By Mua Patrick Mughe, January 13, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Yaounde – Sources at Kondengui Maximum Security Prison in Yaounde have disclosed to The Cameroon Journal that the living and health situation of most of the 19 detainees arrested in Wum in January 2016 in connection with the razing down of a military facility is rapidly deteriorating. Of the 19, one was a woman. We gathered she was released, 18 remain in captivity.
Though our source refuted rumours Thursday that two of the detainees died recently in detention, he confirmed that conditions in Kondengui under which the detainees are being held remain life threatening. While the health situation of many of them has been unstable for months now, one of them, we are told, took ill and has since been bedridden.
One of the detainees, Queenta Dze Kwalla, who was freed last October, told reporters in November that survival for the months held in detention was miraculous owing to the appalling prison conditions.
She said once they were thrown into Kondengui, they came face to face with the harsh realities of prison in the nation’s capital, Yaoundé. There are no beds, she said, adding that even having enough space on the floor is a luxury they could not afford.
Kwala told reporters that she shared space with 153 other women. Her pregnancy was just above one month old and she embraced the bare floor as her bed. “Initially, 13 of us were sleeping on the floor. The other women were sleeping on bunk beds except five others who were in a special cell that cost 75,000 FCFA,” she said. She later procured a mat that would become her bed for the rest of her time in jail.
As for the male prisoners, they had to wait for three weeks before they could qualify to buy a bed from other prisoners at the cost of 40,000 FCFA each. As Kwalla Quinta disclosed, six of the boys from Wum including one who was shot in the leg are in a separate cell while the others are crammed into another cell and are sleeping on the floor.
For the 18 other detainees, Kwala was categorical that survival is very unpredictable for them. “One of them is even selling his body to a homosexual man in prison. Oh God, he is bending over for the male prisoner, just to be able to eat,” she said with visible pain.
“I even tried to convince him to stop doing that but he refused. He said they have come and dumped him in this place and nobody is giving him food. So he has become a woman for that man in prison just so that hunger and abandonment should not kill him,” Kwala recounted.
“He said we should just allow him; that the man has money and is supporting him. O lord, someone should help him to come out of that place. Poverty is a terrible thing. His parents are so poor. He is so disturbed and has lost his mind. I feel sorry for him. He is a teenager. That’s my child! You know Yaounde is so far away and they are not giving us food. Our relatives cannot bring us food. That is why it was such a bad idea to transfer us to Kondengui,” she regretted.
Initially detained on the orders of North West Governor, Lele Lafrique, the 21 detainees spent weeks in detention facilities in Bamenda before transferred to Yaounde. But the transfer of 19 of them to Yaounde was at the instance
of the Chief Judge at the Yaounde Military Tribunal, one Captain Frederic Poh Mbolule, by order No. 090/ORD/CI/16 dated April 16, 2016, instructing that the 19 suspects be taken to Yaounde at midnight to pre-empt any unpredictable reaction or resistance from the Wum population resident in Bamenda.
The 19 suspects that were ferried to Yaounde overnight included two soldiers working in Wum, Athanase Ateba Mvodo and Pierre Gaetan Akame Nkoo, who in January 2016 stabbed a motorcycle taxi rider to death; Kwala Dze Queenta (the lone female detainee, freed) Livingstone Fung Achou, Joseph Afuh,Mamouda Sule, Azang Hamilep Azang, Kingsley Njuh Kelley, Abang Modest Amih, Nasser Fontoh, Ngong Solos Wallang, Franck Tsu Itie, Gerald Kum Chou, Nestor Kangsen Mbah, Marcel Fung Mih, Ewi Alain Meeh, Bruno Lumba Nkemta, Canisius Ngong Yoh, Nassen Fontoh and Emmanuel Achuo Kum.
How trouble started
It would be recalled that on Saturday January 23, 2016, an angry crowd stormed the Wum military barracks and burnt down a actually owned by the Wum Council. Their anger was provoked by the stabbing to death of a commercial motorcycle rider, 23-year-old Leonard Ngong, by a soldier during a fight related to a love affair.
Wum then fell under an undeclared state of emergency and many people were arrested by security forces and later ferried to detention in Bamenda.
As the arrest of the suspects continued for months, several organisations had condemned the act by the soldier that led to the demise of Ngong Leonard.
Aghem Cultural and Development Association, ACADA had described the act as “inhumane and barbaric.’’ Several rights groups have since been demanding for the unconditional release of those arrested.