Amnesty International issued an appeal Thursday on behalf of Cameroonian opposition leader Maurice Kamto, who is expected in military court today on charges which carry the death penalty.
Kamto, head of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), is in the first group of 131 people who were arrested in January and charged with rebellion, incitement to insurrection and other serious charges.
“It is horrifying that the Cameroonian authorities are considering sentencing Maurice Kamto to death simply for daring to participate in a peaceful protest,” said Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa regional director. “He is one of many people who have been caught up in a wave of mass arrests as authorities attempt to silence their critics.”
Kamto, a former presidential candidate, has been detained since January 28 in the latest crackdown under President Paul Biya’s government. Kamto received 14.2 percent of the vote, according to Cameroon’s electoral commission ELECAM, when Biya’s re-election victory in October was cast under claims of fraud and repression.
He accused Biya’s regime of intimidating MRC voters and publicly using hate speech to incite ethnic violence, and said the government was “orchestrating provocation” in order to blame it on the MRC coalition. Kamto also has said that as Cameroonians and the world call for dialogue, the government’s repressive response is unnecessary.
The West African nation has edged toward civil war since October 2016, when activists led by Cameroon’s lawyers, teachers and doctors began publicly pressing for reforms. They wanted to address the political, economic and social frustrations of Anglophone communities, tied to a cultural rift that dates to the colonial era in the primarily French-speaking nation.
The 86-year-old Biya, now president since 1982, has sought to crush a movement that has escalated in some regions into armed separatist conflicts.
Image: Maurice Kamto