EDITORIAL: Is Buea And Bamenda Incapable of Justice?

Picture taken in Febraury allegedly shows Wum villagers under military torture
Picture taken in Febraury allegedly shows Wum villagers under military torture

Editorial: April 27, 2016

Cameroon Journal, Washington D.C – On Thursday April 21, we received a phone call from a source in Bamenda to the effect that some 19 Wum residents arrested in January for protesting the death of one of their own in the hands of a wayward military officer, were hurried to Younde in the wee hours of the night to stand trial. In Yaounde, they will be subjected to a Military Tribunal since their crime is touted as provoking insurrection which in Cameroon, invokes a possible death penalty under recent anti-terrorism laws endorsed by President Biya. Theirs isn’t the first case.

Ashu Manfred’s is still very fresh in mind. He was arrested in Buea, Southwest Region, on the eve of so called 50th Reunification anniversary and taken before a Military Tribunal in Yaounde. They had him put in jail for close to a year before rescinding jurisdiction over the matter.

The Cameroon Journal would like to question why each time an offence is committed in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, alleged culprits are rushed to Yaounde before a court that abhors Common Law.

If these 19 men must be tried in a Military Tribunal, why can’t one be constituted in Bamenda and have them tried under Common Law statutes?

We hold no beef with gov’t prosecuting crime – that is, if one really exists and if the perpetrators are given the right environment for fair trial. But we do have a problem when each time crimes are committed in Anglophone Cameroon, the alleged lawbreakers are hurried to Yaounde where they have no family and friends and the cost of defending them even for free literary scares every lawyer from taking up their case.

If President Biya wants to be taken seriously about his drive to decentralize the gov’t, these are some of the priorities he ought to begin with. His resistance will only send a message to the regions, especially in the two Anglophone regions that practice a different legal system that he isn’t serious.

The Cameroon Journal is challenging the Cameroon Bar and Anglophone lawyers in particular to rise up and contest this old colonial mentality that some crimes are only good for prosecution in Yaounde. Supreme courts have seats in every nation’s capital. But Military Tribunals sitting in judgement of civilians, especially Anglophones, should have no exclusive jurisdiction in Yaounde.

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