Samuel Ajiekah Abuwe fondly called Samuel Wazizi, had became a house hold name in Buea, Southwest Regional capital of Cameroon. His program, “Hala ya matta” on Buea based Chillen Music and Television (CMTV) has not only thrilled listeners, but has earned him a lot of popularity in and out of Buea. The popularity of Samuel Wazizi’s TV program earned him the name “Hala ya Matta” and every body old or young called him by his new found name. He lived his quiet but “near-celebrity” life in the Muea Neighborhood, one of the most targeted neighborhoods in Buea, as far as the Anglophone crisis is concerned.
August 2, 2019, Samuel Wazizi was arrested for having links with the armed Anglophone separatists group, popularly known as “Amba Fighters”. He was equally accused of giving out his farmland as a base for Anglophone Separatist Fighters. Samuel Wazizi was also faulted for spreading Separatists rumors. He reportedly spent 5 days in the Muea 3rd District Police Station. From there, Samuel Wazizi was transferred to the 21st Motorized Infantry Battalion in Buea and afterward to Yaoundé. He was held incommunicado for over 300 days. Irrespective of the pressure mounted on the Cameroon government by Wazizi’s lawyers, Association of English Speaking Journalists, right groups like CHRDA to show prove of Wazizi’s existence, the government of Cameroon maintained a suspicious silence.
“Let the state of Cameroon produce Samuel Wazizi whether dead or alive, if he is dead let his corpse be handed to his family for a befitting burial, and if he is alive let him be released to his family”, Wazizi’s lawyer, Edward Lyonga Ewule is quoted as saying to Equinox’s Babila Jonathan. The Center for Human Right and Democracy in Africa, CHRDA in one of its releases says, “The arrest and detention of Samuel Ajiekah Abuwe accompanied undue litigation process is in violation of the national and international standards protecting journalists’ rights; it also illustrates injustice in the country and silence of the international community in promoting the protection of freedom of expression in Cameroon”.
The bad News
Equinox TV on June 02 during its 8pm news cast, broke the news of Wazizi’s death. Citing sources close to the military, Equinox TV reported that Samuel Wazizi died in Yaoundé of wounds inflicted on him by the Cameroon Military. The Association of English Speaking Journalists, CAMASEJ also confirmed his death in a tweet. “CAMASEJ can now confirm that our colleague Samuel Wazizi is dead. He died at the military hospital in Yaoundé after succumbing to torture…”, part of the tweet reads.
The death of Wazizi has attracted a lot of attention and criticisms from the national and international communities. The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPL has urged the Government of Cameroon to disclose the whereabouts of Samuel Wazizi. “Cameroonian authorities must immediately disclose the whereabouts and the health and legal status of imprisoned journalist Samuel Wazizi”. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on her own part calls for a “thorough and independent investigation into the circumstances leading to Cameroonian journalist Samuel Wazizi’s death while held incommunicado by the military, which was revealed this week by a national TV channel, confirmed by the journalists’ union, and confirmed directly to RSF by several military sources close to the case. The Presidents of the Association of English Speaking Journalist, Jude Viban and Cameroon Journalist Trade Union, Denis Nkwebo gave the government of Cameroon till the June 04 to give explanations as far as the death of Wazizi is concerned.
Members of the of the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union, Buea chapter, June 04, staged a peaceful protest to the governor’s office demanding the whereabouts of Wazizi. The governor of the Southwest region, Benard Okalia Belai in an in camera meeting with some members of the union says he knows nothing about the whereabouts of the deceased journalist since he was transferred to Yaounde, capital city of Cameroon.
To him, only authorities in Yaoundé can enlighten Cameroonians on the whereabouts of Wazizi. “The Govenor made it abundantly clear that Wazizi was arrested by the police on the August 02, 2019 and he was taken from the Muea District Police to military custody because his issue bordered on terrorism. Two days after that he was moved to Yaoundé in good health. All we know is that Wazizi left the region in good health. As to whether he is dead or not, it is Yaoundé that can answer that question…” Chief Paul Kemayang, VP of Common Wealth Journalists Association, Africa, who took part in the protest to the Governor’s Office said. When I pressed hard, Chief Kemayang went on “that we first got the news on Equinox TV that Wazizi died some five to six month ago and the governor maintained sealed lips”
Apart from media practitioners, Cameroon politicians have equally been reacting to the death of Samuel Wazizi. Cabral Libii, leader of the Cameroon Party for National Reconciliation says “Biya’s regime remains solely responsible for killing Wazizi and owes his family and the Cameroonian people an explanation” Maurice Kamto, leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement on his part says “Abuwe Ajieka is just one more victim, after so many others, who have paid with their lives the price of the exercise of their profession”.
Cameroon Government finally bow to pressure
The government of Cameroon in a release issued Friday, June 05, 2020; Col. Cyril Serge Atonfack says Samuel Wazizi was collaborating with Separatist fighters in the South West region of Cameroon. The release also insists that Samuel Wazizi died of sepsis on August 2019 instead of severe torture as popular opinion holds and what Equinox TV had earlier reported. The release also maintained that the family of Wazizi was informed to bury the corpse but never took steps to do so. The family of the deceased journalist has however denied claims by the government that they were informed to bury their brother.
Justice for Wazizi
Just like the ongoing campaign demanding justice for George Floyd, various social media platforms are taken by storm with the ongoing campaign calling for “justice for Wazizi”.
Cameroonians of all works of life have joint the campaign. Justiceforwazizi as the hastag goes seams to be a far fetched dream given that Wazizi, in the eyes of the government of Cameroon is a “terrorist”. Journalists continue to pay the price as the crisis in the English speaking regions of Cameroon shows no signs of ending. Journalists remain a target to both regular state forces and armed separatists who have been battling it out in the conflict stricken Anglophone regions.