Washington, DC, 12 February 2019 – The United States has slashed $17.3 million in military support to the government of the Republic of Cameroon over human rights concerns.
Reports of horrendous rights violations have continued to emerge since the leader of this Central African nation, Paul Biya, declared war on 30 November 2017 against pro-independence campaigners in Ambazonia, the erstwhile English-speaking regions of the Cameroons.
American support to Cameroon has been mostly used for counter terrorism operations, but reports have multiplied over the past year suggesting that resources meant for the fight against terrorists of Boko Haram have been diverted into the fight against political dissidents.
Washington has condemned targeted killings and extrajudicial executions of civilians.
One of the most shocking videos out of the Cameroons went viral on social media last summer showing Cameroonian security forces arrest women and their children and march them to a spot in the Sahel North of the country where the women are executed along with their children, one of them – a toddler – still strapped to the mother’s back.
There have been other stories of gruesome rights violations, including the shooting of bullets into the thighs and legs of peaceful demonstrators in an effort to maim them; the use of rape as a weapon of war; and the burning alive in their homes of victims of the regime’s scorched earth policies which have left nearly 200 villages looted and burnt to the ground.
Top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Tibor Nagy, expressed fears last December that the crisis in Ambazonia will get “much, much” worse.
Most observers agree that the heavy handed response from the regime of Paul Biya has further radicalized even those who, at the onset, would have been happy with a return to federalism, in practice in this country from 1961 to 1972.
No fewer than 5,000 people are feared to have been killed in a war that has left half a million people internally displaced.
Attacks have notably targeted young men, suspected of membership in the faceless groups of armed freedom fighters known as Amba Boys. Tens of thousands of young men have been tortured, injured or maimed by the military.
The torture includes forms like public flogging banned since the days of slavery but resuscitated in Ambazonia by soldiers who take delight in flogging the soles of the feet of young men with machetes, with the victims forced to endure the humiliation and pain seated on their butts in the heart of village and/or town squares.
The military attacks have also targeted non-combatants including hospital staff, Red Cross workers, humanitarian convoys and hospitals.
In one of the most recent incidents last weekend, the military stormed a district hospital in the city of Kumba in the Southern Zone of Ambazonia and set it ablaze, burning alive four patients trapped in their hospital beds in the surgical ward of the hospital. According to the most credible accounts, the soldiers were angered by reports they had received that AmbaBoys injured in the war were getting treatment in that hospital.
Five other hospitals have seen similar attacks with two medical doctors and no fewer than three nurses killed by security forces. In one of the earliest incident, a doctor and his spouse (a nurse at the same hospital) were taken outside the hospital building and both executed in cold blood. In an incident in January 2019, a medical doctor who was returning to work after break for lunch was executed and a hunting rifle placed in his hands to make belief that he was a member of the Amba Boys.