#FreeRebecca

#FreeRebecca: An Influential African Tech Leader Is Under Unlawful Detention In Cameroon

By  |  August 11, 2021

Rebecca Enonchong, one of the most influential figures in African tech, is currently under detention in her home country, Cameroon, after an arrest that is being described as unlawful, illegal, and an abuse of power.

According to Edith Kah Walla, the leader of the Cameroon People’s Party (CPP), Enonchong was arrested in Douala on Tuesday, August 10, without any arrest warrant. Walla also mentioned that the Cameroonian entrepreneur – known for her intellect, frankness, and business acumen – is being held at the Légion de Gendarmerie Dla, apparently by government order.

The details of the circumstances or the reason for the arrest is yet unknown but it’s been revealed that she’s being held on account of a “plainte verbal du Procureur Général”, that is, a “verbal complaint of the Attorney General.”

It is understood that she had complied with a summon to Gendarmerie but has been placed under arrest and held till now. As reported, no charges have been pressed and no warrant was issued.

Early today, Enonchong was pictured in court, at the Tribunal de 1er Instance Bonanjo, in Douala, Cameroon, per Walla, where she appears to be on trial on charges that are not public knowledge at this point.

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Enonchong (in red) in court on Wednesday, August 11.
Image Source: Djoko Christian (@christdjoko1)

Despite the time in court today, she remains in police custody and has been scheduled to appear at the Bonanjo Court of First Instance, Douala on the morning of Thursday, August 11.

Since word got out of her arrest, there has been an outpouring of support at home and abroad for the Cameroonian entrepreneur, as well as dismay from individuals and organisations decrying her arrest, and calls to the Cameroonian government and the international community for her freedom to be restored. Many have described her arrest as an intimidation ploy bordering on abuse of fundamental human rights.

A statement put out by the African Business Angels Network (ABAN), a network of early-stage startup investors for which Enonchong is Co-Founder, Board Member, and Trustee, described the action of the Cameroonian government as “highly irresponsible.”

The statement from ABAN

“We hereby call on well-meaning members of the African technology and innovation ecosystem and friends of ABAN to please join us in asking the Government of Cameroon to #FreeRebecca NOW!!!”, the statement reads in part.

Enonchong was born in Cameroon in 1967 before leaving for the U.S. with her family in her teens, though she eventually returned to Cameroon (on an on-off basis) and has been an advocate for progressive policies and better governance in the country ever since – while also making her mark in tech.

Enonchong is notably the Founder of AppsTech, a global provider of enterprise software solutions – a company she famously launched with no funding in 1999. Enonchong is also the founder of IOspaces, and she sits on the board of several organisations including AfriLabs, Activspaces, etc.

In 2013, Enonchong was recognized as a finalist for the African digital woman award. Forbes listed Enonchong as one of the “10 Female Tech Founders to Watch in Africa.” She’s also bagged awards from the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.

Enonchong’s history of intrepid criticisms of the humanitarian abuses in Cameroon and the alienating ‘rulership’ and policies of the Paul Biya-led administration, which has been in power since 1982, is well-known, and it’s been implied that her arrest can be put down to witch-hunting sponsored by an oppressive regime.

NB: This is a developing story.

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