UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said he was “deeply concerned” over reports about the killing of civilians, including children, in an attack on a village in northwest Cameroon on February 14.
Almost two dozen villagers, including 15 children, were found dead in the Anglophone village of Ngarbuh after an incident on Friday linked to separatist clashes that began in late 2017 on alleged discrimination against the Francophone country’s English-speaking regions.
While the opposition party is blaming the killings on the army, no one has claimed responsibility.
The Secretary-General has extended his deepest condolences to the families of those killed in a statement on Monday and called upon the government to “conduct an investigation and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable”.
He also told armed actors to “refrain from attacks against civilians and to respect international humanitarian and international human rights law”.
The statement concluded with Mr. Guterres reiterating that the UN stands ready “to work with all stakeholders towards a political solution to the crisis in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon through meaningful dialogue”.
This is just the latest deadly incident in western Cameroon where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by clashes between security and defence forces and armed separatist groups.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called it “a shocking episode” in the on-going crisis that has afflicted the country’s northwest and southwest regions for the past three years.
On the Cameroon government’s announcement on Monday that it would investigate the killings and make public the findings, OHCHR Spokesperson Rupert Colville told journalists in Geneva: “We urge the authorities to ensure that the investigation is independent, impartial and thorough, and that those responsible are held fully to account”.
He cited witnesses as saying that some 40 armed men, including members of the security and defence forces, attacked the village in the department of Donga Mantung in North-West Cameroon, “opening fire on people and burning down houses”.
“The authorities said defence forces and gendarmes came under attack from people inside the village with the exchange of shots igniting a fire that affected several dwellings”, he continued.
According to information from UN colleagues on the ground, among the 23 people killed, counting nine children under the age of five. The victims also included two pregnant women, one of whom died of her injuries in hospital.
OHCHR has been following developments in the northwest and southwest regions as an already tense situation worsened ahead of 9 February’s parliamentary and municipal elections.
The Government deployed some 700 additional troops in the regions where armed separatists reportedly kidnapped dozens of candidates, most from the Social Democratic Front – one of the country’s biggest opposition parties.
Most of the candidates were subsequently released. The UN Human Rights Office also received information that voting centres and the houses of those involved in the election campaign were attacked by separatists. (Source: UN News)