Buea Prison Authorities Downplay Deaths Of 3 Inmates

Buea Prison Authorities Downplay Deaths Of 3 Inmates

On October 27, 2023, some inmates of the Buea Central Prison were taken out to go and set up a makeshift structure for some warders who were receiving epaulettes on that Friday in Buea. 

Three inmates died of high-voltage electrocution and, since then, officials have continually downplayed the incident, and said little, even to victims’ families. 

The place to set up the canopies for the event was a risky one, as it was under a high-tension electricity line, which is forbidden by law because of the danger involved. With no experience working with electricity and in such a risky and restricted area, the inmates got into an electricity accident when one of them raised an iron pole to set up the canopies, and it touched a high-tension cable. 

The contact between the high-voltage cable and the iron rod electrocuted eight persons. The Post learned that one of the victims was the businessman who supplied the canopy materials. Three inmates died instantly, and four others, alongside the businessman, were rushed to the Buea Regional Hospital on time. 

The Director of the Regional Hospital, Dr Martin Mokake, confirmed to The Post that three persons were brought in dead, and there was nothing they could do about that. He also confirmed that five others were also brought in in connection to the incident. He told The Post that those five who were brought alive were stabilised by hospital experts, and later discharged. 

So far, investigations by The Post have revealed that those who died are commonly known at the Central Prison as Kalington (C ward), Vitalis (A ward) and Beads, (J ward). 


Prison Administrators Downplay Deaths

Since the incident happened, officials at the Buea Central Prison have in their actions, tried to downplay it. First, they refused to make a statement on the deaths, and have since refused to talk about it, even when requested. 

Having failed in the past to get officials of the prison to comment on the issue, The Post decided to get a comment from the Southwest Regional Delegation of Penitentiary Administration in Buea. There, we were told that the Delegation could not comment and that the prison administrators were best placed to comment. The Post went back to the Buea Central Prison but was turned down at the second entrance by the Chief of Post, who said we could not talk with the Prison Superintendent who runs the place. 

He said The Post should go back and bring an authorisation letter from the Administration before any access can be granted to the prison administrator, who then would decide whether to speak or not. 

By taking out prisoners for labour in a risky area, prohibited by law, and exposing them to harm, the prison authorities contributed to harming them and depriving them of their right to life. This contravenes Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person”. 

To some extent, the prisoners were subjected to inhuman treatment, when they were made to work in a risky area, where it was common knowledge that their lives would be at risk. This contravened Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. 

The area where the inmates were made to work posed a direct threat to their lives, and the circumstances surrounding it point to the fact that it was common sense that people could die, as it involved high-voltage electricity cables. 


No Talks Of Compensating Families

So far, the Prison officials and regional officials have not talked about compensating the families of the victims. The Post was able to talk to a family member of one of the late inmates. He told The Post that no mention has been made of any plans to compensate them. 

We learned that the families got to the prison yard on Wednesday, November 15, to request that the bodies be made available to them for burial. They were told to wait for three days (till November 18) and will be contacted by prison officials. On Sunday, November 19, 2023, the officials still did not reach out to the families. 

They told The Post that they will be heading to the Prison again on Tuesday. They also say they have not taken any legal action yet, because they are waiting for the administration to act.