Yaounde Military Tribunal: More Witnesses Make Case Against Bouba Simala

The former orderly to Hon. Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, the Speaker of the National Assembly, is accused of outrage and threatening to abduct him.

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Hearing continued at the Yaounde Military Tribunal on Thursday, August 11, 2016, in the trial of gendarme officer Captain Bouba Simala. Simala, who is the Speaker’s nephew and long-time member of his personal guard, is accused of simple threat, outrage against him and disobeying instructions.

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The charge sheet specifies that the count of disobeying instructions has to do with behaviour capable of tarnishing military honour and dignity. All the offences are punishable under Articles 74, 154 and 301 of the Penal Code and Article 230 of Military Justice Code. The matter was heard by Lt. Col. Meffand, with Mr. Justice Tang Reuben as State Counsel. Wednesday’s court sitting began with the testimony of Major Yongwa Jean Nicolas, a gendarmerie officer and Chief Security Officer, CSO, to the Speaker.

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He said two months to the incident of July 13, 2015 when Bouba Simala threatened to abduct Hon. Cavaye, they were not on good terms as Bouba for unknown reasons stopped talking to him. Asked why he waited till June 16, 2015 – three days after the abduction threat was proffered against the Speaker - before writing his report to the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of Defence, Major Yongwa said he had to wait for his boss to first take action. Yongwa, who has been in the personal security team of the Speaker since June 25, 1992, admitted that in 16 years of serving with Captain Simala, he never had any problem.

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Lt Col. Meffand wondered why Major Yongwa, like other military and police prosecution witnesses before him, did not mention such a grave incident in the register of the Police Post at the Speaker’s residence. She said it was tantamount to treating the country’s third personality with levity. She expressed surprise that after hearing his men recount how Simala had threatened Hon. Cavaye, the CSO did not bother to hear the accused’s own version of the story. Though his report was only written three days after. “He was not talking to me, so I didn’t bother to call him. The Speaker was the one to authorise me to question Bouba, but he didn’t,” explained Yongwa Jean Nicolas.

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Next to take the witness stand was gendarme Warrant Officer Hamidou Jean Paul. He said he directed late Abena Richard, a policeman and former driver of the Speaker to replace the official number plate with ordinary one before they drove off to where Hon. Cavaye did sports. Because of the threat of kidnapping, he suggested to the Speaker to change itinerary and go to Mfou on the outskirts of Yaounde instead of Parcours Vita on Febe Hill in Yaounde. Questioned by the State Counsel if he informed his commander upon learning of the threat to the life of his boss, he said he did not.

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Asked if he thought it was prudent to still take the Speaker out following such a grievous threat, Hamidou said he took precautions such as instructing officers left in the residence to keep close watch and switch off their phones. Similarly, the five officers who accompanied the Speaker on the sports exercise loaded their pistols with one bullet each. Hamidou however admitted having lost his sangfroid upon hearing that those to abduct his boss were heavily armed Presidential Guard troops, given that they were ordered by Captain Simala not to fight back. So, he saw himself already as a dead man.   

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Responding to a question from Barrister Fotso Faustine, one of the counsel to the civil claimant, Warrant Officer Hamidou said in case of any incident at work, the only person to investigate is Major Yongwa. Reacting, Barrister Simh Emmanuel, lawyer for Captain Simala, wondered how with one ammunition each, the personal guards of the Speaker of the National Assembly hoped to protect him during his outing on a day he was supposed to be abducted. Hamidou’s response was that he believed God was going to help them. Moreover, the itinerary of the sports walk by the Speaker was altered to preempt any attack. Questioned if Bouba Simala ever met the Speaker personally to make good his threat of abduction or outrage against him, Hamidou said no.

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Responding to Captain Simala’s question, Hamidou said when the Speaker travels to his native Far North Region, reputed to be dangerous because of Boko Haram threats, the most senior officer who accompanies him is Captain Bouba Simala himself. “Don’t you find it troubling that after I made the threat against the life of the Speaker on June 13, 2015, I was not arrested until June 18, 2015?” Captain Simala asked Warrant Officer Hamidou Jean Paul. “But when the then Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of Defence, Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o, came to the Speaker’s residence to inquire about the matter, you ran away,” Hamidou replied.

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Other prosecution witnesses, Police Constable Nsizeng Jacques Bruno and Akambot Me Mama, another policeman, said they were in the Police Post inside the Speaker’s residence, located about 40 metres from the gate. Consequently, they did not hear Captain Bouba Simala issue his threat against the Speaker from outside the gate. Even though he was one of the guards who accompanied the Speaker to and back from Mfou, he did not remember the colour of the vehicle he used despite driving behind him all through and spending about three hours with him.

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To this, Lt Col. Meffand asked Major Yongwa to take note that Constable Nsizeng was not the right person for such a security task. On the other hand, Akambot Me Mama described Captain Bouba as someone who was not given to threatening others. Rather, his approach was to counsel guards. Curiously, the two policemen said what was written in the Police Post’s register on June 13, 2015, was “Rien à signaler” or “Nothing wrong,” because they did not receive instructions from Warrant Officer Benanzia to make any such report.

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After earlier allegations by one of the prosecution witnesses that they left Captain Simala at the Speaker’s residence talking on the phone on June 13, 2015, Barrister Fotso Faustine called on the court to order an expert to analyse Bouba’s call listings to know what he was discussing. Meanwhile, Mr. Justice Tang Reuben in his preliminary submission, tendered exhibits, saying there was enough evidence to prove that Captain Simala was guilty of the charges.

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Counsel for the civil claimant, Hon. Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, Barristers Fotso Faustine, Kadjeu and Koumaï Bouba, called on the court to modify the charge of simple threat against Captain Bouba Simala to aggravated kidnap attempt. Barrister strongly opposed the request, saying it could only be possible if his client had pleaded guilty. The matter was adjourned to September 7, 2016, for the court to rule on the evidence tendered by the prosecution. In all, the court sitting lasted from about 10.30 am to 4.02 pm.

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