A military tribunal in Cameroon this week sentenced 47 opposition party members to between one and seven years in jail for rebellion and attempted insurrection. Police arrested the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, or MRC, supporters in September 2020 while they were planning protests against the 40-year-rule of President Paul Biya.
More than 20 supporters of the opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) on Wednesday morning stood in front of MRC leader Maurice Kamto’s house.
They told a reporter they are waiting to hear from Kamto after a Yaoundé military tribunal this week sentenced 47 of his supporters to up to seven years in jail.
The tribunal on Monday and Tuesday sentenced the 47 opposition party members to between one and seven years in jail for attempted insurrection.
The MRC party’s spokesperson, treasurer, coordinator, and president of the women’s wing were among those given seven-year terms.
41-year-old bread seller Emmanuel Koanye was among those condemning the prison terms.
He says it is very wrong and abnormal for authorities, who claim they are democratic, to order the arrest and sentencing of people who simply expressed their democratic opinions. Koanye says they are expecting Maurice Kamto, head of the MRC party, to give directives on what should be done to press for the release of the jailed opposition supporters.
Cameroonian police arrested the opposition members in September 2020 while they were planning protests against President Paul Biya’s long stay in power.
Biya has ruled Cameroon for four decades, making him Africa’s second longest ruling leader.
Kamto claims he won the October 2018 presidential election in Cameroon and that Biya stole his victory.
More than 500 civilians who protested the crackdown also were arrested.
The MRC says more than 120 are still being held in prisons across Cameroon.
When contacted by VOA, MRC officials refused to comment on this week’s sentencing of their members.
President of the opposition United Socialist Democratic Party (USDP) Prince Ekosso witnessed the military tribunal’s sentencing.
Ekosso says the ruling shows that Biya will crush opponents to maintain his grip on power.
“It is so disturbing that in Cameroon laws are made to suit the caprices of individuals, to carry out intimidation and arbitrary arrests and sentencing of individuals,” Ekosso said. “Laws are supposed to be made to protect the individuals, to protect the citizens, and to help those citizens to emancipate.”
The USDP and MRC have been pressing for a change in Cameroon’s electoral code, which the opposition parties say favors President Biya.
MRC leader Kamto said they plan to mobilize supporters to protest peacefully for electoral reforms in Cameroon from January 9.
Cameroon is hosting the month-long Africa Football Cup of Nations, the continent’s premier soccer tournament, from January 9.
Cameroon’s territorial administration minister Paul Atanga Nji says authorities will not allow protests to release jailed opposition leaders or change the electoral code.
Nji says Cameroon will not tolerate the disorder the government is aware MRC supporters, and their leader Maurice Kamto, are planning. He says any MRC supporters and leaders who attempt to violate Cameroonian’s laws will be arrested and face charges in court.
Rights group Amnesty International accuses the Biya government of relentless repression of opposition members.
In January 2019, authorities detained Kamto and several hundred of his supporters for insisting that Biya stole the 2018 presidential election.
International pressure led Biya to pardon Kamto, but only after he had spent nine months in prison.