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Southern Cameroons: An urgent appeal following the Kumba massacre.

On October 24, masked armed men killed at least 7 innocent school children and left many
wounded in their classrooms in Kumba, in the Anglophone region of Cameroon. This astonishing
crime is not the first in a region where there are concrete risks of a genocide, as the international
community is apparently unwilling to take concrete measures.
In February 2019, about 12 children and a pregnant woman were massacred in cold blood in
Ngarbur. The Cameroon government initially put the blame on the ‘separatists’ groups; only after
pressure from the international community, it acknowledged that the killing had been done by
government forces.
Regarding this recent case (the Kumba Massacre), the Cameroon government is accusing the
leadership of the Ambazonian self-determination forces for the atrocities, notwithstanding the fact
that the Cameroon government has not provided any proofs and similar accusations in the recent
past have always been proved to be fake. The Ambazonian leadership claims the Kumba Massacre
was done by Cameroon government militias. In this situation, trustable international investigations
are necessary.
We believe that actions should have been taken earlier by the international community to avoid
such a heinous crime. As many innocent lives have already been lost, we should aim to putting a
permanent end to the conflict. It is certain that with the ruthlessness of the Cameroon government,
the resolve of Southern Cameroons self-determination forces and the nonchalant behavior of the
international community, the war will continue, and more massacres and atrocities will take place.
If we really don’t want this to happen again, we should consistently act to favor a peaceful solution.
The Cameroon government had and has the primary responsibility to end this war it started. The so￾called separatists would have no one to fight if Cameroon calls a ceasefire and accepts negotiations
as the separatists have done.
The crisis in the Cameroons has been ongoing since 2016, when lawyers from Anglophone
Cameroon were brutalized by government military and security operatives during a peaceful protest
in Bamenda, Buea and other cities.
Southern Cameroons leaders in exile in Nigeria were abducted and illegally transferred to
Cameroon and subjected to trial in military courts in a foreign language, against international law.
They are today serving life sentences, despite a Nigerian High Court judgement asking for their
release.
The ongoing conflict in Cameroon may amount to acts of genocide. Some experts already call it as
genocide. This claim should not be underestimated by the international community.
Mr Paul Biya, who has been in power as President of Cameroon since 1982, thanks to wide-scale
fraud in elections, violent repression and imposed changes in the Constitution, declared war on the
30th of November 2017 on the people of former British Southern Cameroons.
While the government of Cameroon claims that the conflict in Cameroon is an internal matter, the
leadership of Southern Cameroons is of the opinion that it is an international dispute.
We believe that a conflict between two countries that came together in 1961 under the auspices of
the United Nations cannot be the internal affair of one of the countries.
We therefore believe that, it is the responsibility of the international community to create a
framework for both sides to be heard in order to put an end to the conflict between them.
Bringing the two sides to the negotiating table is necessary, but till now the efforts have all failed
because Cameroon was and is still unwilling to commit to any genuine, internationally mediated
dialogue. We are suggesting that the international community should use any possible leverage to
intervene in this conflict. The lives of people, including children, in the English-speaking part of
Cameroon matter. Children have not been protected and have missed out of school for four years.
It is clear to us that Cameroon, which is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, has violated
all Commonwealth principles and disrespected Commonwealth of Nations values. The people of
Southern Cameroons should be given a platform by the African Union, the European Union, and the
United Nations to put forth their claims.
We would like to suggest some key points for an urgent commitment by the international
community:

  1. An investigation on all the atrocities that have taken place in Southern Cameroons since
    2016 should be carried out by independent observers, which should include the African Bar
    Association and the African Forum for Restorative Justice;
  2. Cameroon should immediately call a ceasefire and an end to the war it declared;
  3. Economic, financial and other sanctions should be placed on Cameroon to force it to accept
    peaceful negotiations;
  4. Travel restrictions should be imposed on certain Cameroonian state officials whose names
    are attached to this document;
  5. The UN should send peacekeepers into the Southern Cameroons;
  6. The people of the Southern Cameroons should be given the opportunity at the UN to present
    their claims;
  7. The rights to self-determination of the people of Southern Cameroons should be respected
    and their will ascertained through a fair, UN-organized referendum.

First signatories
Prof. Antonio Stango, President of Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU)

Prof. DJ Omale, President of African Forum for Restorative Justice

Sergio D’Elia, Secretary-General of Hands Off Cain (International League of Parliamentarians and Citizens for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide)

FIDU – FEDERAZIONE ITALIANA DIRITTI UMANI / ITALIAN FEDERATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
VIA BOEZIO, 14 – 00193 ROME, ITALY – TEL. (+39) 0645493487 – E-MAIL segreteria@fidu.it
www.fidu.it – www.facebook.com/FIDU.FederazioneItalianaDirittiUmani

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COMMENT: Accurate information needed to counter violence against women

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa was wrong when he said 51% of women in the country had experienced partner violence. It’s important that he corrects his error.

Working at a fact-checking organisation gives you a bird’s-eye view of topical issues in a country. We watch debates flare up and peter out, headlines come and go. 

In South Africa, one topic is sadly never too far from the headlines: violence against women. Whenever yet another gruesome murder comes to the fore – and the vast majority don’t – you can almost predict how it will unfold.

Protesters take to the streets. Under immense public pressure, a government representative will make a statement. They’ll acknowledge the severity of the issue and promise solutions. 

There’s another thing Africa Check has come to expect: a mishmash of conflicting statistics rolled out by the government. Look through our archives and you’ll find many examples. 

Gender-based violence figures often inflated

When South Africa went into a national lockdown in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was concern that women would be trapped at home with their abusers. 

Police minister Bheki Cele appeared to bring it into stark focus when he publicly announced that 87,000 cases of gender-based violence had been reported by phone in the first week of lockdown. The correct figure was much lower, at 2,300.

A few weeks later, in June 2020, minister of social development Lindiwe Zulu told the country’s national broadcaster that South Africa was “number one in the killing of women”. Data from the World Health Organization shows that the country is ranked ninth.

Does government understand the problem?

You might argue that overstating a problem of this nature can bring much-needed public attention to it. But consider this:

Following the murder of Karabo Mokoena in 2017, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa said that South Africans “must be extremely worried” about the number of women who are murdered. 

He then claimed that “every eight hours a woman is killed”. He was wrong. At the time, the statistics showed that it was much worse – a woman was killed every four hours. 

How can a government plan how to respond or what resources are needed if they don’t understand the scale of the problem?

President’s statement not backed by data

The country’s president is now on this list. In June 2020 Cyril Ramaphosa issued a statement following what he said had been “a dark and shameful week” of yet more murders. 

He claimed “as much as 51% of South African women have experienced violence at the hands of someone with whom they are in a relationship”.

Even for South Africa, that’s a high number and it called for interrogation. In response to our queries about the evidence for this alarming statistic, the presidency provided four studies as their source.

The most recent was published in 2011, which in itself is not cause for concern as research of this nature can be time consuming. But the red flag was that they were also all localised and did not have data for all of South Africa.

Worryingly, the president’s office did not appear to be aware of the most recent data on the issue: the 2016 South African Demographic and Health Survey

This national survey looked at physical, sexual and emotional violence. It found that about half of his estimate – 26% of women – had experienced one or more of these forms of violence at the hands of a partner. You can read our fact-check here

Call for accuracy and accountability

We have contacted the president’s office several times asking him to issue a correction. 

Ramaphosa may have had good intentions, but given the importance of the office he holds it is imperative that the information he disseminates is recent, reliable and verifiable. This can only strengthen public confidence in his actions.

Every day he fails to correct himself only lends legitimacy to this incorrect statistic, which has been widely reported on by local and international media. It is being shared on social media and has been attributed to him in an online campaign against women abuse.

The president should share accurate information and, if he makes a mistake, publicly correct the record. It would set a good example for his ministers and for government. 

Official actions, policies and communications should be evidence based. Scarce resources allocated on the strength of shaky calculations are likely to be wasted or misdirected.

Wrong statistics don’t help us understand or solve this serious problem. 

If you agree with the need for accuracy and accountability, consider contacting the presidency to ask them to issue a correction. Please direct your email to [email protected] and copy [email protected]. You can also tweet using @PresidencyZA.

Kate Wilkinson is Africa Check’s deputy chief editor. Thipe Maelane is the organisation’s impact coordinator.

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