Five members of Cameroon President Paul Biya’s security team have been handed suspended sentences after they were arrested on Tuesday in Geneva over an alleged assault on a journalist.
The Geneva prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that Biya’s security detail harassed and slightly injured the journalist for Swiss public broadcaster RTS, then swiped his phone, wallet and bag on June 26, reports the AP.
The incident occurred as the journalist was covering a demonstration by opponents of the Cameroonian president who had gathered at the prestigious Intercontinental Hotel where Biya was staying.
The five men appeared in court on Wednesday and were sentenced for “duress, damage to property and illegitimate appropriation,” according to the Geneva-based RTS. A sixth member of the team, a woman, was released as she held a diplomatic passport.
The men also received suspended sentences of at least three months. They were immediately released.
86-year-old Biya is one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents who won another seven-year term in 2018. After serving for 36 years, he is not ready to step down even though the country continues to fall apart.
There are striking similarities amongst the African dictatorships that have recently been toppled such as Gambia, Zimbabwe, Algeria and Sudan. These governments are characterized by huge deficits including dictatorship, long rule, abuse of institutions, poverty, corruption, and youth unemployment.
These indicators are very present in Cameroon under the Biya regime and have implanted acute feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration and inertia triggering pockets of protest, resistance and rebellion across the country.
Recent events in the country contain all the telltale signs of a regime in decline and a failing environment. For a long time, Biya, also referred to as the absentee president, has relied on the usual dictatorial tactics to maintain his stranglehold on the country; ethnic divisions, a brutal military crackdown on dissenters, arrest and imprisonment of opposition leaders, keeping a close college of cronies, most of whom are from his region of origin and have remained blind loyalists. Those that have shown signs of wavering have been quickly thrown in prison.
Though Cameroon is not officially classified as a fragile state by the World Bank, it contains all the indicators, including the weak institutional coping capacity to withstand external shocks, pressures and risks; it is facing violent conflicts, high unemployment, corruption and embezzlement, poor health and educational infrastructure, among others.
Frankly, the economic threat posed by the Anglophone crisis is what might just tip the country over to open mayhem.