By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Amnesty International, a global movement of more than ten million people who take injustice personally says the release of students sentenced in Cameroon to ten (10) years for sharing jokes on Boko Haram is a “great relief”.
The three students were sentenced back in 2016 by a military court for “non-denunciation of terrorist-related information”, Amnesty International said. Over the weekend, the students were finally freed after spending five years in jail. On December 16, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled to reduce the sentence of the students from ten to five years.
“The release of Fomusoh Ivo Feh, Afuh Nivelle Nfor, and Azah Levis Gob, three young men who were absurdly punished for simply sharing a joke on their mobile phones is a great relief,” Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Director said.
“All those who have tirelessly campaigned for their release, including the more than 300 000 people across the globe who wrote in 2016 to President Paul Biya asking him to end this injustice, we’re also delighted that they are finally free.
Samira Daoud added: “These three students who were only exercising their right to freedom of expression should never have been arrested in the first place. Cameroon’s authorities should protect human rights and ensure all people can speak freely without fear of reprisal.”
More than 310,000 people across the globe including former Indomitable Lions striker Patrick Mboma joined Amnesty International in calling for the release of the students. Rights groups have criticized the anti-terror laws in Cameroon as overly broad, with the potential for abuse. A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists said anti-terror legislation, introduced in the country in 2014, was being used to silence critics and suppress dissent.
In December 2014, Fomusoh Ivo Feh received a text message from a friend, saying: “Boko Haram recruit’s young people from 14 years old and above. Conditions for recruitment: 4 subjects at GCE, including religion”.
His friend’s message was intended as a comment on the difficulty of finding a good job without being highly qualified – joking that even the armed group Boko Haram won’t recruit you without good exam results.
Ivo forwarded the message to Afuh Nivelle Nfor, who sent it to Azah Levis Gob. One of their teachers saw the text, having confiscated the phone, and showed it to the police. Ivo and his friends were all arrested. They were transferred to a prison in Yaoundé on 14 January 2015.