In an emergency security meeting at the Centre Governor’s Office in Yaounde last week, the Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji, warned that all those who are trying to foment insecurity in and around Yaounde would be tracked down and treated accordingly.
In a tacit reference to last week’s uprising at the Kondengui Prison, the Minister averred that Yaounde, the seat of the nation’s institutions, must not be a victim to any insecurity.
It is usual for the Minister to bark out threats against insecurity.
Nobody should take Atanga Nji’s threats for granted, for, the warning is also a thinly-veiled deterrent to freedom fighters and pro-democracy activists.
This also means that no citizen, no matter how aggrieved and frustrated he is, should raise a finger of protest against the abuse of his rights.
Only those who dangerously lack the tenacity of memory will not recall that the Minister barked out similar threats before officials of the opposition MRC party, including its Chair, Prof. Maurice Kamto, were brutally captured and shoved into detention.
A serene security atmosphere is right for every citizen. It becomes a big problem when the establishment expands the semantic conference of the word to mean that every finger of protest, every call for the respect of human rights, is insecurity.
No! Such an interpretation tailored to suit only the frames of despotic power wielders is a sacrilege of the most primitive type in our so-called era of human rights and freedoms.
Injustice, abuse of human rights and the upsurge of repression are the main vectors of insecurity.
People get angry and frustrated when their rights are abused by the very people who are mandated to protect them.
If people riot because they are suffering injustice and rights abuse, can they be accused of being the sole cause of insecurity?
What about those who abuse rights, create a situation of injustice and commit themselves in crushing any protesting fly?
It is akin to beating a child and taking measures to kill that child when he cries out of the pains you have afflicted on him.
Ensuring the reign of social justice, the respect of human rights, the rule of law, the adequate provision of social amenities, equitable distribution of the “national cake” and governance virtues, are the best ways to avert insecurity.
Intimidation, harassment, arrest, torture and detention of opposition leaders, pro-democracy activists, civil society leaders, is the super-highway to insecurity in our country.
Anybody asking for security without fulfilling the above-mentioned conditions is a pretender.
At best, such a person could be seeking only for his or her safety, not that of citizens and the State in general.
I am at pains understanding why Government joined the finger-pointing crowd after the Kondengui Prison riots last week when detention conditions there remain a ticking time bomb.
The uprising triggered by Anglophone detainees was just a symptom of the deep-seated malaise.
Putting 5,000 in an 800-capacity prison is worse than a hellish act. So, what do the Government expect?
Due to overcrowding in the section of the prison known as Kossovo, inmates sleep for less than two hours a day.
They take turns in tiny spaces to rest their frames and cover their eyes in poor quality sleep. Small wonder that they prefer to die than continue to live in such conditions.
The overcrowding in prisons is an issue Government should address urgently. It should speed up the trial of those in pre-trial custody, instead of capturing and torturing those who come out to protest.
Throwing blame at the opposition and the Anglophone detainees is a ridiculous farce.
Being so eager to muffle vocal activists and brutalise freedom, leaves one with the impression that those on the saddle are so obsessed with protecting only themselves, and not the State and its people. Are we going back to the past of another Cameroon’s epoch of un-freedom?
Our prisons are so full, and if anybody who raises a finger of protest, they are shoved into jail.
Should everybody now capitulate under fear of the whip and the lash of the oppressor and wallow in deprivation as they savour the wealth so wickedly looted from the people?
For, one thing, potential vectors of insecurity like urban transportation in Yaounde have not been given due attention. Taxicab drivers and bike riders seem to be operating a State within a State, wherein they violate traffic rules and threaten other road users with impunity.
The Government has continued to pay lip service about organising the sector. Bike riders have ignored the Prime Minister’s order that confines them peripheral areas of the town.
Moreover, the traffic police elements drafted to check excesses look the other way as the delinquents violate traffic rules.
But the same police will not miss cracking down on a pro-democracy protest.
Yaounde is in the jaws of urban disorder, wherein vendors occupy road pavements and stifle the free flow of traffic.
Yet, the powers that be watch out only to arrest and finger of protest.