Over 45 Anglophone secessionists extradited to Cameroon

Over 45 Anglophone secessionists extradited to Cameroon

Government spokesman says secessionists extradited from Nigeria will be tried for alleged crimes in Cameroon

By Felix Nkambeh Tih and Rafiu Ajakaye

ANKARA (AA) - A group of 47 Cameroon Anglophone secessionists, including their leader Julius Sisiku Ayuk Tabe have been extradited from Nigeria to Cameroon, according to Cameroonian media reports Tuesday.

The reports quoting government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said the secessionists had been handed over to the Cameroonian judiciary and would be tried for their alleged crimes.

''Under the leadership of their respective heads of state, the Cameroonian and Nigerian government reaffirm their commitment to never tolerate that their territories be used as a hideout to undertake destabilizing activities against one of them,'' Bakary said late Monday night, according to Cameroon Tribune.

''The Cameroon government takes this opportunity to commend the excellent bilateral cooperation between Cameroon and Nigeria, especially with regard to security,'' he added.

Cameroonian separatists, including Ayuk Tabe, were arrested in Nigerian capital Abuja early January.

Ayuk Tabe was arrested on allegations he was involved in underground meetings against the Republic of Cameroon.

Femi Falana, counsel to the separatists, told Anadolu Agency late Monday the extradition of “freedom fighters while a suit challenging their unlawful detention subsists is not only shameful but totally unacceptable.

"The decision of the Nigerian government to secretly deport the freedom fighters is a shame. It is against the rule of law and it is sad that Cameroon is celebrating such shameless action."

Last week, Falana gave Abuja a 48-hour ultimatum to release all separatists or face legal action after accusing the government of denying them basic rights guaranteed to refugees under the law.

- Protests

Cameroon has been marred by protests for over a year, with residents in English-speaking regions saying they have been marginalized for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.

The protesters are calling for a return to federalism or independence of English-speaking Cameroon, which the demonstrators refer to as the "Republic of Ambazonia".

English-speakers frequently complain of exclusion from top civil service jobs and the use of French in government institutions, although the constitution gives both languages official status.

French Cameroon gained its independence from France in 1960. In 1961, a federal state was set up when British Cameroon gained its independence from Great Britain and joined French Cameroon.

The federal state was, however, dissolved in favor of a unitary state in 1972.

Since then Anglophones say they are being marginalized and forced to use French in public institutions and schools, and also use the French-Cameroon legal system in courts.

Tens of thousands of people have fled and crossed into neighboring Nigeria, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

Meanwhile, dozens of military and police officers have also been killed since the protests started in October 2016.

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