Finke’s Cameroon collective eye success
February 18, 2014 | 0 Comments
In the wild, lions are famed for hunting in packs, with their togetherness allowing them to fully unleash their power. When it comes to their namesakes in football, Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions, it is no different.
While every so often an outrageously-talented star emerges in the ranks of the 1990 FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finalists, coach Volker Finke believes success at Brazil 2014 can only be achieved through a group effort. The German, who has held his current role for the last eight months, is eager to eradicate individualism and focus on the collective.
“The team twice failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations and did very badly at the 2010 World Cup, finishing with zero points,” Finke told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “They were very divided. Within the squad we’ve spoken together a great deal in the last few months. Thanks to that we’ve arrived at a point where, together with the captain Samuel Eto’o, a very good team spirit has developed. That’s been the key to our success.”
Indeed, after a goalless draw in the first leg of their Brazil 2014 qualifying play-off away to Tunisia, a stirring performance on home turf in Yaounde in the return fixture fired the side to a 4-1 victory.
Anyone who knows Finke will not be surprised by his coaching philosophy with Cameroon. The former PE and maths teacher was in charge at SC Freiburg for 16 uninterrupted years and established the side as a Bundesliga regular, despite budgetary constraints. During that time, the 65-year-old was famed for his long-term vision, with the team – rather than any individual – always the focal point.
“If you want to win in football the team has to maintain its concentration at all times and play well collectively,” said Finke, a fluent French speaker with a long-standing passion for African football. “That’s vital and it’s what we work on every day that we’re together. Only then is it possible to get good results.”
More than just Eto’o
Part of Finke’s process involved redefining the role of Eto’o, who is considered the best Cameroonian player of all time alongside Roger Milla. “Samuel is a world-class player and it’s important for the team’s quality that he plays,” said Finke, who is also well aware that “the role of captain is very special in Africa”.
With just six months to go before the World Cup gets underway, the tactician therefore deliberately decided to spread the weight of responsibility for the side across several players: “In every team you have players who can make the difference. Of course, for us that’s Samuel in attack. But in midfield we have Alexandre Song and at the back we’ve got Nicolas N’Koulou and Aurelien Chedjou, so that’s three more players who make up the spine of our game. Those four are crucial to us.”
Passion breeds expectation
With a modern, possession-based game and a healthy team-spirit, Cameroon and Finke are aiming to make amends for past tournament disappointments. An additional source of pride for the coach is the country’s enthusiasm for the side’s new playing style. “It’s given the football-crazy people ofCameroon a lot of hope for the future,” said Finke, who has a keen understanding of the mentality of the central African nation with a 20.5 million population.
“The fact that Cameroon is a country where everyone loves football and where everyone remembers that in the 70s, 80s, 90s and right up until 2002 it was one of Africa’s footballing heavyweights means that expectations rise very quickly,” said Finke. “The reality is however, that we’re reconstructing and need to build things up again. Qualifying for the World Cup was an important part of that.”
African surprise package?
The side’s focus is now firmly on the much-anticipated tournament in Brazil, where Cameroon were drawn in Group A against the hosts, as well as Croatia and Mexico. Finke is conscious of the size of the task facing his charges, but is clear about his objectives too: “Of course we’re in a situation where we’re underdogs, but we’re going to the World Cup to reach the knockout rounds.”
Finke also believes that African teams could make waves at the competition: “Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon are countries that have lots of players at European clubs. But with the African mentality and their huge passion, if a team manages to play together out on the pitch there, an African side could go a long way this time. I think at least one African country will make it into the semi-finals.”
World Cup: 25 stunning moments … No1: Cameroon stun Argentina in 1990
February 13, 2014 | 0 Comments
by Simon Burnton*
François Omam-Biyik’s goal and an unheralded team of journeymen defeated Diego Maradona’s world champions in Italy
close – this one stands alone in myth and memory. It was not a perfect match but it was an irresistible narrative, as the World Cup champions, led by the great Diego Maradona, were vanquished by an unheralded team largely assembled of journeymen players from the French lower divisions – though for some of them even that was either an impossible dream or a distant memory.
In the space of 90 minutes African football, once derided for being all about juju magic and Zairian defenders with a limited grasp of free-kick regulations, became credible. The result was celebrated not only inCameroon, where impromptu street parties erupted across the nation and a reporter from the Telegraph wrote, intriguingly, that “a lady in a floral dress and turban did a hand-stand”, but across Africa and beyond. When they were finally knocked out a woman in Bangladesh committed suicide, writing that “the elimination of Cameroon means the end of my life”.
“No one thought we could do anything here against Maradona, but we knew what we could do,” the goalscorer, François Omam-Biyik, said after the game. “We hate it when European reporters ask us if we eat monkeys and have a witch doctor. We are real football players and we proved this tonight.”
The match is best remembered for the moment, two minutes from the end, when Claudio Caniggia, Argentina‘s flaxen-haired substitute striker, went on a run down the right. Italia 90 was something of a festival of simulation during which neither Caniggia nor any other Argentinian was to become known for their refusal to go to ground under any kind of challenge, but with his side trailing and time running out he stayed up when an imprecise tackle came flying in, kept going despite a second attempt to bring him down, and was promptly taken out in the most emphatic style by Benjamin Massing, an assault that sent the tackler’s right boot, and possibly a few body parts, flying across the pitch, and earned Cameroon their second red card of the day. As Pete Davies put it in his peerless book about the 1990 World Cup, All Played Out, it was “a kind of full-pelt, waist-high, horizontal flying bodycheck. The general intention seemed to be not so much to break Caniggia’s legs, as actually to separate them from the rest of his body.”
The opening match set the tone for a tournament that was to feature precisely twice as many red cards as the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, which itself had seen more than any previous finals. “Cameroon neutralised Maradona mainly by kicking him,” wrote Matthew Engel in The Guardian. “He spent much of the game horizontal despite wearing calf pads as well as shin pads. His 10 team-mates seemed too stunned to make any trouble but they were kicked as well, if they got in the way.”
Though the first red card, shown to the goalscorer’s brother André Kana-Biyik for a foul on Caniggia, was harsh the French referee, Michel Vautrot, had little choice but to follow Fifa’s newly handed-down guidelines for ultra-strict arbitration. Brian Glanville, in his Story of the World Cup, insists that “a bruising game was made worse by [his] draconian refereeing” but in the following day’s Express, James Lawton proclaimed his victory over “a rising tide of wild and often cynical tackling” as “perhaps the greatest triumph” of the night. Sepp Blatter, then Fifa’s general secretary, boasted before the tournament began that, as a result of their fair play initiative, “players will behave in a decorous manner in all phases of the match”. The players, it turned out, hadn’t really been listening. “I’m unhappy the referee was forced to intervene as he did, but I’m pleased that he did,” Blatter said after the match, having criticised the behaviour of players who “want to destroy the game of soccer instead of letting creativity and genius flow”.
But though a recording of this match will never be of much use to anyone learning the art of clean tackling, there was significantly more to Cameroon than studs and muscle. “I don’t think they had any intentions of beating us up to win the game,” said Maradona. “I cannot argue, and I cannot make excuses. If Cameroon won, it was because they were the best side.”
“This was no fluke, the better team won,” wrote David Lacey in The Guardian. “They won, moreover, after finishing with nine men on the field … Such was their superiority that the Africans still finished looking as if they had more men on the pitch than their hapless opponents.”
Napoli, with Maradona their inspiration, had just won the Serie A title from Milan by two points, and the local fans delighted in his downfall, so much so that the Argentinian, who had been suffering from an ingrown nail and played with the aid of a protective carbon fibre “bionic toe”, claimed he had “cured the Italians of racism”. “The whole stadium was shouting for Cameroon,” he observed. “Wasn’t that nice?”
They say in Douala that “l’impossible n’est pas camerounais”, and never has the saying seemed more true than for those three weeks in 1990. For the Cameroon team that redefined the way the football of their continent was perceived arrived as if intent only on reinforcing stereotypes. Their preparations were shambolic, their squad divided, their players unappreciated, but for all that it took the unequalled penalty-earning skills of England’s Gary Lineker to beat them in the quarter-finals, when England came from behind to win 3-2 just as it was starting to look like Cameroon would be swept irresistibly to a showpiece reunion with Argentina on a wave of supple-hipped, corner-flag-bothering hysteria.
To say they were underestimated before kick-off would be to wrongly suggest that they were estimated at all. “The Soviet Union is a tough opponent, but I’m generally pleased,” the Argentina manager, Carlos Bilardo, said after the draw the previous December. “Our group is not the easiest but we should have no problems in qualifying for the second round.” Cameroon were widely quoted at 500-1 to win the tournament, among the rankest of outsiders.
A couple of years earlier Paul Biya, the country’s president, had asked the Russian FA to send over a few coaches who wouldn’t mind helping out for a while. The first to arrive was Valeri Nepomniachi, an unexceptional ex-player whose only experience of first-team management had been a single season at the helm of an obscure Turkmenistani club in Russia’s third division. Biya appointed him national team manager, even though he spoke no French and almost no English. At the World Cup his team-talks were translated by the man normally employed as a driver at the Cameroon embassy in Moscow, and by various accounts freely disregarded by the players. Nepomniachi only just made it to Italy, having come close to the sack after the country’s hapless displays at that year’s African Cup of Nations, where as reigning champions they lost to Zambia and Senegal and were eliminated in the group stage.
After that failure, and just a few weeks before the World Cup, Biya made another intervention. He called Roger Milla, a 38-year-old who had retired from international football three years previously and moved to Réunion, a tiny French-controlled speck in the Indian Ocean, where he played for a team called Saint-Pierroise. Biya demanded the striker’s return; Milla announced that he was “always ready to be called to my country’s colours” and back he came.
Cameroon’s pre-tournament training camps in Bordeaux and Yugoslavia not only featured frequent defeats to obscure club sides in warm-up matches, but also intense bickering, both about Milla’s arrival and the delayed payments of bonuses due to the players. The goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell became the voice of the players’ demands for cash. Perhaps, having just come second in the voting for France’s footballer of the year, he felt his position in the team was secure enough to survive a little controversy. But then, on the eve of the tournament, he criticised his team-mates in a newspaper interview, saying they had “no chance of coping with Argentina, or any other team” and that they “will go out in the first round without much glory”. Even though his place had, he insisted, been absolutely guaranteed by Nepomniachi, he was dropped. “I used to believe that he selected the team,” he said. “I don’t any more.”
Bell seems to be an unusually divisive figure. In 2011 he published a memoir, Vu de ma Cage, with a controversial section on the 1990 World Cup that was dismissed by the defender Stephen Tataw as “500% lie”. “I don’t do reflections, I write about facts. The book tells what I have done, it tells the facts of my life,” insisted Bell. “Every time he spoke his tongue dripped with the poison of selfishness,” countered Tataw. Bell returned to the team for the 1994 World Cup; when Cameroon were eliminated in the group stage fans back in Douala burned down his house.
Until just a few hours before kick-off in Milan Thomas N’Kono had considered himself unlikely to even be in the matchday squad – Bell didn’t like him, and wanted the relatively inexperienced Jacques Songo’o on the bench instead. Suddenly he was first choice, a decision taken so late, and so unexpectedly, that his wife missed his moment of glory having decided to go shopping instead. “I thought it was a very bad team and we were going to lose,” N’Kono told Jonathan Wilson in the latter’s book on goalkeeping, The Outsider. “Suddenly the coach said I was going to play. Five hours before the game. I said no way. I had no confidence in the coach. The federation, the minister of sport, seven or eight people were telling me I had to play and I was saying I didn’t feel ready. They said if I wasn’t going to play they would play Songo’o, and if he didn’t want to play they would put an outfielder in goal. I went to talk with the president of Cameroon, and eventually I agreed to play.”
The replacement’s performances at the World Cup proved so good that a promising 12-year-old midfielder from Tuscany decided that he’d prefer to be a goalkeeper all things considered, and bought his first pair of gloves. “It was N’Kono and his spectacular saves that made me fall in love with the position. He became my hero,” the kid said, many years later. As an adult, he named his son Thomas in the Cameroonian’s honour. The young Italian’s name was Gianluigi Buffon.
Argentina shared a few of their opponents’ problems, including controversial team selection – Jorge Burruchaga was surprisingly chosen ahead of Caniggia – and goalkeeping issues. Still, their evening did not start so badly. “Everything was under control until Cameroon went down to 10 men and we got disorganised,” said the Argentina manager, Carlos Bilardo. Six minutes later Cameroon scooped a free-kick into the penalty area, Cyrille Makanaky flicked it on and Omam-Biyik rose unfeasibly high, while his nominal marker Nestor Sensini hesitated. His header flew low towards goal, though neither very hard nor very far from the goalkeeper, but Nery Pumpido, a World Cup winner in 1986, inexplicably shovelled it into the net. Eleven minutes into their second match Pumpido broke his leg, and he would never play for his country again. Like N’Kono his replacement, Sergio Goycochea, went on to have a fabulous tournament, excelling in the penalty shoot-outs that took Argentina through the quarter- and semi-finals even if he was beaten by the one penalty that really mattered, Andreas Brehme’s in the final.
Bilardo called this defeat “the worst moment of my sporting career”, and after it Carlos Menem, the Argentinian president, and his predecessor Raúl Alfonsín both phoned him to recommend certain tactical tweaks. “Everyone called me to tell me what to do,” Bilardo said. “I heard from the president, two former presidents and the opposition leader.” The politicians clearly had some decent ideas, as Argentina made five changes for their next match, and improved sufficiently to reach the final. “I have never seen anything like it before in my life,” said Bilardo. “I have never seen anything unify the nation like that. Not politics or music or anything. Everyone was watching and hoping for the team. And when we came home, they were happy for us. We were proud to have reached the final.”
Milla played only the final nine minutes of this game, but settled into his role as Cameroon’s supersub and scored twice against Romania in their second game and twice again against Colombia in the second round, becoming one of the sensations of the tournament. He returned in 1994, where he broke his own record as the World Cup’s oldest goalscorer by grabbing his side’s consolation in a 6-1 thrashing by Russia at the age of 42 years and 39 days. “I’ll tell you something,” he told France Football after Cameroon were finally knocked out in 1990, “if we had beaten England, Africa would have exploded. Ex-plo-ded. There would have been deaths. The Good Lord knows what he does. Me, I thank him for stopping us in the quarter-finals.”
Having played for Laval in the French second division, Omam-Biyik’s performances earned him offers from some of the biggest clubs in Europe, but he refused to break an agreement to join Rennes. Shortly after the tournament he was asked in an interview with the Guardian whether his match-winning goal against Argentina had been the best moment of his career. “It was one of them,” he replied. “The best ‘moment’, if I can stretch the definition of the word, was the whole of that wonderful time we spent in Italy – the experience we gained, the atmosphere, and the money.”
The team returned to a rapturous welcome, with the government announcing a national holiday to enable everyone to celebrate. “When we arrived at Douala airport, the aeroplane had to pull up and come around again,” said Omam-Biyik, “because the runway was totally flooded with people.” The players’ victory parade lasted two full days, and ended with President Biya conveying honours not only upon the players, but their coaches, the support staff, and even journalists.
Twelve years later the holders were again beaten 1-0 by unheralded Africans in the opening game of the World Cup finals, France falling to Pape Bouba Diop’s goal. But while 11 of Cameroon’s 22-man squad in 1990 played for domestic clubs and not one outfield player was based at a European top-flight team, by 2002 all but two of Senegal’s 23 was based in Europe and 16 of them played in the French top-flight. “No team could ever again do what we did in 1990,” said Milla. “The element of surprise is not there. Everybody knows everything about all the teams now.”
The fanfare for Diego Maradona was drowned by the drums of Black Africa in Milan last night as Cameroon defeated Argentina, the World Cup holders, to open the 1990 tournament by destroying a whole package of preconceptions.
This was no fluke, the better team won. They won, moreover, after finishing with nine men on the field, the result of Michel Vautrot’s determination to obey Fifa’s guidelines in dealing with persistent and cynical fouls. The French referee sent off two Cameroon players but such was their superiority that the Africans still finished looking as if they had more men on the pitch than their hapless opponents.
This result, the biggest shock in a World Cup since Algeria’s 2-1 defeat of West Germany in the opening phase in Spain in 1982, has immediately thrown the new tournament off its predicted course.
Argentina’s chances of winning Group B already look slim. On last night’s evidence one would not give much for their hopes of defeating either the Soviet Union or Romania. Maradona began brightly but when he faded the whole team fell away, losing rhythm and confidence and looking just another poor side.
England, if they finish runners-up in Group F, will meet the second-placed team in Group B in Genoa in the second phase. Now Bobby Robson might prefer it not to be Cameroon. Better even Maradona than the inspirational Francois Omam-Biyik, who scored the winning goal five minutes after Kana-Biyik had been sent off and departed blowing a farewell kiss to an adoring crowd.
The Third World has long since threatened to arrive on the wider footballing stage in style but nobody seriously expected Cameroon to make the entrance they did on a balmy Milanese evening after half an hour of noisy pomp and ceremony had made it a natural setting for Maradona.
Long after the finish, in a stadium empty except for reporters, the PA system suddenly burst forth into the theme music from Ben Hur. Certainly this was one race which had seen several collisions and the finish that the majority wanted. The Milan supporters, remembering the way Napoli had pipped their team for the Italian championship, made sure that Maradona did not feel at home by whistling and jeering every time he touched the ball.
Cameroon, and in particular the tall muscular figure of Benjamin Massing, one of four French League players in the side, fouled Argentina’s new ambassador for sport at almost every opportunity. Maradona must have felt he was encountering a distant relative of Claudio Gentile.
Massing became the second Cameroon player to be dismissed when Vautrot showed him the red card two minutes from the end after he had taken out Caniggia, sent on by Argentina’s manager Carlos Bilardo in the second half to give his struggling team an extra attacker, thigh-high. Massing had been the first of three Cameroon players to be cautioned, so he had to go.
And so did Kana-Biyik, without the preliminary of a caution, for coolly tripping Caniggia just past the hour. To him fell the distinction of being the first player to receive a red card in the opening game of a World Cup since referees started carrying red cards.
Fifa had been specific in its instructions on how to deal with this sort of offence and Vautrot set the sort of disciplinary standards the World Cup needs to heed, otherwise there will be anarchy.
While there was a natural inclination to rejoice with Cameroon, ugly images of their tackling lingered in the mind’s eye. But when all is said and done it was a joyous occasion which did not lack a sense of irony. Four years ago, when Maradona sent Burruchaga clear to score the winning goal in the last World Cup final, their green-shirted opponents West Germany collapsed in the centre circle in despair. When the game ended last night the green shirts, what was left of them, dissolved into a celebrating heap, leaving Argentina to wonder if the new roof of the San Siro had not fallen in on them.
Cameroon never looked like a side which had been sent into the opening match to play stooge to Maradona. Their man-to-man marking system was tighter, they were first to the ball in all parts of the field, they created space with greater ease and opened up ever widening gaps near goal as the holders’ defence became threadbare.
From the start Omam-Biyik’s willingness to run at a retreating defence looked like causing Argentina problems. Not only that, Cameroon had more skiil on the ball than their supposedly superior opponents.
There was little hint of a shock at the start, which was an anticlimax after all the hype. A couple of touches from Maradona might have given Argentina two goals had not N’Kono, keeping goal instead of the more experienced Bell, somehow blocked the danger.
A goal then might have settled the holders. As it was, they became unsettled by Cameroon’s close marking and hard tackling and never got their act together thereafter.
Midway through the first half Burruchaga was just able to flick the ball away from an empty Argentina net after Omam-Biyik had caught them square with an early through ball. Seven minutes before half-time the same player produced a sudden shot from a narrow angle that nearly went in under Pumpido’s body.
When Cameroon scored Pumpido was badly at fault. Ironically the goal followed a gratuitous Argentinian foul by Lorenzo, who conceded a free-kick on the right.
Cameroon players pile on top of each other as they celebrate the only goal. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Bob Thomas/Getty Images
As the ball came across, Lorenzo rose with Makanaky and it spun off the defender high to Omam-Biyik, whose header was well aimed but should not have carried the power to beat a goalkeeper of international class. However Pumpido appeared confused by its direction, reacted like a dosing slip fielder and allowed the ball to squeeze under his right hand and over the line.
Argentina could not believe it, the crowd could not believe it, the world television audience probably did not believe it and even now it seems like something out of a fantasy. It is one thing to beat Argentina with a full side but to finish on the attack with nine men is rather rubbing it in.
Cameroon clamps down on illicit clinics
January 21, 2014 | 0 Comments
Infections have rapidly fallen after aid groups and government ramped up treatment and prevention. In August, President Ernest Bai Koroma declared the outbreak a national emergency
© Otto Bakano/IRIN[/caption] Cameroon is cracking down on more than a thousand illegal clinics and medical training institutions that have sprung up mainly in the capital, Yaoundé, and the coastal city of Douala. Some clinics simply operate without a licence; others are run illegally from private homes. Some owners clandestinely use licences obtained under a so-called Common Initiative Group (CIG) – a government scheme to ease the establishment of not-for-profit self-help groups, which are exempt from taxation and need no proof of initial capital – to run clinics. More than 500 medical training centres and over 600 private clinics are set to be closed in a four-month operation launched in December 2013. “We have launched operations to bring order to the medical sector, which has gone out of control, with anybody now able to own a medical institution. Most of them lack the training, appropriate staff, equipment and infrastructure to operate either a medical training institution or a clinic,” said Biwole Sida, national health inspector at the Ministry of Health. Recently a patient with severe burns was brought to a private clinic in Yaoundé but had to be taken to a nearby government hospital because the clinic had been closed due to the crackdown. The clinic’s attendant arrived later and told IRIN that the facility actually still operates, though now only by phone-scheduled appointments. “Most patients come to the hospital at the verge of death after they have wasted time in small private clinics, which are not even equipped – be it technically or professionally – to handle emergency cases,” said Francois Penda, a medical officer at the government hospital where the burn patient was treated. “An accident like this is so complicated and requires very delicate [procedures] and sophisticated medical equipment. Any unprepared attempt on it will complicate the patient’s chances [of recovery],” said Penda. Costs But some private clinic operators say that the cost of medical care in government facilities is prohibitive. That is why most people prefer the small private health centres, they say. “The government hospitals cannot cater for all patients. They are usually crowded, making it difficult to receive proper treatment,” said Maxwel Fonyu, a laboratory technician and owner of small clinic in Yaoundé. “There are millions of people living in urban slums who depend on affordable medical care from private clinics found in their neighbourhoods. In my clinic for example, instead of asking for 5,000 francs [US$10] for a malaria test, like it is done in big hospitals, I only charge them 500 francs to conduct a malaria test [and to] prescribe and sell them medicines that are affordable and vital for their treatment,” Fonyu said. The proliferation of private clinics has, in part, resulted from a plethora of illegal medical training institutions. “There is a need to [better] regulate the whole sector in Cameroon. Most training institutions operate illicitly,” said Etienne Tsou of the Health Science Faculty at the Catholic University in Cameroon. Many of these private training institutions fail to provide formal instruction, he said. “I don’t see how a medical professional can be trained on the job and not through formal education. Most retired nurses and doctors think they are qualified to open their own centres and train others when they don’t have all what it takes,” Tsou said. Brain drain “The sector may lack qualified professionals, but putting the lives of innocent citizens in the hands of charlatans will lead to a bigger public health problem,” Tsou cautioned. “There are, however, many Cameroonians with good graduate diplomas, but their services are exported to countries where they are better paid.” According to the Ministry of Health, about 5,000 Cameroonian medical doctors are currently working abroad, with around 500 to 600 in the US alone. Tetanye Ekoe, the vice president of the National Order of Medical Doctors in Cameroon, said that out of the 4,200 medical doctors in Cameroon, only about half are actually practicing. About a thousand are on secondment to the Ministry of Health, where they mainly do administrative work. The rest are university lecturers or work with NGOs and the private sector. Bolstering training To improve the quality of health professionals, the government in 2013 carried out an evaluation of the 10 official medical training institutions. Four state universities and two private universities were then permitted to continue training. The government also introduced a national entrance examination for higher institutions under the supervision of the National Medical Council. For the first time in Cameroon, over 8,300 candidates sat for a common national university entrance examination in October last year, competing for 500 spots for medical doctors, 150 places for pharmacists and 150 places for dental surgeons. More than 500 medical students and some 5,000 nurses graduate every year in Cameroon, which has nearly twice the minimum health worker-to-patient ratio recommended by the World Health Organization, at 1.9 health workers per 10,000 (the sub-Saharan average is 1.3:10,000), according to a recent World Bank report * Source IRIN]]>
Who is Paul Biya? 32 Years in power but still a mystery to Cameroonians
January 6, 2014 | 1 Comments
Paul Biya has been president of Cameroon since 1992[/caption] There should be no mystery about him after 32 years in power. But Cameroon’s president remains difficult to pin down. Now as he ages, will we begin to see through Biya’s heart? Can we finally lay hold of him? Or is he perpetually at it, calculating, trying to hold on .EUGENE N NFORNGWA* After 32 years in power shouldn’t we already know more than enough about the man who rules us: who his friends are; what he believes; where he will take us next? When was the last time President Paul Biya had a toothache? Did his wife Chantal really runaway? What truly happened to the late first lady Irene? And the next government. When is that? Who is in? Who is out? What does he mean when he says “within the next few months, the right conditions should be in place for us to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of our reunification”? How come all we ever know about the president after all these years is at best speculative? At one time Biya is candid, publicly shaming his failures, admitting he has not led. Another time, with a straight face, he takes us back, further back than we have walked with him. He is a charming man, once said former US ambassador Janet Garvey, according to leaked US diplomatic cables. He can also praise you today and jail you tomorrow. The truth is, Paul Biya’s presidency has thriven on brutal gamesmanship. He relishes his breastplate of secrecy. He can be unpredictable, even manipulative. He is nicknamed “The Prince”. His ministers are often as lost as we are. They find comfort in those discretional powers, a constitutional prerogative that reduces the legislature and judiciary to rubber stamps. But as he ages, will we begin to see through Biya’s heart? Can we finally lay hold of him? Or is he perpetually at it, calculating, trying to hold on. His speeches of the past few years have portrayed him as a man intensely concerned about the future of the country, desperate to receive credit for holding Cameroon together. More recently, he is willing to distance himself, to punish or disgrace his own men. “We are an individualistic people, more concerned with personal success than general interest. Our administration remains susceptible to private interest, which is most often in conflict with national interest.” He built it. He nurtured it. He watched it grow into a monster. Now he is lost. “We have abundant and diverse natural resources as well as modern and democratic institutions. Our country is peaceful and stable. What then do we lack?” Maybe a leader. It is hard to see Biya’s style as sustainable. He needs to lead not rule. He needs to walk not talk. He needs to be the President of Cameroon. Maybe he needs to be seen. Cameroonians don’t know their president. They cannot feel his pain. They cannot grasp his genuineness. They don’t take his air pounding seriously. He is a stranger, after 32 years Published with permission from Standard Tribune]]>
"Embrace a new spirit of patriotism."-Biya to Cameroonians in new year message
January 2, 2014 | 0 Comments
My dear compatriots, The year 2013 gave Cameroonians genuine reasons to feel satisfied, thus paving the way for excellent prospects for the future Let me explain. The senatorial elections of 14 April and the legislative and municipal elections of 30 September took place in a calm and transparent atmosphere. All observers confirmed this fact and I believe that it reflects the maturity of the Cameroonian people who have understood that achieving social progress requires stable institutions and sound policies. The few failings reported were not enough to challenge the validity of the said elections. In this regard, ELECAM deserves to be commended. The enhanced credibility of the legislative and municipal elections sufficiently justified the time it took to introduce biometrics into our electoral system. I therefore believe that there is every reason for us to be satisfied with this new milestone in our democratic process. The marked increase in the number of women in Parliament and municipal councils is a further sign of progress. In any case, having put in place the Senate and local and regional authorities, the establishment of the Constitutional Council within a reasonable timeline will complete the institutional structure enshrined in our Constitution. Our political horizon is now very clear. It is time for serious and objective discussions on issues that are dear to Cameroonians which, as you know, are purchasing power, employment and living conditions. In other words, such issues constitute what our people legitimately expect from a prosperous and equitable economy and a just and interdependent society. Of course, this is no revelation to us. In recent decades, we have spared no effort to improve the living conditions of Cameroonians. This has been achieved despite the often tense political context, the economic crisis and threats to peace. Significant progress – perhaps still unevenly shared – has been made. Let me mention just two examples, namely health and our major projects. With the resurgence of malaria in its most severe form which affects infants, we have approached international partners for assistance. With their help, we will be able to secure free treatment of this pandemic for under-five children. Furthermore, I am pleased to announce that our country’s health map will soon have three additional referral hospitals, namely the Yaounde National Emergency Centre, the Douala Gynaecological, Obstetric and Paediatric Hospital and the Sangmelima Referral Hospital. Regarding our major projects, those of the first generation are, as you know, either ongoing or in the start-up phase. Concerning second-generation projects which will be implemented as from 2015, the related studies and financing are currently under negotiation. These include notably power generation, transportation, water supply, road and highway infrastructure as well as industrial and mining facilities. As you can see, our economy is picking up and some kind of national consensus on the goal of economic emergence is discernible. I believe that we should muster all our energy to champion this cause and summon all our strength to ensure growth. In fact, it seems that our efforts alone, no matter how laudable, will not suffice to make Cameroon an emerging country in 2035. International financial institutions have sounded this friendly warning to us; and it is in our interest to heed it. In 2013, our growth rate stands at 4.8%, and thus below our forecast of 6.1%. Of course, there is nothing so dramatic about this, yet it clearly indicates that we need to redouble our efforts. Our growth is currently sustained by buoyant oil revenues and public appropriations. Private investments remain inadequate. We still need to improve the business climate, but this certainly does not spare us from pursuing ongoing structural reforms and further strengthening fiscal discipline. Definitely, there is still room for improvement in the effectiveness of our economic policies. We have a growth and employment strategy which guides us towards achieving our goals. But, how come then that in some sectors of our economy, State action often seems to lack consistency and clarity? Why is it that in many cases, decision-making delays still constitute a bottleneck in project implementation? Why can’t any region of our country achieve a public investment budget execution rate of over 50%? Lastly, one can rightfully question the usefulness of certain project monitoring committees which are unable to take any decisions. What we need in the coming years is a real contingency plan. With the GESP, we have a trend chart. Now is the time to act. Our short-term priorities are well known, namely: to correct our growth curve by creating jobs and maintain a high level of performance over several years in a row. To this end, we need to set timelines on our roadmaps and strictly adhere to them. It will be absolutely imperative that we address the causes of our weaknesses by removing sticking points, areas of dispersion and duplication. Would we be unable to do what some other countries comparable to ours have done or are doing? I do not think so. We have talented, resourceful, well-trained and enterprising men, women and youth, who are capable of meeting these challenges. We have abundant and diverse natural resources as well as modern and democratic institutions. Our country is peaceful and stable. What then do we lack? I think we need to improve in two key areas: prioritizing general interest and coordinating our efforts. Though attached to our communities of origin – which does not prevent us from being fervent patriots whenever national honour is at stake – we are an individualistic people, more concerned with personal success than general interest. Our administration remains susceptible to private interest, which is most often in conflict with national interest. Such trends must not be tolerated in a modern state. At one stage of implementation or another, most of our major projects involve the skills of various services. I am not sure that there has been effective coordination between them. Clearly, therefore, there is a need for improvement in this regard. My dear compatriots, I would now like to draw your attention to a problem that has reached disturbing proportions in recent months – that of insecurity in our country. Not long ago, we were striving to overcome “ordinary” insecurity. Simply put, we fought minor and organized crime in urban areas and “highway robbers” in remote rural areas. For some time now, a new form of crime referred to as cross-border crime has reached a worrying scale, particularly in the northern and eastern parts of the country. This has been brought about by the presence around our borders of armed bands, driven by extremist ideologies and lured by profit. They do not hesitate to cross over to our territory where they commit various atrocities. This phenomenon is not entirely new. However, it has witnessed a fresh upsurge as not long ago there was an attack in Kette Subdivision in the eastern part of our country. Elite units have been deployed to the area to check such incursions. Over the months, in the Far North, such criminals have kidnapped foreign nationals for ransom. Memories of the abduction of the French family MOULIN-FOURNIER are still fresh. Thanks to our cooperation with the Nigerian authorities and French services, we were able to secure their release. More recently, a French priest was manhandled and taken to Nigeria. I strongly condemn such unspeakable acts perpetrated in the quest for gain against defenceless persons, including children. Of course, we are doing our best to prevent and combat such acts, and we will not relent. I congratulate the élite units ensuring security in these areas and urge the local population to cooperate with them as necessary. For some time now, terrorism has also become rife at sea. Its motivations are mainly financial, but the methods have not changed. They consist in inspecting ships to loot the contents and kidnapping crew members for ransom. Cameroon has witnessed this in its maritime space. The phenomenon has expanded to the entire Gulf of Guinea, such that the maritime trade of countries located in this area is being compromised. There was a first response at the Summit on Maritime Security and Safety in the Gulf of Guinea, held in Yaounde last 25 and 26 June. It is clear that, whether on land or at sea, security, which is first and foremost a national issue, also has a collective and even international dimension. It should not be underestimated. Where it is not guaranteed, anarchy settles in, abuses become rife, economic and social progress grinds to a halt. Examples of such forms of breakdown in societal values, unfortunately, abound in our continent and even in our immediate external vicinity. While it is true that the affected areas of our territory are very limited, we remain on the alert. Our security forces on the ground can intervene at any time. This is an opportunity for me to stress that each one of us must be aware of the benefits of living in a stable country where institutions are functioning normally, where the security of people and property is guaranteed, and where every citizen can nurse hopes of a better life. The current situation in the Central African Republic demonstrates the possible consequences of instability and disorder. Massacre, looting and displacement have become the order of the day in that brotherly and friendly country. It was the duty of, and an honour for, Cameroonian troops to participate in the operations of the multinational force aimed at restoring security and protecting people within the territory of our immediate neighbour. My dear compatriots, We are somewhat at a crossroads. Growth is within our reach; our budget is viable; our public debt is sustainable; in short, our economic and financial situation gives us every reason to hope for prosperity. -It is either we take the easy road by postponing reforms, in which case in 10 or 20 years time we shall have had such a cumulative delay that we can hardly meet the needs of our people. -Or we set high goals for ourselves, and adopt strict collective discipline, in which case we will embark resolutely on economic emergence. I suggest that we adopt the latter option, that of sacrifice and courage. At a time when we are beginning to see many concrete signs of our democratic, economic and social progress, I invite you to embrace a new spirit of patriotism. I believe we can do a lot better. I am not asking for your sweat, or blood, or tears; rather, I am merely urging you to commit yourself wholeheartedly to this new phase of our Grand National plan. At the dawn of this New Year, I would like, on behalf of you all, to address our Indomitable Lions. Dear Indomitable Lions, You have qualified for the final phase of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. We want you to follow in the footsteps of your illustrious predecessors of the glorious campaigns in Spain in 1982 and Italy in 1990. Give us a thrill once again. The Cameroonian people are with you. To conclude, I am pleased to announce the release of Father Georges Vandenbeusch. Thanks to the action of our services, backed by Nigerian and French authorities, this priest, so devoted to his mission, has been freed today. My dear compatriots, I would now like to extend to you all, my best wishes for good health and happiness in the New Year. Happy and Prosperous New Year 2014! CRTV]]>
Cameroon’s President Enters 31st Year in Power
November 8, 2013 | 0 Comments
YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — Cameroon’s President Paul Biya is celebrating more than three decades in power. The octogenarian became president of the West African nation 31 years ago when his predecessor, Ahmadou Ahijo, resigned. Critics have often criticized Biya for failing to hand over power, democratically or otherwise. Now, opposition political parties are using the anniversary to ask him to prepare a smooth transition to democratic rule.
Supporters of the 80-year-old president of Cameroon have been organizing sport and cultural activities and political rallies to celebrate Paul Biya’s 31st year in power.
Professor Ngole Ngole Elvis, a frontline supporter of the octogenarian, says supporters of Biya have a moral responsibility to celebrate their leader’s successes.
“We have the right to rejoice because we have peace in our beloved country. There is liberty and an open pluralistic and democratic atmosphere,” said Elvis.
Supporters of the president credit him for respecting people’s liberties and freedoms.
Anow Ebie, a journalist who works for Cameroon’s state broadcaster, CRTV, says the increasing number of media outlets in Cameroon is indicative of democratic advances under Biya’s leadership.
“When President Paul Biya came to power in 1982, Cameroon had a one-party system. Today we have close to 300 [political parties]. We had just a state newspaper, Cameroon Tribune. Today there are uncountable [papers]. And then there was just one radio station, Radio Cameroon. Today we have several radio stations, several television stations,” explained Ebie.
However, Ano Ebie’s views are not shared by fellow journalist Amungwa Nicodemus, publisher of the Cameroon Mirror newspaper in the capital, Yaounde.
“It is a farce. Recently Cameroon was on the eye of the cyclone when newspapers and media houses were cracked down [on] and journalists slammed [with] sanctions. This is unfortunate for Cameroon. He appointed those who did the shut down,” said Nicodemus.
Paul Biya served as prime minister from 1975 to 1982 and then became president following the resignation of Cameroon’s first leader, Ahmadou Ahidjo. A two-term limit in the 1996 constitution should have prevented him from running again, but in 2008 he revised the constitution to eliminate presidential term limits. He won a contested victory in the 2011 election.
Banazem Joseph, an opposition member of Cameroon’s National Assembly, says bad electoral laws have enabled Biya to stay in power.
“We will insist and fight for the limitation of the presidential mandate and the improvement of the electoral process. I know that the regime is a crude one and does not listen to any other person. We cannot go for the next election without looking into the electoral code,” said Joseph.
Many young Cameroonians who spoke to VOA say nothing is changing, despite the president’s promises to transform Cameroon into a huge construction site to create jobs and lower the unemployment rate, now estimated at 40 percent.
Ben Collins Nyuyberiwo, who was born two years after Biya took power, says the president should relinquish power to someone younger.
“We are still talking of the same president, Paul Biya, Paul Biya, Paul Biya. I am just out from school looking for a job and it is just disgusting,” said Nyuyberiwo.
Biya is serving the second year in his current seven-year term. Many in Cameroon suspect that if his health holds up, he will likely run again for president in 2018.
Government criticized as malaria deaths spike in Cameroon
November 1, 2013 | 0 Comments
Doctors treating more than 12,000 victims of the disease say those who died in the past three weeks were mostly young children and pregnant women.
Heavy rains have flooded the region around Maroua, giving mosquitoes ideal breeding conditions.
“This is a severe and sudden epidemic. I see no end in sight,” Dr. Amos Ekane, a malaria specialist treating more than 2,000 victims in Maroua, told CNN.
Wednesday, a panel of Cameroonian journalists on state radio criticized the government for not spreading the news about the outbreak and not requesting international aid.
According to the Public Health Ministry, more than 12,000 people are seriously ill and have been admitted to hospitals. But there are fewer than 10 treatment centers are available to help those who’ve contracted the mosquito-borne illness, and thousands of children and women are forced to sleep in the open or in overcrowded rooms without mosquito nets.
“Three of my children have died here. Here is my wife lying helplessly with drips tied to this tree,” Abubakar Ardo Miro told CNN, pointing out the conditions at the overcrowded Maroua regional hospital.
“Only a few qualified physicians are available in the regional government hospital to handle malaria cases. This cannot yield a favorable result,” Ekane warned
The Cameroon Medical Council — a body governing the medical core in the West African nation — estimates a ratio of one doctor to every 40,000 patients. Less than 1,000 physicians currently work in the country, the council says, and toil under poor conditions and low wages.
“This is really a mess to the Cameroon government,” Tataw Eric Tano, a newspaper publisher in Cameroo, told CNN by phone.
The government footed the bill to transport thousands of voters to parliamentary and municipal elections earlier this month, he said, but is not transporting dying patients to other areas with less-crowded hospitals.
Observers have criticized President Paul Biya of ignoring the mounting malaria death toll as he focuses on lavish preparations to celebrate his 31 years in the presidency November 6.
“Even the propaganda state radio CRTHealth experts blame the upsurge of malaria cases on the poor use of malaria nets that were distributed free of charge among nearly 9 million Cameroonians in 2010.V is talking against this,” said political analyst Prince Tanda.
But a dwindling economy and the scarcity of food has forced some families to use the nets for other purposes.
“There is no reason for me to sleep under this net while my children need food to eat,” Elias Mbengono, a local fisherman, told CNN as he demonstrated how he could use the nets to catch fish for his family.
Climate change researcher Kevin Enongene said recent heavy rains and flooding in Northern Cameroon have transformed villages into mosquito breeding grounds. Lake Chad continues to spill water over its banks and no levee has been created to stop the flood, Enongene said.
“This should be taken seriously,” he added.
Public health experts are now targeting the heads of families in a daily campaign to stave off the malaria epidemic in Maroua.
“Sleep under the mosquito bed net. Do not use them as fishing nets,” one campaign banner read.
But state public health officials are raising fears that the death toll could reach the thousands in the next few weeks if international support is not received soon.
More than 660,000 people around the world died from malaria in 2010, according to the World Health Organization.
Farmers in Cameroon to benefit from US$25.70 million for AfDB rural infrastructure and development support project
October 26, 2013 | 1 Comments
Farmers in the North-Western region of Cameroon will benefit from a loan and a grant amounting to US$25.70 million (UA 16,800 million) approved by the African Development Bank’s Board of Directors to help finance the Grassfield Rural Infrastructure and Participatory Development Support Project, Phase II
The Project aims to improve agricultural production and incomes of beneficiary communities by creating rural infrastructure and building capacity. It will help to reduce poverty in the rural communities in the area covered by the project.
The project will be implemented in Cameroon’s North-West region, which has a population of 1,850,000 and a poverty rate of 51%, and is home to 13% of the total number of the rural poor.
As a continuation of the first phase of the project from 2005-2011, the operation will be implemented in basins with strong production potential, namely Widikum, Santah/Tubah, Gayama and Mbaw/Mbonso covering 8 of the region’s 36 council areas, with a concentration on the first two to maximize impact. It will help to improve agricultural production and the incomes of the beneficiary communities by creating rural infrastructure and building the capacity of the actors. The estimated outputs are: (a) irrigation development on 610 ha; (b) rehabilitation of 278 km of rural roads; and (c) establishment of socio-economic support facilities and capacity building for the different partners.
At least 250,000 people (producer organizations, processors, traders, councils, etc.), half of whom are women grouped in 50,000 households will benefit from the project. It is expected to raise agricultural production by about 37,000 tonnes as well as an annual increase in income per producer from CFAF 250,000 in 2013 to CFAF 357,910 in 2018, and CFAF 477,210 in 2024.
The project has the potential for a high degree of complementarity with the Bamenda–Enugu Corridor Project financed by AfDB, which will help to increase trade with Nigeria, Cameroon’s neighbour to the west. The project will also scale up actions carried out under the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD’s) basic seed production operation financed by a Nigeria Technical Cooperation Fund (NTCF) grant.
Through the establishment of a market information system that will be a major decision-making tool, the project will help to generate knowledge. It also envisages the adoption of an innovative approach involving the implementation of a pilot activity to establish an information system platform on agricultural markets called ‘AgriTechnology Cameroon (ATC)’. It will be based on the use of mobile telephony services (SMS) and other media for real time dissemination of information and appropriate services.
In the longer term, the project will result in the revitalization of agricultural production development and an approximately 25% reduction in poverty in the country’s North-West Region.
The project will be implemented in five years from April 2014, and will have over 250,000 direct beneficiaries half of whom are women in 50,000 households plus transporters and traders. In addition, it will help to build the capacity of cooperatives, agricultural professional associations and regional and local technical administrations. At full development, the project will increase agricultural production by about 37,000 tonnes in the intervention area. The beneficiaries will participate through the planning, implementation and management of the different activities.
The project’s total cost is estimated at UA 25.600 million. It will be jointly financed with resources from the ADF loan and grant amounting to 16.800 million (CFAF 12,563 million) representing 66% of the project’s total cost. The Government of Cameroon will provide the remaining UA 8.80 million.
Buni TV releases Cameroon’s banned film “The President”
October 8, 2013 | 0 Comments
Multimedia company BuniTV has released the banned Cameroonian film ‘The President: “How Do You Know Its Time to Go?”’, directed by Jean-Pierre Bekolo.
According to Buni TV, which acts as a distribution platform for Kenya’s political satire show XYZ, the move will make it possible for Cameroonians inside and outside the West African country to access the film following its swift banning by the government.
The film is a story about a fictional president who disappears days before the general election, and refers to Cameroon’s strongman President Paul Biya, who has been in power for more than three decades.
Bekolo, who has been a lecturer in America teaching film, video on demand platforms such as Buni TV can help break censorship still experienced in certain countries around the world and make freedom of speech attainable.
“Today, new technologies provide a solution for filmmakers in countries that still impose censorship on cinema and where freedom of speech is still threatened,” he said. “Online distribution will make The President widely available, and hopefully this will lead to real dialogue on the issues the film raises.”
The film premiered at the Durban International Film Festival in July and touches on a number of taboo subjects including the ailing health of President Biya, who spends most of his time outside the country for treatment, and a reflection of other presidents in similar circumstances including Eduardo de Santos, of Angola, and Zambia’s Michael Sata said to be in India or London.
This film, although set in Cameroon, is said to be a reflection of a number of African countries including Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi and Nigeria whose presidents have died in power after undergoing treatment for years amid denial from aides and parties.
Marie Lora-Mungai, Buni TV chief executive officer (CEO) said the platform which has millions of viewerscontinues to spearhead in airing political sensitive content with XYZ recently having won Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice award for Best TV series.
“One of the great advantages of the internet is that it can circumvent censorship. BuniTV wants to play a role in fostering and supporting the free flow of ideas in Africa,” she said. “When we learned that Jean-Pierre was not able to screen The President in Cameroon, we felt it was our responsibility to help this important film reach its audience.”
The film will be available from October 12 on the platform’s subscription service.
Cameroon Citizenship Council Urges President Biya to convene Sovereign National Conference
September 13, 2013 | 1 Comments
-Count on us for a new Cameroon in 2018
-Focus more on policies and programmes and not personalities
-It is time to bring back the remains of President Ahidjo……….
-Hafis Ruelfi on the way forward for Cameroon
By Ajong Mbapndah L
If there is one thing that sums up what Hafis Ruelfi of the Cameroon Citizenship Council will love to see President Biya do before leaving office, it is to convene a sovereign national conference. The conference Hafis says will put Cameroon on the rails towards confronting 21st century challenges. Issues like a new electoral code, a new constitution, the Southern Cameroons problems, reconciliation and more could be debated at such a conference. Although his party is in the process of legalization and will not participate at the upcoming legislative and municipal elections, Hafis Ruelfi says the CCC is aggressively putting in place structures across the country so as to make a strong showing in the 2018 elections. As Aminatou Ahidjo makes news by joining the ruling CPDM, Hafis says like any other Cameroonian, the daughter of late President Ahidjo has the right to militate in a party of her choice. President Ahidjo however deserves a state burial with full honors and his remains need to be brought back to Cameroon Hafis said.
Mr Hafis, it is election time again in Cameroon, how significant or important are the upcoming elections and what role is your movement the Cameroon Citizenship Council playing now in shaping political developments?
Hafis Ruelfi: I remain convinced about the greatness of Cameroon, its potentials, and also convinced that it is only through the political process that you can make the greatest impact in terms of changing the society. It is the political processes under a democracy; there is no other way. I remain convinced that we need to engage, those who believe they have something to offer to a country like Cameroon at its level of development; everybody who has something to offer must get involved from the aspirants to the electorates. As this elections will be a foundation and a hallmark to kick start the political transition and transformation to a true democratic country with the observation of the rule of law come 2018. In other to boost its presence all across the national territory, CCC has put up a formidable structure to mobilize support and convince the electorate on why they believe there must be a change in the leadership of Cameroon come 2018. The electorate has a very big role to play because people must have a change. That is why we said that this change we are talking about in the CCC is not just a change of government, but the change of attitude and people must vote according to their beliefs and consciousness of accepting who will do the right thing. Conscious of the challenges ahead, the CCC has constituted a powerful interim national executive, which compromise representatives from all the ten regions of the country. This interim national executive is presently on the field implanting the party in their respective regions.
A few months ago, Cameroon had Senatorial elections, what reading did you make of those elections and the composition of its leadership considering that in case there is a power vacuum, it is the President of the Senate who runs the country?
Hafis Ruelfi: The creation of the house of senate was a welcome development for our constitutional democracy first on the ground that it lays to rest and answered the questions which Cameroonians have been asking as to the successor of president Paul Biya where there is an unforeseen vacancy at the head of the presidency which our constitution does provides that it’s the president of the senate who will assume the powers of the head of state for three months while he calls a presidential election which the emphasized that he (the interim president) cannot contest in the election.
A very interesting recent development is the return of the daughter of former President Ahidjo, Aminatou to Cameroon and her strong embrace of the ruling CPDM, what is your take on this? What impact do you think such a move on the part of President Ahidjo’s daughter can have on the politics of the country especially in the Grand North?
Hafis Ruelfi: Well it is true that the return of Aminatou to Cameroon and her embracing the CPDM is seen as a major event in the national political scene, to me these are reasons best known to her. As a Cameroonian who has attained the voting age has the free will to join and militate in any political party of his or her choice. And I think this is not different from Aminatou’s present position.
Secondly being the daughter of the late President Ahidjo to me still doesn’t change the fact, instead of building personality cults as the case with the CPDM most other opposition parties, viable programs should be presented to Cameroonians, viable visions on how candidates and parties will help solve the problems affecting ordinary Cameroonians should be what matters at this point and not just personalities.
Many people think that it is finally time for the remains of late President Ahidjo should be finally brought home with the honors and respects it deserves; do you share the same view?
Hafis Ruelfi: The return of the remains of our late president his Excellency President Ahmadou Ahidjo are long overdue. He was a great president for our dear country who did everything possible to move this country forward by uniting the two Cameroons as a united indivisible nation and he deserves all the state honors as is done in other countries. Cameroon should not be an exception not with a leader like late President Ahidjo who did so much for the country.
The last time we had a chat with you, you said you were working towards implanting the Cameroonian Citizenship Council across the country, how far have you gone with that and may we know some accomplishments of the Council so far?
Hafis Ruelfi: As I said earlier the interim national executive of our party are currently on the field setting up our party structures in every municipal and city council across the country.
On your own personal ambitions, you were not there for the Senatorial elections, you are not there for the legislatives and municipal elections, when do Cameroonians see Hafis Ruefli in the field?
Hafis Ruelfi: It is my conviction that led me to engage in wide consultations at the beginning of this year to ask our people; to ask wide-ranging questions. Basically, it centered around them. Does it make sense for us to get into the train again to say we are running for public office? Which office? Which level of engagement should we get into? Should we just kiss it goodbye and or should we remain engaged? In what form should we remain engaged? If we have to remain engaged in a political party system, which party? These are questions that formed the wide consultations that I said must have started January intensively. Of course, informally these discussions have been going on for some time. There is also greater demand that I should run for the office of President to help make Cameroon the true fatherland we all desire, building on the foundation that President Paul Biya has laid and his predecessor, to be able to take Cameroon to the next level. This will be a moment of peaceful democratic transition and transformation. That we need democratic transition and transformation, we need to consolidate on the gains of the past 31 years and those of his predecessors His Excellency Late President Ahmadou Ahidjo because he also built on something. That we need to continue to set the pace in leaps and bounds, so we need total transformation of our democracy and our political processes and the economy to consolidate and that can only be achieved by CCC beginning from 2018 when we will take over the presidency of our fatherland Cameroon.
The fight against corruption has led to the imprisonment of several barons of the regime from the Grand North, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, Iya Mohammed, etc., do you consider this a sign of divorce in the North-South alliance?
Hafis Ruelfi: The public institutional system of any nation is its future and hope, while the effective functioning of it is sine qua non for the total growth of our society because no nation can aspire to achieve her full potentials without transparency and accountability. Its potential cannot be realized if the institutions charged to do so are crippled by bad management, unaccountability and profound corruption. It is, therefore, the aggregate of efforts that we put in to check corruption and other vices in public offices that will ultimately strengthen our institutions and promote transparency and accountability that will translate into a better future for Cameroon. I am happy that the present government is looking in that direction with its commitment to resolving the impasse with the public sector by investigating corrupt public officers. One of our objectives at the CCC is to promote justice and the rule of law in Cameroon. Laws of our country shall be supreme and whosoever contravene them no matter their social ranking must be prosecuted by our courts and if found guilty be punished by the law. There is no legitimacy of any alliance which will promote corruption or mismanagement of our public offices by public officers no matter which region, tribe or party they come from.
Even though you are not running, what message do you have for Cameroonians during this electoral period, from the candidates to the parties, is there a party you want your followers to vote for?
Hafis Ruelfi: That is true and it is unfortunate that our party the CCC was still under legalization when the electorates were convene to the polls and as such we could not file lists for these upcoming twin elections. We are now targeting but the presidential election in 2018 which Cameroonian will witness the formidable team that will lift this Cameroon to the next level. We the CCC members do not have any particular political party to ask our militants to vote but our message to all progressive Cameroonians to shun belly politics and take this opportunity presented to them by voting credible people who have the common masses at heart and have good manifestos which will bring development to their door step and not the ones to read in speeches.
We end by asking you a question on President Biya, if you were asked to name about five or six specific things that you will like to see him work on before his mandate expires or he leaves office, what will you consider as priority areas?
Hafis Ruelfi: If I were asked today to name five or six specific things that I will like to see Mr Biya work on before leaving office will be; summed up in one which is for him to call for a sovereign national conference to address the problems facing our country today. Beyond the facades of peace they say lies a badly fragmented polity which to me has been the reason for our underdevelopment to has led our country to regional interest politics. A national conference will lay a strong foundation for a regionalized country like Cameroon serious on being an emerging economy by 2035. With a national conference issues like separation of powers with check and balances will be looked at which will lay a good environment for the creation of strong institutions, genuine electoral reforms and the fight against corruption, with a national sovereign conference it will likely address and solve once and for all concerns of the Southern Cameroonians issue who feel to have been marginalized and are seeking the restoration of their statehood, with a sovereign national conference people will speak their minds and not hide any secret, people must be ready to listen and as hard as it might be forgive one another for this will bring a true and genuine reconciliation which to me will drive Cameroon to meet the 21st century challenges just like countries like South Africa, Ghana, amongst African nations with strong institutions and a vibrant economy, you can name a lot.
Cameroon:Unpredictable President and Weak Institutions Call For Concern
July 21, 2013 | 5 Comments
-Prof T.Asonganyi on the Twin Elections and the Political Climate in Cameroon
By Ajong Mbapndah L
He may be out of partisan politics but Prof Tazoacha Asonganyi remains one of the most articulate voices of reason in Cameroon. The former Secretary General of the Social Democratic Front-SDF has continued to offer insightful reading into political developments with luminary proposals on alternative paths to the change that has eluded Cameroonians for decades. As the country is caught in the frenzy of another ill prepared elections with predictable results, Prof Asonganyi opines that though the opposition has lost so much credibility, the elections are a choice between bad and worse and if the electoral system had a modicum of credibility, Cameroonians will prefer the opposition which is bad to the regime that has fared worse. With the unpredictability of President Biya’s mind and the weakness of Institutions to withstand any unforeseen shocks, there is every reason to be nervous says Prof Asonganyi.
Prof Asonganyi, President Biya recently announced Legislative and Municipal elections on June 30 to be held on September 30 and the decision seems to have taken people both in the ruling party and the opposition by surprise, why so considering that mandate of the present officials had long expired?
Yes, the mandate of Parliament and Councils had since expired. You know the twin Legislative and municipal elections that brought in the outgoing parliamentarians and councilors was held on July 22, 2007. Their 5-year mandate was supposed to expire in 2012, but it was extended twice to have them stay beyond the mandate up to mid 2013. Law No. 91/20 0f 16 December 1991 to lay down conditions governing the election of Members of Parliament, provided that a substantive candidate and the alternate would both pay a caution of 50.000 FCFA into the state treasury for their candidature. Law No. 2006-9 of 29 December 2006 modifies this amount to 500.000 FCFA. Parliament amended this to 3.000.000 FCFA in the bill of the Electoral Code that was debated and voted in March 2012 but I think before the bill was signed into law, it was modified to 1.000.000 FCFA (for candidate and alternate together). In general, it is usually the substantive candidate that coughed out this amount. The opposition and the grassroots of the CPDM have been complaining that this amount was too high. Therefore, people were caught unprepared to cough out this huge sum. I think it was more a feeling of financial unpreparedness than surprise.
Elections over the years have suffered from persistent flaws, with the computerization of voters’ registration any remote prospects of fairness and transparency in the September 30th elections?
You know the biometric system of registration of voters which was instituted is good but it is very delicate. It is only as good as you want it to be. The standard approach for setting up a credible electoral roll using the biometric system is that the first phase of general registration of voters in the field provides what would be called a “raw” – preliminary – list of voters. Following the first phase, the “raw” list is published in the various areas for verification and corrections. This second phase provides a “raw” corrected electoral roll. The “raw corrected” roll is then screened centrally with multi-biometric identification technology containing a matching server to automatically detect and delete multiple registration to clean up the register. It is this cleaned up register that constitutes a national electoral register that can be used for free, fair and credible elections. Indeed, it is this last phase that should tell us how many eligible voters have been actually registered by ELECAM using the biometric voter registration system. Unfortunately, the ELECAM chair is still talking about the 5.5 million voters that were registered in the raw, preliminary list of voters. This means that there has been no screening to remove double and multiple names entered in the roll. It is known that some people registered at their places of residence, and then went to their villages and registered again; or some people registered in their places of residence more than once.
The general expectation was that some 8 to 9 million voters would be registered. Since ELECAM could come up with a figure of only 5.5 million they must be shy of carrying out an editing process that would reduce the numbers even further. So it is now clear that ELECAM did not edit the raw list. The ELECAM chair is telling the press that “there are spelling errors in some card…..but these will not debar anyone from voting…” This is also an indication that the raw register was never sent to the field for corrections.
I kept reminding ELECAM during the registration phase that those with entrenched interests – the spoilers who made nonsense of past electoral registers: political thugs-cum-bandits-cum-party bigwigs – were still active in the field to re-enact their fraud exploits. They obviously succeeded. Therefore I do not think that as far as the electoral roll is concerned, much has changed: there are still multiple entries for some voters.
There are reports that only about five million voters were registered, and should the distribution of voters cards be mired with the deliberate cacophony we know, it means the number which actually votes may even be lower, what kind of legitimacy will those “elected” have?
Yes, as we have just said, there were some 5.5 million names in the raw list brought from the field. The standard practice for biometric registration is that a voter is issued a voter’s card upon registration. Since the raw list is usually edited as we have indicated above, those who registered more than once would not find their names in the final electoral roll; the cards they carry would therefore not permit them to vote. The responsibility for not voting would be theirs since they committed the crime of registering more than once. In the situation as it is now, unfortunately the receipts that were issued when people were registered did not show their polling stations where they will cast their votes; where they would have gone and collected their cards on polling day, if they did not find it now. So the distribution process will still be mired with the cacophony that has mired past processes. Those that win will enjoy only the type of legitimacy that others in the past enjoyed.
Looking at the bigger picture, just like the Senatorial elections, some analysts see the September 30th elections in the context of a post Biya era with the decision of the CPDM leader to shun primaries a sign that he wants to maintain absolute control in the transition process, what is your reading of the political situation?
Yes. The CPDM seems to prefer people they know – incumbents that actively supported the amendment of Article 6 (2) which provided that the president shall be elected for a term of office of 7 years; he shall be eligible for re-election once. The amendment allowed Paul Biya to stay beyond two seven-year terms. Those people who helped him to obtain the amendment need to be maintained as compensation for such positive contribution to the regime, without any consideration for any other candidate sent forward by the grassroots. If the incumbents succeed to send a list to the Central Committee, however they come by it, they are assured of being selected over more popular candidates from the grassroots. These people the regime knows better are the preferred persons to have around during this end-of-reign period.
I wonder what criteria was used, but there is disenchantment from people on the way the parliamentary seats were distributed across the country, it is curious to see that it is CPDM militants like Ateba Eyene voicing out frustration at the arbitrary distribution of seats and not the opposition what is going on?
Well, Ateba Yene is a different kind of CPDM militant. You know the last population census in Cameroon was in 2005 but the results were only published in 2010, after some five years of manipulation of the figures. Indeed, the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks recently provided evidence that such manipulation took place to inflate population figures in places that support Paul Biya, or places that Paul Biya can easily manipulate and control. It is such manipulated figures that guided his creation of “special” constituencies in preparation for the September 30 twin elections. There is no reason why Tiko and Muyuka together should have one seat while there are two seats in Buea. There is no reason why a place like Lebialem, expected to have at least two seats should have only one while small areas in the South and other regions have multiple seats. The population distribution per seat in the country varies considerably, from an average per region of some 70.000/seat to over 100.000/seat. Incumbents usually gerrymander for personal political reasons; however, it is usually not as fragrant as the one we are witnessing in Cameroon. As for the opposition speaking up, the opposition has changed a lot over the last few years. It is usually said that those who have food in their mouths do not speak.
Looking at the opposition the way it is at the moment, can it win if the elections were free and fair, we wish the CPDM and its leader could take the risk and for once try free and fair elections, will the opposition fare any better in such a scenario today?
You know the overwhelming majority of Cameroonians would like to have a regime change in Cameroon. The present regime has lasted too long, and has very little to show for its longevity. So, most Cameroonians would vote against it if they had the opportunity to do so. The opposition has lost a lot of credibility but it is a choice between the bad and the worst. The devil we know is so bad that most Cameroonians will prefer the devil they do not know. So, yes, the opposition will fare better in such a scenario.
Is there anything that the opposition can do to register better results; one understands the level of mistrust but may mergers, zoning, or rallying behind specific parties based on strength in particular areas?
No, all that is impossible. It can occur in limited areas where a party’s list is rejected or the party did not have a list and therefore decided to support another opposition party. Otherwise, the parties have become like a source of self-enrichment for the leaders and they would hardly let their source of enrichment go! They want to remain the alpha and omega of their parties so mergers, zoning, rallying behind other parties is out! The reason why the parties have failed to field a single candidate to face Paul Biya since the experience of 1992 is because the parties have become a wealth-generating machine for the leaders.
One of the things that stood out during the Senatorial circus was President Biya’s obsession with older folks; a CPDM cadre blamed this on the inability of the younger generation to make use of their numerical strength, what is your advice to them and to others across Cameroon who will vote on Sept 30?
The youth want to have a say through primaries but they are refused that option. The youths usually want to see their decisions through from start to finish. When they are excluded from the start, they are demobilized. There was a national youth forum that was formed, that we all thought would become a voice for the youths, but it looks like the whole idea was hijacked by politicians and it fell apart. Otherwise, that is the type of structure that the youth can use to flex their muscles. It is from such structures that they can articulate the politics of youths across parties, and mobilize to make their voice heard at elections. Without such collective mobilization with clear aims and objectives, I doubt that there is much that one can advise the youth to do on September 30 that can have any serious impact.
Sometimes people think the generational shift that is needed pertains only to the CPDM and the ruling elite, should it not also be the case within the ranks of the opposition parties especially the leading ones like the SDF,CDU,UNDP ,etc?
Of course it is a problem across all parties. The parties are structures that serve the personal interests of the entrenched leadership of each party. That is why the same faces are still there since 1990, tending what has slowly become their source of nourishment. To succeed, the generational shift may pass through the creation of different centres of power, rather than depending on what individuals consider as their “thing.” This requires mobilization by people of vision that put general interest first. Such people definitely exist in the country, and need to rise to the challenge.
Last question Prof, as the country moves forward, what should make us nervous and what should make us hopeful?
What makes us nervous is that we do not know what is in Paul Biya’s mind, and the institutions we have are too weak to resist any unforeseen shocks. So we are nervous about what the future holds for us as far as Cameroon-after-Biya (or Cameroon-without-Biya) is concerned. What should make us hopeful? I think the fact that Cameroon has continued to stand on its feet in spite of the several errors of commission and omission, the several misdeeds of the present regime, over a period of over 30 year…
Thanks very much for granting this interview.
It has been a great pleasure. Thank you very much too.
Marc-Vivien Foe death: His legacy 10 years after collapsing on pitch
June 26, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Simon Austin*
In the 73rd minute of the Confederations Cup semi-final between Cameroon and Colombia at Lyon’s Stade de Gerland, the powerful midfielder was jogging along innocuously.
No-one was close to him and nothing seemed wrong, yet suddenly he collapsed to the ground in the centre circle. Medical and support staff attempted to resuscitate the player on the pitch, before carrying him on a stretcher to the bowels of the stadium, where attempts to restart his heart failed and the man known affectionately by his team-mates as ‘Marcus’ was pronounced dead.
That was 10 years ago, on 26 June 2003, but the memories are still painfully fresh for Cameroon’s then manager, Winfried Schafer. The German says neither he nor his players had realised the seriousness of the situation at first.
“We won the match 1-0 and the players were dancing in the changing rooms afterwards,” he told BBC World Service’s Sportsworld programme. “Then [captain] Rigobert Song came in and cried and said “Marcus, Marcus” and told us he was dead.
“Everyone was shocked and was asking why. All the players were crying. I went out of the dressing room and heard two ladies crying very, very loudly. Then I saw Marcus lying there, on a table, with his mother and wife by his side. I touched his leg and I went outside and cried too.”
Pat Nevin, then chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, was broadcasting at the tournament and attended a special Cameroon news conference the following day.
“It was devastating for everyone involved, but there were some lifting moments,” he remembers. “Seven Cameroon players came out and they all spoke beautifully about their friend and team-mate and their desire to carry on in the tournament.
A first autopsy failed to establish the cause of the 28-year-old’s death, but a second found he been suffering from a condition calledhypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
The big question everyone asked was how could a fit, athletic footballer with no known history of heart problems have died in such a way?
“When you looked at that Cameroon team, they were big, strong and tall, and Marc-Vivien epitomised that,” Nevin says. “He was a box-to-box player and his fitness was extraordinary.”
Sanjay Sharma, Professor of Cardiology at the University of London, who has worked with both Manchester City and Team GB at the 2012 Olympics, explains that the first sign of the condition is often death.
“People with the condition, which is characterised by abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, are about three to five times more likely to suffer a cardiac arrest if exercising vigorously than leading a sedentary lifestyle,” he says.
“Sadly, 80% of sportsmen who die from this condition have no prior warning signals and sudden death is the first presentation.”
After consultation with Foe’s widow, Marie-Louise, as well as his parents, Fifa decided that the Confederations Cup final between France and Columbia should go ahead as planned. Many of France’s players, including striker Thierry Henry, were in tears as they lined up before the game.
The midfielder was given a state funeral in Cameroon in July 2003. Journalist Francis N-gwa Niba, who was there, remembers: “The funeral was huge. The president was there, [Fifa president] Sepp Blatter, everyone who was anyone in African football.
“Thousands stood by the side of the road outside the cathedral and I remember one banner in particular, which read ‘a lion never dies, he just sleeps’.”
Foe left behind a wife and sons aged six and three, as well as a daughter of only two months old. The player’s generosity had been legendary, and there were reports that he hadn’t much money left behind.
Foe was buried on the site of the football academy he had been having built in his hometown of Yaounde. He used to send a proportion of his wages home to his father Martin each month to fund the construction of the complex, but N-gwa Niba says it now “sadly has practically been abandoned now because of lack of funding”.
Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions have also been in decline following the death of their star midfielder. Going into the 2003 Confederations Cup they were the undoubted kings of their continent, having won the previous two African Cup of Nations tournaments, in 2000 and 2002.
Since then, N-gwa Niba says “Cameroon football has been going down the drain” and they haven’t won another Cup of Nations.
Foe had been on loan at Manchester City from Lyon in the 2002-03 season, making 35 appearances and scoring nine goals. City retired his number 23 shirt after his death, while a street was named after him in Lyon.
A positive result of Foe’s death has been huge improvements in both the testing of footballers for heart problems and the treatment they receive during matches
. Professor Sharma admits he was shocked when he watched footage of the on-field treatment that Foe received.
“A player went down without any contact, his eyes rolled back, he had no tone in his body, so it was clear something terrible had gone wrong,” he says.
“It took quite a while for the penny to drop that this was not going to get better with the magic sponge or fluid being poured on his head though. As cardiologists, we like resuscitation to start within a minute and a half of someone going down, and for the defibrilator to be used within three minutes.
“That gives us an outcome of about 70% living. Yet a good five, six minutes went by before I could see any positive action with Marc-Vivien Foe. That was perhaps because this was the first time something like this had happened in football. After all, you don’t expect a champion footballer like this to go down and die.”
Fifa’s chief medical officer, Jiri Dvorak, admits big improvements had to be made following Foe’s death.
“We have done a lot of work to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest since then,” he told BBC Sport. “At all levels, we have examination of players before arrival at a competition.
“We have also trained the sideline medical teams in CPR and using defibrilators. We have a plan if something happens and the equipment – including for the team physicians of all teams. The medical personnel are adequately educated.”
Professor Sharma says such improvements were in evidence when Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup match against Tottenham last March.
“If you look at the first minutes of him going down, it was clear the medical staff quickly realised the severity of the situation,” he said. “The first thing I noticed in the Bolton doctor’s hand was a defibrilator. They started resuscitation on the pitch and delivered two shocks before they moved him.”
There will be a tribute to Foe before Wednesday’s Confederations Cup semi-final between Brazil and Uruguay.
A decade on, football will remember a fine player who grew up in poverty in Africa and went on to play in some of the biggest leagues in Europe. Foe’s former team-mate, Shaka Hislop, says he will mainly remember a friendly, happy and down-to-earth man though.
Foe arrived at West Ham in 2000 as their club record £4m signing, yet could not have been more unassuming.
“He was much-heralded and seemingly had the world at his feet,” says Hislop, “but he was as genuine and likeable as they come. Regardless of what was asked of him, he did it with a smile and I thought he represented the best of football and footballers.”