In July 2021, Chamoun S drove to Comoros with other members of a human rights association known as Mabedja. He took part in a peaceful march against the dictatorship. He was questioned, arrested, and summarily incarcerated for 19 days.
He recalls the conditions of his imprisonment to Prison Insider.
I was incarcerated at Moroni prison in the capital city. It is a rotting place; the walls are crumbling by themselves. There’s no structure and no schedules; the supervisors decide how time is managed. But apparently, other prisons are worse.
Our cells are usually opened at 6:30 a.m., but sometimes we have to wait until 8:00 a.m. The doors are kept open until 6:30 p.m., but sometimes you have to go back to your cell at 1:00 p.m. There is a lot of tension. The heat is unbearable, and there’s no space, no hygiene, no windows, not even an opening for ventilation. There are always disruptions to water and power.
The are no toilets in the cells and they only provide prisoners with one ten-litre bucket. The courtyard is around 100 m2. It has three “very full”, very unhygienic toilets! 80% of the prisoners are most likely to have scabies.
Fights break out all the time, and score-settling is common.
Moroni Prison has a capacity for 90 prisoners, but there were 340 of us. We were all mixed together: sexual offenders, political prisoners, juveniles… There must be more than 20 juveniles and the majority of them are not on trial.
The institution has three cells. More than 100 of us share a cell of 20 square metres. We take it in turns to sleep because the cell is not big enough for us to stretch out our legs. Less than a quarter of the prisoners have a mattress or rug. These are people who have been jailed there for a long time, sometimes more than ten years. The others have nothing and sleep directly on the ground.
When I arrived, I bought a 2 m x 45 cm space. I paid €3 for it. Those who rent or sell these spaces use this money to buy themselves drugs; I do not know which ones. Crack, maybe? Anyhow, it makes them look like statues.
Fights break out all the time, and score-settling is common. One prisoner could take up a little too much space to sleep and that would set it off. The guards do not control anything, but they do torture the prisoners. The manager of security in the prison is the son of the president.
For meals, each prisoner has the right to one 200-300-gram portion of poor-quality rice per day. They cook it in large pots.
You have to rely on visits to get food because there are days when we do not have any! During my first week in prison, I wasn’t allowed any visits. However, there is some solidarity among the prisoners—those who receive food share it with others. I remember sharing a can of sardines with some other prisoners.
There is no work in this prison. There are a few makeshift stands with milk powder, pens, soap and razors. Some people manage to get bread.
Translated by Lauren Hill and proofread by Susanna Correya.
Find out more
• “Union des Comores : les Mabedja tiennent tête au régime Azali Assoumani” ; France TV, 7 septembre 2021 (in French)
• “L’enfer des prisons aux Comores” ; France 3 Bourgogne. Lien vidéo (in French)