(Keystone / Martial Trezzini) Courtesy Swiss Info

Geneva’s Intercontinental Hotel frequently hosts international meetings, top politicians and other VIPs – and is occasionally the scene of demonstrations

The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon which picked up steam in late 2016 and continues to this moment has degenerated from what was described then as a near-civil war into what is now seen as a full-blown civil war between separatists and the Cameroonian military. The casualties on both sides continue to mount.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) which predicted the crisis many years before it happened and issued warnings says about 1850 people have died  and about 530,000 have become refugees as a result of the conflict. Even more, the Anglophone territories of the Northwest and Southwest regions have become unsafe for travel.

Unable to resolve the situation for almost three years, the international community; the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the United States, Switzerland, and other governments have made overtures to the Biya administration to mediate and bring peace to the country. Exactly how this will be accomplished is not clear at this time.

While on vacation in Switzerland and staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, President Paul Biya, 86, and his entourage came under heavy protests from Cameroonians opposed to his government, who wanted the president and his team to leave the hotel. Biya has been president of Cameroon for almost 37 years. 

According to Reporters Without Borders, a scuffle took place on June 26 between the Biya security team in Geneva and the protesters which led to clashes outside the hotel premises where Biya was staying. In the process Swiss journalist, Adrien Krause, working for RTS (Radio Television Suisse) and covering the events was reportedly roughed up and “slightly injured” by Biya’s security team.

On June 28, the RTS published a story on the subject on its website stating that “Un journaliste de la RTS a été agressé mercredi à Genève par des probables gardes du corps du président camerounais Paul Biya, devant l’hôtel Intercontinental. Le chef d’Etat africain y séjournerait depuis dimanche.”

The story goes on to state that there was confusion following the protests, and in the process of recording the story, the said reporter was assaulted by the Cameroonian security forces and some of his belongings taken away. Those belongings have since been returned according to other media reports on the matter.

“Sur place pour couvrir l’événement, Adrien Krause, correspondant pour la radio au bureau genevois de la RTS, est témoin d’une charge d’une dizaine d’hommes, qui venaient de sortir de l’hôtel, sur les manifestants. S’il ne peut pas affirmer qu’il s’agissait du service de sécurité du président Biya, il indique que ces personnes avaient des carrures de gardes du corps. Dans cette confusion, le journaliste de la RTS filme la scène. C’est alors que les probables agents de sécurité l’agressent: ils l’immobilisent et lui arrachent son sac, contenant la majorité de son matériel professionnel. Son porte-monnaie et son téléphone portable sont également subtilisés. Les agresseurs retournent alors dans l’hôtel avec toutes ses affaires.”

Exactly how the reporter got in the middle of the tussle, to the extent that he was roughed up and his belongings seized, is not clear. All we know is that there was confusion, according to these reports. 

Swiss Info (SWI), associated with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) says the Swiss government took diplomatic steps and complained to the Cameroonian government following the incident. The Swiss Info report states:

“The incident is sensitive as it comes after the Swiss foreign ministry just announced that Switzerland was acting as a facilitator in the crisis in north-western and south-western Cameroon at the request of the parties involved. A second preparatory meeting with various Cameroonian opposition groups took place in canton Valais, Switzerland, this week, hence the presence of Biya in Geneva. An initial meeting was held in Geneva in May.” The Swiss protestation turned to the question of freedom of the press in Switzerland, with the government issuing a statement which said freedom of the press of protected in the country and must be respected.

This AP story, recycled by media around the world, including ABC News and the Washington Post, says 6 of the Cameroonians leader’s security forces had been arrested by Swiss authorities following the incident. The AP story described the cause like this:

“The incident took place as the journalist was covering demonstrators who had gathered at the Intercontinental Hotel, a favored venue for high-level officials in Geneva, where Biya was staying.” The story does not say how the reporter got involved except that he was roughed up and some of his belongings seized, damaged.

Of the 6 who were arrested and appeared in Court, “a woman, had been released as she held a diplomatic passport,” according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

According to this Agence France-Presse (AFP) story published by Business Day, “At the weekend, hundreds of angry protestors tried to reach the hotel to “expel” the president, but were pushed back by riot gear-clad police firing on the demonstrators with a water cannon and tear gas.”  

The coverage of the story from media around the world has only added to more negative perceptions of Biya’s leadership of Cameroon. The president and his wife, Chantal, returned home on July 5, according state media in Yaounde, Cameroon Radio and Television (CRTV).