Cameroonian soldiers raped at least 20 women, including four with disabilities, and killed a man in a raid last year in an English-speaking secessionist region, Human Rights Watch said Friday.
HRW said the attack against the village of Ebam, in the country’s southwest, was one of the worst the army has committed in its four-year battle with armed separatists.
A number of soldiers rounded up men, while others raped at least 20 women, including four with disabilities, the activist group said in a statement after speaking by phone to survivors and witnesses between August and January.
It added a 34-year-old man was killed by soldiers in a forest surrounding the village.
Witnesses were quoted as saying that more than 50 soldiers entered Ebam by foot before dawn on March 1 last year, in retaliation against civilians suspected of cooperating with separatist fighters, including offering them shelter.
In 2017, resentment over years of perceived discrimination at the hands of Cameroon’s francophone majority resulted in a declaration of independence by anglophone radicals.
Their self-declared state, Ambazonia, has not been recognised internationally, and the central government in Yaounde has responded with a crackdown.
“Sexual violence and torture are heinous crimes that governments have an obligation to immediately, effectively, and independently investigate, and to bring those responsible to justice,” said Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“One year on, survivors of the Ebam attack are desperate for justice and reparations, and they live with the disturbing knowledge that those who abused them are walking free and have faced no consequences.”
The army declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
One 40-year-old woman told HRW that five masked soldiers entered her home.
“One of them abused me. He said: ‘If you don’t have sex with me, I will kill you!’. I was too afraid to say or do anything,” the woman told the rights group.
“After the rape, I ran into the bush where I spent two months. I am still upset and traumatised.”
None of the rape victims could receive medical care immediately after the attack partly because of cost of treatment and social stigma, said HRW, who nonetheless interviewed a doctor who later screened the women.
HRW also said that soldiers took at least 36 men to a nearby military base where they beat them and used violence that amounted to torture.
Villagers also reported soldiers stole money and other items from the homes they broke into.
Rights groups have accused both the separatists and government troops of having killed civilians during the separatist conflict since 2017.
The fighting has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people and forced over 700,000 to flee their homes.
Police plot to attack Lagos and accuse IPOB, says Yoruba Group
Apapo Oodua Koya (AOKOYA), a Yoruba group at the forefront of agitations for self-determination in southwestern Nigeria, said Nigerian police is plotting to attack Lagos and accuse the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – a secessionist group in the eastern part of the country.
The group made this known while refuting the claim by Hakeem Odumosu, the Lagos State Police Commissioner who alleged that IPOB and secessionist group from the southwest were plotting to attack soft targets in the State.
“This is clearly another grand plot to set the Yoruba against Igbo. We do not believe the police claim,” said AOKOYA in a statement on Tuesday.
“This is a game of wits. We urge Igbo and Yoruba to be aware. When Fulani terrorists were attacking Yoruba, kidnapping the people, the police did not mention any name.
“Now that IPOB is fighting for self-determination, the Fulani leadership is looking for a way to divide the emerging Igbo and Yoruba solidarity. This evil plot will fail.
“We call on the Federal Government to send soldiers to flush our Fulani terrorists in Yewa, Igana in Oyo and armed Fulani cells across the South West forests. IPOB is not Yoruba problem. IPOB is not kidnapping Yoruba people.
“IPOB is not occupying Yoruba forests. IPOB is not kidnapping, raping and killing Yoruba women and students. IPOB is not killing our farmers. The police should focus on Fulani terrorists in the South West instead of blackmailing IPOB.
“We warn the Fulani Federal Government; do not bomb Lagos and then put the blame on IPOB in order to cause disaffection between Yoruba and Igbo.
“This is an old trick used by (Adolf) Hitler to set people against each other. It is one of the instruments Fulani have employed to keep themselves in power. The game is up.”
Allegations that IPOB is plotting to attack Lagos is a lie — Kanu
The rights activist and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, refuted the claim that the group was plotting to attack Lagos state in southwestern Nigeria.
Lagos State Police Commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, said on Monday that the state police command was investigating the separatist group, Oodua Republic, alongside a threat from IPOB to carry out an attack against soft targets in the state.
“The public is hereby notified that the allegations that IPOB is plotting to attack Lagos is a Lie,” Kanu responded via a tweet on Monday.
The IPOB leader added that “Lagos State CP, Hakeem Odumosu who made the allegation is a former CSO to Tinubu & their intention is to fuel division between Yorubas & Biafrans. It won’t work. This is not 1967!”
In recent weeks, accusations from police and some government officials alleging that separatist groups in the country are responsible for attacks on formations and officers of government security agencies met disagreement from many persons including security experts, who called the claims false.
IPOB not responsible for attacks in eastern Nigeria — Lawmaker
Nigerian Senate minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, has exonerated the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of the ongoing attacks on government forces and facilities in Nigeria’s eastern region.
The lawmaker said the attackers are “fifth columnists” brought in from other places to destabilize the region inhabited by majority Igbo Christians.
He told THE NATION that members of the separatist group are not terrorists, adding that the Nigerian government’s claims that they are behind the attacks are wrong.
“Anybody, who is seeing all these problems in southeast as coming from the IPOB, anyone trying to pin the insecurity situation in southeast to IPOB or MASSOB is making a mistake. We do not think so,” said Abaribe.
“Those of us from the southeast here know that this is nothing but fifth columnists imported into Igboland to destabilise Igboland. This is because Igboland is the safest place that we had in this country.
“All they want to do is to cause a confusion and make this place ungovernable so that they can go out and say there is terrorism here.
“We are not terrorists. The ethos of the Igbo man is very simple: live and let live. We build; we don’t destroy. We never kill because we take life very precious.
“So, anyone telling you all these, it’s people who come from elsewhere trying to destabilize Igboland. But, it will never happen”.
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