CAMEROUN MILITARY COURT ADJOURNS TRIAL OF ANGLOPHONE CONSORTIUM LEADERS DUE TO LACK OF EVIDENCE AND QUALIFIED TRANSLATORS.
The West Cameroon Association (WCA) is extremely alarmed and concerned about the conduct of the government of La République du Cameroun (LRC) in the opening trial on the 13th of February 2017, of Barrister Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla, Dr Neba Fontem and Mr Mancho Bibixy who have been accused of serious capital offences including terrorism.
The presiding military tribunal, led by Colonel Mrs. Abega Mbezoa, with Ndzie Pierrot Narcisse and Nkoa Akouna as Military Prosecutors – all Francophone and appointed by the government of LRC, adjourned the proceedings to the 23rd of March 2017, because the government prosecutor could not produce existing credible witnesses.
It should be noted that this is the second adjournment, as these individuals continue to be held outside their normal jurisdiction and away from their families.
It is unprecedented that individuals associated with a Civil Society Consortium, and who are being tried in a military tribunal for alleged serious capital offences, could attend court as scheduled, just to be told that the prosecution still has to interview witnesses to collect more evidence against them.
This apparent lack of existing credible witnesses for the prosecution, contradicts the reasons given for their arrests, and the statements made by the LRC Communication Minister, Mr. Issa Tchiroma on domestic and international media, that the accused were caught ‘red handed’, looting, burning down buildings, intimidating people and destroying property and inciting others to do the same.
WCA views this apparent lack of existing credible witnesses, as a blatant violation of their human rights and an indication of their innocence to these serious crimes which appear to have been concocted by the state to strike fear into West Cameroonians seeking a redress to the injustices and discrimination they suffer. If the accused individuals had committed the alleged serious crimes for which they have been charged, then evidence and witnesses should be provided in a timely manner.
It is extraordinary that the government of LRC appears to completely disregard the accusations of institutional suppression and erosion of the Anglophone culture and values which is at the heart of the fundamental problems that these defendants are fighting to stop. An instance of the underlying problems was glaringly on display at the trial –
1. All three panel judges where French speaking (Francophone)
2. The prosecutors were all Francophone.
3. There were no suitable translators even after several failed attempts by the court to find translators.
It is obvious that the three Francophone judges, all appointed by the government are unlikely to be neutral in this case, and thus a fair trial is not being afforded to the defendants.
In light of the above adjournment, WCA calls on the government to withdraw the case immediately and release Barrister Nkongho, Dr Fontem, Mr Mancho Bibixy as it would appear that the prosecution could not produce enough credible witnesses to corroborate these serious capital offences for which they have been charged.
Accordingly, all other Anglophones arrested for expressing their legitimate right to peaceful protests should also be released immediately.
The WCA is a collective of English-speaking Cameroonians based in Cameroon and the Diaspora.
May God be our guide and save us all.
The West Cameroon Association,