In troubled Cameroon, the trial of prominent lawyer and human rights activist Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla has again been adjourned after a Thursday appearance before a military tribunal in Yaounde.
Agbor-Balla, leader of the Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, was arrested in January when the government under President Paul Biya outlawed the group, as was consortium co-leader Dr. Fontem Neba.
The arrests came as the Anglophone movement was gaining traction among lawyers, doctors and other professionals seeking to address the political and social marginalization they say that English-speaking citizens of Cameroon experience in the predominantly Francophone West African nation.
Those longstanding divisions arise in part from the colonial legacy of the West African nation.
A third Anglophone activist, Mancho Bibixy, was arrested after making a public speech in November. An attempt on Thursday to add another 25 defendants to their trials, despite the absence of any real relationship to these three defendants, was rejected by their defense attorneys.
All three defendants are prominent among those who, since the protests and general strikes began in October, have faced detention and arrest. Cameroon authorities also have interfered with journalists and Internet access, and multiple deaths have been reported. The situation has drawn the attention of the international community as well as human rights groups.
Agbor-Balla faces charges of fomenting revolution, incitement to civil war and “hostilities against the Fatherland,” all charges that the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) says are serious and alarming. The London-based global organization also has expressed concern over the fairness of Agbor-Balla’s trial, citing the rule of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights that forbids military courts to have jurisdiction over civilian activities.
The next court date is scheduled for April 7.
Image: CCLA File