ITF demands release of arrested Cameroon union leaders

Associations, ITF — By on January 30, 2015 at 6:38 PM

ITF CAmeroon 30012015Fioko Patrice, from the ITF-affiliated National Union of Land Transport Sector Employees (SYNESTER) union, was arrested, tried and sentenced to six months in prison in Cameroon on 19 January for the ‘advocation of crime, sedition and terrorist activity’ after distributing leaflets promoting a planned strike.

His detention followed the arrests on the same charges of two other union leaders on 16 January – Jean Collins Ndefossokeng, national president of the ITF-affiliated National Union of Land Transport Sector Employees (SYNESTER), and Joseph Deudie, president of SYNACPROCAM. The two are being detained by the Mobile Intervention Group of Yaoundé, the security force.

The ITF and all the road transport unions in Cameroon had already written to the country’s prime minister and the minister of labour and social security to demand the immediate release of Ndefossokeng and Deudie.

The two unions had planned a strike on 19 January, postponed from 5 January, to protest against changes imposed by state-approved insurance companies. The insurers have switched the frequency of the vehicle owner’s premium payments from one month to three and now refuse to cover the driver in the event of an accident. In organising the strike, the unions had followed all Cameroon’s legal procedures.

In his letter to prime minister M Philemon Yang, ITF general secretary Steve Cotton said:  “We challenge this allegation [terrorist acts] as often genuine trade unionists are branded as ‘terrorists’ for taking part in legitimate actions to protect the interests of their members.

“The other unions in Cameroon are responding to this unwarranted arrest by organising protests to demand the immediate release of the two union leaders. The ITF fully supports their demand and requests your office to make an urgent intervention to set them free immediately and unconditionally.”

SYNESTER and SYNCPROTCAM called an emergency meeting of all Cameroon’s road transport unions to plan their response and build solidarity support for the arrested trade unionists.

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