By Ntumfoyn Boh Herbert (Yindo Toh), Dec. 16, 2016
The video interview of a retired Cameroonian soldier which has surfaced on social media says the unit of Cameroonian troops in which he served carried out no less than 400 extrajudicial killings and dumped the bodies of the victims in mass graves.
Identified on the video interview as Rigobert Kouyang, the retired officer says he worked in the unit charged with extrajudicial killings of Cameroon’s special military forces known as “Commandement Operationnel”.
Set up in the early 2000s, this force claimed to fight crime, but was accused of “silencing” and or “disappearing” political dissidents, as well. At the height of accusations that this force was sowing death, Cameroon’s lone Catholic Cardinal, and Bishop Emeritus of Douala, Cardinal Christian Tumi accused it of killing no less than 500 people. The government of Cameroon denied those accusations which this interview seems to confirm.
“I worked for the unit which performed the executions”, a calm, sometimes
smiling and frightening cold Kouyang says in the interview.
Videotaped sitting outside a hut – perhaps his retired home – with a goat bleating in the background noise at the start and a piece of clothe serving as a door blind floating in the wind behind him, Rigobert Kouyang says the following of his work in the unit: “We received orders and we went off to work”.
At one point in the short video clip, the camera shot captures a female figure come out of the hut and turn away from and fades out from the camera shot. A few minutes later, a younger looking person (perhaps an adolescent boy) is seen going into the hut, with the retired officer questioning what the young man wants and gesticulating in hardly concealed irritation that the young person was moving around while the camera was rolling.
Speaking of how the unit he worked identified those they subsequently executed, the retired officer explains that they received intelligence about neighborhoods that harbored criminals or had a high rate of crime.
“When we arrived, we would arrest them (the criminals) and take them either to Bonaberi (in the outskirts of Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala) or we took them to the road (between Douala and Mutengene, in Cameroon’s English-speaking South West Region) where we would kill them”.
Hesitating slightly after saying they would kill the alleged criminals, Rigobert Kouyang then adds: “We would shoot them there… point blank”.
He explains that the “Commandement
Operationnel” had what he calls an “alert unit” which detained alleged criminals. Another unit, he said, conveyed those condemned to die to the execution site.
“And there was a unit responsible for tossing the bodies of those executed into a mass grave”, further explains the retired soldier, describing these extrajudicial killings as just “a task that needed to be done”.
Based on the estimates of the retired officer, who is wearing the uniform of the army spotting what appears to be the emblem of the Air Force, “no less than 400 people” were extrajudicially killed by his unit – only one of several units in the town.
In response to a question as to whether or not those executed ever pleaded for their lives to be spared, including offering money to be set free, the retired officer says they (soldiers turned down any money, unlike gendarmes). He quickly adds:
“No. Those who offered to pay were not spared. Even when we took your money, we still finished you off”, he said, pausing briefly before adding: “…we still killed you”.
And how do you feel about these killings, he is asked during the interview.
“When you execute somebody, you are in joy,” he says, managing to conjure a smile up in his face. Then he adds what he says would have been his only other wish.
“If it were possible, I would have wanted to be assigned more people to kill”. According to him, killing more people would have shown that he was “doing a good job”.
The retired officer describes what the atmosphere was after they executed any alleged criminals.
“With the executions done, we would be happy. We would be singing. We would pat each other in the back for a job well done. We would make fun of the person executed”, recalling that
the “salopard” (referring to the person freshly executed) claimed to be powerful and strong. “Where is he now?”, the retired officer said they would ask each other mockingly.
“If food was ready, we would be served a meal,” recalls the retired soldier. “We would get some red wine and whisky to go with the food, and would eat and drink a bit. Our bosses would stop by to check on us. They would show appreciation for the work we do. They would join us in commenting on the killings and would laugh along with us. Then, our bosses would let us know that we were to handle other extrajudicial killings the same way the next day, they would want us to kill in the same way.”
To close the interview, the retired soldier says their bosses would tell them: “do not be afraid. Brutalize people the way we instruct you to do”.
The retired officer then adds: “And we did exactly that”.
The short video clip of the interview ends right there.