263bn francs CFA imposed on protesting lawyers, activists unjust – Cameroonian lawyer

A Cameroonian legal practitioner, Nkrumah Ngonso, has slammed the Cameroonian government for the life imprisonment and fine of over 263 billion francs CFA imposed on a group of Southern Cameroons restoration movement leaders and lawyers arrested in Nigeria in 2018.

Ngonso alleged that university professors and human rights activists, including Sisiku Julius Ayuke Tabe, Shufai Blaise Sevidzem Berinyuy, Prof. Awasum Augustine Cheh, Dr Henry Tata Kimeng, Eyambe E Elias EBAI, Dr Cornelius Kwanga Njikimbi, Dr Fidelis Ndeh Nche, Dr Egbengu Ogork K, Mr Nfor Ngala Nfor, and Mr Tassang Wilfred Forbang, were arrested at Nera, Abuja, on January 5, 2018.

He said they were returned to Yaoundé, where they were allegedly held incommunicado for 11 months at the Gendarmerie headquarters before being transferred to Kondengui Central Prison.

Ngonso in a statement he issued in Abuja Wednesday, decried their arraignment before a tribunal in Cameroon, saying the Military Tribunal in Yaoundé lacked jurisdiction to try the defendants, who were civilians and protected under international law.

“By 2016, the serious socio-political crisis in Cameroon had climaxed, lawyers from the Francophone region called a sit-down starter to call the government’s attention to the serious and rapidly mutating and deteriorating human rights situation.

“The government initiated a dialogue with lawyers and teachers through their representatives, but the discussions failed to resolve the issues. Lawyers then called for peaceful demonstrations in Buea and Bamenda, the Court of Appeals seats in the English-speaking regions.

“The situation worsened when the government ordered troops to publicly flog the peacefully demonstrating lawyers, leading to arbitrary arrests and detentions. Many lawyers were beaten, their professional attire confiscated, and some sustained long-lasting injuries. As a result, many fled to countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, the USA, and Canada, seeking protection from the UNHCR.

“On January 5, 2018, in Abuja, Nigeria, a group of Southern Cameroons restoration movement leaders and lawyers were arrested at Nera Hotel by a heavily armed contingent. They were handcuffed, blindfolded, and detained incommunicado at the Defense Intelligence Agency for 20 days.

“By January 25, 2018, they were illegally refouled to Yaoundé, where they were held incommunicado for 11 months at the Gendarmerie headquarters before being transferred to Kondengui Central Prison,” he said.