As the struggle for the Restoration of the Independence of the Southern Cameroons continues, one of the issues which has halted the healing process or preventing the country from tearing itself apart, is the popular demand for the unconditional release of all those arrested in connection with the 56 years struggle.
|Notorious Kondengui Prison|
Things struggle took a different twist on November 21, 2016, with the demand by teachers and then lawyers for the respect of the Anglo –Saxon Educational and Common Law Legal systems in Cameroon.
This forum has taken upon itself the responsibility to give a face to those arrested and then probe into presumed roles, in socio political unrest in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon herein after referred to as Southern Cameroons. There are speculations that the Cameroon Government (now popularly known as La Republique du Cameroon, LRC, at least in the Southern Cameroons), might not be able to account for all of them at a point in time. This is against a backdrop of rumors about the existence of mass graves in the Center Region, where some Southern Cameroonians feared dead or killed might have been buried.
From a general observation, those arrested are responsible Southern Cameroonians held down because they were expressing their right for discussions on the nature of the state. Others are for the Restoration of the Southern Cameroons Statehood. Simply put they are prisoners of conscience, given that most of the issues some of them raised are being given attention by the government albeit, halfheartedly.
These Southern Cameroonian detainees, however face almost similar charges, notably, hostility against the nation, secession, acts of terrorism, revolution, insurrection, group rebellion, contempt of institutions, inciting civil war, looting, destruction of public property, and spreading of false information. Curiously, some of them have not been charged or tried, more than five months after their arrest!
In the course of gathering information on each of them, there were outcries of adductions following the Hollywoodian manner in which some of the arrests were conducted. Several witness and some of the detainees said they were rounded up, blindfolded, handcuffed, chained, worn bullet proofs, before being whisked off from Southern Cameroons to the Republic of Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé in particular. Some complained they were tortured then locked up under life threatening conditions in the different cells they passed through.
Following interviews with many direct family members, it was observed that some discovered the arrest of their relatives, days after their ‘disappearance.’ This raises concerns as to whether all those arrested reached any of the overcrowded detention centers and makes it difficult to know the exact number of detainees. Besides, the abductions have continued. Worthy of note, the Southern Cameroonian detainees, for the most part are professionals-lawyers, journalists, teachers, trade unionists, opinion leaders and those who dared to question bad governance, decry marginalization of Southern Cameroons and demand reforms.
Their detention location include the Kondengui prison in Yaoundé, the Yaoundé principal prison, the Secretariat of State for Defense in Charge of the Gendarmerie in Yaounde, (better known by its French acronym, SED) the Counter Espionage and Intelligence Services in Yaounde (known in French as DGRE) and then the Bamenda and Buea prisons. It also emerged in the course of investigations that there are many who had been detained prior to the general socio-political crisis that have gripped the two English Speaking Regions of Cameroon for almost eight months, resulting in the shutting down of schools and courts.
Cameroon’s Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma, had justified their trial in Yaounde instead of courts in areas where they were arrested or abducted, by arguing that the Military Tribunal (now used to try civilians) had a national jurisdiction. The Cameroon government is using the 2014, ruthless anti-terrorism and cyber criminality laws to prosecute the prisoners of conscience. The law carries a possible death penalty.
Legal luminary Barrister Akere Muna still argues that the detainees should be freed to ease the ongoing tension in the country. “As regards the detainees and the different trials going on in the Military Tribunal Regions, as well in the courts in the Anglophone regions, against citizens, clerics and prelates, it is important to recall the provisions of Article 64 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code which states: “The Procureur General of a Court of Appeal may, by express authority of the Ministry in Charge of Justice, enter a nolle prosequi, at any stage before judgment on the merits is delivered, if such proceedings could seriously imperil social interest or public order.” This provision of the law describes the exact situation we are in. It is applicable to the ordinary courts. An equivalent provision exists for the proceedings instituted before the Military Jurisdictions. This is section 12 of the Law No.2008 of December 2008 Organizing Military Justice anyone talking about peace and reconciliation in good faith should immediately resort to these provision, to put a halt to the current situation, which is accelerating the country’s glide towards division and conflict,” he stated.
|Barrister Akere Muna : Free The Detainees if We Want Peace|
In our first category, we would be profiling those who stood as perceived ‘leaders’ in their own right, to conscientise Southern Cameroonians about their plight and suffering and the need for the respect of the dignity of the Southern Cameroonian. They are Barrister Agbor Balla, Dr Fontem Neba, Hon Justice Paul Ayah Abine and Mancho Bibixy! But who are the more than 100 Southern Cameroonians held in prisons in the country.
Watch out for more on this same forum!