The harrowing ordeal experienced by the Paramount Leader of the Besongabang community in the USA, Chief Tabenyang Etchu, an American citizen of Cameroonian decent at the Douala international Airport on March 1, 2017 did not only confirm the existence of a blacklist of supposed Southern Cameroon activists by the authorities of the Biya Francophone regime, but exposed the Machiavellian plan of the Cameroon government to stifle any decent and support from the Diaspora Anglophone Communities to the Southern Cameroons struggle. Chief Tabenyang Etchu was refused clearance and forced to leave his country of birth by security agents loyal to the regime in Yaoundé. In this soul-searching conversation with our editor-in-chief, Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai, Chief Tabenyang presents an insight into the arbitrary arrest, assault, rapes, maiming intimidation and incarceration of innocent citizens of the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon.
Cameroon Concord News: As President of a great traditional Cameroonian community in the US, permit me address you as Chief. Our readers would love to know who is Chief Tabenyang Etchu?
Chief Tabenyang Etchu: I am a businessman living in Maryland, former president of the Manyu Community in the Washington DC Metro Area and currently the National President of the Besongabang Elites Development Organization in the US (BEDO, Inc-USA). I have attended several community forums at the Cameroon Embassy and as recently as February 25, 2017 invited to celebrate February 11, 2017 Youth Day and the victory of the Indomitable Lions. I am a very committed Cameroonian community member and had championed and supported programs and projects raising thousands of US dollars for development projects in Cameroon.
Cameroon Concord News: Your Highness, what prompted you to make the trip to Cameroon during this difficult times in our nation’s history?
Chief Tabenyang Etchu: I decided to go to Cameroon around the second week of February to represent the Besongabang community in US during the funeral and traditional burial rites of our late chief “Nfaw Joseph Takaw Tambe and also the burial rites of another Besongabang notable the late Sessekou Colonel Nelson Akoegbe.
Cameroon Concord News: Chief, you told me at the beginning of our conversation that you were now an American citizen and by extrapolation, traveling with an American passport. Did you procure a Cameroonian visa before making that trip?
Chief Tabenyang Etchu: All the necessary visa requirements were completed and I was granted a single entry visa for one month by the Cameroon Embassy in Washington DC. I left for Cameroon on February 28, 2017 and arrived the Douala international airport at 5pm on March 1, 2017.
Cameroon Concord News: Your Highness, kindly talk us through on what actually happened upon your arrival?
Chief Tabenyang Etchu: I proceeded to the all other passports immigration line and stood at the tail end with about 10 people in front of me. It was barely less than a minute as I stood on the waiting line that this young police inspector walked straight to me and demanded to see my passport. I hesitated at first because there were more than 9 people ahead of me and he did not ask them to show him their passports. I decided otherwise and calmly handed him my passport. Instead of looking at the passport and handing it back to me, he asked me to step out of the line and follow him because they needed to verify something. At that moment, I instantly knew something was muddled and quickly reflected on how to engage with him calmly and honestly. I was taken to one of their little ovens (office) and asked to sit down. That was when he suddenly started to question me about the reason for my visit.
Cameroon Concord News: Chief, I think it’s but normal for an immigration officer to hand pick and check any passenger meticulously.
Chief Tabenyang Etchu: Are you interested in getting my story or do you wish to give me a lecture on immigration procedures?
Cameroon Concord News: Chief, Camcordnews is interested in your story.
Chief Tabenyang Etchu: The officer initially said there was a report that I have been in Cameroon for more than a year since my last visit in December 2015. I was flummoxed at first and thought it was a joke because here was I with a visa obtained 3 days before my departure and with an air ticket showing that I was just entering the country and somebody had the guts to tell me I was in the country for more than a year. I quickly figured it could be a ploy to distract and disorient me. I calmly asked him to look at the passport and see the last time it was stamped that I exited the country in January 2016. I asked him what was the issue that they were looking to verify if I could help. He said there was an issue with my name and he proceeded to make a couple of calls and asked me to wait. About 20 minutes later, he asked me to follow him to the baggage claim area to pick up my luggage. He stood behind me and we waited for about 45 minutes until I pick up my luggage and we headed back to the holding office. After about 3 hrs into this ordeal, I was taken to the office of the Commissioner and told that they were processing my denial of entry documents because I will not be granted entry into the country at this moment because of reasons that they were not obliged to disclose to me. I asked one of them to assist me with his phone to make a quick call to my wife. I told my wife what was going on and instructed her to tell her father to inform both Chief Senator Tabetando and my family members who were waiting outside. My wife did inform me that another Commissioner was sent by Chief Tabetando to come to my aid.
They finished processing the exit document, took my fingerprints and pictures and asked me to read and sign the document in French. I read the document, but refused to sign and insisted that I could only put my signature on the document after a legally competent person reviews the document and advise me to sign. The officer wrote on the document that I refused to sign. One of the inspectors who was sitting beside me was given a list with names of activists to crosscheck my name. I quickly scan through the list as he was reviewing and could identify and recognize some of the names in the list that was signed by the Delegate General for National Security. While all this exchanges were going on, I saw the Bishop of the Mamfe Diocese, His Lordship Bishop Andrew Nkea walking along the hallway to the terminal. I quickly alerted his attention. He walked into the office of the Commissioner and asked them why they were holding me and they casually told him nothing was wrong. He told them he could vouch for me so they should let me go. I told the Bishop that they have been holding me since 5pm and they have refused to tell me why they were keeping me and that they have also presented me with an exit document to sign. So, the Bishop insisted to know why they were holding me and I could hear the commissioner telling him I was an activist from the US and one of those forwarding messages to Cameroon about the Anglophone struggle and my name was in the black list from the Delegate for National Security in Yaoundé of those who are not allowed to enter the country and he could lose his job if I am allow to enter the country. He said I maybe flying back tonight on the same plane with the Bishop. After the Bishop left, I asked them if they could allow my family who were waiting for me outside to pick up the luggage and some money I brought for them, but they categorically refused. One of the inspectors learning my family was outside went and interviewed them and recorded the information of the car they brought to the airport.
Cameroon Concord News: Can I ask you a personal question Chief Tabenyang?
Chief Tabenyang Etchu: Mr. Soter Ebai, why can’t you allow me finish my submission before asking me your personal question!
Cameroon Concord News: Go ahead Chief
Chief Tabenyang Etchu: For the records, I pleaded with one of the inspectors who were watching over me that I wanted to use the toilet, but he refused to take me to the restroom complaining that the restroom was too far from where they were holding me. I was forced to hold tight for about 5 hrs until when they escorted me to the boarding area for departure. After check-in, I was escorted right into the plane by one of the inspectors. I left Cameroon at about 12:40am after about a 7 hrs ordeal. I have called the Embassy of Cameroon in Washington DC after my return to complain about the shabby treatment I went through at the DLA, but I am still to receive any reasonable and rational explanation of what happened.
Cameroon Concord News: My personal question would take the form of a remark. I believe someone like you must have been going around in the US before this incident telling Southern Cameroonians that you were highly connected in Cameroon. A powerful Senator and traditional ruler who also moonlight as a member of the CPDM Central Committee know you. The Bishop of Mamfe is like your personal person. You are highly respected at the Cameroon embassy in Washington and yet you could not even enter your country of birth after arriving the Douala International airport?
Chief Tabenyang Etchu: I have told you my story, let’s leave destiny to judge those who are making a mockery of Cameroonian state institutions.
Cameroon Concord News: Chief Tabenyang, it was nice talking to you.
Chief Tabenyang Etchu: Agbaw-Ebai, I have also enjoyed my time with you. May the Good Lord continue to bless you and your Cameroon Concord Group.
Culled from Cameroon Concord News