Three Prisoners Disappear from Cameroon Prison

Hundreds of supporters raise their arms and wave the national flag while waiting to greet Cameroonian opposition leader Maurice Kamto in Yaounde on october 5, 2019 the day of his release from prison. – Cameroon’s main opposition leader Maurice Kamto walked free from jail on October 5, 2019 after a military court ordered his release at the behest of veteran President Paul Biya. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

There are at least three prisoners whose whereabouts have remained unknown after being abducted from their cells in Kondengui Prison in Cameroon by unidentified security personnel on October 13, 2021.

Tita Tebid, Hamlet Acheshit and John Fonge’s disappearance have led to concerns from their families that they may suffer the same fate as Cameroonian journalist Samuel Wazizi, who vanished on Aug. 7, 2019, after being escorted from a police station to a military base in an English-speaking area. Waziri had been accused of being a terrorist.

Authorities finally confirmed that Wazizi had died in detention after 10 months of silence on his whereabouts.

Tebid, Acheshit and Fonge were detained on vague charges of terrorism and other offences for their alleged role in armed separatist groups. Two of them, who were supposed to appear before the courts at a military tribunal in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé on Monday, had been in detention for four years without a trial.

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Their lawyer, Nicodemus Amungwa, told the court he had searched everywhere for them without success, adding that all he could determine was that unidentified security officers had abducted them from their prison cells on Oct. 13.

Authorities in Cameroon have upped the crackdown on perceived dissidents, with enforced disappearances, incommunicado detention and torture in unknown locations among the tactics employed against separatists.

According to Amungwa, the judge was “flabbergasted to hear that we don’t know where our clients are.”

He added, “They appear to be here and are not here, they appear to be there but are not there. We are worried and their families are worried.”

Human rights activists worry that prisoners may be abused or tortured in hidden detention facilities in Cameroon, a practice that has been documented for years.

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Aside from Wazizi, Amnesty International reported that Cameroonian authorities held more than 100 people incommunicado and tortured many of them in a detention centre in Yaoundé from July 23 to Aug. 4, 2019.

It is now feared that the three disappeared prisoners may suffer the same fate.

The prisoners disappeared as tensions between the military and the English-speaking parts of the country were rising. In two ambushes last month, separatist militias attacked soldiers with bombs and rocket launchers, killing an estimated 15 soldiers. This illustrates how heavy their weapons have become.

As a result, the military has sent more vehicles and troops into the Northwest Region, and clashes have worsened, with reports of military attacks on villages.

In another anglophone region of Cameroon, a military police officer shot and killed a five-year-old girl last week. The crowd responded by killing the police officer, and two days of protests followed. According to reports, the officer fired at the car because its driver had refused to stop at a checkpoint.

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In August, armed men in the Northwest Region killed a Canadian employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Diomède Nzobambona’s killing remains unsolved.

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