Monthly News Update: Southern Cameroons - March 2019

BY PHEDRA NEEL, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE AT PILPG - NL

ARREST OF MAURICE KAMTO

Human rights violations

Maurice Kamto, the leader of the opposition party Cameroon Renaissance Movement, and several of his followers, were arrested in late January 2018 on the charges of offenses linked to their rejection of the election results, including rebellion and hostility against the homeland. According to Human Rights Watch, these arrests happened without a warrant. In addition, Kamto and his supporter Célestin Djamen were held for days in facilities not meant to detain people. In both cases, the lawyers had difficulties meeting their clients and they were only presented to the prosecutor after fifteen days, which is in violation of the Cameroon Criminal Procedure Code. Also, the civilians are being tried in a military court. Kamto’s barrister has already announced to start proceedings before international courts for these violations. Kamto himself reached out to the President to have a “frank dialogue” but President Buya refused.

International reactions to the arrest of Kamto

The politically motivated arrests have caused international reactions from the European Union and the United States of America and Human Rights Watch, among others. Frederica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, issued a statement on behalf of the EU in which she stated that “The rule of law requires a fair justice system and the release of detainees against whom hard evidence cannot be produced.”A similar call can be heard from US diplomat Tibor Naggy. He said that it would be wise for the government to release the prisoners, whether they are guilty of the charges or not, because the international community perceives the arrests as political motivated. He also called upon the Cameroonian government to be “more serious” in trying to bring the Anglophone crisis to an end. However, once Naggy actually arrived in Cameroon, he remained mute on the political and security issues in Cameroon.

The opposition leader remains detained and their supporters remain subjected to the will of the government. Some of the supporters were arrested March 24, 2019 for cleaning the streets of Yaoundé.  

 

NIGERIA HAS TO RETURN THE AMBAZONIAN LEADERS

Barrister Femi Falana has given Nigeria two weeks to return the representatives of Southern Cameroons who were arrested in Nigeria in January 2018. These more than 40 representatives were residing in Nigeria as asylum seekers and refugees. 

The call from Falana follows the order of the Federal High Court in Nigeria that the deportation of refugees and asylum seekers is illegal and unconstitutional.

Falana has already announced that he will initiate legal proceedings if Nigeria fails to return the representatives within two weeks to Nigeria. However, the people in question are being tried in Cameroon.

SPATE OF KIDNAPPINGS

Kidnapping of football trainer

On March 20, a first division Cameroonian football club in Bamenda, announced  the release of their trainer, Emmanuel Ndoumbé Bosso, who was kidnapped by armed men. He claims that no ransom was paid, and he was not aware why he had been kidnapped. 

Kidnapping of football team

On the same day however an entire university football team was kidnapped from the University of Buea in the Anglophone region of Cameroon. It is not clear who is responsible for the kidnappings, which have become more frequent amid tensions between separatist groups and government troops. The team of 20 students were released on March 20. They told their coach that they were tortured by their kidnappers – they were maltreated and found with wounds on their backs. Ngongo Horace Manga, the university’s vice chancellor told CNN that on Thursday, the kidnappers had demanded a ransom to free the students. It is not clear whether the university paid the ransom demanded. No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, however the Anglophone separatists have been accused. The students were warned by their captors to not return to their school.  

Kidnapping of former minister

Former Secretary of State, Emmanuel Ngafeeson, was kidnapped and security sources are attributing the kidnapping to the anglophone separatists. He was kidnapped by unidentified armed men from his residence in Ntabessi in Bamenda. His kidnapping took place just 24 hours after the kidnapping of football trainer Emmanuel Ndoumbe Bosso. He was released only ten days after his kidnapping