The arrest and detention of Rebecca Enonchong without a written warrant or formal complaint serves as a towering example of how the regime of President Paul Biya uses state agencies with impunity to punish and intimidate its critics.
When Rebecca was arrested on August 10, it was another day of more pain in the hearts and minds of Cameroonians. This was so because the country has not known the rule of law for a long time and there is no end in sight.
The world was indeed shocked and saddened to learn about the arrest of one of Africa’s most high-profile women in tech, Rebecca Enonchong.
As a progressive entrepreneur and influential voice, she has supported key human rights campaigns.
When Rebecca was arrested on August 10, many are those who took it lightly, thinking that since Rebecca is a superstar, nothing can happen to her.
But they were wrong. They failed to understand that when rule of law collapses, anything can happen. Indeed, where the rule of law collapses, violent conflict erupts. Mass killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, destruction, sexual assault, rape, displacement, fear, hunger, and trauma follow.
Although Rebecca was freed on August 13 with all charges against her dropped, the lesson had been learnt.
Lesson: There are no superstars in Cameroon, only people under oppression.
Rebecca was imprisoned more quickly than senior officials who still cannot explain the looting of COVID-19 funds. If that is not the symbol of a state in complete decay, what else could that be?
She was detained for “Outrage à magistrat”, which loosely translates to contempt of court/magistrate.
However once again, her lawyers received no written complaint. The statement from the Gendarmerie said that, the Procureur Général (Attorney General) of Littoral said that there was contempt.
The Procureur Général did not file any written complaint. He gave verbal instructions for Rebecca’s arrest. Being the boss of all magistrates in the Littoral, he gives instructions to the judge on all cases. Rebecca’s was not exception.
In what heralded the collapse of the rule of law in Cameroon, the Procureur Général was Rebecca’s accuser, arrestor and judge.
The arrest was clearly illegal. The process was contrived. The judicial system, once again, showed that is not working.
Although #FreeRebecca got Rebecca freed, illegality and injustice in Cameroon knows no limit!
Journalist Mimi Mefo suffered a similar fate. She was arbitrarily arrested, detained and only released hours after pressure was brought to bear on the Yaoundé regime.
Journalist Samuel Wazizi was not that lucky. He was arrested without warrant, detained and died in military custody. Since then, his corpse has not been handed over to his family.
In the wake of the Anglophone crisis, the war against Boko Haram and the ethno-political tensions in the country, thousands of Cameroonians are in jail suffering Rebecca’s kind of fate.
No mix up. This is Cameroon. Arrest without warrant happens regularly and as we can see with regard to Rebecca, it can happen to anybody.
Again, illegality and injustice in Cameroon knows no limit!