“The images from Italy kept me sleepless, as I wonder what might happen to us.” An emaciated inmate at French Cameroun’s most notorious prison – Nkondngui Maximum Security Prison, in the capital Yaounde, narrates. “We are scared of this virus, even though we know, we are dead people”. AKL a drained-face man in his early 30s intruded into the conversation. “What will happen if the virus reaches us here?”, The frustrated inmate demands as tears welled up his sunken eyes. Apart from asking the reporter to pass on the message to W.H.O and other Human Rights Organizations about their plight, the prisoners who term their conditions as “killing us softly” intimate that, with the courts in French Cameroun on recess due to the Corona epidermic, it was time to release them as there is no avenue for them to seek redress of their plight. Releasing them – prisoners of conscience, they say is a way of fighting the epidermic. They make allusion to New York City in the U.S where the Mayor, Bill De Blasio, has started freeing, non-serious crime offenders, as a means to mitigate the the virus’ spread. In Iran, over 5400 inmates were temporarily released, due to concerns for the prisoners. “Please tell W.H.O, to see these pictures and judge whether they fit the guidelines they specify to countries”. The emaciated prisoner wrestles with loaded frustration.
Both guys and others from British Cameroon were picked up by the French Cameroun army in British Southern Cameroon. They were later accused of sympathizing with the liberation struggle currently taking place in the British colony. Many have never had their day in court. While health experts have stressed on proper hygiene especially hand washing as the best way to stem the virus’ spread, the French Cameroun government has taken no actions to allay the fears of the over 9500 prisoners, cramped into an initial space for 800. water is epileptic which means there are no running toilets, talk-less of basic hand washing. “The tap that is here, at times we stay for three to four days without water“. A prisoner states. These red alerts are no preoccupation of the French Cameroun government that just pocketed about $200,000 from the World Health Organization (WHO), for the Corona fight.
The latest pictures from the concentration camp-style dungeon show that, hall ways and tiny yards have been transformed into prison space. Most of those in the dreaded Nkondengui prison are youths whose lives are being wasted away by Africa’s oldest and most brutal dictator – 87-year-old Paul Biya, in Power since 1982. An evidence of the inhumane condition of the Nkondegui Prison and other secret underground torture chambers used by the dictator was sneaked out by one Mr. Ndangoh Patrick. The video shows their living conditions in a dark underground room, with a stench broken toilet.
Build in 1967 to house between 800 – 1500 inmates, the Nkondengui Concentration Camp, today has more than 9,500 prisoners, many of whom have never seen a judge. “In 2011, Amnesty International described the prison conditions to be “harsh, with inmates suffering overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate food. Prison guards are poorly trained, ill-equipped and their numbers inadequate for a big prison population”. According to the Interim Government of Ambazonia (British Southern Cameroon), there are about 250 of its citizens in the prison alone. About 3500 others are dispersed in other prisons in French Cameroun and in towns in British Cameroon still controlled by French Cameroun colonial authorities. With the cramped conditions and overbearing security officers who move in and out of the larger community to later mingle with the inmates, the probability of the virus’ spread in the prison is high.