Friday, July 5, 2019

Anglophone Crisis: Since his arrest, Michel Biem Tong speaks for the first time

Arrested on October 23, 2018 by the Cameroonian Military Intelligence Service, accused of apology for terrorism, apology for secession and other contempt of head of state, released on December 14, 2018 in favor of a presidential decree of arrest of prosecution, Michel Biem Tong decides for the first time since his release from prison to return to his case in a casual interview. Since his exile, the Cameroonian web-journalist and cyber-activist of human rights very active on social networks returns on the circumstances of his arrest, on his two months of deprivation of liberty in Cameroon etc.

At this moment when this interview is conducted you are no longer in Cameroon, where do you find yourself and how long have you been out of the country?

It will be almost two months since I left Cameroon. For the moment, it is better that we do not know where I am. It's true that some clues have suggested that I'm somewhere in West Africa. But that's not correct. I am somewhere in Africa but I prefer to keep the mystery around my host country.

How is life in your host country?

Not easy. Firstly because of the warm climate. Then, I am slowly rebuilding what suddenly collapsed in my life on the evening of October 23, 2018, that life that I gradually built in Cameroon. In addition to your online newspaper which has resumed its activities, I also offer services to an international organization that asked me and a newspaper based in the United States. In full reconstruction of what has shattered, you imagine that the daily is not easy but the good God has always been by my side and supports me during these difficult times for a start but which I hope will be radiant in the next days or months.

Let's come to your arrest, we heard a lot of things, messages to English-speaking secessionists, the summons of the boss of the military security, Colonel Emile Bamkoui.

Tell us, what exactly happened?

It all starts on October 18, 2018. I'm sitting at my home in the Nkomo neighborhood in Yaoundé. Around 16h, my phone rings. I pick up. At the other end of the line, a gentleman presents himself as Colonel Jöel Emile Bamkoui, the head of the Division of Military Security (in charge of discipline and military intelligence, ed) to the Cameroonian Ministry of Defense, known under the acronym Semil. He tells me that he wants to see me for an exchange with me and out of his office because he told me that day, when he invites people to his office, they are afraid. I made a wish for him to be at this rendezvous. Knowing the reputation of the man in spinning, kidnapping and murdering people who disturb the Biya regime, and especially that I found suspicious that he did not tell me exactly why he called me...

But why did not ask him?

I thought it was in relation to my activities that were quite overwhelming at the time on social networks, especially that we were leaving a presidential election and I was also making certain denunciations in the context of the Anglophone crisis.Once the phone exchange is over, I send an alert on social networks about this rather curious meeting. Most of my Facebook friends do not advise me to go there especially since the night was falling. At around 6 pm, I received a whatsapp call from an elder who lives somewhere in West Africa who told me not to go there.

But what finally made you decide to go to the Colonel's meeting?

It just happens that on October 20, 2018, a Saturday I believe, around 9:30, while I'm having breakfast in a makeshift restaurant in the Kondengui district, my phone rings again and it's Colonel Bamkoui who calls me . He begins to shout, reproaching me for having disclosed our meeting on social networks. When I ask him why he is so anxious to see me, it is then that I learn that he has a soundtrack containing a message from me to the armed wing of the English-speaking separatist movement. When I tell him that I have never sent a message to armed secessionists, he threatens me with these words: "Yes, that's why I'd like us to see each other, you know very well that if I decide to to stop even now I stop you, I know where you live, you think I got your phone number how? So you have better come because if you do not come, I will consider you to be on the run. When he finishes telling me all this, confusion settles in my mind.

I wondered what soundtrack he was talking about because he remembers that as part of my investigations into the English-speaking conflict, I had a whatsapp message that I sent via one of my informants to the English-speaking civilian population, was this soundtrack he was talking about? I asked myself. Since he is talking about a tape containing a message to the armed separatists, did not someone get inspired by the one I recorded to imitate my voice and turn the message to armed separatists? It's to be clear that I decided to meet Colonel Bamkoui