Sunday, 10 December 2017

Pressure on Cameroon to release activist Patrice Nganang

Pressure is mounting on Cameroonian authorities to set free an author and activist, Dr Patrice Nganang, who was arrested on alighting from a fight in Douala.

The Cameroonian-American offended the Yaoundé authorities by publishing an article critical of the handling of the ongoing socio-political crisis in the English speaking part of the Central African nation.


He was arrested on Thursday as he disembarked from a Kenya Airways plane, to take another flight to Zimbabwe.

Dr Nganang was ferried to Yaoundé, the seat of government, where he was still in detention on Sunday.

An advocacy group, PEN America, said Dr Nganang’s arrest and detention “demonstrates the high cost of free expression and press freedom in Cameroon”.

It urged the Cameroonian authorities to release him unharmed immediately.


The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) described the detention of the columnist as “an outrage” and requested the Cameroonian authorities to “immediately release him without charge” and allow him to travel.

The African Literature Association (ALA) also called for the “immediate release” of the prize-winning author.

Dr Nganang is the author of several prize-winning novels, including Mount Pleasant (Mont Plaisant) and Dog Days (Temps de Chien), as well as several books of essays and poetry, according to ALA.


Cameroon Communication minister and government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma Bakary told a press conference late on Friday that Dr Nganang was arrested after he uttered a death threat against the Head of State of Cameroon.

“He is currently under custody at the police department, where his request to hire a lawyer has been granted, in accordance with the laws and regulations in force in Cameroon,” Mr Bakary said.

Dr Nganang’s arrest came a day after he published a critical column in the France-based magazine Jeune Afrique, which criticised President Paul Biya’s handling of unrest in Cameroon’s anglophone regions.

“Only change at the helm of the state can settle the anglophone crisis in Cameroon,” he wrote.


Early this month, President Biya declared war on anglophone activists pushing for the independence of the English speaking Northwest and Southwest regions.

The government also ordered thousands of villagers in the Manyu Division of the Southwest to vacate their homes as it deployed troops to root out armed separatists who killed some six soldiers and policemen in the area.

Tens of civilians have been killed by government troops, hundreds others arrested and many more forced into exile in the year-long revolt that began as a civil society-led demo by lawyers’ and teachers’ associations.


The protesters had initially called for the return to the federal system of government as obtained in the country before 1972, but have since early this year, when separatists joined the demo, demanded an outright independence of the Northwest and Southwest.

The two English speaking regions were administered as part of Nigeria as a UN trust territory under British control prior to reunification.

President Biya, 84, who has ruled Cameroon for 35 years, has strongly opposed the separation, maintaining that “Cameroon is one and indivisible”.

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