Sama Ivo hails from the Northwest Region of Cameroon. He was arrested some months back in connection to the ongoing Anglophone crisis in Cameroon and detained in the Douala New Bell Prison in Cameroon’s economic capital.
Thursday September 9, 2020, The Cameroon Humanitarian News received news of the death of Sama Ivo. Reports confirm that the diseased was severely tortured while in prison. Despite falling ill prior to his death, Sama Ivo was not given timely medical attention. He was reportedly taken to the the Douala Laquintinie hospital when his situation had gotten out of hands.
A tweet by one of the Anglophone activist based abroad whose name we are withholding says Sama Ivo was abducted and tortured by what he refers to as “French Cameroon forces”. The activist in question also alleges that torture meted on Sama Ivo resulted in psychological trauma.
The dead of Sama Ivo follows that of Thomas Nganyu Tangem who equally died in chains at the Yaoundé Central Hospital. It was reported that prior to his death, Thomas Nganyu Tangem had been sick for 5 months without receiving proper medical attention. Just like Sama Ivo, he was only rushed to the hospital after his situation had became very critical.
More arrests, no prisons
Since the escalation of the Anglophone Crisis, thousands of Anglophone Cameroonians have been arrested and detained, some times incommunicado. Most of those arrested are charged under the 2014 counterterrorism law, which uses an extremely broad definition of terrorism that could be used to restrict fundamental rights and freedoms and enables the government to try civilians unlawfully in military courts. Those who are found guilty face a number of repercussions, amongst which, the death penalty.
VOA reports that Cameroon has 78 overcrowded prisons, with 30,000 prisoners in detention facilities constructed for a maximum of 9.000 inmates. The Kondengui maximum security Prison in Yaoundé has the capacity to hold 2000 detainees but currently hold more than 5000 according to Human Right Watch. The Central Prison in Buea, capital of the Southwest Region of Cameroon currently holds more than 2000 prisoners, originally built to hold only 700 prisoners. Most detention facilities especially in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon are as crowded as the aforementioned prisons. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has raised worrying concerns, given that social distance talk less of proper hygiene is a far cry in these detention facilities. Cameroon is one of the countries in Africa with the highest number of COVID-19 cases. Some months back, there were reports of COVID-19 outbreak in the Kondengui Maximum prison in Yoaunde. Its should be noted that the Cameroon government freed 1400 prisoner in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Cameroon.
Incommunicado detention, slow judicial procedure, torture and other degrading treatment of Anglophone inmates
On July 2019, a protest, masterminded by Anglophone detainees arrested in connection with the ongoing Anglophone Crisis broke out in the Kondengui Maximum Prison. The inmates decry what they call poor detention conditions occasioned by torture, overcrowded cells, snail-pace judicial procedures, and marginalization of Anglophone inmates by their Francophone counterparts. They were joined by supporters of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement also in detention. 600 detainees reportedly took part in this protest that was brutally suppressed by the defense and security forces. This protest was followed by another one in the Buea Central Prison. Anglophone inmates in Buea were protesting in solidarity with their brothers detained in Yaoundé alongside a plethora of problems they are facing ranging from over crowded cells etc. The protest suffered the same fate as that of the Kondengui inmates as live ammunitions was reportedly used to quell down the protest.
Torture and degrading treatment is what characterizes Cameroon prisons.Act 1 of the convention against torture defines torture as “…any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed is or suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”.
Sam Ivo as well as Thomas Nganyu Tangem just like many other Anglophone detainees are victims of torture and other degrading treatments that characterize Cameroon prisons. One of of the victims (name withheld) who was detained and later released from the Yaounde Kondegui Maximum Prison described the detention facility as “hell on earth” He told the Cameroon Humanitarian News that they were tortured on regular bases with machetes, chains and anything capable of inflicting physical pains. “there was a day I almost died because of severe beatings. After receiving severe beatings on my legs, I was asked to jumped around… if you don’t follow the orders of security officers, the beatings will only increase…at times you are left with no choice than to do false confessions”. “Coupled to this” our source continues, “most often security officers drown our heads in buckets full of water…I prefer to die than to ever go through what I went through at Kondengui prison”
To make matters worst, some detainees in these prisons facilities have been for as long as 3 to 4 years on the bases of “waiting trial”. Some have not even been charged while others are held incommunicado.
Human Rights Watch documented 26 cases of incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance at the State Defense Secretariat otherwise known as the Secrétariat d’Etat à la défense, between January 2018 and January 2019, including 14 cases of torture. We can not help but imagine those in similar situations now as the Anglophone Crisis is not getting any better.
Calls have been echoed from home and abroad for the state of Cameroon to engage Anglophone Separatist leaders in an inclusive dialogue to end the ongoing crisis. Though the Cameroon government convened in 2019 the Grand National Dialogue to chart the way out of the Anglophone Crisis, many described what was supposed to be a dialogue a monologue better still an enlarged convention of the ruling party. This is because ring leaders of the secessionist movement in Cameroon did not take part in the dialogue. The Cameroon Humanitarian News is deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian condition in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. We are also deeply touched by the killing of civilians by the warring parties. Is is not time to end the war once and for all?