By Yerima Kini Nsom
What has made Cameroon look like the world headquarters of human rights abuses and violations is the impunity with which soldiers kill civilians, loot property and burn down villages in the two crisis-hit Northwest and Southwest Regions.
Each time, human rights organisations ring the alarm bell, Government officials would salute the army for its professionalism and embark on lies-stricken denial of barbaric acts committed by soldiers that are paid to protect the people.
The results of the Inquiry Commission that probed the Ngarbuh Massacre is an opportunity for the authorities to fix things by ending impunity and re-establishing the sanctity of human life and the sacredness of human rights in Cameroon.
Since the report itself is a frontal indictment of the soldiers who killed pregnant women and babies in Ngarbuh, disciplinary sanctions should be meted in all transparency.
Their trial at the Military Tribunal should be opened to the public. That way, it could be a deterrent to soldiers who give the impression that Government has given them a blank cheque to kill just anybody in the two Regions at will.
For one thing, the province of culpability spans beyond the soldiers and the Fulani herdsmen who committed the massacre. The local and regional administrators who condoned or covered up such a feat of State terrorism and some local elite allegedly recruited the Fualani herdsmen from neighbouring Nigeria, should face the music of the law.
Claims that the Government was misled into telling lies on the issue do not hold water. For, it was not the first time that overzealous Ministers tried to cover up military exactions with a sickening alchemy of lying statements.
The claim of being misled sounds very ridiculous for a country that has one of the most effective secret services in the world. The chain of those responsible for the Ngarbuh massacre should even go beyond those who did not only propagate falsehood in Government but also threatened every human rights organisation, every journalist, every civil society activist and every politician for speaking the truth.
I took off time to play with my dogs in self-consolation when the arrowheads of survival journalism join the lies-telling caravan, thereby prodding on the soldiers in the killing of civilians, including pregnant women and babies.
In order to give a false legitimacy to their lies, some Ministers stigmatised the Bishop of Kumbo, His Grace George Nkuo, politicians, Barrister Akere Muna, Prof. Maurice Kamto and Penda Ekoka, for revealing the story of military cruelty in Ngarbuh.
They even threatened to drag them to court. If such Ministers were in a State of law, they would have been pushed to resign or tender an open apology to these patriots and the entire Cameroonian people. They should now bow their heads in ignominy or, like guilty dogs, move with their tales in-between their legs, if their consciences are still potent. By their lies-telling on grave human rights abuses, such people scupper the corporate image of our beloved country by pushing it down the abyss of a pseudo-State wherein the fear of people in uniform is the beginning of wisdom. Otherwise, the music of their falsehood will not be upping its tenor every time human rights groups report the exactions of the military.
What the coterie of lies-tellers in the establishment do not seem to know is that lies are as ephemeral as perishable goods, while the truth, no matter how brutal it is, is sacrosanct. It becomes even more vicious when those lies are tailored to give an artificial view of such grave violations.
But the truth of the extra-judicial killings and arson in Kwa-kwa, Mamfe, Weh, Batibo, Menka-Pinyin, Babanki, Belo, Abuh, Njinikom, Mutengene, Nso, Mbonge, Mudemba and many other areas in the two Regions, have stubbornly refused to be a lie, even as the issue dies gradually behind the hills of time.
Indira Ghandi once stated that the truth will always prevail, even if its tellers are reduced to a minority of one person. One of Cameroon’s freedom fighters, Um Nyobe, once remarked that the truth needs no passport to travel to anywhere it wants. Small wonder that the Ngarbuh cruel truth finally travelled into the ears of President Paul Biya. That is why he created the Commission of Inquiry that finally unearthed the bare facts of the incident. This lays bare the naivety of those who thought that they could lie to the President forever. For one thing, President Biya is more or less, a taciturn and laconic character who usually speaks through actions on issues of grave national import.
At the time that die-hard CPDM supporters thundered the drums of the one-party system, rejecting multiparty democracy as unrealistic imported political models, President Biya shocked them. He decreed the era of party pluralism in Cameroon in the 90s. When word benders of the regime were basking in falsehood with claims that the Anglophone Problem was only an illusion, he waded in and said it was real. When the uniform officers arrested, handcuffed and took a young female journalist, Mimi Mefo, to the New Bell Prison in Douala, President Biya swiftly ordered for her release.
Those who have dutifully protected their tenacity of memory in the current feat of general amnesia will remember many more fatherly acts in which President Biya took exception to the falsehood of some of his overzealous Ministers.
As head of the Army, President Biya should not end his probing act with the truth of the Ngarbuh massacre. He should create more commissions to probe previous military exactions that did not only lead to the killing of civilians, but have equally decimated the sign post structures of the dogged self-reliance of the people of the two Anglophone Regions. This will restore the aura of credibility and nobility that our Army has lost to such malpractices. Such a move will also help Government to wash its hands clean of allegations that it is using the fight against the Separatists as a subterfuge to crush even those who are just asking for basic rights in the two Regions.