Cameroon’s opposition leader, Mr. Siddiki has been sentenced to 25 in prison for criticizing the President, Paul Biya. Mr. Siddiki, the leader of the Cameroon’s Patriotic Salvation Movement was arrested and sentenced by the military tribunal, based on alleged conspiracies to commit a possible hostility against the State. Apart from being charged for criticizing the President, the opposition leader was also convicted of starting a revolution against President Biya, aimed at overthrowing the government.
Mr. Siddiki denied all the charges, which he claimed were politically motivated. The 84 years old president Biya who has been in the office for 35 years is seen in many quarters as highly allergic to criticism. Mr. Biya has been in power since 1982. The Amnesty International has strongly criticised the Military Tribunal ruling against Mr. Saddiki and demanded his release. The human rights organisation believes that his sentence wasn’t based on proper evidence, but rather on other motives.
Like the Amnesty International, many believe that Mr. Siddiki is not only innocent but has been caught in the crossfires of authorities, who are scared of the opposition. Apart from Mr. Siddiki, his lawyer Abdoulaye Harissou, who was arrested together with him, faces up to three years in prison “for not releasing information that could be dangerous to the national security,” says the military tribunal. Three journalists were also arrested in connection to the case. However, the charges against them were later dropped and the three journalists later set free.
The worrisome questions in the mind of many are: Was Mr. Siddiki arrested simply because he is a critic – and indeed seen as a political threat – to President Paul Biya? , Is Saddiki a real threat to the national security, as claimed by the authorities?
Having President Paul Biya’s human rights records in mind, it is very easy for many to draw an easy conclusion.