Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya yesterday ordered the release of Gervais Mendo Ze, a one-time Director-General of the Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV.
Handed a 20-year sentence for embezzlement in 2019, Biya asked that he be released after a social media outcry over his deteriorating health condition.
While the release has been welcomed by some, others have expressed reservations, questioning the reason behind the release as well as why the gesture could not also be shown to others more deserving of it.
One of those cited is activist and journalist Thomas Awah. Arrested on January 2, 2017, for interviewing protesters, Thomas was handed an 11-year term which he is still serving to date. Shortly after his arrest, Thomas’s health began deteriorating and today, he is barely a shadow of his former self but all calls and campaigns for his release or that he be given befitting medical care have been futile.
“Are we not seeing a clear manifestation of double standards by the Cameroon government? Journalist Thomas Awah Jr. has been in a critical condition for a while… no clemency. As soon as it is Mendo Ze, he has been released,” DW journalist, Mim Mefo wrote.
Thomas, she went on, is not the only victim of the said double standards practiced by the Biya regime. With hundreds of young Anglophone men still incarcerated due to the armed conflict in the North West and South West regions with few ever going to trial, she expressed the belief that the president was looking in the wrong direction.
“Also, another Anglophone Thomas Tangem was chained to his sickbed, where he died in indignity, which makes me wonder why he could not be accorded the same treatment as Mendo Ze,” Mimi added.
Among the conditions hundreds of Anglophone inmates are forced to live in detention centres across the country, is overcrowding, poor healthcare, and poor feeding, and torture which has in most cases led to death.
To many, the president giving a blind eye to their plight and more concern to former government officials incarcerated for stealing billions of public money is another demonstration of not only his unwillingness to end the armed conflict but also the desire to continue marginalizing the Anglophone population.