The prison riots

EDITORIAL 30 Jul 2019
The prison riots

Incidents of prison riots in the past have occurred without much to worry about but if they have assumed the proportion of a wide spread spontaneous action from Kondegui-Yaounde to Buea and Kumba, it becomes something to think twice about. We think this is what should occupy the minds of those in authority. On the contrary, experience has shown that these prisons riots certainly have a root cause, which no one seems to care about. No one seems to be disturbed by what happens within the walls of a colony of people, whom society is presumed to have rejected and abandoned to their fate.
For those who run these prisons, who ought to know, have pretended not to know that the conditions under which prisoners have been subjected to are inhumane. It does not require the trouble of going back to records about our prisons, to discover that time has changed and that, those prisons structures were built many years go to accommodate a few hundred inmates, but have today become overcrowded. For instance, prison cells that were intended for about one hundred inmates now accommodate more than a thousand persons, squeezing themselves within a very small space.
As if it is not enough to display government’s double standards, and to a certain extent discriminatory policies, favourable conditions are reserved for some inmates and denied to others. In this case, a few are put in place called the VIP section within the same prison, where some prisoners are given special treatment; lodged in well furnished private cells and provided with facilities like air-conditioners and televisions.
The irony of it all is that, a majority of those enjoying these facilities are those who have embezzled state money. The contrast with the other group of prisoners makes them look like sub-humans.
Unfortunately, the cry about poor conditions of our prisons has become a sing-song, echoed not only by well-thinking Cameroonians but by international bodies who have shown concern strictly on humanitarian grounds. Such concerns have been manifested by funding to government, intended to improve on this disgraceful conditions of our prisons. It would surprise even those who have offered voluntarily to help save the situation that nothing has changed. The government does not seem to appreciate such offers, which should compel it to do something.
However, like in all other cases, the government has shown little or no interest to similar humanitarian situations; it only concerns itself in justifying its position, by breaking certain fundamental rules relating to the freedoms of individuals, turning a blind eye to the now-common practice of detaining persons for long without trial. In this case, we think government is not alone in this act of denying prisoners better conditions under circumstances in which they happen to find themselves. If government is to blame for anything in this issue, the judicial system is equally indictable. We think the judicial department has a responsibility of, at least, knowing who has been detained, on what offense and for how long.
The truth is that there are many who have been detained without charges fixed on them and are languishing in prisons for just this reason. There is every reason therefore for the prisons to be congested, and which of course, must give rise to the kind of widespread and spontaneous prisons protests such as was witnessed last week. We are certainly not out of touch with what is happening in the country today. So, think the government should not allow this country to move from one crisis to the other.
Let us not give room for a new axis in our struggle for peace, just for the simple reason that government is insensitive to the worries of the people. We think there can be a way out.

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