Amnesty International in a report issued July 20 accused Cameroon of torturing suspected supporters of Boko Haram in its military campaign against the jihadist group. According to the human rights organization, hundreds of suspects have been "subjected to severe beatings, agonizing stress positions and drownings, with some tortured to death" at the hands of government authorities. Amnesty documented 101 cases of secret detention and torture within the last four years. Alioune Tine, Amnesty's regional director for West and Central Africa, said, "These horrific violations amount to war crimes." Amnesty also observed American and French military personnel at one of the bases while the detention and torture was taking place. The organization is calling for the US and France to investigate the extent of knowledge that their military personnel may have of war crimes in Cameroon.
Niger's army on July 6 killed at least 14 displaced persons who were apparently mistaken for jihadists in the restive southeast, where Boko Haram militants have staged regular attacks. Soldiers were patrolling a militarily restricted zone around the village of Abadam near Lake Chad when they opened fire on what turned out to be unarmed peasants. Yahaya Godi, official in charge of the Diffa region, said: "Any individual seen in the area is considered Boko Haram." Thousands of people have been displaced from the southeastern Diffa region, and civilians have been banned from many areas in response to raids by Boko Haram from across the border in Nigeria. Many, however, have been returning to their lands to tend their crops, fearing hunger and permanent displacement.
The US is building a military air base in Niger that will be capable of deploying drones to police the greater Sahara and Sahel regions. The US already has a presence in the capital Niamey, where it shares an airbase with with French troops from the anti-Islamist Operation Barkhane. The new facility, in the central city of Agadez, will give Washington greater ability to use drones against Islamist extremists in neighboring Libya, Mali and Nigeria. A Pentagon representative confirmed the US has agreed to pay for a new runway and "associated pavements, facilities and infrastructure," estimating the cost at $50 million. But The Intercept, which broke the story, said it is projected to cost twice that. The news site reports that it has obtained files indicating the project is considered "the most important US military construction effort in Africa," and will be completed in 2017. (BBC News, Sept. 29)
More than 1,000 are being held in horrific conditions, facing disease, malnutrition and torture, as part of Cameroon's crackdown on Boko Haram, Amnesty International charges in a new report. Entitled "Right cause, wrong means: Human rights violated and justice denied in Cameroon's fight against Boko Haram," the report details how the military offensive has resulted in widespread rights violations against civilians in the Far North region of the country. "In seeking to protect its population from the brutality of Boko Haram, Cameroon is pursuing the right objective; but in arbitrarily arresting, torturing and subjecting people to enforced disappearances the authorities are using the wrong means," said Alioune Tine, Amnesty's West and Central Africa regional director. "With hundreds of people arrested without reasonable suspicion that they have committed any crime, and people dying on a weekly basis in its overcrowded prisons, Cameroon's government should take urgent action to keep its promise to respect human rights while fighting Boko Haram."
Nearly 150 individuals, including 11 children, have died this year in Nigeria's military detention barracks, Amnesty International (AI) reported May 11. According to the report, the Giwa detention barracks in Maiduguri holds around 1,200 people, many of whom were arbitrarily detained and are being held without evidence. The detainees are allegedly housed in dirty, overcrowded cells and often face with starvation and dehydration. AI claims the overcrowding is "a consequence of a system of arbitrary mass arrest and detention" in the government's fight against Boko Haram. Netsanet Belay, AI's research and advocacy director for Africa, called for an immediate closure of the Giwa barracks. Nigeria's military spokesman Rabe Abubakar rebutted the report, stating that Nigeria has made improvements to the barracks, and the reported conditions are overstated.
At least 29 people were killed as three suicide bombers carried out a coordinated attacks at a market in the village of Bodo in northern Cameroon Jan. 25. The first explosions struck the road leading to the market, while the second and third blasts hit the entrance and interior of the marketplace. It was the second terror attack to hit Cameroon this year. On Jan. 13, a suicide bomber killed 12 people and wounded at least one other in an attack on a mosque in Kolofata village. Dec. 10 also saw a suicide attack in Kolofata that left at least 10 dead. (Al Jazeera, Jan. 25; Al Jazeera, Jan. 13) But villagers are also being caught in indiscriminate army attacks in the northern region. On Jan. 19, troops fired rocket-propelled grenades in the village of Ashigashiya, on the Nigerian border, killing a family of four. Witnesses said two elderly men were also dragged from their homes and shot. Scores of civilians are believed to have been killed in recent weeks as the army attempts to enforce a "no-go zone" along the border. (AP, Jan. 19) Locals have started to form vigilante committees to defend their villages from Boko Haram. In a sign of hope, Christian vigilance committees have been patrolling outside mosques during prayer sessions, while Muslims are guarding churches during services. Both have been targeted by the militants. (VOA, Jan. 19)
At least 32 people were killed and dozens more wounded in a Nov. 17 blast at a crowded vegetable market in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola, capital of war-torn Adamawa state. Yola was also the scene of an Oct. 24 mosque bombing that left 27 dead. These are but the latest in a relentless campaign of terror attacks by Boko Haram that has left over 1,600 dead in Nigeria and neighboring Chad and Cameroon over the past four months. (Al Jazeera, Nov. 17) The new attack comes just as a Nigerian online activist has won acclaim in his country for calling out Facebook's double standards on which terrorist attacks warrant attention. Activst Jafaar Jafaar in a popular post noted the prodigious attention Facebook is devoting the Paris terrorist attacks that have left 130 dead—with a "Safety Check" feature for residents of the city, and a campaign by users to superimpose the French tricolor over their profile pictures. Jafaar especially made note of the January attack at the town of Baga, in Nigeria's northeastern Borno state, in which an estimated 2,000 were killed—eliciting no such response from Facebook. (News24, Nigeria, Nov. 17)
President Barack Obama formally notified Congress Oct. 14 that 90 US troops have been mobilized to Cameroon—the first contingent of a 300-strong force to assist in the struggle against Boko Haram. The force will conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, but will not participate in ground combat operations (except in self-defense). Unarmed surveillance drones will also be deployed. The Pentagon said the move came at the invitation of Cameroon's government, which has been headed by strongman Paul Biya since 1982. Cameroon is part in a joint regional task force to fight Boko Haram along with Chad, Niger and Benin. (Foreign Policy, VOA, BBC News, AP, Oct. 14)