Cameroon: Alleged Human Rights Violations in NW, SW Regions - Government Debunks Human Rights Watch Report

Women protest in Bamenda, Cameroon, in response to a Sept. 3, 2018, attack on the local Presbyterian School of Science and Technology, where six students were abducted.

Following is an introductory statement of Communication Minister, Rene Emmanuel Sadi, yesterday April 2, 2019 during a press briefing in Yaounde.

"Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

In the 2019 edition of its world report, the international NGO Human Rights Watch has, once again, under the title "Cameroon, Events of 2018", violently attacked the Cameroonian Defence and Security Forces in their fight against armed gangs of secessionists in the NorthWest and South-West Regions. The National Defence and Security Forces are accused of "exactions and other serious human rights violations directed against civilian targets." The report also refers to "extrajudicial executions, excessive use of force against civilians, torture of captured terrorists and burning of homes and other property belonging to the population."

By denouncing first of all a systematic tendency of certain humanitarian organizations to discredit the public authorities, the Cameroonian Government categorically refutes these accusations, made recklessly against Republican Forces, engaged in a struggle for the preservation of the territorial integrity of the State and the protection of persons and property, in the North-West and South-West Regions, in accordance with their sovereign obligations, in strict compliance with international human rights conventions, and fully aware of their responsibility. It is clear that in its presentation of the situation on the ground, the NGO Human Rights Watch betrays an obvious bias in favour of armed gangs, by relativizing or even reducing the responsibility of these groups for the atrocities committed in the North West and South West Regions.

The Government considers it absolutely irrelevant, if not unhealthy, to seek to place on the same footing, on the one hand, those who, embodying public power, make legitimate, thoughtful and measured use of force, and on the other hand, the outlaws, who illegally use force for destructive, malicious and harmful purposes. For it is undeniable that the most blatant atrocities, intimidation, kidnappings of innocent citizens, the putting ablaze of infrastructure, particularly hospitals, such as the recent one in Muyuka, threats of all kinds that impose ghost towns, the closure of many schools, with all the imaginable damage to children's education, are not, and cannot be, the work of the Cameroonian Defence and Security Forces, but in deed, the work of the lawless and totally perishing armed gangs.

Moreover, the operations of the Defence and Security Forces in the North-West and South-West Regions mainly target the camps and other hiding places of secessionist armed gangs that have taken the peaceful populations hostage. In these circumstances, the Government considers that common sense, logic, a sense of responsibility and collective conscience require that these outlaws and their heinous acts be condemned without reservation. In the same vein, the public authorities and especially those of our Defence Forces need to be acknowledged, even if it remains necessary to urge them to continue to carry out their noble mission with discretion, professionalism, self-denial and responsibility, many of which have in that way sacrificed their lives.

The Government therefore reaffirms that, in their fight against destabilizing gangs in the North-West and South-West regions, the National Defence and Security Forces are perfectly within their sovereign role that of ensuring the protection of the Nation and the populations, in keeping with republican values, against outlaws who mercilessly kill and sow terror and despair. More importantly, our Forces are significantly and incredibly well illustrated by numerous civilian and military actions, particularly, at the socioeconomic level in favour of the targeted populations. These actions will keep on increasing with the ongoing implementation of the Humanitarian Emergency Plan as decided upon by the Head of State, His Excellency Paul BIYA. In that same vein, the Government wishes to reiterate that the security situation in the North-West and South-West Regions is not deteriorating at all, but, on the contrary, is gradually getting under control by the National Defence and Security Forces.

The Government therefore reiterates its call for the seriousness, objectivity and sense of responsibility of our humanitarian partners, be it Human Rights Watch or others, in their assessment of facts and realities, but more so, for a better understanding and judicious consideration of our current challenges, as well as our imperatives of unity, peace and social cohesion, if they intend to remain credible to us and preserve their relations with Cameroon. The Government on its part will continue to work resolutely and with determination for a final restoration of peace in the North-West and South-West Regions, while emphasizing the virtues of dialogue, tolerance and forgiveness, as evidenced by the many measures of appeasement, absolution and direct involvement of the population in the management of matters affecting them, constantly taken by the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul BIYA. Thank you for your attention."

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