By Yerima Kini Nsom
A gory image in which a sick detainee is strapped to his hospital bed in chains has been the source of bugaboo and general public outrage. Many Cameroonians watched the image on social media with a profound sense of shock and consternation. Some of them were shocked beyond shockability as they went amok in a fit of rage. The detainee is an MRC militant who was arrested among others, more than a year ago, for organising a peaceful demonstration in Douala.
He is still in pre-trial detention. This means that he ought to have been enjoying the element of presumption of innocence as provided for in the Criminal Procedure Code. Yet, he is already being tortured as if he is a hardened criminal who has been found guilty by a competent court of law. This explains why the general public is shocked by such a wilful act of barbarism against a fellow citizen.
Due to the authorities’ love affair with boundless cruelty, such acts of dehumanisation are becoming quite banal in our country. Torture, death and destruction have continued to stalk the breadth and length of our country. Some suspects awaiting trial in prison cells have been hurriedly dispatched to the world beyond through acts of torture.
The pathetic image of one Thomas Nganyu Tangem, who died in chains in the hospital, is still fresh in mind. Again, it has been business as usual after the Government failed to present the corpse of a journalist, Samuel Wazizi, who died in military custody more than two years ago.
Is Cameroon no longer a signatory to the UN Convention against Torture? How did we get to this fit of inhumanity wherein torture chambers are full and loud with the agonising shrieks of victims? Where do our leaders keep their claim to the rule of law when they allow detainees to be shoved away from prison to the underground torture chambers? How did we get to this Hitlerish intolerance in which even intellectuals who criticise the establishment are invited to the torture chambers where they are given a good dose of corporal punishment? If you doubt anything, let Prof. Messanga Nyamding and Dr. Fredolin NKe tell you the ugly tale.
If the wilful acts of mediaeval barbarism are not stopped, our beautiful country will soon become an unmistakably apt metaphor for State Terrorism. Even the fight against terrorism cannot justify the reign of such executive terror on citizens who ask for their rights. In these circumstances, we must be very careful because the rule by violation is washing ashore the emptiness of the claims of our democratic character and our human rights sloganeering. For, there has been the violation of the constitution and the by-pass of due process in what looks like the dictatorial insanity of a small coterie of haughty officials who believe that they are the State and the State is them. These people are those who should be scorned and dutifully avoided as enemies of the republic, because, Cameroon is reaping profound negative publicity because of their acts of barbarism. By such wicked acts, such people are fast-forwarding the death of whatever is left of our Res Republica.
Some overzealous officials who ride roughshod over human rights claim to be doing so on behalf of the State. They should be careful, because, when the time comes for them to render an account of their deeds, they will not be allowed to enjoy impunity under the rubble of collective guilt of the State. They will face their nemesis individually. Justice is indivisible, for, injustice anywhere is likely to affect justice everywhere, including even those who are vectors of injustice. That is why those who are paid with the hard-earned taxpayer’s money to muzzle, maim and murder other citizens, should be careful because they are likely to find themselves one day on the bench of the victims.
It is a nightmare to live in a country where common citizens are dangerously unprotected by the law. In many instances, the justice system has given the impression that the claim that Cameroon respects the rule of law is mere empty sloganeering. It is worse when the law is applied discriminatively. For instance, some MRC militants are languishing in pre-trial detention in prisons around the country for more than one year. Police arrested some of them in their homes that they had the intention to march in the streets and disrupt public order. They have been kept in prison for this long because the prosecution is still searching for incrimination evidence against them.
But CPDM militants who were caught flagrante delicto burning the residence of the Divisional Officer of Bengbis, destroying bridges, beating up and threatening fellow party comrades with guns, have been allowed to go scot-free. What about the Sangmelima youths who broke into and looted shops of some people belonging to a certain ethnic group in the West Region? None of them was arrested for questioning. Observers are wondering if the law in Cameroon is a respecter of certain people.
How do we intend to remain a republic battling to achieve emergence in 2035 if we display this proneness to discrimination, division and partisan parochialism? Are we not worried that some countries put Cameroon first in the unenviable list of countries that should be avoided because they have become satanically hypocritical hells and dudgeons of unimaginable cruelty?
These are the issues that make some observers believe that Cameroonians are in the second throes of colonisation and enslavement by their Government. Cameroon is fast becoming a benchmark for the measuring of establishment-inspired barbarism and arbitrariness. These ills cannot be justified on the altar of fighting against the various crises rocking our country.
Dialogue remains the main highway out of this predicament, because, even if we kill all the terrorists in the world, we will not be able to kill terrorism. Winning a war without winning the peace is just a mere postponement of hostilities. In such a situation, the spectre of a potentially explosive situation continues to loom and haunt those in power like a ghost.
The belligerents in the Anglophone Crisis should note that none of them can win the war without winning the peace. Only dialogue that will lead to peace can make both parties win the war. I keep wondering how many civilians, how many soldiers and how much of our hard-earned money will be spent before we embrace peace.