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Cameroon/COVID19: Biya’s order to decongest prisons ‘deliberately’ excludes Anglophone Crisis detainees and political prisoners, Legal Experts say

A presidential decree in Cameroon ordering for the commutation and remission of prison sentences of inmates would send some prisoners home amid the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country. 

Reports say 3 inmates died of the coronavirus at the Kondengui Central prison in Yaoundé, political capital of Cameroon, this week. 

Inmates in some central prisons in the country have been living in fear, according to sources. 

Barrister Mudi Nfor a Cameroonian lawyer says Ambazonian leaders and those arrested in relation to the anglophone crisis in Cameroon are expressly excluded from the president’s decree. 

An attempt to decongest crowded prisons in the country 

There have been intensified calls for  President Biya who has not made any public appearance since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country to release inmates. 

“It would have been better if Biya had released all prisoners serving 10 years and below to decongest prisons,” Barrister Mudi Nfor tells Gina Informs. 

Human Rights Watch says the central prison in the capital Yaoundé currently holds about 5,000 people – 5 times its capacity.

The Cameroon government in March took measures to curb the spread of the virus, including shutting schools, closing borders, banning mass gatherings, and encouraging people to follow hygiene rules.

“But in Cameroon’s prisons, which are notably overcrowded, keeping social distance, practicing self-isolation, and taking basic measures such as hand washing are just not possible,” the Rights Body states. 

Senior Barrister Agbor Ashu Emmanuel, President of the Reform Party says President Biya’s order is an unnecessary gesture. 

“This is not what we asked for, we demanded that all prisoners be released, to prevent people from dying,” he revealed to Gina Informs. 

In a tweet the president of Cameroon’s Renaissance Movement (MRC) called on president Biya to release Cameroon’s political prisoners and those who are unjustly detained due to the ongoing Anglophone and post-election crises. 

“Those released must include Ayuk Tabe and Mamadou Mota,” he tweeted. 

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