By Eric Tataw – Washington DC, USA, Tuesday, February 18, 2020.
A total of seventeen (17) children are now confirmed dead among forty-eight (48) civilians brutally murdered when elements of the Cameroon military raided a farm settlement in the country’s North West Region.
The raid took place on Valentine Day – Friday, February 14, 2020, in Ngar-buh, a quarter in Ntumbaw village in Ndu town – Donga Mantung, one of the region’s restive divisions, National Telegraph can confirm.
Pregnant women were among the victims of the massacre considered the largest in 2020. A breastfeeding mother was also killed together with her 4-month-old baby, family members have confirmed.
The victims were asleep when the soldiers though unprovoked broke into houses and started shooting indiscriminately at children and their parents, a youth who narrowly escaped the incident told National Telegraph.
Some of the victims were buried in four mass graves, sources say. Meantime, fresh statistics from Government School Ngarbuh III, a government-run school in the area where most of the children attended school released names and ages of some of its pupils killed in the incident.
The school said, Sika Yesminatou, 12, Sika Amsa, 9, Sika Alina, 7, Sika Yamsi, 6, Sika Suliatou, 5, Shey Diana, 15, Shey Midian, 13, Shey Jude, 9, Shey Trecy, 5, Shey Cynthia, 6, were all murdered in the incident. A government nursery school in the area also released names of two of its toddlers killed in the raid – Mary Angel and Berinyuy.
Five other children taking refuge in a farmhouse some kilometers away from the area of the main incident were also killed and buried alongside their parents and seven youths, National Telegraph has confirmed.
Going by on-the-spot reports from the village and bushes, National Telegraph has confirmed 48 deaths with 17 children among them. At least five houses were also burnt down while many were wounded.
The statistics from the school completely expose the government’s dishonesty, a victim said, referring to a statement from Cameroon’s Defense Ministry. He also insisted all 48 killed were civilians, adding there was no exchange with armed separatists in the area.
Minister Joseph Beti Assomo through his Communication Chief said, Monday, February 17, 2020, that soldiers didn’t attack the civilians. He only referred to the incident as an accident following an explosion from fuel during a gun battle between soldiers and armed separatists.
In this first release, the Ministry admits to the incident but downplayed the counts, claiming only four children and a woman were killed while he referred to it as an accident.
In another release, the Minister says the images on social media are framed, adding that people want to tarnish the professionalism of the military which is of international recognition. He also warns that he will personally drag before the law courts, all those who will continue with the propaganda.
Residents, however, continue to insist that the attacks and killings were done by the military with the support of a group Fulanis. Andrew Jack Pendleton, a Senior Humanitarian Officer at UNOCHA based in Cameroon and who visited the area on Sunday, February 16, 2020, described the incident as “horrible”
The UN official told National Telegraph they were in the area on a need assessment mission not for investigation as reported on social media. Andrew Jack Pendleton said the community’s most vital need is protection but didn’t exactly what that meant.
A cultural group of people of the area – Wimbum Cultural and Development Association (WACUDA) circulated a flyer online of a candlelight vigil for the victims. The association categorically stated that toddlers and pregnant women were “massacred by military forces of Cameroon”
The Central African country has been battling to contain an armed conflict in its North West and South West now in its third year. Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius, referred to as President of Ambazonia, the new state rebels are battling to establish declared the Restoration of Independence for these regions in 2017.
At least, 14000 people have so far been killed in battles and military raids with over 400 villages burnt down. Thousands are held across various detention facilities, including Ayuk Tabe and nine others sentenced for life. Over two million remain displaced as refugees and IDPs since the beginning of the crisis.