Cameroon: Trial for Cameroon Village Massacre Drags On


Still No Justice for Ngarbuh Victims and Families

On February 14, 2020, Cameroonian soldiers and armed ethnic Fulani raided Ngarbuh, a village in Cameroon's North-West province, killing at least 21 civilians, including 13 children and a pregnant woman, and burning and looting homes. It was a brutal day that shocked even those who had long become numb to increasing violence in the region.

The attack was a reprisal against the local community, which was suspected of harboring separatist fighters. The massacre followed a pattern of military abuse against civilians in Cameroon's Anglophone regions, where for over the last eight years security forces have clashed with armed separatists--themselves responsible for attacks on civilians--who are fighting for independence for the country's minority English-speaking population.

The government initially denied its security forces were responsible for the massacre, describing allegations against them as fake and launching a smear campaign against rights groups and media who exposed the killings. In March 2020, only after national and international pressure, authorities established a commission of inquiry, which found that the military attempted to cover up their actions and identified three security force members as responsible for the killings. In June 2020, the government announced that the three had been arrested and charged with murder.

In December 2020, a trial opened before a military court in Cameroon's capital Yaoundé, marking an important step towards accountability for the massacre. However, the trial has dragged on and been marred by irregularities. Hearings have been postponed multiple times, victims' families have minimal participation in the proceedings, and the court has refused to admit key evidence, including death certificates. Senior officers have not been arrested or charged.

During the last real hearing on the massacre on November 16, 2023, witnesses did speak, and some investigative reports were presented. But since then, the trial has been postponed three times, casting doubt on the ability of the military judicial system to deliver accountability for military abuse. It is scheduled to restart this week.

This trial provides a rare opportunity for justice not only for Ngarbuh's victims, but for all those who have suffered from military abuse during the crisis in Cameroon's Anglophone regions. With yet another hearing on the horizon, now is the time for judicial authorities to avoid further delays and commit to deliver justice.

Lewis Mudge, Director, Central Africa

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