Cameroun’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lejeune Mbella Mbella, on May 28, 2019, addressed the diplomatic corps in Cameroun on Cameroun’s responsibility regarding human rights violations in the Ambazonian Liberation Struggle. In an attempt to clear Cameroon’s security forces of committing gross and systematic human rights violations in Ambazonia, the Minister invited the diplomatic corps to a press briefing during which he dismissed accusations of human rights violations. In lieu of presenting verifiable data to counter previous accusations made by rights and humanitarian groups and diplomatic missions, the minister attacked these groups of engineering “this prevailing pessimism, or worse still, doom-saying in which some want to cloak Cameroun is highly uncalled for and betrays a pernicious hidden agenda.”
Regarding excessive and systematic human rights violations including targeted killings, burning of entire villages, rape, etc., committed by Cameroun security and defense forces in Ambazonia, the Lejeune Mbella Mbella claims “the forces cannot be accused of destroying public buildings, kidnapping, or killing peaceful citizens.” Rights and humanitarian groups, and foreign governments have previously accused Cameroun’s defense and security forces of committing these gruesome acts. The government further claims it has taken appropriate sanctions against defaulters, whereas Cameroun has rather exonerated its forces of committing these offenses.
Without mentioning names, Cameroun’s minister accuses groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Crisis Group, the Catholic Church, Norwegian Refugee Council etc, who publish reports on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Ambazonia. Also, Cameroun attacked foreign governments like the American, the Dominican Republic, the British, and the Swedish governments who raised the humanitarian situation at the UN Security Council on May 13, 2019.
During the diplomatic lunch, Cameroun projected the visit by the UN High Commissioner, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, to Yaoundé earlier this May as evidence that the humanitarian situation is under control. It should be recalled the Human Rights Commissioner neither visited Ambazonia nor listened to the victims of the armed struggle because the government of Cameroun prevented her from traveling to Ambazonia. Briefly, her visit to Yaoundé was a working visit and not an investigation of human rights abuses. Prior to Ms. Bachelet’s visit to Cameroun, the government, twice refused her predecessor, Commissioner Zeid, access to investigate Cameroun’s human rights abuses in Ambazonia. Recently, on April 12, 2019, Cameroun refused Ilaria Allegrozzi, Senior Researcher on Central Africa at Human Rights Watch entry at the Cameroun airport despite granting her a visa.
Despite these accusations against rights and humanitarian institutions and foreign governments, the humanitarian situation in Ambazonia continues to aggravate. Cameroun downplays the humanitarian devastation by claiming UN statistics that the conflict is affecting four and a half million people are “far-fetched and do not in any way reflect the actual situation on the ground.”
However, international law mandates humanitarian intervention when victims of gross and systematic human rights violations remain vulnerable. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2018, 160,000 people were estimated to need humanitarian assistance in [Ambazonia]. Today, there are more than 1.3 million people, or at least eight times as many, in need and that amounts to a third of the local population.