The high price of protesting
SOME 74 ANGLOPHONES ARE APPEARING before a military tribunal in Yaoundé accused of terrorism for their involvement in the crisis that has hit Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions since November 2016. They were arrested during protests after lawyers and teachers went on strike to protest threats to the legal and educational systems. They risk the death penalty due to an anti-terrorism law adopted in December 2014. Three leaders of the anglophone cause are among the accused: lawyer Félix Agbor Nkongho, professor Fontem Aforteka’a Neba and Mancho Bibixy, a.k.a. ‘BBC’, a radio host. The first two are respected intellectuals. Bibixy is an activist and was at the frontline from the beginning of the troubles. During the first protests, he appeared in a coffin, haranguing the crowd. The trials started on 23 March and are set to drag on. The accused have been imprisoned in a high-security jail in Yaoundé since January. In late April, their lawyers filed a request for their provisional release, but the tribunal rejected it. Faced with attacks by the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, Cameroon adopted a controversial law to use in the fight against terrorism. It defines terrorism as “any act or threat likely to cause death, put in physical jeopardy, bring about corporal or material damage, damage to natural resources, the environment or cultural heritage.” Activists say the regime is using the law to stifle all contestation. That case is not the only trial causing tensions in North West Region. Three bishops, two priests and a nun are being sued for the Catholic Church’s management of its schools during the strikes. Two senior military officers are leading a group that claims to represent the parents of students. They are seeking damages of 150bn CFA francs ($225.8m), an amount that would bankrupt the archdiocese of Bamenda several times over. The backers of the suit say that Archbishop Cornelus Fontem Esua and the others are responsible for the boycott of classes in the church-run schools and collecting fees without holding classes.