The detention of writer Patrice Nganang in Cameroon has been met with outcry from the international community, including the press advocacy organization PEN International’s chapter in the United States.
Nganang was born in Cameroon and is now Professor of Literary and Cultural Theory at Stony Brook University in New York. He teaches Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, and is planning a semester as a visiting professor at Princeton University in Spring 2018.
Nganang authored a commentary piece for Jeune Afrique that ran in the “Ideas” section of the online news site on Tuesday; it was dated from Buea on December 1. Nganang 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 under longtime President Paul Biya.
“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.”
On Wednesday night, the Cameroonian-American was set to board a flight to Zimbabwe when he went missing at Douala airport. He never arrived in Harare, and never boarded the flight although his luggage was already checked, his wife told Jeune Afrique. Local media accounts confirmed that Nganang was taken into custody, with a source telling AFP that he was taken to Yaoundé because of his article and related social media posts.
“Investigating corruption or commenting unfavorably on political or human rights issues frequently results in official repercussions for writers and journalists in Cameroon,” said PEN America in its statement. “Nganang is only the latest example of a string of writers commenting on sensitive subjects who risk police questioning, lawsuits, detention, or imprisonment.”
Image: Humanities Council Princeton University