The detained leader of the Anglophone Civil Society Consortium looked unperturbed, while Mancho BBC sang a freedom song as he walked into the court
A cemetery silence swept across a hitherto boisterous premises of the Yaounde Military Tribunal at about 10:30 this morning; as the wailing sirens of a prison minibus faded into the courtyard. A parking space immediately gaped out of a crowd of lawyers, pressmen, military officers and family members of detainees,.
The minus drove into the space, followed by a military pick-up truck that escorted it. Soldiers wearing ski masks sat inside and at the back of the truck, heavily armed.
Barrister Felix Agbor ‘Balla’ Kongho smiled and raised a clenched fist (the Power Fist repesenting unity, resistance, defiance and solidarity) at onlookers as soon as the door of the minibus was pulled opened. Two daughters and two sons of his looked on from the crowd. He chatted for a few seconds with another occupant at the back of the bus before stepping out. When he stepped out, Mancho Bibixy, another influential activist arrested and accused of the same crimes as Balla, followed.
Rowdiness suddenly embraced the courtyard as both suspects struggled to make their way into the court room. Security officers stretched their arms as they tried to create a human fence on both sides of the path of the activists. Some of them did so in bid to block lawyers from shaking hands with their detained colleague. Others struggled to block pressmen from taking pictures or talking to the activists. “Only the state media is allowed to film” they said.
Some of the lawyers however managed to shake hands with Barrister Agbor ‘Balla’ while others tapped Mancho BBC on the back.
Mancho Bibixy, dressed in the North West regalia which has been repeatedly worn by Cameroonian delegations to the several editions of the Olympic games, kept singing as he walked in. “Home again; home again; when shall I see my home? When shall I see my native land? I will never forget my home;” he sang as he walked into the courtroom.
31 suspects in court
A few minutes after the arrival of the duo from the Secretariat of State for defence, SED, a prison truck drove in. Out of it came about 25 detainees from the Yaounde Central Prison in the Kondengui neighbourhood.
The suspects, some of whom were arrested since December last year, were all handcuffed. Some of them won’t look at the crowd while those who did had teary eyes. Family members looked on helplessly.
Noella, who stood outside the courtroom with her father, told Journal du Cameroun she has not seen her brother, Tata Elvis for months, since he and his friend Stephen were arrested at Mile 4 Bamenda and transferred to Yaounde overnight.
“I was not in court last time. I have just seen him walked in. He saw us standing here” she said, trying to hold back tears. Our mother has also not seen him for months. We all hope this will be over and we will have him home.
At about midday, the court was yet to begin the hearing. We learned Dr. Fontem Neba of the University of Buea lecturers’ syndicate was yet to be brought to the court. One of the over 100 lawyers defending the activists told Journal du Cameroun, that the trial may not begin until all the suspects of the Anglophone crisis, programed for hearing today are present.
All the detainees arrested in relation to the on-going protests in the North West and South West region face accusations related to terrorism alongside additional charges such as rebellion, contempt of state officials, lack of ID cards etc.
A few activists from the Human Rights Defenders Network in Central Africa, REDHAC could be seen distributing bandannas to sympathisers at the courtyard. Meanwhile a truckload of police officers wearing helmets and holding batons, stood ready outside the military court. We will bring you updates as the trial unfolds