U.S. Novelist Freed and Expelled from Cameroon After Insulting Country’s President

FILE - This undated file photo provided by Stony Brook University shows Professor Patrice Nganang. A judge ordered the release of Nganang held in the Central African nation of Cameroon since early December 2017. Patrice Nganang's lawyer says the dual U.S. and Cameroonian citizen was released early Wednesday, Dec. 27, …
Stony Brook University via AP, File

A judge in Cameroon has ordered the release and expulsion of a dual American-Cameroonian citizen for criticizing the country’s dictator Paul Biya.

Patrice Nganang, who is a literature professor at New York’s Stony Brook University, was detained by authorities as he was boarding a flight to Kenya. He was held by authorities on a number of charges, which included threatening to shoot the president on social media, criticizing constitutional bodies such as the military, and inciting violence.

Nganang, a renowned essayist and novelist, caught the attention of authorities after writing a column for the magazine Jeune Afrique criticizing the Cameroonian government’s handling of a secessionist movement in some Anglophone areas of the country.

The movement arose after the country’s English-speaking minority claimed to be victims of discrimination from the country’s Francophone institutions.

In November 2016, teachers and lawyers held strikes to protest the dominance of the French language, which inspired calls from separatists of full-scale independence, leading to large-scale protests that have caused the deaths of dozens of people as a result of police brutality.

After three weeks in detention, Nganang faced trial on Wednesday where all charges against him were dropped, although the judge ruled that he be expelled from the Central African country.

“We can only be very happy, when we have an unlawfully and arbitrarily detained client, to see him released,” said Nganang’s lawyer Emmanuel Simh.

Nganang’s wife, Nyasha Bakare, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that her husband would travel to the United States on Wednesday to be reunited with his family and expressed her desire to see dictator Paul Biya fall in a similar fashion to Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

“We are so very happy that this 21-day ordeal is over,” she wrote. “As I write this from Zimbabwe, where I recently witnessed firsthand the fall of a dictator, Robert Mugabe, who was only 2 years longer in office than Cameroon’s Paul Biya has been, I have to continue to hope that tyrannies in Africa will soon come to an end.”

Cameroon is one of many African nations to retain tight restrictions on the press. Last week, a military appeals court in Cameroon also acquitted and freed Radio France International correspondent Ahmed Abba over claims he “laundered proceeds of a terrorist.” He had already served 24 months of a two-year sentence.

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