The government of Cameroon has ever since the assassination of one of the country’s senators in Bamenda, Southern Cameroons, Barrister Kemende Henry Gamsi, maintained suspicious silence. For a government that is always quick to come out with controversial releases to sell falsehood and manipulation around such incidents to maintain sealed lips until now is not only strange but revealing. The only time anything has been heard from the government side regarding this macabre act was in an article written by journalist Moki Edwin Kindzeka and published by the Voice of America (VOA). The article quotes the government of Cameroon as saying the Senator might have been killed by Southern Cameroon self-defense forces.
Barrister Kemende, generally seen as a brave and fearless defendant of the truth, and of the Southern Cameroons’ cause, was shot dead on Tuesday, January 11, at the Mile two neighborhood in downtown Bamenda. The Senator was cornered by yet to be identified gunmen at a fuel station and killed minutes later at Mile two in Bamenda and his car taken away. This information was confirmed by supporters of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), although circumstances surrounding the incident are still unclear, and the authors are still at large. No one or group has claimed responsibility almost a week after the act.
The Senator’s bleeding body was later taken to the PMI hospital in Nkwen, where frantic efforts to rescue him and save his life failed, leaving his spouse, supporters, and sympathizers wailing into the night.
“Senator Henry Kemende has just been murdered in Bamenda. My heart bleeds!” SDF Member of Parliament for Wouri, in the Littoral region, Hon. Jean Michel Nintcheu posted on his Facebook handle.
Senator Kemende was known to be a strong advocate for the former UN Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons. In March 2019, he wrote a letter to the President of the Republic about the armed conflict in the region. He criticized the government’s handling of the conflict that continues to claim lives.
The Cameroon Bar Council Representative, Barrister Mbah Eric Mbah after visiting the family called on the powers that be to throw light on the killing of the legal luminary.
Barrister Richard Tamfu, a human rights lawyer, and Member of the Cameroon Bar Council, described Senator Kemende as an inspirational figure in Cameroon.
“We call on the government to immediately open investigations into the matter for his killers to be brought to book,” Barrister Tamfu said.
Though the National Executive Committee of his party is yet to make an official statement, the National First Vice President of the SDF, Hon. Joshua Osih claimed in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) that “We recovered his body, his chest riddled with bullets.”
Hon. Osih claimed, without evidence, that Southern Cameroons’ pro-independence fighters are opposed to the SDF because the party is participating in the political life of French-speaking Republic of Cameroon and is opposed to the people’s quest for self-determination.
That claim by the SDF Vice President, well-known for always rushing to make unfounded claims and draw baseless conclusions, unsurprisingly met with immediate rebuttal from the public. A political observer in Bamenda said, Hon. Osih by that claim even before any investigation is made, was trying to shield the actual killers.
Hon. Osih was one of the signatories to the infamous petition to the United States government seeking the deportation of Cameroonians opposed to the Paul Biya regime back to the country for trial before military courts. A position his party vehemently opposed and even asked him to withdraw his signature from the petition.
The SDF Secretariat in Bmaneda, headed by Hon. Evaristus Njong condemned the assassination and called for a thorough investigation into the incident so the killers are brought to book.
A retired SDF Member of Parliament in Bamenda who opted to talk on basis of anonymity because he also feared for his life, pointed to several video footage of the late Senator circulating on social media in which he condemned government corruption and openly fought for the right of the people of the Southern Cameroons for self-determination as reason enough for the government that does not tolerate dissent to kill him. The Deputy also highlighted the case of another former Member of Parliament of the SDF, Hon. Joseph Wirba, who fled the country to the United Kingdom after making strong declarations asserting the right of Southern Cameroonians to freedom and self-determination.
Hon. Wirba almost got killed by government forces before he fled to safety.
Barrister Kemende was elected to the Senate on the ticket of the SDF in 2018 and was a high-profile critic of the government’s myriad failures to address the conflict.