As the clock ticks down to Sunday’s presidential elections in Cameroon, President Paul Biya remains tightlipped about a grisly video gone viral of two mothers and their infant children executed in cold blood by government soldiers.
The grainy video shows two women — one with a baby on her back and another holding hands with a young child — walking across a dirt patch. Armed men walk behind them, and one yells in French “You are B.H. (Boko Haram), you are going to die.” The women are forced to kneel. Shots ring out and the women fall to the ground, one with her child still strapped to her back.
The video, posted on July 10, 2018, was examined by Amnesty International using open source investigation methodologies and found credible.
Brian Castner, military and weapons advisor for Amnesty and former Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer, commented on Twitter: “My Amnesty colleagues and I have analyzed it, and here’s all the reasons – weapons, uniforms, language, geography – we think it’s legit.”
A government spokesman dismissed the video, calling it an unfortunate attempt to distort actual facts. “Its sincerity can be easily questioned,” said Issa Tchiroma Bakary. It’s “fake news.”
The government of the largely French-speaking country insists the Oct. 7 vote will be peaceful, even in the troubled English-speaking southwest and northwest where nearly 400 people have died and 200,000 have fled into exile, according to the International Crisis Group thinktank.
President Biya, known as “the Sphinx” is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders since taking power in 1982. He downplayed the conflicts as mere “trouble.”
The central African nation of 25 million people has never held elections amid insecurity so serious that the military is currently deployed to three of ten regions.
What began as a limited movement calling for greater economic opportunities and recognition of the English language has snowballed into a deadly fight with government soldiers from the French-speaking majority pitted against armed separatists seeking an independent state they call “Ambazonia” in Cameroon’s English-speaking northwest and southwest regions.
A spokeswomen from the Pentagon said the U.S. is working with the State Dept. to “ensure the government of Cameroon holds accountable any individuals found to be responsible.” A number of soldiers have been arrested, according to the BBC.
Biya is favored to win another seven-year term, as opposition parties did not succeed in backing a single candidate.