No fewer than six convicts at Cameroon’s Douala’s New Bell jail have died of cholera since February 18, Amnesty International has said.
At least six of the 10 regions of Cameroon are or have been affected by a cholera epidemic for several months. According to official data, 125 infections were recorded at Douala Central Prison between 21 and 31 March, where the overcrowding rate is said to be at least 300%.
Since October, 105 people have died in Cameroon’s outbreak, according to the country’s health minister. The disease has been detected in six of the country’s ten regions, including the turbulent South-West, where the health system has been severely harmed by the deadly conflict between government forces and armed separatists.
According to Amnesty, 30-year-old Rodrigue Ndagueho Koufet, the most recent deceased from the disease, was kept under arbitrary custody since September 2020 for participating in nonviolent protests.
Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, in a statement noted that all required health measures must be taken immediately by the Cameroonian authorities to guarantee that detainees suffering from cholera and other medical illnesses have rapid access to adequate medical care.
He added that “it has been confirmed that Rodrigue Ndagueho Koufet died of cholera on 7 April at Douala Hospital, where he was taken from the city’s central prison and chained to his hospital bed.”
On 7 December 2021, the Douala Military Court sentenced him to three years in prison and a 200,000 CFA franc fine for “co-action of insurgency, gathering, meetings, and public demonstrations,” according to the judgment, after he was arrested in September 2020 during peaceful protests of the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC). Others who have been jailed for the same reasons are likely to be in poor health.
“The authorities must also release all those arbitrarily detained, including detainees from the English-speaking regions and members of the main opposition party, the MRC, who have been arrested over the past five years for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
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