Simon Ateba Calls For Release Of Ahmed Abba, Nigerian Journalist Detained In #Cameroon For A Year
As someone who was arrested at the Minawao camp in Cameroon last August, detained for four agonising days and accused of being a spy for Boko Haram, when in reality, I was doing a story on Nigerian refugees in Cameroon’s far north, I will not wish it even to my sworn enemies to spend a day or night in one of those atrocious detention centres in Cameroon where many are dumped on baseless allegations or accusations.
But the Cameroonian authorities have detained, Mr. Ahmed Abba, a Nigerian journalist working with Radio France International, RFI, for a year since 30 July 2015 on suspicions that he is a spy, an accomplice or even a member of Boko Haram, the terrorist organisation that has killed more than 1300 people in Cameroon since 2013, displaced hundreds of thousands and left entire villages deserted.
Since he was arrested in Maroua and moved to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, Ahmed Abba has been detained in inhumane conditions, first without access to any lawyer, and then in tribunals that have no clear evidence against him.
Amnesty International recently released a damning report about human rights violations by the Cameroonian authorities who in their bid to defeat Boko Haram, end up arresting, killing and detaining thousands of innocent people without solid evidence.
Ahmed Abba in one year has appeared in various tribunals four times without any clear evidence against the journalist who was only doing his job.
It is not a crime for a journalist to have sources on all sides and it is not a crime to cultivate sources to tell a better story. If I can establish contact with anyone causing problems, I will gladly do that and ask the right questions to them.
Journalism is not espionage as Cameroonian authorities have come to misguidedly understand.
And since the journalist was arrested, Boko Haram has continued to kill. In fact, only yesterday as reported by reliable newspaper, LÓeil du Sahel, the terrorists who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in March last year and have since modelled their barbarism after the Middle East killers, went to kill a man right in his house.
Daily attacks have continued and civilians have continued to pay the heavy price. I condemn terrorism and called on the multinational joint taskforce to continue to be ruthless towards the real terrorists but not innocent people who have nothing to do with suicide bombing or gun attacks.
They should also not vent their anger on journalists like Ahmed Abba who are simply doing their job, the job of informing the world about things going on all over planet earth.
Reporters without borders, like many other reputable international organisations, have said that accusations against Ahmed Abba and many other innocent people are simply fallacious, and I may an attempt by the authorities to show that they are working hard.
I understand that with so many innocent people dying, there is a tendency to be hard on anyone who is suspected of having anything to do with it, but we must not confuse journalism with spying. They are two different things.
I call on the authorities to release the poor man who may by now be sick and on the brink of dying having spent a year and a day in detention.
I spent only four days, but the trauma of that agonising experience follows me every single day. IGod forbid, I spent a year in such dire conditions.
Please release the man before he dies in detention, only to find out later that he was innocent.
Simon Ateba, Lagos, Nigeria, arrested at the Minawao camp on 28 August 2015 and accused of being a spy for Boko Haram
Telephone: +2348060782856 [email protected]