Outrage over arrest of Cameroon-born American scholar

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In power for 35 years and at 84 years old, Cameroonian dictator, Paul Biya, has been trying to perpetuate himself in office. He crushes those who oppose or criticize him, and disconnects the internet from some regions for months when he loses control of the situation. He travels abroad for many more months, at the same time his countrymen are being bombed by Boko Haram terrorists in the country’s far north, and squanders the meager resources of the impoverished central African nation there at an expensive hotel in Geneva where he is reported to own a permanent suite.

When he returns, he orders his tired and brainless officials to line up at the airport for hours to welcome him. But he still does not travel to Cameroon’s far north where his soldiers are fighting Boko Haram.

Since 2014, when the terrorists began bombing and killing Cameroonians in the far north, Mr. Biya has not traveled to the troubled region.

And when tens of soldiers were massacred by Boko Haram and their corpses were brought close to the Presidential palace in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, Mr. Biya did not attend the event held to honor the fallen heroes.


So far, more than 2000 Cameroonians have been killed by Boko Haram and hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the terrorists who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015. But, Mr. Biya, would rather travel abroad and to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, rather than meet the victims of war and encourage the courageous soldiers fighting hard to defeat evil.

85-year old Paul Biya, President of Cameroon since 1982

His administration’s mishandling of the Anglophone crisis in Southwest and Northwest regions had already painted him and his brutal regime in bad light. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations condemned the assault on freedom of expression in Cameroon, and the killings and jailing of innocent people.

But, like a deaf man, Mr. Biya and his lawless regime are not done yet. On December 7, the government arrested a famous Cameroonian-American professor. And that arrest, has been widely condemned around the world.


Professor Patrice Nganang, a scholar of comparative literature at Stony Brook University in the United States, was denied exit from Cameroon and arrested by state authorities, in apparent retaliation for an article he wrote criticizing Cameroonian government policies.

The scholar, an award-winning author known internationally and especially in Francophone Africa, had on December 5, 2017, published an opinion piece in Jeune Afrique criticizing state treatment of the Anglophone communities in Cameroon’s Southwest  and Northwest regions.

The Anglophone crisis started in 2016 after teachers and lawyers in the regions took to the street to demand justice and equality in a country, they said, was dominated by Francophones.

But, Mr. Biya’s government brutally repressed the protests, arresting many innocent people and throwing them in jail. The mishandling of the crisis triggered more protests and snowballed into calls for secession.

Professor Nganang’s article in the popular Jeune Afrique suggested that the crisis in Cameroon could only be resolved with the departure of President Paul Biya who came to power in November 1982.

The article was published on 5 December. Two days after, on 7 December, Professor Nganang was scheduled to leave Cameroon for Harare, Zimbabwe.

However, after passing through a security checkpoint at Douala Airport, he was arrested.

His family was unaware of his whereabouts for 24 hours. It was only after his lawyers found him in a government detention center that news about him spread to the world.

A report quoted one of his lawyers, as saying that he is accused of “insulting the president of the republic.”

The arrest has been widely condemned scholars, human rights organizations and politicians, as well as ordinary citizens in Cameroon.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) said it was concerned about the arrest of Professor Nganang and the denial of his right to travel.

On Thursday, reports from Cameroon indicated that the Professor was moved to the Maximum Kondengi prison in the capital Yaounde. His prolonged detention, however, continues to trigger outrage and condemnation around the globe.


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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Based in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, Simon leads a brilliant team of reporters, freelance journalists, analysts, researchers and contributors from around the world to run TODAY NEWS AFRICA as editor-in-chief. Simon Ateba's journalistic experience spans over 10 years and covers many beats, including business and investment, information technology, politics, diplomacy, human rights, science reporting and much more. Write him: simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com


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