More than 100 arrested during opposition protests, several journalists detained

Peaceful Assembly 

More than 100 arrested during opposition protests

In the weekend of 26th - 27th January 2019, more than 100 protesters were arrested during 'marches blanches' ('white marches') in Douala, YaoundĂ©, Dschang, Bafoussam and Bafang. The opposition party Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun (MRC) had called, on 26th January 2019, a protest to denounce what they call electoral fraud during the country's presidential elections on 7th October 2018. According to Amnesty International, security forces used excessive force against the protesters, and seven people were injured by gunfire in Cameroon's administrative capital, Douala, while several others were beaten. About 50 people were released the day after their arrest while others were detained administratively. Two journalists covering the protests were arrested (see below under Expression). Authorities denied having used live ammunition and said that the protests were 'unauthorised'. Maximilienne Ngo Mbe of the RĂ©seau des dĂ©fenseurs des droits humains en Afrique centrale (REDHAC, Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa) said to Radio France Internationale (RFI): 

"It is out of the question that in a peaceful demonstration there is the use of a disproportionate force when there is no risk of damage, that there is no risk of disturbance of public order." (translated from French)

The party MRC cancelled protests, planned for 2nd February 2019 in several cities, to demand the release of the party's leader Maurice Kamto (see below under Association) after previously, the prefect of YaoundĂ© banned the protest in the capital city on grounds of 'preservation of public order'.

Previously, on 4th November 2018, tens of protesters, supporters of Maurice Kamto, were arrested in Bafoussam. According to Kamto's party MRC, a total of 39 people were arrested, authorities claim that the protest was unauthorised. Christophe Kamdem of MRC commented

"I had, two weeks ago, filed a declaration to hold a peaceful march with the administrative authorities. And until Sunday, I did not receive a letter banning the protest. I was surprised when we started this march that the police, the army, the prison guards rushed on the MRC militants." (translated from French)

Opposition press conference banned

Administrative authorities banned a press conference by presidential candidate Cabral Libii of opposition party Univers, scheduled for 24th October 2018, to comment on their position on the official election results, according to social media sources quoted by Africanews. 


Several journalists detained

On 28th January 2019, journalists ThĂ©odore Tchopa and David Eyengue Nzima of the newspaper Le Jour were arrested while covering a  protest that erupted when opposition leader Maurice Kamto was arrested (see below under Association) in Douala. They were transferred to judicial police headquarters in YaoundĂ©, said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Both were released on 1st February 2019. 

On 5th November 2018, journalist Mimi Mefo Takambou appeared before the national gendarmerie in Douala on charges of propagation of false information and cyber criminality, later changed to propagating information that could threaten state security, after authorities summoned her on 31st October 2018. She was placed in preventive detention on 7th November 2018, and transferred to the New Bell prison in Douala. Mefo Takambou, who has reported on the conflict in the Anglophone regions, is the editor in chief of English news service of Equinoxe, a private TV and radio station and founder of the blog Mimi Mefo Infos. She was released on bail on 10th November, and the military court of Douala dropped all charges against Mefo Takambou on 12th November 2018.  

One of Mefo' lawyers, said to AFP that Mefo was accused because of having "relayed, while indicating the source, a post saying that it is army bullets that killed the American missionary Charles Trumann Wesco" . Wesco is a US missionary who died on 30th October 2018 after he was shot outside of Bamenda in the North West Region. 

On 23rd October 2018, director of website and human rights defender Michel Biem Tong was arrested after being summoned by the State Secretariat for Defense in YaoundĂ©. He was accused of 'glorification of terrorist acts' under the 2014 Anti-Terrorism Law. According to Front Line Defenders, Biem Tong had been denied visits and his lawyers were not allowed access to his file. Following a presidential pardon to 289 people held in relation to the Anglophone crisis, Biem Tong was released on 15th December 2018 (see below under Association). is a news site with a focus on human rights topics, and Biem Tong had been reporting on human rights violations committed in the escalating Anglophone conflict, most recently on violations committed during Cameroon's electoral process. 

Journalist for Le Messager Joseph Olinga Ndoa was arrested on 3rd November 2018 in Bafoussam, and was reportedly beaten by security officers. The arrest occurred in the context of the protest by opposition Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun on 4th November 2018 (see above under Peaceful Assembly) against what they call an 'electoral hold-up'. Olinga Ndoa was provisionally released on 5th November 2018. 

In a statement released on 29th November 2018, eight organisations, including Amnesty International and Tournons la Page, condemned the attacks against and repression of human rights defenders and civil society, and the arrests of journalists. Emilie Leroux of the CSO CCFD-Terre Solidaire said:

"Because of the arrests, it becomes increasingly difficult for independent journalists and members of civil society to play their role in safety while in the current context, information, dialogue and participation of all components of society are indispensable." (translated from French)

Investigative journalist beaten and stabbed

Three unknown perpetrators beat and stabbed investigative journalist for the news website CameroonWeb, Paul Chouta as he was leaving his house on 31st January 2019. The three attackers fled when Chouta's neighbours intervened. Chouta and his editor-in-chief Emmanuel Vitus told CPJ that they believe the attack relates to an interview Chouta did on Facebook live with the campaign manager for opposition leader Kamto, who was arrested on 28th January 2019. Chouta sustained injuries, and said he receives threats regularly.

Rights group petitions the UN for the arbitrary detention of journalist Amadou Vamouké

Meanwhile, the rights group Reporters without Borders (RSF) petitioned the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions to examine the case of journalist Amadou VamoukĂ©, former head of the state-owned Cameroon Radio and Television (CRT), who has been in detention since July 2016 on charges of embezzlement. His trial the Special Criminal Court has been postponed 15 times. RSF said that the state failed to provide evidence or testimonies to support the charges against VamoukĂ©. Arnaud Froger of RSF said

"There can be no doubt about the arbitrary nature of Amadou Vamoulké’s detention, which has continued for two and a half years without a conviction, and its arbitrary nature must be recognized by the UN in order to step up the pressure on the Cameroonian authorities for his release." 


Opposition leader and members of opposition party MRC arrested

Following the protests in the weekend of 26th January 2019 (see above under Peaceful Assembly), opposition leader Maurice Kamto of the Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun (MRC; Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon), and two of his colleagues Albert Dzongang and Christian Penda Ekoka, were arrested on 28th January 2019 in Douala. Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Ataga-Nij also confirmed that two other MRC members - Alain Fogue and CĂ©lestin Djamen- were arrested in YaoundĂ©. According to reports received by Human Rights Watch, up to 200 people, mostly MRC supporters, were detained following the protests. Kamto and 29 of his fellow arrested supporters reportedly started a hunger strike after learning they are being charged on eight counts, including treason, inciting violence, and disruption of public peace. Lawyer Mujem Fombad told VOA that the charges could amount to the death penalty: 

"Article 102 of the penal code sanctions hostility against the fatherland. Any citizen, any citizen taking part in hostility against the republic shall be guilty with treason and punished with death."

During the presidential elections on 7th October 2018, Kamto came in second with 14.23 percent, but has said the elections were rigged and disputed the election results.  

Release of 289 prisoners prosecuted in Anglophone crisis 

On 13th December 2018, president Paul Biya ordered an end of the prosecution at the military court of 289 people who were detained in the context of the Anglophone crisis, and therefore their liberation. Journalist Michel Biem Tong, who had been detained since 23rd October 2018 (see under Expression) benefited from this measure and was released on 14th December 2018. Although the measure was lauded by the human rights organisation Un monde d'avenir, they said that it was no more than 'window dressing' as the attitude of the government has not changed. Philippe Nanga of the CSO said to media: 

"This allowed some people to finally regain their freedom, which is not a bad thing at all, but we have been reinforced in our regrettable observation that the government has no intention of finding a solution to a problem that has continued for two years. We remain faced with the idea that imprisonment remained the option chosen by the Government of Cameroon, particularly in the case of the Anglophone crisis. This measure for us was a dusting. Unfortunately, it did not allow us to go to the options of this problem that we have been unfolding for several years now. " (translated from French)