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UNITED NATIONS, June 1 – Amid the worsening crackdown by the army of 36-year Cameroon president Paul Biya in the country's Anglophone areas, in April a video circulated depicting soldiers burning down homes. Click here to watch Cameroun military burning houses in Southern Cameroons. Noted by many residents and activists: blue helmet of the type used by UN peacekeepers.
On April 30 Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the video, the day after publishing a story about it, in Google News. April 30 Q&A video here; transcript below. On June 1, the UN's "Peacekeepers' Day," Guterres handed an award to Cameroon's Ambassador in a ceremony Inner City Press was told it could not enter, while state media from Morocco and other countries were allowed in. Tweet here.
Two hours later the head of UN Peacekeeping held a press conference. Inner City Press asked him about the lack of vetting of troops from Sri Lanka and Cameroon. He answered on Sri Lanka - while entirely ignoring Inner City Press' question about Cameroon. Video here. This is today's UN of Antonio Guterres.
Amid the killings in Menka - Santa, a 15 year sentence imposed on Mancho Bibixi for "acts of terrorism, hostility against the homeland, secession, revolution and insurrection." Whose homeland? From the UN, which put a cap on questions on May 25 while Antonio Guterres once again on the road, absolutely nothing. Dead silence. On May 29, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: and below. On May 30, Dujarric waited until the day's noon briefing to read out this answer, after which Inner City Press asked if UN will make Biya government's explanation of Menka if any public, and if UN's Francois Lounceny Fall is involved. No; video here.
Dujarric for the UN read out: "I have been asked about the violence in the Anglophone region of Cameroon in recent days, and I can say that we are aware of the clashes between the Cameroonian armed forces and unidentified armed men in the town of Menka, in the North-West Anglophone region of Cameroon, on 24 May. We express our condolences to the families of the victims. The United Nations country team is in contact with the authorities to clarify the circumstances of the incident.
We call for an end to acts of violence in the Anglophone regions of the country and urge all Cameroonians to work together on an open and inclusive dialogue to address the concerns of the population in those regions. We also call on the Government to use restraint in the use force and follow due process for those who are arrested.
In this regard, we are aware of the sentencing on 28 May of seven Anglophone activists for up to 15 years by a military court in Yaoundé for rebellion and acts of terrorism." It wasn't May 28 - Inner City Press asked if it was a typo, no answer. From the May 29 transcript:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you a follow-up on your Cameroon north-west and south-west announcement. Just before the weekend, so Thursday or Friday, there were several dozen people killed in some villages called Menka and Santa. The pictures were… are all over the Internet, including bodies being rolled into a mass grave. I'm just wondering what is the relation between this? Does the country team, are they unaware of these reported…?
Spokesman: I think they are aware of these reports. It's not areas to which they have access to. Obviously, the continuing violence in the situation in those areas has created more displaced people. I will get our guest who sounds like he is already having a good time."
Yeah, a good time. On May 21 Inner City Press asked UK Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen when his Mission will at least request a briefing in the UN Security Council about Cameroon, given the targeted killings and the questions put to UK Minister for Africa Harriet Baldwin in the House of Commons and her answer. According to the UK transcript, Inner City Press asked, "One question on Cameroon: There was a national day held. Many people didn't participate or were forced to participate. And I know that Harriet Baldwin was asked in the House of Commons about it. Does the UK intend at any point to request a briefing under any other business or otherwise at the UN in the Security Council on targeted killings?" Ambassador Allen replied to Inner City Press, "We are talking to the government of Cameroon, of course. And we are discussing with our colleagues, including here, the situation that is going on over there. At this stage we haven't made any request to put it on the Security Council agenda. We keep it under review." Video here. Under review for how long, amid burning and looting of villages?
Now to the criticism of summary executions, there's an attempt to stir up - or find - supporters of Paul Biya. In this sample TV clip, it is asked rhetorically, Where is civil society? Where are the political parties? Where are the intellectuals? Maybe support for Paul Biya is not what he thinks. As to the claim Cameroon will never be DRC, Libya, CAR or Cote d'Ivoire, it is understandable that like North Korea's Kim, Biya would not want to go the way of Gaddafi. But is the argument that Cote d'Ivoire is a colony? Any more than Cameroon? We'll have more on this. On May 20 Paul Biya had Nigerian soldiers parade before him in Yaounde. Nigerian Lieutenant Colonel Mochtar Sani Daroda said the troops were requested by Biya to participate. Meanwhile in Bamenda, University students were forced by Biya's official to parade the penalty of expulsion. It was no celebration in, for example, Bangem, Kupe Muanenguba, Konye, Batibo and Ekona.
Last week US Ambassador Peter Henry Barlerin not only noted the government's targeted killings but also how long Biya has been in power - more than thirty years - and "suggested to the President that he should be thinking about his legacy and how he wants to be remembered in the history books to be read by generations to come, and proposed that George Washington and Nelson Mandela were excellent models." Biya's spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary has fired back from Libreville: "We do not accept the infantilization of the Cameroonian nation. It is with full knowledge of the facts that they put their ballot in the ballot box." Infantilization? For an 85-year old ruler for 35-years? Some National Day. We have see the ghost towns. On May 16, the Governor of Cameroon's North-West Region issued an order "advising" Anglophone residents to remain indoors or relocate for their own safety from May 18 to at least the dubious May 20 "nation day." But France, the sponsor and protector of all this killing, issued a congratulations, from ostensibly post FrancAfrique president Emmanuel Macron. He urged “strict respect for the unity” of Cameroon, in a congratulatory letter to Biya.
Unlike others who acknowledged the undeniable, Biya's targeted killings and burning of villages, Macron denounced “crimes targeting representatives of the state” - like those who engage in torture, even on video. Macron wrote that “Cameroon is a key partner for France, and I hope that our relations will be even stronger in the future." Macron supported the killing just as he accuses others of. The UK, which many say abandoned the Anglophones of the former British Southern Cameroons, in a ghoulish intra-colonists' trade with France, has issued a warning for May 19-20 to British citizens in the Anglophone zones, here.
The UK has denied in full Inner City Press' request under the Freedom of Information Act UK about Cameroon, and is delaying on Inner City Press' appeal. This comes as questions have been raised in the UK House of Commons - but not by the UN in the UN Security Council (that unspoken deal with France again). MP Jessica Morden, Labour for Newport East, requested answers from Harriet Baldwin Minister for Africa. Baldwin's answer does not explain why the UK has not even requested an Any Other Business briefing in the UN Security Council, where it has a Permanent seat, about Cameroon. Baldwin's statement: “I am delighted Mr. Speaker that she has managed to get this important issue on the Order Paper and for discussion here in the House of Commons because it is a serious situation, there violence from all sides in Cameroon, we are extremely concerned about the situation. And we are encouraging the government but all Cameroonians to participate in the process of inclusive dialogue. It’s an election year and this must take place without resorting to violence." And nothing requested in the UN Security Council by the UK, as others point to the governments targeted killings and burning and looting of villages. We'll have more on this. Earlier, on May 17, Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: on this right to assemble and protest. Yesterday, I had asked you about this video in Cameroon of a person being tortured and you said it couldn't be authenticated, but a general statement. Since the army has identified who the person in the… depicted in the video is, has Mr. [François Louncény] Fall not issued any comment on it? And the second one is, now in the run-up to the supposed National Day on 20 May, which many people don't see as the National Day, there's an order from the Governor of Northwest region telling people to leave their towns because the army is coming in and that's why I'm asking a follow-up to yesterday's question. Is there anyone in the UN system observing now the ordering of people out of their towns, and how does that impact the right to protest that you've just described?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, our envoy François Louncény Fall is the person seized of this matter. If he has any specific comment, I'll let you know about that. Right now, what I can say about that is, as I had mentioned yesterday, we would be concerned about any use of force against people engaged in exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and peaceful protest.
Inner City Press:Right, but just one more… And again, I'm saying because there's a press release by the military of Cameroon, identifying who the person depicted in the video is, so what happens next? Does DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) ask Cameroon which unit did it? What's your investigation of it? What happens once an army is actually --
Deputy Spokesman: As I believe I explained to you yesterday, when we receive people from peacekeeping contingents, we vet them thoroughly to make sure that the individuals and their units are not linked to any violations of human rights; and that would be the case with troops coming in from Cameroon." Really? In mid-May, a video emerged depicting Paul Biya's Army torturing a captive, which they say to be Tsobonyi Alphonse Tatia a/k/a "Title Man" or "General," the name used as soldiers whipped his feet, kicked him in the back and stood on his head. Will those giving military support and equipment to Cameroon take note and stop? Will the UN which took Biya's golden statue and in essence covered up the refoulement from Buhari's Nigeria belatedly speak up? On May 16, Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press:the Cameroonian Army stepping on a man's head and beating the bottom of his feet, so I'm wondering, it's a pretty widely… in Cameroon, it is seen by many, many people, and given that Mr. [Francois Lounceny] Fall was attempting to, I guess, provide good offices between the anglophone areas and the capitol, maybe you've heard from him, does he have any comment on this video that seems to be… put an end to any belief of dialogue?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we continue to hold out the hope that there will be dialogue among the parties. Mr. Fall has, as you know, in past months reached out to the various participants, trying to see what he can do in that regard. We have no way of verifying the authenticity of this video. But we would be disturbed by any signs of torture and, of course, we would urge all parties, including the security forces, to refrain from such acts.
Inner City Press:The ministry… thanks a lot. The Ministry of Defence put out a press release about the video, and I just wanted to know, in cases where an army is at least initially depicted, unless it's somehow debunked, as being engaged in torture, what does DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] do to ensure either that it's not using the same units who did it, the same individuals who did it?
Deputy Spokesman: on the general principle, what we do is that our peacekeeping departments, that is to say the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and of Field Support, are engaged in making sure that all individuals and all units that are engaged in peacekeeping operations are fully vetted, and so we go through those."
On May 9, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Dujarric about reports that the Biya government is hindering humanitarian aid to fleeing Anglophones. Dujarric... laughed. He laughed at length. Video here. Then he called Inner City Press "self-centered." In between, he issued a typical Guterres canned statement of concern - this from or for an official who took Paul Biya's golden statue and now seeks to handpick which journalists can cover Guterres, or bans the use of Periscope even when UNTV is filming, here. In Yaounde, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has sent a new resident representative, to replace outgoing Nigerian UN official Mal Moussa Abari. It is Athman Mravili, a native of the Comoros, whose Twitter feed consists of retweets of his boss, critique of the US administration on North Korea, and various virtue-signaling progressive causes. If he's so progressive, what about Biya's slaughter in the Anglophone zones / Ambazonia?
We'll have more on this. Biya is locking up journalists; for now what Guterres does is have "his" UN Security hinder the Press, including most recently on May 5 here, Inner City Press which has asked about Cameroon and the statue he took since it happened. Now a Biya military tribunal on April 10 ordered that Akumbom Elvis McCarthy, a news broadcaster for Abakwa FM Radio, a privately owned broadcaster based in the Bamenda region, be remanded in custody for a renewable six-month period while police investigate claims that the journalist aired "secessionist propaganda." So much for free speech and freedom of the press. The Cameroon Journalists’ Trade Union, SNJC in Cameroon has called on Biya to drop all charges against Anglophone journalists Mancho Bibixy and Thomas Awah Junior, both jailed at the Kondengui prison in Yaounde. The SNJC made the call in Douala on World Press Freedom Day, when Guterres' UN was engaged in censorship, complete with a barely audible video message from traveling Guterres. The two are due back in court on May 8.
Mancho Bibixy, a journalist and history teacher was arrested in Bamenda in January 2017 after leading a "coffin revolution" on the streets to protest against the state of roads. Dzenyagha Thomas Awah Junior was also arrested in Bamenda during the same period and transferred to Yaounde for allegedly being in possession of SCNC documents. Ah, freedom of the press, under direct attack in Cameroon and persistently hindered and undermined in the UN of Antonio Guterres and his Global Communicator Alison Smale. They've made their restrictions on Inner City Press pervasive, including requiring minders and blocking access, refusing to answer petitions: call it soft censorship. From the April 30 UN transcripts:
Inner City Press:a video emerged over the weekend from Cameroon showing or depicting soldiers burning people's homes in the Anglophone areas, and what… what a lot of people focused on is that one of them, at least, is wearing a blue helmet. I don't think it means the UN is doing it, but I do wonder, what are the rules? I wanted to ask you, what are the rules if people have served in UN peacekeeping missions… have you seen the video?
Spokesman: "I haven't seen that particular video, so I can't comment on the particular helmet, whether it was just blue or a UN helmet. We have seen, in different parts of the world, various security forces and army… we've seen reports of them using equipment that they own, which had been painted white or blue and reused domestically. It is a responsibility to ensure that no equipment that has UN markings is ever used in any domestic operation. But, again, I'm not… that's a matter… that's an issue of principle. I haven't… I can't comment on that specific report." Hours later, still nothing.
The lack of confidence in the UN in these areas, and on this issue, was inflamed as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in October 2017 stopped by Yaounde on his way from the Central African Republic (where the UN pays Biya's government for peacekeepers who have been charged with sexual abuse). Guterres did not meet with any opposition figures, and accepted a golden statue from Biya.
Guterres' envoy Francois Lounceny Fall has publicly said that secessionist are extremists, the word used by Biya to justify the scorched earth strategy exemplified by the video. Inner City Press asked UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zaid why his Office hasn't updated the death figures and he claimed it was because the UN has no access.
Guterres' humanitarian Assistant Secretary General Ursula Mueller visited Cameroon, but not the Anglophone areas. (Inner City Press asked her why, here). Human Rights Watch didn't even include Cameroon in its 2018 “World Report,” and told Inner City Press this is because it does not view it as among the 90 most serious problems in the world.
Guterres' Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed as in Abuja in her native Nigeria when 47 Cameroonians were illegally sent back by the Buhari government. Buhari will be in Washington on April 30 and a protest of Ambazonians is planned. Earlier in April, Inner City Press asked the US State Department about the refoulement to Cameroon and received a day later a statement. But what will happen on this video, and on the underlying issues? Watch this site.
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