BY LUSY LIMA
The fate of a good number of Southern Cameroonian detainees is uncertain following the prison riot that took place on July 22 and 24, 2019, in Yaounde and Buea respectively.
While the first riot started off as a protest against poor prison conditions and unjust detainment, the second riot was carried out in support of the former.
Both riots were violently quelled by security forces, and hundreds of prisoners were transported to undisclosed locations.
The fate of these prisoners and rumors of casualties during the crushing of the riots had political implications in the ongoing Anglophone Crisis, and brought international attention to the prison conditions. Following the riots, many suspected participants were subjected to torture, and were brought to court and sentenced without their lawyers present.
Most of those who were in detention are members of the Southern Cameroons National Council, the SCNC who have spent over three years in detention after being arrested for planned demonstration on October 1.
It is reported that the detention conditions of the prison cells are overcrowded and poor feeding coupled with a deliberately slow legal proceedings.
Some of those who were arrested in Bamenda, Kumba, Buea and Muyuka in 2016 were freed in the months of April and May 2017, meanwhile a good number were transferred to Yaounde.
Those who were released were given stringent conditions to live with, including constant reporting themselves to the security officers, demanded not to frequent public places, like seaports, train stations and airports and never to militate as SCNC activists anymore.
The release was as a result of the fact that investigators could not find any evidence linking them to the movement hence could not keep them indefinitely.
With these conditions for their release, a good number of young men had found their way out of the country, some taking refugee status in Nigeria while a good number have been recruited by the Ambazonian Defense Force known as the Amba fighters.
Last year, the government stepped up its clampdown on activists of the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC.
Security operatives have been apprehending and incarcerating activists of the liberation movement.
These SCNC and Civil Society Activists, family relations confirmed, have simply gone into hiding for fear of subsequent arrests and torture, taking into consideration the numerous arrests and inhumane treatment they, like other activists, have been subjected to in the various detention centres with deplorable conditions.
Going by family members, their homes have been centres of impromptu visits by security operatives.
Their family members have ever since their disappearance to unknown destinations, suffered from serious threats from police and gendarmes who coerced them to disclose their whereabouts.
Many other young activists have since become mute and are hiding, fearing for their lives, leaving their families worried.
A good number of young militants of the SCNC who escaped the arrest are on the run, a good number have left the country for fear of the unknown.
With the passing of the 2014 Anti Terrorism law, SCNC activists who are arrested are tried in a military court and face a jail term of between 15 to 25 years and sometimes a life jail or a death sentence.
In January 2017 the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, Emmanuel Rene Sadi, banned the SCNC and the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, CACSC. Some of the leaders of the Consortium such as Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho and Dr. Fontem Niba were immediately arrested while others like Barrister Bobga Harmony and Tassang Wilfred fled into hiding.
The activists were detained under horrendous and inhuman conditions. Some have reportedly died in detention.
Created in 1995, the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, has as its main goal the restoration of the sovereignty of Southern Cameroons which gained its independence on 1 October 1961 by joining La Republique du Cameroun, to form what is today known as the Republic of Cameroon.
The SCNC had emerged with Barrister Ekontang Elad as pioneer chairman because Southern Cameroonians (English-speaking) thought they were grossly marginalised in their union with La Republique du Cameroun (French-speaking).
But since the creation of the SCNC, which the Biya regime tags as an illegal and secessionist group, adherents of this pressure group have continued to be molested, persecuted, prosecuted and jailed.
Some of the activists are now living in fear while others have gone underground or fled for fear of their lives.