Cameroon Opposition Politician Arrested and Charged

Maurice Kamto speaks at a press conference shortly before his arrest. ( Sputnik News )

Maurice Kamto speaks at a press conference shortly before his arrest. (Sputnik News)

Police detained Cameroonian opposition politician Maurice Kamto alongside 200 other protesters in Cameroon’s economic capital of Douala on January 28, according to BBC. Kamto has been charged with insurrection and could face further charges, including holding illegal gatherings and disturbing the peace. Kamto may face five years in prison.

Kamto is a former presidential candidate and the leader of one of Cameroon’s many opposition parties, the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC).

According to Amnesty International, the arrest took place after the MRC called for demonstrations across the country to protest irregularities in the country’s recent presidential elections. Police arrested over 100 protesters across the country. Authorities released approximately 50 protesters on February 3, but the rest remain in custody.

The Journal of Cameroon reported that as of February 7, police are holding Kamto in at the Special Operations Unit in the capital, Yaoundé. He has threatened to go on a hunger strike if he and his supporters are not released.

“Mr. Maurice Kamto is currently healthy and eats well. Any allegation to the contrary is unfounded,” the Ministry of Communication claimed.

Cameroon’s presidential election was held on October 7, 2018. President Paul Biya faced challenges from eight opposition candidates, including Kamto. He declared himself the victor of the elections on October 8. However, the Constitutional Council unsurprisingly announced Biya the official winner of the election, with 71 percent of the vote. Kamto received 14 percent overall.

Cameroon has been embroiled in a conflict called the Anglophone crisis, in which the government is fighting multiple armed separatist groups in the two Anglophone regions of the country. The crisis broke out in the fall of 2016, when Anglophone lawyers and teachers went on strike to protest the judiciary’s failure to use Common Law and the presence of teachers who spoke English poorly in Anglophone schools. Many other Anglophones joined them in protest to raise other grievances, prompting a severe government crackdown.

According to International Crisis Group, the crisis has resulted in 420 civilian deaths, 246,000 refugees in Nigeria, and 300,000 internally displaced people.

Cameroon has been fighting Boko Haram in its far north region. While the intensity of the conflict has recently decreased, reports the International Crisis Group, the insurgency group still remains a challenge for the country.

On February 7, the United States announced its intention to significantly scale back its military assistance to Cameroon due to the country’s alleged human rights abuses. According to the New York Times, it is unclear whether the pull-back is due to atrocities committed in Cameroon’s fight against Boko Haram or the Anglophone separatists.