A surge of violence in Cameroon’s minority English-speaking regions Angry protesters hoist separatist flag
Video verses police misconduct argued in murder-for-hire trial
A surge of violence in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions, both longtime opposition bastions, has spotlighted the simmering anger of the anglophone minority as the nation heads for a key presidential election. Angry protesters torched the national flag and hoisted a separatist one in its place in northwest Bamenda last week, where “at least two” people were killed in clashes with the police, authorities said. The opposition alleged four people had been killed and a police station was set ablaze in the second clash in the city between police and protesters in just over two weeks.
A fifth of Cameroon’s population, estimated at over 22 million, are anglophone-a legacy of the unification in 1961 of two colonial-era entities previously run by France and Britain. For years, Cameroon’s two anglophone regions-in the neighboring northwest and southwest regions-have complained of discrimination under the regime of 83-year-old President Paul Biya, in power since 1982. The next presidential
Prosecutors have long contended that Dalia Dippolito’s own words prove she wanted a hit man to murder her newlywed husband. Her attorneys have argued detectives were more interested in starring on the television show “Cops” than they were in pursuing truth and justice. Neither side strayed from their scripts during closing arguments at her retrial Monday. Prosecutor Craig Williams spent most of his closing argument replaying hidden-camera videos that have been seen by millions on “Cops,”“20/20” and online since the department made them public in 2009.
In one, Dippolito demanded that her former lover Mohammed Shihadeh find her a hit man, giving him a $1,200 deposit for his trouble and to buy the killer a gun. In another, she told undercover detective Widy Jean, portraying the would-be hit man, she was “5,000 percent sure” she wanted her husband dead. “This case is based 100 percent on her words, her actions, her intent - all day, every day,” Williams told the six-member Palm Beach County jury, pointing at the expressionless defendant.
When Jean said he would put two bullets in Michael Dippolito’s head vote is due in 2018. Other unrest has been reported in the southwestern towns of Buea and Kumba. “The government doesn’t want to listen to the population,” said SDF spokesman Denis Nkemlemo. “They send the security forces to repress them.”
Anglos versus Francos
An exporter of oil that is rich in timber and agriculture, the central-west African country is among the most prosperous economies of sub-Saharan Africa, measured on a per-capita basis. But the anglophone minority has long complained that wealth has not been shared out fairly, and that they have suffered discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority. The current crisis was triggered by a strike by lawyers demanding that the anglophone regions use Anglo-Saxon common law as their judicial benchmark. Teachers then went on strike.
On Monday, a consortium of journalist associations from the southwest condemned the lack of translated material and she agreed, “it’s over,” Williams said. When she promised to pay Jean $7,000 and left the house the morning she thought her husband would be murdered without warning him, “it’s over.” Brian Claypool, Dippolito’s attorney, countered by blasting the Boynton Beach Police Department’s investigation, calling it “evil, manipulative, corrupt, self-serving.” He said Shihadeh first told detectives Dippolito was a domestic abuse victim, and said they could have handled it simply by calling her.
Instead, he said, detectives “escalated” the investigation to impress “Cops” producers, who were arriving in town to film cases with the department. He slammed detectives for not recording dozens of phones calls and a key meeting between Shihadeh and Dippolito. He said police knew these conversations would damage their “script” by showing she was being pressured to meet with the supposed hit man.
Convicting Dippolito, he said, would reward the department’s “lying and cheating.”“This case is way bigger than Dalia Dippolito,” Claypool said. “This case is about holding law enforcement accountable, not only here but everywhere .... You all have a from “seminars, workshops and meetings” that they attend and threatened to walk out of government press conferences if handed “French documents without an English version”, thus “obscuring the event”. Both French and English are official languages.
‘Unity is our bedrock’
Part of the protest movement has become radical, with young firebrands backing a 22-year-old demand for the creation of an independent state called Southern Cameroons. That was the term used for today’s anglophone region when it became a British mandate territory following World War I, when Germany lost its African possessions, including German Cameroon. The main part of German Cameroon became a French-administered territory. Moderate anglophones, though, are in favor of federalism, a system that operated from 1961 to 1972, when the country’s first president Ahmadou Ahidjo proclaimed a united republic. stake in this.” Dippolito, 34, briefly cried during Claypool’s argument as other defense attorneys rubbed her back. She is being retired on charges of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Her 2011 conviction and 20year sentence were overturned on appeal because of mistakes during jury selection by the previous judge. If convicted as before, she faces a maximum 20-year sentence.
Prosecutors didn’t lay out a motive during this trial. Previously, they said they believe she wanted control of her husband’s $250,000 savings and their $225,000 town house. Neither did Dippolito testify this time. At her previous trial and during court hearings, she said she was only acting, thinking they were involved in an ill-planned video project aimed at landing their own reality TV show. She also said previously that Shihadeh threatened her with a gun if she didn’t meet Jean. Michael Dippolito and Shihadeh have denied there was a video project and Shihadeh has denied threatening Dippolito. Shihadeh did say Boynton Beach detectives threatened him with arrest if he didn’t stick with the investigation. Such a threat would violate department policy. Jury deliberations are expected to begin today. — AP
Biya himself has not taken a stance on the crisis, but with presidential elections looming in 2018 and uncertainty over his intentions, some leading figures in government have moved quickly to rule out concessions. “We are saying loud and clear that demands calling for the return to federalism are unacceptable,” Prime Minister Philemon Yang, himself an anglophone, said last week. “Unity is the bedrock of our country.”
A veteran figure in national politics, the head of the national assembly Cayaye Yeguie Djibril, a francophone, took a tough line. “I denounce and condemn with every breath in my body any wish to partition Cameroon,” he said. The United States has voiced concern over the violence in Buea and Bamenda and called on both sides to exercise restraint. Amnesty International has said the authorities used “excessive force” in Bamenda, while the Catholic Church in Cameroon has condemned “the use of excessive force in pursuit of rights or of maintaining peace.”— AFP
FLORIDA: Dalia Dippolito sits between attorneys Greg Rosenfeld (left) and Brian Claypool during her retrial in West Palm Beach, Fla. Prosecutors have long contended Dippolito’s own words prove she wanted a hit man to murder her newlywed husband. —VAP