Pressure mounts on Cameroon after detainee tortured to death


Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 26 November 1992


PRESSURE on Cameroon’s government to repeal a post-election state of emergency is mounting after the death of an opposition detainee tortured by security forces and the condemnation of prison conditions by a government-appointed human rights association.

The Cameroonian president, Paul Biya, declared a state of emergency a month ago in the English-speaking opposition stronghold of western Cameroon when demonstrations followed the country’s first multiparty elections on October 11.

Observers from the United States’ National Democratic Institute said the election process was “designed to fail”, and accused the Biya regime of systematic fraud to secure victory for the ruling Cameroon Peoples’ Democratic Movement (CPDM).

Amnesty International yesterday confirmed the death of a detainee, Ghandi Che Ngwa, aged 30, in a military hospital in Bamenda, western Cameroon. An Amnesty report on the death says Mr Ngwa was taken to the security police headquarters in Bamenda, “where he was allegedly suspended by his arms and legs from an iron bar and severely beaten. Four days later he was transferred to the military hospital in Bamenda, apparently with a swollen and bruised body and with some of his toenails missing. He died a week later from his injuries.”

The chairman of Cameroon’s National Commission for Human Rights and Freedoms, Solomon Nfor Gwei, visited prisons in Bamenda last week. “We saw about 200 people who were kept in five or six cells, about 40 in each cell. I saw people with swollen legs and limbs, from beatings right there in the cell,” Mr Gwei said.

Government sources say there is mounting pressure within the government to end the state of emergency. Mr Biya said he would lift it only if the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), renounced violence and accepted the election result – demands the SDF has rejected, saying it has never advocated violence. Its leader, John Fru Ndi, has been under house arrest in Bamenda for a month.

Human rights organisations say the armed forces have killed up to 400 anti-government demonstrators since demands for multi-party democracy were raised in 1990.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited