The Post (Buea)

27 February 2009

Cameroon: 139 People Died in 2008 Protest - Observatory

The National Observatory of Human Rights, comprised of five human rights associations, says over 139 people were killed in the February 2008 nationwide protests.

The information is contained in a 36-page report titled, "Cameroun - 25/29 Férvrier 2008 - Une répression sanglante à huis clos" (Cameroon-25/29 February 2008- a Bloody Repression Behind Closed Doors).The report was released at a press briefing recently at the conference room of the Littoral Chapter of Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture, ACAT-Littoral.

The Observatory noted that the deaths were a consequence of brutal suppression of the striking youths by troops.The statistics about the death stands as follows: Douala - 100, Kumba - 7, Loum - 7, Bamenda - 6, Limbe - 5, Bafoussam - 4, Mbanga - 2, Bafang - 2, Buea - 2, Njombe/Penja - 2, Muea - 1 and Dschang - 1.

The Observatory, however, notes that the number of deaths is incomplete because they could not obtain credible information from Yaounde and Santa, where the Government statistics put the number of deaths at two and one, respectively.

Massacre On The Wouri Bridge

The Human Rights Observatory, in addition, notes that the exact number of those who died in Douala will never be known because of the "massacre on the Wouri Bridge", which occurred on February 27, 2008.The Human Rights outfit states that hundreds of protesting youths in Bonaberi had, on that day, set out to Bonanjo to present their grievances to the Governor.

But, The Post learnt, when the youths were on the Bonaberi Bridge, they suddenly found themselves blocked on both sides by troops who started hurling tear gas at them.

Worse still, there was a similar attack from the air by a military helicopter, the report states.

The report further revealed that many of the youths, in a bid to escape from the tear gas, leapt into River Wouri, consequently drowning.The Observatory said fishermen found over 20 corpses floating in the river and that they were all warned by authorities to keep their mouths shut.

Inhuman Treatment

The report also notes that there were many cases of arbitrary arrests and executions during the uprising. Besides the killings, the report also talks of gross inhuman treatment which youths, who were arrested, were subjected to.

According to the report, those arrested were dumped in horrible conditions in make-shift cells at military camps or in police and gendarmerie cells.

Call For Commission Of Inquiry

Meanwhile, in a two-page press release signed by the Coordinator of ACAT-Littoral, Madeleine Afite, the President of the "Ligues des Droits et de Libertés", Charly Tcikanda, and the Secretary General of the "Union des Syndicats Libres du Cameroun", Mbom Mefe, the Observatory calls on the international community to get the regime to set up a judicial commission of inquiry into the February 2008 demonstrations and its bloody suppression.

It also urges the regime to immediately release those still in detention as well as pay compensation to families that lost their loved ones as a result of the brutal suppression.

Challenge To Amadou Ali

Afite also told The Post that she is willing to face the Vice Prime Minister in charge of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, Amadou Ali, in a live TV programme to debate on the human rights situation in the country.

She said following the recent publication of a report by Amnesty International, which indicted Cameroon for its deplorable human rights situation, Amadou Ali accused the Observatory of having provided the information to Amnesty International.

However, Afite said she saw nothing wrong with the Amnesty International report.

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