Campaign to free Cameroonian poet launched in U.S.
(GIN)—Cameroonian poet and writer Enoh Meyomesse has been named an honorary member of the U.S. international freedom to write group, PEN America, which launched a dynamic interactive timeline to draw attention to his case.
Last December, Meyomesse was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of stealing and illegally selling gold. No witnesses or evidence were presented during the trial, and he was not allowed to testify in his own defense.
“Enoh’s true offense was to raise his voice in defense of fellow writers and to participate in the political process,” explained Freedom to Write and International Programs Director Larry Siems. “We call upon the government of Cameroon to release Enoh and to allow him to exercise his universally-guaranteed right to freedom of expression.”
Enoh Meyomesse, 57, has published more than 15 books of poetry, prose, essays and is a founding member and president of the Cameroon Writers Association. A Facebook page called Free Enoh Meyomesse carries updates on his case.
As an honorary member of PEN America, Enoh is a priority case and will have the full support of PEN American Center.
An interactive timeline on www.pen.org/advocacy/jailing-enoh-meyomesse gives the background to Enoh’s story and supplies letter-writing software to send a letter via email to Cameroonian authorities urging his release.
Central African Republic chief flees to Cameroon, coupsters settle in
(GIN)—A fresh tragedy has illuminated the Central African Republic, a country in the perfect center of the continent that has been tossed between coups and takeover attempts since the departure of the French colonizers in 1960.
A coalition of rebel forces—“Seleka” or coalition in the Sanogo language—broke a recently-signed ceasefire and began burning a path toward the capital city, Bangui, taking control of the country’s northern and southeastern states. By March 22, they were 75 miles from Bangui. President Francois Bozize, protected by only a thin army of South Africans, took flight, leaving the South African forces exposed.
During the rebel advance, 13 South African soldiers were killed and 27 wounded, the South African president’s office said. One soldier was unaccounted for.
Milton Allimadi, publisher of the Black Star News, in an interview, derided the toothless ceasefire, confirming the view that it was a temporary patch over a “mafia turf war” and a split of the spoils of government.
“The deal had excluded the most important elements of the Central African Republic—the civilians and leaders of civil society organizations,” he said. “The country needed a national dialogue that would also embrace non-combatants and that the solution could not be only offered by the armed combatants, Bozizi’s forces and Seleka otherwise the agreement could not endure.
“The peacekeepers from the Central African Republic from Congo, Chad, Gabon and South Africa will not defend the Bozizi government if Seleka decides to move into the capital,” Allimadi predicted. “I am willing to bet these troops will leave in a hurry.”
“The biggest victims are the ordinary people” and “the civilians who suffer the consequences of warfare…,” he said. “Sadly, the January observations have now been borne out.“
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses in Bangui, home to 600,000 people, are reporting widespread looting and gunfire. Electric power, cut four days ago, has not been restored. Rebel leader and self-proclaimed president Michel Djotodia asked regional peacekeepers stationed in the country to help him restore order.
Only 3.1 percent of the land is arable, but the country has an array of natural resources, including diamonds, gold, uranium and timber.
Obama calls African leaders to White House confab
(GIN)—With an expanding U.S. presence in Africa responding to a perceived threat from terrorist groups, President Barack Obama is deepening his ties with area presidents. A special meeting with Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Macky Sall of Senegal, Joyce Banda of Malawi and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde has been announced recently.
Obama and the four leaders were expected to discuss cooperation in anti-terror campaigns in the region and opportunities to expand trade and investment.
Mali, Mauritania, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria among others, are the latest security concerns for the U.S. as “Islamist” groups fan out across the region, spurred in part by French intervention in Mali’s war with Ansar Dine and other groups in Timbuktu and the northern regions.
Cooperating governments in the region are receiving training to support peacekeeping initiatives across the continent. A U.S.-trained contingent from Sierra Leone is departing for Somalia this week, joining 9000 peacekeepers from Burundi and Uganda. In Malawi, as part of African Deployment Partnership Training, four U.S. Army officers conducted convoy training with 32 Malawian Defense Force personnel from Jan. 21 to Feb. 1.
Further, military training between the U.S. and Senegal, dubbed “Saharan Express 2012” has taken place along the Senegalese, Cape Verde and Mauritanian coastlines.
According to the public relations department of the Senegalese army, the training exercises have participants from Cape Verde, Gambia, Morocco, Mauritania and Sierra Leone.
Earlier this year, the U.S. military commander in Africa acknowledged mistakes in its training of Malian troops still skirmishing with Islamist rebels from the north.
General Carter Ham of United States Africa Command (Africom) said its forces had failed to train Malian troops on “values, ethics and a military ethos.”
Meanwhile, fighting has re-ignited in Gao, northern Mali, an area liberated by the French in January.
This article originally appeared in our April 3, 2013 issue.
Category: Africa Briefs