Cameroon has strongly refuted a report by Amnesty International accusing the country’s security forces of indiscriminate killings, arrests and torture of people in the strife-hit English speaking Northwest and Southwest regions.
Communication minister and government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary told a press conference in Yaoundé that the “report is tainted with filthy lies, hasty inference, unacceptable defamatory tactics that are part of a strategy to harass and destabilise our country [Cameroon] in its fight against the terrorist threat.”
In the report published on June 11, the London-based rights group accused the Cameroon military of “arbitrary arrests, torture, unlawful killings and destruction of property,” in the two English speaking regions of the Central African state that has been gripped by an escalating violence for close to two years now.
“The government of Cameroon strongly refutes this so-called report which, under the pretext of the protection of human rights, is nothing but a bunch of approximations and false allegations,” the Communication minister said in the presence of military spokesperson, Colonel Didier Badjeck.
“Cameroon is calling on the national and international community to bear witness to the fact that these manoeuvres to misinform, certainly in a bid to destabilise our country cannot prosper in the face of a people that is united, and standing behind its leader,” Mr Bakary said.
Amnesty said its conclusions were based on in-depth interviews with over 150 victims and eye-witnesses to violence perpetrated in the restive regions, either by security forces or separatists.
The rights group also accused armed separatists of killing at least 44 members of security forces and for “burning down schools and targeting teachers”.
“Authorities [in Cameroon] must ensure accountability for crimes committed by the security forces as well as by the armed separatists. They must immediately end the use of unlawful, unnecessary and excessive force and ensure that people are protected,” said Ms Samira Daoud, the Amnesty International Deputy Director for West and Central Africa.
The two English speaking regions of Cameroon that have been gripped by an escalating violence make up about 20 per cent of the country's population.
Though the grievances of English speakers date back to the post-colonial period, the current wave of violence started in October 2016 when a lawyers’ and teachers’ strike snowballed into a general outcry against marginalisation by the predominantly French speaking Yaoundé regime.
The English speakers say they suffer economic inequality and discrimination at the hands of the Francophone majority, despite a post-independence reunification deal, where they expected to be equal partners.
Violence deepened when separatists organised large-scale protests across the two formerly British-administered regions symbolically proclaim the independence of a new state of “Ambazonia” on October 1, 2017 and also launched an armed campaign which met with a military crackdown.