Profiling S. Cameroonians in Yaoundé Prisons: Detainee 0002 : Hon Lord Justice Ayah Paul Abine
HRH, Hon Lord Justice Ayah Paul Abine is one of the eldest among the Southern Cameroonian detainees, in Yaoundé Prisons. He is currently being detained at the Secretariat of State at the Ministry of Defense in Charge of the National Gendarmerie, better known by its French acronym SED (Secretariat d’Etat au Ministere de la Defence, en charge de la Gendarmerie,) since January 21, 2017 when he was picked up at his residence in Yaoundé, without any arrest warrant.
No Charge after Six Months
Curiously, since the arrest of this judge and despite his age (67) he is being detained, according to his family, under life threatening conditions, and has not been charged as at the day of publishing this report. There have been several reports about the possibility of Hon Ayah losing his sight amid his continuous frail health situation. He was in June 2017 falsely rumoured dead! Yaoundé authorities have remained deaf over calls for his release.
The reasons for his arrest remain a mystery although it is suspected that he is being detained because he is a senior Southern Cameroons elite and for his request for a return to a ten state federation following his party’s constitution though he often said his personal opinion is the will of the people. It is suspected that with apparently no charge against Hon Ayah, the military Tribunal, land him similar accusations like the other detainees, notably, hostility against the nation among others.
Hon Ayah had never hidden his thoughts. To him, the union between the then East and West Cameroon was not working. The super scale Judge had argued that on point of law there was and there is no legal binding document keeping the two countries together.
He too was of the opinion that if there is no possibility of a return to a federal state, Southern Cameroons has the right and should be allowed to go its separate way. He wrote and granted interviews, expressing his views as politely and humbly as he could. He never was violent and never supported same.
There is no wonder that Hon Ayah Paul on July 27th 2017 took the Government of Cameroon to the United Nations and accused them for kidnap, illegal arrest, demanding huge compensation.
Enriching Legal Career
At the time of his arrest he was deputy Attorney General at Cameroon’s Supreme Court in Yaoundé. With a 24 year career in the judiciary, Hon Paul Ayah Abine is one of the longest serving members of the judicial arm of government, the lone Southern Cameroonian who has attained that rank in the country’s judiciary. He has been Chief Magistrate, Presiding and legal officer, District Deputy Attorney, Head of High Courts in different regions of Cameroon.
In what can be considered as attempts at silencing Hon Ayah Paul, he was, while in detention, sent on retirement in June 2017, although there are other judges older than him who are still in office. Sending him on retirement while in detention is another indication that the Cameroon government is certainly bent on crushing him and his beliefs.
With Hrh Hon Lord Justice Ayah Paul Abine’s seriousness in addressing developmental problems affecting his native Akwaya native community in Manyu Division in the South West Region of Cameroon, he was voted Member of Parliament of the ruling Cameroon Peoples’ Democratic Movement, CPDM, from 2002 to 2013 and was Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly between 2002 – 2008.
Ayah, The Honourable
A soft spoken but very frank Hon Ayah, resigned from the ruling party in 2010. He was earlier on, the lone CPDM Parliamentarian who opposed the 2008 bill to modify Cameroon’s 18 January 1996 Constitution to unlimited presidential terms of office. It is also rumored that he is paying the price for opposing the ruling party which took him to parliament.
Almost Becoming President!
Hon Ayah then joined the People’s Action Party, contested the 2011 elections and was fifth out of some 23 candidates. There was later a huge debate about his election as the chairman of the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, one of the movements which have been clamoring for the restoration of the Southern Cameroons Statehood. In the wake of the euphoria of his ‘election,’ in 2016 he was appointed Deputy Attorney General at the Supreme Court by the President of the Republic, Paul Biya.
The opposition against him accepting the post did not deter him from remaining true to his convictions. He needed to his conscience to move on with his career and took the job.
Even while in office, Hon Ayah did not stop speaking up his mind against any form of injustice and holding power to account. He never failed to denounce whenever the law was violated.
It is speculated that his arrest could be linked to his decision to quit the CPDM which sent him to parliament. This is considered as biting the finger that fed him.
Hon Ayah, Justice and Law Defender
Despite criticism on some of Hon Ayah’s position on some national issues he remains someone who stood for justice and the respect for the rule of law. He founded a human rights NGO, Justice4all in January of 2015 and remained one of those who stood for the Southern Cameroonian rights activist, Oben Maxwell, who is detained at the Buea Prison on ‘secession’ charges.
His presence at the Buea Court of First Instance in 2015 where about 25 SCNC activists were arraigned reportedly helped in having the case thrown out after dozens of adjournments in the past.As a Supreme Court judge, his eyeballs were on files of lower courts that served hundreds of thousands from high levels of injustice.
At some point, he lambasted the entire judiciary stating publicly that it is very corrupt.Worth mentioning, Hon Ayah Paul is the lone Cameroonian who declared his assets in 2011 on the eve of the Presidential elections. He challenged those in authority to do same and implicitly demanded the implementation of art 66 of Cameroon’s constitution that requires the President and other top government officials, declare their assets before and after leaving office. It however remained unclear which criteria he used to declare his assets.
Hon Ayah prior to his arrest was a member of the Higher Judicial Council of Cameroon. It’s headed by the President of the Republic; Paul Biya .He was a member of an investigation team to Balikumbat on the murder of a political leader. It is not known whether he had information which might be embarrassing to the regime.
The Humanitarian and Patriot
His love and care for children caused him to found the St Valentine Centre (orphanage), Buea, for boys; and St Valentine Centre (orphanage) Akwaya (for girls). At least ten among them are said to be university graduates. These children are today unable to give meaning to their lives and future as a result of the arrest of Hon Ayah. As Head of the different civil society organizations he has been instrumental in carrying out rural development with the aim of helping the rural poor and reducing poverty. He joined two others to champion the construction of the Benakuma-Baworo stretch of the Wum-Akwaya Road.
He did not hesitate to always denounce the enclavement of the Akwaya community. It is no wonder therefore that he was conferred an Award for his humanitarian works by “The Post” newspaper in 1996. His love for the country was also influential in his naming of his reflection guest house, “ Bakassi Na Cameroon” (Bakassi belongs to Cameroon).
Hon Ayah has also defended any encroachment on Cameroonian territory by Nigeria (which shares boarders with Akwaya).
Academic Awards, Association
After his primary educationl in Akwaya and Mamfe , Hon Ayah studied at the then Federal Bilingual Grammar School, Man O’ War Bay (now in Buea) and obtained his Advance Level Certificate. After graduating from the Faculty of Laws and Economics, University of Yaoundé he enrolled in School of Administration and Magistracy, Yaounde. He is holder of Licence en Droit (LLB) and an ENAM diploma (BaL) since 1978.He did military training in Ngaoundere and was involved in rescue operations for the survivors of Lake Nyos gas disaster of 1986 and is ex-officio coroner of the disaster.
Hon Ayah at Time of His Arrest
He has several unpublished works, like his first play “Afonyi” and the collection of poems, “FEELING NEW” among other works. It is reported that the then President of the Republic, Ahmadou Ahidjo, came to ENAM to personally congratulate Hon Ayah on his academic excellence.
Social Hon Ayah
Married to Endale Valentine and blessed with four able children Hon Ayah is a man of God and Chairman of Parish Council, Catholic Church, Molyko, Buea. In 1998 he was enthroned as Paramount Chief, Akwaya Town. He has been President of the Akwaya Development Council and is one of the Founders of South West Elite Association – SWELA, an elitist association clamoring for the development of the South West Region although the grouping seems to be tearing itself apart due to political machinations.
Hon Ayah’s benjamin;
He too was detained, humiliated and released. The senior judge is member of several local, continental organisations including the National Committee on Bio-safety, Cameroon-Ivory Coast Friendship Group, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and Member and led several parliamentary delegations to many countries on the African continent.
Hon Ayah’s arrest has been condemned by Southern Cameroonians and other Cameroonians who described his detention as an abuse of power. Reports from Akwaya say the area has not been at peace with itself since the arrest of the sitting judge and the Paramount Ruler.
“That is the most stupid thing (arrest of Hon Ayah) they have done,” commented a Senior Cameroonian officer who resigned from the police force, denouncing corruption, just like Hon Ayah.
By Solomon Amabo Amabo