by Joey Brooke
“Oh leaders of this regime
custodians of my people’s destiny
why do you treat me like this
simply because I don’t
see things your way”
I start this piece with a verse from this translation of the poem ‘Why do you treat me like this” to show you the talent that lays in Enoh Meyomesse’s mind. He is more than just a subject of an article or a case study that we should pity – he is a real person with thoughts, opinions and feelings as real and as valuable as yours or mine. By the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he has the same right to voice his opinions as you or I…in theory.
On 22nd November, it will be three years since Enoh Meyomesse was imprisoned. After his arrest on said date, 2011 (on the charges of attempting to organise a coup, possessing a firearm and aggravated theft) he was taken a day later to a prison in Bertoua and held in solitary confinement for thirty days, in complete darkness. It is this period of his confinement that is believed to be responsible for the formation of his debilitating eye condition. Thirteen months later, on 27 December, Meyomesse was sentenced to a seven-year sentence for “alleged complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold” and his three co-defendants arrested at the same time were sentenced to between two and nine years in prison too. The practise of this trial is highly questionable with no witnesses or evidence offered at the trial and Meyomesse not even allowed to testify in his own defence. English PEN and PEN International believe that these charges are politically motivated, to prevent Meyomesse from further publishing criticism of the current government.
We had hoped that there was progress being made, when Meyomesse’s lawyers succeeded in getting his case referred to the civil court for an appeal, however this has yet to occur still and he has been waiting fifteen months. Hearing date after hearing date has passed by and postponed due to various legal technicalities. His next date is 20 November so stay tuned for the outcome…
Meyomesse’s health had continued to deteriorate since being placed in prison, with the most recent episode causing him to fall unconcious in his cell. After a short spell in hospital, he was immediately placed back into prison and the doctor’s recommendations to improve his diet to help speed his recovery appear to have been disregarded as he is still receiving sub par treatment.
Before the sentence, Meyomesse was a prolific writer, publishing over 15 books that embody every initial of what PEN stands for – poems, essays and novels. His works are often on political and cultural themes, such as the ‘Le massacre de Messa in 1955’ and ‘Discours sur le tribalisme’. In spite of all the attempts to silence him, Meyomesse has still managed to keep publishing works from prison. In 2013, English PEN produced a translated edition of Poème carcéral: Poésie du pénitencier de Kondengui (Jail Verse: Poems from Kondengui Prison) with help from crowd funding, and is available for purchase. He has continued to make his voice heard even behind bars on internationally topical subjects, such as his letter in reaction to the recent UK legislation limiting books in prisons, in which he expresses the joys that books have given him during his sentence.
To mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, and in this series York PEN are publishing, we are asking you to take action. English PEN is asking you to:
a) help in protesting against the convictions Enoh Meyomesse faces as being politically motivated
b) urge authorities to provide him with the necessary medical attention his requires
c) call for his immediate and unconditional release
There are many ways to make your mark on this day. Sending a letter or email of appeal to one of these authorities (found at the bottom of the link’s article) is a direct way to address all the issues listed above and add your own personal conviction against Meyomesse’s situation. Copying in your countries diplomatic representative of Cameroon is a good way to spread the message futher. Alternatively, if you would like to send your own message of solidarity, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the address. Reading Meyomesse’s work is another way to show your support for his case and all profits from the sales of ‘Jail Verse’ will go to continuing the publication of his work.