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Cameroon: Jubilation in Yaoundé after liberation of Maurice Kamto

By Franck Foute, in Yaoundé
Posted on Monday, 7 October 2019 08:01

The opponent Maurice Kamto, 8 October 2018 in Yaoundé, before his arrest on Monday 28 January © REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Activists from the Movement for the Revival of Cameroon (MRC) celebrated until late at night on Saturday, October 5, the release of their leader, Maurice Kamto.

“I will never betray you!” These were the first words spoken by the opponent Maurice Kamto, a few hours after his release from the main prison in Kondengui where he had been imprisoned more than eight months earlier.

Faced with a large crowd of activists, sympathizers and curious onlookers surrounding his home, President Paul Biya’s challenger for the 2018 presidential elections took the opportunity to set a new political course.

  • “The great task before us is the struggle for the respect of human rights and a reliable electoral system (…) I am counting on you to ensure that we carry out this task in a peaceful manner,” said Maurice Kamto.

He did not however mention his “plan for peaceful resistance”, a movement he had initiated in December 2018 to challenge the results of the last presidential election, where he was proclaimed second after Paul Biya.

“Things don’t always work out the way you want them to.”

“The day you vote me into power, I will go and lead Cameroon. You already did it on October 7, but things don’t always go as planned,” he said, during this improvised meeting.

Will the intense negotiations that led to his release make the opponent pull his punches? He strongly denies it: “If some people think that being released is the end of the struggle, then they have not understood anything, because we have not obtained anything from what we were asking for,” the opposition leader told a jubilant audience.

Maurice Kamto returned home shortly after this speech, as did the 102 others released.

  • Mamadou Mota, previously sentenced to two years in prison for his involvement in the Kondengui mutiny, is the only one who has not been released.

The politico-judicial battle that has been waged since the arrest of the MRC militants does not stop there, however, and the plea for the release of the other militants who have remained in prison has already begun.

“My comrade and sound engineer is still in prison, so I’m not totally happy,” said Gaston Abe Abe Abe, known as Valsero, at the end of the hearing on his release. “We hope that the President of the Republic will extend this measure to other detainees who are on trial or who have been convicted in other jurisdictions,” said lawyer Emmanuel Simh, noting that several hundred activists remain detained in various prisons across the country.

An internationally-acclaimed decision

The release of Maurice Kamto and his allies has been strongly welcomed by the international community. In a statement signed by his spokesperson, the UN Secretary-General said he was “encouraged by President Paul Biya’s decision”, and urged the Cameroonian authorities “to continue to adopt more confidence and reconciliation measures”.

  • In Yaoundé, the U.S. Embassy congratulated the decision, calling for “additional measures” following the recently concluded national dialogue to restore peace in the English-speaking regions.

In an interview with RFI on 6 October, the Minister of Communication said that the released persons must “get back on the right track, and engage in politics within the framework of the Republic’s laws and regulations”. “They must stop carrying out insurrection, and stop contesting things which are indisputable”, he added.

 

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