On November 21, 2023, gunmen on bikes attacked Bamenyam in the West Region, killing nine persons and hurting others. Shops were also looted, and some persons were also reportedly kidnapped by the gunmen. This latest move, largely blamed on Anglophone separatist fighters, raises fears of a possible widening of the protracted Anglophone Crisis.
If this trend were to continue, and with civilians bearing the brunt of the crisis, the country could further slide into more violence, with a possibility of it taking intercommunity twists. This is, as the purported rationale behind such attacks is that of hurting each other’s people, as some separatist factions on social media outings have been proposing. The dangerous thoughts and proposals raise serious concerns, especially regarding security in Cameroon as a whole, given that law enforcement officers have been overstretched by the various crises and other internal wrangling that threatens social peace.
In the Bamenyam incident, local sources narrate that the fighters crossed over from the crisis-affected Northwest Region on-board motorbikes. The gunmen moved on to attack the Bamenyam Market where locals had come out to trade. During the attack, the gunmen killed eight men and one woman. Three shops were also set ablaze, some reportedly looted, a cargo truck set on fire and bikes taken during the attack.
Images from the scenes show corpses left on streets by the attackers who retreated into their hideouts.
Following the attack, the Governor of the West Region, Awa Fonka Augustine, is said to have dispatched the SDO for Bamboutous, David Dibango, alongside the Commander of the 5th Joint Military Region, General Bouba Dobekreo, to the incident scene, where they announced that a manhunt has been launched to track down the suspects. They also tried to assure the locals that their safety would be guaranteed.
The attacks point to the worsening security situation in Cameroon, especially as the Bamenyam incident came just a few days after that of Mamfe, where over 25 civilians were killed by gunmen whose identity and motive remains a mystery.
Like the incident in Mamfe, that of Bamenyam too has not been claimed by a particular group. So far, government sources and officials have blamed the attacks on Anglophone separatist fighters. The separatists, on their part, have not claimed responsibility for the act. The incident, like that of Egbekaw in Mamfe, needs a lot of investigation, while on the part of the administration, there is a need for security to be stepped up in communities around the country, to ensure the safety of all.
One platform that usually posts separatist propaganda and information, Amba Newsline, claimed that the attack was not done by Anglophone separatists. But another separatist leader, Capo Daniel, a former associate of Ayaba Cho, who left and created another faction, said in a video that it was done by separatist fighters. He said they were bringing the war to French-speaking Regions of Cameroon. He also insinuated that it was aimed at forcing the President to take concrete modalities to negotiate a way out of the conflict. He said separatist fighters are now leaning towards the most extreme ways in pursuing their war effort, and that French-speaking citizens will “pay the price for the reckless war” that their government has launched against Ambazonians.
Most other groups, including the locally run Council of Fighters, APLC, has been silent on the issue. The APLC following the attack just left a cryptic message on their Facebook page saying “Ambazonian lives also matter”.
The Bamenyam attack violates Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which presses on the need to respect and preserve human life. “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person,” it says. This is furthered by Article 5, which says: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” These rights were all taken from victims of the Bamenyam incident.
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.” Traders in Bamenyam were made to go through cruel treatment without any justification.
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. In Bamenyam, like other areas where attacks have occurred, little or nothing was done to guarantee or protect the local civilians against the attack.
By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE