Let the truth be told by independent investigation
One thing which is indisputable about the death of fellow compatriots in Ngarbuh is that pregnant women and children were victims. The number, be it one, 27, 30, 40 or seven is immaterial. The pain is that innocent people died in circumstances they should not have.
The army says it is an accident due to crossfire between some security operatives and separatist fighters. The Senior Divisional Officer of Donga Mantung Division says separatist fighters are the perpetrators. Several media reports are pointing fingers at the defence and security forces.
There is the need for an investigation and thank God the Minister of Communication and government spokesman, Sadi Rene, has already announced that President Biya has given instructions for an inquiry to be made. Given the dimension the massacre has taken to the point of some reports referring to it as a ‘genocide’, it puts the government in a tight corner if the investigations are not made by an independent panel to determine the number of victims, whether it was an accident caused by explosion or from bullets.
When I listened to the Minister of Communication and government spokesman he said at “a logistical base for the storage of illicit goods, arms, ammunition of various calibres, as well as adulterated contraband products, narcotics and amulets, elements of our defence forces were violently attacked by a group of heavily armed individuals…
The legal forces consisting of six elite elements,responded vigorously and professionally, neutralising seven assailants and routing other individuals from the armed secessionist group” .
As concerns burnt homes, Minister Sadi said “during the clashes that took place, a fire broke out in a fortified shelter that contained explosives and flammable materials stored by the armed rebels. This let to blasts, followed by tongues of fire that eventually spread and reached many dwellings.”
Do not ask me where the valiant and very ‘professional’ security officials where when such explosives and contraband were being stockpiled. His version, however, contradicts that of the Senior Divisional Officer, who, after a visit to the scene, put the blame squarely on the separatists.
Survivors have their own version. Like any other dispute of that magnitude, there are always three versions: that of the accused, for now the government and Amba Boys and a neutral one, the truth, by eye witnesses, supported of course by proofs.
I only hope it isn’t like a near identical case in the Far North some time ago where a video showed some Cameroon security officials carrying out an extrajudicial execution. The then communication minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, described the video as fake and an attempt to discredit the Cameroonian military when it first appeared.
Several international organisations, notably Amnesty International, using satellite images, said it had analysed the video and came to a conclusion that the men in the video were Cameroonian soldiers executing women and children. It was only then that Tchiroma went back on his words, announcing that six soldiers were arrested after a probe carried out and would face justice at a military tribunal.
I hope the Far North case does not repeat itself, but as for now, only an independent investigation can get to the truth, perpetrators punished and compensation paid to the families of the victims by the government which should concede it has not satisfactorily protected civilians and their properties in the two warring regions. The people there look up to the government for protection, not to the Amba separatists, unless it wants to concede that the separatists have made the regions ‘ungovernable’.
Postscript: The chief purpose of government is to protect life.
Abandon that and you have abandoned all – Thomas Jefferson