By Issa Tchiroma, D
The violence perpetrated by protesters, mostly made up of young people, resulted in the destruction of property belonging to the State and individuals, burning of public and private vehicles and buildings, looting and stealing of goods, disruption of public traffic and even assaults on law enforcement officers, as well as causing serious injuries on individuals. It should be buttressed that these facts, which constitute a threat to public order and tranquility, called for the intervention of Security and Law Enforcement Forces to allow a rapid return of the situation to normal, while guaranteeing as much as possible the security of the populations and even that of troublemakers, from the collateral effects of the actions undertaken, in terms of physical or material damage. It should be underscored that amid these acts of vandalism, the flag of the Republic was burnt by protesters.
The forces of law and order seized, in the hands of these protesters, flags belonging to the SCNC secessionist movement, some of which were hoisted on public squares and in front of certain official buildings. Several offensive weapons, including spears, bows and arrows, were seized as well. Different confrontations carried out during the investigations also made it possible to unmask the sponsors of the violence who had made use of financial persuasion to enrol the trouble-makers. At the end of these operations, a total of 54 people were arrested, including 50 in Bamenda and 4 in Kumba where other demonstrations occurred. Some of these people were caught red-handed. 38 suspects were subsequently placed in custody at the Central Service of Judiciary Investigation of the Secretariat of State for Defence in charge of the Gendarmerie and 16 others were placed in custody at the Department of Judiciary Police in Yaoundé.
They have all undergone appropriate investigations under the due diligence of the Government’s Commissioner to the Yaoundé Military Court. Let me underscore here that during this procedure, the treatment of those arrested did not suffer any irregularity. The regular visits paid to them by members of numerous associations for the protection of human rights and representatives of the National Commission on Human Rights can attest to this fact. It should be noted that at the current level of investigations, 13 persons have been released, including 10 among those who were in custody at the SED and 3 minors among those kept at the Department of Judiciary Police, who were released out of humanitarian indulgence. With regard to the 10 people freed at the SED, they were released because no relevant indices to evidence their involvement in the violence were found. As for the other suspects – 41 in all – sufficient indices have been gathered against them. They are therefore being prosecuted on different charges.
Such suspects who, pursuant to the Criminal procedure code in force in our country, naturally benefit from the presumption of innocence, have been notified of their rights, especially the right to be assisted by one or several counsels, the right to keep silent or the right to benefit from any form of medical assistance. For such persons, justice shall follow its normal course. They shall be answerable for charges against them, under the required conditions of trial as the case may be. I hereby give assurances that the Government will keep providing the public with all relevant information on this case, in strict compliance with the rules of procedure in force in Cameroon.
I should recall for all practical purposes, that the State is entrusted with the responsibility to ensure the protection of the physical integrity of all, and to ensure the safety of persons and goods within the national territory. This responsibility is both inalienable and irrefutable, insofar as it has an absolute character, that no one can challenge it, and that the State itself cannot, in any event, depart from it. During the events of last December 8 in Bamenda, honest citizens saw their property vandalized, burnt, looted, with losses amounting to hundreds of millions of CFA francs. Symbols of the Republic were publicly destroyed and public buildings were attacked and plundered. Those who committed such acts or their sponsors must be held liable before the law and pay compensation for the wrongs they have unfairly subjected to others.
This is simply a matter of ensuring justice and equity which is the sacerdotal responsibility of the State. We should all bear in mind that those who caused trouble and violence on December 8, 2016 in Bamenda, are those who publicly lowered the flag of the Republic and hoisted that of a movement that is hostile to our unity and fraternity. To those who are trying to create amalgam and confusion in the minds of Cameroonians and who are calling on the Government to promote anti-social conduct and disloyalty vis-à-vis the nation, let me buttress, on behalf of the Government, that the Government is bent on fulfilling its fundamental mission in strict compliance with the laws and regulations of the Republic. To Administrative authorities and the political class, to the civil society, the Government hereby expresses its satisfaction and congratulates them for their contribution to restoring calm and serenity.
To our Security and Law enforcement Forces, who, in keeping with the training they have received, exercised restraint, mastery and professionalism in face of particularly violent demonstrators, the Government of the Republic is renewing its confidence in their capacity to accomplish their duties, in compliance with legal and human rights requirements. Now that the two committees set up by the Prime Minister, Head of Government are hand on deck to seek for lasting solutions to the problems raised by the complainants; Now that our justice is on track to establish the responsibilities in the demonstrations of last December 8 in Bamenda especially, there is therefore no room for any comment on the issue. Thank you