August 2, 2019 started like evey other for Buea based journalist, Samuel Abuwe Ajekiaeh better known as Samuel Wazizi till he found himself in the custody of the forces of law and order.
Upon arrest, he was taken to the 3rd District Police Station in Muea where he spent two nights before being transfered to the Buea Judicial police. His ordeal and that of his family and lawyers was yet to begin.
Reports say Wazizi was “seized” by members of the 21st motorised infantry brigade who held him incommunicado.
By this time, his prolonged absence was taken as a signal that he was already being tortured and would likely end up at SED or any other prison in Yaounde. His lead defence counsel, Barrister Nkea Emmanuel would later reveal that some “invincible fingers” were pulling the strings and he could even be killed for seeking justice. That however did not deter him nor Wazizi’s fellow journalists and family.
On November 5, 2019, the President of the Fako High Court, Justice Wilson Mbonge dismissed the habeas corpus filed by Barrister Ewule Lyonga, on claims that it was filed on “hearsay” information. The lawyers described the ruling as unfair and promised to file another habeas corpus.
The habeas corpus plea would later be heard on May 7 2020, several weeks after the first. Within that period, journalists, human rights and advocacy groups and individuals made several calls for his release but no one even got to have a sight of him. Explaining that they smelled foul play in his prolonged absence, his lawyers remained hopeful.
Come May 7, it was another show of disappointment and tears as the Buea high court threw out the plea. The court president cited “wrongful quotation of the law” for his decision. Wazizi’s ever-hopeful lawyers said they were going to have it reconstituted and resubmitted which they did.
After the May 28 court hearing without Wazizi in sight, his lawyers were almost losing hope. Though the case was set for June 9th, Bar. Nkea Emmanuel said they were considering seeking help from the UN Human Rights Commission. He was however stopped in his tracks yesterday when Equinox Television announced that the journalist was no more.
” Samuel Wazizi died within a few days of detention from wounds and injuries sustained after arrest.”
Coming over three hundred days after his arrest, the reaction from his colleagues has been emotional. Many are yet to accept his death, given that the body has still not been made available.
“The issue here is not whether Samuel Wazizi is guilty or not. Produce him and charge him officially in court as the law and the various international conventions that Cameroon is a signatory to says” another Buea-based journalist wrote.
Condemning the illegal detention and holding of Wazizi, The American Bar Association requested international observer status at his trial. The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ and other bodies all reiterated calls for the release of the pressman to no avail.
Like Wazizi before his death, many other journalists are being held in detention arrested for their work. The poor living conditions at the detention centers coupled with cumbersome administrative processes and excesses adjournment of their cases makes life a living hell for them.
The pressman’s death and detention of other journalists shows to what length the state is willing to go to suppress freedom of speech in Cameroon.
Mimi Mefo Info