Cameroon’s arrested opposition leader Maurice Kamto and 29 of his imprisoned supporters started a hunger strike a day after being told they will face eight charges amounting to treason. If found guilty, they could face the death penalty.
Christopher Ndong, secretary-general of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, said Friday that the strikers aim to show that President Paul Biya’s re-election to a seventh term in October was a stolen victory.
“Kamto wants that this government should give way because they are not legitimate after the 7th of October 2018 polls,” Ndong said. “He won the election and he wants that they should honestly hand down power without shame, because he is saying if they think that what he declared as a winner is false, let us go back and do a recount.”
The opposition’s calls for a recount of the October vote are likely to fall on deaf ears.
Biya is Africa’s second-longest ruling leader — in power for 36 years — and his government has shown little tolerance for opposition.
Police arrested Kamto and nine party officials Monday after days of peaceful protest in Yaounde and three other cities ended in clashes.
Government spokesman Rene Emmanuel Sadi said police shot and wounded seven protesters and arrested 117. Opposition supporters put the number of arrests at more than 200.
Kamto and his colleagues are now facing eight charges, including treason, inciting violence, and disruption of public peace.
Cameroon Bar Council lawyer Mujem Fombad says the men could be facing the death penalty.
“Article 102 of the penal code sanctions hostility against the fatherland. Any citizen, any citizen taking part in hostility against the republic shall be guilty with treason and punished with death,” Fombad said.
Opposition supporters also stormed Cameroon’s embassies in Paris and Berlin on Saturday.
Minor damage and stolen documents were reported at the Paris embassy, which was temporarily closed.
In Yaounde, authorities summoned the French ambassador to demand that protesters who stormed the embassy be extradited to face charges.
Rights group Amnesty International has called on Cameroon to release all peaceful protesters, including Kamto.