Cameroon says a United Nations report this week calling for the release of the country’s main opposition leader, Maurice Kamto, is one-sided, subjective and distorted. The U.N. report accuses Cameroon of stifling the opposition. Cameroon’s government says its recent arrest of nearly 300 people at a protest was justified because they were calling for the overthrow of President Paul Biya.
Government spokesperson Rene Emmanuel Sadi says a U.N. report on the legal proceedings against opposition leader Maurice Kamto and his Cameroon Renaissance Movement party supporters is false.
Sadi says the arrest of the CRM supporters last month was in accordance with Cameroonian laws and international conventions to which Cameroon has freely subscribed.
"Contrary to allegations, the fellow citizens arrested were not subjected to any inhumane degrading treatment whatsoever. In addition, the march planned by Mr. Maurice Kamto was in no way a peaceful march. In an audio post, the spokesperson of Mr. Kamto solemnly announced the organization of popular marches captioned ‘Cameroon revolution, Paul Biya must go,’" he said.
Sadi said most of the civilians arrested remain in custody and will face charges that include insurrection, hostility against the state, and group rebellion against state authority.
Kamto was not arrested, but police have not allowed him to leave his home since September 22.
In its report, the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and Enforced or Voluntary Disappearances of the U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights demanded that authorities release Kamto and his supporters.
It also demanded that Cameroon’s government stop intimidating political activists, investigate all alleged human rights violations -- including accusations of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of protesters -- and bring perpetrators to justice.
Christopher Ndong, secretary general of and legal adviser to Kamtos’ CRM party, said more than 400 supporters were arrested, with at least 200 still in jails all over Cameroon. Ndong said Kamto has been denied his freedom.
"The situation has not changed. The compound of Maurice Kamto is under heavy military presence and Kamto is crying out aloud to the national and international community to make sure they should tell Mr. Biya not to continue this act of barbarism on the citizens but to listen, dialogue and of course, to make sure the electoral system is changed. That is all we are asking," he said.
Kamto called for the Sept. 22 protests to pressure Biya to stop Nov. 6 regional elections. He said the electoral code favors Biya, whom the opposition blames for the separatist conflict in Cameroon’s western regions.
Godwill Ambe, a 26-year old Kamto supporter, said authorities should free all those who have been arrested and solve issues the opposition leader has raised to avoid potential conflicts between civilians and the military.
"The more they keep him in the house, the more they provoke the supporters and also, as you can see, Cameroon is like an active volcano. Anything can happen at any time. And a majority of Kamto supporters are youths, and they can do anything at any time because they are disgruntled," Ambe said.
Kamto has faced periodic harassment since accusing Biya of stealing the 2018 presidential election. Police detained Kamto and 200 of his supporters in January 2019 for protesting the election results.
After an international outcry, Biya pardoned Kamto last November and had him released.