Participating in Positive Change

Agendia Aloysius' line of duty

header photo

Cameroon’s most vocal journalist killed in the USA: The challenges ahead

By Aloysius AGENDIA

It was with shock, consternation and total disbelief that Cameroonians world over on Tuesday July 13, learned of the killing of Cameroon's and one of Africa's  ace journalist, activist and celebrated communicator, Pius Njawe. Njawe, 53, was director of Free Media Group- publisher of Le Messager, Cameroon's most enigmatic newspaper. Enigmatic in that Le Messager has withstood all the storms, thunder, lightening aimed at debilitating and crucifying it.

 I lack words here.  The heart breaking news was too harsh to be true, too bitter to swallow. I do not even know where to start or end. I did not want to believe Njawe was dead.  But yes, he was killed. Yes, Njawe was killed in a ghastly car accident in the US state of Virginia in the afternoon of Monday July 12, 2010.

Njawe was in the US attending the convention of Cameroon Diaspora for Change CAMDIAC-USA. As  a freedom fighter, Njawe died in the course of doing what he liked most. Struggling for the emancipation of Cameroon and Cameroonians. I have never seen tributes paid to any Cameroonian as have been done for late Njawe, apart from the tributes which were paid to Cameroonian football star Marc Vivien Foe who died in the football pitch in 2002.

 Njawe dedicated all his life for the development of Cameroon. He fought relentlessly for the freedom of the press and mankind. He was an opinion leader, he was a human right activitist. In the eyes of Njawe, journalism was activism, given that an activist is he who stands for a particular course and his journalism was irrevocably focused towards giving the truth to Cameroonian and liberating them.

Journalism is not ambiguity it not diplomacy, it is not propaganda.  It is activism for truth and accuracy and keeping the people informed. Our sources may be very diplomatic, ambiguous, and propagandistic but, we have to be critical of them in a bid to get the truth out. That is the battle Njawe won but the war is not yet over.

 His stance and courage to say things which have never been said or written by any media organ in Cameroon, cost him several days in jail as well as financial repercussions for his media organisation. He is said to have been arrested 126 times and imprisoned thrice in his 30 year career. Njawe was the first ever and youngest Cameroonian to dedicate his life to freedom of the press and human rights. This is why at 22 , in 1979 he was already a publisher of a newspaper, Le Messager.  This newspaper has turned out to be Cameroon most vocal media outlet with out any second, third, fourth, or five media behind it. After, all, it was the first private newspaper in Cameroon with the exception of the Catholic Weekly L’Effort camerounais created in 1955.

 Le Messager is the only newspaper in Cameroon whose editorial policy has never changed. At an early age of 19, Njawe is said to have written about the discovery of oil in Cameroon, an article which earned him a few days behind bars given that oil management in Cameroon has ever remained a secret and controlled by the president and his entourage as a private estate.

Le Messager was the only newspaper in Cameroon which began and continuously questioned the plethoric and lengthy stays of president Paul Biya abroad.  It was the only newspaper that started and continues to question the plethoric presidential entourage during such outings and total black out on the whereabouts of the president during state sponsor private-long stays.  Le Messager was the first and only newspaper that dug every ministry and exposed what the cadres in those ministries never wanted to the public to know.

Yes, the neo-colonial government sensed the danger coming and Njawe was frustrated at several fronts. He was arrested and locked up for writing and "speculating" on the health of Mr Paul Biya. During this period of incarceration, his wife miscarried, allegedly due to brutality from warders when she came visiting her husband in the New Bell Prison in Douala. The frustration continued when the same wife, Jane Njawe, died in a motor accident five years ago.  This pushed Njawe a few years later to creat the road safety campaign NGO, Jane and Justice Njawe Foundation.

Njawe’s woes did not end there. His radio, Freedom FM was killed even before it started broadcast. Several millions of investment and equipment damaged by a government very indifferent to the development and freedom of its people. Several jobs were killed by the same government to that effect.

It was Le Messager that did the most explicit coverage of 1984 abortive coup d’ etat. It was Le Messager that extensively covered the 1990 university unrest and political turmoil, it was Le Messager that spearheaded the coverage of all elections in Cameroon and their controversies. It was Le Messager that covered in detail, the massacre of university students in 2005, 2006 and 2007 in Buea, Yaoundé and Douala.

 It was Le Messager which was courageous enough to reveal the atrocities committed by government troops and the horrors of  a few criminals who infiltrated into civil demonstration in February 2008 during the transporters’ strike that degenerated to a general strike against rising cost of living, corruption and impunity. It was Le Messager that spoke against the modification of the constitution to cancel presidential term limits. The list of these things is endless  and all these were under the directorship of indefatigable Pius Njawe.

 Of course, Njawe might have had his own shortcomings but without mincing words, Njawe was the champion of a free press and the right of the people to know in Cameroon. He and his newspaper were first in Cameroon and the next 5 positions are vacant.

The killing of Njawe is a huge, I mean huge blow not only to the press but to all freedom fighters, human right activists, and proponents of democracy in Cameroon and even Africa etc.

Despite all the hurdles, Njawe and Le Messager did not give up. Other means were devised to strangle Le Messager and Pius Njawe. Njawe was hit very hard both by private and public sector. A good number of multinational companies hitting him and refusing adverts for his most read newspaper. The simple reason was that support to Le Messager would mean supporting a very dangerous opponent of the neo-colonial government. Not all opponents are that dangerous though. Many had been disarmed but Njawe was still the strongest soldier in the battle. He had won several battles but the war was still a long way to go and, here...... he's gone.

But all those who have Cameroon at heart must continue the war and eventually win.

Quoting L’Effort camerounais’ desk editor, “… it’s real! Pius Njawe has gone the same way as his wife. We hope Le Messager continues to take the bull by the horns” Lesiga” Grace Ongey.

Yes, we must keep on taking the bull  by the horns, Grace, because, the killing of Njawe can be likened to the killing of nationalists like Um Nyobe, Ernest Ouandie, Roland Moumie. Ever since these people died, the fight for Cameroon’s independence has witnessed an unprecedented fall due to the suppressive nature of the armed to the teeth intolerant colonial government with the complicity of other hungry Cameroonians who claim to be freedom fighters. This is the same thing that has befallen the press in Cameroon. There was no much more an independent newspaper in Cameroon than Le Messager. I mean it, none.

There is no doubt, absolutely no doubt that certain quarters will be rejoicing in Cameroon. A contingent of neo-colonial administrators left for Paris on the eve of Njawe's dead to celebrate the colonial master's national day. No mincing of words here. Yes, they will be happy.

But all patriotic Cameroonians must rally behind the course Njawe stood for, if we really want any positive change.

Go Back