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Enoh Meyomesse,
Cameroon

STATUS: In Prison

Meyomesse's lawyers have been in the process of launching an appeal. His latest hearing was held on October 16, 2014 at the military court. The trial was about to start when the military assessor objected, declaring that one of the codefendants, Song Konga Dieudonné, was not dressed in his military uniform and, therefore, the trial could not go on. Meyomesse's trial was pushed back to November 20, 2014. There have not been any recent reports on the outcome of the new trial, however, on November 12, 2014, an article written by Meyomesse appeared in the Cameroonian newspaper, Le Jour, criticizing the government of Cameroon for being one of the only governments in the world to still hold trials exclusively in military court.

Case History

Enoh Meyomesse, 57, is a writer, blogger, historian and political activist who has published more than 15 books of poetry, prose, essays, and works on political and cultural themes and is a founding member and president of the Cameroon Writers Association. His first book was a collection of poems. In 2010, he published Le massacre de Messa en 1955 (The Massacre of Messa in 1955) and the tract Discours sur le tribalisme (A Discussion on Tribalism), in which he discusses the destructive effects of tribalism in Africa politics.

In October 2011, Enoh Meyomesse unsuccessfully ran for president of Cameroon under the banner of the opposition party the United National Front, a challenge to President Paul Biya’s 30-year rule. A month later, while Meyomesse was in Singapore on November 18, gendarmes broke into the writer’s home without a warrant and confiscated documents, CDs, flash drives, photographs, and other personal property. Upon his return on November 22, 2011, he was arrested at Nsimalen International Airport in Yaoundé. He was charged with attempting to organize a coup, possessing a firearm, and aggravated theft. Meyomesse denied all charges and maintained that he had been arrested because of views expressed in his writings and for his political activism. He faced a 50-year prison sentence if found guilty. The day after his arrest, Meyomesse was sent to a prison in Bertoua, the capital of Eastern Region, where he was held in solitary confinement—and complete darkness—for 30 days. During this time, the writer was denied access to a lawyer, and faced ill-treatment in detention. On December 22, 2011, he was transferred to the overcrowded Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé.

Beginning in late January 2012, after a military court ordered Meyomesse detained for six months while authorities conducted an investigation, the charges slowly began to crumble, and by June 2012, they were all dropped.

Despite this, however, in July 2012 a judge ordered a six-month extension of Meyomesse’s detention so that the prosecutor could ostensibly search for evidence against the writer. Meyomesse was subsequently charged with being an accomplice to the theft and illegal trafficking of 78 grams of gold, despite a lack of witnesses and evidence.  

On December 14, 2012, after 13 months in prison, Enoh Meyomesse and three others charged in the case were found guilty of the theft and illegal sale of gold. On December 27, he was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 200,000 CFA (£247), as requested by the state prosecutor. No witnesses or evidence were presented during the trial, and he was not allowed to testify in his own defense. According to Meyomesse, he was sentenced “without any proof of wrong-doing on my part, without any witnesses, without any complainants, and more than that, after having been tortured during 30 days by an officer of the military.”

Because of his time spent in darkness in the first month of his confinement, Enoh Meyomesse is dealing with a debilitating eye condition that could leave him blind. He is currently being held in the overcrowded Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital, where conditions are generally deplorable and inmates receive only one meal a day.

According to a recent letter to President Biya written by Meyomesse, his appeal hearing has been postponed 21 times since his case was first referred to a civil court for appeal in April 2013, most recently on 19 February 2014. In April 2013, PEN International wrote to the administrator of Kongengui Prison, where he is currently being held, to express concern at reports that Meyomesse was being prevented from writing in prison in April 2013.

Cameroon has a poor record on human rights in general and on freedom of expression in particular. Opposition parties and numerous Western governments have alleged voting irregularities and widespread fraud in each of the four presidential elections since President Biya reluctantly introduced multi-party politics in the early 1990s.

View an interactive timeline about Enoh Meyomesse's case.

Meyomesse is a recipient of the 2012 Oxfam Novib/PEN Award in recognition of his continued work in the face of persecution.

Writing by Enoh Meyomesse

My Time in Kondengui Prison

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