As Cameroon Kills Civilians, ICP Asks UN, France & UK, Crackdown Continues, Failing Fall
UNITED NATIONS, October 7 — When Cameroon’s President for the past 30-plus years Paul Biya came to meet Antonio Guterres on September 22, before he went back to the Hotel Inter-Continental in Geneva, he was accompanied by his state media and… Inner City Press. Biya, still in Geneva, directed his forced to use water cannons and more in Buea, as they shoot to kill from helicopters in North-West and South-West Cameroon.
Now on October 7–8, despite belated calls from Geneva and an unapologetic Guterres, restrictions on movement and free association are being extended, for example in Manyu Division, Mamfe Town and elsewhere, see here. Will there be any follow through by the UN on its statements, or just more “welcoming” of Biya? When will the already postponed visit by the UN’s Francois Fall occur, to where and with whom, and what will it accomplish?
On October 5 Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who earlier this year told Inner City Press the UK did not view the situation in Cameroon as a threat to international peace and security but would continue to monitor it, if the threshold has been reached and the UK will ask for a UN Security Council meeting. Periscope video here. He said no one has asked and the UK continues to weigh the pro and con of putting it on the Council’s agenda (along with Myanmar, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Colombia and others). Earlier Inner City Press asked Francois Delattre, the UN Ambassador of France and President of the UN Security Council for October, why he has not yet convened a Security Council meeting amid the killings of civilians and cutting off of social networks in Cameroon. Periscope video here. Delattre said the French Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson has spoken earlier in the day, again calling for dialogue. We’ll have more on this. Guterres’ spokespeople have three times refused Inner City Press’ request for the UN’s estimate of how many people have been killed by Paul Biya’s forces since Guterres offered him praise on September 22. Now, the US State Department through its spokesperson Heather Nauert has said, “The United States is deeply concerned about violence and the loss of human life in protests that have taken place in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon since October 1. The Cameroonian government’s use of force to restrict free expression and peaceful assembly, and violence by protestors, are unacceptable. We urge the Government of Cameroon to respect human rights and freedom of expression, including access to the internet. We call on all sides to exercise restraint from further violence, and engage in dialogue for a peaceful, durable resolution.” Tellingly, the Secretary General of the Francophonie Michaëlle Jean has while expressing “concern” said that “Violence should never be a means of expressing grievances.” So Biya, who is killing, is doing so to express grievances? Or “pour se fair entendre”? We’ll have more on this. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said nothing. Nothing, from a man who issued a statement about critical tweets directed at a UN official. His New York representative, as Inner City Press reported at the time, was not (invited to be?) present at Guterres’ now infamous grip and grin meet with Biya on September 22, 2017. What has been the role of the totally untransparent UN Department of Political Affairs, under Jeffrey Feltman? Today’s UN system is hypocritical, and failing.
In Mamfe and elsewhere, Republique du Cameroun forces are reportedly shooting people in the feet and legs to prevent their peaceful protest, while Guterres tells Anglophones to take advantage of this “opportunity” and be sure to stay with the LRC Constitution. Tell that to, as only one of many examples, Benjamin Amin, a young tech-savvy Anglophone who returned from studies in India only to be shot and killed by Biya’s forces in Kumba on October 1. Inner City Press on the morning of October 3 again asked Guterres top three spokespeople, “what is the UN’s estimate of the number of civilians killed since September 27? And what is the UN’s awareness of the Cameroon government’s restrictions on the media and other attempts to restrict freedom of association, speech and belief? Where does the UN understand President Paul Biya to be, and his role in these restrictions? On deadline.” Lead spokesman Dujarric replied, “On Cameroon, we have nothing to add to what I said at today’s briefing” — which, beyond the previous night’s canned statement, below, was: “the issue of Special Rapporteurs is one that the Secretary-General… that’s outside of the authority of the Secretary-General. I think we’ve had a number of diplomatic contacts at various levels with the Cameroonian authorities. We’ve expressed our concern at the ongoing situation, especially at the violence and at the loss of life that we’ve seen. We’ve seen that the authorities have called for dialogue, and we encourage those leaders in the anglophone community to seize that opportunity.” Who is seizing whom? Previously with the UN silent for more than a day after Inner City Press submitted written questions to it on Cameroon — its High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid spoke on Catalonia but not Cameroon — Amnesty International issued a statement that “the reported unlawful killing of several people in the Anglophone regions by the security forces coupled with the blocks on Facebook and WhatsApp represent an extremely worrying escalation of the government’s on-going campaign to silence any form of dissent in the West and South-West regions of Cameroon.”
At the UN’s October 2 noon briefing, lead UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric wasn’t there; his deputy Farhan Haq had nothing at the top, vaguely alluded to statements, no answer. Haq emailed Inner City Press: “On Cameroon, we are awaiting a statement, which should come out shortly; maybe not by noon, though.” By 10 pm, still nothing. Finally at 10:30 pm, 29 hours after Inner City Press asked the UN how many civilians it acknowledged Biya has killed, the UN issues this with no estimate: “Further to his statement of 28 September, the Secretary-General remains deeply concerned about the situation in Cameroon and strongly condemns the acts of violence reported in the South-West and North-West regions of the country on 1 October, including reported loss of life. He calls on the Cameroonian authorities to investigate these incidents and urges political leaders on both sides to appeal to their followers to refrain from any further acts of violence, and to unequivocally condemn all actions that undermine the peace, stability and unity of the country. The Secretary-General takes note of the calls by the authorities for dialogue and encourages representatives of the Anglophone community to seize the opportunity in their quest for solutions to the community’s grievances, within the framework of the Cameroonian constitution. The Secretary-General reiterates the support of the United Nations for such efforts, through the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA).” Pathetic. Or to be more charitable, too little too late.
Meanwhile the UN’s Resident Coordinator in Cameroon was robo-tweeting pablum about World Non-Violence Day, and France’s Ambassador Gilles Thibault was expressing support to Yaounde (for flora and fauna). Inner City Press asked the UN Resident Coordinator Allegra Baiocchi for her response — none yet — noted the similarity to the UN’s silence in Myanmar and emailed the UN’s top three spokespeople: “ In light of the government crackdown on communications and unarmed civilians in North-West and South-West Cameroon, after the UN’s readout of September 22 and subsequent statement of concern, this is a request for the UN’s already belated response to the government’s killing. How many people does the UN acknowledge have been killed? What is the UN, both the country team and the wider UN, doing?” The lead spokesman provided this interim response: “We will try but may not have answers until tomorrow.” Inner City Press has asked that any and all information be emailed to it as soon as available. More than 12 hours later, from the UN, nothing. Watch this site. According to the UN read-out, the September 22 conversation was entirely positive and did not mention Biya’s abuse of Anglophones, or human rights in any way. Now on October 1 Biya’s forces have opened fire from Buea to Ikiliwindi, Mamfe to Nkwen, Ndu to Nguti. Still, grainy footage has been sent to Inner City Press of Ambazonia independence celebrations in Bamenda despite the orders against freedom of association and movement, and ultimately freedom of speech and of belief. Biya has again undermined the Internet and rights to communicate in Southern Cameroons, to which Inner City Press after asking the UN four days in a row until exclusion now turns.
Here is a letter sent not only to Inner City Press, but to the UN Office of the Spokesperson: “I am writing from Southern Cameroons. I am pleading you should use your high office to stop the genocide that President Biya wants to exercise on the English speaking Cameroonians. a lot of people have lost their lives already and yet the President of Cameroons is seriously planning to shed more blood. The truth is clear, the people of southern Cameroons (English speaking ) was a country of its own that legally voted to joint La Republic of Cameroon. But now La Republic of Cameroon are treating these people as if they colonize them or conquered them in a war. sir use your conscience, it could have been your family going through what we are going through. Where is human rights in the 21st Century where people of a particular nation turns to treat their fellow brothers and sisters as slaves and the whole world is reacting as if there is nothing happening Does it mean that if tomorrow if I’m in one top position in the world that has to deal with the society i will give deaf ears to a situation that has to do with millions of lives ? what is wrong with the world today? where is human right? there is no justice at all? is it that human lives no longer matters? Please kindly react to stop the genocide that is about to happen in 48 hours.” No response from the UN. Here is another letter: “Dear Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press: Accept my greetings and that of those who can’t write to you. I am writing to you from Buea, Southern Cameroons. Am reacting to your articles on September 28 concerning the crisis in Southern Cameroons. The approach of the UN concerning the Southern Cameroons and it people, proves time and again that the UN must be very corrupt, and have turned it back against in commitment to protect human rights freedoms, and states sovereignty. How can the Secretary General be talking of his to consolidate peace and the Territorial integrity of Cameroon, when knows very well that, the UN holds no legal treaty that binds the British Southern Cameroons with LA Republique DU Cameroun? I hereby want to inform you that, I, as well as an overwhelming majority have chosen to separate from la Republique DU Cameroun because of what we have gone through in 56 of forced union. If the government of la République du Cameroun, considered us Southern Cameroonians as a people with the same rights as Francophones, if the government wanted to make peace and resolve this problem from it core, I think the repression taking place now won’t have been. While you published on the Cameroon crises yesterday, the government of la Republique DU Cameroun became violently repressive and attacked and beating people their homes, taking seizing money and smart phones, and taking them to jail. As am writing to you now, six people were shot yesterday in the town of Ekona, and a grandmother was killed by the military in her home. 14 years old kids are being arrested and detained in jails under very cruel conditions. Since the beginning of this crises since November last year, 112 people have been killed by the military of la Republique DU Cameroun. The la République du Cameroun’s government have been using terrorism blackmail the peaceful protests. I hereby call on the Secretary General to read the the UN charter on human right and freedoms, and the right for self governance.”
Biya’s renewed attacks on the Internet have ranged from Bamenda to Kumbo and Kumba, but are being circumvented by VPNs. Meanwhile Inner City Press is receiving video of protests in front of the Inter-Continental Hotel in Geneva where Biya is staying. Guterres praised Biya, then belatedly called on him to dialogue: while Biya is not even in the country. His landing in Geneva: “VP-CAL used by #PaulBiya, President of Cameroon (Boeing 777) on 2017/09/26 at 08:56:46.” We ran this sample letter to Inner City Press: “ woke up this morning and discovered Internet Services in Cameroon have somehow been limited. I am suspected the regime of Paul Biya have tampered with the internet service and Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, VPNs, Vcontact aren’t working. I am sure many other social media have been cut off as well. There have been plans to celebrate the symbolic independence of this region ‘the Former British Southern Cameroons’ on the 1st of October 2017. That is on Sunday and the region have been heavily militarized by the Biya regime, Homes of people invaded, beaten , some killed, many kidnapped and with this shutdown to major social media to which it is where most of these crimes are exposed, many have been fearing a total Genocide that can be perpetrated on the people of that region. There were rumors that, the internet will be shutdown come 30th September. The Minister of Communications made a public communique two days ago to say, the internet won’t be shutdown but I guess it was just a ploy as through some websites are working, major social medias ( Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter) have been cut off. Please, make the world know what is happening in this region. This is a sly move to blackout to the world what atrocities the Biya’s regime is/will be perpetrating in these regions.”
In Fiango, Biya’s security forces have killed, reportedly Enogene Basile, following their September 28 killings in Ekona. Watch this site. Inner City Press on September 26, 27 and 28 asked Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric about these glaring omissions. The first time, Dujarric alluded to “private” diplomacy. Then on September 27 when Inner City Press asked ask, video here, Dujarric said that UN envoy Francois Fall will be going to Cameroon “next week.” On September 28, Inner City Press asked Dujarric deputy Farhan Haq if this would be before or after October 1, and Haq said he didn’t know. Hours later, Dujarric’s office put out a statement of concern below, which many see as too little, too late, with its emphasis on territorial integrity. On September 29, Inner City Press asked Dujarric not only about the UN’s surveillance of the Press, on which he refused to answer referring to the question to the UN Department of Public Information whose chief Alison Smale has refused to answer basic questions for a month (now keeping a close eye on Catalonia, if not blatant crackdowns in Cameroon), but also if Guterres’ concern is at threats to those in Anglophone Cameroon to stay indoors or be treated as “terrorists,” for citing UN General Assembly Resolution 1608. Video here.
Dujarric replied that he doesn’t have “granularity” about what’s being done and said. But he put this out: “The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the situation in Cameroon, including with regard to the recent security incidents in Bamenda and in Douala, and mounting tensions in the South-West and North-West regions related to planned events on 1 October. The Secretary-General has encouraged the Cameroonian authorities to continue their efforts to address the grievances of the Anglophone community. He urges the authorities to promote measures of national reconciliation aimed at finding a durable solution to the crisis, including by addressing its root causes. The Secretary-General supports upholding the unity and territorial integrity of Cameroon and urges all parties to refrain from acts that could lead to an escalation of tension and violence. The Secretary-General believes that genuine and inclusive dialogue between the Government and the communities in the South-West and North-West regions is the best way to preserve the unity and stability of the country. The Secretary-General stands ready to support these efforts, including through the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA). “ We’ll see.
On September 26, Dujarric replied that Guterres would say there is a time for public diplomacy, and a time for private diplomacy. Video here. Some wonder, how many people have to die, or what kind of people, for it to be time for UN “public” diplomacy? Earlier on September 22 Inner City Press interviewed Southern Cameroonians out on 47th Street, then asked Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric about people killed that very day. UN transcript here and below. The crackdown is also financial: Biya’s Minister of Finance has threatened the National Frincne Credit Bank in Bamenda with loss of its license for taking part in the “Ghost Town” expression of desire for independence, or in the first instance a referendum. See letter here. This politicization should trigger action by the “decision making phere” [sic] written about by Biya’s state media, the kind of media that the UN and now its new head of Public Information favor over independent press. From the September 22 UN transcript: Inner City Press: there’s a protest right now of Southern Cameroonians on 47th Street, but more importantly, there’s one in Southern Cameroon where five people have been killed today, as Paul Biya gave his speech, so I’m wondering… I know the Deputy Secretary-General had some interest in the issue. There’s Mr. [Francois Lonseny] Fall. Are they aware of these protests? Spokesman: “We’ve seen the reports I think we would definitely… we would call on the authorities to show restraint and ensure that people have the right to demonstrate freely.”
But on the UN’s 27th floor, it was all smiles.
And much later the UN put this read-out on its website: “The Secretary-General met today with H.E. Mr. Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon. The Secretary-General appreciated Cameroon’s hospitality towards the refugees.
They discussed the latest political developments in the country, as well as regional issues, including Boko Haram and the situation in the Central African Republic. The Secretary commended Cameroon for its efforts to combat Boko Haram, and reiterated the readiness of the United Nations to support the Government in all areas.” No mention of the Anglophone areas, much less the day’s killings. This is a new low, even for today’s UN. UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman had left the floor with the Australian delegation; it was unclear if any UN Human Rights official was present. [They were not, it was confirmed to this author.]
One of Biya’s handlers even signed the UN visitors book in advance for him. When Guterres greeted his next visitor he did so in French then apologized, the last meeting was in French. Back September 19. Guterres ended with two photo ops. The first was Paraguay’s President Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara, who spent a long time writing in the UN’s visitors’ book, followed by a short meeting. Alamy photos here. Next and last was Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Guterres said pointedly, just the signature. But something was lost in translation: he still started writing. Alamy photos here. Then the Press was ushered out. Already on the way in before the Paraguay photo op, the Media Entrance on 47th Street was locked. The questions about double standards of media access, including retaliatory restrictions still in place on the investigative Press while no-show, no-question state media like Egypt’s Akhbar al Yom have full access have yet to be answered by the official now responsible, Alison Smale. According to a photographer allowed into the smaller “G-200” room, Smale was there to greet “her” Prime Minister, Theresa May.