By Hans Ngala, May 24, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Yaoundé – Amnesty International West Africa says authorities in Cameroon have shut down a news conference in Yaoundé where it planned to discuss the plight of three students sentenced to a decade in prison over a Boko Haram joke.
The organization had planned to present more than 310,000 letters and signatures in support of the students, who had shared a joke about the extremist group in a text message.
The rights organisation have said about a dozen security agents showed up at the press conference venue early Wednesday (May 24) in the Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé and ordered the hotel’s manager to shut down the event.
Alioune Tine, Amnesty’s director for West and Central Africa, says the organization is calling on longtime President Paul Biya to release the students.
In a tweet that immediately went viral on social media, the human rights watchdog West Africa office tweeted that the planned conference was banned “without any written explanation.”
It would be recalled that sometime last year, Amnesty published a report in which they said the Cameroonian army involved in fighting Boko Haram insurgency in the North of the country had committed human rights
violations by treating suspected and arrested Boko Haram militants inhumanely. Cameroon’s Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary in a press conference in Yaoundé later called Amnesty’s report “unfounded” and meant to “tarnish the image of Cameroon”, leading some to question what the globally respected body stands to gain by soiling the name of the Biya government.
The organization also called on the 34-year long Biya government to conduct a thorough investigation that led to the deaths of dozens of unarmed civilians late last year in the NW and SW regions in the wake of strikes by teachers and lawyers and also asked “Cameroonian authorities to refrain from the use of unlawful force in its response to the protests. Responding to incidents of violence during protests with unnecessary or excessive force threatens to further enflame an already tense situation and could put more lives at risk.”
It is equally worth mentioning that Boko Haram which now calls itself Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) is based in neighboring Nigeria and has ties to ISIS and advocates non-Western education and the imposition of Shar’ia.