Irreverence for human life that had all along been limited to the governing class in Cameroon now seems to have permeated the entire spectrum of civil servants as exemplified in the latest display of such insensitivity by warders and wardresses of the Kondengui Central Prisons in Cameroon’s political capital, Yaounde, alleged to be making fortunes from Anglophone detainees wallowing in oubliettes.
Reports hold that they spare no occasion to extort money from detainees and their ‘brave’ visitors alike. Hostages and ex detainees, similarly, have made a clean breast that their watchmen chopped and continue to chop as much money from them as they possess.
“The warders did not miss any opportunity to exploit us. We paid for almost every service they rendered to us. Often times, our visitors were duped,”averred a prisoner who had purportedly just handed in his “tithes.”
Elucidating on feeding patterns in the dungeon, a former detainee who spoke to The Rambler on condition of anonymity for security purposes, claimed that none of them had a taste of the “flavoured slow poison” served as food at the prison. Hear him: “Detainees are fed once a day between 11am and 1pm. They are served with a cup or two of pap (corn fufu that is pap-like but solidifies after hours) and soya bean soup (a mixture of roasted soya bean flour, water and salt.) That is what detainees are ‘privileged’ to have daily. Anglophones did not eat this, not even for once,” he bared.
The obvious question ensuing from the unsavory revelation bordered on how they coped during the eight months incarceration behind the fortified walls without eating from their abductors. He bared that, “we had two stoves and three pots. On days when we did not receive cooked food from our visitors, we cooked.”
To ascertain the veracity of his claims, we spoke to his former prison peers who were not privileged enough to benefit from the Presidential decree freeing some Anglophones arrested in the heat of uprisings which up until now appear to be far from over in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon. They came clean that their brushoff of the prison meals (if at all they are worth the appellation) was because they suspected it was not ‘clean.’ They equally conceded that they suspected their food was septic and its deathtrap appearance informed their steer clear posturing.
“We were arrested because we were Anglophones not because we had really committed any crimes. Which is why, they could do anything to hurt us. So we suspected everything from them. Their food and water and if we had our way, we would not breathe the air in that place,” he reeled in a mixture of laughter and frowns.
The Anglophone detainees were allegedly maltreated, at least according to them. They were provocatively denied some basic rights. They were reportedly denied even their right to freedom of worship. One of them noted that, “about the treatment of Anglophones, it was very harsh. I remember that we were barred from going to church by some overzealous warders when we just arrived. They said Anglophone ‘terrorists’ have no right to worship. When we took the matter to the authorities, it was resolved, though unwillingly.”
Anglophone hospitality and solidarity are said to have been on display during their eight month stay at the prisons in Yaounde. The now ex-detainees recounted how they received their brethren of the English speaking regions who either came with food in hand or word in mouth all geared towards bettering their indefinite stay in ‘a strange land’. “The Anglophone community was very supportive. Besides our family members, we had donations from sympathizers, friends, well-wishers, and loved ones. Colleagues also made remarkable gestures during those tough days,” he admitted.
It is still unclear whether elite Anglophones in Yaounde supported these ‘extremist’Anglophones and by extension the struggle.
Family members and friends have been forced to make huge sacrifices for theirs incarcerated at the prison. Cordellia, spouse to one of the detainees, narrated the hardship she has endured since February when her husband was arrested. “He is the one who had a good job. Since he was arrested, he has not had a salary. Now I have to work thrice as hard as I used to just to be able to look after him and our three kids. I have to cook and go give him every visiting day. Having to shuttle between Kondengui and Soa four times a week has been draining,” she wrapped up.
Relating to the receptivity of the warders and wardresses a detainee’s ward forwarded that the guards were everything but approachable. She noted that they were searched and sometimes harassed during visits.
“When you go there with a pass, they touch your breasts and private parts in the name of a search. I was so embarrassed. They shout at you like a child and order you around. They even squeeze money from us. Going there is a nightmare for me. But what can I do? I have to take care of my uncle.”
The question flying in the wind is whether being an Anglophone has officially become felonious.
By Claudia Nsono