By Stephen Ngam, reporting from Ground Zero
The death of yet another Southern Cameroonian prisoner of conscience, Tangem Thomas, under LRC’s detention proves a point. LRC has found an easy way out of its dilemma. After massive arrest of innocent Southern Cameroonians in an attempt to bully the nation and force it to continue to accept Francophone colonization since 2016 failed, LRC is afraid to lose face and release them. But having no capacity to continue to take prisoners, having no money to continue to fight the war, and seeing that directly killing young civilians in the Southern Cameroons only strengthens their resolve to fight back, they have subtly resorted to the Nazi extermination chamber technique. And the world watches, unwilling to summon scores of available humanitarian tools to help end the 21st Century genocide.
Be it in Buea, Bamenda, Ndop, Yaounde or Douala, the ordeal of Southern Cameroonian prisoners of conscience remains the same. A case in point is the recent death of Thomas Tangem. The Southern Cameroonian from Donga and Mantung area, was abducted by LRC troops in Nkambe and ferried to Cameroun’s capital, Yaounde, where he died handcuffed to a hospital bed three years into his detention without trial. According to hospital sources, the chaining of the critically ill detainee was done by prison guards upon instructions from the prison superintendent. Needless to say, in hospitals where Southern Cameroonians are regarded as “enemies in the house” the medical staff needed no further instructions to execute the unpronounced death sentence. They simply neglected and slowly killed-off detainee Tangem Thomas. The pictures above and below show the late Tangem Thomas before his arrest and chained to his deathbed. A metaphor for the Southern Cameroons before we joined La Republic du Cameroun and our lives now, sixty years into the recumbent union.
This perhaps explains why, despite widespread condemnation, the Camerounian authorities have not yet made any official statement on Thomas’ case. Meanwhile, our efforts to get the Kondengui prison administrator to explain why Mr Tangem was chained in his hospital bed while in a critical condition, remained futile. Less than three months ago, detained journalist Samuel Wazizi died under similar circumstances in the same Yaounde. Like Tangem, he was arrested in Buea and ferried to Yaounde and had been held under inhumane conditions, without trial, until his death was discovered by journalists last June 2020.
Yaounde sources say, the unavowed LRC policy towards Southern Cameroonian detainees has been to prevent access to medical care and Thomas Tangem was only taken to hospital in a make belief action, to stave off the backlash sparked by Wazizi dying without seeing a doctor. It should be recalled that recently, Shufai Blaise, one of the Nera 10 abductees held in a Yaounde prison was denied medical care. Only a public awareness campaign over social media and threats by other prisoners could convince LRC prison officials to allow Shufai to go for treatment.
Even more testimonials abound. Ndimendah Abdul, a former inmate of the Bamenda Central Prison said he suffered similar ill-treatment, and opined that although prison conditions are generally bad in LRC, they were especially worse for those arrested in the struggle to liberate the Southern Cameroons. “I was among the twelve persons (elderly notables and a few youths) arrested in Bangolan, near Ndop. I and eleven others have seen hell in the Bamenda prison. We were given infected and at best insufficient food. Neither our families nor lawyers were allowed to talk to us!” Mr Ndimendah added. The 65 year former inmate narrated that he was freed of the terrorism charges miraculously, maybe because of his old age, but regretted the fact that others are still detained. He testified that every week, dead bodies were taken out of the prison and buried by inmates without the knowledge of family members.
It is such gross human rights violations that sparked riots last June 23, 2019 in two prisons: Yaounde and Buea, where the Southern Cameroonian prisoners protested against the inhumane and degrading conditions of detainment, which invariably include torture and denial of medical treatment. In its characteristic lawless fashion, the LRC regime’s response to the protests by detainees was to worsen their ill-treatment. It should be noted that most of these detainees are civilians arrested either for either protesting LRC excesses or upon suspicion of their sympathy with the Southern Cameroons liberation movements. Many have been held for close to four years without trial.
Some observers think Cameroun’s justice system is undermined by a mechanism of partiality where the chief executive, Paul Biya is also the supreme head of the judiciary. Civil society activists have often said that the justice system is undermined by injustice, due to corruption, influence peddling and impartiality. However, the question on every sane mind is how a civilized world, which bombarded Libya and Cote d’Ivoire on humanitarian intervention grounds, can allow Biya and his cohorts to perpetrate such gross violations of human rights without any action to stop him.
In fact, routine physical and psychological torture, poor feeding and other inhumane treatments are the daily lot of Southern Cameroonians held in Cameroun’s jails. Even those not yet held in jail, those living in their homes, can be arrested and killed at any second, depending on the mood LRC’s soldiers and their commanders find themselves in. The sustained pattern and inevitable death of victims of these treatments point to only one thing: LRC’s physical and moral bankruptcy leads them to a cynic conclusion: slowly kill Southern Cameroonians in their extermination chambers. So far, there is nothing to stop them and yet the news is awash with narratives of the UN, the AU, the EU, etc. holding hearings on peace and security in the world.
This article was originally published in THINK LIKE A SCOPPER Edition 5. Click here to read the full publication. Think Like a Scopper Edition 5.pdf