Cameroon: Yaounde Appeals Court in Travesty of Justice, Upholds Life Sentences on Southern Cameroons Pro-Independence Leaders

An Appeals Court Judge in Yaounde Cameroon has upheld life jail prison terms slammed on Julius AyukTabe and nine other Southern Cameroons pro-independence leaders abducted from Nera Hotel in Abuja (popularly called Nera 10), capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on January 5, 2018.

The Appeals Court Judge, Mindjimba Mindjimba who earlier announced he was adjourning all matters before him Thursday, September 17, suddenly veered course when he was reminded by Counsel for the Nera 10 that their matter had not been called. The appellants who were never allowed to see their Counsels ever since the matter was opened at the Appeals Court were spoken to throughout in French, a language they neither speak nor understand.

A statement issued by the Spokesperson of the Defense of the Nera 10, Barrister Amoungwa Tanyi Nico notes that: “Curiously, on the indication of Counsel for Appellants that their matter has not been called, the Judge gave instructions to the Registrar to read the names of the Appellants and the Registrar did same without more”.

According to some of the pro-independence leaders, the expectation that the Judge was going to open debates into the merits of the matter brought before his court were dashed when he rather “…turned to the Legal Department (Respondents) and asked whether they had any observations”, a that was objected to by the Counsel for the Appellants unsuccessfully.

Barrister Amoungwa notes in his statement that; “The Commissaire du Gouvernement (government commissioner) representing the Respondents, surprisingly prayed the court to uphold the proceedings of the trial military tribunal and dismiss the appeal”.

While legal procedures demand that both parties to a matter brought before a judge be heard before the determination of the case, Mr. Mindjimba did not allow the Counsel for the Appellants to say a word. Eyewitnesses told Timescape Magazine that the Judge went on straight to pass judgment, ignoring the other parties’ presence.

Narrating the ordeal, Amoungwa says; “Justice Mindjimba Mindjimba then ruled that he was suspending the session for fifteen (15) minutes. He resumed in ten (10) minutes and in less than one minute, delivered what he referred to as judgment, dismissing the appeal and upholding the judgment of the trial Military Tribunal Yaounde that slammed the Appellants with life sentences”.

The judgement has been described by observers across the board has hasty, unfair and unacceptable. Critics say it violates the core principles of the rule of law that hinge on the need to dispense a fair trial, giving all parties the opportunity to present their cases fully and in a language they understand.

The ruling is likely to amplify the ongoing armed conflict in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons that has so far claimed over 12,000 lives, with over 400 village settlements burnt down to ashes by the military of the Republic of Cameroon.

A strike action initiated by teachers and lawyers in 2016 to demand greater autonomy for the Southern Cameroons from the Yaounde government was met with so much brutality as the Paul Biya-led government used excessive force to crush the demands. This led to young men picking up arms to defend their communities. With time, self-defence groups have mushroomed all over the territory rendering it currently ungovernable.