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Enoh Meyomesse: The poetry of freedom

The Cameroonian poet who got himself kicked out of prison.

AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui, File

Shortly after his release from prison, Enoh Meyomesse told writer Patrice Nganang the following:

It's funny to see the prison from outside…They practically threw me outside. It was quite forceful. But if it is kicking me outside to freedom, then there's nothing to complain about.

Enoh Meyomesse is a Cameroonian writer, poet and social activist who has published over 15 books. He is also one of the founding members of the Cameroon Writers Association.

In October 2011, Meyomesse unsuccessfully ran for president, challenging President Paul Biya's 30-year-rule, according to The Guardian. A month later, he was arrested and charged with attempting to organise a coup, and armed robbery. While these charges were eventually dropped, he remained in jail until December 2012, when he was given a seven-year prison sentence for supposed complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold.

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International campaigned for Meyomesse's release from the time of his initial arrest, noting that the charges against him were politically motivated.

He continued to write while in prison, and in November 2012, self-published Poème carcéral: Poésie du pénitencier de Kondengui.

Throughout his imprisonment, the Writers at Risk programme at English PEN and its supporters sent him writing materials, books, published his work and lobbied authorities.

From September 2014 to April 2015, Meyomesse's portrait was featured in Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei's exhibition, "Trace," on Alcatraz Island, California. His was among the 176 portraits of people from around the world who have been exiled or imprisoned because of their affiliations or beliefs, according to the FOR-SITE Foundation.

On 27 April 2015 – after intense lobbying and many legal appeals by PEN – Meyomesse was finally released from Kondengui Prison in Yaoundé.

"It's funny to see the prison from outside," said Meyomesse shortly after his release to writer Patrice Nganang who, along with friend Bergeline Domou, spearheaded the campaign for his release, according to PEN International. "They practically threw me outside. It was quite forceful. But if it is kicking me outside to freedom then there's nothing to complain about."

[Last updated 8 May 2015]

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