By Yerima Kini Nsom
That police arrested, detained, brutalised some 60 protesting visually impaired young people in Yaounde on June 27, is a sacrilege of very deadly proportions in the so called human rights era. As if those cruel acts were not cruel enough, elements of the Yaounde 1st Police District bundled the visually impaired persons and dumped them out in different localities in the peripheries of Yaounde and abandoned them to themselves. Some victims lost their white canes in those acts of Stone Age barbarism.
Were such inhuman acts necessary on people who are living under the permanent torture of disability? What crime did these people commit by organising a peaceful march at the entrance to the Prime Minister’s Office in order to express their grievances that the authorities have seemingly ignored for many years? Such acts seem to be enjoying the warm glow of the establishment’s approval. For, almost one week after those acts of international ignominy on our country, there are no signs that such heartless police are being brought to face the long sword of the law which is not supposed to be respecter of any individuals. The police in Yaounde were also very busy, cracking down on the organisers of a conference by the civil society to discuss what the post-Biya era in Cameroon will look like.
Are our police fashioned to protect citizens or brutalise them? Are they there to protect human rights or abuse them? No doubt there are some police officers who do their job within the ambit of the law and professional ethics. But by virtue of their behaviour, many of them leave one with the impression that the police are simply agents of repression. Who does not know the cruel treatment meted on suspects in police cells in our country? Another way for an ordinary Cameroonian to say that he or she has seen an enemy is that he or she has seen the police or a gendarmerie officer. For, the fear of the police or the gendarme is the beginning of wisdom. The police are not alone in this repressive bid. The forces of law and order in general, including military and security operatives, more often, treat ordinary citizens as if they were all enemies of the republic.
That is why the arrest of journalist and co-publisher of The Voice newspaper, Theodore Mih Ndze, in Yaounde recently, was just a banal incident. Yet it added corpus to the ugly compendium of the police harassment ordinary citizens suffer in this country. That illegal arrest equally represents an expensive folly in the drama of power abuse in our country. The journalist was peacefully sharing a drink with some of his friends in the Carrefour Scalom at the Obili neighbourhood before the police came. They then hounded Theodore Mih Ndze away for detention at the 5th Police District at the Ngoa-Ekelle neighbourhood. He was accused of wearing a black t-shirt that resembles that of the police. But what the journalist was putting on was just an ordinary t-shirt with a commonplace design. When the police realised that they could not convince anybody that what the journalist was wearing was a police t-shirt, they fabricated another offence. They now claimed that the t-shirt looked like the uniform of Separatist fighters. They equally realised that that accusation, per se, was ridiculous.
It was the most scandalous accusation because there is no law that criminalises the wearing of black t-shirts for the simple reason that the Separatist fighters have been using them. When the police discovered that such an accusation was not going to hold water, they seized the journalist’s phone and desperately searched for information to incriminate him. The gods of evil were not with them that day because they did not find anything that would enable them accuse the journalist of supporting terrorism. It sounds so absurd that some misguided forces of law and order in Yaounde usually act on the staple diet of blackmail, prejudice and false allegations.
Recently, the lawyer for Ayuk Tabe and other Separatist leaders, Barrister Nicodemus Amungwa, was arrested and shoved into detention at the Gendarmerie Headquarters in Yaounde. It was reported that propaganda material for the Separatist was found in his phone. One is tempted to ask what else should be found in the phone of a lawyer who is defending the Separatist leaders. Is it not the right of the lawyer to defend even the devil in a republic like ours that should hearken to the scruples of the rule of law and the respect of human rights? Is it not the worst form of abuse when a law enforcement officer picks an unsuspecting person at the Obili neighbourhood and torture?
Last year, a combined squad of heavily armed security operatives stormed the residence of a certain Northwest Fon at midnight, arrested him in all brutality and whisked him off into detention. It was later revealed that the security agents acted on a ridiculous frame-up that sounded sardonic and stranger to the ears than fiction. They had claimed that the very Fon who had escaped from his palace because of the hostilities of the Separatist fighters and took refuge in Yaounde, was the one sponsoring “the boys”.
The Fon, who is a supporter of the ruling CPDM party, was later released after he had been humiliatingly detained for a whole day on false allegations. One young Anglophone, popularly known as Weah, equally had his own share of the national cake of intimidation and harassment last year. He was detained at the Gendarmerie Headquarters on claims that he was an agent of the Separatist fighters. It was later realised that it was a business partner who framed him up.
There have been regular blind raids in many neighbourhoods which give the impression that the forces are just looking for anybody to prey on. Many citizens, especially Anglophones, end up being detained for no reason. It is a veritable nightmare when an Anglophone runs away from the harassment of the Separatist fighters in his village only to run into the harassment of the forces in Yaounde. It is sad that some overzealous law enforcement officers have allowed their prejudices and greed to becloud their sense of judgment when dealing with ordinary citizens. Some of them just get into the bars at Obili and waylay their prey into their dragnet. Such arrests make extortion easy and profitable to them because many people arrested are only released upon payment of sums of money ranging from FCFA 30.000.
It is incumbent on authorities in this country to give the forces of law and order in this country a human face. For, it does not augur well when citizens see the forces of law and order as agents of repression, extortion, torture and death.