Ever since the academic don Dr Fontem Neba and legal heavy weights justice Ayah Paul and Agbor Balla benefited from presidential magnanimity on the 30th of August which stopped court proceedings prolonged amidst legal battle between the accused and the state which had been running for over 7 months, making the three alongside a host of others once again free Cameroonians, expectations have been at fever pitch
The three influential Cameroonians with enviable records of professional accomplishment in their different fields were and continue to be adored by majority of the English speaking population of Cameroon.
Many had called for their release, labeling their case “political witch hunt” and wanted the government rather negotiate with the accused.
The sea of lawyers from home and abroad who flooded the courts each time the accused were brought forward before the judge only signaled the political and international support these noble men possess and when the head of state decided to heed to the call of the people asking for their release, the population went to an overdrive and raise hopes for the quick resolution of the moths long crisis
Why were they arrested?
Balla and Fontem led the now banned consortium of Anglophones which took the two English regions of Cameroon hostage, declaring the first ghost town which was successful across the regions in early January and vow to continue the strike until the country organize a referendum for a federated state
On his part, legal juggernaut, justice Ayah who was serving as a sitting advocate at the country’s highest court, the supreme courts was a vocal critic of the government he was currently serving and went ahead floating list of possible members to steer the regions to decide their future
Their actions alongside others which came in the backdrop of strikes initiated by lawyers and teachers and quickly gain the support of the masses who had been complaining of “Anglophone marginalization” in the country led to government swift and fierce response, leading to their arrest and subsequent legal battle after close to a month of failed negotiations between the government and the striking leaders in Bamenda and Yaoundé. But the battles was only beginning
The international community has largely been silent with the UN and US state departments issuing statements in the past calling for nonviolence on both sides and the need for dialogue
The United Nations delegations which came to the country had called for the government to release the accused amongst other things.
What happen while they were arrested?
Ever since their arrests, the crisis has intensified, opportunist who never started the strike actions have seized the stage with the use of social media and are now calling for the restoration of independence in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon, a stance which the incarcerated leaders never stood for and have been clear about it in the past.
On their part, the government has embark on a series of foreign trips to try engage the diasporas for dialogue and all attempts were futile as the delegations were met with massive protests abroad, leading to the cancelation of some of the trips according to reports.
They government hos however state in unequivocal terms that the structure of the state of Cameroon is non negotiable
Schools in the two English regions of the country have largely been shut down and continues to do so since December of 2016 while many businesses are crumbling with the imposition of weekly ghost towns across the regions
Many properties of the state and citizens have been levelled by fire by unknown men for violating ghost towns and the state looks helpless as no one has been brought under control
What have they been saying post release
Since the men were released on 30th August 2017, expectations have been so high with many wondering which stance they will take given that the political dynamics have changed dramatically for over 7 months when they were in prison.
However, batrister Agbor Balla have been spotted visiting prisoners who were not released in the presidential pardon, he also shred photos f their warm embrace in the house of fellow prison and ideology mate justice Ayah Paul and attending ecumenical service of victims of Muyuka accident disaster on the 22nd August 2017 which killed 20 persons. He has vowed to keep fighting for the release of all locked up for the sake of the crisis but is yet to issue any statements with regards to back to school or where his allegiance lies at the moment
On his part, the no nonsense Justice Ayah Paul has been firing again, continuing with his pre prison rhetoric against the state, vowing to keep talking until the country attains the best version of itself and says nothing will stop him, adding that, there is need to go back to the drawing board to review the co-existence of the two people of west and east Cameroon TNN.
He has also filed a lawsuit angst the government for illegal detention and is asking for 100 billion francs in damages.
While academic don and former consortium secretary Dr Neba Fintem has been quiet ever since he was released, rarely seen in public and probably spending more time with the family.