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General News of Thursday, 30 April 2015

Source: Cameroon Journal

Revealed: 1984 coup hero never received his compensation

The retired CRTV radio technician who played a key role in frustrating plotters of the April 6, 1984 coup opens up about his pathetic living condition.

Gabriel Ebili, 58 told Cameroon-info.net, an online news site in an exclusive interview April 25, that despite the crucial part he played in saving the life of President Biya, he is yet to receive any compensation from the head of state.

Back in 1984 when the coup plotters stormed CRTV Yaounde station to announce a change of government in Cameroon, Ebili who was on duty subtly disconnected the broadcast equipment. His brave act made it impossible for the coup plotters to execute their plans.

However, he is accusing Joseph Le, Deputy Director of Cabinet at the Presidency of having embezzled money supposedly disbursed by the president to compensate him for his bravery.

Amongst other things, he goes further to name some government officials he will remain grateful to for their openness and largesse, while he describes others as hypocrites and selfish.

Below is a full translated version of the interview.

Q: How are you doing Mr. Gabriel Ebili? After the tragic death of your maternal uncle, Charles Ateba Eyene, you almost got missing from public view…

A: As you can see for yourself, I am not well owing to my document which is currently blocked at the Ministry of Finance, precisely at door number 338 in the office of Mr. Etoundi who openly asked me to give him 20 MFCFA…

To answer your question briefly, I will add that I also have health problems coupled with hunger.

Q: We should even have started there, tell us a bit about yourself, who is Gabriel Ebili?

A: I am called Gabriel Ebili as you rightly said. I was born on September 13, 1957 in a small village called Bibondi, situated in Lolodorf subdivision, Ocean division in the South region.

My late father was called Ndong Emile and my late mother Ntsam Créscence. On the 6th of April 1984, when the coup d’etat against President Paul Biya was staged, I was 27 years old. Then I was working as technician at CRTV national station. I am one of those who took the risk to foil the coup.

Q: What actually did you do?

A: Sorry! I can’t answer that question. It is a professional secret. If President Paul Biya receives me in audience one day, I’ll tell him alone what I did.

Q: Mr. Gabriel, we are not asking you to unveil professional secrets, simply describe the scene to us.

A: On that Thursday morning, April 6, 1984 at 5 a.m. when we arrived in a white Hiace mark car which was driven by our driver, Ebogo Ernest, the national station was already surrounded by the coup plotters. In those days the radio closed at 1 a.m. and resumes at 6 a.m.

Q: Can you still recall how many of you were in the car that day?

A: There were seven of us – the late journalist, Epsi Ngum Emmanuel, the animator, Nkengué, Johnny Mac Viban, late Becky Ndive, Grâce Mokom, Jean-Materne Ndi and myself. When our car arrived at the gate of the national station, one of the rioters who was armed to the teeth came out of a hideout and ordered us to come out of the car.

Q: What did you do at that particular moment?

A: What could you have done if you were in our shoes? We only had to obey by coming out of the car. Immediately as we came down from the car, the rebel who led us ordered us to each lie flat on the floor face down in some stagnant water that had accumulated in pot holes in the parking lot.

Q: How then did you obstruct the coup message?

A: Don’t be in a rush. I’m coming to it. I found myself in the studio because a former radio technician who along the line became a soldier had revealed that I was a technician. I was just coming from a three-month leave which was accorded by my hierarchy.

Q: What happened next after the plotters came and sort you out while you were lying down with your other colleagues?

A: They took me to the radio newsroom where I underwent intense interrogations. The head of the gang, a certain Lieutenant Arona asked me the following questions: Can you collaborate with us? Under the threat of arms, I accepted. They then proposed a wallet of huge sums of money to me and a duty post at the radio; if at all I obediently exercised my duty. In the course of the negotiations, the interrogators became aware of my double standards. Orders were given that I be disciplined.

I was beaten up; I received gun knocks, heavy blows and any other things that you cannot imagine. While I was still contemplating in pain, one of the plotters told me that I will move bare legs like a bull.

After the beatings, they led me by force to the modulation distribution Centre, CDM, referred to as the heart of the nation. They took me right up to the transmitters. I was being escorted like a head of state.

Q: After you put on the transmitters, what happened next?

A: I returned to the CDM and then back to the mother Studio 105 to start the program. I put on all the signals to indicate that we were on air. After the coup, I started playing military music.

Q: Who gave you the military music that you played, or it belonged to the radio?

A: Not at all. It was the former technician who became a soldier who brought it. He was the very person who gave me. He is still alive and strong. He lives in the Briquetterie neighbourhood, but I won’t give his name.

Q: What happened after?

A: Surrounded by the plotters, I received a call from my technical sub-director; a certain Samba, an Anglophone. He asked me why there was a late start of programs. Since my immediate boss was not aware of the situation, I told him there was a coup d’état.

Q: How then did you succeed to cut off the program on the air waves given that you were all surrounded by the plotters? Couldn’t they have killed you?

A: It couldn’t have been the case since they needed me. All the same, I’ll tell you that it was God’s doing. When one of them asked to know who I was talking with on telephone, I retorted that I was talking with my wife. Let’s get straight to the point…

While there, Mr. Jean-Vincent Tchienehom, the sub-director of radio programs entered. The whole radio was encircled and he asked me: Mr. Ebili, what do we do? Go and collect the loud speaker, Nagra 4 – reserved only for recordings of the president of the republic; and without knowing much to do,

I didn’t obey him. Later I heard that, under threats and heavily guarded with arms like a president, my boss then was forced to go and register the new president’s speech at Camp Yeyap. When everybody returned to the radio,

I was asked to broadcast the tape, i.e. the head of the coup’s speech, across the national territory. Before that, when the plotters went to record the speech, I took upon myself to cook up something without the knowledge of the small group that had allowed me some bit of time to work.

Q: What then did you do with the plotters’ speech?

A: (Laughs) I rather thought of… I only broadcast it to the environs of Yaounde up to Mbalmayo. That is why President Biya is still in power today. Late Ateba Eyene said the head of state ordered a reconstitution of your career, he told whosoever cared to listen that President Biya ordered the disbursement of 80 MFCFA to compensate you for the brave act you undertook…

It is the deputy director of the civil cabinet at the presidency, Mr. Joseph Le who told me about it with his own very mouth when he received me at his residence here in Yaounde, at the Biteng neighbourhood. I suspect him of embezzling my money.

Today he is refusing to receive me again. My son! Permit me call you as such. I have visited ministers’ cabinets. The prime minister’s technical adviser, Touna Mama even publicly injured me; same with Gregoire Owona who has refused to receive me in his office and at his residence.

I am not the one who should look for President Paul Biya, he is supposed to look for me.

Mr. Ebili, Paul Biya is not an ordinary citizen, he is the head of state… You’re right.

That is why I went to the Unity Palace on April 1 last year. But I’ll never pass there again, because it was only thanks to an army captain of the East region that I successfully came out from there alive. “Papa!” He told me “We have received firm instructions here about you. We were asked to finish you.” I am seriously afraid for my life, more so, as I continue to receive death threats.

Q: Let’s get back to the coup d’état episode, what did the plotters do when they realised that you dribbled them?

I almost got myself fried up. More so as I was wanted by the two camps. I remembered that I was equally severely beaten up by Colonel Pierre Samobo’s men who asked me immediately they took over the radio: “Where is he?” I had then met with Gendarmerie Captain, Ivo Desancio, he was the one carrying President Paul Biya’s speech.

Before closing the interview, I want to thank from the bottom of my heart, the Delegate General for National Security, Martin Mbarga Nguele, as well as the Director General of External Research, Leopold Maxime Eko Eko.

The Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma is a hypocrite. One day he received me in his office from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight. By the time when I was leaving, he gave me just 4,000FCFA; i.e. two bank notes of two thousand francs.