Moja Moja’s Unrestricted Rights Abuses, Xenophobia: Is Gov’t’s Silence, Inaction Complicity & Disregard For Rule Of Law?

From time to time, Chief Ewome John, popularly known as Moja Moja, who doubles as an element of Cameroon’s Rapid Intervention Battalion, is seen parading his tortured victims along the streets of Buea, like a hunter returning from a successful expedition and needs to exhibit the harvest.

He often brands them as either separatists or simply ‘graffi’ people he needs to do away with, or teach a lesson. With a band of armed men suspected to be soldiers drafted to support and reinforce him, Moja Moja parades the streets of Buea on a daily basis, and anyone could be his victim – if he chooses to go after them. Without a warrant, or even an excuse that the victim was caught doing something wrong, they can, from a little provocation, end up facing terrorism related charges after he has tortured, paraded, and surrendered them to the Gendarmerie.

Some of Moja Moja’s latest preys are two young men who trace their origin to Esu in Cameroon’s Northwest Region, but now live in Buea. The youngsters, Kenah Pascal Kum and Zang Emmanuel Buh, according to the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, CHRDA, were arrested from Bongo Square, Buea, and taken to Moja Moja’s Bwassa Palace, where they spent a night and were severely tortured with machetes.

In a video released by Moja Moja and his group, he is seen standing over the tortured boys. He is seen pointing to the ground, where the camera zoomed, to show the blood of the tortured boys. In the video, he is seen coercing his victims to echo his propaganda messages, and admit that they were sent from their village, Esu, where they don’t even live, to come and kill him (Moja Moja) in Buea.

In a statement, CHRDA also revealed that the Chief had claimed that the boys were sent from Esu by one of Cameroon’s richest men, Business tycoon, Baba Danpullo, to kill him because of a land dispute he has with latter at Tole, a village in Buea Subdivision. In a statement made after findings, CHRDA said: “These two boys are actually worshippers and members at the Christ Embassy Church II Buea situated at Mile 17 Buea, Fako Division of the Southwest Region, and are innocent and have no links with any armed group.

“CHRDA spoke to about five members of the Christ Embassy Church who brought a written complaint about the arbitrary arrest and detention of these two boys, led by the Senior Pastor of the Church, Pastor Akanji Felicia Tebo, who also stated categorically that, ‘These boys are Christians of my church and I have been their pastor since 2012. One of them by name Zang Emmanuel Buh is currently a church staff, builder and painter and a tenant in my compound (since 2019) at Lower-farms, ENAP Residence; while Kenah Pascal Kum is a builder, and Church Pastoral Fellowship Care Coordinator (PFCC) and lives in Mile 16, Buea’”.

The case of the Esu boys is just one in several others. They were freed on bail but, as usual, Moja Moja and crew were not as much as questioned on their torture and illegal detention of the youngsters in his palace. The badly battered boys and their families are the ones footing the bills for their treatment.

Chief Moja Moja has come to be known for notoriously “arresting”, torturing and maiming his victims whom he always refers to as Amba fighters or sympathisers, even without proof. His cruel torture of victims is usually done in public and videotaped and broadcasted on social media. At a certain point, Chief Moja Moja boasted that his actions were justified, because the Prime Minister, Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute, had congratulated him for what he was doing.

After several condemnations, he came out again and said the PM congratulated him for good works, and not for the human rights abuses he was carrying out. Most of his torture cases have been on citizens from the Northwest Region, whom he derogatorily refers to as graffi. He once gave an ultimatum that he will kill Northwesterners who refuse to leave the Southwest and return to their Region of origin.

One of his numerous victims is Antoinette Kongnso, an eight-month pregnant woman at the time (October 2, 2021). He tortured her and later surrendered her to the gendarmes who have kept the woman and her new born baby (delivered in prison) locked up till date without any tangible case against her.

In October 2021 when Moja Moja and crew assaulted Kongnso and her kids, they punched her severally. Though heavily pregnant, she was kicked severally and even on the stomach. After that, the panic-stricken woman and her children were paraded in the streets of Buea. Her crime, we learned, is that, in some episode of her life, she had dated the now dreaded separatist self-styled field marshall, “No Pity”.

That was years before she married her husband, Clovis Sima Shiynyuy, whom she lived with before Moja Moja came and sent her to prison alongside her new born baby, who is now a prisoner too, for a crime allegedly committed by one of her ex-boyfriends, years after they had separated. Though in Cameroon, like most other countries, criminal responsibility is personal but Moja Moja and team did not see it that way. Even the administration did not see it that way too.

More than a year after, Kongnso and baby are still wallowing in pre-trial detention waiting for a real charge to be brought against her and judgment delivered. For now, what has been brought against her is a flimsy charge, “failure to report terrorism”. In her case, the charge simply means she failed to report that her ex-boyfriend of four years ago (as of 2022) will one day be a separatist fighter.  

After observing the numerous cases that gravely violate human rights carried out by Moja Moja and a band of soldiers accorded him by hierarchy, the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa has launched a campaign calling on the Government of Cameroon to urgently open an investigation into all reported acts of torture by Chief Ewome John in the Southwest Region.

“The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) denounces in strongest terms on-going acts of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment by Chief Ewome John, also commonly known as Chief Moja Moja. Such acts took place on the dates of 31 October 2022, 7, 8 and 9 August 2022, 9 July 2022, 5 July 2022, 27 June 2022, 26 May 2022, and 5 April 2021,” CHRDA said in a statement.

The statement cited seven different acts of torture, including physical, mental and arbitrary detention of a total of 11 men, carried out by Chief Moja Moja.

“He has been witnessed on multiple occasions publicly humiliating and torturing unarmed civilians alleged to be separatist fighters or to share separatist ideology. He records the torture on video, which is then circulated on social media by himself or his supporters. It is an indisputable fact that Chief Moja Moja’s acts are acts of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, considering also the fact that he is acting in his capacity as a military man and as a Chief, being an auxiliary of the administration,” CHRDA furthered.

CHRDA also noted that new videos have been rarely published since Barrister Tamfu Richard filed a complaint against Chief Moja Moja on 13 July 2022, but that his acts of torture seem to have continued.

By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE

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