A military tribunal in Cameroon this week sentenced 47 members of the opposition party to between one and seven years in prison for insurgency and attempted rebellion. Police arrested Cameroonian Renaissance Movement, or MRC, supporters in September 2020 while planning protests against the 40-year rule of President Paul Biya.
More than 20 supporters of the opposition Cameroonian Renaissance Movement (MRC) stand in front of MRC leader Maurice Kamato’s house on Wednesday morning.
He told a reporter he was awaiting a hearing from Kamto after the Yaonde military tribunal this week sentenced 47 of his supporters to up to seven years in prison.
On Monday and Tuesday, the tribunal sentenced 47 members of the opposition party to between one and seven years in prison for attempted rebellion.
The spokesperson, treasurer, coordinator and president of the women’s wing of the MRC party were given a seven-year term.
Bread seller Emmanuel Konya, 41, was among those condemned to prison terms.
He says it is very wrong and unusual for authorities, who claim they are democracies, to order the arrest and punishment of people who only expressed their democratic opinion. Konya says he is expecting MRC party chief Maurice Kamato to do what should be done to press for the release of jailed opposition supporters.
Cameroonian police arrested opposition members in September 2020 while planning a protest against President Paul Biya’s long-standing in power.
Biya ruled Cameroon for four decades, making him the second longest-serving leader in Africa.
Kamato claims that he won the October 2018 presidential election in Cameroon and that Biya stole his victory.
Over 500 civilians who opposed the action were also arrested.
The MRC says more than 120 are still held in Cameroonian prisons.
When contacted by the VOA, MRC officials declined to comment on the sentencing of its members this week.
Prince Akoso, chairman of the opposition United Socialist Democratic Party (USDP), looked at the military tribunal’s conviction.
Ekoso says the ruling shows that Biya will crush opponents to maintain her grip on power.
“It is so disturbing that the laws in Cameroon are tailored to the individual’s preferences, from intimidation and arbitrary arrest and punishment to individuals,” Akoso said. “Laws must be made to protect individuals, to protect citizens, and to help those citizens achieve emancipation.”
The USDP and the MRC have been pressing for changes to Cameroon’s electoral code, which opposition parties say favor President Biya.
MRC leader Kamato said they plan to mobilize supporters to peacefully protest for electoral reforms in Cameroon from January 9.
Cameroon is hosting the month-long Africa Football Cup of Nations, the continent’s premier football tournament, since 9 January.
Cameroon’s regional administration minister Paul Atanga Nzi says authorities will not allow the protests to release jailed opposition leaders or change the electoral code.
Nji says Cameroon will not tolerate the chaos that the government knows MRC supporters and their leader Maurice Kamto are planning. He says any MRC supporters and leaders who attempt to violate Cameroonian laws will be arrested and face charges in court.
Rights group Amnesty International accused the Biya government of relentless repression of opposition members.
In January 2019, authorities detained Kamato and several hundred of his supporters for alleged that Biya stole the 2018 presidential election.
Biya pardoned Kamto due to international pressure, but only after spending nine months in prison.