As Cameroon prepares for a presidential election on 7 October, violence continues in the English-speaking Southwest and Northwest regions. In a prophetic article in 1999, Professor Francis Nyamnjoh described how the state system of divide and rule makes Cameroon’s regional and ethnic groups turn against each other. “Regrettably, this is what we are seeing today”, he tells The Nordic Africa Institute.
Cameroonian elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) members during a patrol in the south west city of Buea, Photo: Zohra Bensemra
The brewing conflict erupted into violence after security forces in October 2017 cracked down on protests calling for English to be used in classrooms and courtrooms in Cameroon’s anglophone regions. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International estimates that 400 citizens have been killed in the past year and 160 members of the security forces since late 2016.
According to Nyamnjoh, the anglophone movement is not only a protest against the marginalisation of the English-speaking population in the former French colony, but also a protest against President Paul Biya, who has held a firm grip on Cameroonian politics for 36 years.
“The fact that anglophones oppose the government doesn’t make it an anglophone problem necessarily. In fact, it is a very Cameroonian problem: of a state that doesn’t deliver, a state that has no business being there because there are no results.”
In his 1999 article Cameroon: a country united by ethnic ambition and differenceNyamnjoh, a Cameroonian national himself, described how Biya had turned Cameroon into a country with a chronic lack of vision or commitment to democracy, and had created a corrupt system that had “more room for loyal mediocrity than critical excellence”. He also described how the president had perfected a policy of regional and ethnic balance, instituted by his predecessor Ahmadou Ahidjo, borrowing from the colonial legacy of “decentralised despotism”.
“In reality, this policy is far less about balance than it is about diverting attention from real to imagined problems and causes”, Nyamnjoh wrote.
“The crisis in the anglophone regions continues because of poor governance. The state is using the divide and rule tactic, claiming that ‘the protesters want to divide our beloved country’. In this way it is preventing the formation of a broader movement of Cameroonians, regardless of colonial heritage and postcolonial intermediary identities, rallying against the real problems of the government.”
Francis Nyamnjoh says that the existing climate of conflict and division feeds on caricatures and stereotypes about francophones and anglophones, with short and easy-to-remember, often derogatory, representations of the other.
“You can argue that ethnicity has crystalised around this common idea of Anglo-Saxon heritage, whether real or imagined, in the Cameroonian context – that people identify with an opposition to what they consider as the negative aspects of the French heritage in Cameroon.”
According to Nyamnjoh, the same principle of divide and rule would also help explain why Cameroon has not seen broader movements for political change, as in Tunisia, Egypt, Burkina Faso or The Gambia.
“After decades under this system, people have become so numb, including the intellectuals that you would expect to speak up.”
Nyamnjoh, a professor of Anthropology at the University of Cape Town is also writer of fiction. In his novels he writes about the fictional country Mimboland. Mimbo in Pidgin English means alcohol, and Mimboland is the land of alcohol and drunks in abundance. The country’s leader, President Longstay, is there forever. He doesn’t produce results, but he is eternally there.
“How come Africa is so full of President Longstays?” says Nyamnjoh.
He hopes that Cameroonians, especially the young, will rise above hollow pretences and aspire for a common humanity, a common ‘Cameroonian-ness’ without shackles.
“Everybody is a human being first, who is entitled to certain needs and a certain respect, before being francophone or anglophone. If we divide we will keep dividing and cut, cut, cut… There is always something to cut and the problem will not disappear.”
Nyamnjoh says that Cameroonians must stop hiding away from the problems of the current government.
“They should not claim that because the questions are posed by anglophones then it is not a Cameroonian problem. The Cameroonian problem is that the leadership has failed us, francophones and anglophones alike.”
TEXT: Mattias Sköld
The presidential election on 7 October
Paul Biya, Cameroon’s 85-year-old president, is expected to win a seventh term in office, extending his rule well into his 90s. Biya has been head of state since 1982, when he took over following the resignation of Ahmadou Ahidjo, who had held power since independence in 1960.
Several opposition parties are boycotting the election, with one party leader calling it “a setup for one person to win”. Opposition members have demanded an independent electoral commission, functioning biometric system for voter registration and two-round presidential election.
The crisis in the anglophone regions (the Northwest and Southwest)
The crisis is rooted in historical identity-based grievances. Many anglophones feel they have been politically and economically marginalised.
After security forces in October 2017 responded violently to protests, the movement rapidly developed into an armed insurgency. According to independent observers, such as the International Crisis Group, the government bears a large share of the responsibility for the conflict. It failed to recognise the legitimacy of anglophone grievances, its security forces committed widespread abuses and imprisoned many peaceful activists.
Two armed militias, the Ambazonia Defence Forces and the Southern Cameroons Defence Forces, and several small ‘self-defence’ groups carry out attacks against the security forces. The insurgents have symbolically proclaimed the independence of a new state called ‘Ambazonia’. According to the UN, some 160,000 people have fled their homes in Cameroon, while more than 25,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring Nigeria.
Professor of Anthropology at University of Cape Town, originally from Cameroon. He has written extensively on issues as diverse as democratisation, ethnicity and regionalism in Africa, globalisation, and the role and place of the media in Africa. He was keynote speaker at the Nordica Africa Days 2018, held in Uppsala in September.
Emmanuel Neossi is so good at his job, exporting cocoa and coffee beans from Cameroon, that some call him “Monsieur Cocoa.”
Neossi founded Producam SA in 2012 with just a couple of warehouses in Cameroon’s western region. By 2017, his business was growing so rapidly he could not keep up with demand. He approached Ovamba, a U.S. financing company that helps small businesses like Neossi’s grow, but in a different way than traditional banks.
Ovamba connected Neossi with three foreign investors ready to finance 10,000 tons of cocoa for export. Within a year, Neossi closed on $500 million with an American private equity firm to begin cocoa processing in-region.
“Banking falls short,” said Viola Llewellyn, Ovamba’s co-founder and president, of the difficulty entrepreneurs in African nations face in finding financing. “The ‘missing middle’ of Africa’s growing middle class can’t get business services.”
That “missing middle” is a rising portion of populations across the continent that earn too much to qualify for government services or assistance from nonprofits, but not enough to invest in their own advancement, whether by paying university tuition or by funding a new business venture.
John Sedunov, a professor of finance at Villanova University, says many banks in Africa are hesitant to take the chance on small and medium-sized enterprises like Producam because they do not have the traditional data sources to assess an investment’s risk that larger businesses do.
Ovamba has custom-built dozens of software programs for the company’s clients in Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire. These programs collect data on clients’ businesses and transactions to build a robust risk assessment for investors, as an alternative to traditional documents that banks use.
Llewellyn and her business partner, Marvin Cole, started Ovamba in 2013. Both had years of experience working on finance in sub-Saharan Africa, but they were frustrated by the foreign perception of investment in the region as small and charitable. They wanted a way to “make capital available to African businesses that is authentic [and] meets their cultural needs.”
Llewellyn’s message to small and medium-sized businesses is: “We can help you grow. We’re going to let you know when you should buy more at a rate you want, so the money in your bank account stays there.”
“We want to reach those people who are almost ignored by the corporations,” says Ovamba’s chief technology officer, Prashant Mahajan.
U.S. and global business leaders gathered to learn more about investment and participating in the IGD Advanced Executive Program in Mozambique
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 3, 2018 – Touting high growth rates and an improved business environment, H.E. Felipe Nyusi, President of the Republic of Mozambique, outlined why the Southern African nation is an attractive investment destination and invited U.S. and global investors and business leaders to travel to the country to explore its trade and investment opportunities.
The Initiative for Global Development hosted President Nyusi and top ministers from key growth sectors in the Mozambican government at the Presidential Breakfast on Doing Business in Mozambique on September 26, during the United Nations General Assembly, at the Thomson Reuters Times Square Building in New York City.
“Mozambique is a country with untapped potential and there are so many areas to be explored,” said President Nyusi at the breakfast gathering of investors and private sector leaders.
The Presidential Breakfast, sponsored by Thomson Reuters, officially kicked off the IGD Advanced Executive Program, which will be held from October 29 to November 2 in Mozambique. The Advanced Executive Program is aimed at equipping U.S. and global business leaders with the professional capacity and leadership skills, connections and real-world business exposure to effectively explore and engage in trade and investment opportunities on the African continent.
President Nyusi said that Mozambique’s trade engagement with the United States has been primarily through the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the signature U.S.-Africa trade law. The president noted that in 2016 only 2 percent of the country’s total goods and products were exported to the U.S. “It shows that Mozambique is not tapping properly into the AGOA program,” he said.
The IGD Advanced Executive Program seeks to reverse that trend by bringing investors to the country to forge potential trade and investment partnerships.
IGD’s Leila Ndiaye with President Nyusi in New York
“Our goal is for American business leaders to return home from Mozambique with not only the knowledge and skills on how to conduct business in the country, but also with meaningful interactions with the local business leaders to form long-lasting partnerships,” said Leila Ndiaye, President & CEO of the Initiative for Global Development (IGD).
“Through the executive immersion program, we look forward to strengthening the trade and investment tis between the U.S. and Mozambique,” said Ndiaye.
Organizational partners include the USAID Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub; USAID SpeedPlus Program; U.S. Commercial Service/U.S. embassy of Mozambique, U.S. Department of Commerce; International Council on Small Business (ICSB); and Thomson Reuters. Sasol is a major sponsor of the executive immersion program.
The five-day immersion program will feature educational seminars led by African business leaders, visits with top African government officials, site visits to leading industries, and a cultural celebration. Upon completion of the Advanced Executive Program, participants will receive certification for completion of the program.
The country’s abundance of natural resources offers foreign investors immense trade and investment opportunities in energy, mines, agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism. Exclusive meetings with Government Ministers and officials from key sectors will provide insight into the regulatory reforms and business and investment environment.
Understanding and navigating the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the largest trade agreement signed since the World Trade Organization (WTO) was established, will be highlighted during the training program.
During the Presidential Breakfast, U.S. and Mozambican business leaders made connections during the B2B networking session at the end of the program.
Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, has stated that respect for the rule of law is a key factor in preventing and mitigating atrocious crimes and human right violations.
He said that developing strong rule of law institutions must also be central to governments’ preventive efforts, adding that responsive rule of law institutions is key to stability, conflict prevention and peaceful co -existence.
The breakdown of rule of the law significantly increases the risk of gross violations of human rights which may lead to atrocity crimes.
Mr Dieng made this submission at the 6th Kofi Annan – Dag Hammarskjold Annual Lecture in Accra.
He spoke on the theme: Preventing Armed Conflicts: Identifying and Mitigating Risks.
He said that in post-conflict situations and divided societies, rule of law is especially critical to ensuring accountability and rebuilding trust and confidence in state institutions and government framework.
“Credible state institutions and governments that citizens can trust are essential to build a peaceful society.
It is always disheartening to see some governments around the world neglect their primary duty to fulfill this role and instead, officials engage in misappropriation of state resources for personal gain thus denying delivery of essential services like education, healthcare and security to their people”, he said.
“Without commitment to provide these essential; services to those who lack them, our hope for the world where human life is respected and rule of law honored will remain elusive”, he added.
Mr Dieng said that rule of law calls for accountability for atrocity crimes and other violations of human rights.
“I have always argued that peace and justice are like identical twins joined at the hip. It is difficult to separate them and achieve sustainable peace in post conflict situation or indeed any other society.
While we would expect domestic judicial institutions to effectively complement the work of international and regional judicial institutions, the reality on ground in many countries demonstrate that local judicial systems are inadequate to sufficiently respond to the demand for justice that they are supposed to satisfy”, he added.
He said his office had developed a framework of analysis based on international standards and practice that identifies risk factors for atrocity crimes that could assist to prevent conflict situations before they deteriorate.
He said this framework had helped the office to raise risk of atrocity crimes at an early stage in many situations, including the Central African Republic, Myanmar and South Sudan.
Speaking on human rights, Mr Dieng said, “We cannot undertake meaningful prevention without respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms universally recognized and guaranteed by the international Bill of Rights and other international and regional instruments.
United Nations Resident Coordinator Christin Evans-Klock, said the lecture rightly put cooperation and coordination among regional and national actors at the heart of that effort form the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS, down to the national governments and civil society organizations.
“They all have relevant mandates to bring to bear and lessons from experience to share in identifying and mitigating risks”, she said.
“So today, here, we have the opportunity to examine root causes of persistent conflicts, to identify new risks, and to discuss candidly what we have tried so far and what new approaches are needed to resolve conflicts and avert violence”, she added.
The Commandant, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) AVM Evans Santrofi Griffiths said that loss of lives and properties, displacement, and increased levels of poverty, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence, spill-overs into nearby states are sine if the negative effects of armed conflicts which retrogress individuals and communities.
He said “in spite of its natural resource endowments and very youthful population, the continent is still described as “poor in the midst of plenty” and its influence on international politics has profoundly diminished due to deficits of peace, governance and development”.
“We cannot continue with this same narrative. We need to reverse this trend, we need to offer our people better life opportunities so that they can feel safe to be part of the change we so desire.
The journey to reverse this trend, I believe, is by tackling the root causes of conflict and the precursors to instability by prioritizing, financing and investing in same”, he said.
He added that “this theme is a natural fit into KAIPTC’s vision to be the leading and preferred international center for training, education and research in African peace and security.
We strive to incorporate the needs of the SDG’s, agenda 2063, ECPF and the governance and democracy principles into our training, research and academic programming to build the needed capacity and to influence policy to foster peace and stability”.
More than 3,000 people have been infected with cholera
EUROPEAN UNION DELEGATION in Zimbabwe has entered a 3 million EURO Humanitarian Delegation Agreement with the FEDERATION OF THE RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT INTERNATIONAL. This funding is in support of the Federation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund. It was established to support vulnerable people affected by natural and anthropogenic induced disasters.
On its own, adding to Humanitarian Aid capacity to salvage the impact of cholera in Zimbabwe, European Union has donated 90 000 Euro. About 45 people up to date have died from cholera. On the other side 6,400 people are infected and a number of them were diagnosed and discharged at Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare.
The outbreak of cholera was declared on 6 September this year. On 11 September it was declared a State of Emergency. EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Phillip Vandem said the 3 million Euros in Aid Humanitarian Delegation Agreement between EU and Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent International is meant to bring the health problem to an end. Apart from this, EU has donated 90,000 Euro to save the lives of 6,400 cases of cholera .These are serious victims in need of Humanitarian Aid in the country.
‘’The Agreement EU Delegation to Zimbabwe entered with the Red Cross and Red Crescent is meant to alleviate vulnerability to cholera. Cholera has killed over 45 people. It is also pathetic to note that 6,400 are infected’’.
‘’We will support the EU and Red Cross Life Saving Actions. This is meant to detect cases of cholera which continue to increase in the country. This detection and the lifesaving action strategy is the only one meant to monitor and evaluate the Health challenge’’, said the Ambassador.
According to the European Union, the Humanitarian Aid will benefit 15, 000 people in Budiriro , Glen-View , Glenora , Chitungwiza and Mbare high density suburbs . Red Cross working in collaboration with the EU has set Oral Rehydration points in these high density suburbs.
Speaking in line with this an Official in the program Amos Chitanda said there are almost 120 Red Cross Volunteers, 20 supervisors and 60 Community leaders who have been trained.
‘’We have trained 120 volunteers, 20 supervisors and community leaders .This has been done to contain this disease in the country. The support by EU and Red Cross has gone long in alleviating many challenges related to cholera vulnerability.’’, he said.
A Community leader Hildar Chivero said there are door to door campaigns and monitoring programs in the communities. There is also the activity/ program of soap distribution, water purification, water distribution, tabs, jerry cans and buckets for the simple exercise to go well.
‘’A lot of activities are being funded by donors, civil society, community groups and even the Government. But above all, we thank Red Cross and European Union. They have done a lot to help the affected communities.’’
The named communities victimized by cholera have 100 Hand Washing Stations at Health Centers, Oral Rehydration points and other public places .The support has come from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund by the Red-Cross and Red-Crescent Societies.
The bigger support as well came from the European Union through the Civil Protection and Humanitarian AID Operations Department [ECHO] . This is meant for millions of people in the World who are victims in Humanitarian Need
Investments in Non-Resource Sectors, Jobs and Efficient Firms and Workers are Needed
Albert Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for Africa.
WASHINGTON, October 3, 2018 – Sub-Saharan African economies are still recovering from the slowdown in 2015-16, but growth is slower than expected, according to the October 2018 issue of Africa’s Pulse, the bi-annual analysis of the state of African economies by the World Bank. The average growth rate in the region is estimated at 2.7 percent in 2018, which represents a slight increase from 2.3 percent in 2017.
“The region’s economic recovery is in progress but at a slower pace than expected,” said Albert Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for Africa. “To accelerate and sustain an inclusive growth momentum, policy makers must continue to focus on investments that foster human capital, reduce resource misallocation and boost productivity. Policymakers in the region must equip themselves to manage new risks arising from changes in the composition of capital flows and debt.”
Slow growth is partially a reflection of a less favorable external environment for the region. Global trade and industrial activity lost momentum, as metals and agricultural prices fell due to concerns about trade tariffs and weakening demand prospects. While oil prices are likely to be on an upward trend into 2019, metals prices may remain subdued amid muted demand, particularly in China. Financial market pressures intensified in some emerging markets and concern about their dollar-denominated debt has risen amid a stronger US dollar.
The slower pace of the recovery in Sub-Saharan Africa (0.4 percentage points lower than the April forecast) is explained by the sluggish expansion in the region’s three largest economies, Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa. Lower oil production in Angola and Nigeria offset higher oil prices, and in South Africa, weak household consumption growth was compounded by a contraction in agriculture. Growth in the region – excluding Angola, Nigeria and South Africa – was steady. Several oil exporters in Central Africa were helped by higher oil prices and an increase in oil production. Economic activity remained solid in the fast-growing non-resource-rich countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Rwanda, supported by agricultural production and services on the production side, and household consumption and public investment on the demand side.
Public debt remained high and continues to rise in some countries. Vulnerability to weaker currencies and rising interest rates associated with the changing composition of debt may put the region’s public debt sustainability further at risk. Other domestic risks include fiscal slippage, conflicts, and weather shocks. Consequently, policies and reforms are needed that can strengthen resilience to risks and raise medium-term potential growth.
This issue of Africa’s Pulse highlights sub-Saharan Africa’s lower labor productivity and potentials for improvement “Reforms should include policies which encourage investments in non-resource sectors, generate jobs and improve the efficiency of firms and workers,” said Cesar Calderon, Lead Economist and Lead author of the report.
The Government of Zimbabwe with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners is launching today an oral cholera vaccination (OCV) campaign to protect 1.4 million people at high risk
of cholera in Harare.
The immunization drive is part of efforts to control a cholera outbreak, which was declared by the health authorities on 6 September 2018.The vaccines were sourced from the global stockpile, which is
funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi is also funding operational costs for the campaign.
The government, with the support of WHO and partners, has moved quickly to implement key control efforts, including enhanced surveillance, the provision of clean water and hygiene promotion,
cleaning of blocked drains and setting up dedicated treatment centres. The cholera vaccination campaign will complement these ongoing efforts.
“The current cholera outbreak is geographically concentrated in the densely populated suburbs of Harare,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa. “We have a window of opportunity to strike back with the oral cholera vaccine now, which along with other efforts will help keep the current outbreak in check and may prevent it from spreading further into the country and becoming more difficult to control.”
The campaign will be rolled out in two rounds, focusing on the most heavily affected suburbs in Harare and Chitungwiza, which is 30 km southeast of the capital city. To ensure longer-term immunity to the
population, a second dose of the vaccine will be provided in all areas during a second round to be implemented at a later stage.
“Cholera is a disease that can be prevented with clean water and sanitation: there is no reason why people should still be dying from this horrific disease,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine
Alliance. “Gavi has worked hard to ensure the global cholera vaccine stockpile remains fully stocked and ready to help stop outbreaks such as this. The government of Zimbabwe have done a great job in fighting
this outbreak; we must now hope that these lifesaving vaccines can help to prevent any more needless deaths.”
WHO is supporting the Ministry of Health and Child Care on a strategy for rolling out the vaccination campaign, as well as implementing the campaign and sensitizing the public about the vaccine. More than 600 health workers have been trained to carry out the campaign.The vaccination drive will take place at fixed and mobile sites including health facilities, schools and shopping centres.
WHO experts in collaboration with partners are supporting the national authorities to intensify surveillance activities, improve diagnostics, and strengthen infection and prevention control in communities and health facilities. They have also provided cholera supplies of oral rehydration salts, intravenous fluids and antibiotics sufficient to treat 6000 people.
The health sector alone cannot prevent and control cholera outbreaks. This requires strong partnerships and a response across multiple sectors, especially in the investment and maintenance of community-wide water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
Zimbabwe has experienced frequent outbreaks of cholera, with the largest outbreak occurring from August 2008 to May 2009 and claiming more than 4000 lives.
Mr Dieng said there’s need for dialogue to resolve the Cameroon civil crisis
The UN special adviser on prevention of genocide has called for immediate investigations into a wave of killings in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.
Adama Dieng described the atrocities being committed in the country as “concerning” and said both sides of the conflict should “sit around the table and dialogue to end the conflict”.
“The crimes committed by both parties need to be properly and independently investigated and perpetrators of those crimes need to be brought urgently to justice so that people know that no-one is above the law – that all Cameroonians are equal,” he said.
Groups calling for independence of the region they call Ambazonia have been staging attacks against government forces, which have responded with what has been condemned as a brutal crackdown.
The separatists are riding on long-held complaints by residents of the South-West and North-West region over what they see as marginalisation by the French-speaking majority.
They say they are forced to use French in schools and courts.
Both sides have been accused of kidnappings, extra-judicial killings and the burning of villages.
“My worry is that we still have many people being killed, so far more than 400 people. We have seen atrocious crimes being committed. We need to have political dialogue but also demand for justice,” he told me.
Cameroon is to hold presidential elections on 7 October. “It is true that one could not exclude some form of violence [around the polls] but for the time being things seem to be under control,” Mr Dieng said.
Cameroon government forces have also been accused of human rights crimes against civilians in their fight against Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the far north of the country.
The Cameroon government has since arrested some of the soldiers shown in the video despite initially dismissing the footage, which was widely shared on social media.
Mr Dieng also defended the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after US President Donald Trump made scathing attacks against the Hague-based court, saying it lacked legitimacy and jurisdiction.
Some African countries have also threatened to withdraw from the Rome Statute that set up the institution.
“It is very unfortunate that there is today this perception that the ICC is selective. That’s not true,” Mr Dieng said.
He said the court was an important deterrent to war crimes being committed in the world.
“History has shown that the ICC is an independent court governed by the law. We saw the case against Kenya’s current President Uhuru Kenyatta being closed, and we also saw what happened with the case of [ex-Democratic Republic of Congo warlord] Jean-Pierre Bemba, who on appeal was also acquitted.”
“I supported African leaders when they said they wanted to have their own court, but since they adopted the protocol to set it up, how many Africa states have ratified the protocol? Not more than five. It’s very unfortunate,” he added.
The fifth edition of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) has ended with calls for media professionals to form coalitions to curb the harassment of these professionals by governments across Africa.
Three hundred participants from across Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South America discussed everything from fake news and disinformation to restrictive policies that make the work of journalists difficult and how these restrictions can be bypassed.
“Governments will always use ‘national security’ as an excuse to shut down the internet and repress freedom of expression”, Sulemana Braimah, executive director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) told attendees at the opening of the two-day event in Accra, Ghana last week.
“This is the time to hold these stakeholders to account” he added.
Smaller sessions discussed how to stay safe online in a continent where being online and expressing oneself is often equated with “terrorism”.
The topic was handled by the Zone 9 bloggers, a group of Ethiopian bloggers; some of whom were arrested and allegedly jailed for doing their job by the Ethiopian authorities.
“Governments label those who are brave to fight for justice as terrorists” said Befekadu Hailu, one of the Zone 9 bloggers narrating how he was tortured for simply blogging.
Discussions in other panels addressed the issue ‘fake news’ across social media platforms on the continent.
Journalists and bloggers were called upon to go last with a story and first with the truth to ensure that they don’t fall victim to the dissemination of unverified information. Added to this, they would need to find tools that will help them to verify the authenticity of photos, audio, tweets and other infographics that sometimes pass for ‘news’ on social media when they really are not.
“The internet nowadays is just as important as water or electricity. You simply cannot do without it” Peter Asare from the Pan African University in Cameroon told the audience. “You cannot separate your life online from your life offline’’ and so “we better fight for the right to freedom on the internet” Charles Onyangobo from Africapedia said.
Cameroon, Gabon, Togo and a host of other African countries have shut down internet connectivity within the last two years mainly for reasons to do with politics. A phenomenon which will “continue with impunity unless we rise up to denounce this ill in the strongest possible terms” according to Olumide Babalola, a Nigerian lawyer.
“We, like the proverbial hunter who shoots without missing, must also find ways to circumvent the incessant censorship by governments on cyberspace” stated Dr. Waraigala Wakabi from the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).
It is worth mentioning that the FIFAfrica is a landmark event that convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and abroad to discuss issues relating to internet governance and internet freedom.
This is the first time it was held in West Africa, having been hosted in East and Southern Africa before. This year’s event was jointly hosted by CIPESA and the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and saw students, academics, journalists, opposition politicians, ICT experts, human rights activists among several others in attendance.
There have been several deaths and casualties in the restive English-speaking area of Cameroon where separatists are battling soldiers. The clashes follow a ban imposed by authorities restricting movement from one sub division to another and prohibiting the assembling of more than four persons.
“We could not go to church yesterday” said a resident of Ndu, a tea-growing town some 110km from the regional capital of Bamenda. “People were teargassed out of a church yesterday by soldiers”, the woman who opted for anonymity told the American Media Institute.
Most churches remained close Sunday as people feared arrests by soldiers and the few who made it to some churches were asked to return home by gun-wielding soldiers according to sources on the ground.
Monday was characterized by gunshots in towns like Bamenda,Kumbo and Pinyin with reports of unverified fatalities and casualties at this stage given the volatility of the situation.
Sources also said two military helicopters were flying overhead and that “there has been intermittent shooting since morning; probably between the Ambazonia fighters and soldiers. We are all lying on the floor to avoid getting hit by stray bullets.”
“Ambazonia” is a rebrand of the Southern Cameroons which joined French Cameroun in 1961 on the basis of a two-state federation that was discarded in 1972 by then president Ahmadou Ahidjo in favour of a “United Republic of Cameroon.”
Southern Cameroonians say the abolition of the two-state federation went against agreements reached between the two Cameroons at a Conference in Foumban, French Cameroun where it was agreed that the two-state nature of the state shall remain sacred.
Southern Cameroonians who have since been split into the Northwest and Southwest of the country have also long complained of economic and political marginalization and things came to a head in 2016 when lawyers and teachers complained of having French-speaking teachers and judges imposed upon them by the central government and called for a return to the two-state federation.
Government arrested key leaders and later succumbed to international pressure and released them; but continued harassment of activists and journalists, shutting down internet access and a refusal to touch on the political demands made has led to a call for not just a return to the two-state federation but an outright ‘restoration’ of the statehood of the Southern Cameroons.
The International Crisis Group, Amnesty International and other organizations have warned that the situation is likely to escalate further especially with a presidential election scheduled for October 7 with president Paul Biya in power for 36 years seeking re-election.
South Sudanese demonstrators await the arrival of President Salva Kiir at Juba International Airport on June 22, 2018. (Akuot Chol/AFP/Getty Images)
Years of brutal civil war in South Sudan have left at least 382,000 people dead, according to an estimate in a new State Department-funded study that far surpasses an earlier figure issued by the United Nations and points to the horrors of an often-overlooked conflict.
The findings of the study, conducted by a small team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine but commissioned by the U.S. Institute for Peace in partnership with the State Department, were released Wednesday.The Washington Post obtained an advance copy of the report.
In March 2016, U.N. officials estimated that the conflict had killed about 50,000 people, and for years, a more accurate death count has been missing as a metric to measure the bloodshed, even as the conflict raged on. Experts say an accurate death toll can be a critical tool for policymakers.
Ghanaian peacekeepers with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan patrol in March in Leer, a town in South Sudan where famine has been declared since February 2017. (Stefanie Glinski/AFP/Getty Images)
But counting the dead is a challenge in war zones, where many people are displaced and crucial data is hard to come by.
By comparison, the new estimate puts the death toll from the violence in South Sudan on par with the impact of conflicts such as the war in Syria, where upward of 510,000 people are believed to have died in a significantly larger population.
Gordon Buay, deputy chief of mission at the South Sudanese Embassy in Washington, said he thinks the estimate is “not accurate.” He said he would put the death toll at fewer than 20,000 people.
“If you included disease and everything, it would be less than 20,000,” Buay said.
But Francesco Checchi, the lead epidemiologist who worked on the study, said his team’s estimate is conservative. He and other researchers at the London school statistically analyzed mortality data in the country to estimate conflict-related deaths between December 2013 and April 2018.
They compiled data from humanitarian agencies and media reports, piecing together factors including food security, presence of humanitarian groups and intensity of armed conflict to create a statistical model that predicts mortality by county. At the center of their research were around 200 surveys conducted by humanitarian groups across South Sudan.
Checchi called the process “painstaking.”
In South Sudan, a number of factors, including the dangerous nature of the conflict, have made calculating a death toll through a national survey and interviews with families nearly impossible.
The country broke away from Sudan seven years ago, after decades of deadly conflict that eventually led to shaky independence. But South Sudan soon fell back into war, after a rivalry between President Salva Kiir, from the Dinka ethnic group, and then-Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, turned violent.
The conflict started in Juba, the capital, and spread across the country. Journalists, human rights researchers and humanitarian workers have collected evidence of mass atrocities committed by both sides in the conflict, but rights groups say most attacks on civilians have been carried out by government troops. In some areas, entire villages were said to have been razed. Women were allegedly raped and children burned alive, and some families even reported forced cannibalism.
South Sudan’s then-first vice president, Riek Machar, left, and President Salva Kiir sit to be photographed after the first meeting of a new transitional coalition government in the capital, Juba, in April 2016. (Jason Patinkin/AP)
Checchi’s team took into account assumptions about what the death rate would have been without civil war to find how many excess deaths the conflict has caused. The researchers factored in the reality that many people have fled or were killed in circumstances that might have been exacerbated by the conflict, such as outbreak of disease or malnutrition, he said. South Sudan experienced a man-made famine last year.
*Source Washington Post.Siobhán O’Grady writes about foreign affairs for the Washington Post. She previously freelanced across Africa and worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy magazine. Follow
“We are not sheep,” reads a curious message from militants of the ruling party at a rare campaign event of the 85 year old incumbent President Paul Biya in Maroua
In a new opinion poll released by the Nkafu Policy Institute, the favorability rating of incumbent President Paul Biya is less than thirty percent. The bad news comes barely a week to crucial elections where Biya will be seeking to prolong his 36-year-old grip on power.
Aged 85, President has been largely invisible on the campaign trail. While his challengers have been crisscrossing the country, the President has relied heavily on surrogates . At a rare campaign stop in Maroua, the capital of the Far North Region, the President was unable to articulate a compelling case for his re-election.
With less than seven million registered voters for the elections, Biya’s unpopularity is no guarantee for automatic defeat. None of his opposition challengers has a score higher than his. Without a consensus candidate or a coalition of opposition challenges, the one round ballot plays strongly in favour of Mr Biya.
The poll done with the support of the National Endowment For Democracy, also has interesting revelations on how Cameroonians feel about the direction of the country, and the current political crisis amongst others. Below is the press statement from the Nkafu Policy Institute on the release of the poll
“Today, we at the Nkafu Policy Institute, are pleased to release a scientific, nationwide opinion poll of adult Cameroonians on the state of the economy, perceptions on governance and the democratic process, and voter preferences for the 9 presidential candidates.
This survey, conducted with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy, interviewed 2,024 adult Cameroonians in all ten regions. Interviews were conducted in 54 urban centers and 25 rural localities from September 10 to September 20, 2018. All interviews were conducted before the official start of presidential campaigns. This representative sample has a margin of error of +/- 3%.
The findings reveal a country in free fall. 79.1 percent of Cameroonians believe the economy is headed in the wrong direction. The poverty level is alarming. Less than 17.65% percent of Cameroonian adults earn more than 200,000 FCFA (~$400) dollars a month. Cameroonians are mostly concerned about the state of infrastructure in the country: electricity, water, bridges, roads, railways and sea ports. Today, 90 percent of Cameroonians believe the road infrastructure is bad or very bad.
A large majority of Cameroonians (82.17 %) want local administrators such as Governors to be elected by the people. Cameroonians have very little confidence in the legislature (only 16.31 % support the work done at the national assembly and 14.48 at the senate); supreme court (only 18.15 % of support), central government (16.93 % of support); constitutional council (16.40 % of support). The vast majority of Cameroonians (65.04%) believe the Anglophone conflict is the greatest threat to the security of the country and most do not support the government’s war in the Northwest and Southwest regions. Only 7.84 % percent of Cameroonians support the use of force while 85.49 % percent believe dialogue or negotiation should be the way forward.
Not surprising, the incumbent president, Paul Biya, is deeply unpopular after 36 years in power, managing only 29.82% percent of support. Three opposition candidates stand out with the young 38-year Cabral Libii among the group with 11.24 percent. The other top two candidates being Mr. Maurice Kamto (12.65 percent) of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement and Mr.Joshua Osih (13.10 percent) of the Social Democratic Front. The top three candidates were all within the margin of error. Mr. Libii’s is mostly supported among Francophone youths where he commands 19.37 percent support among those less than 35 years old. The biggest surprise is the very poor showing from Mr. Akere Muna, with a support of only 2.12 percent. It is very clear today that if Cameroon’s opposition parties are seriously interested in winning the single-round presidential elections scheduled for October 7, 2018, coalescing between Mr. Libii, Mr. Kamto and Mr. Osih, or only two of the three would greatly increase their chances. One must be worried as 49.65 percent of Cameroonians are concerned of the risk of post-electoral violence.
This survey, in very simplistic terms, shows a society in deep decay, with no sense of direction and very little agreement on the most basic processes. There is great concern that at the current pace the growing tensions between communities and various political actors may degenerate into popular uprisings as societal norms continue to be eroded. There is great need, in the lead up to this presidential election, for a stronger involvement of the international community. It would be deeply unfortunate should the October 7 presidential elections further plunge the country deeper in crises. Strong actions must be taken to avert this real possibility. There is great yearning for a new consensus among Cameroonians, for a new beginning.”