By Maxcel Fokwen in Yaounde
Despair enveloped the city of Bamenda in the restive North West region Wednesday February 19 as a soldier opened fire on a civilian at the Saint Mary Catholic Hospital in Mankon. The victim of that act, Augustin Fuh, 49, a driver died on the spot.
Wednesday’s incident has sparked dreadful impressions across the entire nation as it came in the wake of the Ndu massacre which reportedly left over 27 killed including pregnant women and children.
The depression is even more in the restive North West and South West regions. The time of the happenstance is what many say puts the country on the dark side of happenings amid global clamour for peace to return to the two regions.
Minister admits incident
In the wake of gloom over the action of the soldier, the Minister of Defense, Joseph Beti Assomo, issued a statement same day, disclosing that the soldier had been arrested. The Minister’s version of what happened holds that: “ ….a Toyota vehicle with registration no: 366 AB was stopped by a patrol of the 501 Air Base which was tracking a group of secessionist terrorist. The vehicle fled after a refusal to comply, forcing the patrol to chase it”.
According to the Defense boss, “after a chase on the public highway, the suspect vehicle changed course despite the usual warnings, before attempting to hide in the parking lot of the Saint Mary Catholic Hospital, precisely where a soldier opened fire in violation of the roles of engagement”.
While indicating that preliminary investigations talk of the suspect vehicle transporting “a certain Fru Romanus who was shot in the left leg two weeks ago on the Mbengwi-Bamenda road during a confrontation with defense and security forces”, the Minister’s release brings to public knowledge that “the soldier who fired the shots was immediately arrested and is in the Bamenda Gendarmerie company”. It states that findings of what transpired may be made public in “due course”.
Contrary to the Minister’s statement, some locals claim Fuh drove into the Catholic mission-owned hospital with someone in difficulty. They gave the impression of not knowing what transpired before a soldier pulled the trigger on the driver.
Fuh’s death owing to the ‘reckless’ action from a member of the defense and security forces many say puts the state in a tight corner. It is happening in the wake of condemnation across the world of the Ngarbuh massacre wherein children and pregnant women were among those killed.
Gov’t’s rating of military
This comes after government issued a statement on February 18, clearing soldiers of any wrongdoing in the Ngarbuh incident for which no group has claimed responsibility.
Communication Minister, Rene Emmanuel Sadi, had on Tuesday described “the alleged killing of 22 villagers including 14 children by Cameroonian Defense and Security Forces in Ngarbuh is fake”.
He said, “beyond the ungrounded stigmatization and slander directed against our defense and security forces, we should underscore and magnify the remarkable virtues that characterise our army, an elite army that is strong, credible, professional and mature, and whose daily activity builds on the sacrosanct principles of respect for republican institutions and the defense of the nation with honour and loyalty”.
To Sadi, “our defense and security forces are out to annihilate the macabre dynamic established in the North West and South West regions by secessionists armed bands. I mean terror, horror and abomination. In short, they do so with the restraint prescribed by the high command with strict compliance of the fundamental principles of humanitarian law focused on the protection of vulnerable people….”
It was during that outing that the government spokesperson questioned:“ how can one believe for a moment that an army as civic minded as ours can loot civilian property and kill people the people whose protection and security is their mission?”.
The Minister submitted that, “under no circumstances have our defense and security forces deliberately undertaken to perpetrate abuses of any kind against the civilian populations at the service of whom they are assigned”.
In July 2018, a military element, Athur Mbida allegedly raped a 17 year old girl on ghost town day in Bamenda. Authorities declared then that the suspect had been arrested pending judicial action before a military court. Till date nothing has been heard of that matter.