Imprisoned leaders have ended a hunger strike after 10 days, having achieved most of the demands set forth. Imprisoned leaders maintain that all brothers who have been whisked away to other jails must be immediately returned, and that all illegally detained Ambazonian prisoners must be released. Solidarity is needed from the international community to attend to the urgent health needs and prevent further injury of the prisoners.
On July 22 & 23, Cameroon military attacked peaceful protests by Ambazonian prisoners being held in several Cameroon-controlled prisons, killing four and injuring over 75. They then removed protest leaders — including journalists and teacher union leaders — to secret locations where they were tortured severely. In response to this, other imprisoned leaders initiated a hunger strike on July 30th, demanding that the missing prisoners be returned in sound health and that every prisoner be allowed to be seen by their lawyers. Read Strike Declaration Here
Among the strikers was Sisiku AyukTabe Julius, President of the Interim Government of Ambazonia, who is known for championing nonviolent tactics.
The strike has been successful in achieving most of its demands. Four days following the beginning of the strike, the protest leaders were returned to Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé and at least 80 prisoners were allowed to see their lawyers. Since then the other missing prisoners have gradually been located. At writing, a handful of prisoners have still not seen lawyers because they have been removed to other detention centers that are a distance from Yaoundé, where their lawyers are based.
The prisoners who have been returned have extensive injuries from severe torture. Documented injuries include missing teeth, gashes to the head, broken limbs and twisted joints. Barrister Njong Henry Tita, regional coordinator for the defense of persons arrested within the context of the Anglophone crisis in the South West Region of Cameroon, reports that many prisoners are not receiving needed medical care, and that the government is trying to cover up the atrocity.
Prisoners reported that, during their absence, their beds were taken and when they returned they had nowhere to sleep. Later they reported that their collective action had resolved this situation:
“Hello we have gained our beds back and all rights restored to us after a massive protest stopping the prison activities for 4 hours with the superintendent in chief finally we gained our space long live Ambazonia we will not stop ⛔ fighting”
On August 5, the case against Sisiku AyukTabe and 9 of his senior aids was adjourned until August 19 due to poor health of the accused. This action was taken after nearly 8 hours of argumentation and noncooperation on the part of the accused and their lawyers, including a walk-out by lawyers to protest what they described as “the intransigence of the judges and their insensitivity to the plight of their clients.”
The motive for attack and the torture are clearly the suppression of the ability of the Ambazonian prisoners to provide leadership to the movement. The initial attack followed the initiation of a coordinated protest by prisoners to highlight the needs of schoolchildren in the war-torn region, and to demand improved living conditions. But through this ordeal, respect for the prisoners is growing. “It’s becoming absolutely clear that Prisoners of Conscience are leaders of free people,” tweeted one commentator.
Imprisoned leaders maintain that all brothers who have been whisked away to other jails must be immediately returned, and that all illegally detained Ambazonian prisoners must be released.
Solidarity is needed to attend to the urgent health needs and prevent further injury of the prisoners. APOCS is calling for the following actions:
1. Call or visit the Cameroonian and French embassies in your country. Express extreme concern for the lives of the Ambazonian prisoners, ask that they immediately contact prison officials and confirm that they are attending to all medical needs of the prisoners that have arisen from the torture and the hunger strike, have taken steps to ensure that all prisoners have been able to meet with their lawyers since the protest and attack, and are returning all prisoners who were removed to other facilities.
2. Call your legislators and ask them to support sanctions and funding cuts to Cameroon for excessive and persistent human rights violations and war crimes against unarmed civilians in Ambazonia.
3. Unite behind demand for a UN-mandated Fact-Finding Mission to investigate the alleged human rights abuses that have taken place during the Ambazonia–Cameroon Conflict. As explained in Point #3 in a statement issued on July 24, Ambazonian Vice President Darby Yerima: "The Cameroon regime cannot be trusted to investigate itself,” he explained, “and PR-driven 'tours' negotiated amicably with those orchestrating this brutality are not a substitute for international tools of accountability. A UN-mandated Fact Finding Mission has the authority to challenge the culture of impunity that the Cameroon regime currently operates within, and such accountability is a prerequisite for achieving a just peace." Read Full Statement
4. Share this article with human rights and prison solidarity activists that you know.
- August 7: Statement form Vice President Yerima on Day 8 of Hunger Strike
- July 31: Press Statement given by Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
- July 30: Declaration of Hunger Strike
- July 24: Initial APOCS report on the July 22 Attack