Feb 20, 2007

Southern Cameroons: Prisoners on Hunger Strike

“If we cannot be released on bail, we should at least be charged and arraigned in court, so that the world should see how the Cameroonian judiciary functions,” say the 12 detainees, including Nfor Ngala Nfor, warning of a hunger strike to protest their rights’ violations.

UNPO strongly denounces the arrest and continued detention of UNPO Member representative Nfor Ngala Nfor in Southern Cameroons, and UNPO Members worldwide have expressed their condemnation to Cameroon’s President Biya. “If we cannot be released on bail, we should at least be charged and arraigned in court, so that the world should see how the Cameroonian judiciary functions,” say the 12 detainees, including Nfor Ngala Nfor, warning of a hunger strike to protest their rights’ violations, in a recent letter issued from behind bars.


The Hague, 16 February 2007 – UNPO had provided the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention with further details of the cases of Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) representatives held in detention in Bamenda, in the wake of the mass arrest on 20 January 2007.

The individuals that remain in detention, with none released on bail, are as follows: Nfor Ngala Nfor (54), Mbinglo H. Humphrey (65), Tantoh Simon Nshukwi (65), Achu Nji David (56), Stephen Kongnso (45), Dzeni Augustine Shieyntum (36), Henry Lamnyam (35), Lucas Ngwa Che (57), Nguemu Clement Atanga (60), Mongo Steven (43), Mbi Ann Rita (60), and Asunkwan Samuel Ngeiwih (65).

All were arrested at a press conference in Bamenda, Southern Cameroons, on 20 January 2007, with the exception of Asunkwan Samuel Ngeiwih who was arrested on the earlier date of 29 December 2006. Following initial dispersion, all individuals were transferred to Bamenda Central Prison on 22 January 2007.

According to our reports, none of these individuals have as of yet been formally charged with any crime. Attempts at bail hearings have proved unsuccessful, with initial scheduled hearings adjourned until 13 February 2007, at which point they were adjourned further until 20 February 2007. All detainees have expressed their intention to go on a one-day hunger strike today 16 February 2007, appealing for their overdue bail hearings to proceed now as scheduled.

UNPO denounces in the strongest terms this unabated show of disrespect for basic international human rights law, continues to appeal for the immediate release of Nfor Ngala Nfor and calls for La Republique du Cameroun to act according to its obligations and guarantee due legal process.

For more information posted on the UNPO website click here

Hunger Strike Announced

UNPO has also received a copy of the letter dated 14 February 2007 issued by the detainees to the Chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms in Yaounde, titled: “Protest Against the Gross Abuse of Our Civil and Political Rights”. The letter details the course of events and the injustice suffered by the detainees, who have now been held without charge for almost a month.

Extracts of the letter follow below:

“We, the SCNC detainees presently languishing in the Bamenda Central Prison, were singly and collectively arrested without warrant by Police and Gendarmes between 29 December 2006 and 20 January 2007 in Bamenda.

First of all Mr Ngiewih Asunkwan, National Communication Secretary of the SCNC was arbitrarily arrested on 29 December 2006, and successively detained at the GMI Police Station and the Judicial Police Stations, before being taken to the State Counsel, who without examining the reasons for his arrest, immediately signed a remand warrant for him.  Mr. Asunkwan has since been incarcerated at the Bamenda Central Prison where he has been denied bail.

On 20 January 2007, a Press Conference was organized at the SCNC Secretariat on Cow Street in Bamenda, aimed at affording Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor - SCNC National Vice Chairman, and Chair, Foreign Affairs Commission - an opportunity to inform the national and international communities of the European, Asian and American shuttle visits he had just undertaken on behalf of the SCNC.

When Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor was just about to end his preliminary press statement, Gendarmes invaded the precincts of the office, disrupted the Press Conference and violently dispersed the over 400 people who attended the occasion.

Well over five-dozen people were brutalized and many arrests conducted in the guise that the Press Conference was unauthorized and thus illegal.

It is worthwhile pointing out that the arrests without warrant and during a peaceful assembly in private premises, was in total disregard of the new Criminal Procedure Code, which went into effect on 1 January 2007, especially the Sections which make State Counsels, the only legal authorities to issue warrants of arrest.  More so, the arrests took place on a Saturday, which also contravenes the much talked about Code that also makes arrests on weekends illegal.

From the various detention centers, Dr. Nfor Nfor, Hitler Mbinglo, Stephen Kongnso, Simon Tantoh, Henry Lamnyam, Stephen Mongo, Che Ngwa, Clement Atanga, Ms. Mbi Anne Rita, etc joined Mr. Asunkwan in prison and were remanded in custody at the Bamenda Central Prison on 22 January 2007.  Ever since, all attempts by our legal counsels to release us on bail have been abortive and it is apparent that the judiciary, which is tied to the apron strings of the executive, has done everything either to delay or deny us justice. So far we have not been charged to court and if prompt action is not taken to enable our rights to be redressed, we are likely to continue to languish in detention indefinitely.

If we cannot be released on bail, we should at least be charged and arraigned in court, so that the world should see how the Cameroonian judiciary functions.

Mr. Chairman, we are [..] utterly dissatisfied with the dilly-dallying of the judiciary in a matter, which affects our fundamental rights as this confirms the fact that justice delayed is justice denied.

In consideration of our plight and prolonged suffering orchestrated by the third estate of the realm, we urge you to promptly intervene in this matter of our arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, physical, mental and psychological torture, in order to ensure our immediate release so that we can go about our affairs in tranquillity, peace and freedom.

We wish to inform you that we have tolerated enough of the violations of our rights for too long and since patience is not inelastic, we have therefore resolved to undertake the following actions to push our points across:

1)  On Friday 16 February 2007, we will stage a one-day hunger strike to draw the attention of the administrative and judiciary services to our dilemma and grievances.

2)  We are optimistic that with your intervention, our motion for bail will come up on 20 February as stated. If we are not granted bail or charged to court on that day, we will then embark on an indefinite hunger strike until when justice is granted or seen to be granted us as prescribed by international norms.

We seize this opportunity to appeal to the international community to bring pressure to bear on the Cameroon government to respect its human rights obligations vis à vis its citizens by allowing them the right to the enjoyment of their basic human rights as stipulated by international humanitarian law [..].”



Names of Petitioners:

(A)   Detainees of December 2006 and January 2007

1. Nfor Ngala Nfor

2. Mbinglo H. Humphrey

3. Tantoh Simon Nshukwi

4. Achu Nji David

5. Kongnso Stephen

6. Dzeni Augustine Shieyntum

7. Henry Lamnyam

8. Ngwa Che Lucas

9. Nguemu Clement Atanga

10. Mongo Steven

11. Mbi Ann Rita

12. Asunkwan Samuel Ngeiwih (Arrested 29th December 2006)


(B)  SCNC Convicts of 1997 Transferred to Bamenda

1. Khan Zacharia Ndifet

2. Ngek Simon Kwei

3. Atambum Geh Sama

4. Mngoh Job Bulewa

5. Njakoy Charles Chin

6. Fonkwa Thomas Chin

7. Lukong Hassan Jumbam

8. Edwin Jumven

9. Tata Roland (Buea)

10. Edwin Limfonyuy (Bafoussam)