By Boris Esono Nwenfor (Cameroon)
Human rights groups, activists and local politicians have continued to urged Cameroon authorities to immediately release the leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, Maurice Kamto who was arrested in Cameroon’s economic capital Douala last January 28.
Some eight charges have since been brought against him such as hostility against the Fatherland, Insurrection, group rebellion, public disorder amongst others. Kamto’s lawyer Christopher Ndong told AP that if Kamto is found guilty, he could face a sentence of five years to life in prison.
Amnesty International said the arrest of the leader of the MRC signaled an escalating crackdown on opposition leaders, human right defenders and activists. Amnesty’s West and Central Africa Director Samira Daoud in a statement said “The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release them as well as the peaceful protesters detained simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.
“Instead of taking steps towards improving the country’s human rights record, we are witnessing the authorities becoming less and less tolerant of criticism. This must stop” she added.
The Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa (REDHAC) as quoted by the East African said Prof. Kamto’s arrest was a “flagrant violation of the law” and called for the immediate and unconditional release of the opposition leader and all those who were arrested in relation to the protest.
Politicians and inhabitants in Cameroon too have condemned the arrest. According to Akere Muna, “in this unfortunate attempt to show strength we discover a government too weak to dialogue, too incompetent to understand the cry of its people. The greed of the oligarchs who have captured this state is pushing them towards self-destruction.
Maurice Kamto was arrested alongside several other party members. Two journalists of Le Jour Newspaper were among those arrested. They (journalists) have since been released.
Maurice Kamto has continuously said he won last year’s presidential election which saw him in second position with 14.23 per cent while the ruling CPDM leader Paul Biya won with 71.3 per cent of the votes. He in recent times has organized what he termed peaceful protest against electoral hold-up in defiance of a government warning against post-electoral disorder.
The protest across the country led to over 100 persons arrested by security forces. According to government’s spokesman, Rene Emmanuel Sadi, 62 persons were arrested and detained in Yaounde, 42 in Baffoussam, 13 in Mbouda and 7 arrested and taken to the headquarters of the CRM in Douala.