Over 1600 Arrests So Far

March 7th, 2008 by bobebill

Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

7 March 2008
By Nkendem Forbinake

Amadou Ali says every action being taken is within the framework of the law.

The Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals Amadou Ali yesterday stepped in a most salutary manner to stop the running rumours about generalized arrests in the country following last week’s social upheavals in Cameroon. In a press briefing held in the third floor conference room of the Ministry yesterday morning, a confident Amadou Ali announced that as at February 27, 2008, some 1671 arrests had been made across the country broken down as follows: Centre province, 400; Littoral, 671; North West, 220; South West, 100 and West, 280. These figures, the Vice Prime Minister said had been communicated to him by the Procureurs Generals of the various provinces concerned. He said the arrests had been made following instructions given out to judicial police officers by the Procureurs general by virtue of Article 103 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Mr Amadou Ali said in matters of preliminary investigation, two types of procedure can be used: the simple procedure and the flagrante delicto. The simple procedure system can be initiated by any judicial police officer on the instructions of the State Counsel or by a complaint by an affected person.

The flagrante delicto system, under which the recent arrests were made, is activated when a crime is being committed or when it has just been committed or, after the commission of a crime, there is public clamour or when after such a crime, the suspect is found in possession of incriminating objects.

Under this system, 25 individuals were arraigned before the Yaounde-Ekounou Court of First Instance on February 28. Of this number 12 pleaded guilty and were sentenced to two years in prison while the 13 others asked for adjournements. At the Yaounde-Centre Administratif Court of First Instance there were 281 suspects. 18 persons pleaded guilty when hearing opened on February 29, 2008. They received prison sentences ranging from 15 months to three years.

In Douala, II people received sentences ranging from seven months to one year at the Douala-Bonanjo Court of First Instance. The same court acquitted 22 arrested suspects. In the Douala-Ndokoti Court in the same city 48 persons received prison sentences between six months two years while 17 were acquitted.

In Nkongsamba, of the nine persons brought before the court last March 4, 2008, two were acquitted, six sentenced to prison terms between four and 16 months while one case is pending. In neighbouring Mbanga, the six arrested persons brought before the court last Wednesday were each sentenced to 18 months in prison.

In Limbe in the South West Province, two of the six persons brought before the Court of First Instance were acquitted while four received sentences of six to eight months. In Tombel, three people appeared before the court on Wednesday, March 5. One was acquitted while two others were fined CFA 50 000 or an imprisonment term of six months.

The Vice Prime Minister said investigations were still underway in Buea, Tiko, Bamenda, Kumbo, Kumba, Dschang and Bafang. He said all proceedings were bing carried out in strict respect of the Criminal Procedure Code. In Yaounde specifically, Mr Amadou Ali said proceedings are being held in public, with defence counsels and are covered by journalists.

The Minister insisted on the legal character of what has happened so far, insisting that all sentenced people have a right to appeal.

Following the Vice Prime Minister’s introductory remarks, journalists sought to know why the judgements had been so expeditious and if the people pulling the strings had actually been identified. To this, Mr Amadou Ali said in such events, the immediate concern of the public authorities is to stop disorder first. He said in a state in which the rule of law reigns such as Cameroon, the responsibility of determining whoever were behind the upheavals devolves on the specialized security services. But he was quick to say that most of the arrested people are an important source of information for those investigating the matter. The Justice Minister said although no names were yet handy, there was no doubt that the behind-the-scene perpetrators of the disorder really exist. To buttress his point, he revealed that a number of youths had been arrested as they made their way up to the northern provinces to incite disorder.

Mr Amadou Ali also took exception with some news organs which gave the impression that the social upheaval had gripped the whole country “I can assure you, he said, that only five of the ten country’s provinces were affected; and even in some of the affected provinces, some divisions were not involved, such as Nkam and the Sanaga Maritime in the Littoral; Lebialem, Kupe Muaneguba, Manyu and Ndian in the South West; Nde in the West etc.”

He said although the press had started identifying some of the hidden faces, it was the sole responsibility of the justice delivery system to do such a job. “In matters of justice, only facts count, not rumours”, the VPM counseled.

The press briefing was held in the presence of the Minister of Communication Jean Pierre Biyiti bi Essam, the Minister delegate in the Ministry of Justice, Maurice Kamto and the Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice in charge of Penitentiary Administration Emmanuel Ngafesson.