A detainee of the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon has died while in detention. He was serving a 12-year jail sentence at the Kondengui prison in Yaounde.
Andrew Ambezieh Ofembe, who was once a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, reportedly died of severe tremors at the Yaounde General Hospital on October 11.
A family source (name withheld for security reasons) told MMI that he was taken to the Yaounde Military Hospital for treatment on October 10 after experiencing severe tremors in his hands that made it difficult for him to eat, drink, or wash anything.
“He was neglected; he has been unwell for months; no one cared; he was only sent to the hospital on Tuesday; it seems it was too late. He died the next day,” a family source told MMI.
Case of another Anglophone Crisis victim!
The native of Tezie-Ngie, in Momo Division of the North West, was serving a 12-year sentence for terrorism-related charges.
He was arrested in 2017 at the start of the armed conflict in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.
In 2018, the Yaounde Military Court court handed him a 12-year sentence and then granted him bail in 2020 on grounds of ill health.
But the court later reversed the bail, and he was never released until his death.
The former cleric of the Bamenda Archdiocese had reportedly resigned from the priesthood and joined politics.
In a condolence note that MMI came across, a prominent separatist leader in Kondengui, Henry Kimeng, wrote that the late Andrew Ambezieh was a frontrunner of the separatist quest. Since 2016, Separatists have been advocating and fighting for an independent state called Ambazonia.
Ofembe was president of the Southern Cameroons Liberation Movement (SOCALIM), which is one of the several pressure groups advocating for the independence of former British Southern Cameroons, today known as the North West and South West Regions.
He is among hundreds of pro-independence activists whom the Cameroon government has jailed since the 2016 uprising in the Anglophone Regions.
According to Amnesty International, more than 1,000 Anglophones were arrested between 2016 and 2021 in relation to the ongoing armed conflict.
Most of them were arbitrarily detained across about 10 prisons in the country.
Kondengui, the country’s largest maximum security prison, is home to dozens of these political detainees, including the president of the unrecognized Republic of Ambazonia, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe.
Following his arrest by Nigerian authorities and deportation to Cameroon to face charges, Sisiku has been serving a life sentence since 2019.
Sham Detention Conditions
In Kondengui, like most Cameroonian prisons, the living conditions are a sham. Lack of water, crammed cells, and poor hygiene conditions are breeding grounds for disease outbreaks.
Last year, at least six inmates died of cholera at the Douala Central Prison, the country’s second-largest detention facility.
Andrew Ambezieh is not the first political prisoner to die in Kondengui.
Other prisoners have died in the past, with most of the deaths resulting from illness and poor conditions.
In April last year, MMI reported that another political prisoner, Ambe Louis, died after experiencing eye and lung pains.
He never had access to proper medical treatment, a problem that Asang Virginus, another political prisoner, experienced seven months later.
Virginus died of leukaemia on November 17 in Kondengui. He also suffered from neglect and a lack of medical treatment.
Human rights groups say the condition of prisons in Cameroon is dire. Most of them are operating beyond their capacity, and inmates are poorly treated.
Mimi Mefo Info (MMI)