Sep 19, 2019

Anglophone Crisis: Diaspora Sympathisers, Activists No Longer Welcomed In Cameroon

By Eric Njie

Diaspora sympathisers and activists of the Anglophone cause, are seemingly, no longer welcome into Cameroon, despite Public Relations moves by the government to have them on board in charting a new way for the country.

Of recent, testimonies have spiked of some Cameroonians who have either been denied entry into the country, or have been arrested upon landing and detained in various detention centres around the country, when they are identified as either being advocates, or sympathisers of the Anglophone cause.

A security source has hinted The Post, that those identified as being behind the organisation of rallies in the Diaspora to protest against the government or advocate the Ambazonia agenda are targeted most. For those with other foreign nationalities, our source said, “They are detained briefly, and in case of intervention from the country where they naturalised, they are placed on a return flight. But some exploit the loopholes in the system, and trick their way out, or in most cases, bribe their way out, and run out of the country to avoid being jailed.” He said.

Even those let into the country, are closely monitored and arrested for the slightest reason, which sometimes has nothing to do with breaking any existing laws. After such arrests, trumped-up charges, especially those that are terrorism-related, are used against such victims. A case in point is that of Joseph Ngaling, who was closely followed and arrested in a taxi, January 13, 2017, days after he came back, for reading a newspaper and discussing a headline. He was later charged with a barrage of terrorism offences and sentenced to 11 years in prison. In one of his visits to some detained Anglophone crisis prisoners, the late Member of Parliament, for Kumbo Central,Hon. Joseph Banadzemmet and listened to the inmates recount their stories.

In prison, Joseph Ngaling recounted; “I was picked up in a taxi just because I was seen with a copy of The Post Newspaper. The paper had this headline on its front page: “As Ghost Town Looms: Anglophone Teachers, Lawyers, Battle With Government Over School Resumption” Joe told late Hon. Joseph Banadzem during the latter’s visit to the Kongengui Prison on February 26, 2017.

He further stated, “I remember very well because the taxi driver asked me about the content of the paper but I told him that I had not gone through the paper. I later told him that from the front page, it looked like the paper would be interesting. As we continued discussing the paper, I was suddenly tapped by two plain-clothed policemen who were sitting behind and from there I found myself in a cell,” Joe Ngaling said.

After visiting, listening to and encouraging the detained, Hon. Banadzem remarked, “I found them in varying, delicate and worrying situations. Their stories are pathetic and it calls for attention because some of them do not even know why they are there. Some are sick and others look like they will die in the next coming hours. We have to unite and go towards them because they are psychologically disturbed,” Hon. Banadzem said after the visit.

Ngaling, Cameroon-born American citizen who came back to Cameroon to attend his brother’s wedding, is now serving an 11-year jail term, with a fine of FCFA 250,000. The Military court charged and declared him guilty of financing of terrorism, hostility to the fatherland and incitement to rebellion.

One of those who have gone through the nightmarish travails of being detained upon landing back home too is Epanti Guy Narcisse, who was taken into custody immediately he landed at the Douala International Airport.

However, Epanti was one of the lucky ones whose path to summary judgement and sentence, was cut short by the timely intervention of his lawyer and brother. The lawyer, Nji Chu Venasius,contracted by Epanti’s brother to intervene, told The Post that on the 1stof August, 2019,Epantilanded at the Douala International Airport, onboardRoyal Air Maroc, at about 2 a.m. and several hours after he arrived, he was no way to be found by the family that had come to receive him.

Nji Chu Venasiustold The Post that after investigations, he found out that at the Airport Epanti was intercepted, interrogated, and his phones seized and searched. The lawyer stated that Epanti was taken on allegations that he was one of the Anglophone activists in the Diaspora. “I leant that my client was blindfolded and taken to an undisclosed detention facility”, the lawyer said, furthering that the family was traumatised as they have neither spoken to, or heard from their son, several days after he landed in the country. The lawyer stated that even he, was denied access to his client, and as such, his task was made more difficult.

He revealed that after several efforts, some of which he could not disclose the details, he securedEpanti’s release on the 25th of August 2019. He said he had been hinted by one of the officers handling the case, that his client had a valid Swedish Visa, which was then used to purchase a flight ticket, to fly him out of the country to Sweden, onboard Turkish Airlines, immediately he was released.

The interrogation and detention of visiting or returning Cameroonians resident in the Diaspora have reportedly resulted in a drop in the number of nationals coming back, as many fear they might be targeted for anti-regime activities, or even for just the fact that they are coming from areas where anti-Biya regime activities are rife.