A few weeks ago, we reported that Cameroonian novelist Patrick Nganang was remanded in prison, following an article he wrote in which he criticized the government’s handling of the on-going “Anglophone crisis.” He has since been released from Kondengui central prison in Yaounde.
During an interview conducted by Ngum Ngafor for the recently launched Village Square Journal, he opens up about the harrowing experience in jail. He also credits the prompt and impassioned response by his friends, family, and a global community of writers for his eventual release.
Here is an excerpt of the revealing but also heartwarming interview.
You recently made the headlines for being arrested aboard a flight from Douala to Harare. How did it happen and what was going through your mind at that time?
It gave everybody a glimpse of an African tyranny, didn’t it? I was arrested while boarding a flight to Zimbabwe where I had relocated with my family. The coincidence is that the fall of Mugabe had made Cameroonians pretty anxious, and I may have been one of the few Cameroonians with a direct contact to Zimbabwe, at least in the public eye. That quickly became a buzzword. I was brought to Yaounde, and kept in an office of the political police. I could not use a pen or paper. They took away my books and phones. I could not have any contact with my family, friends or lawyers. It took the impressive campaign of my friends for them to allow me to talk to a lawyer.
The name *Kondengui evokes fear in many. Give me a sense of the place.
I had been in Kondengui many times before, since I have led many campaigns for incarcerated writers. You know, Cameroon is the country in Africa that currently incarcerates writers the most. The guards knew me. I had actually been there before travelling to the English-speaking part of Cameroon, which eventually led to my arrest and incarceration. The prisoners and the guards were indeed surprised to see me, but because my case was all over the place in the media, I walked into a prison where practically every inmate knew me or knew about my case. Anglophone prisoners even gave me a standing ovation! But the place is a true chamber of death. It is severely overcrowded, with most prisoners still awaiting trial.
Why do you think you were released, while other activists remain in jail?
The answer is simple. Because of the historic campaign that was waged for my release. [It was] a combination of Cameroonian, African, European and US efforts. I came out to see a pyramid that was built by people of good will, and international institutions. My supporters contacted governments from Japan to the US, from South Africa to France and Israel! It may have helped that I am a writer, but Cameroon had never seen such a campaign. I can tell that from the level of absurdity of the government’s reaction. In the end, they treated me like a president, as they did not only abandon all their charges, they also escorted me out of the country in a presidential convoy, with a motorcade and sirens!
Read full interview here.
Facebook link image by Dibussi Tande via Twitter (@dibussi)