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New Law Prescribes Heavy Jail Terms For Protesting Soldiers 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

Soldiers and other military personnel found guilty of acts of insubordination, including protest marches will henceforth receive heavy jail terms at the Military Tribunal.

This is one of the main provisions of bill No. 1010/PJL/AN to lay down the code of military justice. Government tabled the draft law for scrutiny at the National Assembly in Yaounde on June 19.

Going by observers, the bill is partly Government’s bid to stem the tides of a growing phenomenon wherein soldiers storm the streets to protest unpaid dues.

On June 3, some 30 soldiers of the Multinational Joint Task Force of the Lake Chad Basin demonstrated in Zigue in the Logone and Chari Division of the Far North Region.

The soldiers, who complained about unpaid allowances, stirred panic in the area. They were later arrested and transferred to Yaounde for disciplinary sanctions.

On September 9, 2015, more than 200 Cameroonian soldiers of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Force for the Stabilisation of the Central Africa Republic ignited fear in the streets of Yaounde when they protested against the non-payment of over eight months of arrears of their allowances.

To bring calm within the ranks, President Biya quickly ordered that the allowances be paid immediately, which the authorities did and the matter was laid to rest.

Last Monday’s bill that is now being scrutinized by the National Defence and Security Commission of the National Assembly is seen as the authority’s way of deterring any acts of protests within the military.

According to Section 39 of the proposed law, servicemen found guilty of acts of insubordination will be punished with an imprisonment term of one to five years.

“Any serviceman who refuses to obey or execute a lawful command given by his/her superior shall be punished with imprisonment for from 1 (one) to 5 (five) years.

However, obeying a patently unlawful command, as defined in the regulations, shall incur the criminal liability of the subordinate, without prejudice to that of the superior,” partly reads the text.

The proposed law also provides that any acts of insubordination in the presence of the enemy or rebels shall be punished with life imprisonment.

Section 41 of the bill prohibits any kind of revolt in the military. It partly reads as follows: “Any two or more servicemen shall be considered to be in a situation of revolt when they meet to: (a) jointly refuse, at the first command, to obey orders of their superior, (b) take up arms and act against the orders of their superior; (c) engage in violence, destruction and degradation, or make use of their weapons.”Such cases, according to the bill, earn imprisonment terms of five to ten years. It also states that the instigator of any revolt shall be punished with maximum penalty.

The bill adds that when such situation happens off duty, the penalty shall be six months to two years. If the subordinate is not aware that the victim is a superior officer, the penalty may not exceed six months.

The draft law also prescribes heavy sanctions on servicemen who sleep on sentry-duty, ignite violence against subordinates and are caught in misconduct.

It prescribes six months to five years imprisonment terms for servicemen who, while on duty, issue threats or insults against a superior officer either in writing of through gestures.

It further stipulates that any serviceman who fails to pay respect to the national flag shall be punished with imprisonment term of six months to five years.

“Any medical officer, military health worker or serviceman who conducts or causes the conduct of medical test on a serviceman without his or her informed consent or discloses the illness or medical status of a sick or infected serviceman shall be punished with imprisonment term of one to three months and fine of from FCFA 100,000 to one million.

Whoever, without provocation uses insulting or disparaging language or gestures towards a sick or injured serviceman about an illness or disability, shall be punished with imprisonment term of three months to three years and a fine FCFA 200,000 to two million,” reads section 44 of the draft law.

It further warns that any serviceman or member of the defence forces who commits an act of discrimination against a serviceman based solely on the latter’s medical status shall bag an imprisonment term of one month to one year and a fine of FCFA 100,000 to one million.

In addition, any serviceman who dissipates or fails to produce a piece of weapon, equipment or outfit, or any other object assigned for use on duty or entrusted to him for service purposes, shall be slammed a six-month to five-year imprisonment term, going by the law.

It states that maximum penalty shall be 15 years if the dissipated items were essential for the functioning of the service.

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