Cameroon’s Main Opposition Leader Kamto Regains Freedom
Cameroonian opposition leader Maurice Kamto (L) waves to supporters as he is driven away on October 5, 2019, in Yaounde, the day of his release from prison. STRINGER / AFP
Cameroon’s main opposition leader Maurice Kamto walked free from jail Saturday after a military court ordered his release at the behest of veteran President Paul Biya.
The surprise conciliatory gesture comes as the president is facing a number of domestic crises and international criticism over political freedoms.
“We are here today thanks to your constant support,” Kamto, who had spent nine months behind bars, told hundreds of supporters who gathered to greet him.
“I saw you even when you couldn’t see me.”
He announced a “new chapter in our struggle”, adding that “if some people think that our liberation means the end of our struggle they have understood nothing”.
The struggle would be “peaceful”, he said before being driven away surrounded by a dozen-strong escort of klaxon-blaring vehicles.
Kamto, 65, was arrested in late January after months of peaceful opposition protests over the results of the October 2018 election.
He went on trial with dozens of others in a military court in September on charges of insurrection, hostility to the motherland and rebellion — crimes which could be given the death penalty, though this is no longer carried out in Cameroon.
Biya, 86, has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist for nearly 37 years.
On Friday he announced he had ordered prosecutions to be dropped against “some” opposition leaders, including a number from the main Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) which Kamto leads.
Kamto is greeted and acclaimed by hundreds of supporters in Yaounde after his release. STRINGER/AFP
More than 100 people in detention are also now set for release “if they have not been detained for anything else”, the military court