Fact-Checking: No, Military Didn’t Rob MITACCUL Bamenda
A couple of video footages caught on CCTV cameras of a robbery incidence at a credit union in Bamenda recently trended online. Reports after the act pointed accusing fingers at government soldiers, others at non-state armed groups otherwise known as « Amba Boys. » Team Data Hunters after fact checking has confirmed the crime wasn’t committed by government forces.
On Friday 21st August 2020, the head office of Mitanyen Cooperative Credit Union Ltd (MITACCUL), Sonac Street Bamenda was victim of an attack by unidentified armed men between the hours 9:45am and 10am, this was according to a press release that was signed the next day by the union’s president, Khan Justice, for and on behalf of manage
Various Reports & Reactions on the Incidence
The couple of video footages of the robbery incidence captured on CCTV cameras and circulated online had over a million views, comments, reactions and shares. By the first week of September, Mimi Mefo Info (MMI) and Cameroon News Agency (CNA) had 87.000 and 46.000 views respectively. According to BaretaNews, the act was committed by « French Cameroun Bulu military officers. »
In the two short video footages five armed men dressed in assorted wears arrive in an ash colored Rav4, four walked into the reception like clients while one, the driver took guard by the roadside. As the four enter, the institution, one takes guard at the door, another keeps an eye on the other clients held hostage in a group while one goes to meet the cashier, asking for all the money being kept to be brought out. The most muscular amongst the four, putting on a blue T-shirt over a tight fitting black long sleeve sports top, a face mask, cap, black trouser and slippers soon disappeared out of the camera’s view range.
Based on language used during the operation, one would quickly take the attackers for government soldiers, fun of often expressing themselves mostly in French or broken Pidgin English. This is one of the reasons many attributed the act to the military. Unfortunately, in the course of the ongoing Anglophone conflict, cases of Amba Boys disguising as government soldiers and vice versa to carry out atrocities have been reported.
Team Data Hunters keenly followed the various comments under the various posts online related to the incidence. A certain Christian Bisong commented under MMI’s post that « The first armed robber who enters the bank in blue is Fonte Lucas Ndefru alias Commander Mad Dog of the Amba terrorist organization in Ntankah Mankon. Those who know him will easily make him out. They’re speaking French to give a different impression. » Vernyuy Emilia on her part commented that « Fonte Lucas alias Amba General Mad Dog in blue T-shirt, the first fat guy who entered. All those who know him in Ntamulung will testify, even from his voice »
Unfortunately, public opinion was later swayed towards finally believing that the military, not Amba Boys did the act. This was when a picture of a supposed police officer dressed in official uniform later surfaced online in which he took a picture of himself standing behind a car that looked exactly like that which was used for the attack. Curious, Team Data Hunters intensified fact checking of the said image.
We made several unsuccessful attempts to talk to the commissioner of Judicial Police, Old Town Bamenda. We also carried out surveys at the MITACCUL head office building at Sonac Street Bamenda where we realized that it hasn’t any oxblood colored pillar as seen in the image. This thus debunked the believe that a police officer snapped himself near the car that was used for the robbery operation in front of the robbery scene. The picture was taken elsewhere.
The story regained a new twist on Sunday 6th September in the early morning hours when news was broken that « General Mad Dog » had been killed. Sooner, images of his mortal remains dumped at City Chemist Roundabout, Bamenda started circulating online. A good number of Ambazonian activists abroad like Capo Daniel and Mark Bareta confirmed on social media that they’ve lost a great warrior.
Later, that Sunday afternoon, the military hierarchy of the NW region descended to the scene where his lifeless body laid. General Nka Valere, commander of the 5th joint military region disclosed to the press that a special squad of commandos were assigned the mission to get him, « General Mad Dog » a notorious criminal and terrorist, dead or alive. He added that « Over the past 10 years, he has killed over a hundred persons including civilians of all walks of life and members of the defense and security forces with his recent atrocities being the credit union robbery as you can see him still in the same blue T-shirt. For us it’s a great day as we celebrate his death. »
The first tool we used in Fact-Checking this story were our observations from when the video footage was revealed. The French spoken by one of the armed men wasn’t fluent. We thus started suspecting that it could be bandits and not the military reason why we quizzed some people who sent accusing fingers towards non-state fighters. We also surveyed the frontage of MITACCUL building and realized it has no oxblood colored pillar as seen on the « selfie » image of the supposed police officer.
Google Advanced Search Engine
Through Google Advanced Search Engine, we realized that at least 20 websites, blogs, YouTube channels, Facebook pages and twitter accounts published the story.
We interviewed several sources (civilians and military) including colleagues in the journalism field to get the facts straight. A good number confirmed « General Mad Dog » was the brain behind the robbery while military sources denied the involvement of any of their elements in the act.
The robbery case at Mitaccul is one out of so many vices such as kidnaps, financial exploitation, rape, intimidation, violent attacks to name these few that have taken place in the four years long armed conflict. With the above findings, Team Data Hunters has come to the conclusion that the military didn’t rob Mitaccul.
work carried out by Pedmia Shatu, Fongoh Ayeh, Honorine Cheng Abuck within the framework of the #AFFCameroon program funded by #Defyhatenow with the financial support of DataCameroon