(GIN) – The African Literature Association and other professional associations of writers and scholars are demanding the release of a Cameroonian-American writer and university professor, detained last week without explanation at the airport in Douala, Cameroon.
Patrice Nganang, who teaches at Stony Brook University’s cultural studies and comparative literature department in New York, was reported missing from a connecting flight to Zimbabwe where he was expected to meet up with his family.
The previous day he had published an article on the French website Jeune Afrique that was critical of the Cameroonian government’s handling of a series of strikes by the minority English-speaking population which is seeking equal rights with the majority French-speakers.
Anglophones make up about a fifth of the country’s 22 million people, and say they suffer from economic inequality and discrimination, especially in education and the legal system.
“It will probably take another political regime to make the state understand that the machine gun cannot stem a movement,” Nganang wrote. “Only change at the head of the state can settle the anglophone conflict in Cameroon.”
Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, has been monopolizing power in that country for the past 35 years.
“Cameroon seems intent on violating the right to freedom of expression to silence critical voices, including in the press,” said Angela Quintal, Africa Program Coordinator of the NY-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Nganang, 47, a U.S. citizen born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, was educated in Cameroon and Frankfurt, Germany, according to the Stony Brook University website. He is slated to be a visiting professor with the Princeton University Humanities Council in the spring semester.
Nganang has been teaching in the United States since 2000. He has published 12 books (most in French), scholarly essays, novels and books of poetry. A winner of several major literary awards, Nganang played a major role in the emergence of a community activist group called “Generation Change,” (on Facebook) and he has long championed the cases of persecuted journalists, writers, and other activists.