Revisiting Ngarbuh Massacre three years after.

Today marks exactly three years after 21 civilians, including 13 children and a pregnant woman, were massacred in Ngarbuh, a quarter in Ntumbaw village, in Ndu, Donga-Mantung Division of the North West Region.

In the night of February 14, 2020, six Cameroonian soldiers, accompanied by armed Mbororo vigilante, stormed Ngarbuh, where some of its inhabitants were sleeping while others were having their evening meals, not aware of what was about to befall them.

After government’s initial denial that state forces were involved in the massacre, the Head of State, President Paul Biya, set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the matter.

The government, however, later publicly admitted that security forces carried out the attack in Ngarbuh.

The revelation was contained in a report published Tuesday April 21, 2020, by the commission of inquiry that had been set up by President Paul Biya in late February 2020.

Following the findings from the inquiry commission, President Paul Biya, through a statement that was issued by the Secretary General at the Presidency, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, ordered the institution of disciplinary proceedings against Major Nyiangono Ze Charles Eric, Commander of the 52nd Motorised Infantry Battalion, BIM, and all the servicemen who took part in the Ngarbuh macabre operation.

He has also ordered the arrest of Sergeant Baba Guida, Gendarme Sanding Cyrille and private first class Haranga Gilbert as well as some ten members of the vigilante committee involved in the Ngarbuh tragic incident.

The servicemen concerned, the statement said, were already at the disposal of the Yaounde military tribunal while the concerned members of the vigilante committee were actively being tracked down.

Amongst other appeasement measures taken, the Head of State also ordered the exhumation of the corpses of all victims of the massacre “in order to give them a decent burial at the cost of the state and establish the necessary evidence to bring out the truth”.

While announcing that an identification of the rightful claimants of the victims by the administration to enable the state to pay appropriate compensation and indemnities will be carried out, the Head of State also ordered the strengthening of security in the village of Ngarbuh especially by creating a military base and setting up other public services which should help to ensure better protection of civilians against the abuses of armed groups.


How the Ngarbuh massacre unfolded

Following the tragic events of the night of February 13 to 14, 2020, in the locality of Ngarbuh, the Head of State ordered a joint commission of inquiry whose tasks were to shed light on the circumstances under which the tragic events occurred.

In the report, the Inquiry Commission detailed that under the authority of the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence in charge of the National Gendarmerie and chaired by a military judicial and legal officer, the commission of inquiry was composed of Army and National Gendarmerie officers.

On the instruction of the Head of State, the report said the United Nations Organisation was requested to participate in the work of the commission.

In response, the United Nations promised to provide technical support that the Cameroonian justice, which is now in charge of the matter, could use as and when necessary, the report said.

The commission of inquiry, the report then revealed, conducted field visits to Bamenda, Kumbo, Nkambe, Ntumbaw and Ngarbuh, where it recorded various findings, collected and analyzed clues and gathered evidence which enabled it to reconstruct the scene of these tragic events.

They said the village of Ngarbuh had become a centre where secessionist terrorists regrouped and a logistics pole for the supply of arms, ammunition and fuel for secessionist groups located in Bui and part of Ngoketunjia.

“To this end, a reconnaissance mission was authorised on 12 February by Major Nyiangono Ze Charles Eric, Commander of the 52nd Motorised Infantry Battalion in Nkambe. It was led by Sergeant Baba Guida, commander of Ntumbaw joint regiment,” said the report.

It also added that the detachment left the Ntumbaw base on February 13, 2020 at 10p.m. with three servicemen, and two gendarmes.

As they advanced, the detachment Commander, the report said, decided to enlist seventeen members of a local vigilante committee

“At the entrance of the village of Ngarbuh, the group split into two teams to comb Ngarbuh 2 and Ngarbuh 3 neighbourhoods,” disclosed the report, which added that “Upon entering the Ngarbuh 3 neighbourhood, the place of the tragedy, the team led by Sergeant Baba Guida comprising gendarme Sanding Sanding Cyrille, Private 1st Class Haranga and ten members of the vigilante committee launched an attack based on information provided by a repented terrorist and a farmer from the area”.

Following exchange of gunfire during which five terrorists were killed and many weapons seized, the detachment, the report said, discovered that three women and ten children had died because of its action.

Panic-stricken, the report revealed that the three servicemen with the help of some members of the vigilante committee, tried to conceal the facts by causing fires.

“On his return to Ntumbaw, Sergeant Baba Guida who led the operation, submitted a deliberately biased report to his superiors, a report on which the government initially based its statement” explained the report.

In terms of responsibilities, the Commission said it had established that Major Nyiangono Ze Charles Eric, Commander of the 52nd Motorized Infantry Battalion, BIM, who knew how sensitive the Ngarbuh area was, due to the prevailing high intercommunity tensions, failed to personally supervise the operation carried out by his troops.

Meanwhile Sergeant Baba Guida, who involved armed civilians in a military operation, failed to control his troops during the operation and ordered the burning down of houses and deliberately produced a false report on the operation and its toll.

Gendarme Sanding Sanding Cyrille and Private First Class Haranga for their parts, the report said, took part in the operation which caused the death of several persons and the burning of houses.


Witnesses hunted

Meanwhile, as the case against the perpetrators of the massacre is still dragging at the Yaounde military court, some of the key witnesses of the massacre are allegedly being hunted. One of such witnesses is Peka Marie Christine, who was a Geography teacher in Joseph Merrick Baptist College Ndu, Donga Mantung Division of the North West Region.

It is said that Peka Marie Christine is being hunted by security operatives because she has an insight of what happened in Ngarbuh and her testimony could be crucial to seal the faith of the perpetrators of the massacre.

Peka Marie Christine is alleged to have escaped out of the country, while a warrant of arrest has been issued for her.

Meanwhile, two other witnesses, who came up at the beginning of the massacre have disappeared for three years now. Their families and friends don't know their whereabouts. The others have gone into hiding, but there is pressure from the government and other bodies in charge of the case to bring them up so that the case can be solved for good.


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