By Joachim Teigen
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, released his statement on 17 February, saying that he is “deeply concerned over reports about the killing of civilians, including children, in an attack on the village of Ngarbuh”.
A day later, the spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights equally decried the killings as “a shocking episode” in what is an “ongoing crisis that has afflicted the country’s North-West and South-West regions for the past three years”.
23 killed, 15 of them children
The “ongoing crisis” referred to is the clashes between security and defence forces and armed separatist groups in these two regions, clashes which have displaced hundreds of thousands of people over the last years.
The UN reported witness accounts saying that 40 armed men opened fire on people and burnt down houses in the village of Ngarbuh on 14 February. Some of the men involved in the killings were members of the security and defence forces. According to Cameroonian authorities, the defence forces and gendarmes responded to fire from inside the village.
UN sources on the ground reported that 23 people were killed, 15 of whom were children and two of whom were pregnant women.
“Respect international human rights law”
The UN Secretary General offered his “deepest condolences” to the families of the victims, and called upon the Government of Cameroon to investigate the attacks and to “make sure those responsible are held accountable”.
After the Cameroon Government announced that they would open an investigation, the Office of the High Commissioner urged the authorities the ensure that it be “independent, impartial and thorough”.
Both the Secretary General and the Human Rights Office called on all armed actors in the conflict to refrain from attacking civilians and to respect international human rights law.
“We urge the Government of Cameroon to take concrete steps” the Human Rights Office said and reiterated their “readiness to help the Government to protect the human rights of people all across Cameroon”.
Pleas of the international community
The UN statements are just the latest of many appeals from the international community, many of them from ecclesiastical communities around the world.
Earlier this week, Catholic Bishops from around the world signed a letter to the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, asking him to begin peace negotiations with the separatist movement.
The World Council of Churches also condemned the attacks, and encouraged all its member churches to keep those affected in their prayers.