Lawmakers in Cameroon, which is battling to stop the advance of Nigerian Boko Haram militants on its territory, will vote in the coming days on whether to impose the death penalty on those found guilty of involvement in acts of terrorism.
“The draft law provides the ultimate penalty, the death penalty, for anyone who personally, in complicity or under coercion commits a terrorist act,” Parliament Speaker Cavaye Yeguie Djibril said.
Though Cameroon has not carried out an execution since 1997, according to Amnesty International, the bill received loud applause from some members of parliament when it was introduced on Tuesday.
It also received opposition from critics who believe the law will be used to target opponents of President Paul Biya, who has led the West African country for 32 years.
“This text seems obviously to be his response to the popular uprisings that have led to the fall of regimes in several African countries and in particular Burkina Faso,” said Maurice Kamto, a key opposition figure who formerly served as a deputy justice minister.
Boko Haram fighters have made repeated incursions into the rugged Far North region of Cameroon in recent months. They have clashed with Cameroonian soldiers sent to the border to stop them and are blamed for dozens of deaths and kidnappings there. The militants have carried out a number of kidnappings in Cameroon and killed troops and villagers.
Cameroonian officials also fear the Islamist group is targeting young men in the impoverished north for recruitment.
Hence, another measure to be taken by the Cameroonian government in response to the growing threat from the terror group is the recruitment of 20,000 security forces in order to prevent Boko Haram from recruiting young men to fight for them.
According to Human Rights Watch, Boko Haram militants have killed at least 2,053 people since the beginning of 2014. But researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of International Studies estimate 7,000 people have been killed in the 12 months between July 2013 and June this year.