At Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, we were joined by a Cameroonian and, perhaps journalists numerically dominated the gathered, conversation turned to the memory of Pius Njawe, the great Francophone journalist of the beleaguered nation of Cameroon. I had the pleasure of meeting Njawe a few times duirng my unforgettable 2005 visits to the country, and I still vividly recall the force of his intelligence and his indomitable persistence in the face of a regime led by Paul Biya that has held onto power for 30 years. In 2010, while on a visit to the U.S., Njawe was killed in a car accident on route to a meeting of critics of the Biya regime.
Njawe died in the same manner as his wife Jane, killed in 2002 car accident in Cameroon. Njawe grieved terribly over his wife’s death, which he claimed was the work of government thugs bent on silencing him. Neither repeated arrests nor the loss of his wife did silence him. He remained a fierce defender of the promise and possibility of a democratic Cameroon. One of the most beautiful countries in the world, and one of the best endowed by natural resources and energetic people, Cameroon is mired in a state of under-achievement, a victim of the one of the least effective governments that Africa has ever hosted.
Njawe’s voice is gone but his words stay with us. A month before his death, he told an interviewer: “A word can be more powerful than a weapon, and I believe that with the word . . . we can build a better world and make happier people. So, why give up while duty still calls? No one will silence me, except the Lord, before I achieve what I consider as a mission in my native country, in Africa and, why not, in the world?”
We can best honor Njawe by answering his challenge with our own voices and actions.