BUEA, 16 January 2021 – The United Nations, Western democracies and rights groups are slamming Cameroonian authorities for the massacre Sunday of at least eight civilians in Mautu village.
The victims included a baby, several teenage-age looking boys and an elderly woman.
Soldiers had been patrolling the neighborhood in military jeeps for some days, but on Sunday launched a search of nearby bushes and homes, opening fire on and killing the civilians, most of them execution style.
Several media reports said at least ten civilians were killed.
Citing three witnesses, Reuters updated the death toll Friday to nine.
The global news wire service said Cameroonian soldiers “raided homes and shot civilians as they ran for cover under nearby cocoa bushes”.
Pictures and videos of the massacre – all of them too gruesome to publish – have gone viral on social media.
They show the lifeless bodies of eight civilians, among them boys, a six-year-old girl, an elderly woman and her grandson.
The elderly woman is laying on the bare ground, hours after she and her grandson were injured, still without receiving any emergency assistance.
She is groaning in pain from gunshot wounds on her thigh.
Her grandson is crying in pain from the bullet shot wound that shattered one of his palms.
None of the people that I saw lying dead was an Ambazonian fighter, said one of the eyewitnesses.
The coordinator of “Medecins Sans Frontieres” (MSF) in the area, Gisa Kohler, told reporters that MSF is currently treating four people from Mautu for gunshots wounds.
Gisa Kohler identified the four as two elderly patients, a young woman and a child aged less than 10 years.
The scale of the horror that the Mautu Massacre is easy to discern from the massive footprint it has had in the global media.
Especially considering that the Mautu Massacre occurred during a week when the other competition for global news headlines were historic events like the insurrection at the US Capitol Hill against the elected government of the United States.
Videos and photos of the massacre reportedly so outraged and revolted French President Emmanuel Macron that he published a rare public rebuke of the regime of Cameroon’s dictator, Paul Biya.
Macron called the massacre “unjustified” in the statement, condemning Cameroonian troops for the use of force against civilians.
The French leader is demanding that the “facts of the unjustified crime… be clarified”.
French member of parliament, Sebastien Nadot, pointed out that the Biya regime had embarked on perpetrating “more of the same” massacres in the new year 2021, as it perpetrated in the course of 2020.
A new year has “barely started and a new massacre is already to be deplored in Mautu”, Nadot lamented on Twitter.
On Thursday, the United Nations, belatedly, reacted to the massacre, saying on Twitter, that it was “deeply concerned and saddened” by it.
The United Nations Secretary General’s Representative to Central Africa François Lounceny Fall called Thursday in a tweet for an investigation into the massacre.
“There must be an urgent and impartial investigation, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice,” the British High Commission in Yaounde said on Twitter.
While both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say they are investigating the Mautu Massacre, one thing they are no longer investigating is who the perpetrators were.
“The Cameroonian soldiers who perpetrated the massacre and their superiors – civilian and military – must be held accountable,” said a member of Amnesty International Ambazonia. He spoke under the cover of anonymity because he is currently in the area, investigating Mautu and other massacres.
We “strongly condemn the heinous killing of at least eight civilians in Mautu village”, said Barrister Agbor Nkongho, who heads the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (CHRDA).
Cameroon Hatches and Peddles Falsehoods
The tide of worldwide condemnations was countered by shameful half-baked falsehoods, hatched and peddled by Cameroonian military authorities.
Navy Captain Atonfack Guemo Cyrille Serge, who heads the communication division in Cameroon’s ministry of defense, said the operation was “carried out in strict compliance with the rules of engagement”.
A text message from soldiers of the 21st Motorized Infantry Battalion who perpetrated the atrocity crime to the defense ministry in the capital, Yaounde, described the massacre as “a preventive raid on the position of terrorist groups”.
According to Atonfack, Cameroonian occupation forces only acted in self-defense.
He claimed that “armed individuals… opened fire” on Cameroonian soldiers.
While the entire world has decried as an unacceptable massacre of innocent civilians is being sold to the world by Cameroonian authorities as excellent by Cameroon so-called “professional army”.
“A few terrorists were neutralized,” Atonfack told reporters, dehumanizing the victims, even in undeserved death.
According said what Cameroonian soldiers did in Mautu was provide “an adequate response”.
No one else believes that version, “made in the alternative universe” and sold as fact by a Biya regime, and really designed to find a scapegoat for every massacre or every gaffe committed by soldiers drunk on the power that their weapons allow them to wield.
On Friday, the Biya regime returned to Mautu with more troops and arrested dozens of relatives of the victims of the massacre.
The soldiers dragged relatives of injured victims out of hospitals to join a community meeting they organized in Mautu to give a chance for the state TV cameras to capture a version of the massacre that aligns with the alternative facts Yaounde has peddled so far.
Yaounde’s Well Known Playbook.
The Biya regime is following in Mautu the same script it rolled out after the Ngarbuh Massacre of 14 February 2020.
In Mautu Friday, villagers were commandeered, at gunpoint, to go before state television cameras to repeat lines handed to them by propagandist for the regime.
At least 34 people, including children and women, some of them pregnant, were slaughtered by Cameroonian occupation forces during the Valentine Day 2020 Massacre in Ngarbuh.
Yaounde blamed the massacre in Ngarbuh on so-called terrorists and secessionists.
It took eyewitnesses, human rights activists and United Nations aid workers to get to the facts which, in Ngarbuh as in Mautu, could be summarized in one sentence>
“It is the military who did it,” human rights lawyer Agbor Nkongho told reporters.
In Ngarbuh, Yaounde coordinated with Fulani herdsmen who had been hired as mercenaries from neighboring Nigeria to lend a hand in perpetrating the massacre.
The Cameroonian army has claimed, to this date, that its soldiers could not apprehend the Fulani herdsmen.
As with Ngarbuh, Atonfack has insisted that the Mautu Massacre is the handiwork of “terrorist leaders” and so-called “proponents of secession”.
Atonfack said “terrorists conceived in their occult offices, a hotchpotch of gruesome images in a bid to blame our Defense Forces, for the blind massacre perpetrated in Mautu”.
Atonfack’s claims have attracted hostile reaction from Southern Cameroonians online.
“Atonfack has overtaken former MINCOM, Issa Tchiroma, in lies telling”, commented Cameroon News Agency, referencing a former spokesperson of the Biya regime (Tchiroma) who had established a reputation as a “barefaced liar”.
The Truth is Blowing in the Genocide
The truth about Mautu is that it is Cameroonian occupation forces that raided the village, opening fire on anyone within sight.
They shot on villagers as they fled their homes and the village, escaping to and taking cover in nearby bushes, according to accounts by the BBC, Reuters and the French News Agency.
The soldiers had surrounded the village on Sunday.
The troops knew who deserved to be shot.
All the victims of Sunday’s massacre are English-speaking Southern Cameroonians, targeted for who they are, not for anything they had done wrong.
Sunday’s mass slaughter in Mautu is another reminder that the people of Southern Cameroons are victims of genocide at the hands of French-speaking Cameroon, argued activist Melissa Akiambom. .
“French Cameroon soldiers entered the village and shot at every living thing. Is there any other agenda apart from genocide?” Akiambbom asked on Twitter.
“The enablers, the chiefs or so-called elites, have all gone mute as French Cameroun forces openly murder ten civilians in Mautu, Fako” read one tweet by the editor of the online news portal Bareta News.
“Let the world know that we are left with no other choice than to defend ourselves and protect our civilian population from this carnage”, wrote pro-independence campaigners known as The Big Rubber Gun R2P on Twitter.
“We call on the United Nations to mandate a United Nations Security Council Fact-finding mission to our Homeland… to lay bare the truth about the genocide on our people”, tweeted Sisiku AyukTabe from the maximum security prison in Yaounde, capital of Cameroon.
Sisiku AyukTabe’s role in the declaration of a breakaway republic on 1st October 2017 landed the life prison term he is now serving alongside dozens of other Southern Cameroonian leaders.
Millions of citizens heeded calls to join in street celebrations on 22nd September 2017 to mark the unilateral declaration on 1st October 2017 by Sisiku AyukTabe of the Restoration of the Independence of the territory.
The date chosen for restoration of independence – 1st October 2017 – coincided with the 57th anniversary of the independence of the former United Nations British Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons.
The peaceful, diplomatic, legal and non-violent campaign for the recognition of Southern Cameroons as Africa’s 55th independent country has ever since won the support of dozens of armed, self-defense groups, staffed by tens of thousands of volunteer fighters.
Fencing the World Out, Making the Issue a Domestic Affair
Cameroonian authorities have spared no effort to paint the ongoing genocidal violence as a domestic affair, fencing out human rights groups and even United Nations experts.
The United Nations is “exasperated by Cameroun’s refusal to grant access to a fact-finding team,” wrote journalist Innocent Chia Monday on Twitter.
Experts at the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and the UN Office for the Prevention of Genocide have been denied access to Mautu and other genocide sites, making it impossible for them to investigate what exactly unfolded.
Diplomats accredited toYaounde but “gone native” have been instrumental in this strategy as have the eagerness of certain Western countries to land juicy economic deals.
The UK government is one such example.
Its foreign office worked harder to seal a gas deal for British company New Age than bother to resolve the botched decolonization problem that the UK is to blame for and that is at the root cause of the ongoing genocidal violence in Ambazonia.
Some crucial parts of the statement released by the UK High Commission on the Mautu Massacre could have been copied from an official statement by the Biya regime.
The statement described the victims of the massacre as “apparently unarmed civilians”.
“Apparently unarmed? Really? asked a bemused and perplexed Herbert Boh, spokesperson for the Movement for the Restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons.
Yaounde has repeatedly evoked insecurity in Ambazonia as the pretext justifying why it systematically denies granting permission for travel to the war zone by international media, human rights researchers and United Nations experts.
In 2020, Yaounde went so far as to declare Southern Cameroons a “No Fly Zone” ostensibly to prevent United Nations aircrafts from delivering humanitarian assistance to internally displaced people across Southern Cameroons.
Support for Independence Remains
While the three-year military campaign has punished civilians, support for an independent, separate republic remains very strong despite the blind repression and atrocity crimes.
The root cause of the genocidal violence unfolding here since late 2017 can be traced to the botched decolonization process managed by France and the United Kingdom.
The two countries were administrators of the two United Nations Trust Territories.
In many ways, today’s initiative to breakaway from Cameroon is “deja vu” for Southern Cameroonians.
This English-speaking part of the former German colony known as Cameron – which included the territories of five countries – was administered by the UK as part of Nigeria for the 44 years until 1953.
Southern Cameroonian leaders broke away from Nigeria and became a self-governing territory from 1954-1961.
Southern Cameroons was the first place anywhere in Africa where the ruling political party organized democratic elections, lost and peacefully handed over power to the victorious opposition leader.
That experiment in democracy was seen as such a bright light for African countries seeking independence that Ghana’s founding father, Kwame Nkrumah, traveled to Southern Cameroons to “learn from your early success with peace, democratic transition of power”.
French-speaking Cameroon gained independence from France on 1st January 1960 within international boundaries that did not include Southern Cameroons.
Liberation movements in Southern Cameroons argue that Cameroon’s international boundaries were frozen under international law and in keeping with Article 4(b) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
The independence of Southern Cameroons became effective on 1st October 1961 in keeping with United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1608(XV).
The ongoing war is the most recent and, certainly the loudest advertisement, that the colonial experiment of creating a loose confederation of “two states, equal in status” bringing together “The Two Cameroons” has failed.
Biya’s Seeks a Military Solution where only a Political Solution Works
The regime of Mr. Biya responded to the 1st October 2017 peaceful demonstratons with blind repression.
Nearly 200 civilians participating in peaceful street celebrations on 22nd September 2017 and on 1st October 2017 were slaughtered by soldiers. Some of the victims were shot dead from helicopter gunships.
Like the ongoing war, the blind repression in the closing months of 2017, was intended to force pro-independence campaigners to surrender.
On 30 November 2017, Biya met with French President Marcon in Cote d’Ivoire.
During the audience, Biya and Macron agreed on the need to use military might to stamp out the campaign for an independent Ambazonia.
Upon returning to, Yaounde from Abidjan that same day, Biya declared war from the Nsimalen International Airport on those he dehumanized by describing as “terrorists”, “armed gangs” and “secessionists”.
Since the start of the war, the Biya regime has not hesitated to target civilians.
In the first radio announcement following the declaration of war, the Biya regime pledged tol commit war crimes.
The regime, in that radio announcement, ordered hundreds of thousands of people to vacate 16 villages across an administrative division on the border with Nigeria.
Failure to leave the villages for “safer localities” would leave soldiers with no choice than to treat villagers who stay back as terrorists.
Cameroon’s Territorial Administration Minister, Paul Atanga Nji, went one step further, arguing that supporters of a breakaway Republic of Ambazonia would be “treated worse than Boko Haram terrorists”.
Thirteen Thousand Killed, Millions Impacted
In the three years since war was declared, more than 13,000 Southern Cameroonian civilians have been killed and over 50,000 others have been injured.
Hundreds of women have been raped by Cameroonian soldiers.
An estimated 200,000 Southern Cameroonians have fled into exile or into refugee camps, with no fewer than 100,000 seeking refuge in neighboring Nigeria.
Over two million people have been internally displaced.
Cameroonian occupation forces in Ambazonia have looted and burnt down over 450 villages.
Homeowners, notably elderly persons, have been burnt alive in their homes.
Close to a million children of school-going age are out of school and, according to a recent study, one-third of Ambazonian children below the age of 12 have seen the mortal remains of someone killed in the ongoing war.
Hundreds of Southern Cameroonians have been abducted, deported and thrown in jails and dungeons in French-speaking Cameroon for merely calling for a return to a federal system of government – in force in The Cameroons from 1961 to 1972.
The sanctity of the federal system of government was protected by the constitution until that constitutional provision was violated.
The Failure to Amputate Ambazonia
Last January 5 marked the third anniversary of the abduction and rendition from Nigeria to Cameroon of ten Southern Cameroonian leaders, including Sisiku AyukTabe who officiated as the self-proclaimed president during the independence restoration festivities on 1st October 2017.
Sisiku AyukTabe and nine of his closest collaborators – better known as the Neba Ten – are among scores of English-speaking Southern Cameroons who were tried in French (a language they do not understand) before kangaroo military tribunals on trumped up charges of terrorism and rebellion against the state.
Their abduction and rendition from Nigeria was expected to amputate and end the Ambazonian Quest for Independence.
it did not.
Hundreds of Ambazonian civilians have been abducted, deported, tried, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms – ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.
Long sentences have failed to discourage pro-independence campaigners and the supposedly decapitated leadership of the movement has shown Ambazonia to be a multi-headed dragon.
Hundreds are in prison for merely peacefully demonstrating or speaking up against the kind of colonial domination that led Southern Cameroonians to ask out of the being administered as a part of Nigeria.
The Biya regime has targeted innocent women and children, slaughtering and burning them in their homes as in Ngarbuh and Mautu.
His courts – civil and military – have gone after Southern Cameroonians, including those who have never called for armed insurrection.
Southern Cameroonians say they won’t be stopped and won’t be silenced. Not by massacres like Mautu and Ngarbuh. Not by prison terms. Not by threats. Not by repression and not by a war that the Biya regime knows it can never win.
The only thing Ambazonians say they need more than independence is for the United Nations to evoke Responsibility to Protect in order to stop the unfolding genocide, bring “The Two Cameroons” to a table to negotiations, and complete the botched decolonization of a people who went from self-governing under colonialism to recolonized under so-called independence.
Thursday night at Mautu, as angry young men participated at a “wake keeping prayer vigil” for some of the victims of last Sunday’s massacre, the one sentence they repeated more often than any other was pledging or renewing commitment to fight on: “it is independence or resistance forever”.