Anglophone crisis: A teacher, human rights defender, faces life imprisonment

Anglophone crisis: A teacher, human rights defender, faces life imprisonment

N Melo
by N Melo
September 6, 2022 0

Anglophone crisis: A teacher, human rights defender, faces life imprisonment

The teacher is being prosecuted for financing acts of terrorism. The prosecution is asking for the maximum sentence. The defense denounces a whimsical trial.

The Yaoundé military court intends to send a strong message to all human rights defenders working in the English-speaking regions. Adamou Wakiri, president of the human rights NGO called Menchum Cartel association and president of breeders in the department of Menchum, North-West region, risks life imprisonment. During the hearing held on August 17, 2022 at the Yaoundé military court, the public prosecutor requested that this human rights defender be sentenced to the maximum sentence for acts of terrorism and financing of acts of terrorism. While awaiting the verdict scheduled for September 21, the accused continues to denounce a settling of scores to which he is subject on the part of some of his relatives who have appeared in this case as a civil party. According to the prosecution,

He is also accused of having stolen several oxen belonging to a big businessman. The prosecution explains that the stolen oxen were sold in Nigeria and the money received was used to purchase several firearms. Adamou Wakiri is also accused of informing armed men about population movements in the town of Wum. He is also accused of having ransacked the premises of a telephone agency in the town of Wum.

During the July 20 hearing in court, Adamou Wakiri thought that by presenting himself as a human rights defender, the court would understand that the facts with which he is charged are a fantasy. Unfortunately, the president of the court did not digest that this defendant could present himself as an activist. The military magistrate took the opportunity to put on trial certain associations which, according to him, support the terrorists. He asked the defendant if he is among the human rights defenders who make serious accusations against the Cameroonian army, while ignoring the abuses of the separatists on soldiers and civilians. This military magistrate also asked the defendant why he puts aside his teaching cap to present instead his membership card of the association he heads. As a human rights defender, Adamou Wakiri explained how he intervenes within his community. “My role was to collect the denunciations of the populations linked to human rights violations in order to pass them on to the municipal, administrative and police authorities of Wum”, he indicated.

Fanciful trial

Me Alima, Amadou Wakiri’s lawyer, noted this August 17 at the hearing that the charges against his client are fanciful.

“We cannot accuse you of having purchased a weapon without being arrested in possession of this weapon or without getting hold of a suspect who allegedly bought the weapon from you. The prosecution has found nothing in the bank accounts of my client who is accused of financing terrorism. Moreover, how can a single individual go and ransack a Nextell agency in a locality like Wum without the police and the populations being able to control him? asks the lawyer who believes that his client is the victim of a settling of scores within his own family. The lawyer considers that Adamou Wakiri was the victim of an arbitrary arrest and that his judgment violates the provisions of article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which provides: “Everyone has the right to have their cause heard. This right includes the right to be tried within a reasonable time by an impartial court”.

Gaby Ambo, head of a human rights association in Bamenda explains that since the outbreak of the Anglophone crisis in the two regions, several human rights activists have been arrested and thrown in prison. This was the case in 2017 of Agbor Balla, the president of Chrda. Gaby Ambo claims that, for fear of reprisals, other human rights defenders have gone into exile. Following Adamou Wakiri’s arrest, human rights associations in the North West region demanded his release.

Since the outbreak of the socio-political crisis in the two regions in crisis, humanitarian workers, human rights defenders and several civilians are often tried for acts of terrorism. Defenders of human rights and the international community continue to denounce this anti-terrorist law which, “sometimes is applied to settle scores”.

In the context of the Anglophone crisis and the security crisis in the Far North region of Cameroon, human rights associations are often accused by government authorities of cooperating with separatist groups and terrorist groups. This is the case with the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW). The reports on the human rights situation published by this NGO, highlighting the cases of blunders by certain elements of the police, are generally perceived by the authorities in Yaoundé as support for the “enemies of the republic”.

The Cameroonian authorities have threatened to prohibit the exercise of several human rights NGOs which seem to hold the discourse contrary to that of power in the context of the multiple security crises raging in the country.

N Melo
NM
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