Mar 29, 2011

Arbitrary Arrest and Continued Detention of Kingsley Ashu is Political and Unacceptable


Press Release: (March 28, 2011)

The Cameroon Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CCDHR) is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Kingsley Ndip Ashu, arrested on February 23, 2011 in the city of Kumba, South West Region of the Republic of Cameroon. Kingsley, a young civil society activist and former University of Buea student leader has been languishing in the Kumba central prison without bail for more than a month on the bogus charge of misinforming officers of law and order about his place of birth and possession of falsified documents.
Motivated by successful peaceful demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, some political leaders and civil society groups had called on Cameroonians to go to the street on February 23, 2011 to demand freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, free and fair elections, and for the resignation of Paul Biya who has been in power for 29 years. On the said day, Kingsley stood in front of a popular news stand in Kumba where he engaged in discussions with other denizens of Kumba on the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, and the possibility of it happening in Cameroon. This gathering drew increasing number of people, and the police which was already on high alert because of the planned demonstration got involved, and arrested Kingsley for inciting public disorder and insulting the Head of State, Paul Biya.
Upon discovering later that Kingsley’s birth certificate and national identification card carry difference places of birth, Buea and Eyumojock respectively, the Government shamefully dropped the original charge of inciting public disorder and insulting Paul Biya for which Kingsley was originally arrested. He has now been charged with misleading uniform officers with falsify documents and has been held without bail for more than a month. It must be noted that the documents in question (birth certificate and identification card) are officially issued government documents, and while the places of birth on both documents are contradictory, none of these documents is forged. In addition, Kingsley has argued that the error on his identification card had been made by the issuing authority not him, and that steps were already being taken to correct that error. Meanwhile, the incongruousness of the offence in question and the treatment Kingsley is being subjected to supports the suggestion of a politically endorsed action against Kingsley Ashu rather than the mere application of the law.
It must be recalled that under the leadership of the University of Buea Student Union, the students of the University of Buea in November 2006 took to the streets in opposition to the corrupt educational practices by the Minister of Higher Education in connivance with the University of Buea authorities. The demonstrations followed impropriety in the selection process into the School of Medicine at the University of Buea and was sparked by the imposition of a list of 153 candidates selected for interview as part of the admission process into the School of Medicine. The list of 153 candidates, which was signed by the Minister of Higher Education, was inconsistent with the list of 127 successful certified examinees previously signed and published by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea. The Minister’s list was inflated with 26 new names most of whom had not even sat for the entrance exam into the School of Medicine at the University of Buea. Among the leaders of this vigorous stand against the Government of Cameroon was Kingsley Ndip Ashu, the then Vice-President in charge of Economic Affairs of the University of Buea Student Union.
Kingsley is being held against his will by the Government of Cameroon for political reasons rather than the spurious claim of misinforming uniform officers about his place of birth. His arrest, denial of bail, and continued detention appears to be an act of retaliation against this young and bright Cameroonian, who along with his brave colleagues of the University of Buea Student Union, exposed the corrupt practices of the Government of Cameroon in its fraudulent meddling with university admissions. CCDHR is very concerned about the physical and mental status of Kingsley Ashu. His arrest and detention is in violation of Section 30 (4) of the Criminal Procedure Code which states that:
 “No bodily or psychological harm shall be caused to the person arrested”.
Since his arrest on February 23, 2011, the administration continues to play with time by continuously adjourning his arraignment before a court of law, thereby subjecting him to various forms of psychological torments in an effort to break his will and force him to refrain from ever again engaging in criticism against the Government of Cameroon.
In addition, the detention of Kingsley Ashu under deplorable prison conditions continues to be in violation of Section 37 of the Criminal Procedure Code which states that:
"Any person arrested shall be given reasonable facilities in particular to be in contact with his family, obtain legal advice, make arrangements for his defence, consult a doctor and receive medical treatment and take necessary steps to obtain his release on bail".
Since his arrest, Kingsley has not been afforded access to medical care even though he has sustained injuries from being assaulted in prison, and the defence motion to get his release on bail has not been entertained because of a deliberate delaying tactic by the regime in Cameroon as they plot strategies to victimize and make a scapegoat of this young Cameroonian for no justified reason. CCDHR would like to express its legitimate fears that because of the political nature of this case, Kingsley’s chances of a fair trail before the Cameroonian judiciary are slim to nothing. In Cameroon, the President appoints all prosecutors, judges, and other officers of the judiciary. He equally guarantees the independence of the judiciary, and as we have seen in Cameroon, this means that the government is given a free ride to trample on the rights of its citizens as judicial recourse in situations of human rights violations is almost always nonexistent.
CCDHR is requisitioning the Government of Cameroon to immediately and unconditionally release Kingsley Ndip Ashu and other political prisoners across Cameroon for the sake of respect for human rights. The Government of Cameroon needs to be conscious of its obligation towards its people, and respect their rights to hold opinion and freely express their opinion without fear of reprisal. The action of Kingsley Ashu on the day of February 23, 2011 falls squarely within the ambits of constitutionally guaranteed and internationally recognized human rights. The Government of Cameroon must respect the laws of the country and adhere to international standards guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression. Ambushing people who hold opinions different from that of the regime is a tendency only favored by dictators because they have no facts to proof their allegations except through force and judicial fraud. CCDHR is also calling on Cameroonians across the world and sympathizers of victims of human rights violations in Cameroon to give the case of Kingsley Ashu the widest publicity so as to pressure the Government of Cameroon to release him and refrain from persecuting Kingsley or any others in the future barely because they express themselves.

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