Mamfe Massacre’s Unasked Questions: What Prevented Military From Intervening, Rescuing Victims

Mamfe Massacre’s Unasked Questions: What Prevented Military From Intervening, Rescuing Victims

In the early hours of Monday, November 6, 2023, an armed group invaded Egbekaw, a village in Manyu Division, in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing over 25 people and leaving several others with life-threatening injuries. 

Government officials have announced investigations but have, so far, not announced any arrests or known suspects in connection to the crime. 

Since the incident happened, there have been condemnations from various quarters, but what many have failed to ask, is why the incident happened, and why there was no military response to mitigate the outcome that was one of the worst since the Anglophone Crisis started. 

Many critical observers have continually asked why officers stationed at the Gendarmerie Post within the same community like the victims of the Egbekaw killings, did not intervene when the attack started, and for the length of time the assailants were carrying out the act. Given the current situation in the two crisis affected regions, more law enforcement officers have been drafted to beef up security, and ensure the safety of locals in case of attacks like that of Egbekaw. But, unfortunately, they did not act when the attack was going on, thus leaving many unanswered questions, among which are: whether the officers were not on duty; whether they were not better equipped; whether they had no interest in intervening to save the victims; whether they were not motivated to do their work; whether they were not enough to spare some muscle to fight off the attackers who, until now, have not been convincingly named, especially as no one has taken responsibility for the carnage. 

In all its communications following the carnage, various government bodies and officials, have not given an explanation on why there was no response from state defence forces to ward off the attackers or capture them and save the lives of Cameroonian citizens who were caught in a life and death situation, and needed a rescue. Government Spokesperson, Rene Emmanuel Sadi, said the attack was carried out by ADF fighters of the Manyu Unity Warriors fraternity. The group leaders responded in a video outing, distancing themselves from the act, saying that they have no reason to carry out such an act, and that it was not their way of doing things. 

Ayaba Cho, one of the separatist leaders accused of the act, also denied responsibility and rather accused Cameroon Defence Forces of disguising and carrying out the act. They also asked why the military failed to act, when they were in a position to. 

The failure to act or intervene thus paved the way for the assailants who murdered over 25 people in cold blood, burning 20 houses and leaving several other people injured, because they could act freely without military intervention. 


Blame Game

When the incident happened, most people, including the civil society, blamed non-state armed groups for the act. The government too blamed separatist fighters for the act, but, on their part, separatist fighters distanced themselves from the act, saying it was not done by them, and that it is not their style. 

The victims have, however, said those who attacked them were separatists, although no evidence still has been made available, especially that it happened at night, when it could be very difficult to recognise any of the actors. 

A report from the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, CHRDA, said 30 persons were killed and some 20 houses burnt down in the attack, which the organisation also blames on separatist fighters. 

So far, some separatist factions have denied responsibility for the act, and instead tried to put the blame on government troops. In a Facebook post, the APLC, a group self-described as a council of separatist fighters in Anglophone Cameroon, rather insinuated that the incident had the markings of what happened in Ngarbuh, on February 14, 2020, when soldiers killed over 14 locals, mostly children and pregnant women, and when called out they refused that they had nothing to do with it. Gruesome videos of the incident spread on social media, attracting condemnation from rights groups and the general public.  

The Mayor of Mamfe, Benson Agbor Besong, says the attackers, who he said are separatist fighters, attacked the Akwaya community that have fled and settled in Mamfe, because they believed that they have been collaborating with the military, and are responsible for the recent raid of the BIR on their camp, which led to the killing of several fighters. This allegation could not be independently verified by The Post. 

Some persons, who claimed the attack was carried out by separatists, also alleged that the military was notified of the impending attack, but that they were indifferent and cared less. As such, the assailants, who are said have attacked in between the hours of 2.00 to around 7.00am, acted and left unperturbed. The military is said to have come around only hours after the killings had been done, and after the assailants had left. 

The attacks and killings violated Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which presses on the need to respect and preserve human life, stating that: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.”  Article 5, furthers that: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. These rights were taken away from the victims of the Egbekaw massacre by the assailants, enabled by the security forces who refused to act. 

On its part, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, in its Article 5, says: “Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man, particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment, shall be prohibited.” 

Some victims of the massacre are still in hospitals, struggling regain their health, or adapt to the life-changing injuries they sustained during the attack.  

The government, on its part, failed to protect its citizens, as per Article 2 (3) of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The state failed in its obligation to prevent the violation of their right to life. By signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Cameroon has made an undertaking to respect and guarantee to all individuals inhabiting its territory the right to life. This is as per Article 2 (1) of the Convention. 

Independent thinkers have expressed the need for an independent investigation, given the complexity of the incident and the so many unanswered questions surrounding the perpetrators and the motive of the attack.