Venyeni Romanus was rushed to hospital only when his condition became critical. He died two days later, leaving behind a wife and six children
By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE
Inmates held in the various prison facilities in Cameroon in relation to the Anglophone Crisis have accused the government of systematically denying them their right to health. They say this has led to several preventable deaths that have left them alarmed and afraid that the system has decided to deliberately let them die, even as some of them have not been formally charged or made to appear in court to defend themselves.
The inmates who have recently been writing about the phenomenon say, when sick, they are neglected and are only taken to hospital when it is too late to save their lives.
They also complained that, since most of them are detained in towns far from their areas of origin, it is even harder for family members to take care of them or secure treatment for them when they fall sick, especially as the prison system neglects them.
One of the cases cited by the Anglophone Crisis detainees is that of Venyeni Romanus who died on November 22, 2022, barely two days after admission at the Mbingo Annex Hospital in Bamenda.
He was arrested in Kumbo and detained at the Bamenda Central Prison for several years without trial. His mates in prison say he was ignored when he took ill, and prison authorities only tried to do something about his health, when it was already too late.
He died two days after he was rushed out for treatment. His case is one among many. Venyeni’s wife and six children had no means to come to his aid, as they too needed help. Venyeni, the family’s bread winner, had to be whisked off from Kumbo in Bui Division to Bamenda and detained without trial.
“We have been living in misery since he was arrested for something he did not do. My husband was the bread winner of the family, and now that he is dead, my children and I have been left to die of hunger too,” Venyeni’s wife remarked.
In their complaint, the detainees said the case of Buea Central Prison in the country’s Southwest is alarming. “The situation is so precarious with the Superintendent in charge Ndiuguwe Minkondo Simon Pierre and the medical doctor in charge of the penitentiary by name Egbe Docina who is hardly ever present at his duty post.
They have blocked the detainees arrested in relation to the Anglophone Crisis from going to the hospital, except when it is very critical and there is little or no remedy left,” they wrote.
To get the story from the side of a prison Administrator accused by the inmates, The Post tried in vain to have an interview with the Buea Central Prison Superintendent, Ndiuguwe Minkondo Simon Pierre.
He initially refused to talk on phone, and preferred a sit-down interview, which we agreed to, but then, he could not find time for it five days after.
According to leaders of Anglophone detainees, since 2016, at least 50 Anglophone detainees have lost their lives in various prisons due to neglect, lack of medical attention and outright refusal to get medical care where and when needed.
Some of the most recently recorded deaths of Anglophone Crisis detainees blamed on outright neglect include that of Besong Nkongho at Buea Central Prison (23 September 2022); Jackson Nkongi at Buea Central Prison ( 5 November 2022); Rudolph Tanger at Buea Central Prison (15 November 2022); Asang Viginus at Kondengui Central prison (17 November 2022); Venyemi Romanus at Bamenda Central prison (22 November 2022), among others.
Article 25 (1) of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights bestows on everyone the right to health.
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control,” it states.
As outlined by the detainees, in their case, they are being denied their right to adequate health, until when it is almost too late, when they can hardly be helped again.
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives everyone the right to life, liberty and the security of person. Due to the systematic denial of the right to health, the inmates have indirectly been denied their right to life, as they end up dying from preventable causes.
Even the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, in its Article 16 (1), states that, “Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health. It further states in paragraph (2) that State parties to the present Charter shall take the necessary measures to protect the health of their people and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick.”
In this regard, Cameroon as a State has failed to give its citizens their due, and has also failed to cause prison administrators respect the rights of the inmates.