Freed Cameroon opposition leader eyes poll reforms

Tuesday October 8 2019

Cameroon opposition leader Maurice Kamto sits in the back of a car as he is driven away on October 5, 2019, the day of his release from prison in Yaoundé. PHOTO | STRINGER | AFP

Cameroon opposition leader Maurice Kamto is driven away on October 5, 2019 after release from prison in Yaoundé. Prof. Kamto says he will intensify his fight against electoral fraud and injustice. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NDI EUGENE NDI
By NDI EUGENE NDI
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A Cameroonian opposition leader who was released from jail on Saturday following a presidential amnesty has vowed to intensify his fight against electoral fraud and injustice in the country.

Prof Maurice Kamto, president of Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) and more than a hundred militants of the political outfit were freed when President Paul Biya asked military tribunals in the country to halt their prosecution.

Addressing supporters at his Yaounde residence shortly after his release, the fearless opposition leader promised that "the real battle is yet to start."

“A new chapter of our battle has just opened. If some people think that the release is the end of the battle, then they have not understood anything because we have not achieved anything from what we are demanding,” Kamto said.

On Friday, the Minister of State, Secretary General at the Cameroon Presidency, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh said in a statement that president Biya had ordered their release as part of his “constant resolve to promote an atmosphere of peace, fraternity and concord.”

Friday’s decision followed a similar act a day before, discontinuing proceedings against some 333 detainees arrested in connection to the crisis that has engulfed the country’s two English speaking regions for over two years now.

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Both decisions followed a major national dialogue in the country which aimed at ending the crisis in the English speaking regions among other things.

Prof Kamto, who declared himself winner of last year’s presidential election, was arrested late January alongside several other militants of his party for organising and participating in what government termed unauthorised street protests.

The demos to protest “electoral fraud,” christened “white marches”, were violently suppressed by security forces leaving at least six people with bullet wounds.

The opposition leader claims his victory was stolen in official results that showed him a distant second with 14.23 per cent to President Paul Biya who won a seventh term with 71.3 per cent.

Important step

The discontinuation of legal proceedings against Prof. Kamto and the activists has received support from the UN, the AU, the EU and the US who hope it will create the goodwill needed to resolve the crisis especially in anglophone Cameroon.

"President Biya's decision to stop military court proceedings against several leaders and activists of political parties and movements, including the ‘Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun’ and its president, Maurice Kamto, represents an important gesture of appeasement,” the EU said in a statement on Monday.

“It is likely to facilitate the search for solutions to the challenges faced by the country," EU spokesperson, Maja Kocijancic said.

UN Secretary general Antonio Guterres encouraged President Biya to continue to adopt further confidence building and reconciliation measures.

Smail Chergui, African Union (AU) Commissioner for Peace and Security described the amnesty as an “important step in the resolution of the crisis in the Northwest and Southwest and reconciliation in Cameroon.”

The US said the amnesty affirmedthe government’s commitment to respect for fundamental freedoms.

“We hope further measures will be taken in the wake of the recently concluded National Dialogue, leading to the restoration of peace in the Northwest and Southwest Regions,” the US embassy in Yaounde said.

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