Cameroon (National Times)-At the close of 2018, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya ordered the discontinuance of cases pending before Military Tribunals leading to the release of 289 persons arrested in connection with the Anglophone Crisis.
Weeks after such Presidential action geared towards arresting the socio-political crisis was executed, The National Times carried out a face-to-face discussion with one of the former Kondengui detainees.
Our interviewee whose names we have abbreviated only as A.D for security reasons, opened up on his arrest, the situation of detainees, survival tactics and the feeling of being free to go about his activities unperturbed.
AD told the National Times that, before, the Presidential decision, he had spent 17 months in detention. He was arrested in one of the cities in the South West Region reading a newspaper and afterwards, two tracks were spotted in his bag. He claimed he picked the papers on the street to collect a phone number of a relative from someone.
Our source explained that after his arrest, a Prado was used to transfer him to Douala from where another person arrested in Ekona was brought in and they were transported to Yaoundé.
The former detainee said in the first three months of his arrest, he was detained at the Gendarmerie Head Quarters commonly known as SED.
After this, the detainee stated that he was moved to another solitary detention facility as investigations into his case progressed.
He said life became better off at the solitary confinement because, he was given 10 liters of water every two days and food was brought in once a day. The released Anglophone said in the detention facility at SED, they were many people in one room making it difficult to survive as water and food was limited.
“On a good day, a barber will be brought in to shave all the detainees. They will bring us out one after the other to be shaved. While we were many in one cell, nobody cared if you had bath for as long as you are there but the moment I was moved to the solitary confinement, every day I was allowed to bath once,” AD stated.
According to AD, after many appearances before the military prosecutor, he was transferred to the Kondengui Maximum Security Prison. Our source said life in Kondengui is better off compared to the other state of his detention.
Life In Kondengui
The narrator said Kondengui is a world of its own with rules and regulations bordering the behaviour of prisoners. AD said inside the facility, those arrested in connection to the Crisis in Anglophone Cameroon are placed in the same section.
AD said here, the detainees have formed groups depending on the town where they were arrested. “You have groups of those arrested from Lebialem, Bamenda, Bui, Kumba and many other places… they hold their meetings and coordinate their daily living”.
He disclosed that sometimes, the groups run into problems following disagreements over authority of control. AD said such groups are vital given that most of the detainees survive on the benevolence of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other men of good will.
The feeding timetable our source said is once a day. This; the now free citizen said, leaves most people surviving thanks to their relatives who come visiting and proving them with food.
In our interaction, the same source said, transactions of different kinds go on across the prison cells as everyone strives to survive.
Days Of Eating Meat
Concerning the nutritive value of the food given to detainees, our interviewee said, at that level, the interest is quantity of food and not quality. He said prisoners are privileged to eat meat only on a New Year Day and during May 20.
“Such days are very unique…. Those in charge count the detainees to know the exact number of slices that will go for every detention unit”.
I Met Inoni
Our source said he met Cameroon’s former Prime Minister, Chief Ephraim Inoni, in the course of his stay. AD said on that occasion, he was hungry and thought as a senior statesman though in prison, the former PM could help.
“When I went closer to him… I greeted and told him my name…. I told Inoni that I was hungry and he asked what brought me to Kondengui… I told him that I was arrested in (name of city withheld) because of the Anglophone Crisis…. I was shocked that instead of giving me money Inoni said his wife had travelled and there was no one around… he instead told me he had yam and stew in his cell. He then gave me a piece of paper to use each time I felt like coming to visit him… I twisted the paper and threw it because I left disappointed… since then… I never went there again,” AD stated.
Mbah Ndam’s Advice
The Anglophone youth said the Counsel of Barrister Mbah Ndam helped him and a few other detainees who were already giving up on going to Court. I had also given up on attending the Court sessions
“Mbah Ndam was the one who advised that we should keep going to Court…. He said one day, the President could decide to free everybody and that is how I kept going to court. Not long after his advice, the Head of State ordered for my release,” AD recalled.
At the moment, the released person said, he is grateful that the President ordered for their release. Like every other person across the two Regions AD is praying for peace to return to Cameroon at all cost.
Quizzed if he would reside in the North West or South West Regions, the freed youth said, he has finalised arrangements to begin a new life in the French-speaking parts of Cameroon in peace to rebuild his life.