Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Anti-terror law will not curtail civil disobedience—Hon. Mbah Ndam

Yaounde, Cameroon—Many Cameroonians think the recently adopted law on the suppression of acts of terrorism by parliament deprives Cameroonians of their right to voice dissent. But reputed lawyer, legal adviser of the SDF, MP and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Joseph Mbah Ndam says that is not the case. Cameroonians need not be glum about the law as it does not restrain civil disobedience, strikes and street protests, he argues.
Hon. Joseph Mbah Ndam

With Cameroon being threatened by recurring Boko Haram onslaughts, Hon Mbah Ndam says the law will be a great boost to the fight against the terrorist group. Though he censured President Paul Biya for not acting on time to prevent terrorism, the MP thinks the law will undo the mess that the dreaded Nigerian sect has made of some parts of northern Cameroon.
The MP spoke to our reporter Ndi Eugene Ndi in Yaounde, read on
News Watch—Hon.Most Cameroonians are of the opinion that the recently adopted law by parliament on the suppression of acts of terrorism has killed their freedom. What is your take on this?
Hon. Mbah Ndam—I  think Cameroonians are justified in their apprehension because when you look back into the history of our nation, certain events have occurred which when you talk about any law on terrorism, it causes ghost pimples on the hands and faces of Cameroonians. We know of the 1962 ordinances, the 1972 ordinance on suppression of terrorism. These laws frightened Cameroonians when they think that they are about to be brought back because it is only when the SDF broke the ground in 1990 and launched another political party that we were able to have the liberty laws of that very December 1990 that abolished these dangerous laws in our nation. Prior to 1990, the military tribunal was a kind of tribunal because during the 6th April 1984 attempt to take over government by force, the military tribunal was a tribunal of exception; it tried people in the morning and executed in the evening and it sufficed for you to have been taxed of subversion before even 1984 for you to disappear. There were those laws that were used to crush the nationalists’ movements towards independence. So haven come out of that situation, everybody feels that this law is exactly that very situation, I want to beg to differ.
News Watch—What therefore is the content of this law?
Hon. Mbah Ndam—The content of that law is not what it is that Cameroonians are taking. It has not deprived Cameroonians of their right to public manifestation; it has not deprived political parties of holding public rallies and manifestations against evils committed by the government. It has not limited the right of anybody, so if this government misbehaves in torturing Cameroonians, or to suppress Cameroonians of their rights, it will not be because we voted this law. It will be that it is acting in its usual characteristics manner that it has cause Cameroonians to suffer over 32 years. When you read Section 1 sub section 2 of this law it says that the provisions of the penal code, the criminal procedure code and the military justice code are still applicable so far as they are not repugnant to this law. This means that it guarantees virtually all due process. Secondly, the military tribunal that exists in Cameroon today is no longer that murderous military tribunal of old.
News Watch—How is the military court of today different from that of old?
Hon. Mbah Ndam—Let me give an example, when we were clamouring that these laws should be repealed by Ahidjo, he never wanted until he was tried by them and he had to run Cameroon and die outside. Our fight since 1990 brought liberty and freedom and now if you were to be charged of offences provided by this law and you are to go before the military tribunal, one guarantee you have there first is that they are trained magistrates even though they are military people who are sitting there. Secondly any decision of theirs is subject to appeal to the regional court of appeal where you will have civil magistrates sitting. Any decision by that civil magistrate or the civil appeal court that does not satisfy you, you have the right to go to the Supreme Court and even if you are condemned to dead after the Supreme Court decision, there is still there is still the application for grace, for mercy by the head of state, so I want to say it is due process that exists. Secondly if you were to be arrested that you were marching, it must be proven that you were carrying out a terrorist act and what constitutes a terrorist act is a question of law, of international law. It is not just a mere murderer that becomes a terrorist; you must be proven that you have committed a terrorist act as defined by international law.  And all the terrorist organizations in the world are known, somebody must show that you belong to one of those terrorist movements.
News Watch—How does this law relate to Boko Haram?
Hon. Mbah Ndam—Book Haram has recently been recognized as a terrorist movement, so for you to be prosecuted in Cameroon, it must be shown that the acts you have performed are terrorist acts and that you belong to Boko Haram. So when I will wear my sache from here and ask my colleagues for us to go out into the streets and march against the rejection of our private members’ bill we will not become terrorists for that is not what terrorism means. So you see that if you and I agree, politics aside, that what is happening in the Far North region where terrorists are carrying incursions into the country where schools have not yet resumed, villages have been displaced, if we love our people, then those who are carrying out those acts should be punished and you cannot punish them when you don’t have a law.
News Watch—Are you insinuating that the law will rather serve us in the fight against Boko Haram?
Hon. Mbah Ndam—It will serve us greatly. For example, if I was to open my laptop, I will show you the world map for you to see how the world is fighting terrorism and that all indications of where terrorists are found are the concern of the world. Cameroon is not yet included because we had not yet ratified the conventions, as lazy as Biya is, one of the conventions dates to 1999, he has only sent it to us during this session because the shoe has pinched him. He thought that terrorism was an affair of other people. And we are not included in the realm of those who can seek international assistance in terms of fighting terrorism because we had no legislation for it. Times have changed, for us to fight that movement that is going up North, it will cost us a lot and this government is responsible because when we used to say that this country should developed equitably, they decided to concentrated resources only in certain areas. What is happening is that your illiterate brothers and sisters and the youths of the North who have been put under abject poverty; when you get into the Far North, you discover that fellow Cameroonians are living like animals. You find people whom all they own in their life are the small mat they hold in their hand that they can put somewhere and sleep. You find areas that they do not even know that they belong to Cameroon. But you have these big guns who come from there and parade here whereas the background is rottened. So when Boko Haram came and lured the people with a few francs, they have all drained into Boko Haram. And so we are fighting ourselves, we are fighting the children that we failed to educate. We are sending our army to go and kill or get killed by some us who have now joined Boko Haram. This fight can go on for years for it is not a conventional war, they are attacks by ambush. And for how long will that last; so if you don’t make laws that take care of terrorist movements like that so that it is a consummate; world action and assistance, this thing can destroy the whole of Cameroon.
News Watch—Are you saying with the voting of the law, Cameroon will now benefit foreign support in the fight against Boko Haram?
Hon. Mbah Ndam—Absolutely yes, the first benefit is international investigation. To be able to identify the culprits, the organizations, we need a police force that is better than the micro thing that we have in Cameroon. You must be able to go across borders and see how Boko Haram is linked to the other terrorist organizations and to Al-Qaeda, which we cannot do. Therefore at what point can you break the link in order to know to what extend you can fight. You need international cooperation, it is not that fanfare that you saw Biya and the rest go to France and see Hollande…it is far beyond that. Cameroonians shouldn’t become cowards for this law does not stop civil disobedience, it does not stop strikes. This law punishes terrorist acts and terrorist acts are known in the world. It is not because we will fight on the ballot box that somebody will be treated as a terrorist. It is not because we will fight as a result of somebody frauding at an election that you will be termed a terrorist. The law does not qualify to try such cases; those are electoral malpractices which are in the law not this law.
News Watch—So will you tell Cameroonians that this law has not come to mess their freedom?
Hon. Mbah Ndam—The law has come to stop the mess that Biya has created for us over 32 years and not to mess them.

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