|Anglophone lawyers in Southwest Region of Cameroon defied police brutality to stage protest march ,pressing for solutions to their concerns|
By Christopher Ambe
Police and gendarmes in riot gear Thursday morning could be seen stationed at strategic road junctions in Buea.Some barricaded all the entrances to Buea court buildings, while others were on patrol in attempts to preempt a peaceful protest by Anglophone lawyers announced to take place that morning.
Water canon trucks were also stationed near Buea Mountain Club waiting for instructions and the appropriate moment to fire tear gas and seemingly pepper spray, The Recorder observed.
Decently dressed in black suits and some in their wigs and gowns, the Common Law lawyers who before opting for street protests, had been on sit-in strike for over a month, least expected that police could brutalize, molest and torture them.
These human rights defenders were mistaken as the law enforcement forces had planned to give them doses of police brutality and torture, apparently okayed by the Biya administration, which is yet to have a meaningful dialogue with the advocates over the latter’s demands.
Armed police chased lawyers all over struggling to dismantle any of their peaceful gatherings especially as they they had programmed to assembly in front of the Southwest Court of Appeal before proceeding with their protest marches; Police clubbed them, dragged them out of their vehicles and tortured some in public .Lawyers had their wigs and gowns seized and their phones shattered. Several others were even arrested but hurriedly released.
To avoid identification by the pain-inflicting forces, a few lawyers reportedly ran into roadside bushes and removed their suits, hiding for safety.
|Lawyer Caroline Time with injured leg|
At Street 2 entrance to Great Soppo in Buea,at about 9:15 am Thursday , this reporter witnessed how police with batons beat female lawyers. For example, Lawyer Caroline Time of Taku Chambers in Buea was beaten and injured, leaving her bleeding. .As the police closed up on another Lawyer Blaise Sevidzem Berinyuy to beat him, he ran for safety while loudly denouncing the violation of their rights.
Unfortunately, some ordinary people who wore black suits that morning were mistaken for lawyers and molested.
But the brutal reaction from the forces did not in any way deter the determined lawyers who marched past in the towns of Muyuka, Limbe and Muea –Buea with placards pressing for their demands just as was the case in Bamenda days before. So determined was the Biya administration, it seemed, that riot police were invited to Buea from Douala.
Speaking to The Recorder, at the end of the Thursday protest marches, Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho, President of Fako Lawyers Association (FAKLA) and one of the leaders of the lawyers’ strike and protest marches noted:
“As we speak I don’t know any lawyer in detention. Those who were arrested have been released. But lawyers were treated cruelly, inhumanely and degradingly. They were insulted in French. Our rights were violated. The police seized the wigs and gowns of at least hundred lawyers. Lawyers were dragged in mud. It was kind of terrorizing the civilian population that the forces of law and order were doing.
“It is shocking and degrading for a country that professes the rule of law and good governance…We are stunned by the heavy-handedness of the forces of law and order, considering that authorities were informed that it would be a peaceful protest and that lawyers would respect state institutions”
Barrister Nkongho disclosed to The Recorder that at least sixty ( 60) of his colleagues, while being rough handled by the forces, sustained injuries and were responding to treatment at various health facilities. The Recorder could not independently confirm the number reportedly injured.
|Another injured lawyer being attended to|
The lawyers who are fighting to protect Common Law Practice in Cameroon, barely days before the street protests in major towns and cities in Anglophone Cameroon( former British Southern Cameroons),had announced the creation of what is now known as Cameroon Common Law Bar Association, apparently splitting what used to be known as Cameroon Bar Association.
It is unclear why the Cameroon government is insensitive to the demands of Anglophone lawyers months after they had submitted them to the Biya administration for solutions.(Read Anglophone Lawyers Prolong Strike by One Week Over Government's ''Divide and Rule Tactics')
But political pundits have been quick to claim that it may be Government’s “secret plan to perpetuate the marginalization” of Anglophone Cameroon, which the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) tagged as a secessionist group, has since 1994 been fighting against- by calling for the restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons.
The lawyers have resolved to continue using all legal means to press for their demands.
"We are not going to give up … The fight for our rights has just started”, Barrister Nkongho told the protesting lawyers at the end of the protest marches, while lauding them for defying the odds to standup for their rights.