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Presidential Decree Shuffles Military Judges Amid Zogo's Murder Investigation Release Order Controversy

Presidential Decree Shuffles Military Judges Amid Zogo's Murder Investigation Release Order Controversy

Paru le vendredi, 15 décembre 2023 16:15

On December 13, President Pual Biya signed a decree appointing new officials to the Ministry of Defense. The decree appoints military judge Djiofack Sylvestre Pascal as Head of the Department of Military Justice in replacement to military judge  Sipa Didier Dongmo, who has been promoted to Inspector at the General Inspectorate of the Armed Forces of Cameroon.

Lieutenant-Colonel Pierrot Narcisse Nzie is also appointed examining magistrate and vice-president of the Yaoundé Military Court.  

These changes within the military justice system come some two weeks after the scandal surrounding the investigations related to the murder of radio host Martinez Zogo.

Background

On December 1, an order signed by the examining magistrate of the Yaoundé military court Lieutenant-Colonel Florent Aimé Sikati Kamwo II appeared on social networks. The decision, signed on the same day, ordered the release of businessman Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga and the Director General of the Directorate General of External Research (DGRE), Léopold Maxime Eko Eko, two of the main defendants in the Martinez Zogo case.

Just a few hours after the publication of this document, a letter signed by the same examining magistrate was also leaked on social networks. In this letter addressed to the Government Commissioner of the Yaoundé Military Court Cerlin Belinga, Investigating Magistrate Florent Aimé Sikati Kamwo II stated that the order in circulation "is not authentic". The government commissioner in turn instructed the warden of Yaoundé's main prison not to release the defendants. The defendants’ lawyers strongly protested in return, arguing that the release order obtained from the investigating clerk, Jean Didier Nkoa, could not be a forgery.

The Sikati case

These recent appointments by the President of the Republic to the military judiciary are, at first sight, perceived by public opinion as a response to this scandal. It should be pointed out that the Head of State's decree does not affect the position of investigating clerk at the TMY, which is also involved in this scandal.

While some observers allege that the Martinez Zogo case could be entrusted to the new examining magistrate Pierrot Narcisse Nzie, President Paul Biya's decree does not specify that the new vice-president and examining magistrate is appointed to replace Sikati. Sikati therefore remains de facto examining magistrate and vice-president of the Yaoundé Military Court.

Moreover, according to Article 5 of the 2017 Code of Military Justice, the Military Tribunal's investigating judge may include "one or more judges." This is also the case for the presidency of the tribunal, which may comprise one or more vice presidents. Furthermore, to our knowledge, there is no order from the president of the court, Colonel Jacques Baudouin Misse Njoné, entrusting investigations into the Martinez Zogo case to Lieutenant-Colonel Pierrot Narcisse Nzie.

Ludovic Amara

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