By Atia Tilarious Azohnwi
Monday April 8, 2019 promises to be another tense and stormy day at the Yaounde Military Court the trial of separatist leader Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and nine other members of his team resumes.
Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, Tassang Wilfred, Nfor Ngala Nfor, Dr Henry Kimeng, Dr Cornelius Kwanga, Dr Fidelis Che, Prof Awasum Augustine, Dr Egbe Ogork, Barristers Eyambe Elias and Shufai Blaise are standing trial for their role in the unrest that has enveloped Cameroon’s North West and South West regions.
The tension in court between the new judge Misse Njone and the defense team is expected to reach a palpitating crescendo given that the collapse last Friday March 29, 2019 of one of the suspects, Barrister Elias Eyambe forcing the judge to adjourn for today.
During the last appearance, Misse Njone first identified all ten detainees, read out their charges and went on to arraign them. He asked whether or not they were guilty of the charges leveled against them.
It was Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe, leader of the self-proclaimed state of Ambazonia who replied thus: “I cannot answer that question”. The defense team would then weigh in to oppose an attempt to arraign the suspects. They argued that the accused persons cannot be arraigned before a panel of judges consisting of two assessors – Ngouongue and Edou Mewoutou Armand – who had previously been recused.
The team of lawyers defending the Ambazonia leaders said they had filed an appeal against an earlier ruling passed by the previous presiding judge, Colonel Mem Michel. The judge had ruled that all the accused persons will be judged in Yaounde even when the defense team had argued that their clients are either refugees or asylum seekers. They said a mandamus for the military tribunal to transfer the case file to the Appeal Court had been filed.
Military judge Misse Njone denied seeing a copy of the said appeal even though the defense lawyers would insist that the court had been served with three copies of the appeal file. It is at this point that the judge suspended proceedings, resuming after about an hour.
When the judge questioned the quality of the appeal, the lawyers fired back. This exchange again necessitated another suspension of the hearing for well over four hours.
As the went tarried on, Barrister Eyambe collapsed, apparently due to the midday heat that was very much felt in the courtroom. A medical team from the clinic at the military tribunal only showed up thirty minutes later after some family members and friends had aided him to regain consciousness.
After putting Barrister Eyambe through a routine first aid procedure, he was then taken to the clinic for intensive care.
Colonel Engono Thadée Constant, military prosecutor at the Yaoundé Military Tribunal is said to have cautioned members of the defense counsel to be responsible, avoid any unnecessary blockade and allow the case to take “its normal course”.
Four hours later, all were back in the courtroom for the session to resume except Barrister Eyambe Elias who was still on his sick bed.
After a four hour break, the judge would then order that the matter be adjourned April 8 on grounds that the matter cannot go ahead in the absence of one of the accused persons, Eyambe who was still on his sick bed.