HRDs exposing rights violations in Anglophone regions subjected to death threats

Cameroon President Paul Biya attends the Paris Peace Forum, France, November 12, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau


HRDs exposing human rights violations in Anglophone regions threatened

Amnesty International issued a statement on 7th July 2022 regarding reports that at least seven human rights defenders and one cyber-activist had faced death threats as a result of exposing human rights violations in the two Anglophone regions of Cameroon – Northwest and Southwest regions – where clashes and violence have been taking place between government security forces and separatists since 2017. Over 6,000 people are estimated to have been killed, while over 765,000 people have been displaced in the conflict.

Others targeted with threats include Akem Kelvin Nkwin, human rights officer with Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA), who started to receive threats on 24th May 2022, shortly after he tweeted that a child had been killed by an improvised explosive device reportedly placed by separatists in Kumbo, Northwest region. According to the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), Nkwin received more threats after he announced on Twitter on 14th June 2022, about the launch of a CHRDA report on recent human rights violations committed by government armed forces and separatists in the two Anglophone regions. Nkwin received messages – per text, WhatsApp, and phone calls – from different telephone numbers labelling him as a ‘traitor’ and ‘enabler’, and threatening him that the Fako Mountain Lions, a non-state armed group operating in the Anglophone regions, “would come for him”. He was also sent pictures of bullets, dead individuals, guns and a photo of himself, marked with a red cross and a death threat.

Other targets of death threats mentioned by Amnesty International include the president and lawyer of the Organic Farming for Gorillas (OFFGO), whose brother was abducted and tortured in an attempt to intimidate him. Cyberactivist N’Zui Manto had to flee Cameroon after receiving death threats in 2019 and on 28th May 2022. Tarnteh Amadu Ngangpanweh of CSO Conscience Africaine received death threats in May 2020, July 2021, and December 2021.

As reported previously on the Monitor, founder of CHRDA and human rights lawyer Felix Agbor Nkongho received death threats during his participation in a conference in Toronto, Canada in October - November 2021.

MSF staff members arrested and accused of complicity with Anglophone separatists

On 22nd May 2022, two staff from Doctors without Borders (MSF) were provisionally released from prison. They were detained and interrogated on 27th December 2021 in Mamfe, Southwest Region, after they picked up an unidentified man injured by bullets to transfer him to the hospital in Kumba. The two were arrested the following day, and faced accusations of having participated in an exfiltration operation of a terrorist (separatist), falsifying documents and having given the patient a false name. In January 2022, two other MSF employees were arrested and accused of complicity with separatists. As a result of these arrests, on 6 April 2022, MSF had already suspended its operations in Southwest region.


Journalist assaulted

On 18th May 2022, a journalist for sports news site, Eyong Macdella Bessong, was physically assaulted by the director of Molyko stadium, Njonje Mbua, and a police officer, while she was reporting on a football match in Buea, Southwest Region. The journalist was accosted and dragged away from the main pitch minutes before the match was starting because she could only produce a digital version of her press card on her phone, which was not accepted by Mbua. The journalist told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that Mbua manhandled her and grabbed her torso, touching her breast, so she bit his hand. Subsequently, Mbua called six police officers to remove Bessong from the stadium. She was then reportedly grabbed and dragged by two police officers, with one officer pulling her hair, slapping her, throwing her on the floor, head-butting her, and kicking her while she was on the floor, and calling her a prostitute. Angela Quintal of CPJ commented on the abusive incident, stating that:

“The chauvinism and sexist slurs that female sports journalists endure are bad enough, but to compound these with gratuitous violence is simply intolerable. Journalists must be free to do their jobs without harassment from any quarter”.

Peaceful Assembly

Trade union leaders detained for seven days for sit-in

Four leaders of trade unions in the transport sector representing drivers of taxis, intercity coaches, and truck drivers were detained on 6th June 2022 for a sit-in in front of the Prime Minister’s office in Yaoundé to demand improved labour conditions. Three of them were arrested while at the sit-in, and the fourth person was arrested while on the way to the sit-in. They were held for seven days in police custody before their release.

Protest over the living conditions of disabled people

According to news reports, police arrested dozens of protesters during a protest over the living conditions of disabled people which took place in front of the Prime Minister’s office in Yaoundé on 27th June 2022. The protesters were arrested for alleged illegal assembly and disturbance of public order. They were released later that day.

Conference banned by authorities

A public conference on the theme - Presidential Succession in Cameroon: The Game and Stakes, which was planned to take place on 30th June 2022 at a hotel in Yaoundé was banned by the sub-prefect of Yaoundé on 29 June 2022 on the grounds of alleged “risks of disruption of social order”. The public conference on such a theme was authorised on 28 June 2022, before the change in the decision took place.