Cameroon‘s government has accepted its role in the killing of 13 civilians in a February clash against militant separatists in a village in the country’s northwest region.
In a statement on Tuesday from the office of President Paul Biya, the government said three of its soldiers and a vigilante group attacked a separatist base in the village of Ntumbo.
The soldiers and the vigilante group killed five people but later found out “that three women and 10 children were killed” in the gunfight against the separatists.
The government said in its statement that “overcome with panic, the three soldiers helped by some members of the self-defense group tried to hide the incident by setting fires.”
The United Nations described the February 14 massacre as “a shocking episode in the ongoing crisis that has afflicted the country’s North-West and South-West regions for the past three years”.
Cameroon’s northwestern area is populated by English speakers although the majority of Cameroonians are Francophone.
Anglophone Cameroon has for years struggled for representation in government and civil service. The struggle has taken turns in various degrees between simple protests and separatist insurgency.
The northwestern city of Bamenda has in recent years been the battleground of forces of the state against armed separatists.
In 2018, videos and photos of government forces torturing and burning building in Bamenda made their way to the internet. The BBC reported that the Cameroonian government had tried to prevent the world from knowing about the brutalities.
In the last few years alone, over half a million people have had to flee their homes for safety even as the UN also reports that thousands, mostly English-speaking civilians have died too.