WASHINGTON, DC, 13 March 2021 – Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the UN Security Council to impose targeted sanctions against leaders of the self-declared breakaway Republic of Ambazonia aka Southern Cameroons.
“The United Nations Security Council and Cameroon’s international partners should make it clear to separatist leaders that there are consequences for these crimes,” HRW writes in a report released Friday.
The New York-based rights group advocates “targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes on those who bear responsibility for those committing the abuses” – referring to pro-independence campaigners based in the Diaspora.
Remarkably, HRW does not make a similar call for targeted sanctions against members of the Biya regime.
And that is despite the report admitting that the Cameroon military has “conducted multiple abusive operations in the Anglophone regions”.
In keeping with its well-known denial of the genocidal violence unfolding in Ambazonia, HRW called for a slap on the wrist of the Biya regime and its terrorist forces deployed in Southern Cameroons.
The one sanction HRW recommends against government forces is for them “to do better, to provide effective civilian protection”.
HRW could have, rightly, decried some Ambazonian groups who have openly advocated kidnapping and hostage-taking for ransom.
Sadly, HRW is so infatuated with “allegations” that it fails to mention Ambazonia’s bad apples and fails to highlight well-documented actual kidnappings of hundreds of students from boarding schools organized by the Cameroon army in the hope of pinning blame on pro-independence fighters.
If Human Rights Watch was doing its job, it would know that the people of Ambazonia are hostages of a 60-year experiment by the expansionist Biya regime seeking to impose recolonization by military force on Southern Cameroons.
The ransom price Ambazonians are being asked to pay by the Biya regime is surrender to second-class citizens, a renunciation of their right to self-determination, their right to change nationality, and the obligation to submit to a cultural genocide code-named assimilation.
Speaking of kidnappings, this latest report from HRW continues the rights group’s “victimization of the victims” by failing to highlight the ordeal suffered by the hundreds of thousands of Ambazonians who have suffered kidnappings at the hands of Cameroonian terrorist soldiers.
During numerous “cordon and search” operations [known by their French name ‘calle calle’], Cameroonian soldiers kidnap, torture, and detain entire neighborhoods.
“Cordon and search” operations have allowed Biya terrorist forces in Ambazonia to extort ransom payments from hundreds of thousands of Ambazonians who are obliged to make the payments in order to regain their freedom.
Those who fail to pay or cannot afford the ransom demanded have faced extended detention and torture, or deportation into jails, detention centers, dungeons, and prisons in French-speaking “La Republique du Cameroun”, where they are made to defend themselves against trumped-up terrorism charges.
While HRW accuses “separatists” of torturing and killing “those whom they suspect of collaborating with authorities and security forces,” it maintains criminal silence on the torture and slaughter of at least 3,500 Ambazonian civilians.
All 3,500 victims – as per a revised death toll published recently by HRW after unfreezing the previous 2,000 dead to 3,000 before moving it to 3,500 – were killed because they were Ambazonian or on suspicions of them being sympathetic to, supportive of or actively campaigning for the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons.
Much of this “new” report from HRW is really “a copy and paste” rehash job from previous reports.
The main accusation that pro-independence fighters have “kidnapped hundreds of people since 2017” is recycled from a 2018 report which, like this latest report, seems to be content with reprinting mere “allegations”.
Friday’s report highlights “allegations” of the killing by “suspected separatist fighters” of three chiefs and two school principals.
HRW also indirectly admits how unprofessional they were in finalizing and releasing this report, relying ostensibly on pro-Biya “media reports” in a country where journalists like Wazizi have paid with their lives for trying to report the news fairly and others, like Mancho Bibixy languish in jail.
No one at HRW is unaware that pro-Biya media is overloaded with propaganda and unverified accusations against those the regime and its supporters in the media describe as “the enemies within” [les ennemis dans la maison].
In Friday’s report, HRW cites a medical doctor [name withheld] who reportedly paid ransom worth $544 (300,000 francs CFA) in order to regain his freedom after being kidnapped last February 27.
According to HRW, the captors of the doctor accused him of “not contributing to the struggle”.
“They said I had to give them money to support their struggle for independence, to buy guns,” HRW cites the medical doctor as saying.
They “pointed a gun at his back, and threatened to kill him”, writes HRW.
The account begs the question why captors, acting with impunity as outlined in the report, would point a gun at the back of their hostage, instead of brandishing the gun in the face of the captive.
“They told me not to tell what happened to anyone; otherwise, they would kill me and anyone in my family,” HRW cites the unnamed doctor as saying.
HRW is aware of the presence of pro-regime militia groups, including so-called Atanga Nji Boys and armed bandits, who use kidnappings in Southern Cameroons to enrich themselves.
HRW is aware that Cameroonian soldiers in mufti pretended to be Ambazonian restoration forces when they kidnapped hundreds of students from PSS Nkwen and that the Biya regime has admitted using armed militia in the commission of atrocity crimes such as the Massacre in Ngarbuh on Valentine Day February 2020.
If HRW cared for the truth and for accountability beyond printing the first frivolous accusation they lay their hands on, they would have spent more time investigating these “allegations”.
Instead, HRW rests its case on the infallibility of the gospel preached by pro-Biya “media reports” which accused “separatists” of the assassination, in captivity.
“Separatists” killed the three chiefs from Essoh Attah village last February 13 “allegedly for refusing to hand over profits from their cocoa sales and for promoting education,” the report reads in part.
HRW also accuses “suspected separatist fighters” of “allegedly” killing “the principal of a high school” last January 9 and “another principal of a high school in Tinto” both of them in the southern zone of Ambazonia.
Another accusation is that “separatists” have been hindering “the delivery of humanitarian assistance”.
Strangely, HRW does not attribute that accusation to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs which is the source of the narrative about kidnappings ending in tragedy.
Officials of this UN agency are on record, including on videos gone viral on social media, praising pro-independence fighters for providing the UN agency unrestricted access to territory under their control, lamenting not getting the same cooperation from Biya terrorist forces.
The accusations include one attributed to a 35-year-old unnamed resident of Bafut who says “separatist fighters harass everyone”.
The citation is one of those that HRW must have simply made up.
A 35-year-old in Bafut would not refer to pro-independence fighters as “separatist fighters”.
But, even granting that such a 35-year-old exists and made such a statement, did HRW retain and print the citation in the report because they believe that “separatist fighters harass everyone” or was it just about giving one’s dog a bad name in order to hang it.Sadly, this latest report from HRW comes as no surprise to any pro-independence campaigner in Southern Cameroons.
Human Rights Watch has not looked back ever since it first opted to assume the role of public relations for the Biya regime during a 2018 briefing to the Association of United Nations Correspondents in New York.