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Hundreds released as National Dialogue on Anglophone crisis concludes, others remain in prison

Peaceful Assembly

Opposition leader Maurice Kamto and 102 others released, 15 opposition protesters sentenced to prison

On 4th October 2019, president Paul Biya ordered the prosecution to drop all charges against opposition Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun (MRC) leader Maurice Kamto and 102 other people who were arrested in the context of MRC's 'marches blanches' (white marches) protests on 26th January 2019 to denounce what the protesters call electoral fraud during the country's presidential elections on 7th October 2018. Hundreds of supporters gathered at the Kondengui prison in Yaoundé on 5th October 2019 to welcome the MRC's leader's release. The release of the opposition members followed negotiations between MRC and the government, and occurred on the last day of the National Dialogue on the Anglophone crisis that took place in Yaoundé from 30th September to 5th October 2019.

President Biya previously announced the release of 333 people who were arrested 'for crimes committed in the Anglophone crisis', and who were being prosecuted before military courts. 

Despite this positive step, several opposition members and journalists remain in prison and continue to face charges. Lewis Mudge of Human Rights Watch said

"The release of Kamto and other prisoners does not demonstrate that Cameroon is turning a new leaf because unlawful arrests continue”

On 29th November 2019, 15 MRC supporters were sentenced to six months in prison in Douala. The 15 were arrested in the context of MRC protests on 1st June 2019, and were charged with 'rebellious acts' and 'illegal protest'. As reported previously on the Monitor, at least 350 people were arrested on 1st June 2019 when MRC supporters and members in several cities across Cameroon attempted to protest to demand the release of Kamto and other MRC supporters who were arrested in relation to opposition protests on 19th January 2019. 

Protests against increased attacks of Boko Haram in Far North region

On 9th November 2019, tens of protesters marched in Moskota, in the Far North region, against increasing attacks of Boko Haram. According to news reports, protesters were carrying banners with 'No to the killings', 'No to the silence of the state'. According to Amnesty International, at least 275 people, mostly civilians, were killed between January and November 2019 in attacks of Boko Haram in the Far North region, and many others were kidnapped or mutilated. Similar protests against Boko Haram attacks and increasing insecurity took place on 17th July 2019 in Tourou and 11th September 2019 in Tolkomari. 

Lecturers protest against insecurity and violence in Anglophone regions

On 8th October 2019, lecturers protested at the University of Bamenda's campus against the violence they are subjected to following the kidnapping of a lecturer. Separatists armed groups in the two Anglophone regions have forced schools to shut down, issued threats against teachers and kidnapped students and teachers. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in June 2019, more than 80 percent of schools in the Anglophone regions have shut down, affecting more than 600,000 children.

Association

Eight youth human rights defenders were released from prison following the order of president Paul Biya on 5th October 2019 to suspend the proceedings  against the eight before the Military Court, said Front Line Defenders. As reported previously on the Monitor, Jules Raymond Anama, Christian Ouemba Kuete, Juliette Ndim Bih, Yannick Mbakop, Samuel Talla Giles, Stanislas Tokam, Herman Zebaze Takoubo and Aimé Kameni Wetchadji were arrested on 18th May 2019 in Yaoundé while taking a selfie in front of a post office, and were charged with rebellion, complicity in subversion, failure to report, using a false title, and propagation of false news. They spent five months in prison. 

According to news reports, Catholic priest and director of the Catholic Agency for International Aid and Development (CARITAS) Father Paul Njokikang was detained after mass on 20th October 2019 in Bamenda. He was released on 21st October 2019, and the reasons for his detention are unknown. In May 2019, Father Njokikang addressed the United Nations Security Council Arria-Formula meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Cameroon. 

Political activist and scholar Abdul Karim was released on 1st November 2019. As reported previously on the Monitor, Karim was reported missing on 25th September in Yaoundé. On 30th September, Karim was charged with acts of terrorism, financing terrorism, and secession. Karim has in the past been very critical of the government’s actions in the two Anglophone regions.