The president of the outlawed Consortium of Anglophone Civil Societies, who has been arraigned at the Kondengui Prison in Yaounde to face charges of terrorism and other related offences, had applied to the authorities to permit him assist at the burial of his father in Bakwelle village, Manyu division. But the request was not granted.
Balla’s father, Mr. Nkongho Brown, who died in Buea at age 74, was however buried on Saturday 4 February 2017. Eye witnesses said the burial ceremony in Bakwelle village, Eyumojock sub-division, just like the coffining at the Buea Regional Hospital Mortuary and wake keep at the Nkonghos’ family residence situated at federal quarters in Buea all went well especially as all the different stages of the funeral witnessed the presence of huge crowds comprising of Balla’s friends, colleagues and sympathizers.
It should be noted that when it became evident that Balla would not be allowed to even see his father before he is finally laid to eternal repose, the lawyer and human rights activist gave a power of attorney to his friend, Barrister John Kameni to help coordinate the funeral ceremonies on his behalf. When we got Barrister Kameni on phone yesterday he confirmed to us that the funeral was not only successful but was also very popularly attended.
AgborBalla was arrested in Buea on 17 January, alongside the SG of the consortium Dr. FontemAforteka’aNeba. They were immediately whisked off to Yaounde and incarcerated at the gendarmerie headquarters SED, where they were joined by another Anglophone activist, ManchoBibixy.
Balla and his colleagues were later transferred to the Kondengui prison and put at the section reserved for terrorists and political criminals. But this was not before the commissioner of government at the Yaounde military tribunal had read out to them their various charges. They were charged jointly and severally with terrorism, inciting the public to rebellion against the state, inciting civil unrest, breach of the constitution among several other related charges.
Balla, Fontem and Bibixy were expected to appear in court on 1 February for the first hearing of the matter, but the hearing was postponed to 13 February 2017. The postponement did not however augur well with the battery of over 70 lawyers who had mobilized to defend the Consortium leader and his colleagues. Led by senior barrister and former batonnier, Ben AchoMuna, the lawyer clad in the wigs and gowns stormed the military court in Yaounde on Wednesday 1 February 2017.
According to Ben Muna, they came to court to ascertain that the matter had been postponed and also to know from the court the reason(s) for the postponement.
Legal experts say if the new law on terrorism is applied to the letter then Balla, Fontem and Bibixy could end up with death penalties and/or very long prison terms that is, if their lawyers evoke mitigating circumstances.
This notwithstanding, different voices from both the Anglophone and Francophone communities have been calling for the release of the activists, if only to douse the growing tension and anger in the populations of the NW and SW regions. Many say the arrest of the leaders has instead complicated the problems and has made possibilities for a way forward difficult.
In their memo to government announcing a suspension of the strike they called on 21 November 2016, leaders of the All Anglophone Teacher Trade Unions have also beckoned the government to consider releasing the arrested leaders, if only for peace to have a chance in the two Anglophone regions.
Source:The Median Newspaper