Cameroon: Collapse of Rule of Law, Civilians Thrash Bribe-Seeking Police Office in Street Fights, Gov’t in Panic Mode
The Cameroon police corps has come under public scrutiny given their unfathomable excesses. At the least resistance to these men and women in uniform, known for their large appetite for illicit money, they harass and brutalize civilians, especially road users. Today, these civilians, overwhelmed with pain and torture from people who rather ought to protect them, are standing up to the police to the extent of exchanging blows in open fights on the streets.
The worsening relationship between the police and the people has set the government in panic mode. The authorities fear that the loss of trust in the forces of law and order and the country’s legal system could degenerate into something worse if nothing is done to mitigate the situation. The government, through the Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji has issued a warning to the public, dangling legal provisions that could be unleashed on whoever assaults a police officer on duty.
Martin Mbarga Nguele, Cameroon's Delegate-General for National Security (C) Cameroon Security
Mr. Atanga Nji in a joint release with the Delegate General for National Security, Martin Mbarga Nguele, denounced the recent assaults on police officers on duty. They stated that the police were at the service of the nation and should on no occasion be brought to shame while on duty.
Speaking to the press, Mr. Atanga Nji instructed the regional governors to ascertain that the laws of the republic are respected. He said the Delegate General for National Security had always attended to all forms of alleged or proven accusations against the police. He pointed out that Cameroon was a state of law and henceforth all assaults against the police will be met with appropriate sanctions provided for in the law.
“For quite some time now, the public in general and administrative authorities, in particular, have been decrying violence, sometimes physical, against police officers exercising their duties all over the national territory. This irresponsible behavior towards the Police is unacceptable…,” he warned.
He urged members of the public with grievances against police officers to report to the appropriate offices for action to be taken.
“In the event of any disagreement between a police officer and an individual, a complaint should be addressed to the police hierarchy. When the accusations against a police officer are founded, only the police hierarchy is empowered to apply sanctions against the defaulting officer, in accordance with the internal regulations of the corps and in line with the Laws in force,” he emphasized.
Paul Atanga Nji, Minister of Territorial Administration (C) The Observer
The embattled Minister reiterated that no citizen or person, regardless of their social status, for whatsoever reason had the right to assault a police officer on duty, adding that such action could be considered as jungle justice.
“I would like to reiterate, once again that the police uniform belongs to the State and not to the individual wearing it. Therefore, it has to be given due respect by all and sundry....to publicly attack a police officer or any other security officer on duty shall hereafter be considered as a casus belli,” he concluded.
The two senior state functionaries outlined the various instrument of the law which sanction anybody who insults or assaults a police officer on duty. The sanctions provided by the Cameroon law for such actions include prison terms of up to ten years and fines of up to CFA F 500,000 (about USD950). A suspect could be sentenced to life imprisonment if during the assault on a police officer, the latter dies, even if the death was unintentional.
Critics have, however, warned that without a conscious effort to enforce the rule of law, civilians might continue to take the laws in their hands. They note that by ignoring the laws governing good policing to physically assault a civilian, the police were themselves inviting a public fight as the culprit could evoke the principles of self-defense to justify their actions. They also maintain that because the legal system of the country is riddled with bribery and corruption, influence-peddling, and outright bias, the public no longer trust state institutions leading to the collapse of the rule of law everywhere in the country.