THE COMMITEE FOR THE LIBERATION OF POLICAL PRISONNIERS STATEMENT
The C2LP greatly appreciate y’all making time to stand up and participate with us at this inauguration of the Committee for the Liberation of Political Prisoners conference.
The C2LP understands that a minority of people are still wondering, why wasting so much time for things happening 6000 kilometers outside of Paris? Why spent time worrying about the affairs of a sovereign and independent country such as Cameroon (and others in Central Africa ) from which we often only hear distant echoes?
This is how we are addressing all of these legitimate questions:
The C2LP begins with the recognition that the country of Cameroon, despite cosmetic appearances, hundreds of registered political parties, and regular elections is not a democracy. Since the country’s independence on January 1, 1960, its two successive presidents as supreme head of the judiciary, have consistently used the judiciary to settle political disputes.
As such, the C2LP is inspired and driven by the powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King’s: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Montesquieu’s idea that “There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the Law and in the name of justice”
Montesquieu’s insight is drawn from one of the dictatorship’s familiar tools including massive collective punishments from a privatized judiciary under the control of the tyrant. In dictatorship, there is no checks and balances on the executive power.
Moreover, there is no escaping the dictatorship’s dragnet. Thus, where corruption and the brutality of the security forces fail to stifle dissonant voices, the dictator can always rely on judges as willing legal executioners of ordinary Cameroonians designate as real or supposed opponents.
Although, there will be no return to the expeditious, Stalinist-type trials that marked the period of Ahidjo, the first President of the country, with their procession of public executions and long incarceration , our great concern is the Biya regime, in power for 34 years and more, is its destructive and capricious habit to jail former closed collaborators.
And one legitimately wonders why he massively incarcerate people who were so close to him?
Part I. Three factors are to be considered here
1-The paranoia and the rise of Machiavellian political dirty tricks and the embrace of infamy that seem to have taken possession of the head of the State of Cameroon since the military coup which almost put an end to its presidency early on April 6, 1984, that is to say less than (02) Two years after taking office. This violent episode had, among other effects, the enforcement of loyalty alongside the establishment within the state apparatus of a surveillance system based on exacerbated patrimonial clientelistic networks running on passing around highly classified gossips backed with no credible evidences and therefore thin intelligence values, however, taken together, have brought the regime into a halt and led to a series of internal purges ruining the lives of innocent families. This illegal and shameful practices legitimized by a paranoia and Machiavellian president were highlighted by a former minister, quoted by the Cameroonian daily newspaper Le Messager: « The president exerts his influence into manipulating his ministers into committing political suicide by producing highly classified gossips, rumors and false allegations gathered with the purpose to ruin lives the president considers threatening and disloyal. That the president revel in turning members of his government into enemies of one another, particularly, those blinded by ambition and lack of integrity. The president achieves to do so by manipulating his close collaborators’ based instincts into producing irresponsible and shameful fabrication and circulation of rumors and gossips under the illusion they will get into his inner circle, irrespective of the fact that, the president as an expert in Machiavel has no inner circle”. The minister added: « This manipulative technique has allowed the president to collect fabricated highly classified gossips such as so and so is so wealthy that he can finance a militia to seek power, so and so is so ambitious and disloyal that he is plotting to take power away from the president, so and so has created networks to destabilize the country with the complicity and support of foreign regimes which is treason.”
2- The absence of political alternative: despite the forced return to multiparty politics in the 1990s following Francois Mitterrand’s speech of La Baule, the supreme power has been held by the same person for more than three decades. Paul Biya has locked up the electoral system he absolutely controls. The opposition is completely ineffectual and fell prey to divisions and the tyrant’s manipulation and corruption.
The result: The prince is aware that great threats to his power come from his own camp not the opposition. Particularly, competent technocrats who have long served him and who could legitimately aspire to take his place. Consequently, after 2011, a year in which the President sought to amend the constitution to cancel a provision of the law that prevented the president to run for office indefinitely, a wave of arrest began to take shape. A few years before this change, described by some as a « constitutional coup d’état », rumors had been rung about the establishment by some high ranking members of his regime of the constitution of an informal group called G11, initials standing for generation 2011. The unsubstantiated rumors were that the G11 were preparing themselves to succeed Paul Biya, who should have left office that year, had he complied with the law. Some figures arrested and convicted for embezzling public funds now claim that they owe their misfortune for having their names attached to the G11, an organization whose real existence has never been proven. This was the case for former ministers Marafa Hamidou Yaya, Urbain Olanguena Awono, Abah Abah Polycarpe and many others.
Being in prison simply on the basis of unsubstantiated gossips is not morally and legally inadmissible. It is no crime to have served his country. It is still less a crime to want to serve it at the highest level if one wishes to submit to popular suffrage.
Moreover, it is, equally, legally and morally inadmissible to be imprison indefinitely as it is the case of the former minister Pierre Désiré Engo. Mr. Engo was imprisoned on trumped charges of illegal political activities, after being suspected of building up an oppositional political party under the guise of an independent association to defend and perpetuate the memory of a resistant to the colonization. Martin Paul Samba.
3- Thirdly, we see an atmosphere of end of reign in Cameroon. Paul Biya is officially 84 years old and if he has so far managed to hang on to power. However, we know that nature always ends up regaining his rights. In the entourage of the President, the question of his succession will continue to be asked, in spite of the dangers to which this type of interrogation exposes, in view of the undemocratic nature of power. This, of course, reinforces the practice of denunciation, which we have already mentioned. The ambition being this time to eliminate as many potential competitors to the succession of the chief, which would belong to an opposing clan.
Part II: All these essentially political cases were made possible by the bankruptcy of Cameroon’s judicial system.
In a democracy, justice is a great institution that plays both the role of counter-power and social regulation. Instrumentalized as such, the Cameroonian justice system is failing in its essential mission. The judicial system has turned into an instrument of political repression. The rules of the criminal procedure universally recognized and included in the Cameroonian law are regularly flouted by judges working for the president. Mainly, through legal despotism and a judicial culture of Delay and Ajournements manipulated to keep the defendants indefinitely at the mercy of the system.
Detention which becomes the rule and not what it should be, an exception, and is accompanied by a systematic refusal of provisional release.
Extremely long delays in preventive detention and trial, and the proliferation of cross-references that make trials last for several years.
A dramatization of arrests with the deployment of dozens of policemen and television cameras for the sole purpose of humiliating the suspects.
An unprecedented precipitation with serene justice. Thus, the Minister of Secondary Education, Louis Bapes Bapes, was still in office to be arrested on 31 March 2014 at his office and released the next day and resumed his work without any explanation. It is recalled here that Ms. Catherine Abena, who was Secretary of State for Secondary Education in the same ministry, had the same trajectory, except that she did not survive. Relaxed after a year in detention, she died weakened by disease complicated by the long hunger strike she had observed during her detention.
In Cameroon, there is no genuine presumption of guilt and benefit of doubt. In the same vein, Cameroon’s justice minister, Amadou Ali, said in the press: « I challenge anyone to prove that those arrested were innocent … Those who say they are innocent have well-hidden agendas. “And his government colleague and minister of communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, in turn, told a radio news conference of February 2, 2010: » What is being criticized today for all those in jail? They are accused of massively diverting public money. What do they want to do with all that money? Perhaps they aspire to govern. First of all, I would like to point out to you that for all CPDM militants who are now in prison, they know that the CPDM statute stipulates that the candidate of the party in the presidential election remains the National President. So all those who have diverted from the perspective of the presidential competition know that they cannot do it within the CPDM. “These remarks leave no room for doubt: business is political.
For these general considerations, we come to our definition of the political prisoner of Cameroon today:
We consider as a political prisoner any person who would be in prison for reasons other than those of ordinary law (commonly advanced) which might have served as a legal front for the triggering of his case.
For this purpose, we have selected some criteria to properly designate political prisoners in Cameroon:
1– Any defendant recognized and supported by local and international human rights organizations as a prisoner of conscience
2– Any convicted defendant kept in prison beyond the expiration of his sentence.
3– Any defendant being victimized a legal despotic culture of incessant delay and adjournments.
4– Any convicted defendant incarcerated in a special prison, other than the one under ordinary law
5– To these categories we add any person not related to the policy but who was imprisoned not for what it did but for what it is. Here we are dealing with homosexuals who are usually thrown to the hungry masses to prevent them from demanding accountability for the mismanagement of the country. We also add all the activists from anglophone minority persecuted and jailed over the protests to promote rights of nation’s English-speaking minority.
The mission of our movement is divided into several categories of actions
Investigate cases and gather all evidences of the political nature of detention
Sensitizing international public opinion through media campaigns and other actions
Mobilize all forces, organizations and institutions that can contribute effectively to the release of those whose political or arbitrary nature of detention has been established beforehand
Conduct and support any action before the international courts and interstate organizations in which Cameroon sits.
We call for a jolt of conscience and from the judges, who abandoned their oath of office and have served willingly as the judicial arm to all these televised Kangaroo show trials directed by the Executive Branch, sometimes under the pressure of fear, sometimes by lack of integrity and career opportunism. The fate of the litigant should not be used as a variable to adjust their professional trajectory.
We are appealing to the Cameroonian head of state Paul BIYA, whose responsibility is challenged in his role as guarantor of constitutional respect for the independence of the judiciary.
We ask international organizations not to remain silent on this situation which could seriously threaten social peace in Cameroon and wish them to make use of the privileged ties with the Cameroonian authorities for a speedy resolution of these cases.
We call on the international community and all goodwill to mobilize to end political imprisonments in Cameroon.
We thank you.
The Commitee for the Liberation of Political Prisoners (CL2P)