Patrice Nganyang, a Camerounian author and professor of literature at Stony Brook University in New York, has been arrested for criticizing the country’s president, Paul Biya. The Daily Mail reports that he was “arrested at the airport as he tried to fly to Zimbabwe a day after publishing an opinion piece sharply critical of Cameroon’s president.” Nganang was seized at Douala airport and is being detained in the country’s capital Yaounde.
The opinion piece was published in French on the news site Jeune Afrique and was unsparing of the Cameroonian President Paul Biya’s response to the anglophone crisis. “It will probably take another political regime to make the state understand that the machine gun cannot stem a movement,” Nganang is said to have written. “Only change at the head of the state can settle the anglophone conflict in Cameroon.”
A source stated that, before his arrest, Nganang “drew attention to himself in recent days with several acts of provocation,” which include his Facebook posts. Nganang is said to have “visited the restive anglophone regions that have been hit by an anti-secession government crackdown.”
Cameroun’s Anglophone crisis was the subject of an essay by Imbolo Mbue earlier this year in The Guardian. There have been “calls for greater autonomy in Cameroon’s two English-speaking areas, the Northwest and Southwest Regions,” which “have been rejected by Biya whose government has led a crackdown on the separatist drive.”
Anglophone Cameroonians constitute a fifth of the country’s 22 million citizens and have protested against the economic inequality and educational and legal discrimination rooted in the country’s Francophone-Anglophone divide.
A group of writers in Cameroon have called for Nganang’s release. PEN America, meanwhile, has issued a statement through its Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs, Karin Deutsch Karlekar.
“Detaining an important independent voice like Patrice Nganang, who has used his writing to investigate the consequences of violence, is indicative of a movement by the government to silence all political criticism and dismantle the right to free expression. We condemn Nganang’s detention and call on the Cameroonian authorities to release him unharmed immediately.”
We will keep you updated on this development.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report wrongly stated that Nganang teaches at New York University.