In Dictatorships, Arrest is a Political Tool

In Dictatorships, Arrest is a Political Tool

Friday October 28, 2016, fifty-two members of the Stand Up For Cameroon platform were arrested at the Cameroon People’s Party headquarters in Yaoundé.  This is the 5th arrest that members of Stand Up For Cameroon have been subjected to since the beginning of 2016. It is important to note that on NONE of these occasions were members of Stand Up For Cameroon members carrying out a public demonstration.  Stand Up For Cameroon firmly believes in the right to non-violent public protest as guaranteed by the Constitution of Cameroon, but so far in complete illegality, the Government of Cameroon has arrested us as we carried out actions for which the law does not require a declaration to administrative authorities.

  • March 29th – 62 members of Stand Up for Cameroon were arrested as we arrived to hold a press conference at the headquarters of the MRC (Mouvement de la Renaissance du Cameroun), a political party which at the time was a member of SUFC.
  • April 8th – 12 members of Stand Up For Cameroon were arrested as they were preparing to distribute flyers (Not a single flyer had been distributed yet!)
  • April   - This was the date of the most ridiculous arrest!  The printer who had printed our flyers was tracked to his place of work and arrested. When one of our party members went to the police station to find out what the problem was, he was also arrested!
  • May 20th – In our party headquarters, we were preparing to celebrate National Day.  It was a Friday and we were in black.  Before the event could begin, police descended on our headquarters, violated our privacy and arrested the 9 people who were there preparing.  They subsequently arrested myself and two others on our way there.  A total of 12 Cameroonians were arrested on National Day as they prepared to celebrate the nation.
  • October 28th – Three days ago, at about 12:00 p.m., 52 members of Stand Up For Cameroon were arrested at our party headquarters.  When the police arrived we were seated, listening to a presentation by one of our comrades. People had notebooks out, taking notes and a power point presentation was being projected.  The gates to our headquarters were closed.

 - The District Officer for Yaoundé IV appeared with about 50 policemen, armed in riot gear. He informed us we were holding a public meeting.  Try as we might to explain to him that a meeting in what is legally considered a private home (party headquarters) and which is not open to the public (on invitation only), could not be considered a public meeting, he decided to give the order for arrest. 

- They first requested for me alone as leader to go with them.  Since they could produce no warrant for arrest, we agreed that I would follow them in my own car.  I agreed to have one policeman in my car, we proceeded to the police station.  We had barely arrived at Commissariat Central No. 4 at Ekounou when my colleagues informed me they were all being arrested.

-  All 52 of us, including 3 women with disabilities, were brought to Commissariat Central No. 4 at Ekounou, we were subsequently dispatched to: Commissariat Central des Renseignements Généraux (CCRG) – 14 people, Commissariat Central No. 1 at Yaounde Central Town – 21 people and 17 people remained at Commissariat Central No. 4 at Ekounou.

-  We were held from about 12:00 p.m., most of us were released by 9:30 p.m. that evening.  One comrade, Camille Beleck who did not have her national identity card on her at the time of the arrest was held overnight, despite the fact that she produced the identity card at about 11:00 p.m. that evening.  She was the final person released at 3:00 p.m. the following day, October 29th.


Why These Frequent Illegal Arrests?


Each time we have been arrested, we have been held for less than 12 hours and let go, for many of us without charge and for all of us without any follow-up legal process.  It is clear that the Government of Cameroon is acting in complete illegality and arresting us not because have broken the law in any way, but rather they are using arrest as a political tool to stop us from carrying out our activities.


Today the vast majority of Cameroonians want to see systemic political change in our country.  Many political parties, associations and individuals talk about this change.  We have many strong, public stances being taken against the way we are currently governed. 


However, Stand Up For Cameroon (SUFC) is one of the few movements that goes beyond talk.  We stand for political transition and we believe in non-violent protest in order to obtain it.  Stand Up For Cameroon launched the Fridays in Black campaign in April 2016.  This non-violent protest was able to stop the constitutional change proposed by the government to carry out early elections that would favor the status quo for the Biya regime.  SUFC has demonstrated that non-violent action can produce results in Cameroon and can gain momentum amongst Cameroonians. 


The Biya regime senses the danger of the Stand Up For Cameroon movement and for the Fridays in Black campaign.  They therefore act swiftly, using state violence to attempt to squash the growth of the movement particularly in the strategic capital city of Yaoundé. The regime illegally uses arrest as a tool for intimidation and political manipulation.


Stand Up For Cameroon will not be daunted.  We are confident our movement responds to the need Cameroonians have for a political transition.  We will not be intimidated.  There is no question, our movement will grow and achieve its objective of a non-violent political transition for Cameroon.  Next Friday we will be in black.


What Have We Learnt About The Police?


The Cameroonian police is today a force with a diversity of standpoints. It is important here to congratulate those police officers who at each arrest have acted professionally, with courtesy and respect.  They are following orders and even though these orders are illegal, they do their best to maintain a professional façade and treat us as fellow citizens.


We have also encountered police officers who have been disrespectful, without regard for our basic rights and who have used violence and force against us.  They too claim they are just following orders, but it is clear these officers come from the tradition Cameroon’s forces of law and order have had since colonization, where they see the citizens they are supposed to protect as their enemy.  People on whose rights they can trample at will and on whom they as police have the right to exercise violence.  There are still a significant number of police officers who hail from this tradition.  This is one of the reasons we need a political transition.  Among its objectives will be to redefine the relationship between citizens and the forces of law and order.


What You Can Do?


The objectives of Stand Up For Cameroon are clear. 

  • We demand basic services for Cameroonians: water, electricity, roads, healthcare, public transportation, education, etc.
  • We demand non-violent political transition for our country that has been under the same regime for over 56 years! We want to rebuild the basic foundation of our country: re-write the constitution, overhaul the electoral system, ensure basic services, etc.

If you believe in these objectives, then it is essential to act in order to attain them.  This is what you can do:

1- Wear black every Friday to demand the objectives above.  Take a picture, send to friends and invite them to join you.

2- Join us at Stand Up For Cameroon.  We work daily to inform other Cameroonians and build this movement to bring about a non-violent political transition. or 693 694 463. We meet every Friday.

3- Come out for massive public demonstrations.  Stand Up For Cameroon will inform on where and when.

4- When members of Stand Up For Cameroon are arrested, do not hesitate:

- Use social media to raise the alarm and ask others to do so

-  Use social media to write to the Government of Cameroon and demand our release.

-  Inform journalists so they can use media to inform and raise the alarm

-  Find out which police station members of SUFC are being held at and provide:

    • Legal support
    • Logistics support
    • Mobilization pressure on those who are carrying out illegal arrests

We dream of a Cameroon where there is justice and peace; where the basic rights of citizens are respected and where the resources of Cameroon are used to provide basic services to every Cameroonian.  That Cameroon is possible.  We have the power to make it our reality.