Christian Post | Samuel Smith | April 29, 2020
Authorities in Cameroon have admitted that soldiers were involved in the killing of three women and 10 children in a mid-February attack in the civil war-stricken Northwest province in which 21 people were killed and several homes were pillaged.
After initially claiming that allegations of soldiers being complicit in the massacre in Ngarbuh village on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14 were false, the Cameroonian government announced last Tuesday that three soldiers are on trial for their role in the killing of innocent civilians and burning of homes in the majority Christian Anglophone region.
The government released the findings of a joint commission of inquiry investigation launched following reports that soldiers teamed up with Fulani militants in a nighttime attack that was said to have claimed the lives of at least 13 children and one pregnant woman.
“Following an exchange of gunfire, during which five terrorists were killed, and many weapons seized, the detachment discovered that three women and 10 children had died because of its actions,” a lengthy statement released by President Paul Biya’s communication unit reads.
According to the statement, Major Nyiangono Ze Charles Eric of the 52nd Motorized Infantry Battalion in Nkambe ordered a reconnaissance mission on Feb. 12 to Ngarbuh, a village of the Ndu subdivision of the don Mantung area that is known to be where “secessionist terrorists regrouped.”
Throughout the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions, some farming communities are supportive of rebel groups that began fighting for independence in 2017 because they feel underrepresented by the French-speaking central government. Over the last few years, fighting has spread across the Anglophone regions with thousands being killed and some churches seized.
In Ngarbuh, the government claimed that rebels were engaged in “all sorts of abuses against the local population,” such as cattle rustling, rape, assaults. The government claims that such abuses warranted intervention by the military.
On Feb. 13 around 10 p.m., a team of soldiers headed by Sgt. Baba Guida left for their base for Ngarbuh. But according to the government, the men stopped along the way “to enlist 17 members of a local vigilante committee.”
While the local vigilante committee has not been identified, a Human Rights Watch investigation suggests that armed ethnic Fulani were involved in the attack. The Christian Post reported on allegations last year that government actors have encouraged and even armed ethnic Fulani to carry out attacks against separatist-supporting farming communities. Such attacks claimed the lives of two Bible translators last year.
In Ngarbuh, the team split up once they entered the village.
The government’s report said that Guida, along with Gendarme Sanding Cyrille, Pfc. Haranga and 10 members of the “vigilante group” launched an attack in Ngarbhu neighborhood No. 3 “based on information provided by a repented terrorist and farmer from the area.”
After engaging in gunfire, the government claims that the soldiers tried to “conceal the facts” that they had killed innocent women and children “by starting fires.” Upon returning to the military base, Guida was accused of filing a “deliberately biased” report to superiors.
According to the investigation’s findings, it was Guida’s initial report on which the government had previously issued a statement calling the allegations against the soldiers false.