A leader of Cameroon’s separatist movement , Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and nine of his followers have been given life sentences by a military court in Cameroon capital Yaoundé in the early hours of Tuesday 20th of august 2019.
They were convicted of secession, insurrection, rebellion, destruction of state properties, among other charges. Their lawyers accused the judge of bias and withdrew from the proceedings.
The separatist leaders sang protest songs in court as the sentence was handed down in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The severity of the sentence has raised fears that the bloody playing out in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions between separatist rebels and military forces will be prolonged and that no ceasefire will be possible.
In January 2018, Ayuk Tabe and nine other separatists were arrested in a hotel in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, allegedly by Nigerian Special Forces. They were then handed over to Cameroon- a move that was ruled illegal by a Nigerian court in March this year.
The defendants refused to recognise the right of the military tribunal in Yaoundé to try them. Their lawyers are meeting to draft an appeal, which has to be filed within 10days.
Felix Agbor Balla,a leading human rights advocate in Cameroon, described the decision as a sham which would cause a lot of anger among Anglophones.
The 2014 anti terrorism law has earlier sparked a wave of criticism and many political analysts had seen this as a means to silent dissent most especially SCNC activists and opposition parties. The law has been enacted to terrorise the people of southern Cameroon and possible killing their freedoms.
The law is also against the fundamental liberties and the rights of the southern Cameroonian people who are clamouring for a complete separation from French Cameroon and with the formation of a new nation known as Ambazonia.
The draft law in its entirety prescribed the death penalty or life imprisonment for persons who carry out any activity which can lead to a general revolt of the population or disturb the normal functioning of the country.
An estimated 2000 Anglophones or southern Cameroonians are being incarcerated all over French Cameroon prisons and the 2014 anti terrorism law applied to their cases.