By Deng Eric, Thursday, July 27, 2017
Cameroon Journal Yaoundé – Barrister Felix Abgor Balla, Dr. Fontem Neba, leaders of the outlawed Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, coffin revolutionalist Mancho Bibixy and twenty five (25) others arrested in connection with the crisis in Southern Cameroons will next appear in court on August 31, 2017 after the Yaoundé Military Tribunal July 27, adjourned their case following a stormy court session that lasted for well over six hours.
The trial of the detainees which has suffered several adjournments already, turned out to be a rather dramatic one as witnesses for the state appeared in court for the first time since the case opened in March 2017. The seven witnesses, all uniform officers were presented by the prosecuting counsel to testify against the accused. But none of them was able to identify any of the 27 detainees in the crowd that disrupted the CPDM rally of December 2016 at the Bamenda commercial avenue. Lead counsel for the defense team, Barrister Ben Muna wondered aloud why the state is sending representatives only now when the case has been going on for several months already.
Jospeh Mbah Ndam, SDF Member of Parliament and a lawyer by profession who has been part of the defense team of the detainees was asked to leave the court room. The presiding judge, Colonel Abega Mbezoa Eko Eko rejected the status of the SDF MP as a defense counsel for the Anglophone detainees on grounds that he’s an MP of the state and cannot be against the very state he represents.
“What is curious is that for the past seven months, I have been acting as one of the defense counsel but the state has never intervened. However, the withdrawal has no impact.” Mbah Ndam told the Cameroon Journal.
A major obstacle witnessed at the beginning of the real trial of the Anglophone detainees was the issue of language as the French translator made several errors with regards to the interpretation of judicial terms. A situation which
Mbah Ndam said could lead to a wrong verdict handed down on the detainees if it continues. “Francophone lawyers and Magistrates are yet to be schooled on the criminal procedure code and they do not have the background,” Mbah Ndam quipped.
Barrister Agbor Balla who has been confined in his cell since July 7, 2017 appeared in court dressed in suit with bearded chin protesting the recent incident in which they have been denied visitors and access to their gadgets. Mancho was spotted with his son in court who had come to see his father standing trial.
While gov’t continues to hold the Anglophones in detention with impunity following adjournment after adjournment, individuals and organizations have been calling for their unconditional release and for government to engage meaningful dialogue to bring an end to the political tensions in the North West and South West regions.
The latest of such calls was made July 26 by the Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, REDHAC. The detainees are facing charges on acts of terrorism, hostility against the state, secession, revolution, propagation of false news and collective rebellion.