Android phone and 150,000 XAF [US$271]. They pulled me outside and brought me to the middle of the village where other men had been rounded up. We were all forced to sit on the ground, tied up with a nylon rope, in groups of three to four. They threatened us and said: ‘Today, you are finished. You will not come back to your village.’ Some of us were screaming and crying.

 

Millions of Southern Cameroonians on the territory occasionally flood the streets in support of outright independence for the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons (C) Discover Africa News

 

At the military camp, we were seriously tortured. The military beat us with their hands and other objects. I was beaten with a big rubber chip on my back, buttocks, and legs. I was hit many times. While they beat us, they accused us of sheltering the amba boys [separatists]. We had no answers to give about the amba, so they beat us even more strongly. I had bruises on my back and buttocks for over two weeks and was in pain”.

 

The armed conflict between the Cameroons has so far claimed over 12,000 lives, according to several international rights organizations, though the United Nations now puts the figure at close to 4,000.