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Cameroon: Essayist and Blogger Arrested and Charged with Robbery

Enoh Meyomesse, a Cameroonian writer and blogger [fr] was arrested on November 22, 2011, at Nsimalen airport in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on his way back from Singapore. Charged with robbery by the military court of Bertoua, in the east of the country, he is now detained at Nkondengui prison in Yaoundé, where Amnesty International has documented severe over-crowding and life-threatening conditions.

Meyomesse's arrest has sparked many reactions among the Cameroonian online community.

Enoh Meyomesse and his alleged accomplices - Military Tribunal of Bertoua - From Patrica Nganang Public Facebook profile

Enoh Meyomesse and his alleged accomplices – Military Tribunal of Bertoua – From Patrica Nganang Public Facebook profile

Cameroon, which reelected Paul Biya for the sixth time as president in October 2011, after a highly criticized election, was ranked 40th out of 53 African countries in terms of governance and human rights, according to the 2011 Mo Ibrahim Foundation Report.

A political plot against Enoh Meyomesse?

This is what journalist Juliette Abandokwe argues in an article on her blog entitled “Cameroon: Political Plot against Enoh Meyomesse, dissident and inflexible thinker” [fr]. She writes:

L'illustre détracteur de la machine à terroriser du régime Biya, victime aujourd'hui d'un complot digne des années staliniennes les plus sombres, est accusé de “vol aggravé et de détention d'armes de combat”. C'est avec ce chef d'accusation inventé et orchestré de toutes pièces, que Meyomesse est présenté au public et à la presse en tant que “bandit de grand chemin”, en compagnie de ses soi-disant trois complices, dans un climat d'humiliation extrême.

The illustrious critic of the terror machine of the Biya regime, is now the victim of a plot worthy of the darkest Stalinist years, he stands accused of “aggravated robbery and possession of weapons of combat.” It is with this charge, invented and orchestrated from scratch, that Meyomesse is presented to the public and the press as “highway robber”, with his three alleged accomplices in a climate of extreme humiliation.

Joël Didier Engo continues on his blog [fr]:

Ce serait le gag de noël au Cameroun de Paul BIYA: “Enoh MEYOMESSE à la tête d’un gang de braqueurs d’or dans l’Est du Cameroun…” De quoi perdre la raison, y compris dans ce pays coutumier des campagnes publiques de délation et de lynchage, orchestrées en haut lieu contre tous les empêcheurs de tyranniser en rond

This would be the Christmas prank in Paul BIYA's Cameroon: “Enoh MEYOMESSE as the leader of a gang of gold robbers in eastern Cameroon…” This is insane even for a country accustomed to public campaigns of denunciation and lynching, orchestrated in high places, against all opponents of tyrants.

On Facebook, writer Patrice Nganang regularly posts pictures and news of his imprisoned colleague. His personal profile is also becoming a forum of discussion for some Cameroonian netizens. Amougou Herman for instance commented [fr]:

Je pense que ce qui se passe au cameroun aujourdhui en politique, est le véritable problème qui mine les pays en voie de developpement de toujours penser que celui qui ne partage pas nos opinions est notre ennemi . le problème devient d'autant plus grave lorsqu'on a en face une machine judiciaire corrompue qui ne fait pas son travail.

I think what is happening today in politics in Cameroon is symptomatic of the basic problem that plagues many developing countries of always thinking that those who do not share our beliefs are our enemies. The problem becomes more serious when we face a corrupt judicial machinery that does not work.

Enoh Meyomesse's testimony

Meyomesse has been able to meet Jean-Bosco Talla, a journalist from Cameroonian newspaper Germinal, who visited him in Nkondengui prison on December 31, 2011. Meyomesse told the story of his arrest [fr]:

À mon retour le 22 novembre 2011, si mes souvenirs sont exacts, dans le hall de l’aéroport international de Nsimalen, j’aperçois deux personnes qui brandissent une de mes photos (…). Je me dirige vers ces personnes pour chercher à savoir ce qui se passe et tenter de comprendre d’où leur vient ma photo. Soudain, l’une des personnes me fait savoir que je suis en état d’arrestation. C’est plus tard que j’apprends qu’il s’agissait du colonel Oumarou Ngalibou, commandant de la légion de gendarmerie de l’Est-Cameroun. Je suis conduit manu militari au secrétariat d’État à la défense (Sed) à Yaoundé où on me livre à deux enquêteurs pour exploitation. C’est au moment de l’interrogatoire, quand les enquêteurs me demandent de leur indiquer notre cache d’armes que j’apprends que je serais à la tête d’un gang de braqueurs et qu’en complicité avec des forces étrangères, nous serions en train de fomenter un coup d’État. (…)

If I remember correctly, when I returned to Cameroon on November 22, 2011, I saw two people waving my photo in the lobby of the Nsimalen International Airport (…) I walked up to these people to find out what was happening and try to understand why they were waving my picture. Suddenly, one of them informs me that I'm under arrest. Only later did I learn that the person I talked to was Colonel Oumarou Ngalibou, commander of the gendarmerie in eastern Cameroon. I was then forcibly led to the Secretariat of State for Defence (Sed) in Yaoundé. It was during the interrogation, when investigators asked me to reveal our weapons cache, that I learned that I was accused of being the leader of a gang of robbers in collusion with foreign forces trying to foment a coup. (…)

Meyomesse continues:

Le 21 décembre 2011, un gendarme vient nous demander de nous apprêter. Quand nous sortons de nos cellules, nous sommes surpris de nous retrouver au milieu d’un attroupement dans la cour de la légion de gendarmerie de l'Est à Bertoua. Une mise en scène destinée à nous présenter au public comme de vulgaires malfrats. Il se dit que presque toutes les autorités de la ville de Bertoua étaient présentes. Les populations, les journalistes, les photographes y étaient également. Menottés, ils ont donné à chacun de nous des papiers sur lesquels ils avaient pris soin d’écrire nos nom, âge et le soi-disant motif de notre arrestation (…) C’est après cette mise en scène que nous avons été transférés à Yaoundé. Le jeudi 22 décembre 2011, nous sommes passés brièvement devant le tribunal militaire qui a décidé de nous placer en garde-à-vue à la prison centrale de Kondengui.

On December 21, 2011, an officer came to ask us to prepare. When we exited our cells, we were surprised to find ourselves in the midst of a crowd in the courtyard of the gendarmerie in Bertoua. Everything was staged so that we would be introduced to the public as common criminals. It was said that almost all authorities in the town of Bertoua were present. Citizens, journalists, photographers were also there. Handcuffed, they gave each of us papers on which they had written down our name, age and the alleged reason for our arrest. (…) It was after this spectacle we were transferred to Yaoundé. On Thursday, December 22, 2011, we were appeared briefly before the military court which decided to detain us at the Central Prison of Kondengui.

The Cameroonian Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, commented [fr] on the affair during a press conference in December. According to the Cameroon Tribune, the minister claimed Enoh Meyomesse was named by alleged accomplices in an armed robbery at a mine in November:

… “vu qu'il s'agit d'un vol à main armée, Enoh Meyomesse est mis à la disposition du tribunal militaire”.

… “since this is an armed robbery, Enoh Meyomesse has been sent to a military court”

A fundraising campaign has been launched by Internet Sans Frontières (Internet Without Borders) to assemble a team of international lawyers who will ensure that Enoh Meyomesse receives the legal defense he is entitled to.

  • Ngamby Brice

    Enough proof was provided to warrant Enoh Meyomesse’s arrest. Because he is a politician, many people tend to analyse the situation in his favour by saying he is haunted down by the regime in place.
    There are so many political leaders in Cameroon and many are more important than he is, there is thus no political reason for the arrest of that kind of person with little importance. He has no weight on the political scene in Cameroon.

  • Ngamby Brice

    Cameroon is a country where freedom of speech and expression is a reality and not a myth. President Paul Biya suffers daily critics from people belonging to all social strata and no one has ever suffered from any prejudice. The blogger and essayist Enoh Meyomesse was arrested on grounds of theft and proofs were provided, the court will have to decide on his future. He is not a special citizen and is not suffering from no political victimization as the rumour is spread by some individuals.

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