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Police Brutality Mars World Democracy Day Celebrations In Yaounde 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

Anti-riot police stand against World Democracy Day

Anti-riot police stand against World Democracy Day

The brutal crackdown on organisers of a debate on Cameroon’s electoral system by the police marred World Democracy Day celebration in Yaounde, September 15.

A Non-Governmental Organisation, known as Dynamique Citoyen, organised the debate at the Mvog-Ada neighbourhood in Yaounde V Subdivision.

The debate that was slated to begin at 3:00pm was subjected to State brutality when police stormed the venue at 2:00pm.

The over 20 heavily armed police elements declared the debate illegal and ordered participants to leave the place. Those who hesitated were violently yanked off the premises.

The police hostilities were the logical trickle-down of an order by the Divisional Officer, DO, of Yaounde V, Mamadi Mahamat.

To him, the meeting was illegal because he did not authorise it.

But, Dynamique Citoyen leader, Jean Marc Bikoko, who organised the debate, described the administrator’s claims as ridiculous.

He said the debate that was slated to take place at the office of the Public Servants Trade Union was not a public demonstration so as to warrant the authorisation of the authorities.

The police crackdown foiled another opportunity by civil society activists to make proposals that could lead to the amelioration of the country’s electoral system.

The aborted debate was predicated on the theme, “the problem of elections in Africa, the case of Cameroon.”

According to Jean Marc Bikoko, the debate was to diagnose the problems ailing the country’s electoral system.

They had also envisaged proposed solutions to such problems that will give way to free, fair and transparent elections.

He said there was nothing sinister about the debate given that they intended to submit their recommendations to the authorities.

“We wanted to call the attention of the public authorities to let them understand that it is incumbent on them to overhaul the electoral system to ensure free and fair elections so as to avert civil war in this country,” Bikoko told reporters.

He said the banning of the conference was an affront to the democratisation process in Cameroon, regretting that the DO did not inform him in writing that the meeting was illegal as he claimed.

Such a behaviour, he went on, was taking Cameroon back to the barbaric period of the one party State, wherein, freedom of expression and association were considered a taboo.

Unlike in other situations, the police did not carry out any arrest of the people who had come for the debate.

But it remained a paradox that the State carried out such a repressive act on World Democracy Day, during which; it was expected to demonstrate to the world that there is real democracy in Cameroon.

The only occasion that went on unperturbed was a roundtable discussion at the National Assembly.

The Police brutality was actually a replay of the scenario that took place at the Yaounde Sports Complex on September 15, 2015.

Dynamique Citoyen had equally organised an event to celebrate last year’s Democracy Day when the gun-wielding uninvited guests in uniform took the venue by storm.

They arrested many participants and organisers including Jean Marc Bikoko.

Till date, Bikoko and some of his collaborators are still standing trial at the Yaounde Magistrate Court for organising an illegal meeting.

It seems to be a norm that every other meeting in Cameroon is illegal if it is not organised to sing praises to President Biya.

It is within this logic that another civil society activist, Bernard Njonga was slammed a three- month suspension sentence for attempting to organise a street demonstration against what he saw as Government’s mismanagements of the avian flu crisis.

Observers hold that administrators who crackdown on freedom of expression in the name of protecting the State are doing a disservice to President Biya who said, he wants to be remembered for having brought democracy to Cameroon.

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