The Mayor of Buea, Ekema Patrick Esunge has said media reports accusing him of arresting Rev. Geraldine Fobang, Station Manager at CBS Radio in Buea are false.
The mayor said the journalists and her colleagues violated the limits of their sphere in a peace Journalism Advocacy March as stipulated in the authorisation accorded them.
“The said group instead of maintaining the PCC Synod Office to Turborg Junction stretch, actually began their March at the Buea Independence Square. This act of violation met with stiff resistance from the administration, and therefore, both parties had to settle on a genuine dialogue, having in mind that such demonstrations could serve as an avenue for disorder amidst relative peace enjoyed by the denizens in the City of Excellence”. A release from the Mayor’s office states.
The Mayor’s outing was incoherent and not the reality of what unfolded in Buea this March 14th, 2019.
The journalist who stormed the street of Buea calling for peace in the troubled North West and South West Regions had obtained an authorisation from the DO of Buea, Kouam Wokam Paul to do so but the Mayor, insisted that no such action will take place on what he described as “his land”.
How it all began:
The Cameroon Community Media Network, CCMN organised a training workshop for community media practitioners on media law/ethics and human rights standards for journalists in Cameroon in Buea from 13th-15th March, 2019.
The workshop held at the Synod Office Hall of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC).
The workshop was officially chaired by the PCC Secretary for Communication, the Rev. Mokoko Mbue Thomas in the presence of South West Regional Delegate for Communication, Muma Rosette Bih and the President of CCMN, Rev. Mrs Fobang Geraldine.
A lecture on the Role of the Media in the Society and another on Media ethics/deontology in Cameroon were presented by Christopher Ambe, while Jesse Konang presented a paper on the politico-historical context of media practice in Cameroon.
It was after the day’s lectures that the peace journalists attending the workshop went out for a Peace Advocacy March along the streets of Buea.
The march was jointly organised by the Cameroon Community Media Network and the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union. A request for authorisation for the march was made at the office of the Divisional Officer for Buea.
The request was signed by Rev. Fobang Geraldine and Atia Tilarious Azohnwi, Secretary General of the South West chapter of the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union.
The Divisional Officer, Paul Kouam Wokam signed a document authorising the March. Copies of the authorisation were deposited at the various security services in the city.
The march took off from the PCC Synod Office to Bongo Square.
As the journalists marched back up, they were intercepted by the Mayor of Buea, Ekema Patrick Esunge who came on board two white 4×4 pickups. He was armed and had with him gun-toting officers among others.
He warned Atia that he was going to pay a heavy price for mobilising journalists to stage a political march within his municipality. He boasted that he is a Bakweri man and that all those from the North West Region should return to their villages before he smokes them out. He immediately seized all the placards and put in one of his vehicles.
The journalists told him that the March had been authorised by the Divisional Officer. He demanded to see the authorisation and it was showed him. He seized the authorisation and confiscated it.
Rev. Geraldine Fobang in whose name the authorisation had been issued moved up to the fire-spitting Mayor. She presented herself as a Reverend Pastor and President of CCMN as well as station manager of the PCC-owned Christian Broadcasting Service (CBS) Radio.
Ekema gave a deaf ear and even threatened to beat up the pastor.
Ekema went physical on some journalists. The Divisional Officer intervened but the mayor warned him.
He said he is a son of Buea and the Divisional Officer is not. As such, the mayor said the Divisional Officer has no right to take a decision without consulting him.
The journalists now left the scene on board taxis to the workshop venue. Ekema grounded the taxi carrying Rev. Fobang. He would later let the journalists go.
As the journalists alighted at the PCC Synod Officer entrance, Ekema again showed up, forced Rev. Fobang into one of his pickups and drove off with her. Rev. Fobang was detained for over two hours. Journalists made calls to officials and thanks to the intervention of the PCC Secretary for Communication, himself a Bakweri man, the Rev. Fobang is freed.
Mayor Ekema Threatens Atia, Strips A Journalist Naked:
The Mayor of Buea, in his own words, threatened journalist Atia Tilarious Azohnwi, Acting Editor of The SUN newspaper with death.
He promised to deal with Atia Tilarious whose only crime was to take part in a peaceful march.
Atia Tilarious had spent eight months in jail in 2017,following in arrest and detention in January that same year.
His arrest was not unconnected to his constant reporting on the anglophone crisis and his reports on The Sun Newspaper, one of Cameroon’s prominent English bi-weekly Newspapers.
Gilles Mbinglo, another Buea based journalists was brutalized and stripped naked by Mayor Ekema Patrick Esunge.
Cameroon Becoming Unsafe For Journalists:
Several journalists reporting on the current crisis in the North West and South West Regions of the general political atmosphere in the country have either been arrested or threatened.
Journalists are either bullied by the government for exposing military atrocities or by the pro independence fighters, for reporting about their activities on the ground.
A majority of those arrested are levied false news charges and tried in military courts.
In 2018,the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Cameroon as second worst jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa.
At least five journalists are currently behind bars with three of them (Thomas Awah and Mancho Bibixy, Tsi Conrad) sentenced to over 10years.
Mimi Mefo Info