My jaw dropped to the floor reading through this interview by Hon. Mbah Ndam.
The core question which News Watch invited the MP to answer is simple: does the recently adopted law on terrorism risk jeopardizing civil liberties and freedoms in Cameroon?
Let me warn you: Hon. Mbah Ndam is not particularly polite; he is revisionist; he is as pro-Biya on this issue as they come; but he is at least blunt.
Cameroonians, he warns, should not “become cowards”.
He does not define what cowardice is, but he stresses that this anti-terrorism “law does not stop civil disobedience, it does not stop strikes”.
Forgive me! But I thought we knew that already. Yes, the law does not stop these activities. It merely criminalizes these activities; making anyone participating in them likely to be accused of terrorism, punishable by death.
To his credit, the SDF MP confesses that “Cameroonians are justified in their apprehension”. As he explains, talk of “any law on terrorism” should cause “ghost pimples”.
Mbah Ndam, The Revisionist
Hon. Mbah Ndam makes light on the havoc terrorism wrecked on Cameroonians, facilitated by the 1962 and 1972 ordinances. For the SDF parliamentary group leader, “these laws frightened Cameroonians”.
Any historian or student of history knows that these laws did not frighten… they facilitated the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Cameroonians. Those laws legalized and justified genocide of the Bassa and Bamileke peoples; the so-called terrorists, mostly in the Littoral and West Regions.
Begging to differ, the MP says the recently adopted law is unlike “the laws used to crush” the nationalists movements in Cameroon just prior to independence. How could anyone disagree with that? This new law is, indeed, unlike those early laws. It is worse! Which is why pro-freedom activists are, rightly, up in arms.
Not so the SDF MP, who digs deeper into revisionism. He claims that it was the SDF that clamored for Ahidjo to repeal repressive laws. Oh, yeah? He says that it is thanks to the SDF “breaking (political) ground” that the December 1990 laws were passed. Really? He claims further that it is the 1984 foiled coup d’Etat that turned military courts into “tribunals of exception”. Waoooh!
Terrorism Law to Enhance Freedoms?
For Hon. Mbah Ndam, this law “has not deprived Cameroonians of their right to public manifestation (sic); it has not deprived political parties of holding public rallies and manifestations (sic) against evils committed by the government”.
One has to wonder if the SDF parliamentarian lives in or speaks about the same Cameroon where such protests are regularly, if not permanently, banned.
The MP is not done. He gets more forceful, arguing: “It (the anti-terrorism law) has not limited the right of anybody”. Even Hitler’s Goebbels would have needed to take notes at this point.
We know that Hon. Mbah Ndam is not unaware of the nature of the regime in Yaounde. He is the same one who argues that Yaounde is bound to act “in its usual characteristics manner” – the same way it has acted over the past 32 years, causing Cameroonians much suffering.
A few questions are worth asking. For example, if as the MP argues, “the provisions of the penal code”… the provisions of ” the criminal procedure code” and of “the military justice code are still applicable” why was the terrorism law needed? If the terrorism law changes nothing, why was it needed? Where in the three codes were protests punishable by death? How is it possible to consider that protests are crimes as bad as hostage-taking and, therefore, punishable with the same sanction?
Issa Tchiroma’s has a Job Security Problem
Let me confess that the more I read the interview, the more I felt that Hon. Mbah Ndam sounds like he was interviewing for the position of Public Relations Officer for the CPDM regime. Hear him!
“The military tribunal that exists in Cameroon today is no longer that murderous military tribunal of old”. Hello, journalists! All those of you who are on trial before the military tribunal, have nothing to fear. Mbah Ndam wants you to know that the regime follows “due process “.
Hon. Mbah Ndam guarantees that you will be judged in the military tribunal by “trained magistrates”. He guarantees that you can appeal your death sentence (if it comes to that) before civil magistrates in “regional courts of appeal”. He guarantees that you can “go to the Supreme Court” if not still satisfied by the appeal outcome. Then, of course, he explains, you can always apply “for grace… (presidential pardon) by the head of state”.
Can someone – anyone – tell Cameroon’s “Praise Singer-in-Chief”, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, that his job is at risk?
The SDF parliamentarian, who must know what he is saying because he is a lawyer, is more reassuring than Issa Tchiroma. Here is Hon. Mbah Ndam auditioning for Issa Tchiroma:
If a Cameroonian gets arrested at a protest rally, he says, “it must be proven that you were carrying out a terrorist act… as defined by international law”. Here is some more from our “Monsieur le Depute”: “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… somebody must show that you belong to one of (these) terrorist movements”.
As you can see, Hon. Mbah Ndam thinks the yardstick of proof has been set very, very high. Am I stupid in presuming that the regime in Yaounde does not even have to shop around to find someone who is willing to use any lie to prove that any Cameroonian targeted committed a terrorist act? Yaounde has been around. Been there, done that! Yaounde will nail anyone for terrorism it wants. Exactly the same way that Apartheid South Africa found “proof” in excess that Nelson Mandela was nothing more than a terrorist.
These Terrorists that Mbah Ndam Knows
Hon. Mbam Ndam does not cite international law in identifying the terrorists that already exist in Cameroon, according to him. He relies on stereotypes to paint certain Cameroonians terrorists.
The terrorists, according to him, are recruited from among our “illiterate brothers and sisters and the youths of the North”. Terrorists are those living “under abject poverty” and those in the Far North “living like animals” whose only property is “the small mat they hold in their hand that they can put somewhere and sleep”. Hon. Mbah Ndam’s profile of a terrorist (in the northern parts of Cameroon) is completed by the claim that they are “lured” into terrorism “with a few francs” by Boko Haram.
As you can see, Cameroonians don’t even have to be involved in protests before being identified as terrorists. Cameroonians just have to be the wrong thing… such as being illiterate; living in abject poverty; owning nothing but a mat… to be considered likely candidates for recruitment into Boko Haram ranks.
Not to be out-performed by Minister Issa Tchiroma, Hon. Mbah Ndam argues that the newly adopted law “will serve” Cameroonians “greatly.” You read that right! But, just how will it serve Cameroonians?
The SDF parliamentary group leader has the answer to that, too. This law, he says, will put Cameroon on the terrorism map (which Mbah Ndam could have pulled up on his laptop). The regime stands to make money – to get foreign assistance in reward for its efforts on terrorism. Hon. Mbah Ndam explains that Cameroonians are currently “not included in the realm of those who can seek international assistance” for the fight against terrorism “because we had no legislation for it”. Did someone aptly advise that we should always follow the money?
One lesson of history does not seem to be lost to Hon. Mbah Ndam. He states, accurately, that President Ahmadou Ahidjo refused to repeal the same repressive laws that were used to prosecute and condemn him; forcing him into exile where he lived out the rest of his life, died and remains buried.
I am wondering – and I hope that no one accuses me of subversion – I am wondering if there is a lesson there, too, for President Biya and the Mbah Ndams of this world, who have helped his regime put together this new terrorism law. Why do I have this strange feeling that the Biyas and Mbah Ndams will be judged and condemned by the same laws they have passed or refused to repeal? Why do I think the regime in Yaounde is about to fall on its own sword?
The Offensive Mbah Ndam Interview.