It is so interesting to be a person who makes it their daily business to fight for democracy and justice in a quasi-dictatorship. Some days, like yesterday March 29th, get extremely interesting.
We started out our day going for what was to be an extremely important press conference launching an initiative led by four political parties. We did launch the Stand Up For Cameroon Initiative… by the roadside. We also ended our day at the police station with 62 of the members of our respective parties detained for 9 hours. By answering a few key questions, I will try to share with you how this day got so interesting.
1) Did we declare the press conference?
No we did not. What must be declared by Cameroonian law is a public event. A press conference is not a public event. It is an event upon invitation. Those who were invited to the press conference were journalists, militants and guests of our parties. Political parties hold regular press conferences. We do not declare them. Especially not when they are holding within our headquarters. Ex: CPP has held several press conferences at its headquarters within the last year. CPP and UPC the Faithful held a joint press meeting on February 6th this year at Hotel Relais in Tsinga. None was declared.
2) Did we in any way provoke the police, even by accident?
No, no, no and again no! We were intending to hold a press conference within the premises of the MRC. The police forced out journalists and militants who were already in the hall. They did not allow the majority of the party leaders to enter the premises. They forced us unto the street.
3) Did we hold the press conference?
Yes! We held it on the side of the road. We read our declaration and the call to action to Cameroonians.
4) Where the party leaders arrested?
No party president was arrested. Several leaders were arrested: Prosper Nkou Mvondo of UNIVERS was arrested as were Franck Essi, Baba Dodo and Djabo Mataba of the CPP, Alain Fogue, Okala Ebode and Sosthène Lipot.
5) How many people were arrested?
6) When and where were they arrested?
All were arrested after we had completely finished reading the declaration and party presidents had left the scene. 41 CPP party members were arrested in the bus that was taking them home at the Central Post Office about 8 kilometers from the MRC headquarters in Odza! There was a deliberate effort to intimidate our party members and make them sorry for belonging to “opposition parties”.
7) Why were party members arrested?
We have no idea. We received not a single document for a single party member from the Cameroonian police. Not once did anyone communicate a reason for arrest and detention. We asked multiple times.
8) Were the police brutal?
Yes, some were. Several party members were kicked and punched. Three people sustained significant injuries. Other party members were water-hosed. However, many members of the police were professional and even reprimanded their colleagues for brutality. No brutality was experienced at the police station, but the conditions for detention of the majority of the people arrested were unacceptable. They were seated for 8-9 hours on the floor in extremely cramped conditions.
9) Is there anyone still under detention?
No. Everyone was released at 10:00 p.m. yesterday. All party presidents and all leaders stayed at the police station until every single party member was released.
10) What is the current state of the “Stand Up for Cameroon” initiative?
The CPP, the MRC, UPC the Faithful and the UNIVERS party have effectively launched the initiative. It is open to all political parties, civil society organizations and citizens who demand basic services for Cameroonians: water, electricity, roads, healthcare, education, etc and who say NO! to a constitutional modification that will maintain the regime in power that has woefully failed to provide these basic services.
We are more determined than ever to bring about a non-violent democratic transition in Cameroon! We ended the day stronger and clearer on our objectives than we started!
Stand Up for Cameroon has put out a call to action to all Cameroonians:
• Every Friday as of April 1st (and this is no April Fool’s joke). All Cameroonians should wear black to protest the lack of water, electricity, roads, healthcare, education and basic services.
• April 1st – 3rd: Weekend of Prayer for Cameroon – No matter your religion, pray for the future of Cameroon, notably:
o That the Cameroonian People should become conscious of their power and act to protect their own interest and build a nation worthy of that name.
o That Cameroon should undergo a peaceful, political transition which is beneficial to the people of Cameroon.
o That Cameroon should have patriotic forces of law and order and of defense who stand to protect the population and the fundamental interests of the nation.
• Week of 4th – 9th April there will be massive mobilization for a non-violent protest. Stay tuned for specific information on where and when, so you can join and make a difference for Cameroon.
Join us and Stand for Cameroon!