Despite a presidential order on Wednesday to free activists arrested in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions, the Yaounde military court has extended the detention of over a dozen people.
The court released the leaders of the Anglophone region including Lawyer Felix Nkongho, Dr Neba Fontem, and Ayah Paul Abine together with some other detainees on Thursday.
However, an unknown number including radio show host Mancho Bibixy had their detention extended till September for judgement by the military court, local media report.
Breaking!! Mancho Bibixy and other detainees of anglophone crisis to appear in court on September 28th.They wld either be freed or sentenced— Mimi237 (@Mimimefo237) August 31, 2017
Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told AFP that between 50 to 70 people have been released.
“All those who have no blood on their hands, all those who have not broken or defaced the symbols of the state, all those who have not set fire to schools and institutions will be released,” he said on Thursday.
55 people are reported to have been released by the end of Thursday.
Names of 55 Anglophones who will benefit from President Biya’s order read out by Issa Tchiroma.#Cameroon #Cameroun #FreeAllArrested pic.twitter.com/D3om7vNNaN— Albert Nchinda (@AlbertNchinda) August 31, 2017
A number of supporters gathered at the military court in the capital Yaounde for the release of their friends and family.
Others expressed disappointment at the extension of detention for some of the Anglophone activists.
Pictures of some women in tears and unconscious after they were told their relatives aren’t amongst those freed pic.twitter.com/BIg5eDEK7K— Mimi237 (@Mimimefo237) August 31, 2017
They were arrested late last year and accused of inciting violence during the protests in the North West and South West regions.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges which included complicity in hostility against the homeland, secession, civil war, and campaigning for federalism.
Paul Biya said in the order that the decision is in line with numerous measures taken by the government to address the concerns of the people from the Anglophone regions.
“This decision stems from the head of state’s firm resolve to continuously spell ways and means of seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis through the virtues of tolerance, dialogue and humanism,” the order added.
Human Rights Watch welcomed the decision to release the detainees but urged the authorities to also release others detained on “spurious” charges.
Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa Samira Daoud said in a statement that the other detainees including journalists should not be forgotten.
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres encouraged the Cameroonian authorities to address the grievances of the Anglophone regions and “promote measures of national reconciliation”.
The series of protests that turned violent were against marginalisation of the Anglophone regions.