YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Saying the act “brings a lot of tears to our eyes,” the Archbishop of Bamenda in Cameroon’s war-ravaged north west region has expressed indignation at the July 16 killing of ten civilians at a busy junction in the regional capital.
Men dressed in military fatigues stormed the junction on July 16 and killed 10 civilians, just two days after five teenagers were killed in the same neighborhood of Bamenda by people suspected to be the Cameroon military.
“The killers came in two vehicles. They were dressed in military gear. They stormed people’s houses and got those they were looking for,” said a witness who preferred not to be identified for security purposes.
“They then brought the people out to the junction and started shooting them. A newly wedded couple was among those killed. A motor-bike rider was caught by a stray bullet. A palm wine-seller too lost his life, also killed by a stray bullet,” the witness said, adding that several people were wounded and rushed to hospital.
Archbishop Andrew Nkea of Bamenda, who went to the scene on July 17 and lit candles in memory of the victims, said the killings “brings us a lot of tears in our eyes.”
“People were sitting here innocently and were taken by bullets. Within one week, we have lost about seventeen lives,” he said.
“It’s not necessary. I think it’s high time that all this should stop. Let people be able to go around with their normal lives again. Look at what happened in Rwanda. We don’t want it here. We want our people to be able to live their normal lives,” Nkea said.
Referring to the Biblical story of Cain who killed his brother Abel, Nkea said the killing of brother by brother has “continued throughout the history of mankind.”
“We pray for our brothers and sisters in this quarter who have lost their lives within these days. It brings us a lot of tears in our eyes,” the cleric said.
Nkea prayed that God would grant the dead “eternal rest” and bring them to His Heavenly Kingdom.
“For those of us who are here, grant us peace, that we may be able to love one another,” he said.
“We ask you, heavenly Father, to bless this place which is becoming a theater of death for us in this quarter, that this place may become a place of unity and light, that people may gather here to enjoy themselves and laugh with one another, and not only gather here to see death.”
“We ask you, heavenly Father, pour your benediction to all the people who are gathered here,” Nkea said.
The Cameroon military and the government have accused separatist fighters of carrying out the attack. Separatists in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions have been fighting against government forces since 2016, intent on creating a new nation to be called “Ambazonia.”
In a July 17 statement, the spokesperson for the Cameroon Defense Ministry, Navy Captain Cyrille Atongfack Nguemo, said the “cruel and barbaric terrorist act was perpetrated…by a group of about a dozen secessionists, deceptively dressed in military gear similar to those of the Army and carrying automatic rifles.”
He said the attackers “gathered a few innocent citizens before firing heavily and indiscriminately at them, leading to the death of a few customers comfortably seated around a table.” He said the government has already opened investigations to fish out the authors of “this despicable attack.”
Separatist leader Capo Daniel admits that the attack was carried out by a group of separatist fighters, but condemned the attack, saying that it violated the laws of war.
“We condemn this attack, and we call on the group that carried out this attack to condemn this attack,” he said in an audio recording circulated online.
Human rights lawyer Felix Agbor Balla has also condemned the attack, noting that “this widespread and systematic killing of civilians is gradually becoming the new normal.”
“We must condemn the perpetrators of this gruesome, inhumane and dastardly act in the strongest terms. Human life is sacrosanct and the combatants must ensure that the civilian population is protected. Such killings in an attempt to terrorize the civilian population amounts to a crime against humanity,” Balla said.
Traditional leaders in the north west region have also added their voices in condemning “the tragic incident,” and have planned to stage “a solidarity march” on July 20 to “denounce these acts.”
Nkea said no reason is good enough to justify killing.
“I have always said that, love is better than hatred, life is better than death. I have always said that living and loving one another is better than killing one another,” Nkea said.
“It is not right to take the lives of other people.”