Nganguè, Eyoum

Eyoum Nganguè

Eyoum Nganguè

As the editor of Le Messager and co-ordinator of the satirical paper Le Messager-Popoli, Eyoum Nganguè is a journalist whose cause is that of freedom of speech and justice in his native Cameroon.

In December 1995, the constitution was amended to make Cameroon's head of state a senator-for-life after the presidency, at the same time as state pensions were frozen. Nganguè denounced this contradiction and was sentenced to a year in prison for "insulting the head of state and the members of parliament". In fact, he was a renowned whistle-blower, exposing numerous corruption scandals in his articles.

This time, he was fined (but did not pay) and imprisoned on his 30th birthday. "I thought I was Kafka," says Nganguè, whose wry sense of humour helped him get through his jail sentence.

Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) and the American, British and French delegations in Douala spoke out in his defence. He was released on parole after 65 days. But the President was re-elected and the managing director of Le Messager was arrested. Nganguè decided to flee to France, and with help from RSF and France Terre d'Asile, he was recognised as a refugee six months after his arrival in June 1998.

Nganguè remains a correspondent for Le Messager and other African papers. Opposed to the "brain drain" and to settling in France permanently, Eyoum wants his experience of exile to be as fruitful as possible and promises to return to Cameroon as soon as he can. "If I became a French citizen, it would be a waste of my time. Here, there is nothing left to do, whereas in my country ... "

He is working on a thesis ("The role of music in the political debate in the Ivory Coast") in social anthropology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and has learnt Lingala, a language spoken in both Congos.

In June 1999, Nganguè co-founded the Journalistes Africains en Exile association, of which he is president. It aims to create solidarity and a free speech platform for exiled African journalists and political cartoonists and to publicise the need for efficient asylum procedures.