Government forces in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions killed no fewer than 170 civilians over the past six months, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.
“Soldiers, special army units and gendarmes used indiscriminate force and torched hundreds of homes and public buildings in the former French colony’s English-speaking North-West Region and South-West Region between October and March,’’ the rights organisation said.
HRW researchers say they interviewed 140 assault victims, family members and witnesses to support their claims.
One witness told researchers that security forces attacked the village of Abuh in the North-West Region in November, burning down an entire neighbourhood.
“When I came back to the village, my house was gone, with everything inside. I am left with nothing but my clothes,” a mother of five told researchers after hiding for three days in the bush after the attack.
Satellite images and photographs seen by HRW show the destruction of about 60 structures.
According to HRW Central Africa director Lewis Mudge, due to the ongoing violence and difficulty accessing remote areas, the number of civilian deaths is likely to be much higher.
“Cameroon’s authorities have an obligation to respond lawfully and to protect people’s rights during periods of violence,” Mudge said.