Day of the Imprisoned Writer: Enoh Meyomesse
Poet, writer, historian, political activist and president of the National Association of Cameroonian Writers
Cameroonian poet, Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse, is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for alleged complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold. It has now been 15 months since Meyomesse’s lawyers succeeded in having his case referred to a civil court for appeal. His appeal was expected to be heard on 20 June 2013 but the hearing was postponed. At least 11 further hearings have been postponed due to various legal technicalities. He is currently being held in the overcrowded Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital, where conditions are extremely poor. Meyomesse suffers from several medical conditions brought on by his treatment in prison, including a debilitating eye condition and a gastrointestinal infection. PEN International believes that the charges against Meyomesse are politically motivated and that his imprisonment is linked to his writings critical of the government and his political activism and thus calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Arrested on 22 November 2011 at Nsimalen International Airport in Yaoundé on the return leg of a trip to Singapore, Meyomesse was charged, alongside three other men, with 1) attempting to organise a coup 2) possessing a firearm 3) aggravated theft. The day after his arrest, Meyomesse was sent to a prison in Bertoua (Eastern Province), where he was held in solitary confinement – and complete darkness – for 30 days.
On 27 December 2012, having already spent 13 months in prison, Meyomesse was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and fined 200,000 CFA (approx. US$418) for supposed complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold. His three co-defendants were reportedly sentenced to terms of between two and nine years in prison. No witnesses or evidence were presented during the trial, and he was not allowed to testify in his own defence. 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.”
It has now been 15 months since Meyomesse’s lawyers succeeded in having his case referred to a civil court for appeal. His appeal was expected to be heard on 20 June 2013 but the hearing was postponed. At least 12 further hearings have been postponed due to various legal technicalities, most recently on 16 October. The latest date set for the hearing is 20 November 2014; however it remains to be seen whether it will actually take place.
Meyomesse is currently being held in the overcrowded Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital, where conditions are extremely poor with inmates receiving only one meal a day. Click here to read about the conditions in Meyomesse’s own words.
Because of his time held in solitary confinement in total darkness in Bertoua police station in the first month of his confinement, Meyomesse is dealing with a debilitating eye condition that could leave him blind. In addition, he has been hospitalised on a number of occasions over the course of his imprisonment. In May 2014 Meyomesse was moved to the prison infirmary to be treated for malaria and the gastrointestinal infection amoebiasis. Most recently, he was admitted to a military hospital on 9 September, after falling unconscious in his cell for the third time in recent months. He was immediately returned to prison following treatment and his request for bail was denied by the court. Doctors advised that he be placed on a strict diet and should only drink mineral water, which is difficult for him to follow, given prison conditions in Cameroon. He continues to receive ad hoc treatment for amoebiasis.
Prior to his arrest, Meyomesse had published more than 15 books, including novels, essays and works on political and cultural themes. 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. Meyomesse attempted to run as a presidential candidate in the election on 9 October 2011, but was denied registration.
Despite all obstacles, Meyomesse continues to publish his works. In November 2012 Meyomesse self-published a powerful collection of poetry written whilst in detention, Poème carcéral: Poésie du pénitencier de Kondengui (Les Editions de Kamerun, November 2012). PEN Centres have been integral to the dissemination of his most recent works: in late 2013 English PEN published their crowd-sourced translation of Poème Carcéral, while Austrian PEN published a German translation of his poems. Keep up-to-date with Meyomesse’s writings and experiences by visiting his website: www.enohmeyomesse.net.
Enoh Meyomesse was the recipient of the 2012 Oxfam Novib/PEN Free Expression Award.
Please send appeals:
• Protesting the conviction of writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse on politically motivated charges and the seven-year prison sentence handed down to him on 27 December 2012;
• Expressing concern for reports of Enoh Meyomesse’s ill-health, urging the authorities to afford him all necessary medical care;
• Calling on the Cameroonian authorities to quash the conviction and to release Meyomesse immediately and unconditionally.
President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter: @PR_Paul_Biya Minister of Justice
Hon. Minister of Justice Laurent Esso
Ministry of Justice
Fax: +237 22 23 00 05 Prime Minister
Mr. Philemon Yang, Prime Minister
Fax: +237 22 23 57 35
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Cameroon in your country if possible. Details of some Cameroonian embassies can be seen here: http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-of/cameroon
Social Media: Please use the hashtag #FreeEnoh
Send messages of solidarity to Enoh Meyomesse to the following address:
C/O Bergeline DOMOU (friend)
Boîte postale 15742
PEN members are encouraged to:
• Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting Enoh Meyomesse’s case;
• Organise public events, press conferences or demonstrations;
• Share information about Enoh Meyomesse and your campaigning for him via social media.
Please let us know about your activities and send us a report about them by 15 December 2014 so that we can share them with other centres.
For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: Tamsin.email@example.com