Respected attorney Michele Ndoki was shot multiple times by Cameroon police in January during a peaceful demonstration and since has been arrested and charged with treason. Ndoki was taken into custody Feb. 27 and faces possible execution along with dozens of other political activists. The charges against opponents of Cameroon despot Paul Biya have been denounced by the United States.
Cameroon, long restive under the harsh rule of Biya, is fighting a civil war with Ambazonia, the newly declared independent country formerly called British Southern Cameroons during its colonial era. The ongoing bloodshed in Ambazonia is a terror campaign waged by American trained anti-terrorist squads. The United States has suspended military aid to Cameroon because of human rights violations.
Ndoki, one of Cameroon’s leading attorneys, is the lawyer for imprisoned Maurice Kamto who opposed Biya in a controversial October 2018 election. The January march when Ndoki was targeted by police called for an honest election. Kamto has charged the election outcome was rigged and Ndoki has been litigating the issue. Kamto was arrested a month ago and also faces execution.
Tchakounte Patie, president of the Cameroon Bar Association, has demanded the release of Ndoki following a meeting of the Bar that condemned her arrest. The legal group appointed three barristers, Onana Désiré, Mang Mayi and Ashu Egbe to defend Ndoki who is being held without bail.
The United States Under-Secretary for African Affairs, Tibor Naggy, has called on Biya to release Kamto as well as his supporters. Naggy made his remarks on French radio RFI.
“The government of Cameroon affirms that Maurice Kamto was legally arrested and imprisoned. But I think it will be wise to release him. Whether the accusations are true or false, this is perceived as being arrested for his political activities and this unacceptable. Kamto and his supporters have to be released and we are clear about that.”
Communication Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi refuted Naggy’s remarks. Sadi stressed that Kamto was not arrested for his political convictions but is charged with rebellion, hostility against the Fatherland, and insurrection.
Sadi also defended the military crackdown on Ambazonia saying it is the government’s responsibility to protect the territorial integrity of the nation as well as protect citizens in the face of attacks from “secessionist terrorists” whom he blamed.
To keep tighter control on the judiciary, military courts may be used to prosecute the treason charges. The threat of execution is no idle remark in troubled Cameroon as civil society is under assault by the government itself.