Novelist and poet Alain Mabanckou marks the Day of the Imprisoned Writer with a powerful open letter to imprisoned writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse
To mark last year’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer, English PEN published ‘Jail Verse: Poems from Kondengui Prison’, a powerful collection of poems by imprisoned Cameroonian writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse. A year later, he remains detained on charges PEN believes to be politically motivated. Read Alain Mabanckou’s open letter to Enoh and join us in calling for his immediate and unconditional release ahead of his rescheduled hearing next week, 20 November.
My dear Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse,
The world would be a perfect place if freedom of expression wasn’t suffering, day after day, from the blindness of our governments who have always perceived African writers as their “natural opponents”, because we refuse to endorse any regime and because our independence is not for sale…
Those political leaders deem our writing to be harmful, incompatible with the arbitrary practices they implemented, which have been a burden on some peoples for many decades, as we see it in your country, Cameroon. Well, you are not alone in this captivity, because when writers are thrown in prison, they are followed in their cells by an army of readers and the loud footsteps of their outraged colleagues. It is with this optimism in mind that I am writing this letter to you, to remind you that we will never cease to speak your name and to denounce, from every rooftop of the world, the injustice that befell you and the contempt shown by the justice system towards you.
By imprisoning a writer, they are playing with fire: how could they build walls around our imagination, when they know it has a pair of giant wings and that it sings, in every season, its hymn to freedom?
At a time when the world is opening up, your country remains on the sidelines because of its backward practices. Your appeals in court are postponed, as if your words, once delivered to the public, would undermine the foundations of your country’s regime. I believe it to be true, and those words are now in all of us. We are spreading your words to the four corners of the earth, to remind the enemies of free speech that an invisible and invincible army is on its way, using words to tear down every one of the barriers keeping mankind from progress.
No, my dear Dieudonné, you are not alone. We are standing with you; we are one; and we will be, more than ever, the bearers of your voice, until you are freed and able to pick up your pen, enchant your readers once again, and make them dream and take part in the building of a new Cameroon – and beyond, of a new Africa, free and democratic. You are our martyr, and we will remind each other every time that we meet as colleagues. Open your ears, and you will hear our voice and unshakable anger already on the doorstep of your cell.
Stay brave, brother, we’re here for you!
(Translated by Julien Faille-Lefrançois)
To read other open letters from leading authors including Alberto Manguel and Elif Safak to writers at risk around the world, please visit the PEN International website.
Please send appeals:
• Protesting the conviction of writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse on politically motivated charges and the seven-year prison sentence handed down to him on 27 December 2012;
• Expressing concern for reports of Enoh Meyomesse’s ill-health, urging the authorities to afford him all necessary medical care;
• Calling on the Cameroonian authorities to quash the conviction and to release Meyomesse immediately and unconditionally.
President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Mr Philemon Yang, Prime Minister
Fax: +237 22 23 57 35
His Excellency Mr. Nkwelle Ekaney
Cameroon High Commission
84 Holland Park
Fax: 020 7792 0608
Or you could use the form below. A sample letter is provided but it is always better if you put the appeal in your own words.
[ecampaign ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ subject=”Release Enoh Meyomesse”]
Dear President Biya
I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the international association of writers, to protest the ongoing imprisonment of writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse.
According to PEN’s information, on 27 December 2012 writer Enoh Meyomesse was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges that are widely held to be politically motivated. He had already been detained for 13 months prior to this conviction, despite all previous charges against him having been dropped in June 2012.
Enoh Meyomesse continues to be held in the over-crowded Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé where conditions are extremely poor. There are serious concerns for his health and well-being. I therefore join PEN in urging the authorities to ensure that he has access to the medical care he requires.
In April 2013, it was reported that Meyomesse’s lawyers had succeeded in having his case referred to a civil court for appeal. At least 13 hearings before the Court of Appeal have been postponed due legal technicalities, the most recent on 17 October 2014. The hearing is now expected to take place on 20 November.
I join PEN in calling on the Cameroonian authorities to ensure that Meyomesse’s appeal hearing goes ahead as scheduled, that the conviction is quashed, and that he is released immediately and unconditionally.