- The Writer, the Prison and the Pen of Steel!
In most political imprisonments of an artist, musician, writer, poet or intellectual, the incarcerated does not claim their freedom directly to the head of state. After Mr. Enoh Meyomesse spent 40 months in prison for his ideas and politically opposing Paul Biya, president of Cameroon in power since November 06, 1982, Enoh wrote an open letter to Paul Biya asking for his release. This writer and historian had a very little chance winning against the president but he won the historic battle of Freedom for journalists and artists in one of the most repressive regimes in the African continent.
According to PEN Internatinal London, one of the organizations that has been active on the case of the Cameroonian writer and the global campaign “Free Enoh”, an open letter was wrote by Enoh Meyomesse to President Biya before his release in April 2015, in these terms: “President of the Republic – once again I am coming with humility to request your intervention to ensure that I can finally recover my Liberty. Forty months in Kondengui’s prison, you cannot imagine what it does to a person. Your life stops functioning.”
The writer Enoh Meyomesse Dieudonné enjoying daylight in July 2015 in his hometown Yaoundé – Cameroon. * Photo by Ixx@ Nyaphaga©2015
Enoh was born in the town of Ebolowa in 1954 in South Cameroon. He graduated from the Institute of Political Sciences in Strasbourg, France. After failing to realize his dream of living in the U.S., Enoh returned to his native Cameroon to change the society through his ideas and writings. Enoh is a multimedia writer, poet, play-writer and essayist and has published over 35 books. Enoh writes in both French and Bulu, his native language, and was a member of ADELF (Association des Ecrivains de Langue Française in Paris.)
Enoh Meyomesse is the most well known writer in Cameroon today. In the country where over 40% of children under 10 today will have a little opportunity to read a book, Enoh Meyomesse through his courage has made a huge impact in the mind of his fellow citizens in order to positively affect the Culture. “I cannot walk 15 steps without someone stopping me to congratulate me… Sometimes I take a cab and end up not paying for the ride because of my fame.” Confessed Enoh to me during an interview.
The Future generations of readers and writers Enoh is struggling for.
Photo by Nathalie Beaty©
In November 22nd, 2011, while returning from a trip in Singapore, Enoh Meyomesse was arrested at the Nsimalen airport in Yaoundé by the Gendarmerie and brought to S.E.D. He was charged with robbery and accused of attempting a “coup d’état” in order to overthrow the government of Cameroon. In the October before his arrest, Enoh Meyomesse had run against President Paul Biya during the presidential election. In addition, many of his publications criticized the authorities and method of governance in Cameroon.
He was relocated to Bertoua, in the East of the country where he spent 30 days in solitary confinement in the draconian conditions -- he slept on the cement floor next to his excrements and took only 3 baths. This arrest was also during the important 30-day mourning period after the death of his father. He was then relocated to Kodendui prison in Yaoundé. A decree was signed not to provide food, paper, pen and daylight to the writer. However, his popularity in the country brought attention and compassion of the guards in the jail, who sporadically provided him with unofficial dishes.
Enoh Meyomesse during an interview with Issa Nyaphaga in Yaoundé in July 2015.
photo by O. Mebouack
A female activist, Bergeline Doumo, blew the whistle and alerted the local newspapers and the international community about the incarceration of Enoh. Various human rights organizations and the African diaspora quickly became aware of the violation of his rights and the inhumane conditions Mister Enoh was being held in. However, the next month a judge ordered a six-month extension of his detention, and in December 2012 the writer was charged afresh, found guilty of armed robbery and the illegal sale of gold, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The international writer’s organization PEN International, led by CODE and Amnesty International carried out massive campaigns denouncing the marginalization of the writer. During one of his visit in Europe, the Cameroonian president Paul Biya was embarrassed and confronted by Diasporas members exhibiting “Free Enoh” posters at the hotel where the Biya was staying.
According to the writer, even though the military justice system was following his case, he believes the charges against him were politically motivated. As the intellectual was held for in Kodengui prison, an episode of legal battles went on for other 39 months.
Along with judiciary appeals and campaigns of lobbying by PEN, CODE and other writers such as Alain Mabankou (Congo) and Patrice Nganang (Cameroon), the hard work of the resistance against unequal justice to Enoh finally paid off. Enoh Meyomesse Dieudonné was finally freed in April 2015. The Tribunal of Foundi in Yaoundé considered Enoh’s term to have been served. The poet, who has now left Kodengui prison and is now enjoying his new Freedom, will return to the supreme court of Cameroon with his lawyers for an appeal to clear his record completely.
As Enoh folds a printed article from the local paper, I couldn’t hesitate to snap him with my iPhone. These are the two mediums (paper & ink) have always been part of Enoh’s life.
Photo by Ixx@ Nyaphaga©2015
In an article published earlier this year in the Guardian in London, it appeared that:
The author has been a major focus for the Writers at Risk programme at English PEN, with supporters sending him books and writing material, lobbying authorities and publishing his work. In an open letter to Meyomesse, published late last year, the acclaimed Congolese author Alain Mabanckou wrote: “We will never cease to speak your name and to denounce, from every rooftop of the world, the injustice that befell you and the contempt shown by the justice system towards you.”
When I spoke to him during an interview in his hometown in Yaoundé, he admitted that the government of Cameroon has made some progess in the country, “but not enough to improve the lives Cameroonians,” he said.
As the African proverb says: - “If you want to get the mangoes, shake the trunk of the mango tree.” It was worth for Enoh try and gain little freedom for his people. A courageous sacrifice, that will remain forever in the annals of history of Cameroon.
Free Enoh and Vive Enoh!
Issa N. Nyaphaga
Artist, Cartoonist & Human Rights Activist
Professor of Contemporary African Art, Social Justice & Cultural Diversity
Santa Fe, New Mexico – USA - January 25, 2015.
- "If You Don't Stand For Somethings, You'll Fall For Anything!"
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VIDEO INTERVIEW IN ENGLISH
VIDÉO DE L'INTERVIEW EN FRANÇAIS