Alain Mabanckou writes to imprisoned Cameroonian writer Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse
My dear Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse,
The world would be a perfect place if freedom of expression wasn’t suffering, day after day, from the blindness of our governments who have always perceived African writers as their “natural opponents”, because we refuse to endorse any regime and because our independence is not for sale…
Those political leaders deem our writing to be harmful, incompatible with the arbitrary practices they implemented, which have been a burden on some peoples for many decades, as we see it in your country, Cameroon. Well, you are not alone in this captivity, because when writers are thrown in prison, they are followed in their cells by an army of readers and the loud footsteps of their outraged colleagues. It is with this optimism in mind that I am writing this letter to you, to remind you that we will never cease to speak your name and to denounce, from every rooftop of the world, the injustice that befell you and the contempt shown by the justice system towards you.
By imprisoning a writer, they are playing with fire: how could they build walls around our imagination, when they know it has a pair of giant wings and that it sings, in every season, its hymn to freedom?
At a time when the world is opening up, your country remains on the sidelines because of its backward practices. Your appeals in court are postponed, as if your words, once delivered to the public, would undermine the foundations of your country’s regime. I believe it to be true, and those words are now in all of us. We are spreading your words to the four corners of the earth, to remind the enemies of free speech that an invisible and invincible army is on its way, using words to tear down every one of the barriers keeping mankind from progress.
No, my dear Dieudonné, you are not alone. We are standing with you; we are one; and we will be, more than ever, the bearers of your voice, until you are freed and able to pick up your pen, enchant your readers once again, and make them dream and take part in the building of a new Cameroon – and beyond, of a new Africa, free and democratic. You are our martyr, and we will remind each other every time that we meet as colleagues. Open your ears, and you will hear our voice and unshakable anger already on the doorstep of your cell.
Stay brave, brother, we’re here for you!
(Translated by Julien Faille-Lefrançois)