Babanki consists of two villages neighboring each other in Tubah subdivision, Mezam division in the northwest region. The two villages are Big Babanki also known as Nki or Kejom keku and Small Babanki also known as Kejom Ketinguh or Babanki Tungoh.
The massacre of more than 10 civilians in Small Babanki, on Saturday, February 29, 2020, by government forces came three days after Ambazonia separatist fighters attacked soldiers guarding a construction site in Bamendakwe, Mezam division where one soldier was killed, one civilian ( a driver ) while four others are said to have been kidnapped.
Some 48 hours after that incident in Bamendakwe, a strategy was hatched by the army to invade Small Babanki where the fighters are believed to have come from.
The soldiers who were about 40 in number stormed the village early Saturday and attacked the residence of Ambazonia ‘General’ Fire shooting him and his wife. The Commander of 5th military region, Brigadier General Nka Valere told reporters in Bamenda after the incident that 10 Ambazonia fighters including their commander ‘General’ Fire, were neutralized and their weapons seized.
A witness who spoke on basis of anonymity said, “They came around 1 am and stationed around entry points of the village. The first gunshots were heard around 4: 50 AM and most of the villagers were still sleeping. It seems their main target was the local Ambazonia commander of Bamendakwe, General Fire. They came straight to where he lives because he had left Mendakwe and rented a house in Babanki. Only very few people knew that he was the one and so the villagers were even thinking of sending him away with his guys because they were about 50 of them that came in. The military came, went straight to that place. I heard he drank a lot the other night after they kidnapped four workers in Mendakwe and brought them to Small Babanki and locked them up in their local cells and only released them the day before yesterday ( Friday) after they paid some ransom so it seems that guy took the money and went drinking, so when the soldier came he could not run, so they killed him and the wife instantly.”
Nka Valere Jubilates Over Death
Brigadier General Nka Valere who authorized the mission is said to have jubilated at the army headquarter in Up station, Bamenda over the death of the fighters promising to invade every corner where the separatists are hiding. He, however, made no comments on civilians murdered by the soldiers he sent on the mission. CNA has now obtained pictures of women lying dead on compounds, some pictures showing partial daybreak. Journalists who were invited to the military headquarter said it was full of fanfare.
But military action in Small Babanki left untold suffering and huge human damages. More than 10 civilians including a nursing mother were killed and left in cold blood. A local from Babanki Tungo( Small Babanki) told CNA that the attack took place in many quarters, “The neighborhood from Timenshui to Chuku where the military stormed the village this morning as early as 4 am and till now as I write to you, children, 5 women, and more than 6 male corpses have been discovered. There is total mourning everywhere as I talk to you now.”
The military came in sets, promising to remain in the village till their mission is accomplished. A witness revealed that “The first set came around 4 am, and left by 4 pm and when we did a quick resume, we had a total of 10 corpses with houses burnt, 5 women 5 men. The second contingent came in as 6 pm promising to sleep in the village to continue the mission. Most villages have assembled at the quarter head’s compound for safety”
The source claims that most of those who died were civilians and not Ambazonian fighters as claimed by military sources, “More than 10 families are affected and about 17 houses counted razed by the military, the information was broken by some herdsmen who also ran from the attacks and later gave an account that a total of more than 40cattle were taken by the military.”
Another source narrates how one woman who was still breastfeeding was killed in the bush where she had gone to cultivate vegetable commonly called, “Njamanjama”, “They went up to the forest and killed one lady who just put to birth five months ago. She was up the forest where they work vegetables.”
“They shot three people at Tsih, while at Chuku two young girls and three women, were killed. Chuku is found around the health centre. The rest of the killing took place at Pa Gwei’s compound still in that area. That is where even the Amba ‘General’ was shot. The operation was led by a certain Babary, commander of the Tubah Gendarmerie Brigade. He was very furious and wanted to shoot a group of other civilians gathered around Chuku but he had a bitter disagreement with another soldier, they ended up letting the people free. That is when Commander Bakary went up to the house around the health centre and shot at women” The source narrated.
Another source confirms the figures to CNA adding that it is still difficult to get full details because Soldiers were still carrying out searches even on Sunday evening.” Well, night breaking Saturday the 29/02/2020, the military stormed the upper Kejom Ketinguh where some Amba elements believed to be hiding. This operation cost the village 10 lives, provision stores and several houses burnt. A thorough search is still going on. After some days we will get the number. So many Innocent civilian fall victims.”
Going by the witnesses 11 civilians were killed including the wife of the Ambazonia ‘General’. CNA has been able to obtain videos and pictures from Small Babanki including the five months old child lying innocently beside her dead mother, women lying on the ground and in bushes.
A Remake of Ngarbuh?
The murder of women and children in Small Babanki comes 15 days after government forces invaded Ngarbuh village in Ndu subdivision, Donga Mantung division in the same region. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA puts the death toll at 22, while the Human Rights Watch said that 21 civilians died in the hands of government forces.
An investigative team has gone to the site, but the government has arrested potential witnesses and survivors claiming that 5 people died and 7 separatists in an operation they described as collateral damage.
The world has condemned the Ngarbuh attack on civilians calling for an impartial investigation into the killing.
Main Witness Missing
Nfor Yacubu also known as Mallam Danjuma who was the first to provide information to the United Nations and Human Rights Watch was arrested by government forces on February 24, 2020, and taken to Ndu town but was later nowhere to be found. Cameroon News Agency gathered that some Pastors and family members went to the Ndu Gendarmerie brigade but could not find him. Late Saturday, February 29, his body was said to have been found in Kikaikilaiki, Bui division in the northwest region. It is believed that he was killed and abandoned there. But the family said they could not find the body of their son in kikaikilaiki in Bui after an alert on Saturday, February 29, that his body was found. The family has searched at the Ndu Gendarmerie brigade where he was first locked up but could not see him. No security official has commented nor debunked claims they had killed the whistleblower. His body has not been found and his whereabouts unknown.
Other witnesses and survivors have escaped as pressure mounted on them by the government.