By Charles Ndi Chia|Friday, July 23, 2010|ThePostonline|
On June 29, 2010, at 6:34pm, I got this call from Pius Njawe, Publisher of “Le Messager”. After the usual banter, we got down to the nitty-gritty of the call. He would love for me to formally react to a mail, in which he was requesting that The Post newspaper be committed with other renowned media in the crusade against road accidents with Njawe’s Jane and Justice Foundation and the Ministry of Transport. I kept my word and the very next day I sent the following mail to him: “Dear Pius, We are in receipt of your mail, with the publication of road safety campaign messages in The Post newspaper as the subject matter.
“We can only identify ourselves with this great initiative of fighting off the rampant accidents that have, of recent virtually taken over the nation’s roads. “Consequently, we are, by this mail, giving you our assurance of a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Transport and other related services in this fight. “As soon as we receive the practical modalities from your end, we shall get down to the effective crusade in our newspaper.
“Once more, accept our kind regards and let us hear from you at your soonest convenience…”
As it turned out, we didn’t hear from him and certainly will never hear from him again. Rather, we heard of him or about him from news sources. And the news was that the very monster he devoted time, energy, talent and money fighting, had so very conveniently devoured him, in far off America, whose streets are relatively devoid of the licensed killers that pass around for drivers back here in Njawe’s native land.
I met Njawe for my first time in March 1985 in Bamenda. We were both covering the congress in which Ahidjo’s Cameroon National Union, CNU, was transformed to Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM, and handed over to Mr Paul Biya. I still vividly remember how an undercover security agent was very specially planted behind Njawe, Mark Doyle of the BBC fame and me, apparently to ensure that we weren’t digging up more information than we “needed” and that none of such information was passed over to the ever inquisitive Mark Doyle.
I remember how we eventually cornered the reluctant spy at the “Canne a` Sucre” nightclub in Small Mankon, decently exposed his identity and convinced him to join good company. By the time we parted ways, the fellow had enjoyed a few cold drinks and several dance sessions with some Daughters of Eve. The truth is that he hinted us early the next morning that the CNU was going to be re-named CPDM.
In fact, I had been discharged from the Kondengui Maximum Security Prison some months earlier, following the April 6, 1984 botched coup d’état and we freely exchanged experiences and notes with Pius. Our converted spy’s advice on how not to “over push” the presiding dictator was pretty useful to both Pius and me.
One thing led to the other and when Pius dreamed of starting off the English edition of “Le Messager”, he very cordially invited Julius Wamey, Nyoh Moses and I to a planning session at the Yaounde Mansel Hotel. We were all serving staff of CRTV. Eventually, I invited Ntemfac Ofege and Larry Eyong Echaw to be part of the first ever editorial conference of Le Messager in English. Julius Wamey was part and parcel of our team that had as Editor, the veteran Adolf Mongo Dipoko. Moses Nyoh’s participation in the birth of that newspaper ended at Mansel Hotel.
We handled extremely volatile political issues in that newspaper. I do have a copy of the paper in which we had interviewed Issa Tchiroma Bakari before he practically became like the founder of the infamous PRESBY. Then Tchiroma had said so many wicked things about Biya that it took a special editorial meeting to decide on its publication. But that, in itself, is quite a different story to be told sometime in the future.
Well, it’s been nearly two painful weeks since Pius joined or was made to join his ancestors in a hurry. The ebullient man who had traded banter with me on the telephone, even as he sought to bring us on board his very serious road accident prevention crusade had become food for the worms. What a pity?
Consolation! He had, in his 53 years in this world, made quite an impressive mark for himself in journalism and seemed well quartered in several other departments of life. The gruesome horror of the way he died cannot be over-dramatised. In such situations, there is often a historical reassessment of society’s safety arrangement. And in this particular case, the American police will be under considerable pressure from us, his colleagues, to reaffirm its guarantees.
The wailing may continue. The tears may take a while in drying up. Yet, we, of The Post in particular and the Cameroon Union of Journalists, CUJ, which I head join in the mood of tribute pouring in for a fallen worthy colleague. This is, at once, a tribute to a great fallen colleague and an indictment of licensed killers, whether they are found on our mad streets or anywhere else for that matter. Cheers, and let’s keep suffering and smiling!
Poem: Randomness [For P. Njawe]
By Kangsen Feka Wakai
Another blurred beam
swallowed in the thicket darkness.
There is no karma-just a blind, deaf, and cruel
bandit of hope.
Randomness: a cosmic joke that elicits
US Authorities Should Investigate Njawe`s Death
By Joe Dinga Pefok
Officials of the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union, SNJC, as well as the Cameroon Employed Journalists Trade Union, SJEC, have called on the United States` Embassy in Yaounde, to urge US authorities back at home, to thoroughly investigate and establish the real cause of the death of Pius Noumeni Njawe. Njawe was the President of the Free Media Group that publishes Le Messager. The different versions that immediately floated as to how Njawe died, sparked suspicion back home, that some circles were trying to cover-up the real cause of his death, especially in Douala where the Le Messager has its head office.
Contacted by The Post on July 13 in Doaula, the interim leader of SNJC, Alex Gustave Azebaze, who is also an official of the Cameroon Union of Journalists, CUJ, said his trade union, which is deeply saddened by the shocking news of the death of the Publisher of Le Massager, “is more worried about the circumstances of his death.” He said the trade union finds the story, which claims that Njawe died when the vehicle in which he was travelling was hit from behind, is rather intriguing. “Brutal deaths always raise some questions. As far as Njawe`s death is concerned, the SNJC, as of now, has more questions than answers. In such a situation, we want to make it clear that we do not accept the allegation that Njawe died of an accident in the United States.”
Azebaze said the trade union, which has been in touch with the International Federation of Journalists, IFJ, will be sending a formal letter to the US Embassy in Yaounde, to register their concern about the circumstances that led to the death of Pius Njawe. He said the trade union will also want Cameroonian authorities to understand that Cameroonians want to know the truth and the real cause of Njawe`s death.
He remarked that Njawe had travelled to the United States following an invitation from the Cameroon Diaspora for Change, CAMDIAC, to attend a conference linked to the fight to bring change to Cameroon. “For now, members of the SNJC and other journalists are mourning the death of one of our colleagues and compatriot, Pius Njawe. But as far the cause of death is concerned, we do not know, yet.
This is why we are urging the US authorities to ensure that a credible investigation is carried out, to establish the real cause of Njawe`s death”, Azebaze insisted.
Also, speaking to The Post in Douala, one the leaders of SJEC, Denis Kwebo, who is the Littoral Regional Chief of the French language daily, Le Jour, said: “It is important that American authorities carry out a thorough investigation, to let Cameroonians know how and why Mr. Njawe died. We have heard stories linking the death to an accident. But we want to be sure that it was truly an accident,” Kwebo stated.
At Le Messager head office in Douala on July 13, all the staff did not mince words that they had their doubts about the claim that their boss, Pius Njawe, died in the United States as a result of a motor accident. Many other journalists in Douala shared that scepticism.
Their scepticism is driven on the fact that, close to any major elections in Cameroon, some prominent critics of the regime often die in questionable circumstances.
Many are those who want to believe that the driver of the truck which reportedly hit the vehicle, in which Njawe was travelling, was on a special assignment to eliminate him. So strong is the belief that it even looks risky for anybody to publicly express a contrary view in the streets of Douala. It should be noted that Njawe was a household name in Douala, where the population considered him as a great freedom fighter of all times.
Who Killed Njawe?
Ask the question and the retort is: Have you been living in this country?
As a crusader for press freedom in Cameroon and a civil society activist, Njawe has, over the years, consistently had serious with the regime. Njawe was in fact a dare devil as he became too audacious in his struggle for press freedom and free speech in Cameroon, even at the period when it was considered a taboo to criticise the regime.
Barely a few years after taking the bold step to create Le Messager, Njawe had, in 1985, for example, made bold to drag the State of Cameroon to the Supreme Court. Then, following the publication in Le Messager on December 27, 1990, of the famous open letter which was written by the banker and writer, Celestin Monga, Njawe was dragged to court alongside Monga, by the Biya regime. He was given a six month suspended sentence in January 1991.
A few years later, Njawe was thrown into the New Bell Prison, following a report he published, that President Biya allegedly suffered from cardiac arrest during the final of the Cup of Cameroon, at the Amadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde. Suffice to say Njawe was, over the years, arrested so many times that he apparently lost count. He is quoted in a document, to have often mentioned that he had been arrested 126 times.
So, coupled with the fact that Njawe travelled to the United States to attend a political meeting to discuss change in Cameroon in view of the 2011 presidential election, is why many people in Douala tend to suspect that Njawe`s death might not, after all, had been an accident. Fingers are being pointed at the regime, which is being accused of having knocked out its big critic, in view of the 2011 presidential election. However, the story coming from the United States about Njawe`s death, so far, links the death to a road accident.
The Big Vacuum
The staff of Le Messager, as well as other Cameroonian journalists, are unanimous that the death of Pius Njawe, has left a big vacuum in a umber of places, some of which might never be filled. The Littoral Regional Chief of Le Jour, Denis Kwebo, asserted that Njawe`s death is a very big loss to the Cameroon media.
“Njawe was not just a journalist or newspaper publisher. He was also a civil society activist. He was as well a source of inspiration to many young reporters in this country. He meant so much and did so much for journalists and journalism in this country. Njawe was the pacesetter for Cameroonian journalists. And when a pacesetter is no more, there is bound to be a big problem about continuity or over-filling the vacuum. It appears that it will not be possible in the coming months and years, for Cameroonian journalists to fill the vacuum left by Njawe. .
Kwebo also noted that the team left behind at Le Massager, has a very challenging task to keep the paper alive. Stating that Njawe had worked so hard to also make Le Messager to become the pacesetter to private media organs in Cameroon, Kwebo said: “Now that Njawe is dead, the most important thing for his collaborators will be to strive to make sure that the paper continues to be published. They have to strive to ensure that what Njawe lived for, does not die.” Contacted by The Post, the Secretary General of Le Messager, Jacques Doo Bell (former Editor-in-Chief), who used to coordinate affairs at the newspaper during Njawe`s absence, said they are bound to accept the brutal fact that Njawe is no more.
“The biggest challenge for us at Le Messager, will be to manage the heavy heritage that he has left. Knowing what Njawe was, I have been asking myself if we shall be able to meet up with the challenges. But we are obliged to do that. We have no choice. The General is dead but the troop he has left behind must move on with the struggle for which he sacrificed his life. We have to tighten our belt and carry on the fight, no matter the odds. This is definitely the best thing that a troop can do, to pay tribute to the memory of their fallen General. And as we all know, it will soon be 2011,” Doo Bell declared without expatiating on what 2011 means to Le Messager.
It would be noted that Pius Njawe has died at a very critical time for paper. Last year, a bulk of the old hands in Le Messager, including the Editor-in-Chief and other sub-editors and senior reporters, left the paper over a pay dispute. Njawe had to bring in a number of young journalists to join the few old hands that stayed on. The paper was, in fact, still struggling to regain its balance, when the cruel hands of death snatched Njawe.
What A Cruel Coincidence!
If it is true that Pius Njawe died as a result of a motor accident, then the death and that of his first wife, Jane, should be one of the most cruel coincidences that has ever happened to a family. It should be noted that Mrs Jane Njawe died as a result of a motor accident on the Douala-Yaounde highway in 2002. So touched was Njawe with the circumstances of the wife`s brutal death, that he created the Jane & Justice Foundation for human development, with himself as President. The main mission of the Foundation which has come to be working in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport, has been focused on public sensitization campaigns on road safety.
It should be noted that on June 8, Njawe, in his capacity as President of Jane & Justice Foundation, took part in a programme over Equinoxe TV in Douala. This followed the ghastly accident that caused the lives of dozens of persons along the Yaounde-Bafoussam highway, in the night breaking May 30.
Njawe had, in that programme, wept that lives had to be lost again in an accident that could have been avoided, if all the parties concerned had acted responsibly. Little did Njawe know that barely a month later, a road accident, or so it is alleged, would take away his own life in a far away country. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Pius Njawe: Journalist Emeritus
By George Achu-Mofor: Former provincial Governor, Cameroun & Human Rights Advocate
I write to pay tribute to Pius Njawe, journalist emeritus and founder/publisher of Le Messager, the most renowned private newspaper in the Republic of Cameroun and Francophone Central Africa.
My first contact with Njawe was in 1993 in Maryland in the USA, when he came alone, or to cover the visit of the Chairman of the UNDP party, Bello Bouba Maigari. He located and interviewed me on why I resigned my position as provincial governor in Cameroon. From my knowledge of his paper, I dismissed the suggestion by some that he could be an agent of the regime and granted him the interview. Time proved me right.
Pius Njawe, was a voice for the voiceless people of the Cameroons and the people of Central Africa (former French Equatorial Africa, Cameroun – and to some extent – the former British Southern Cameroons enclave). In spite of all the challenges and risks, acts of intimidation and persecution, he persisted like a warrior and died with armour on his back. He lived, stood up and died for what he believed. He fell on the battlefield of freedom – carrying out his life’s mission to help liberate his fellow man by informing and educating.
His last battle tour was to the USA to report on the meeting of Cameroonian opposition political parties and associations and political activists. To do this, he did not hesitate to take the risk of crossing continents and oceans to accompany them in a foreign land, more than ten thousand miles away, where they could securely examine ways and means of bringing democratic change to their country.
Pius Njawe, a fellow combatant, fell at the battlefront in a bid to bring down a neo-colonial and colonialist state that is on the verge of transforming the country into an imperial monarchy – after half a century of a farcical independence.
While Pius Njawe and other journalists, such as Bibi Ngota in former French Cameroons, fought and fell for their people, it is doubtful whether they did enough for the colonised and assimilated people of Southern Cameroons, lured into an association in which they lost their identity among the community of nations. And this was done on the false rationale of reconstituting a long dead German Kamerunian fatherland.
The violations of law and abuses of all types committed to erase the identity of Southern Cameroons, is not only a tragedy for these people, that of the Republic of Cameroun (French Cameroun), but a mortal disincentive to African Unity. Like Nazi Germany, the Republic of Cameroun’s hegemonic ambition to reconstitute the defunct German Kamerun on the back of the Southern Cameroons is the greatest blow to Pan-Africanism. This inordinate colonial pursuit is a scarecrow to those advocating for a United States of Africa – a Pan-African Union of self-governing democratic states, not of empires, kingdoms or autocracies with life presidents.
If French Camerounian journalist can use the foundation of combativeness for the public good, laid by Pius Njawe to fight, not only for their people, but also for the oppressed people of the Southern Cameroons, there may be some prospect of the latter accepting to go back to the drawing board that was discarded in Foumban in 1961. From the evidence, so far, it is an indisputable fact that no formal agreement of association was executed in or after Foumban – as intended by the UN, trusteeship authority.
The successors of Le Messager’s founder and other members of the media, should recognise this; they should use the foundation laid by this great human rights defender, as an anchor to extend media protection to the people of Southern Cameroons, Central and Continental Africa – in the overriding interest of the African people. The just and equitable resolution of the Cameroonian union quagmire will restore legality in the interest of African Unity (United States of Africa). If not, it will serve as a mortal blow to it.
To end, I wish God’s protection to the family of Pius Njawe and grease to the elbows of human rights journalists and activists as well as all those that have served, are serving or have suffered with him. The cause of justice for which Pius Njawe fought and died is much bigger than any one life.
May his soul rest in peace.
And the fight continues!
Pius Njawe: Demise Of A Journalism Icon
By Nkemayang Paul Foanyi,Member of the National Communication Council in charge of Publishers
We received the news of the untimely demise of the venerated, fire-eating and outspoken journalist Pius Njawe in a fatal motor accident in America with shock and consternation.
Ever since the news hit the airwaves, like thunder storm, media men and women have continued to wag their tongues in disbelief as to the whys and whys of Njawe’s abrupt exit into the world beyond. Many are also asking damnable questions why Njawe’s wife died in an accident only a few years ago and today he has also succumbed to the cruel hands of death in a ghastly motor accident.
Book makers are still to reconcile with fiction and non-fiction, looking at the circumstances surrounding veteran journalist’s death in United States of America.
Pius was many things in one, but most importantly the Founder/Publisher of Le Messager newspaper that stood the test of time in the journalism landscape in Cameroon and beyond. He was a fearless and courageous journalist, never ready to compromise his profession for anything. Pius is dead but the spirit of his profession lingers on. His name has been written in the golden books of history as the world press mourns him.
As Newspaper Publisher and Member of the National Communication Council, NCC,in charge of Publishers, and on behalf of my colleague and self in that Section of the NCC, we extend our sympathy and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family. Adieu, Pius Njawe, adieu. May your soul rest in the Lord till we meet to part no more. Amen
Birth of English Edition of Le Messager: From Joshua to Abdelrahim Sale
By Ntemfac Nchwete Ofege
The idea was Larry’s. Ever the firebrand, Larry, who was my neighbour in the Biyemassi neighbourhood, breezed into my abode while we were suspended by CRTV for the May 6th edition of Cameroon calling. “Let’s go to Douala and join Njawe to start an English edition of his newspaper,” Larry said. The agreement was unanimous.
The next day, Larry Charly and Ntemfac got into Larry “spitfire” and were off. We called Larry’s little car, “the spitfire” because the Datsun, or whatever model it was, could go like the wind, especially when Eyong-Echaw was behind the wheels. Never mind that the nuts and bolts kept having a rousing and rowdy discussion with each other, when Larry the son of Eyong-Echaw, I presume, was behind the wheel. We got to Douala at about 3.00pm and rounded up the meeting with Njawe, who found the idea most welcomed. Julius Wamey, who was not suspended like the rest of us, had come by public transport.
At 7.00pm, we started the drive back to Yaounde to design the paper. As predicted, Larry’s car started “cooking beans” somewhere outside Edea. By 11.00pm, the car backfired and crawled to a stop. We later found out that, again as predicted, bits and pieces of the “Eyong-Echaw Limousine” had been falling along the road during the hectic drive from Yaounde to Douala and back.
We were marooned outside Sackbayeme, somewhere close to the spot where a Francophone Nationalist, Um Nyobe, was betrayed and shot. While Larry transformed into am mechanic to rescue the car, Charly Ndi Chia and I spend a good portion of that chilly night roundly denouncing and insulting Larry and his “sardine tin of a car.”
Being the ever-tolerant bloke and a good sport that he was, Larry took all in stride. He would laugh in his funny manner and then denounce “the Hippo” – Mendo Ze and his ugly face, for being the root cause of our predicament. We also cast some deep aspersions on that “semi-illiterate” Paul Biya.
When we got tired of insulting Mendo Ze, Charlie Ndi Chia, for no apparent reason, started “seeing” the ghost of former Minister Joseph Chongwain Awunti everywhere. “There’s Awunti coming to get you,” Charlie announced to Larry who was under the car. We spent the night on that road. It was as cold and as eerie as hell.
In the early morning we heaped a few last insults on Larry Eyong-Echaw and then abandoned him on that road, boarded an OPEP (clandestine transport) to Sackbayeme to visit with my classmate and brother, Dr. Celestine Mbangtang, who was working at Sackbayeme. If he was surprised to see us popping in for breakfast, at about 4.00am, Celes did not show it. He was used to the wily ways “these terrorists” by now.
The medic made us some very good breakfast and we immediately found some space in his “tree-house” and passed out. I do not remember if we emptied Dr Celestine Mbangtang’s wine cellar, but that must have happened given Mr. Ndi Chia’s perpetual thirst.
At about midday, we were rudely awakened by none other than the indefatigable Larry Eyong-Echaw. Larry had gone to Edea, bought the part for his car, repaired the vehicle and then, instead of driving off to Yaounde and abandoning us, he came looking for us at Sackbayeme. That is Larry Eyong Echaw, for you. Were we glad to see him? – As glad as it was to say good riddance to Celestine Mbangtang and his “tree house.”
The long and short of this escapade is that the next week, the maiden edition of Le Messager, English Edition, hit the stands. Those who noted the power of the reports in that paper and, especially, the strange names like Lawrence Fon (Larry Eyong Echaw), Jesus Ayeah (Charly Ndi Chia), S.A Rush (Salman “Satanic Verses” Juluis Wamey) and, finally, Abdelrahim Sale (Ntemfac Ofege). We now had one more tool to get even with the Biya regime.
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