It happened in a most dramatic fashion. Place: the Military Tribunal in Yaoundé. Soldiers pushed through a mass of lawyers as some senior advocates were holding a press briefing with journalists
Their target was the BBC’s Randy Joe Sa’ah whose microphone was stretched out before the former Bar Council presidents, Bernard Muna, Eta Besong, Tchoungang and Monthe as well as the current President of the General Assembly of the CBA, Ntumfor Nico Halle. There were about a dozen journalists on duty, but the officer stated repeatedly that only the CRTV was authorized to cover the event – the trial of three Anglophone civil society leaders, Barrister Agbor Bala, Dr. Fontem Neba and activist Mancho Bibixy alias BBC.
The officer tried to grab a backpack he thought was Randy’s. But the lawyers stopped him. Randy was then conducted into the Military Prosecutor (Commissaire Du Gouvernement) chamber who called in the gendarmeries at SED (Secretariate d’Etat a la Defense).
Several minutes after, four men showed up, one of them in uniform and marched Randy to a waiting car. He was driven across town to the gendarmerie head quarter, SED. His recorder and microphone, all property of the BBC were confiscated and have since not been returned to him.
Gendarmes have interrogated him charging him with “Accessory to Propagate False Information”. It is not yet known if the military prosecutors will proceed to court with the matter. But human rights groups have expressed concern with the seizure of Randy’s equipment and are calling for such to be returned and the charges against him dropped.
Observers are questioning why only Randy’s equipment were seized whereas there were over a dozen journalists covering the event without any special passes. Randy has been reporting extensively on the Anglophone protests that have registered several deaths. The leaders of the strike by Anglophone lawyers and teachers have been arrested and charged with treason and incitement to rebellion against the State etc.
The crackdown on Anglophone leaders and civil society activists has sent others fleeing. Firebrand Southern Cameroons nationalist, Barrister Harmony Bobga Mbutton has resurfaced in the US. His colleagues such as Barristers Sang George Ndang secretary general of the North West Lawyers Association have also disappeared.
The arrests have not spared Supreme Court Justice Paul Ayah Abine who has been very vocal about the second class status of English speakers in Cameroon. He too has been charged for treason. Tim Finnian, a journalist and publisher of Life Time newspaper has also been arrested and detained at the national gendarmerie headquarters in Yaoundé.
It would be recalled that the Government has warned journalists not to report on the Anglophone protests. The national communication council has also prohibited the use of two words in the media – Federalism and Secession, two ideologies Anglophones have been advocating.