Four senior UN officials on Friday condemned the continued acts of human rights violations against civilians, including women and children, in the southwest and northwest regions of Cameroon.
The officials are Virginia Gamba, UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict; Pramila Patten, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict; Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative on Violence against Children; and Adama Dieng, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.
In a joint statement, they expressed “deep concerns” about continued attacks against civilians, including extra-judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and destruction of property.
They also deployed retaliatory attacks, rape and other forms of sexual violence that “disproportionately affect women and children in the north- and south-west regions of the country that are forcing many to flee their homes”.
Reports say 32 civilians, including a pregnant woman and 15 children, were killed in Ntumbo village in the English-speaking northwest region of the country on February 14.
Accusing fingers are pointing at the military, but the Army has refuted claims that the military blatantly killed civilians.
The officials said children continued to be particularly affected by the crisis, referencing reports of school attacks and extensive closures in the affected regions.
They added that information received on the recruitment and use of children by armed actors and their detention for actual or alleged association with armed actors “raise further protection concerns”.
The Cameroonian conflict, known as the Ambazonia War, started in 2016 when communities in the English-speaking regions launched protests over alleged marginalisation by the French-speaking central government.
Many in the regions felt their voices were not being fairly represented in the central government.
In 2017, separatists in the regions declared the independence of Ambazonia and began fighting against the government.
The UN officials said hundreds of thousands of people are reported to have been displaced in the affected regions, as lack of security worsens the plight of marginalised and vulnerable groups.
They said: “It is urgent to prevent further violence and to protect all women, girls, boys and men from grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
“Severely constrained humanitarian access and limited resources for service-providers has reduced the availability of sexual and reproductive healthcare for women, including urgent treatment for survivors of sexual violence.”
They urged the Cameroonian government to discharge its primary responsibility of protecting the population by addressing the root causes of violence and ensuring that victims of the attacks are provided with protection and the appropriate assistance.
They further called on the authorities to fully investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the serious violations and abuses that have been committed.