Cameroon’s Defense Ministry has rejected allegations that the country’s armed forces killed civilians in a conflict-hit anglophone region.
This came after The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) accused the military of killing at least eight civilians in Mautu village in the Southwest Region.
In a statement issued late on Monday, the ministry admitted to have led an offensive against English-speaking separatists in Mautu on Sunday, saying the armed forces carried out “a preventive raid on the positions of terrorist groups.”
The statement said a few terrorists were neutralized, while others were wounded. Arms and ammunition were also recovered in the operation, it added.
“It is worth underscoring that in the evening of this operation, carried out in strict compliance with the rules of engagement, terrorist leaders, proponents of secession, apparently overwhelmed by the turn of events, conceived in their occult offices, a hotchpotch of gruesome images in a bid to blame our Defence Forces, for a blind massacre perpetrated in Mautu,” the ministry said.
Last year, Cameroon had acknowledged the army’s role in the killings of civilians — including children and women — in the country’s Northwest Region.
The incident occurred last February in Ngarbuh village, where the military was accused of killing civilians and burning homes. The government had earlier denied responsibility for the killings.
The Central African country has been marred by protests and violence since 2016, with residents in English-speaking regions contending they have been marginalized for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.
They are calling for independence or a return to a federal state.
Violence in the Anglophone regions in the last three years has claimed an estimated 3,000 lives and caused the displacement of more than 730,000 civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.
In June 2020, the Norwegian Refugee Council declared the conflict in Cameroon as the most neglected crisis on the planet for a second year running.