Monthly News Update: Southern Cameroons - April 2019

BY PHEDRA NEEL, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE PILPG-NL

This post collects updates from the past months concerning relevant developments in Southern Cameroon. The information is drawn from local and international online sources.


COURT CASES

Kamto and Michelle Ndoki Return To Court for Habeas Corpus Hearing

According to a local newspaper, the leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, Maurice Kamto, returned to court today where his appeal for bail was heard at the Appeal Court of the Centre Region. The case was adjourned last week after a member of the panel of judges failed to attend the hearing. Kamto appeared in court alongside his allies, Christian Penda Ekoka, Albert Dzongang, Paul Eric Kingue, Several Abe aka Valsero, Celestin Djamen and Prof Alain Fogue. Barrister Michelle Ndoki also appeared before judges at Mfoundi High Court where her lawyers pleaded for her immediate release. [April 2, 2019]

Mancho Bibixy’s Detention Reviewed

On April 4, 2019, the same newspaper reported that the trial and detention of Anglophone activist Tse Mancho Bibxy was being reviewed by the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC). A Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said it initiated a review of the case involving the newscaster, who was sentenced last May to fifteen years in prison by the Yaoundé Military Tribunal. The LRWC submissions highlighted violations of rights to assembly, the right to expression and the right to a fair which includes a trial before a civilian court, legal aid, and freedom from discriminatory prosecution. [April 3, 2019]

Ambazonia Leaders Return to Court

On April 8, 2019, uncertainty arose over the planned court session as the defense counsel insisted that the case could not go on at the Yaoundé military tribunal while an appeal was still pending at the Appeal Court of the Centre Region. The defense counsel said that they appealed the decision by the military tribunal to judge their clients in Yaoundé because their clients hold refugee and asylum seeker status.

Eventually, the case against the ten detained Ambazonia separatist leaders was adjourned until April 29, after the accused and their lawyers failed to appear in court. This was part of a deliberate attempt  to halt the proceedings at the military tribunal until a verdict is passed on their appeal at the Appeal Court of the Centre Region. [April 8, 2019]

HIGH LEVEL ARRESTS/RELEASES AND KIDNAPPINGS

Artist Longue Longue Released by Government

After being arrested by security forces in Doula earlier this month, outspoken artist Longkana Ango Simon has been released. Mr. Simon was  arrested after posting a controversial video on social media criticising the Biya regime for jailing the leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, Maurice Kamto. In the video, Mr. Simon claimed that the detained leader had won the October 7, 2018 Presidential Election. [April 4, 2019]

Arrested Pro Kamto Supporters Freed

Eighteen supporters of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, who were previously arrested, have been released. They were released on Tuesday of April 9, 2019 after spending hours in questioning at Central Police Station. A spokesperson of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement said they had been charged with illegal gathering, illegal protests, rebellion, and disturbing public order. However, it is not clear whether these charges have been dropped. [April 10, 2019]

Brother of the National Chairman of the Social Democratic Front kidnapped

According to several sources, Kingsley Azeh Ndi was kidnapped alongside two workers on Friday, April 19, 2019 while he was at the ranch of his brother Ni John Fru Ndi. This was not the first time Kingsley Azeh Ndi or a member of the Social Democratic Front had been kidnapped, as John Fru Ndi’s family has been the subject of numerous attacks. Last year, the sister of the Chairman was kidnapped by armed men and only later released.he SDF chieftain has also suffered losses from arson attacks. Reacting to the kidnapping of his brother, John Fru Ndi accused elites in Yaounde of creating armed groups in the Anglophone regions and prosper from the crisi. The kidnappers have demanded a six million Francs ransom. [April 22-23, 2019]

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSES

Switzerland Offers to Help Solve Anglophone Crisis

Swiss Ambassador to Cameroon, Pietro Lazzeri, met President Biya on Thursday, and later told the press that Switzerland would provide assistance to persons affected by the Anglophone crisis. “As a multicultural and pluri-linguistic country, Switzerland will continue to assist Cameroon through the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism (NCPBM),” Mr. Lazzeri said. He also said that his country will seek to help national actors find solutions to the conflict, while respecting the characteristics of Cameroon. [April 5, 2019]

Government Rejects Human Rights Watch Report

The Government of Cameroon reacted to the recent report of Human Rights Watch on the situation in the North West and South West regions of the country. The report was dismissed by Cameroon’s Minister of Communication Rene Emmanuel Sadi, who said that it represented a “systematic tendency to discredit public authorities” and stated that the Cameroonian government “categorically refutes these accusations made recklessly against Republican Forces engaged in a struggle to preserve the territorial integrity of the state and the protection of persons and property”. He added that the report shows an obvious bias in favour of the armed groups by downplaying their responsibility in atrocities committed. [April 3, 2019]

Human Rights Watch: Cameroon Clamps Down on Opposition

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released another report documenting another crackdown on the right to assemble, after he Cameroonian authorities banned a week of demonstrations planned by the opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement party. HRW notes that since late 2016, the government has repeatedly blocked peaceful anti-government protests with force, and is responsible for the arbitrary arrest and detention of protesters. [April 8, 2019]

Human Rights Watch: Government Forces Attack Village

Central Africa Director at HRW, Lewis Mudge, said that “government forces are committing abuses against people living in the Anglophone areas of Cameroon”. According to a recent HRW report, Cameroonian soldiers, gendarmes, and members of the Rapid Intervention Battalion carried out a deadly attack on the North-West region village of Meluf on April 4, 2019. HRW reports that government forces killed five civilian men, including one with a mental disability, and wounded one woman. Three of the bodies were later found mutilated, including one that had been decapitated. [April 10, 2019]

European Parliament condemns human rights violations

The European Parliament adopted a Resolution on Thursday, April 18, 2019 taking stock of the human rights situations in Brunei, China and Cameroon. Members of the European Parliament condemned the use of abundant force, and have called for an independent and transparent investigation into the conduct of the police and security forces against protesters, along with the immediate release of all detainees held on politically motivated charges. They also want the Cameroons government to confirm that it will not seek the death penalty for political activists and protesters, recalling that such punishment has not been used in Cameroon since 1997. Parliament also urged the government in Cameroon to initiate a consensual review of the country’s electoral system, with the aim of ensuring a free, transparent and credible electoral process.

This Resolution was not received well in Cameroon. A local newspaper reported that the President of the National Assembly, followed the example of the Senate, by stressing that President Paul Biya has been taking measures and initiatives to calm and contain the situation in both regions. According to this report, the National Assembly is prepared to welcome a delegation from the European Union Parliament so that its members can judge  the extent of the violence perpetrated by armed gangs on the ground.

In contrast, Parliaments for Global Action welcomed this Resolution and called upon other international organizations to restore human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Cameroon. [April 18, 2019]