By Boris Esono (Buea-Cameroon)
Some 99 detainees arrested due to the ongoing socio-political crisis in the North West and South West Regions have been set free from the Buea Central Prison. This was during a special solemn court session which took place at the Military Tribunal in Buea on Friday December 14.
The release is in connection with the recent presidential decree of Thursday December 13, 2018 releasing some 289 individuals arrested as a result of the crisis.
The session to discontinue proceedings against these detainees lasted close to two hours was presided at by the President of the Buea Military Tribunal, Colonel Magistrate Njeyeha Jeremie in the presence of the State Prosecutor who is Commissioner for the Military Tribunal, Leutenant Colonel Abouou Aka’a , including members of the defense counsel of the detainees.
The release of this individuals ties with section 14 of the Military Justice Code, which states that “on the authorization of the minister in charge of Military Justice, the state prosecutor may in recent and there after verbally request the discontinuance at any stage of the proceedings and before the judgment of the Military Tribunal is delivered, where such proceedings are likely to undermine social interest and public order.
The state prosecutor explained that the release of the detainees was because they discovered that at any level of the proceedings there was non-respect of human rights and sometimes they were unable to prove that the persons who were being prosecuted are guilty or not. So at any level of the proceedings the president of the Republic can order the minister of Defense to stop the proceedings.
A member of the defense counsel called on the detainees to go and’ be like Jesus’ and be ambassadors of peace. Meanwhile Human right activists Barrister Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa lauded the gesture of the head of state describing it as a step in the right direction but said that it is not the solution to the current crisis.
He said the first thing is that am happy, I am excited, I am elated. When they release any body from jail it is a great day for any human right activists, it is a great day for lawyers because that is what we have been clamoring for more than one year. Yes we thank him for releasing these 289 individuals but we are asking for more.
We need each and every one to be release but we need to acknowledge that it is a good gesture but we are calling on the head of state to try probably at the end of the year when he makes his traditional end of year speech on the 31st of December to release each and every one who has been detained. This will create and enabling environment where we can talk about the much needed dialogue that everybody in the international community have been talking about, but the government has to create an enabling environment and this could start by the release of everyone especially the leaders of the various groupings, Sessiku Ayuk Tabe and if government could release them it would be a step in the right direction he added.
The president of the outlawed Anglophone civil society consortium also cautioned the release prisoners to have their ID cards and to reassess their relationships and not to put themselves at wrong place at wrong time.
Equally present was the chairman of the Southwest Disarmament commission Fonju Njukang Bernard who said that “it was a day of joy and celebration to see our brothers going back to re unite with their families. I must say that is a very lovable and highly commended gesture on the path of peace, dialogue and on the path of preaching reconciliation”.
On his part the lead council for the defense lawyers, Barrister Lohtabu Evans Tingom thanked the head of state for his decree while questioning the criteria of selecting the detainees and leaving others in prison.
Family members of some of the detainees who were present could be seen in celebration, singing and dancing, while to the prisoners it was the best day of their lives as smiles could be seen all over their faces.
Che Fru, one of the released said I am happy to be release today. So I was arrested by the Gendarmerie on the 24th of March 2017 in Yoke. I am a bike rider, so I carried a student that his mother always pay me five thousand francs per month, on that day, people were running out of town so I was afraid and went back to take that child and on my way I was arrested, and am happy again to have my freedom”.
Another detainee described the prison condition as inhumane and appalling. “I am from Bamenda but I was arrested in mile 16 on the 22 of September 2017. I have been here for almost one year three months and actually I have been released. I am a builder, and on that day I went to work and on my way back, I was arrested at Mile 16. I will go back and meet my family and continue with my work”. Am very happy today, I was suffering and nobody to help me .Back there in prison there are so many innocent people there suffering. The situation is inhumane and appalling.
It was also announced that the state would take certain measures in other to ensure that the released prisoners can fully fit back in the society and continue their lives as it used to be.
Amongst the 99 detainees released from the Buea Central Prison were three Nigerians.