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Anti-terrorism Bill : Gov’t Give Clarifications

Below is the introductory statement of the Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, during a press conference in Yaounde on December 2014.

“The Minister of State, Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals,

The Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice,

The Secretary General of the Ministry Communication,

The Inspector General of the Ministry of Communication,

Distinguished Directors and Experts of the Ministry of Justice,

The Technical Advisers,


Directors and Head of Divisions,

Distinguished Collaborators,

Distinguished Journalists,

Distinguished Guests,

Since the adoption by the parliament, a few days ago, of the bill to suppress acts of terrorism in our country, Cameroonian political Institutions have been facing attacks on many fronts, from a fringe of the political class and some representatives of the national civil society. These attacks are widely broadcast by media, undoubtedly under the ideological, economic and editorial control of the attackers.  

These actors work hard to make the opinion believe that the Government, and at the highest level of the State, the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul BIYA, would have decided, through this law, to muzzle the entire Cameroonian political class, considered to be hostile to the Government, and even for some, to thereby pave the way for a smooth succession at the helm of the State.

These manipulators aim, through such a ploy, to frame the collective conscience of the entire Cameroonian People on the idea that the promulgation of this law would constitute a setback of democracy and a return to one-track thinking, as well as to provoke among the population, a rejection of this bill and a massive and likely violent demonstration.

Faced with the gravity of such evil plan, and with a risk of long lasting disinformation, which could circulate within the public opinion, I have therefore invited you, Distinguished Journalists, to this exchange which I would like to be not only sincere but also frank and cordial, in order to bring you all the truth, and lights you would need.

But before getting into the core of the matter, allow me, first of all to acknowledge the presence here, next to me, of His Excellency the Minister of State, Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals, who kindly accepted to set aside his precious time to join us here for this communication.

Mr, Minister of State, Welcome to the Ministry of Communication.

Distinguished Journalists,

As earlier mentioned, the National Assembly and the Senate recently adopted a bill to punish acts of terrorism, submitted, pursuant to the Constitution of our country, by The President of the Republic, Head of the Executive, and of the State.

This bill went through all the procedures required by the applicable internal rules of both the National Assembly and the Senate, starting from the Conference of Presidents, the scrutiny in Committees, discussions in plenary until adoption.

Some parliamentarians, legitimate representatives of the Cameroonian People, participated in the standard deliberations which led to the adoption of this bill.

But immediately after this process, some other voices were raised, claiming a legitimacy originating from nowhere, to challenge all the work accomplished by both chambers, to which the Cameroonian People granted the sovereign prerogative to vote the laws of the land.   

Disregarding the republican duty to respect the constitutional prerogatives for the exercise of the political power by the institutions which the Cameroonian People freely chose through vote, some self-proclaimed State Prosecutors, have chosen to distort the facts and put these institutions at risk, starting with the President of the Republic.

They spend their time saying that the will of our country to set up a legal bed-rock to protect our compatriots and all those living within our borders against terrorism, is actually a very clever trick to nip in the bud and crush all popular protest attempts, with the sole aim to prepare a smooth and uncontested succession at the helm of the State. According to them, the modus operandi is the muzzling of the press, the militarisation of the judiciary, the retreat of the Rule of law.

Distinguished Journalists,

Allow me to unambiguously state here that, this relation of the facts is far at odds with reality and, moreover, the personality of their authors, is a sufficient indication that their public statement could be linked to a well-oiled political timetable.

Let me now give you the exact words of the bill recently adopted by our parliament. And to do this, I would like first of all to cite Chapter 2 of the bill, subject of this unnecessary controversy. The said chapter defines acts of terrorism and lays down sentences committed by Cameroonians or non Cameroonians.

I quote:

«   Chapter 2 Section 2 Sub-section 1: Whoever, acting alone, as an accomplice or an accessory, commits or threatens to commit an act likely to cause death, endanger physical integrity, cause bodily injury or material damage, destroy natural resources, the environment or cultural heritage with intent to

intimidate the public, provoke a situation of terror or force the victim, the government and/or a national or international organization to carry out or refrain from carrying out an act, adopt or renounce a particular position;

disrupt the normal functioning of public services, the delivery of essential services to the public or create a crisis situation among the public;

create widespread insurrection in the country;

shall be punished with the death penalty;

Sub-section 2: whoever:

provides and/or uses war weapons and equipment;

 provides and/or uses micro-organisms or any other biological agents, in particular viruses, bacteria, fungi or toxins;

provides and/or uses chemical, psychotropic, radioactive or hypnotizing substances;

 perpetrates hostage taking; in order to attain the same objectives as those referred to in sub-section (1) above shall be punished with the death penalty.

Sub-section 3: the penalty shall be life imprisonment where the visible consequences of the acts referred to in sub-section (1) above are animal disease or plant destruction », end of quote.

As you can easily remark, after reading these provisions, and with all due respect, our opponents and other self-proclaimed state prosecutors are then caught flagrante delicto of lying and attempt of disinformation. Moreover, contrary to their widespread allegations, the act of terrorism is clearly defined in this bill.

It proceeds from a bundle of autonomous offenses, of the Penal Code of 1967, and which are sentenced as such with the death penalty. These offenses become then an act of terrorism only in case of guilty intention provided and defined in precised cases.

Allow me to cite a few of them: offenses related to the security of the State and in case of hostilities against the Fatherland (Section 102 of the penal Code), collusion with a foreign power to jeopardize interests of the Fatherland or treason it (Section 103), incitation to civil war by arming or inciting the people to take arms against each other (Section 112), depredation by band in time of war (Section 236), Capital murder (Section 276), aggravated theft with violence causing the death of another or grievous harms (Section 320), Aggravated kidnapping with fraud or violence, causing harms to the victim (Section 354); and I prefer to end here these examples, which aimed to illustrate.

Moreover, it should be recalled, and to get our detractors out of their apparent memory deadlock, that the legal and practical meaning of terrorism of the famous 1962 Ordinances against subversion had assimilated to acts of terrorism, the involvement of nationalist movements of the time, to free Cameroon from colonial rule.

Contrary to the allegations uttered here and there for the past days, it should be underscored that the meaning attributed to the act of terrorism as enshrined in this bill, has nothing to do with any political scope in terms of ideological and viaticum expression of power conquest  in a context of democracy and Rule of law.

By this development, it is rather an issue of de-politicizing the act of terrorism, and not in any way giving a terrorist connotation to political decision.

Distinguished Journalists, this is therefore the first acknowledgement of a flagrante delicto to alter the truth and attempt to manipulate public opinion through the media campaign orchestrated by the enemies of democracy.

The government is also being accused of whisking off all the progress and other achievements derived from the laws on freedoms passed in the early 90s.

Allow me then to raise this question: which of these laws that were passed in 1990 authorised the practice of terrorism? is it the law on the freedom of association, the law on public meetings and events, the law on political pluralism, or better still, the law relating to press freedom?

Allow me to raise this other question: Is there in this recently adopted bill to suppress acts of terrorism, any provision challenging the freedoms established in 1990? If so, let it be made known to us.

This is therefore another evidence of gross allegation.

We are moreover made to know that this bill is a pretext to simply cover an act of political opportunism to prepare for schedules that are only best known by our present critics.

We are once again required to refresh their memory. Are they not aware, or are they pretending not to know that for over a decade now, with the signing by Cameroon of CEMAC/UMAC Regulation to suppress terrorism and its financing, acts of terrorism have become an integral part of Cameroon’s positive law?

The same international instrument called on State-parties, notwithstanding the incorporation of the fight against terrorism in their internal positive laws, to enact national legislation in line with the commitments made by those States at the sub-regional level.

Allow me to emphasize that the adoption of this bill is in the range of a general programme of the domestication of international instruments to which Cameroon is a State-party.

Other instruments, apart from those making headline news today, had already gone through this domestication process including during the current session of both Houses of the Parliament. We did not by then, hear of any mourning or any complain from those agitating today.

Other instruments from various sectors will be tabled at the next sessions of Parliament.

And it is precisely in this context that the Parliament has authorised the Head of State to ratify the 1999 OAU Convention on the Prevention and fight against terrorism, committing among others, States Parties to, I quote: "... Establish criminal offences for terrorist acts," end of quote.

The same applies to its Protocols; which invited States Parties to, among others, I quote again: "Take all necessary measures to protect the basic rights of their populations against all acts of terrorism and prevent the entry into, and the training of terrorist groups on their territories, "end of quote.

When we add to this bill, resolution 2178 of 24th September 2014 of the United Nations Security Council calling upon States, and I quote: "To ensure that their domestic laws and regulations establish serious criminal offences sufficient to provide, the ability to prosecute and to penalise (acts of terrorism) ", end of quote, we quickly find out the shallowness and ungrounded nature of the arguments of these detractors to serve the public.

In addition to the memory deadlock of these detractors mentioned earlier in terms of the meaning of terrorism under the 1962 Ordinances, some indication of blindness and maybe even a symptomatic deafness resulting from a possible aphasia seem to be evident.

I hereby invite them to look at the realities around us, to see, hear and understand how world great powers have on every occasion responded to terrorist threats from a legal standpoint.

Allow me to first start by citing the case of the United States, considered to be the world’s bedrock in terms of Liberties and Human Rights.

Over a month after the 9/11 attacks, the Congress almost unanimously passed the "USA Patriot Act", an emergency law which created the status of "enemy combatant" and "illegal combatant", which allowed the American administration to ignore the Habeas Corpus, to detain without charge, persons suspected of perpetrating acts of terrorism. The inmates of the famous prison in Guantanamo were all jailed under this legal status, without prior recognition by international law.

In France, in order to address the phenomenon of recruiting and training French citizens by jihadist movements abroad, the Parliament voted on last November, a law to strengthen the provisions on the fight against terrorism.

It is stated under this law, and I quote: "Any French citizen could be banned from leaving the country, if there are serious reasons to consider that he has plans to travel abroad to participate in terrorist activities or in operations of terrorist groups under the conditions that could jeopardize public security upon return on French territory.”

When we know the importance of the freedom of movement in a country like France, where death penalty has been abolished, we can therefore measure the importance of the response to terrorism in this country.

The French lawmakers have strengthened the criminal provisions of the French Penal Code against persons causing or condoling with acts of terrorism. Thus, the fact of causing direct acts of terrorism or to publicly condole with such acts is liable to a five-year imprisonment term and a fine of about 50 million CFA francs.

These penalties are increased to a seven-year imprisonment term and a fine of about 65 million CFA francs when the acts were committed using a public line communication service.

With regard to the severity of penalties punishing acts of terrorism envisaged by the current bill in Cameroon, we would simply ask ourselves a question: is the life of the person who claims the lives of several innocents haphazardly and criminally more worthy of being preserved than the lives of innocent people claimed by the sole fundamentalist and ego-centred will of their executioners?

The fact remains that death penalty has not been abolished in Cameroon, and that several offences, including those existing apart from terrorist acts, are still punishable by death penalty in our country.

Why then would acts of terrorism be spared, whereas their consequences go beyond those of other offences, due to the fact that in addition to killing innocents without any good reason, or threatening the entire social bedrock of the State, such acts jeopardize the core values of the nation, I mean peace, unity, stability and national solidarity?

There is therefore no reason for any Cameroonian committed to these values to be afraid of the effects of such a law, no matter its level of severity, in as much as it is meant to punish acts that are as pest and destructive as acts of terrorism.

Unless those who are showcasing restlessness today to fight this legal instrument even though it aims to ensure the security of persons and goods on the entire national territory, in strict compliance with the laws of the Republic, unless those people, as I was saying, feel themselves threatened mindful of occult plans they may be having and whose schedule and effects they alone know.

But what they need to know is that no matter what sedition and macabre enterprises they may be planning in the darkness, they will always have the Cameroonian people to stand against them.

Some of them, showcasing themselves, have begun calling for popular uprising to realise their old dream.

However, Cameroonians are neither naive nor foolish. They are not amnesic. They know perfectly well these apostles of scorched earth policy, these contractors of chaos, who have always had the same modus operandi, in order to attempt violating their own conscience, instrumentalising their sovereignty and drawing them into the abyss of destruction and lapsation.

Never shall the people follow them in this demonic way.

The State has the obligation to protect itself in the manner that is most appropriate, against the terrorist threat, which is already showing its face at our doorsteps. Any Rule of law has the obligation to provide for a legal framework that should guide the sanctions against socially punishable acts.

The State must always ensure that social interest, so long as it is protected by an appropriate legislative set of instruments, be always guaranteed and never violated.

And that is the motive behind the bill on the supression of acts of terrorism.

On the allegations of our Judiciary being handed over to the military because acts of terrorism are devolved to the Military Court, I would like to provide the following clarifications:

The Military Court is not an exceptional jurisdiction. The Military Court is a jurisdiction with special competence. This means that the court has jurisdiction over some offences depending on their nature, their authors, or the circumstances in which such offences were committed.

Therefore, the area of jurisdiction of the Military Court includes:

Weapon legislation offences;

Offences involving weapons;

All other offences related to those I just mentioned.

Acts of terrorism involve violence, thefts, hostage taking, murders, assassinations often committed by organised groups and with weapons of war, weapons of self-defence or firearms, which are used in violation of the applicable legislation. 

It is therefore in a bid to ensure consistency in our legislation, that the bill placed the supression of terrorism under the jurisdiction of the Military Court. It is obvious that only the military Magistrate or any other Magistrate acting under a military court could be in a better position to investigate on weapon typology.

Everyone should know, and this is important, that the procedure applicable before the Military Court falls under common law, and that the rulings of this Military Court are subject to appeal before the Court of Appeal and then before the Supreme Court, where only civilian magistrates of the Juridiciary order sit.

It is important to note here that civilian Magistrates of the judiciary order work in military courts, the members of the said courts are officers of our defence forces, graduates of the "Magistracy" section of the National School of Administration and Magistracy.

Let me further say that as it is the case in all criminal matters, the presence of a defence counsel is compulsory during such trials before the Military Court. When the accused has not chosen a counsel, the President of the seized court assigns him one, and the fees are paid by the State.

As you can therefore notice, by making the supression of terrorism a jurisdiction of military courts, the law-maker rather wants to guarantee the indicted a fair trial before the courts that are better equipped to assess the facts, the conduct and most especially the means used, while ensuring the respect of the rights of the defendant and ultimately minimising the risk of judicial errors.

Fellow Journalists, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some people are trying to make you believe that the instrument envisaged for the repression of acts of terrorism is actually an attempt to reduce press freedom and to submit your publishing to a strict control of the Administration.

This brings me to ra    ise another question: would the media dare to serve the interests of an ugly cause like terrorism? Obviously, the answer, as you all know, is NO!

The issue at stake here is the repression of any apology of terrorism in the media, apology being understood as any discourse or position aiming to praise somebody, an idea or a doctrine.

In this regard, I will recall that in France, a country that can be said to be fatal to freedom, the apology of "crimes and offences, war crimes, crimes against humanity or crimes and offences of collusion with the enemy" committed through the press, has always been severely punished, especially by the Law of 29 July 1881 on press freedom.

Fellow Journalists, Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I expect from you, and what the entire nation expects from the Cameroonian media, that is to say you, is to bring your contribution as citizens to the struggle of our entire nation, your nation, against terrorism.

This struggle was initiated by the President of the Republic, His Excellency PAUL BIYA, on behalf of the Cameroonian people, who bestowed their sovereignty upon him.

Each time you lend a helping hand to this fight, as you have done so far – and I sincerely congratulate you – please be aware that you do it on behalf of the Cameroonian people, whose interests you have the duty to serve, because you are a press of Cameroonian citizenship, serving the collective well-being of the Cameroonian Nation. 

I therefore urge all our fellow citizens to be more vigilant against such multifaceted and ever evolving threats, directed by enemies, who sometimes are the most unexpected persons, against the stability, the social cohesion, the unity and prosperity of our beloved and valuable nation.

We are fully confident that Cameroonians are capable of unmasking such impostors and will ever remain mobilised behind the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul BIYA, to defend our collective interests, as well as promote today's and tomorrow's well-being of our country.

This is, Ladies and Gentlemen, the message I had to deliver to you on this occasion.

Thank you for your kind attention.”

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