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REACTION TO CAMEROUN GOVERNMENT COMMISSION COMMUNIQUÉ ON NGARBUR – NTUMBAW MASSACRE!!


The communique from the Secretary General in the Presidency of Cameroon on the outcome of the findings of the Government appointed Commission that investigated the Ngarbuh massacres is problematic. In other to ascertain the independence, professionalism, expertise and integrity of the Commission, the Commission itself should have made their findings public in a public event convened for that purpose and in the presence of the surviving victims, families of deceased victims, national and international NGOs, the Bar Association, National and International press. The Commission should have submitted its findings to public scrutiny and answered questions from the press and stakeholders that include the Bar about its terms of reference, its composition, the expertise of members on forensics, pathology, ballistics and the methodology it used in its investigations or enquiry. The reason why I have raised these wide ranging issues which a competent, informed and credible enquiry and/ or investigation must consider in order to be useful, is based on the recommendations made relating to criminal responsibility and military discipline.

The Commission found the alleged physical perpetrators criminally responsible for the massacres and their superior commander liable for dereliction of duty warranting disciplinary action only. In the context of war crimes of this magnitude and gravity, this finding is nonsensical. There is a distinction between individual criminal responsibility of a commander and superior command responsibility of a commander. The superior commander who ordered the operation in a civilian settlement that led to the massacre, bears individual and superior command responsibility for the crimes perpetrated by his surbordinates for failing to prevent or to punish his surbordinates for the crimes. I am not persuaded by the fact that he was misled by a faulty report submitted by his surbordinate that concealed his criminal responsibility for the crimes.

In the face of the persistent outcry from victims, national and international human rights organizations, the civilian and military superior commanders engaged in the cover up, harassment and disappearance of witnesses and disgraceful contradictory explanations or justifications for the crimes, there is a reasonable basis to believe that the report is a cover up. The alleged cross fire in a civilian settlement fails to meet the proportionality threshold under the Geneva Conventions and should not form part of a credible investigation or enquiry. A professional army should not conduct an armed operation in a civilian settlement. The alleged suspicious presence of alleged armed combatants in the civilian settlement didnot alter the civilian nature of the settlement. This is one important reason why the superior commanders who ordered the operation must bear individual and superior command responsibility for the crimes committed by their subordinates.

For me, and unless the complete report establishes otherwise, the communique of the Secretary General in the Presidency appears to be a damage control effort intended to conceal the crimes of superior commanders rather than establish a credible basis for accountability and justice … Chief FUATABONG Charles ACHALEKE TAKU

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