As violence persists in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions of the North West (NWR) and South West (SWR), Cameroon’s President Paul Biya prescribed a National Dialogue on September 10, 2019. This measure comes three years after the conflict escalated. Various opinion circles have qualified it as charade and a show to please the international community and not any real commitment to ending the hostilities.
A teacher has indeed paid the price of this twin strategy of dialogue and repression. The teacher simply opined in class on whether jailed key opposition leader Maurice Kamto should participate in the dialogue slated for the end of September 2019. That was enough for him to be arrested by local authorities.
Teachers in open societies around the world push their students to think critically about current events. But those in Cameroon might be thinking twice after one of them was arrested for doing just that.
On September 13, Fondang Mesaack Nathan, an English teacher at the high school in Avebe-Esse, a village in Cameroon’s South region, was arrested after mentioning in class that the government may consider allowing jailed opposition leader Maurice Kamto to participate in a national dialogue. The dialogue is to address the ongoing crisis in the country’s Anglophone regions. After all, Fondang reasoned with a student, if the government was going to sit down and talk to armed groups, it could feasibly do so with political opponents.
Word spread from the classroom that Kamto was discussed, local authorities got involved, and by the next morning Fondang was in jail, accused of inciting rebellion.
The vice-prefect, a local administrator, arrested him. Fondang’s lawyer contends that as he was arrested by a local official with no authority to do so, his arrest was unlawful. A petition filed by his lawyer secured his release on September 18, but he is only free on a conditional basis, and he has been instructed not to travel. Teachers at Avebe-Esse High School went on strike for two days to protest the arrest.
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