By Nfor Hanson Nchanji
In 2015, an International Non-Governmental Organization, GENEVA CALL, created an App called “FIGHTER Not KILLER” which helped hundreds of fighters from the YPG, a Kurdish militia in northern Syria to guide them through the rules of wars especially in treating war prisoners and attacking the enemy in civilian areas. With the present situation in Southern Cameroons, there is an urgent need for leaders of armed groups to teach each camp the third and fourth treaties of the Geneva Convention and the LOAC.
I have previously listened to Dr Ebenzer Akwanga of the Southern Cameroon Defense Forces, SOCADEF, tell his forces to respect human rights especially civilians and war prisoners. In a live Facebook show on November 17, 2018 and on December 19, 2018.
He condemned kidnappings and the sufferings of the denizens the fighters are supposed to protect.
“There are some of you, our own forces who have began indulging in war crimes. I know you; I know your name and where you are commanding. Let me assure you people of one thing, you will all go to the Hague, not me Akwanga. I am taking stock because at the right time, you will face the crimes you have committed. You steal from our people and you are building houses?” He said on November 17, 2018
On December 31, 2018, Dr Samuel Sako of the Interim Government, warned fighters who are experts in cutting fingers, hands, kidnapping and torturing Southern Cameroonians. He said a special force will be created to investigate the perpetrators.
But since then, I have not seen any improvement on the ground. Majority of the fighters lack basic knowledge in International Humanitarian Laws which was enacted in 1949 in Geneva, Switzerland after the second world war. Most group leaders have not even spoken about the need to protect civilians and protect war prisoners. Some who have spoken but have not matched words with actions. Lets assume that the International Humanitarian Law is meant for States; that is to say signatories of the convention. What about the Law Of Armed Conflict, LOAC? Some important rules of LOAC come from the Geneva Convention.
The Time notes that, “Non-state armed groups can’t sign on to the Geneva Conventions, so instead they make a commitment to Geneva Call to abide by the rules. Every four years, representatives from some of the world’s most notorious militant groups meet in Geneva to discuss the laws of war and how they affect their struggle.”
Just like the Kurdish militia in northern Syria, Ambazonia fighters need to respect the Laws of Armed Conflict or simply be taught the basics. The “FIGHTER not KILLER” was distributed to the combatants and they had to read every line before going to war front.
Today, we still hear cases of torture-where someone is accused of being a blackleg to the struggle. He or She is given little or no judgement but beaten to death or near death. In other scenario some are accused of practicing witchcraft which cannot be scientifically proven. How can the fighters determine whether the person is guilty or not?
Most of these cases are false accusations brought by either envious persons who use the situation to cause damage to their enemy. In such cases fighters, need to investigate and make sure that their findings are correct and if they are found guilty, there are many ways to punish the person other than kill.
How do you treat a journalist accused of using his show to spread propaganda?
How do you treat an alleged blackleg?
What do you need to do if you suddenly find yourself in front of a child soldier on the opposite camp?
How do you treat victims of war?
How do you attack your enemy in a civilian populated area? Take for example that your camp just acquired some rocket launchers and you want to attack the army camp. Ask yourself how many people live around that camp and how devastating will it be if you launch the rocket there.
What do you do with a captive?
These are some of the questions the fighters need to answer when faced with such instances as they fight against the Soldiers.
In the Central African Republic, some of the rebels have code of conduct and war in their respective camps ; they punish anyone who goes against the rule. They have a rapporteur who gives feedback on what happened during an operation. This has greatly reduced the number of people killed by militia. Rebels were previously killing people accused of witchcraft in the public and even buried some alive but recently they have been trained on the respect of Armed Conflict Laws and the need to carry-on the war without crossing the civilian red line.
Ambazonia fighters in Southern Cameroons therefore need these trainings to equip themselves with basic human rights and protect the population they are fighting for.
While pondering on these, I am aware that Government has created State owned militia to carryout abuses in some areas and put the blame of the fighters but we cannot also give a blind eye to several cases that have come up form real Ambazonia fighters, cases which have been confirmed by their leaders abroad.
Maybe just like the App created by an NGO, GENEVA CALL, the leaders of the struggle need to create a common platform or set of rules guiding operationalization of the groups and or train some trainers who will then disseminate the information to the numerous camps in the thirteen divisions.
In the Law Of Armed Conflict protection of civilians, prisoners of war, the wounded, sick, and shipwrecked are very important.
Are we together?