As Thousands Protest in Cameroon Today, International Lawyers Warn Cameroon’s President Against Crackdown on Demonstrators
A team of international law lawyers and specialists based in London, UK, and Washington D.C, USA have warned Cameroon’s dictator, Paul Biya against attacking protesters demanding regime change. The warning is contained in an open letter addressed to President Biya by the Amsterdam and Partners LLP law firm on the eve of the protests that began Tuesday, September 22.
The lawyers who boast of experience in handling complex political issues across the globe disclosed in the letter that the leader of the protest, Prof. Maurice Kamto, who heads the (CRM) opposition party is their client.
“We will advocate for and defend the rights of Maurice Kamto and the CRM to the fullest extend guaranteed in the Constitution of Cameroon and the International Human Rights Law,” the letter reads in part.
The protest organizers are calling for a boycott of regional elections, and an uprising to overthrow President Biya who has been in power for close to four decades. They are also asking for reform of the electoral code and the end of an ongoing war in the territory of the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons. In a press conference on September 21, Rene Sadi, Cameroon’s communication minister described the demands as absurd, “unjustified and counterproductive intransigence.”
Apparently reacting to threats from government officials to use the controversial anti-terrorism law against protesters, the legal experts note that human rights violators will not be spared.
“We also notify you of our intent to hold accountable all responsible officials of the Republic of Cameroon for any violation of the human rights, civil rights, and physical safety of Professor Kamto, members of the CRM and all those who participate in peaceful protest and opposition activities on September 22 and thereafter,” they said, noting that violators will face “severe repercussions”.
Shoot, Don’t, Gov’t Orders Soldiers
Holding after the open letter made rounds on social media, provoking public debate, a high-level security meeting at the Ministry of Defense in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, ended with what some observers say is a reversal of an initial order instructing soldiers to open fire on protesters. Timescape Magazine learned that Minister of Defense, Joseph Beti Assomo declared after the meeting that soldiers have not been authorized to shoot protesters.
The declaration counters earlier unverified reports that soldiers had been ordered to shoot. In recordings that went viral on social media, a certain Etame Assong who claimed to be serving in a contingent of the Cameroonian army in Koutaba called on his colleagues to stand with the protesters and bring down the Biya regime. He claimed they had been ordered to open fire on protesters.
The Spokesperson of the Cameroon armed forces, however, dismissed the recordings, claiming that the soldier was sacked from the army in 2018 and had no authority to speak on behalf of the army.
Major cities across the country remained highly militarized prior to today’s demonstrations that have seen thousands of people of all ages marching in streets in Yaounde, Douala and elsewhere. Security Forces, at the time of going to press, only used teargas and water cannons to try and disperse protesters. No arrests have so far been reported and the protests have so far been mostly peaceful.