Anti-Terrorism Law, Inevitable Legal Response

The President’s state-of-the-nation address last Wednesday night gives us some new insights in revisiting the acrimony that virtually tore the two chambers of parliament apart …

when the proposed anti-terrorism law came up for debate last month with many MPs, especially those of the opposition parties dismissing the government-sponsored piece of legislation as a masked attempt to re-introduce harsh laws depriving citizens of their much-cherished liberties.

Many weeks gone after those momentous exchanges, a cursory look at the law leaves every reason to think that its coming at that time was not only timely, but inevitable. As we write these lines, it is almost certain that there has been some attack by the Boko Haram insurgents somewhere in the Far-North Region, given the intensity and regularity of attacks these past weeks.

The attacks, begun a few years ago, were particularly intensive last year with a spectacular snowball effect, beginning with very few and specific localities, but developing rather exponentially, enveloping huge areas of the Far-North Region. From the look of things, the attacks could even go beyond this Region. Insurgency is not an exclusive preserve of the northerly parts of the country. In the East Region what began as a negligible influx of refugees has quickly become a serious security challenge with wide-ranging ramifications including attacks and abductions of helpless villagers by plundering invaders, many of whom are renegades from the dismantled military forces in the Central African Republic.

These newly created situations have literally turned our country into a vast area of unrest and poses new security challenges to our defence forces as well as making life exceedingly difficult for ordinary citizens who have never known such insecurity and discomfort before. Moreover, there has been an attendant ripple effect brought about by this imposed war on our nation. The terrorists offer very attractive fringe benefits for their recruits, and in the generalised impoverishment observed in many parts of the Far-North and North Regions due to other natural catastrophes such as droughts and floods, the choice is easy to make.

Many unemployed youth have, thus, found refuge in these insurgent groups and have been forced, in spite of themselves, to take arms against their own fatherland. How then could the government contain the situation or, at least, address it without laws that dissuade potential recruits? After the ripple effect, there is the domino effect. The law must also be harsh enough to discourage anyone sitting on the fence. The military victories inflicted on the insurgents in the past few days, generally resulting in huge human losses also justify the firmness of this law because a good military victory at the pinnacle usually dismantles hundreds and, even thousands of insurgents.

Human Rights groups in the country and the opposition have been very suspicious of the real intentions of this law because, in their reckoning, it can lead to Human Rights abuses by government with the likelihood that any attempt to question government attitude or decision on any issue can be considered as tantamount to rebellion and maliciously categorized as an apology for terrorism.

The Head of State, whose voice we had not heard so far in the debate earlier mentioned, came authoritatively to give guarantees that the law could not and never negate the gains the country has obtained in matters of freedom. Rather, the law only specifically addresses the threats on our nation. Hear him in his address to the nation Wednesday night: “The growing threats on our borders have prompted us to take measures to safeguard against their effects on our internal security… It is far from serving as a pretext for restricting civil liberties, as claimed by some ill-intentioned people.”

One last, but, important point is that terrorism is becoming a transnational scourge and any efficient fight must take into account what others are doing because, all too often, the fight necessitates joint international efforts. From this perspective, Cameroon was also conforming to international conventions and other instruments in the fight against terrorism at home and beyond because terrorism today has no boundaries with the particular case of Boko Haram as the best illustration.

Source : Cameroon Tribune

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