The Cameroonian army on Friday confirmed the death in detention of the English-speaking Cameroonian journalist, Samuel Wazizi, against refusing torture. He was charged with “intelligence with the terrorists”.
Announcements of associations on Wednesday were confirmed by the Cameroonian journalist Samuel Wazizi on Friday, June 5, by the army, which denied torture.
However, several Cameroonian journalists’ unions have said the opposite. But for the army, SamuelWazizi, charged with “intelligence with the terrorists”, died of “sepsis (severe sepsis)” on August 17, 2019 at Yaoundé’s military hospital, less than two weeks after his arrest.
The army also claims that his family had been informed of his death, which the journalist’s lawyer disproves. “We have close contact with his family who say he was not contacted: we were already representing him at the time of his death, we were the people to be warned,” said Edward Ewule, who said he was told the confirmation of his client’s death after have read the army press release on national radio. “I’m devastated, I’m the last civilian to have seen him alive ten months ago,” he added.
“Logistics of various terrorist groups”
According to the army, SamuelWazizi claimed to “host a local TV channel” but “was actually a logistical from various terrorist groups” English-speaking separatists.
For almost three years, the English-speaking regions in the northwest and southwest of Cameroon have been shaken by violent conflicts between the army and separatist groups.
The fighting, but also the atrocities and murders committed against civilians in the two camps, left more than 3,000 dead and forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes.
While Cameroonian unions of journalists, but also the international NGO reporters without borders, condemning the death of Samuel Wazizi, the army responds that it is a “new episode of demonization” of the Cameroonian armed forces.
“Only an independent commission of inquiry can shed light on this issue,” said Jude Viban, chairman of the Cameroonian Association of English-Speaking Journalists. In particular, referring to “gray areas” he wonders why the government did not inform the justice of the death [son] colleague”.
His lawyer is also requesting an independent investigation, in line with the one that led to the arrest of seven soldiers after the 2015 broadcast of a video showing the summary execution of two women and their children in northern Cameroon.
134th out of 180 in the world ranking for press freedom
Cases of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners are regularly reported by human rights organizations, who are also concerned about the large number of arrests in the English-speaking West.
This crisis, as well as the attacks by the Boko Haram jihadist group in the Northern North, have plagued the image of Cameroon, a country led for 37 years by President Paul Biya, long seen as a haven for stability in central Africa.
On Thursday, the UN and NGO Human Rights Watch condemned an increase in violence against relief workers operating in these two regions, and accused especially armed groups of increasing kidnappings against relief workers. Cameroonian forces are also accused of hindering aid flow there.
Confirmation of Samuel Wazizic’s death also helps revive the debate on freedom of the press in Cameroon. The country has 134th place on 180 off World press freedom ranking established in 2020 by Reporters Without Borders.