Cameroonian-American writer and scholar Patrice Nganang has remained in prison in Yaoundé over the holidays, ahead of a January 19 court date.
Nganang was first detained at the Douala airport, where he checked his bags and planned to board a flight to Zimbabwe on December 6. His wife reported that Nganang never arrived in Harare, setting off the search that found him in police custody. He was later taken to Kondengui prison.
Nganang faces charges of issuing a death threat against the 84-year-old President Paul Biya, now in power for 35 years in Cameroon, and inciting violence with public comments on the crisis in the West African nation’s English-speaking regions. The charges stem from Facebook posts and a news article.
Nganang authored a commentary piece for Jeune Afrique that ran in the “Ideas” section, dated from Buea on December 1. In the piece, he described his encounters in Bamenda and elsewhere as he contemplated the country’s ongoing Anglophone crisis, which has led to widespread violence, repression and alleged human rights violations that have alarmed the international community.
“It will probably require another political regime to make the state understand that the machine gun cannot stem a moving crowd,” Nganang concluded. “Only change at the top of the state can resolve the Anglophone conflict in Cameroon.”
Nganang is Professor of Literary and Cultural Theory at Stony Brook University in New York, with many supporters appealing for freedom on his behalf. He teaches Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, and is planning a semester as a visiting professor at Princeton University in Spring 2018.
Alongside international press freedom advocates, diplomats and others calling for his release, Nganang’s young daughter wrote a holiday letter to him in prison that was shared by the PEN America organization. “I’m signing the letter for you to get free,” she said. “Everyone in our family is sad you are gone but happy that you’re doing the right thing.”