Enoh Meyomesse, Cameroonian writer and activist, released from prison
April 30, 2015 | 0 Comments
Alison Flood* [caption id="attachment_17834" align="alignleft" width="300"] Enoh Meyomesse, right, after his release from Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Photograph: Pen International[/caption] The Cameroonian poet, essayist and political activist Enoh Meyomesse has been released from prison this week after more than three years in jail. “It’s funny to see the prison from outside,” Meyomesse told the writer Patrice Nganang, who campaigned for his release. “They practically threw me outside. It was quite forceful. But if it is kicking me outside to freedom, then there’s nothing to complain about.” The author, who has published more than 15 books – and who unsuccessfully ran for the Cameroon presidency in October 2011, challenging Paul Biya’s 30-year rule – was arrested in the country’s capital, Yaoundé, in November 2011 and charged with armed robbery and attempting to organise a coup. According to English PEN, he was held in solitary confinement and complete darkness in Bertoua for 30 days, before being moved to Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé. The charges against Meyomesse – which were widely believed to be politically motivated – all subsequently crumbled in June 2012. However, the next month a judge ordered a six-month extension of his detention, and in December 2012 the writer was charged afresh, found guilty of armed robbery and the illegal sale of gold and sentenced to seven years in prison. Following years of legal appeals and lobbying by PEN, he was acquitted in April, and it was decided that the 40-month sentence for an additional charge of handling stolen goods had already been served. Meyomesse’s lawyers are now appealing to Cameroon’s supreme court in order to clear his name entirely. In an open letter to President Biya just before his release, Meyomesse wrote: “President of the republic – once again I come to humbly request your intervention to ensure that I can finally regain my freedom. Forty months in Kondengui, you cannot know what it does to a human being. Your life stops.” The author has been a major focus for the Writers at Risk programme at English PEN, with supporters sending him books and writing material, lobbying authorities and publishing his work. In an open letter to Meyomesse, published late last year, the acclaimed Congolese author Alain Mabanckou wrote: “We will never cease to speak your name and to denounce, from every rooftop of the world, the injustice that befell you and the contempt shown by the justice system towards you.” While incarcerated, Meyomesse sent a message of support for the campaign to allow UK prisoners to receive booksduring their sentences, saying “like oxygen, they cannot be replaced”. “I am one of the many people who has benefited from the books sent to prisoners all over the world by English PEN,” he wrote. “They have brought me an irreplaceable joy and huge moral support whilst in Kondengui prison. They have proven to me that, while my biological family has abandoned me, there exists another family – perhaps even more important – a literary family, a family of novelists and poets like me, which is always beside me and will never abandon me.” English PEN’s Cat Lucas said the organisation was “overjoyed” that Meyomesse had finally been released from prison. Tamsin Mitchell, Africa researcher at PEN International’s writers in prison committee, said the campaigners would “continue to support Enoh to recover his health, which has suffered as a result of more than three years’ imprisonment in poor conditions, and in his fight to clear his name”. She also urged the Cameroonian authorities to expedite Meyomesse’s supreme court appeal and to ensure that he remained free to write. *Source The Guardian]]>
"It seems the best way for S.Africans to express their problems to Govt is to attack foreigners."
April 26, 2015 | 0 Comments
Solomon Amabo infront of Cameroon High Commission office in South Africa[/caption] South Africans see attacks on foreigners as one of the best ways to express their frustrations to their government says Solomon Amabo who was among the numerous African victims of xenophobia in Mandela’s country. A Journalist from Cameroon, Amabo and others were lucky to escape when his home in Jeppestown,Johannesbourg, was stormed by irate South Africans seeking to send foreigners packing. Amabo says he has not previously had any issues with South Africans . “Foreigners look for capital and create their own jobs,” says Amabo in debunking claims that jobs meant for South Africans are taken by foreigners. Amabo also expressed concerns on the poor response of the Cameroon government to plight of his compatriots caught in the crossfire of the attacks. In an incident which took place after the interview, the fears of Amabo were justified when a meeting he had with the Cameroon High Commissioner to South Africa to address the plight of Cameroonians went ugly. Can you shed more light on the attack you suffered recently in South Africa, how did this happen? I was home (351 Hans and Fox Street, Jeppestown Johannesburg, South Africa) It was about 10 pm on 17 April 2015. With the attack on foreigners, everybody is always on alert. At that 10 pm, I prayed and read Psalm 91 and was about to sleep. I heard a group of people singing not far from my home. Five minutes later I started hearing how my door was being hit. I immediately knew our compound was under attack. First reaction was to call some compatriots notably Comrade Milton Taka of the Social Democratic Front,SDF(an opposition party in Cameroon) and then screamed to wake up all the neighbours. ‘We are going to kill you. Open the door.’ Kwere were’ (foreigners). All of you must leave South Africa,” I heard the voices saying Bang, bang, my first iron door pulled off apparently I thought. ‘Why do you want to kill me? We can negotiate. We are brothers; we are Africans,’ I said, as I started broking through my window in a bid to escape. ‘Bang, bang,’ they continued hitting the second door which I had now blocked with my bed. Things were going too fast. [caption id="attachment_17715" align="alignright" width="180"] Elvis Apianga from Cameroon was one of those who died from the xenophobic attacks in Johanesburg ,South Africa[/caption] With everyone on alert, the police were called in by neighbors. Before they could finally break the second iron door and get to me, I, and with the assistance of neighbours had broken the window and escaped to safety. As I escaped they shot me with stones. (See destroyed window). More than 8 of us all tenants living in the compound had moved on to the roof of the building. We were preparing to start firing stones we had prepared against the group of about ten persons who attacked our compound with cutlasses, sticks and other weapons. In less than 6 minutes, two cars from the South-African Police Service (SAPS) whom I keep thanking for their prompt response! The Police then ferried me and some other neighbors to the Jeppestown police station where we spent the night. While there, I met more than 20 other foreign nationals and some security guards who had abandoned their duty post to seek refuge at the police station. I heard that other houses were looted same night within that neighborhood. At dawn on April 18, policemen accompanied me to my house. I could not find some R2700, my TV set my laptop and other items which I think would be known after. My home was ransacked. I returned to the JeppesTown Police Station where I opened a case of robbery against x. It is only later in the evening that I discovered that I had bruises on my arms in the course of my escape. From the police station, some benevolent friend thereafter took me to his for safety. . What was the reaction of South Africans who live in the same building as you, where there accomplices to the attack or there was some sympathy from them? They showed sympathy. But the building is inhabited by Kenyans, Malawians Mozambicans etc. everybody is scared because any foreigner can be attacked. Some of them are the ones who called the police while the attack on my house was ongoing. Prior to the attack have you had any conflicts with South Africans or what is it you did as a person that will prompt such an attack on you? I do not have any problem with any South Africa. This is a country that you learn to avoid argument with anyone for fear of being killed. After my house other houses were attacked and looted. How prompt was the response of the police when you called and what measures have been taken to beef up security where you live? [caption id="attachment_17716" align="alignleft" width="300"] Amabo’s apartment was ransacked[/caption] The police were very prompt as explained above,. They are working 24/7. when we were at the police post, the kept being deployed once the get report of an area being attacked. Many of them have been deployed in Jeppestown where I lived. Today April 21, Defence Minister Nosviwe Mapisa announced the deployment of hot spots of xenophobia in the country. How did this wave of xenophobia start and did the journalist you are see this coming? SA has been like that. There was xenophobia in 2008 and 2009. To be clear from time to time this would occur because it seems the best way for SA to express their problems to govt is to attack foreigners. This year it started when the Zulu King Zwelitini Goodwill accused foreigners of owning much businesses, depriving nationals. The speech was unexpected and I learnt that he was angry at the fact that some black foreign nationals had robbed him in a diamond deal. I don’t think this is the last because the country is generally insecure. Many civilians carry illegal weapons. I wish to think these are weapons used to end apartheid. Eminent personalities like former President Mbeki say the xenophobia is perpetrated by a small minority , is that really the case considering the scale of the violence and gory images that are floating around ? He can be right to an extent because so far only two provinces, Gauteng and Kzazulu Natal- Durban have witnessed Xenophobia. Besides not all south Africans support xenophobia. What appraisal do you make of President Zuma’s response, how helpful has it been in dousing the flames and tension? Zuma has tried as he could to deploy first some 350 soldiers to check illegal immigration. He has been on media, parliament and even met the victims to try stop it. He has finally heeded calls to deploy troops. He has done what I think he could, but I think he should try to get people documented to avoid discontent. This is not the first time such attacks are taking place, is South Africa moving towards black on black apartheid? [caption id="attachment_17719" align="alignright" width="300"] With Djeukam Tchameni of the Cap Liberte fame, Amabo has become the most visible voice articulating the plight of Cameroonians affected by the attacks in South Africa[/caption] I don’t think that we are moving towards apartheid. The foreign community is already too many. You Can understand the situation if you note that SA were deprived of education for more than 40 years. The people see violence like only solution and death as nothing. Gradually the people are being educated and things are changing. It would take time. Maybe one or two generations of at least 40 years each. Some have explained the xenophobia on economic grounds, from your observations, are foreigners actually taking jobs that South Africans should be doing? What jobs are we talking about here? Foreigners look for capital and create their own jobs because most of them do not have required stay documents. How can SA be fighting over cleaning jobs? The issue is that it is believed that with the grants the government give per child, old age grants, free houses they don’t want to work and accuse foreigners. Where are the jobs? Its really difficult even if you are qualified. SA need to get training educated to be able to take over foreign expertise. It would come though with time. We have heard of several governments taking measures evacuate your citizens, are there any plans the Cameroon government is making offer the help its nationals may need? The Embassy has remained silent and do not pick even phone calls or respond to email. I will have to storm the embassy before Friday. We have victims and those who want to go home. Can the embassy assist. That is what we should know.]]>
UBA Cameroon Wins “Prepaid Innovative Product of the Year” Award for its Innovative “Cobranded Student ID Visa Prepaid”
April 15, 2015 | 0 Comments
Africa is the continent that will see the largest increase in electronic payments between now and 2016
Visa an international electronic payment company, sponsored the Prepaid Summit Middle East event for the sixth consecutive year in 2015. The event was held in Dubai. Uniting over 150 leading participants, this conference is a regional standard for the electronic payments industry.
On this occasion, various awards were presented during a ceremony to regional financial institutions, including a significant number based in Africa and the Middle East. These were Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait, Banque Al Jazira, Banque Libano-Française, Commercial Bank of Qatar, SCC Bank, Kuwait Finance House and United Bank of Africa (UBA) Cameroon.
After the awards ceremony, UBA Cameroon was crowned the winner of the “Prepaid Innovative Product of the Year” award for its innovative “Cobranded Student ID Visa Prepaid” concept, which aims to provide universities and students with a multi-function Visa card.
Serving as an identification card for the student, with information identifying the student and indicating his or her department and university year, this reloadable prepaid card can also be used internationally. This is the first prepaid programme of its kind in Francophone Africa.
Thanks to its Student UBA prepaid Visa card, UBA Cameroon has signed three partnerships with the largest universities in the country: Université de Douala, Université de Yaoundé 1 and Université de Yaoundé 2. Today, 50,000 cards are used by students at Université de Douala and close to 100,000 more are being produced for Université de Yaoundé 1 and Université de Yaoundé 2.
Speaking on the presentation of the “Prepaid Innovative Product of the Year” award to UBA Cameroon, Mohamed Touhami El Ouazzani, General Manager of Visa for Morocco and Francophone Africa, stated: “I am very happy that UBA Cameroon has been recognised for its efforts in support of the development of electronic payments. Africa is the continent that will see the largest increase in electronic payments between now and 2016. In this area, Visa offers numerous innovation-based mobile banking services and solutions through its partnerships with financial institutions and international mobile phone businesses, notably via Samsung Pay and Apple Pay. Thanks to Visa Token Service technology, these two new services will facilitate secure payments with a broad range of connected devices. They will replace the sensitive payment account information contained on plastic cards with a digital account number that can be stored in complete safety on mobile devices and used to pay for purchases in stores or through apps.”
This year, the Prepaid Summit Middle East awards committee received a record number of nominations from over 50 countries, including Algeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Cameroon soldiers defy Boko Haram in polio battle
April 14, 2015 | 0 Comments
Photo: Kingsley Nfor Monde/IRIN
The vaccination campaign in full flow in Cameroon’s Minawao camp[/caption] MAROUA, 13 April 2015 (IRIN) – How do you vaccinate women and children against polio in remote areas prey to attack from Boko Haram militants? Arm the soldiers with vaccine. This is exactly what has happened with great success in northern Cameroon. Following a series of abductions last year by Boko Haram groups, military escorts have been joining vaccination drives in Cameroon’s Far North Region to protect both local and international humanitarian workers. In addition to acting as a security presence, officers, who normally patrol the frontlines and at-risk border communities, are also trained to administer polio vaccines – a tactic UNICEF says has been key to the successful campaign. It allowed children in even the most dangerous areas to be vaccinated, as well as refugees the moment their families crossed the border. “It is our role to protect the population and prevent them from whatever danger, including health threats,” a Cameroonian commander, who wished to remain anonymous, told IRIN. “So we are simply adding more value to the work that we are already doing.” Military personnel also engaged with community leaders and radio stations to spread word of the importance of the vaccinations. “In my locality, I make sure that my people get excited and look for the vaccinators,” said a chief called Lamido from Guidiguis in far northern Cameroon. Turning the corner after 18 months As a result of the military involvement, the polio vaccination drive in the Far North Region has surpassed this year’s goals in spite of the challenges posed by Boko Haram and the massive influx of refugees from Nigeria. The latest campaign, which took place 27-29 March, reached 1.4 million children under the age of five – nearly 100,000 more than initially targeted, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “Despite the security challenges, polio vaccination campaigns have been registering better results over the past months as a result of increased military presence and [military] participation in the vaccination process,” said regional health ministry official Flaubert Danbe. Recent progress comes after more than 18 difficult months trying to contain polio, which broke out again in Cameroon in October 2013. At least 13 previous immunization campaigns were at least partially thwarted by Boko Haram-related violence, or resistance from refugees from neighbouring Nigeria, where polio is endemic. In 2014, childhood immunization rates in Cameroon stood at just 60 percent, according to the Ministry of Health – a figure well below the 90 percent minimum needed to eradicate the disease. Cameroon has had no new cases of polio in more than six months and was downgraded from a polio-exporting country on 31 March, but the World Health Organization (WHO) still considers it to be at “high risk” due to the challenges in administering the vaccination and the ongoing refugee problem. The number of Nigerian children not vaccinated against polio increased from 778,000 in November 2014 to 1.1 million in January 2015, according to UNICEF. Just one cross-border case could restart an outbreak in Cameroon, authorities say. Overcoming the challenges Immunization campaigns in the region have been plagued by insecurity since the beginning of 2014, when Boko Haram began to extend its attacks from Nigeria into Cameroon. At least nine of the 30 health districts in the Far North Region have been affected, with women and children the ones most likely to miss out. “Access to health care systems by the local population is difficult as some clinics have been closed as a result of the [insecurity],” UNICEF’s Antoine Ntapli told IRIN. The influx of Nigerian refugees into northern Cameroon has also put a strain on local health care services, which are not well enough equipped or staffed to handle large caseloads. Many local health workers have fled the area, further straining already limited resources. “The exodus of Nigerian refugees across communities and the internal displacement of the population are among the challenges… coupled with the inaccessibility of population still living in risky areas,” Ntapli said. More than 74,000 Nigerians have taken refuge in Cameroon due to Boko Haram attacks, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Eastern Cameroon is also host to the largest number of refugees from the Central African Republic – around 200,000 people, according to the latest figures from UNHCR. An estimated 117,000 Cameroonians living in border communities have also been displaced within the country’s Far North Region, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says. This constant movement of people makes administering the vaccination to children particularly difficult. The oral vaccine requires three two-drop doses, usually given four weeks apart, in order to be fully effective. As people flee one attack to the next, it is challenging for health workers to keep track of their whereabouts and follow up on the booster doses. Cultural resistance from Nigerian refugees [caption id="attachment_17449" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo: Kingsley Nfor Monde/IRIN
A child receives the polio vaccine in the Minawao refugeee camp[/caption] For Nigerian newcomers not vaccinated upon arrival in Cameroon, campaigns are conducted on a near constant basis in the refugee camps. “The vaccination of the displaced is an ongoing process and vaccines must be available to be given to every new arrival,” Ntapli said. Each refugee who enters a camp is vaccinated against both polio and yellow fever, among other diseases. But polio vaccination has faced strong resistance within conservative Islamic communities in northern Nigeria due to a deep distrust of the West, persistent rumours that the vaccine is harmful, and the house-to-house approach taken by immunization campaigners, which many see as intrusive. Garba Dauda, a vaccination agent at the Minawao refugee camp, said many Nigerians there originate from places where polio immunization has a bad name. “Some refugees used to oppose vaccination at first, but we have managed [with education campaigns] to change people’s mentality and now they are more receptive,” Dauda said. UNICEF and Cameroon’s health ministry say they now plan to extend this type of vaccination campaign to the east of the country. *Source IRIN]]>
African campaigners take aim at immovable leaders
April 6, 2015 | 1 Comments
By Marie Wolfrom*
Paris (AFP) – Fed up with immovable African presidents and political dynasties, campaigners across the continent are joining forces to “turn the page” on leaders who see power as an end in itself.[caption id="attachment_17357" align="alignleft" width="300"] French president Francois Hollande (right) talks to Cameroon’s long-serving President Paul Biya, on November 30, 2014, in Dakar (AFP Photo/Alain Jocard)[/caption]
As Nigeria marked its first ever democratic change of power following national elections, a report published this week by the Tournons La Page (Turn the Page) campaign group highlighted just how unusual incumbent Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to concede defeat was.
According to the report, 88 percent of Togolese and 87 percent of people in Gabon have only known one ruling family.
Burkina Faso dictator Blaise Compaore was driven out by his people last October after 27 years of rule while President Paul Biya of Cameroon and his Congolese counterpart Denis Sassou Nguesso have each accumulated more than thirty years in power.
Cameroon’s democracy hunters may well be casting envious glances over the border to Nigeria where Muhammadu Buhari scored a narrow electoral victory over Jonathan in the country’s March 28 poll.With a raft of upcoming elections in mind, the regional appeal to turn the page was launched late last year by NGOs in 30 African and European countries and signed by prominent African figures including Senegalese singer Youssou N’dour and Cameroonian historian Achille Mbembe.
The call for change harks back to the multi-party politics which began to emerge in the 1990s.
Twenty years on the campaigners are seeking to energise ordinary people and make a round of elections throughout Africa over the next couple of years result in an end to the dynasties.
“We realised that Congolese civil society was becoming more amorphous… and was not playing its role,” said Jean-Chrysostome Kijana, head of the New Dynamic of Civil Society group founded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2013.
– The ‘dictators union’ –
He was in Paris for a conference organised by ‘Turn the Page’, at which he spoke alongside campaigners from Cameroon, Congo Gabon and Togo.
New movements are springing up and inspiring each other; “Enough is Enough” in Senegal and the “Citizens’ Broom” in Burkina Faso were trailblazers, recently joined by similar groups in Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The fall of Compaore in Burkina Faso and the proposal by Senegal’s President Macky Sall to reduce his own mandate by two years have fuelled hopes that public mobilisation elsewhere can bring about change.
“We have to understand, in Africa too, that we are able to offer an example, and that power is not an end in itself,” Sall said last month as he made his announcement.
His move followed a plea by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to African leaders gathered for an annual summit in January not to cling to power and to respect the wishes of their people.
“We are in communication with Citizen’s Broom in Burkina. We share our experiences,” said Kijana.
“I think we can make many links between African civil groups and that will send a message to the ‘dictators’ union’,” said Brigitte Ameganvi of the Synergie Togo group.
– Social networks –
“Each country has its own people and each organises in its own way,” said Marc Ona, a Gabonese participant at the Paris event.
“We’ve got the smartphones, the social networks, it’s impossible to block the flow of information today.”
But despite the exchange of ideas and experiences by linked-up civil groups across the continent, they are not yet in a position to take concrete action.
In the central African nation of Burundi, ahead of elections in May and June, civil groups and local media say they are paying the price for campaigning against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to defy a two-term limit and stay in power for another five years.[caption id="attachment_17358" align="alignright" width="300"] People celebrate in Ouagadougou on October 31, 2014 after Burkinese President Blaise Compaore announced that he was stepping down (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)[/caption]
There are allegations of widespread harassment and threats of violence, and even talk of a hit-list containing the names of opposition figures, civil society activists and journalists ahead of parliamentary polls in May and the presidential election in June.
Bob Rugurika, director of the popular independent African Public Radio (RPA), is among those who have been arrested, picked up in January after implicating intelligence officials in the recent murders of Italian nuns.
In the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila is suspected by the opposition of seeking to hang on to power at the end of his second term in late 2016.
US President Barack Obama this week urged him to respect his country’s constitution.
Protests against a draft revision of the electoral law were bloodily repressed in January. This was followed by an Internet shutdown and the blocking of social network sites.
In mid-March, 30 Congolese activists, along with others from Senegal and Burkina Faso, were arrested for taking part in a meeting in Kinshasa on democracy and good governance.
– ‘Dinosaurs’ –
“This is the behaviour of dictators and thugs”, said rapper Serge Bambara, known as Smockey, a founding figure of the Citizens’ Broom movement.
“We talk about the Arab Spring. Now we must speak of the African Harmattan (a hot dry wind from west Africa) because it’s time for the prevailing wind to move the people,” he added.
In his sights is President Kabila, but also Chad’s Idriss Deby who came to power by force in 1990 and Cameroon’s Paul Biya, all of whom he described as “dinosaurs.”
The African activists’ conference in Paris is also intended to nudge the international community, which he sees as often too complacent against African potentates.
“As African citizens, we want to see pressure and even sanctions” from the international community, “because things have to change,” said Kijana.*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>
Cameroon honours 38 soldiers killed in Boko Haram fight
March 7, 2015 | 0 Comments
Cameroonian soldiers march around coffins during a ceremony for 38 soldiers who died in the north of the country while fighting Islamist Boko Haram militants, at the military headquarters in Yaounde on March 6, 2015 (AFP Photo/Reinnier Kaze)[/caption]
Yaoundé (AFP) – Cameroon honoured 38 soldiers on Friday killed in fighting with Boko Haram Islamists in recent months, with officials pledging the struggle against the militants will be won.
Coffins of the troops who died in clashes in the country’s far north were on display as their families and officials gathered to remember them.
“The head of state, commander in chief, commemorates with great sadness the memory of these soldiers who died defending their country,” Cameroon’s Defence Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o said.
“The war against Boko Haram, will be won,” he said.
Boko Haram has expanded its insurgency from Nigeria in recent months, attacking border areas of neighbouring countries including Cameroon.
Cameroon deployed its army in the far north in August against the insurgents and over 60 of its soldiers have been killed since then.
In recent months the west African nation has held a series of ceremonies to remember its fallen troops, killed during roughly 20 attacks that took place between December and February in a range of Cameroonian towns on the Nigerian border such as Fotokol and Kolofata.
The youngest soldier was just 22 when he died. All the dead were awarded medals honouring them for bravery.Army officials claim that thousands of Boko Haram fighters have been killed, but it is impossible to independently verify the figures. *Source AFP/Yahoo]]>
Residents: Boko Haram readies for battle in NE Nigeria
March 6, 2015 | 0 Comments
By HARUNA UMAR*
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram fighters are massing at their headquarters in the northeast Nigerian town of Gwoza in preparation for a showdown with multinational forces, residents and an intelligence officer said.
A woman trapped there since Gwoza was seized in July told her daughter that Islamic extremists are urging civilians to leave town to avoid being killed in crossfire in an anticipated major battle.
Hajiya Adama said her mother said the fighters also have released young women being held against their will, including some made pregnant during their captivity.
She said her mother left last week and escaped to the town of Yola, in neighboring Adamawa state.
“She told me that Boko Haram terrorists asked them to leave suddenly, that they were preparing grounds for a major battle,” Adama told The Associated Press. “She said while being helped by other women to leave through Madagali, they saw many Boko Haram terrorists in trucks and some on bikes moving toward Gwoza.”
An intelligence officer said security forces are moving slowly for fear of harming civilians, and especially since Boko Haram is surrounding Gwoza with land mines.
He confirmed forces from Chad are in the area, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.
Boko Haram in August declared an Islamic caliphate across a swath of northeast Nigeria where it held sway. In recent weeks, Chadian and Nigerian troops have retaken a score of towns. But the militants continue to kill scores in suicide bombings and village attacks.
Retaking Gwoza would be a major coup for Nigeria and for the campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan for re-election at critical March 28 ballots. Critics say the contest is too close to call between Jonathan, a southern Christian, and retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator who has vowed to stamp out the 6-year-old insurgency that has killed an estimated 12,000 people and left 1.6 million homeless.*Source AP/Yahoo
Common enemy:How five armies are uniting to tackle Nigeria's Boko Haram
February 26, 2015 | 0 Comments
Boko Haram crisis: Regional force takes shape
‘Common enemy’ It is not clear whether Brig Gen Enitan Ransome Kuti, who was in charge before the force was boosted, will remain its head. He is highly respected but he and other senior officials were arrested in January by Nigerian military authorities after failing to fight off a Boko Haram attack on the force’s headquarters in Baga in north-eastern Borno, one of three states under a state of emergency since 2013. Regional force: Proposed numbers Nigeria 3,500
- Chad 3,500
- Cameroon 750
- Niger 750
- Benin 250
The iceberg of Opposition politics in Cameroon
February 21, 2015 | 0 Comments
Mwalimu George Ngwane*
The resignation of Dr. Elizabeth Tamanjong as Secetary General of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) on 12th February 2015 is not a novelty in the DNA of Opposition party politics in Cameroon. And that is where the problem lies. The resignation risks especially as she is the third Secetary General to resign since the party was founded on 26th May 1990 to be interpreted through the myopic lenses of a déjà vu, nuanced with spatial conversations of conscience or conviction buying or blighted by the current social media rebuttal of real or imaginary ruling party destruction intentions of the SDF.
Be that as it may, this resignation goes beyond the tip of the iceberg to buttress the urgency with which the SDF, which shall be clocking twenty-five this year and which still is the leading numerical Opposition party, needs to address the root and proximate causes of these serial resignations and defections as well as the imperative for political observers to initiate an appreciative inquiry discourse around the state of Opposition politics and the future of liberal democracy in Cameroon.
In a political treatise I wrote in 2004 captioned “Cameroon’s Democratic process, Vision 2020”, I argued among other things that for more than a decade, the goals of multiparty democracy still elude the masses and within the present political context of unbridled demagogy, multiparty may remain a façade and charade, promising much but delivering little. In short, democracy must be content-filled.
The circumstances that led to the emergence of Opposition parties in Cameroon were predicated on the twin phenomena of challenge and change. Challenge was based on the need for the establishment to reform itself and give access to alternative voices while change was the political agenda that meant to reverse the ruling oligarchy in favour of a new dispensation of duty bearers (regime change).
Initially, like in most African countries, the resurgence of Multipartyism in Cameroon was borne out of the hunger for change hence the liberation theology preached by most Opposition parties became the democratic mantra. Liberation theology according to Opposition parties in Cameroon meant that change could come to Cameroon only when the incumbent President Paul Biya was removed from power. To them Biya the person was the stumbling block to democratic development in Cameroon.
The slogan “Biya must go” was used by Opposition parties as a template for acceding power. But even the most radical of the Opposition failed to go beyond what Celestin Monga has termed “slogans in line with populist illusions”. In other words transforming the liberation theology into a structural ideological philosophy became a problematic among Opposition parties. As observed by Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi since the quest for political pluralism is reduced to Multipartyism, Opposition parties are expected to be distinct from and autonomous of the ruling party. Other opposition parties in Cameroon on the other hand believed that real problem towards change went beyond Biya the person (liberation theology) to a complete cleansing of the system which Biya had come to incarnate. To them structural ideological philosophy hinged on constitutional reforms and the putting in place of vibrant democratic institutions.
Therefore even with no clear constitutional provision on the status of Opposition parties in Cameroon (unlike a country like Mozambique where the Opposition is treated as a government in waiting) Dr. Tangie Fonchingong argues that Opposition parties in Cameroon have through various electoral processes given themselves a political identity.
The Opposition of liberation
It was the SDF initial approach that focused on a zero-sum arrangement. Referred to as “external” opposition, this category of Opposition is formed outside the ruling constellation and often within the background of deep-seated disagreement, conflict and protest. It sees itself as a symbol of change and fights to the end for a radically alternative system. Its political mindset is based on “Biya must go” strategy.
The Opposition of cooptation
It is characterized by the desire to share power and the prebends or spoils of power with the ruling party. Attracted by the negative peace notion of broad based governance or government of national unity, this category of Opposition poses no fundamental challenge to the regime. It shores up the regime and seeks mainly to ensure its own share of the spoils rather than presenting radically different proposals. The mind-set of such opposition is based on a win-win situation. All through the electoral process in Cameroon, the NUDP, MDR, MLJC and UPC (the latter being the only Opposition of liberation in Cameroon since 1948) and quite recently the Front for the National Salvation of Cameroon are Opposition parties that are of this nomenclature. Its political paradigm is based on “Biya must share” strategy.
The Opposition of proposition
It is characterized by a strong ideological outfit, working more on ideas rather than revolutionary propaganda. Emerging from the mass base within the same party, the Opposition of proposition seeks mainly for a redress of grievances either in terms of party policy or party performance. It may sometimes break away as splinter group but more often than not stays within as mainstream members disagreeing at their own risk and peril, with party focus. The case of the Progressive or Modernist wing of the Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) with its lists of grievances presented in “The White Book” written by Chief Milla Assoute was a clear example. The postures by the CPDM Parliamentarian Honorable Adama Modi Bakary and the erstwhile CPDM Parliamentarian Honorable Paul Ayah now leader of People’s Action Party (PAP) to break ranks with apologists of a liberal peace system and hegemonic power structure (irrational obedience to party ideology) are cases in point. The political mindset of this group is based on “Biya must change” strategy.
In sum it has been easy to determine the Opposition of conviction from the Opposition of convenience within the democratic process in Cameroon with the latter always taking a strong numerical rise albeit with a weak ideological stance over the former. In the end we have witnessed an Opposition that has over the years become vehicles for the maximization of the interests of political opportunists and not frameworks for mobilizing popular forces for genuine change. This has had a toll on our democratization which according to Prof. Francis Nyamnjoh has served mainly as a face powder, used to justify reactionary propaganda by the ruling party and its acolytes and revolutionary propaganda by the Opposition.
Shortcomings of the Opposition
It is generally argued that the playing field in Cameroon does not militate in favour of Opposition parties winning elections. With no genuine independent/neutral persons within an Independent Electoral Commission (be it National Elections Observatory or Elections Cameroon), and with a contentious new electoral code adopted by a CPDM majority parliament in March 2012, the elections have been reduced to a two horse race between the CPDM and its French translation- RDPC. In effect according to Dr. Tangie Fonchingong, there are a lot of exogenous factors that deprive the Opposition from starting the election race on the same block as the ruling party- disenfranchisement, nonchalant international community, low civic participation, rigging, sterile political debates occasioned by the trading of accusations of illegitimacy between the ruling party and the Opposition parties etc.
But apart from these, and as can be seen below there are failures inherent in the modus operandi and structures of Opposition parties in Cameroon that have made them more of dividers and spoilers rather than connectors and drivers of our democratic architecture hence their vulnerability to internal cracks and external shocks.
Lack of internal democracy
The first thing one notices is that all Opposition parties have as Chairmen or Presidents those who founded the parties. So for close to two and a half decades the same people who created or founded these parties are in the helm of affairs. Paradoxically, most of these Opposition members were hell bent on pushing the ruling party leader Paul Biya out of power when he was “only” eight years as President of the country (1982-1990) and “only” five years as Chairman of his CPDM party (1985-1990). The case of the SDF is a cause for concern. Apart from the tenacity syndrome of its leader, Article 8.2 of the party’s constitution raises controversy on the notions of dissent versus debate and discipline versus dictatorship. Elected Mayors have been dismissed for not complying with the caprices of the National Investiture Committee. The axe or guillotine of Article. 8.2 has fallen on militants who oppose policies or performances of hierarchy .Yet it must be recalled that the SDF was founded “to rid the Cameroonian society of a system that deprives people from being free men or otherwise punishing them for daring to think freely, associate freely, assemble peacefully and freely”. This long stay of leadership at the helm of all Opposition parties has arguably resulted in party clientelism, personality cult, and the personalization of power.
Lack of an Opposition leadership consensus
Since the creation of Opposition parties, attempts at instituting an identifiable, credible and consensual leadership and program have failed. Unlike, other African countries that have a clear leadership within the Opposition (Gabon, Zambia, Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe) the case of Cameroon in which according to Dr Tangie Fonchingong, Ni John Fru Ndi would have easily stood out as the rallying point Opposition leader owing to his mass grass roots support has been met with contempt for his relatively “low academic” baggage and mistrust for his Anglophone origin. Fru Ndi’s own inflexibility and temper tantrums have sometimes not helped matters.
Broken strategic alliances
Alliances formed before elections get broken even before the elections take off. The “Directorate” “Union for Change” Allied forces for Change”, “Coalition for National Reconciliation and Reconstruction” “G7” and ‘Republican Pact’ (2012), have not been as coherent and program-focused as for example that of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) by the Opposition in Kenya, set up in the 2002 Presidential elections, resulting in a victory of 62.2%.
Disconnect from primal human needs
Most Opposition parties concern themselves with what happens during elections and not what takes place between elections. In other words, within the five years that span municipal/ legislative elections and the seven years that span Presidential elections, the Opposition parties do not connect with the population on their contradictions of cultural liberty (power cuts, fuel price hike, inflation, water outage, unemployment, industrial action etc) and on state policies that feed into structural violence. This is compounded by the poor performance of some of the elected Opposition party representatives in local councils and the National Assembly.
Therefore to quote Prof. Achilles Mbembe, it is necessary for the opposition to define a real strategy towards a social struggle (social democracy and democratic development) that is adapted to the present Cameroonian conditions.
Lack of linkages with political entrepreneurs of civil society.
One of the most important groups in the pro-democracy movement is the activist elements in civil society, which to quote Prof. Claude Ake include the human rights lobby, minority rights groups, movements for the empowerment and participation of marginalized groups such as women and youth, students and labour the Church and the media.
The Opposition in Cameroon built organic linkages with these political entrepreneurs in the early 90s but the relationship has strained due to so many reasons. Yet it was the youths that gave power to succeeding Opposition leaders turned Presidents in Senegal like Abdoulaye Wade in 2000 and Macky Sall in 2012; it is the feminization of power policy that Paul Kagame of Rwanda survives on, the former Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Morgan Tswangirai of Zimbabwe fed on workers union (himself a product of it) and on the church. The enigmatic Julius Sello Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters party in South Africa has within a short period made inroads into South African politics through his robust and populist civil society engagement.
In my opinion the real battle for the sustenance of democracy in Cameroon lies on what happens around the 2018 Presidential elections. Politics is the art of the possible and no one can rule out the possibility of the incumbent CPDM party Chairman’s voluntary disengagement from the 2018 Presidential elections. Were he to do so then the party would have to be jettisoned into searching from their pack a moderate yet benevolent disciplinarian leader whose mission should be to walk the talk of balanced development, equitable resource allocation and the open West Cameroon real or perceived identity of systemic victimhood. On the other hand, the “successor-ship” hypothesis provides the Opposition with a beacon of hope.
That is if the successor does not draw enough party consensus, it may force some of the Opposition of proposition militants in the CPDM to join camps with the Opposition of liberation, Opposition of cooptation and activist elements of the civil society to win fresh elections. If the successor does not command some charisma and aura, he (party successor) may lose elections to the Opposition Presidential candidate like it happened in Sierra Leone in 2007.
Were the incumbent CPDM Chairman to turn his back on the 2018 elections, he would have to assume a neutral statesman status (something which has been recurrent in his recent speeches) and not interfere with the electoral process. He has always wanted to be remembered as the person who brought democracy to Cameroon and it would be in his interest to leave the scene with that legacy. With a law that was adopted by Parliament in 2011 giving the President immunity from criminal procedure after office, the fear of quitting office and being pursued for criminal offences might have been allayed. Ahmed Tedjan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, in spite of his lackluster performance as President of Sierra Leone for over ten years has been praised for his non- interference in the 2007 electoral process which brought the Opposition to power. Mathieu Kerekou of Benin and Ould Ahmed Taya of Mauritania are of this same democratic school.
The second condition would be for the President in collaboration with all political beneficiaries to reform or reexamine elections in Cameroon.
Thirdly, the electoral law needs to be revised to allow Independent Candidates to run for Presidential elections without the infamous 300 signature clause. Related to this would be the need for a second round or run-off electoral process to be introduced during future Presidential elections. Still in this connection late statesman N.N Mbile was assertive to declare that the civil service, the judiciary and the army must be depoliticized.
Fourthly while the elite should resist the peddling of compensatory development advantages by parties, the Cameroonian electorate would have to rise above its present inertia blind party adherence and refuse to be cheaply bought over by allurements and material inducements (bags of rice and bottles of beer etc). The youth in particular must see the long term advantage of building a sustainable development policy for Cameroon rather than trivial immediate interests that border on greed and gluttony. This means constant political education should be provided by activist elements of the civil society with funding assistance from Development Agents.
In spite of all external odds, the Opposition in Cameroon still survives, albeit waning in numerical strength, controversial in ideological focus and riddled with leadership questions. This is symptomatic of the liberal democratic choice most African countries adopted rather than a peculiar disease with the Opposition in Cameroon. From all indications, the green tree of democratic entitlement has not yet yielded the yellow fruits of economic emporwerment. May be a new democratic transition bringing all active forces together in an ALL Cameroonian Congress may help chart a new course that would go beyond routine elections and usher in bold, creative and indigenous development programs that resonate with human and infrastructural development.
But before then it would be necessary for the Opposition in Cameroon to shed off their embedded shifting political predatory metaphors of grievance, greed and griotism to embrace a new political patriotic dispensation of values, views and vision. For indeed the endgame of any political activity is not only to help citizens cross the Red Sea of oppression but to accompany them in their long journey of freedom until they reach the Promised Land of democratic development.
*Mwalimu George Ngwane is presently pursuing a Fellowship on Peace and Conflict studies at the University of Chulalongkorn, Bangkok, Thailand
African allies aim to pin down Boko Haram, official says
February 21, 2015 | 0 Comments
N’DJAMENA (Reuters) – Niger, Chad and Cameroon are seeking to pin down Boko Haram within Nigeria’s borders ahead of a ground-and-air offensive by a regional task-force due to start from the end of next month, a senior Niger military official told Reuters.
The Islamist group, which has killed thousands of people in a six-year insurgency in Nigeria, has fought fierce battles with the three countries’ armies in southern Niger and northern Cameroon, near Nigeria’s borders, in recent weeks.
Chadian forces have made incursions into Nigeria to push back the jihadist fighters, hundreds of whom have been killed.
Military chiefs will meet in the Chadian capital N’Djamena next week to finalize strategy for the 8,700-strong task-force of troops from Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin and Niger, said Colonel Mahamane Laminou Sani, director of documentation and military intelligence of Niger’s armed forces.
“All we are doing right now is stopping Boko Haram from entering Niger: if they attack our positions we push them back a certain distance and Nigeria pushes from the other side to contain the situation,” he said, on the sidelines of the annual U.S.-sponsored ‘Flintlock’ counter-terrorism exercises in Chad.
“There are initiatives by our countries to make sure Boko Haram doesn’t get out of control, but we have a deadline of end-March to put the joint force into practice,” he told Reuters late on Wednesday.
Highlighting the cross-border threat, militants attacked Niger overnight, killing three before they were driven back.
The force’s first commander will be a Nigerian and the position will then rotate annually among members, Sani said.
The implementation of the force has been delayed by tensions between Nigeria and Cameroon over the right to pursue militants across the border into each other’s countries, sources said.
Niger and Chad already have agreements in place covering that with each other and with Nigeria. Nigeria and Cameroon will be under pressure to iron out their differences.
“This should be the last meeting, I think. We don’t have any choice,” Sani said. “If we don’t go to find Boko Haram, they are going to come and find us.”
US INTEL SUPPORT
Niger’s military has carried out air strikes against Boko Haram positions and used ground forces to mop up the survivors, Sani said.
Sahelien.com, a regional news website, reported raids by Niger’s troops who entered the Nigerian town of Marara on Feb. 15 and air strikes on Damasak on Feb. 16. A security source said the reports were accurate but gave no further details.
Sani denied the Niger air force was responsible for an attack on Tuesday that killed at least 36 civilians at a funeral in the border village of Abadam.
A local mayor said he believed a Nigerian military plane was responsible. Nigeria has denied this and Niger has said it is investigating.
Air power will play a key role but ground troops will then used to neutralize survivors in the wooded and mountainous terrain occupied by the Sunni jihadist group, Sani said
“Information on their location needs to come from human sources first, then you send technological resources to check it, and you maintain observation on them until air strikes arrive,” he said.
Asked whether the U.S. military could help with drone intelligence on fighters’ movements, he said: “That is already a reality. They help us in that sense.”
“This is no longer a issue of national security for Nigeria, it’s a question of regional and international security,” he said. “If Nigeria implodes then the whole of Africa will feel it.”*Source Reuters/Yahoo]]>
How Boko Haram brought hunger to northern Cameroon
January 29, 2015 | 0 Comments
Women in the Mayo-Sava part of Cameroon say they are too frightened of potential Boko Haram attacks to farm[/caption] Maroua, 28 January 2015 (IRIN) – More than half a million people in Cameroon’s Far North region are in need of urgent food aid, the government says, as attacks by militant group Boko Haram have forced farmers to abandon their fields, shut down local markets, and halted the movement of people and goods. Food security, particularly along the border, is getting worse due to the regular arrival of Nigerian refugees, who often rely on host communities for food. “Unless something is done to aid farmers and supply local markets with basic commodities, the region is at risk of famine,” said Midjiyawa Bakari, the governor of the Far North. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 54 percent of households in the North and Far North regions of Cameroon now face food shortages. UNICEF estimated the rate of global acute malnutrition in the Far North to be 9 percent in November. Cameroon’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER) says the situation has “deteriorated sharply” since then and that malnutrition rates among children under five are now higher than 20 percent in many of the affected communities. This exceeds the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold of 15 percent. Cereal production decline An assessment this month by MINADER in Far North’s three most affected departments, Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone and Chari, found that an estimated 70 percent of farmers have deserted their farms, and many more have missed out on key farming activities, such as timely planting, during the past six months. “Attacks by Boko Haram came very close to my village and we were all forced to leave,” Dan Mustapha, a farmer from Mayo-Sava’s Moro village, told IRIN. His family’s two hectares of farmland – normally sown with sorghum – remain unplanted this season. Boko Haram has been active in neighboring Nigeria since 2009, killing thousands and displacing nearly a million people, according to the International Organization for Migration. Cross-border attacks by Boko Haram into northern Cameroon have become more frequent and increasingly violent in recent months. More than two dozen villages along the border have been raided since early December. At least 80 people were kidnapped earlier this month. The government says that at least 10,000 Cameroonians have now fled their homes in fear. Additionally, dozens of hectares of land in Mayo-Tsanga originally meant for agriculture, have been turned into refugee camps or settlements for the internally displaced. Government curfews, which forbid the movement of people and vehicles between 7pm and 6am, have restricted many of the remaining farmers from properly working their land. “Farming is labour intensive,” a trader from a market in Maroua, the capital of the Far North region, explained. “But with the current situation, you cannot stay for long on [your] farm.” As a result, the production of cereal crops, such as sorghum, millet, cowpea and rice, dropped by more than 50 percent last year, according to MINADER. The Ministry estimates the region needs 770,000 tonnes of cereal each season, but only 132,000 tonnes were produced in 2014. This is compared to 2012, when the region produced an estimated 509,000 tonnes. “This [violence] has had a serious impact on regional output, because the populations in Mayo-Tsanaga, Mayo-Sava, and Logone and Chari, are predominantly farmers and traders and herders,” said Jean Vevet, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s regional delegation. Residents say their meagre stocks have already begun to dwindle. Many farmers report having begun to eat the grain that was reserved for seed. Disrupted trade More than 60 percent of the region’s income usually comes from cross-border trade with Nigeria and Chad, according to MINADER. But with no goods to sell and very few customers, many merchants have now fled their market stalls all together. The cross-border cattle business, one of the mainstays in the region, has also drastically slowed. “The economic setup of the region has totally been disrupted,” said Samuel Bello, a bank manager in Maroua. “This has a serious impact on every income generating activity in the area. Fewer customers come to save money in the banks today, because the usual sources of income are threatened,” he told IRIN. Food prices up, purchasing power down Fear of attacks have also caused many traders to flee their posts, further disrupting the local economy. [caption id="attachment_15951" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo: Monde Kingsley Nfor/IRIN
Nigerian refugee children working the fields[/caption] “It is difficult for us to get a regular supply of vegetables and fresh food,” said Alim Dubou, a vegetable trader in Maroua. “No one wants to drive along the highway,” he said, citing an example from earlier this month, when at least 15 passengers were beheaded by suspected members of Boko Haram, while riding a bus between Maroua and Kousseri, according to local and international news reports. A lack of markets and goods has caused the price of rice in Kolofata, a community in the Mayo-Sava department that has suffered the brunt of Boko Haram attacks, for example, to increase from $0.34 per kilogram to $0.52 per kilogram, over the past 10 months. The prices of other basic commodities, such as corn, sorghum and petrol, have risen by 20 to 80 percent since March 2014, according to MINADER. Relief plans Cameroon’s government says it is now working closely with humanitarian and aid agencies, such as the World Food Programme, UNICEF and the UN Refugee Agency, to provide food, shelter and health care to both refugees and communities hosting them. However, funding constraints and insecurity along the border have limited their actions. In response to the influx of refugees and rising food insecurity, the government scaled up its Strategic Response Plan for 2014-2016, and is now calling for US$126 million to help the most vulnerable. The funding will help provide emergency food aid and agriculture inputs to the population, Vevet said. On 16 January, President Paul Biya also promised to deliver “tonnes” of cereal, including rice, millet and sorghum, along with edible oil and other consumer products, to the region, but did not say how much or when it would arrive. Sufianu Salifa, a 47-year-old cowhide seller, fled to Maroua from Kolofata with his five children.. “We have to rebuild our lives,” he said, “and if the government could provide us with the food soon, it can sustain us while we try to start other activities to make life stable.” *Source irinnews]]>
Five Cameroon v Ivory Coast facts
January 28, 2015 | 0 Comments
Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) (AFP) – Five facts on the Africa Cup of Nations Group D match betweenCameroon and Ivory Coast in Malabo Wednesday:
— Cameroon have won five of the seven previous Cup of Nations match-ups with Ivory Coast and drawn the other two. The widest winning margin was 3-0 in a 2000 group game.
— The Ivorian Elephants are ranked third in Africa by FIFA and the Cameroonian Indomitable Lions eighth. The gap between the nations in the world rankings is 14 places.
— Ivory Coast have scored in 13 of their previous 14 Cup of Nations matches. The only time they drew a blank was when losing the 2012 final to Zambia on penalties after a goalless draw.
— Cameroon have won seven, drawn six and lost two of 15 matchday 3 group games at the Cup of Nations with the most decisive victories being 3-0 against Togo in 2002 and Sudan six years later.