The suspense has been going on for four months and counting.
The whereabouts of the body of Cameroonian journalist, Samuel Ajiekah Abuwe popularly known as Samuel Wazizi is still not known.
The government keeps going round the truth.
According Cameroon’s ministry of defense, Samuel Wazizi died in Yaounde while in detention.
Speaking during a programme on Equinox TV in June this year, Army spokesperson, Cyrille Serge Atonfack Nguemo said “ Samuel Wazizi died in a hospital in Yaounde on the 17th of August 2019 following severe sepsis not military torture as speculated on the social media”.
According to the spokesperson of the ministry of defense, Wazizi’s family turned down a request to get the corpse, a statement, the family till date has described as false.
Five months after the declaration of Wazizi’s death, family, colleagues, politicians, human rights defenders and defending lawyers have been calling on the government to at least provide the corpse for burial.
Speaking to Mimi Mefo Info on phone, Henry Abuwe; senior brother of Samuel Wazizi said “The pains of not seeing the corpse of my brother is what our family can no longer deal with.We are helpless. We have cried,we have prayed yet there is no headway to get the body of Samuel Wazizi for a befitting burial.We are Africans and how we handle the dead is not a trivial issue”.
As the family feel the pains of what it has described as “the missing corpse” of Wazizi, relatives express indignation that they have been threatened by unidentified individuals on phone and physically asking them to stop demands for the body to be provided.
“Today I no longer live in my house. I have taken refuge somewhere for my safety and that of my family”, a family member said.
A team of lawyers defending the case of Samuel Wazizi say they are bordered given that justice has not been meted to their client even at death.
To barrister Edward Lyonga; one of the defending lawyers, “The state of Cameroon has not issued any official statement to the lawyers and Wazizi’s family on where to find the corpse. There is no way forward as of now. We are only getting rumours that the president of the republic has ordered for an investigation but nothing as such has been mentioned officially.”
At this juncture, defence lawyers say they have not relent their efforts in seeking justice through the judiciary.
“We filed an application in Fako High court in Buea asking the court to order the state to put in place an independent inquiry with defending lawyers and family involved. But the recent transfer of judges after the holding of the higher judicial council in August 2020 has further delayed the process.New judges have been appointed at Fako high court in Buea. We prayed that new judges should quickly study the file and implement what we are demanding in the application”.
The indignation of journalists
Trade unions and associations of journalists in Cameroon continue to decry what they call the poor handling of what is today known as ‘Wazizi affair’.
Accused by the ministry of defense of assisting separatist fighters in Fako division in the South West region of Cameroon,Samuel Wazizi arrested on the 2nd of August 2019 has never stood trial in any court until his death was announced by the spokesperson of the military.
Journalists in Buea South West region where Wazizi was arrested worked closely with defence lawyers to ensure justice for their colleague to no avail.They have not relented even with the announcement of the death of Wazizi.
Now over five months after government announced the death of the journalist in Yaounde,the president of Cameroon Journalists Trade Union (CJTU) South West chapter regrets that nothing more has filtered from the government.
Jato Derick talking to Mimi Mefo says “We are yet to be briefed on any development from when he was declare dead but sources say investigation has been secretly going on as instructed by the head of state”. Accoding to the journalist, the wish of the media family in Buea and the entire country is “…his corpse should be provided”.
In the same vein, the national president of Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ) admits that government has not issued any official statement to the association on the whereabouts of the body of Wazizi. To Jude Viban, the media family is still waiting and wish the corpse be provided to the family for proper burial.
In a publication of Reporters Without Borders as published by Aljazeera, “we call on Cameroon authorities to end the intolerable silence around this case,to return the journalist’s body to his family and conduct a thorough, independent investigation to establish the chain of responsibility and circumstances leading to this tragedy”.
Following the arrest,detention incommunicado and subsequent death of Samuel Wazizi, journalists in Cameroon and those reporting the Anglophone crisis in particular say they live in constant fear as they could be tagged of any criminal allegation by the state of Cameroon.
Mimi Mefo Info