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Half baked justice and repression in Cameroon

Half baked justice and repression in Cameroon

It is always said that justice delayed is justice denied. In Cameroon justice has not only been in most cases delayed, but out rightly denied especialy to the poor. The major way of doing this byPresident Paul Biya has been through the constant rigging of elections since the introduction of multi party politics in 1990, so as to maintain himself in all spheres of power, economy, judiciary, legislative etc..


It all started when in proclaiming the results of the presidential elections in 1992 in which Biya had overwhelmingly lost. The President of the Supreme Court, Alexis Depanda Mouele, admitted that his “hands are tide”. The hands were so tide for him to declare Paul Biya looser of the 1992 elections.  As a result, Biya was declared legal winner with a narrow margin against the self proclaimed president, John Fru Ndi, leader of the Social Democratic Front-front line opposition party. Though the legal president of Cameroon, Biya has always remained an illegitimate president.

However, since 1992, President Biya, who has been in power for 26 years has learned never to organize any fair elections be they presidential, legislative or municipal. He knows doing so is rendering justice to Cameroonians in virtually all sectors. Through fraud, he has been able to have a firm grip of all the arms of the county be the executive, judiciary, legislative etc. He has also succeeded to terribly impoverished Cameroonians; reduce them to beggar so as to constantly give pockets of coins, party uniforms etc to get “support” from the people.

Fortunately for him and “unfortunately” too, most Cameroonians are literate, peace loving and have so far refused taking guns like other countries. The cunning ruler and his cohorts have therefore used this as their greatest advantage to stay in power and torment Cameroonians. Biya´s unpopularity and illegitimacy is testified in his reluctance to visit the other 9 provinces, than the Centre Province where he is based. In 26 years, there are several provinces he has not visited up to thrice like the two Anglophone provinces, most of the three grand North Province, the East Province etc.

In the absence of war, and a precarious calm sustained by Cameroonians for which Biya claims to have brought, he has been able to toast Cameroonians and tighten his opponents or those who may pose any immediate or future threat to him.

 Injustice, arrests and torture

Some of such cases have been through arbitrary arrests and sentencing of Cameroonians. Ahead of the first multi party elections in Cameroon in the early 90 s, over 15 people were killed and justice has never taken its course. It must also be admitted that overzealous opposition militants in some parts of the country like the Northwest attacked supporters of Biya . Victims of these attacks some of whom lost their lives and property claim never to have be benefited any justice from the state.

February 2008 nation wide social upheavals One of the latest incidents which has proven that the Cameroonian justice system is more of a farce and tele-guided thing was recent the sentencing of Lamja Pierre Roger, commonly referred to as Lapiro de Mbanga to 3 years in jail and a penalty of FCFA280 Million on September24, 2008 in Nkongsamba. He was accused of attending illegal meetings, causing and participating in public disorder and destruction of property during the February 2008 turmoil in Cameroon.

This unsuccessful contender of municipal elections in Mbanga under the opposition SDF ticket is also one of the most popular artists in the country. From February 25 to 29, 2008, millions of Cameroonian youths took to the streets to protest against general frustration, unemployment, poverty and hunger. Government released its military arsenal on armless youths who were protesting and in the cause of quelling the strike, hundreds of youth were shot dead with live bullets by the Cameroon forces of Law and Order. According to the Minister of Justice Amadou Ali, 40 people were killed. This figure was given after government adjusted its figures from 17 and later to 24. Independent sources like Barrister Alice Nkom of Women Voters and Sons put the number of deaths at almost 200. Madam Madeline Affité of the Action for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) talked of over 200. t must however, be noted that some people mostly the unemployed took vantage of the situation and began looting.

That not withstanding, the drama after the arbitrary arrests of over 1500 youths across the country and their sentencing to jail terms ranging from 6 months to 6 years was highly condemned. Barrister Momo Jean de Dieu described the marathon judging of the youths as a travesty of justice. In Buea and Bamenda, lawyers walked out of the courtroom and protested on the streets against what as was called an abuse of justice and human rights. Most of the youths like the case of those in Douala were seriously tortured, forced to sign documents implicating themselves before they were brought to court as , Mbella E one of the victims testified.

 The Lapiro affair

One of the spectacular arrests a month after the strike was that of Pierre Lamjo Roger (Lapiro de Mbanga ). He was kept under horrible conditions as his wife testified. On September 24, he was sentenced to 3 years in jail and fined FCFA 280 millions by the Nkongsamba Court of First Instance. This crowd pulling artist had been called upon to help calm the youths during the strike and had his camera destroyed as he tried to immortalize the images. It could not be understood how he could be labeled the instigator of the February strike.

The condemnation of Lapiro is well calculated by Biya and his cohorts, they know he will appeal the verdict, after which, they sentenced will likely reduce the sentence and fine but it will still be far beyond the reach of Lapiro to pay thereby forcing him to stay in jail and stop composing songs considered anti Biya regime.

Generally in Cameroon, prison conditions are below human standards and most of the inmates are still awaiting trial. Like the case of Douala, more than three quarter of the close to 4000 inmates are still awaiting trial, Sister Jacky Atabong –Prison apostolate worker- L ´Effort camerounais 436-2008). The Douala New Bell Prison was constructed in the colonial days for 800 people. It has entered the annals of his history that on September 24, 2008 in Nkongsamba, one of Cameroon´s most popular and daring artist, Lamja Pierre Roger, commonly called Lapiro de Mbanga was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment with a fine of FCFA 280 million. It had been seriously warned that the trial was too politicized though government refuted. Another former political prisoner Celestine Monga in a letter to Lapiro published in Le Messager newspaper, reiterated that the government was determined to nail Lapiro, so as to give a clear message to any Cameroonian who thinks he can say or write what he likes. Lapiro had earlier produced a single titled “constitution constipé” meaning, constipated constitution. This was ahead President Biya´s move to propose the change of constitution so as limit presidential mandate and give him immunity for crimes he may have committed while in power. Of course, the bill went like a letter in the post office, given the parliament is made up of Biya´s representatives and not necessarily the people representatives. Another artist Joe La Conscience who embarked on a peaceful walk against the attempt to change the constitution was seriously rebuffed by government forces. He again began a hunger strike in Yaounde but was arrested and sentenced to 6 months in jail.

 Paul Kingue

Another prominent victim of the half baked justice system in Cameron is Paul Eric Kingue whose picture is right above. This sacked, Cameroon People Democratic Movement CPDM-mayor of Njombe, a locality approximately 69km metres from Douala, during the strike in February, went on Canal Deux International, a local television channel and reported that 8 innocent and harmless youths had been shot dead. This was like an affront and challenged the CPDM government and a challenged to his own master who indirectly commanded the killings and for whose sake the killings were done..

Mr Kingue also refused corruption and obliged the French banana company, SPM , operating in his municipality to pay the require amount of taxes and, only to the municipal treasury. Previously, this French company use to pay less than what was due as taxes to the council. The rest of the money used to be distributed among the former mayors, SDO for Moungo, some ministers etc. The new mayor challenged this status quo. The manager of SPM promised hell to Mr Kingue claiming to have "connections " with most of the corrupt government officials. The information was released by Paul Kingue.

Kingue´s later utterances during the strike was only like the last straw on the camel’s back. He was thereafter accused of embezzling from council coffers only after 6 months in office. He was later arrested detained and relieved of his duties. By the time this article was written he was still languishing under horrible detention conditions in Nkongsamba.

  Embezzlement and injustice

After the Breton Woods institution urged the Cameroon government to cut down spending and get rid of corruption, the government began with the arrests of embezzlers. A few like Mounchipou Seidou, former Minister of Telecommunication had been arrested and judged and sentenced in 1997, just like Pierre Desire Engo, former General Manager of the National Social Insurance Fund, Titus Edzoa, former Minister of Public Health and confidant of Paul Biya etc.

The operation only continued in 2005 with the arrest, judging and the jailing of other state thieves like Ondo Ndong, former GM of Council Support Fund whose corrupt largess is also reported to have been of benefit and command of, the first Lady, Chantal Biya. Given that the first Lady was mentioned, Ondo Ndong was sentenced to 50 years, later reduced to 20 and to pay damages of over FCFA20 billion. As if to warn anybody not to dare involve the presidential couple in any case of corruption. Ondo Ndong admitted to have stolen money to finances party events and distributed tax payers cash to many of his people and institutions among which was the Chantal Biya Foundation.

 Other arrests and sentencing have been made; Joseph Edou, formerly of Credit Foncier, Gilles Roger Belinga of SIC, Siyam Siewe of Douala Port Authority, Abah Abah Polycap of Finance, Olanguena Awono of Public Health Fonjindam of Shipping Yard and Engineering etc.

Regrettably too, Biya knew so well since 1987 (admitted during an interview with Eric Chinje) that senior state employees had been embezzling state funds. He had even refused and said people should bring proves. He constantly refused to act given that he is the supreme judge, magistrate, police, sportsman, artist etc etc etc.

Biya´s former minister Garman Haman Adji, even admitted that 60 percent of Biya´s ministers are corrupt but the figure is far more than this.


Injustice and repression

In the year 2005 and 2006 respectively, students of the University of Buea took to the streets. The peaceful protest which began only in the university campus was forced out of campus by forces of law and order who fired indiscriminately at armless students. The 2005 strike was because of the appeal by students for the government to cancel fees payment in government higher institutions and in 2006, because, some students were included in the list of those admitted into the new Faculty of Medicine in the University of Buea whereas, they did not even sit in for the competitive entrance examination. The result was the killing of armless students. Unfortunately, no justice has ever been done on this issue.

In 2007, people in Abong Mbang in the East Province, took to the streets after staying in the dark for 2 weeks. The result of the the protest was the shooting to death of one of the protesters. Since then, justice has never been made. The DO accused to have shot the guy ran to Yaoundé where he had ample protection from Paul Biya ´s regime. He remained in Yaoundé till he was recently transferred and he never took part in the handing over of ceremony.

In Kumba-South West Province, the same scenario occurred (no electricity for students for long) and a 14 year old student of Cetic Kumba was shot to death as student marched against the intermittent power cuts. The government has refused to take action. It goes without saying that the Biya regime is built on corruption, embezzlement, repression and impunity.

Unfortunately he receives the support of most western countries who wrongly believe the stability in Cameroon is as a result of Biya efforts. The relatively calm and stable environment in Cameroon which Christian Cardinal Tumi has always described as not a sign of peace, is not thanks to any leader but, thanks to Cameroonians who continue persevering.

Some, who have not been able to persevere or bear the political and economic stress, have migrated to other countries, while others whose lives are at risk have been forced to remain out of the country or forced out of the country.

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