‘FAKE NEWS’, What Cameroun Govt Called Video Showing Soldiers Killing Women, Children
By Ruth Maclean in Dakar
FOOTAGE showing two women, a child and a baby being shot dead by armed men in Cameroon has led to accusations by Amnesty International that the country’s army may be carrying out killings.
In the video, which has been widely shared on social media, a woman is walking down a dirt track, holding a child by the hand. A man in military clothing and aviator sunglasses, with a rifle swinging from his shoulder, is holding her by the neck. As they walk, he periodically slaps her face.
Behind her walks another woman, with a baby tied to her back, and behind them a group of men. The men suspect the women of belonging to Boko Haram.
“BH, you’re going to die,” says the person recording the video, as they turn off the track and stop walking. The women are blindfolded and made to sit down.
Cameroon’s government is denying the army was involved in the killing of women and children.Photograph: Facebook
“Yes, come here, little girl,” one soldier says to the child, who has let go of the woman’s hand. He removes her top and wraps it around her face. Then the soldiers open fire, killing all four women and children.
The government has simultaneously denied the video depicts Cameroonian soldiers and announced the launch of an investigation.
Calling the video “nothing but an unfortunate attempt to distort actual facts and intoxicate the public”, “horrible trick play” and, in a phrase borrowed from Donald Trump , “fake news”, the government spokesman Tchiroma Bakary justified the denials of military involvement.
Firstly, he said, “the military staff involved in this operation visibly have the same phenotype”, whereas teams are usually ethnically and sociologically mixed.
Secondly, their uniforms are those used for forest operations, whereas the landscape indicates they are in the Sahelian zone. Thirdly, he said, the mens’ weapons are not used by Cameroon’s army in that area.
Despite “the irrefutable nature of the evidence” he presented, Bakary went on to say that the president had launched an investigation.
The government’s rapid dismissal of the video cast doubt on whether any investigation would be genuine, said Amnesty International.
Researchers are working to identify the victims and perpetrators in the video and its location. Amnesty thinks it was filmed in Mayo-Tsanaga, in the north of the country.
An Amnesty spokeswoman said they had gathered evidence that army personnel were responsible for what it called “the cold-blooded and calculated slaughter of women and young children”.
The Galil rifles they carried and their uniforms suggest they were one of several military units, possibly the Rapid Intervention Batallion (BIR).
The BIR has a history of abuses, including the alleged torture of hundreds of people in secret chambers in Salak, also in the north.
As well as fighting Boko Haram in the north, Cameroon has spent much of the past two years embroiled in a conflict in the country’s anglophone regions, where calls for schools and courts to use English instead of French were violently repressed, leading to an armed uprising, dozens of deaths and 180,000 people displaced.
On Friday, Cameroon’s 85-year-old president Paul Biya declared his intention to stand for election for the seventh consecutive time in October.
“I am willing to respond positively to your overwhelming calls,” he announced on Twitter. “I will stand as your candidate in the upcoming presidential election.”
CREDIT: The Guardian