Buea, Southern Cameroons:
In a communiqué dated February 11 signed by Cameroon’s minister of Communications, Rene Emmanuel Sadi, the minister accused separatist fighters of burning down the Kumba Central Hospital, a crime in which in addition to the material damage, three patients were also burnt alive. The minister further gave details as to the time of the crime (about 12.30AM in the night breaking 10-11 February 2019), the number of suspects involved and method of access. I will not bore you with the details of the minister’s communiqué, as you surely have already read it.
The purpose of this write-up is not to tell Cameroonians and the world what they already know, but to bring clarity to those who are still sitting on the fence, to put to shame the perpetrators of this heinous crime against humanity who think that we are stupid, and lastly, to tell Cameroon’s minister that he can lie all he wants, the truth remains the truth and he is mostly speaking to himself. Let us examine the facts
- The Minister’s Communiqué The minster’s communiqué tells us the time of arson, the number of arsonists, their method of entry. We now have the following questions for the minister or his investigator. We know that the Kumba Hospital is situated in the middle of town and not at the edge as some of the facilities that may be an easy target to a hit and run squad of guerillas. We also know that the military have been using and frequenting this hospital both for treatment and possibly storage of corpses (theirs and/or their foes’). There are reports of them having visited the hospital to check the patients’ inventory the afternoon prior to the arson (Let’s ignore that for a moment, since it might be hearsay and stick with the facts). Armed with this information, we will like to know why the military was not alerted when the number, time of entry and method of entry of the arsonists was noted and recorded. Let us assume the military was alerted when the first flames were noticed, why did the fire fighting brigade which is less than five minutes away (within a kilometer to the hospital) not show up to put out the flames. In this conflict, arson is a common weapon, it will therefore make sense that the fire brigade will have taken the cue and will be on the alert. Strangely, they did not show up to put out the flames in a hospital, a place of the utmost priority on their job list. This can only point to one conclusion, there was no desire to put out the flames. Let us assume that the arsonists were those that are blamed by the minister, how did they escape from the hospital after their act when the hospital is in the middle of town, the town is in a lock-down, with the only forces on the streets being the military, police and gendarmerie? It is strange that these arsonists did their act, melted into thin air and were carried by the wind back to their hide outs in the bushes, the nearest of which would be at least 5 km away through multiple checkpoints manned by Cameroon security forces.
- Motive of the Crime
The starting point of any criminal investigation is always to find a motive. Once we have the motive, we now look for who the motive benefits. Let us start with those accused by the minister. How will the separatist fighters advance their cause by burning down the Kumba Hospital? I cannot seem to find any answers to this all important question. Hospitals and pharmacies are among the list of institutions and facilities that are to be excluded from the lock-down. This was clearly spelt out in many communiqués circulated on social media. The Monday ghost towns have exceptions which are Hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. Therefore, one cannot say this was punishment for violating an injunction or an expedition to punish a previous violation. The hospital is not an arms’ cache which the separatists may want to raid to acquire arms. Nor is it a source of cash for other needs. It is therefore mind bugling to come up with a reason for burning the hospital.
On the other hand, government forces have much to be accused for
- They have been on a burning spree with more than 300 villages razed to the grown thanks to them. General Melingui Nouma has admitted in an interview to the international media that government soldiers do burn villages in which they find arms.
- There are previous déjà-vu incidents in which government forces have shot and sacked hospitals in a bid to prevent fighters from seeking treatment after combat injuries. Such were the cases in Batibo, Muyuka, Kembong. The reason Kumba is making headlines is because it is probably the biggest town in the South West region.
- Government forces have assassinated health personnel many times with the veiled message that they may be assisting in the treatment of wounded separatist fighters. Several of such cases have been witnessed in Mbengwi, Batibo, Kumbo, Njinikom
- After the Menka Pinyin massacre, an audio recording went viral in which a soldier could be heard interrogating and accosting a nurse, accusing her of treating patients with gunshot wounds without informing the military. It is alleged that the survivors of that massacre who were being treated in the said hospital were taken away by the military and their corpses tuned up later in the bushes.
-One stone, three birds down: In this conflict, we have noticed many low blows from the government, with the intended outcome of making the population turn against the separatists. There have even been multiple anonymous messages of hate, threats, intimidation circulated by regime apologists with the aim of sowing tribal and regional conflicts. This strategy has met with limited success. The government has taken a lot of battery in the past days with social media awash with their misdeeds: human rights abuses, foreign pressure, Kamto’s arrest. One could sense the buoyancy in the separatist camp especially with the relative success recorded in the lockdown operation. The government needed something to slow down the momentum. Burning a hospital might just be the magic potion. Unfortunately. This morning, favourite regime apologist and xenophobist Franklin Njume was already stirring the magic potion and prodding K-towners to reap its effects.
Finally, the Video
As the saying goes, there is no perfect crime. There is a video, fortunately for us and unfortunately for them, as has been the case in most of their crimes, circulating that shows the silhouette of french speaking soldiers armed with Zastava M21 rifles making small talk in the foreground of one of the hospital buildings while a fire rages in the background. They don’t seem to be concerned by the fire and are possibly making their getaway. If this video was recorded by the military, it will show them battling the fire and rescuing people and property. The video was surely recorded by someone in hiding. Our professional army has zero tolerance for recordings when they are “working”. Are these the arsonists, your guess is as good as mine.
The minister’s communiqué is not a surprise to us. We did not expect them to take responsibility. This people have murdered women with babies on their backs and blamed it on Malians. These people have burned grandmothers alive in their homes and denied it. These people have murdered women on their farms and displayed their bodies as terrorists. This is a new low in their onslaught. WE must continue to expose and call them out.