BY LUCY LIMA
The police announced on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, that a jurist detained in Buea had escaped the day before.
Poudje Djokam Stephan, a jurist practicing in Mutengene, a town near Buea, was accused of serious national security offences including foreign collusion and incitement to secession.
The Police and Gendarmerie have now offered rewards for information leading to his arrest.
Éric Lazare Ndoumbe, Commissioner of the Mutengene Police Station told The SUN Monday that an arrest warrant hangs over Poudje Djokam Stephan who escaped from detention in Buea under unclear circumstances.
“We arrested the suspect around 3 o’clock on Friday, September 1, 2023, after he hosted a meeting of the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC. We transferred him and his accomplice to Buea where they were detained,” the police commissioner said, adding: “This is someone who has been holding briefs for the restoration of the independence of the Southern Cameroons, an outlawed separatist group.”
Sources at the Great Soppo Gendarmerie Brigade told THE SUN that Poudje Djokam escaped together with one other person with whom he participated in a pro-SCNC meeting.
The duo were arrested by a mixed security team consisting of police and gendarme officers.
Poudje is one of the jurists who have been defending those arrested for fronting for the independence of minority English-speaking people in a majority French-speaking Cameroon. If arrested, Poudje and his accomplice will face the death penalty as enshrined in the 2014 law on the suppression of acts of terrorism.
However, two officers who were on guard on September 5, 2023, have been arrested as investigations continue to understand the circumstances under which Poudje and his accomplice escaped.
The Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) was banned in January 2017 as lawyers, teachers, and other anglophones rose to protect the annihilation of Common Law and Anglo-Saxon education.
“Poudje’s arrest was a direct attack on the legal profession,” Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla, president of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, told The SUN. “His escape only helps free the government from further making blunders. Issuing a warrant for his arrest is uncalled for. The Biya regime should respect the rule of law and freedom of opinion and association.”
“His arbitrary detention reveals a system geared towards stifling and undermining the role and activities of lawyers involved in key human rights cases,” said Barrister Agbor Balla.
Violence in the Anglophone regions over the last six years has claimed an estimated 8,000 lives and caused the displacement of over 150,000 civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.