Continued Violence in Cameroon

As discussed in previous posts, since 2016 Cameroon has been experiencing violence, and a de facto civil war, between its dominant Francophone citizens and its minority Anglophones. That violence has been continuing.[1]

Now thousands of people in the English-speaking areas are fleeing to the French-speaking capital of Yaoundé. One of those people, Pamela Njoke, and her two young children waited four hours in her hometown of Bamenda to get on a packed bus to go to the capital. She said, “People are dying everywhere. It is horrible.”

There also are bloody  battles between the government and Anglophone separatists seeking to form a new nation they call Ambazonia. An estimated 400 have been killed and thousands displaced. One of the leaders of a group of separatists has asserted that the October 7 national presidential election is banned in the Anglophone regions and any attempt to conduct the election will result in “military” action against such attempts.

On September 27 the separatists attacked a prison in the northwestern part of the country and freed 100 inmates.

The government also is fighting Boko Haram militants in the north of the country with additional abuses on both sides,. On September 30 President Paul Biya on a re-election campaign stop in the Far North region asserted that Boko Haram had been defeated in the country.

All of this violence and disruption are expected to suppress voting in the October 7 presidential election.

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[1]  Essomba & Searcey, Thousands Flee in Cameroon as Separatists Battle for a New Nation, N.Y. Times (Sept. 24, 2018); Assoc. Press, Cameroon Lurches Toward Election Amid Separatist Conflict, N.Y. Times (Sept. 26, 2018); Reuters, Cameroon Separatists Free 100 Prison Inmates Before election, N.Y. Times (Sept. 27, 2018); Assoc. Press, Boko Haram Has Been Repelled, Cameroon’s Leader Declares, N.Y. Times (Sept. 30, 2018); Reuters, As Cameroon Votes, Thousands Are Silenced by Violence, N.Y. Times (Oct. 4, 2018).

U.N. Human Rights Council’s Final Consideration of Cameroon’s Universal Periodic Review

On September 20, 2018, the U.N. Human Rights Council held its 39th regular session. An important item on the session’s agenda was the final review of the latest Universal Periodic Reviews of the human rights records of 11 states, including Cameroon.[1]

Just before this session the Council provided an Addendum to Cameroon’s national report that listed its responses to the 196 recommendations that had been made by other U.N. Members and Stakeholders. At the end of this session, the Council President said that of the 196 recommendations, Cameroon had “supported” 134, “noted” 59 and rejected 3.[2]

A close examination of the record, however, reveals the following rejections:

Recommendation Rejections
Abolish death penalty  14.5
Legalize honmosexuality, etc.  12.0
Diability rights    2.5
ICC membeship    1.5
Women;’s rights    1.0
Children’s rights    1.0
Birth registration    1.0
Abortion    1.0
Human rights defenders    1.0
No military courts for civilians    1.0
Ratify all H.R. treaties    1.0
Migrants rights    0.5
Stateless rights    0.5
No disappearances    0.5
Torture treaty opt. protocol   0.5
Independent investiagtions   0.5
TOTAL 40.0

Thus, the total of acceptances and noteds is 196-40 = 156, not 193.

Cameroon’s Foreign Minister, Lejeune Mbella Mbella, made an introductory statement that included the following comments on the current internal conflict:

  • The crisis in the Northwest and Southwest provinces began in 2016 with protests by advocates for English common law and Anglophone teachers.
  • Then an insurrection arose with atrocities in an effort to partition the country. These acts of revolt included kidnappings; killing of authorities, security forces, teachers and pupils; arson attacks; and recruitment of child soldiers.
  • The country’s security forces responded to restore order, security and peace and to defend the unitary state. These forces have been trained to observe ethics and professionalism despite provocations. There also are investigations of alleges abuses by these forces.
  • The government has adopted an emergency assistance plan for these two provinces with a platform for exchange of intelligence. It has a budgetary goal of 12.7 billion CFA.
  • Journalists are free to operate, but need to be protected.
  • Children’s right to education has been adversely affected by the violence. Cameroon supports the Declaration on Security in Schools proposed by Norway and Sweden.
  • Detainees are jailed (pursuant to criminal procedure) or put on house arrest. They are free to communicate with attorneys and families.
  • Cameroon is now proceeding to its national presidential election with nine candidates, three of whom are from the Northwest and Southwest provinces.

At the end of its session, the Council approved the Outcome of Cameroon’s UPR, which will be confirmed in a subsequent brief statement and a logical matrix of the recommendations that Cameroon “supported” or “noted.”[3]

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[1]  U.N. Hum. Rts. Council,  Documentation (39th Regular Session). Previous posts about the current Cameroon UPR are listed in List of Posts to dwkcommentaries.com—Topical: CAMEROON.

[2]  U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Cameroon: Addendum (Views on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies presented by the State under review)(Advance Unedited Version)(Sept. 12, 2018).

[3] For example, from its prior UPR, here are (1) U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Report of the Human Rights Council on its twenty-fourth session (Advance unedited version)(Jan. 27, 2014) and (2) U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, UPR of Cameroon: thematic list of recommendations (Matrice of recommendations).

U.N. Criticizes Cameroon for Reprisals Against Citizens Cooperating with U.N. Human Rights Activities       

On September 12, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres issued a report criticizing 38 countries, including Cameroon, for “harsh reprisals and intimidation for cooperating with the [U.N.] on human rights.”[1]

With respect to Cameroon, it stated the following: ”On 26 October 2017, special procedures mandate holders expressed concern about the increasingly threatening nature of the physical attacks on and intimidation and harassment of Ms. Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, of Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and Ms. Alice Nkom also of the Network and of an association for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, following their participation in the review of Cameroon by the Human Rights Committee in Geneva (CMR 5/2017). On 17 July 2018 the Government responded to the allegations.”[2]

Presumably this criticism will be raised on September 20 or 21 when the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland will hold its open session on consideration and adoption of the final outcome reports on  the latest Universal Periodic Reviews of 14 countries, including Cameroon.[3]

This consideration for Cameroon will be based upon the Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Cameroon (A/HRC/39/15, dated July 10, 2018), which is merely an unedifying compilation of the comments made by various countries and parties during the UPR process and which was discussed in an early post.[4]

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[1] U.N. High Comm’r Hum. Rts, UN report warns of alarming scope and effect of reprisals on victims, activists and human rights defenders (Sept. 12, 2018).

[2]  U.N. Gen. Assembly, Report of the Secretary-General: Cooperation with the United Nations, its representative and mechanisms in the field of human rights (para. 31) (Aug. 13, 2018).

[3] U.N. Hum. Rts Council, Agenda and Annotations (39th session. 10-28 Sept. 2018).

[4] See Update on Universal Periodic Review of Cameroon Human Rights by U.N. Human Rights Council, dwkcommentaries.com (Aug. 26, 2018) (footnote 1 has citations to earlier posts about this UPR).

Update on Universal Periodic Review of Cameroon Human Rights by U.N. Human Rights Council  

As discussed in prior posts, this year Cameroon’s human rights record is a subject of Universal Periodic Review by the U.N. Human Rights Council.[1]

On July 10 Cameroon’s UPR Working Group–Iraq, South Africa and the United Kingdom–released.its Report, which merely summarizes the prior events in this process and then lists all of the repetitive recommendations from other states in 196  paragraphs.[2]

At the 39th Session, September 10-28, the Council will consider and adopt “final outcome reports” on  the UPR of 14 states, including Cameroon.[3]

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[1] See these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: Cameroon’s Human Rights Record Being Subjected to Universal Periodic Review by U.N. Human Rights Council: Background  (June 12, 2018); Cameroon’s Human Rights Record Being Subjected to Universal Periodic Review by U.N. Human Rights Council: The Pre-hearing Papers (June 12, 2018); Cameroon’s Human Rights Record Being Subjected to Universal Periodic Review by U.N. Human Rights Council:The UPR Hearing (June 16, 2018).

[2]  U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Report of the Working Group on Universal Periodic Review—Cameroon (July 10, 2018).

[3] U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Agenda: Thirty-Ninth Session, 10-28 September 2018.

 

Cameroonian Soldiers Again Kill Unarmed People, Says Amnesty International

On August 10 Amnesty International released a video that purportedly shows Cameroonian soldiers executing unarmed people in the country’s Far North region sometime before May 2016.[1]

According  to the organization’s Ilaria Allegrozzi, “This shocking video shows armed men lining people up face down or sitting against a wall and shooting them with automatic weapons. A second round of shooting ensures no survivors. Here is yet more credible evidence to support the allegations that Cameroon’s armed forces have committed grave crimes against civilians, and we are calling for an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation. Those suspected to be responsible for these abhorrent acts must be brought to justice.”

Cameroon’s ambassador to the U.S., Henri Etoundi Essomba, told The Washington Post that he was unaware of the latest video, so he could not comment directly on it, but he said, “No one can condemn Cameroon on video without making sure that what [they are seeing] is supporting reality. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone in the sense that people are willing to portray the country in the darkest way possible.”

In Cameroon Tchiroma Bakary, a government spokesman, told Reuters that the latest video could be investigated, but that there is an ongoing “denigration” campaign attempting to tarnish President Paul Biya ahead of October elections. Biya, who has led the country since 1982, is running for reelection. “We are in an electoral period and it’s conducive to this kind of thing,” he told Reuters. “People want to discredit the army and president.”

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[1] Amnesty Int’l, CAMEROON: New Video Shows More Brutal Killings by Armed Forces (Aug. 10, 2018); O’Grady,  Video footage appears to show Cameroonian security forces executing unarmed people, Amnesty says, Wash. Post (Aug. 10, 2018); Kouaheu, Cameroon investigates video that shows security forces apparently executing civilians, Reuters (Aug. 10, 2018). Earlier reports of violence in Cameroon are listed in List of Posts to dwkcommentaries–Topical: CAMEROON.

Cameroon: U.N. Human Rights Chief Expresses Great Concern About Violence

As reported on prior posts, Cameroon recently has been experiencing great violence between the Cameroonian military forces, on one side, and separatists and Boko Haram, on other sides. Recently a video on social media appeared to show Cameroonian soldiers executing two women, a baby and a young girl, and the U.S., among others, had urged the Cameroonian government to conduct an immediate and transparent investigation.[1]

Now on July 25, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, issued a statement expressing “deep alarm at persistent reports of human rights violations and abuses in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, as well as in the Extreme North.”[2]

He also said, “it was regrettable that the Government of Cameroon had failed to grant the UN Human Rights Office access to the Northwest and Southwest despite repeated requests.” Such access would enable the U.N. “to verify allegations made against both security forces and armed elements” regarding “violence against Cameroonians in the western part of the country.”

Since 2017 “the situation has worsened considerably . . . [with] reports that armed elements have carried out kidnappings, targeted killings of police and local authorities, extortion and have torched schools. . . .[and] that Government forces are responsible for killings, the excessive use of force, burning down of houses, arbitrary detentions and torture.”

He condemned “the ambush on 13 July near the town of Kumba in the Southwest region on a Minister of Defense convoy.” In addition, he said he was “’utterly appalled’ by a horrific video reportedly showing members of the armed forces executing two woman, a child and a baby accused of being members of Boko Haram. . . . [and] am deeply worried that these killings captured on camera may not be isolated cases.”

In light of these horrible events, the High Commissioner urged “the Government to launch independent investigations into the reports of human rights violations by State security forces as well as abuses by armed elements.”

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[1] See posts listed in List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CAMEROON.

[2] U.N. High Commission for Human Rights, UN Human Rights Chief deeply alarmed by reports of serious rights breaches in Cameroon (July 25, 2018); Searsey, Shooting on Video in Cameroon ‘May Not Be Isolated Cases,’ U.N. Fears, N.Y. Times (July 25, 2018).

Accusations About Perpetrators of ‘Grave Abuses’ in Cameroon    

Prior posts have discussed Cameroon’s deadly confrontations with Boko Haram terrorists in the northern part of the country and the violent conflicts between its Anglophone and Francophone populations. [1] Here is a report on developments in these matters plus the country’s upcoming presidential election.

The Anglophone-Francophone Conflict[2]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on July 19 blamed both sides for “grave abuses” against civilians and the forced evacuations of more than 180,000 people from their homes.  HRW said, “Anglophone separatists have extorted, kidnapped and killed civilians, and prevented children from going to school. In response to protests and violence by armed separatists, government forces have killed civilians, used excessive force against demonstrators, tortured and mistreated suspected separatists and detainees, and burned hundreds of homes in several villages.”

The Cameroonian government, rejecting the HRW report, said the level of force it used remained “proportional to the extent of the threat.” It also condemned separatist attacks and defended its security forces, saying all alleged atrocities are investigated. Just because such investigations “are not always widely disseminated to the public does not in any way mean that they are not taken.”

The Boko Haram Conflict

As discussed in a prior post, on July 12 Amnesty International (AI) reported the existence of a grainy video on social media showing two women — one with a baby on her back and another holding hands with a young child — walking across a dirt patch. Behind them were armed men one of whom yells in French “You are B.H.[Boko Haram], you are going to die.” The men blindfolded them and forced them to kneel. The armed men then raised their rifles and shot them.

Four days later the U.S. Government issued a statement expressing it was  “gravely concerned” over this incident and called on “the Government of Cameroon to investigate thoroughly and transparently the events depicted in the video and to take appropriate steps to bring the men to justice.

On July 19 the Cameroonian Government announced that it had arrested four soldiers suspected of killing the women and children, and an army officer in that region said the arrestees “are suspected of being the authors of the executions in the video.” Four other Cameroonian military sources told Reuters that the video did show Cameroonian soldiers and that the video was filmed in 2014 or 2015 in the early operations against Boko Haram.[3]

Cameroon’s Upcoming Presidential Election

 Meanwhile, more than 20 candidates have registered to run against longtime President Paul Biya in October’s presidential election. Attempts to have opposition forces back one candidate failed, making Biya’s reelection most likely.[4]

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[1] See List of Posts in dwkcommentaries—Topical: CAMEROON.

[2] Human Rights Watch, Cameroon: Killings, Destruction in Anglophone Regions (July 19, 2018); Human Rights Watch, “These Killings Can Be Stopped,” (July 19, 2018); Human Rights Watch, Interview: Stoking Fires in Cameroon (July 19, 2018); Maclean, Cameroon’s military accused of burning alive unarmed civilians, Guardian (July 20, 2018); Assoc. Press, Cameroon Military, Separatists Blamed for ‘Grave Abuses,’ N.Y. Times (July 19, 2018).

[3]  Reuters, Cameroon Arrests Four Soldiers Suspected of Executing Women and Children, N.Y. Times (July 19, 2018).

[4] Assoc. Press, Cameroon: 20-Plus Candidates Seek Presidency in October Vote, N.Y, Times (July 20, 2018).