Usury business is killing fragile economy in South Sudan – business body warns
October 8, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan Chamber of Commerce has warned some companies over ‘illegal’ loans to business people, amounting to extortion, fraud and money laundering in the war-torn country.
The Chamber is asking the Bank of South Sudan and commercial banks to control businesspeople and corporations that charge unlawfully high interest rates to the general public.
The chamber say the money-lenders borrow money from the banks and take advantage of desperate borrowers. The South Sudan Chamber of Commerce, says the Central and Commercial banks should identify the unscrupulous businesspeople.
An independent research conducted by the Chamber of Commerce last year found that more than 30 people are remanded in Juba prison for defaulting on loan payments. The majority of the accused were granted loans at an interest rate of 100% payable in one month.
South Sudan gained her independence in 2011 from Sudan after the decades of scorched-earth civil war, but the country descended into another civil war in late December 2013, the five-year conflict has devastated the country’s economic and businesses.
The conflict has also chased away the international investors and businesspersons, placed the country in the dire of business collapsing.
Speaking to the press this month, Lado Lukak Legge, Deputy Chairperson of South Sudan Chamber of Commerce, said the practice has become too exorbitant to the citizens, describing it as “cancer that is eating up the country’s economy.”
“The illegal business we are talking about is usury and it is only practiced by a few number of individuals in the country. And we are calling upon those who are involved to stop it immediately,” said Lukak.
Lukak said the Chamber of Commerce is/was working hard towards instituting legal procedures with other relevant authorities to ensure that the business companies who are practicing usury are held accountable.
“We are now planning to have a joint effort with six institutions such that we can address this issue as soon as possible and we are warning such people who are practicing usury to stop [it] now,” said Lukak.
However, the lenders are keeping a money at the homes due to this usury business, in which resulted to lack of cash at the central and commercial banks price of commodities across the country. In return, the businesspersons are not able to brings goods to the country.
Meanwhile, Secretary General for the Chamber, Simon Akuei Deng, said the Chamber of Commerce has just realized that some unscrupulous business persons and corporations have been engaging in usury over the recent months.
Akuei said usury is an unethical practice of which the business persons charge unreasonable high rates of interest loans on person who do not know the deal.
Usury, practice of lending money at very high interest rates, is on a high in the oil-rich country and killing the already fragile economic situation, Akuei said.
Without a credit and usury law, rogue individual and businessmen are taking advantage of people to extort money from them, he added.
“A few people that have cash in their hands are exploiting the whole country and creating more misery to the economy,” Akuei told a press on Thursday in Juba.
Akuei said small and medium size businesses are failing because they can’t repay loans and defaulters are thrown behind bars as their loans pile up. “These high-rate interests accumulate on loans on monthly basis as the borrowers continue to default, reaching tens and hundreds of millions of South Sudanese Pounds and United States dollars,” said Akuei.
Akuei lamented that ‘the interests are levied on the loans at as high as 100 percent or 150 percent for a lending period as short as one month.
“The loans involve huge amounts of money, sometimes millions of South Sudanese pounds and United States dollars,” he said, noting that the official lending policy in the country puts loan interest rates between 15 and 18 percent respectively.
Akuei said at least 33 businessmen who could not repay their loans are now rotting in jail by the lenders. The majority of the accused were granted loans at the interest rate of 100 percent payable in one month, Akuei said.
“To guarantee their money, the lenders sometimes force the borrowers to issue checks which are subsequently renewed monthly and the amounts due in respect of them consequently increase with the passage time, usury is unethical business practice in light of legal and moral norms and the high rates does not affect the individual businesspersons but also the entire society,” Akuei said.
Akuei call upon the relevant public authorities to take appropriate and immediate steps to end usury in South Sudan.
“The Chamber would like to inform the entire public that such practice is unacceptable and we would like those who are involved in usury to desist from it. We call upon the relevant public authorities to take appropriate and immediate steps to end usury in South Sudan,” Akuei stressed.
The country is now implementing a new peace deal which aim to end a long conflict and in position to restore economics and businesses stability. A new unity government is expected to be formed in November 12.
South Sudan: foreign heads task with redeeming a country’s image
October 8, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan has started a foreign policy offensive as it seeks to recover an image damaged by five-years of conflict.
Last week, the country was launched a draft foreign policy during the ambassadors’ conference under the theme: “Empowering and enhancing the foreign policy of the reconstituted for the reconstituted government of national unity (TGONU)” which is expected to be formed next month.
The draft aims at discussing and deliberating on issues facing diplomacy and foreign affairs. All South Sudan heads of mission abroad were present during the conference.
Addressing the diplomats and ambassadors of South Sudan, Vice President Dr. James Wani Igga said President Salva Kiir was urging all heads of mission abroad to restore the good image of the country.
“We have to promote our interest by using peaceful means on foreign policy,” said Dr. Igga. “It is high time for our diplomacy and foreign policy to be more vigorous, effective on the region and international level as the country is going to open a new page and form a government in the coming month of November.”
South Sudan got her independence in 2011 from Sudan after a decades of civil war but the Africa youngest nation did not develop any foreign policy to protect a country’s national interests.
Following the five-year conflict that was erupted in late 2013, the image of South Sudan is said to have been tainted by kleptocracy, civil war and lack of political will in President Kiir to end the conflict and develop the country.
In regards to foreign policy altered, in early 2018, the former top US diplomat Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council that her country was giving up on President Kiir for failing to end the violence in the country. She also said President Kiir had become an unfit partner to the US for prolonging the war and the suffering of the people of South Sudan.
However, the vice president also said diplomats should work towards ensuring that sanctions on South Sudan are lifted.
“Number three is, restoration of our good image, confidence and trust of the regional and international community to make our country once again attractive for investors across the world,” Dr Igga said on behalf of the President.
The foreign ministry is facing some financial issues for smoothly running of their affairs, but vice president says they need to be resolved quickly so that there are no accuses from ambassadors to carry out their missions.
Meanwhile, the minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, Awut Deng said the event aimed to help shape the foreign policy and diplomacy and to counter challenges that might come after formation of the unity government.
“Our diplomacy and foreign policy needs to be more effective and so as to cope and match with the change that is currently spreading through the whole of the region and the entire world,” said Awut.
She further said the country is ready to cooperate with the world countries in order to achieve its interests peacefully and objectively.
“We are ready to cooperate with the countries in the world to achieve our interests peacefully as we enter a new era of our history,” she added.
This was ever the first conference on foreign policy to be held in South Sudan since independence. The conference was attended by heads of 29 South Sudan missions abroad and foreign diplomats.
After the deliberation of the draft foreign policy it will be submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval.
South Sudan is now implementing a new peace that aims to ending the conflict and to revamp foreign relations.
Kenya:M-PESA features in the PMI’s 2019 most remarkable project list
October 8, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Samuel Ouma |@journalist_27
Project Management Institute (PMI), a global non-profit professional organization for project management has ranked Safaricom’s M-Pesa in its top 10 list of most influential projects in the world.
The service also appeared in the Top 50 most notable projects in the last 50 years. The organization recognized World Wide Web as the most influential project for connecting everyone and everything. Apollo 11, Intel 4004 Microprocessor, The Euro and Human Genome Project emerged second, third, fourth and fifth respectively.
M-Pesa which has existed for the last twelve years was ranked in position nine ahead of Google Search, Netflix and International Space Station. It has immensely contributed towards the financial growth in the Eastern African country and its impacts are felt in the entire world.
Over 1000 projects were considered for 2019 PMI most influential projects list by a group of 400 leaders in the global project management community. PMI leaders, members, academics and industry experts were part of the group.
The Top 50 projects selection was based on ability to change the world, shape lives and change DNA of organizations and companies that unveiled them.
“This recognition reflects incredible progress we have made in the project management profession and demonstrates how the fabric of our world has been shaped and continues to be shaped,” said the President and CEO of PMI Sunil Prashara.
“By the hard work of bringing ideas to life, this list demonstrates how PMI’s vision of how excellence in project execution will be critical in meeting the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow,” added the CEO.
Other famous projects that made it to top 10 are Alibaba, prius car, Live Aid Concert and Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
Kenya: We will not backtrack in anti-gambling fight saysMatiangi
October 7, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Samuel Ouma |@journalist_27
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has maintained that the government will not change its current stand on the ongoing crackdown on gambling which has caused untold sufferings to youths.
Matiang’i said he is satisfied with the process which began early this early. As a result two betting companies have quit Kenyan market citing unrealistic taxation. Speaking on Monday during a meeting with Muslim leaders in Jamia Mosque in Kenya’s capital, the tough talking minister urged citizens to join hands with the government to eradicate the menace that has plunged youths into unnecessary debts, caused loss of lives and breakdown of families. He further revealed the fight has not been smooth as it was initially thought.
“Data shows since we started a crackdown on gambling, change has been seen. It has not been a bed of roses but I am resolute in stopping it. No country has been built by gambling. This must be fought by every Kenyan,” said Matiang’i.
In July the government through Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) revoked the licenses of 27 betting firms for failure to comply with taxation and gambling laws, causing resistance from a section of political leaders and the companies. The Board went ahead and shutdown their pay bill numbers and SMS codes. Some firms have been cleared and given go ahead to operate whereas others like SportPesa and Betin shut down their operations after long struggle with the government.
The decision of the two dominant companies has led to massive loss of jobs. SportPesa alone sent home 400 workers.
“SportPesa is disappointed with the decision by the Kenyan legislature to impose a 20 per cent excise tax on all betting stakes. The tax is based on a fundamental misunderstanding by Rotich led treasury of how revenue generation works in the bookmaker industry. Until such time that adequate taxation and non-hostile regulatory environment is returned, the SportPesa brand will halt operations in Kenya,” read the firm’s statement.
“As a result of the deterioration of the profitability, the management has had to rethink its operations model and proceed with the exercise of termination on account of redundancy,” read a memo from Betin.
Prior to exit, SportPesa had terminated all the sponsorship deals in the country. The giant was the sponsor of Kenya Premier League, Kenya soccer giants Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards and Football Kenya Federation cup.
In April Matiang’i noted that majority of youths have run themselves into bad credit with many being listed in the Credit Reference Bureau Kenya saying the loans they borrow are consumed by the betting firms.
“We have about 500, 000 of our young people who have been blacklisted by these lending agencies who borrowed and are unable to pay. And they borrowed to bet,” he said.
Climate and environmental civil society organizations urge AFDB President Adesina to curb funding for coal projects in Africa
October 7, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Wallace Mawire
Climate and environmental civil society organizations have submitted an open letter to Mr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank calling to immediately stop the financing of all coal projects on the African continent.
The letter reads:
We, the undersigned civil society organisations call on the leadership of the African Development Bank to immediately put in place and publish on the AfDB website a policy that denies the bank’s funding or financial services to any coal project on the African continent.
We welcomed your announcement made on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, in which you reiterated the AfDB’s commitment to no longer fund coal plants on the continent, but rather build the “largest solar zone in the world” in the Sahel region.
This announcement follows a series of scientific reports confirming that stopping the construction of coal fired power plants and closing existing plants is a crucial element in achieving the Paris Agreement’s objective.
Africa’s vulnerability to climate change is well known and documented. According to the 2018 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, seven of the ten most climate-vulnerable countries are in Africa.
During this year alone, two powerful hurricanes plunged Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi into a state of disaster, at a time when droughts have taken their toll in Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa. Successive reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirm that after the polar zones, Africa is expected to be the second hardest hit region by the effects of climate change. These effects are already hampering economic development, sometimes eroding years of economic progress, exacerbating conflict and pushing hundreds of thousands of people every year into exile, especially those living in arid zones and areas affected by desertification.
Despite this gloomy picture, Africa remains one of the few continents where the development of coal fired power plants continues while the latest IPCC report stated that all coal-fired plants must close by 2040 to reach the 1.5 °C target set in the Paris Agreement. If fossil fuel projects continue at the current rate, Africa is heading straight for warming of 3 to 4 °C; a scenario that would have disastrous consequences, with extreme heat that would affect the majority of the continent’s land, increased risks of extreme drought (especially in Eastern and Southern Africa), a decline in agricultural yield, and extreme flooding as highlighted in the latest IPCC report. The same report made it clear that anyone who supports the fossil fuel industry knowingly contributes to untold suffering around the world. In the face of these extreme weather events and associated risks that threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of Africans, the youth and civil society organisations of Africa took action from the 20 to 27th September, calling for immediate and radical climate action in agreement with science, and an end to the fossil fuel era. In this historic mobilisation called “Global Climate Strikes”, people from all walks of life, including fishing communities, farmers, women, young people, civil society groups, traditional and religious leaders took part in diverse actions sending a strong message to their governments and financial institutions that Africa does not need fossil fuels to meet its energy demand and grow its energy supply, but should rather lead the world in the energy transition fueled by renewable resources.
Frontline communities affected by the coal projects of Bargny (Senegal), Lamu (Kenya) and South Africa have taken the lead in the strike mobilisations. While thanking and congratulating you for your commitment to rid Africa of the coal influence and to accelerate the use of renewable energies, we are convinced that the AfDB can do more by officially and definitively disengaging itself from any current or future coal project, starting with the Bargny project (Senegal) where the AfDB Board of Directors had approved a preferential loan of € 55 million on November 25, 2009. Subsequently, the same board approved an additional loan of $ 5 million. By doing so, we will be truly convinced that the statement made in New York is not a mere announcement, but rather a firm commitment to actively and concretely support the renewable energy transition and development that Africa so badly needs to not only fight against the climate crisis but also boost its development and improve the well-being of its inhabitants. That is why we, therefore, urge the AfDB to: Immediately put in place and publish on the AfDB website a policy that denies the bank’s funding· or financial services to any coal project on the African continent. Shift the AfDB’s portfolio to 100% renewable energy projects and sustainable, low-emission· agriculture and infrastructure; Publish a roadmap to reduce portfolio-wide emissions and align with 1.5ºC goal.· 3 Increase transparency and access to information as well as increased transparency in stakeholder· engagement and consultation in relation to energy finance; Release additional information or a timeline for the release of additional information regarding· the construction of the “largest solar energy zone on the planet” in the Sahel region; We look forward to hearing from you on what steps will be taken towards achieving these changes. Our hope is that we can all work together to create a brighter, sustainable future for the African continent.
The Future of Africa lies in Agro Business-Mohamed Kagnassy
October 7, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Young, dynamic, innovative and optimistic, Mohamed Kagnassy has enjoyed the kind of success story that should inspire many young Africans. Currently serving as Adviser on Agro business, and rural development to President Alpha Conde of Guinea, Kagnassy has previously held similar roles with the government in his native Mali, and continues to meet with other leaders and stake holders across the continent to harp on the game changing potentials of agro-business.
In Guinea, Mohamed Kagnassy says there have been significant improvements towards modernizing the agricultural sector in the country. From more quality seeds, to fertilizers, and general education on the potentials in the agricultural sector, Kagnassy says Guinea is getting its act together. Contributing to the changing landscape of agriculture in Guinea is an app created by Kagnassy called Kobiri which matches farmers with resources like tractors at affordable rates.
Mohamed Kagnassy has his eyes firmly set on making Africa as a whole to pay greater attention to agro business.With its size,climate, population, and more, there is no reason for Africa to keep spending vast amounts to import food that should be grown on the continent, says Kagnassy interviewed recently in Washington,DC by Ajong Mbapndah L
PAV: You have been adviser on agro-business and rural development to President Conde since 2016, what is it you do and how is it like working for President Conde?
Mohamed Kagnassy: As you said, I started in 2016 and it has not been that long, but so far so good. I am very happy to bring my vision to what we call rural development in Guinea in trying to modernize this sector. And this is my vision, trying to advice on how to restructure the rural economy in Guinea and how to modernize it.
PAV: Since you started advising the President in 2016, what are some of the changes you have noticed with regards to rural development in Guinea?
Mohamed Kagnassy: The first thing is education. We are there to communicate and rebrand agriculture. That is why we are talking of innovation. We have been able to improve or produce new varieties or techniques of agriculture. For example, we import more fertilizers than before as Africa produces fewer fertilizers. When you compare with some countries like India that produces up to 200kilo per hectares, in Africa, some countries have 10kilo per hectares. The farmers have more fertilizers than before; we have new variety of plants like cocoa. We produce Arabic coffee in some parts of Guinea and good seeds such as corn, rice and others.
PAV: We also know that you are President/Director of West Wing. What does your company do and how do you manage your duties as adviser to the President and President/Director of that company?
Mohamed Kagnassy: Private and public association could be one of the solutions to Africa. Today we can notice that many private initiatives are more or better structured than many public ones. But since we are working for the national interest, we are just experts bringing the expertise of our private sector experiences to improve public actions. The target is to get better results and that is what we have to keep in mind.
PAV: You are young and successful, what potential do you see for agrobusiness in Guinea and across Africa?
Mohamed Kagnassy: In Africa More than 70 per cent of the population lives in the rural areas. The future of Africa lies in rural economy. This should be a priority for any political action in my point of view. Today in Guinea, we have made it a priority in government actions. We cannot ask the young people today to practice agriculture like traditional agriculture. We have seen that the youths will not go for that kind. And that is why we are talking about modern agriculture and innovation. It characterises various factors like mechanization, fertilizer, good seeds and methods. That is what we are promoting like other parts of the world are doing. Today we just have to go for it despite the challenges we face.
PAV: In Guinea, you have created a platform called Kobiri. How does it work and what impact does it have on rural development and agribusiness?
Mohamed Kagnassy: It is a social or digital platform. Today in Guinea we are doing our best to get mechanization that is tractors available to all farmers. They do not need to buy because of farm areas or communities that are so small, and we cannot give a loan for such a small supply. So we need to scale up and what we need is through a digital platform we can visualise. Today in Guinea, through Kobiri, we have the possibility to rent a tractor for hectare to hectare which can take time for farmers to grow their seeds. We have a data system which aids in recovery and support to farmers.
PAV: What impact has it had with farmers in Guinea?
Mohamed Kagnassy: It is very simple. When you have mechanization, it eases the burden. For example, what you had to do with 25 guys to prepare one hectare of farm land, with a tractor you can do it at a faster and cheaper rate.
PAV: How affordable is it for the farmers to use the platform as sometimes people complain that getting network is a problem, getting credit for the phone or other cost involved?
Mohamed Kagnassy: That is a good question and like I said it is a choice. To get access you have a choice to either call if you have credit on your phone, go to the various centres- 7 of them in number covering all parts of Guinea, and if you have application you can order. So it is not only one single way. The cheapest one now is digital. When distance is too far and the road network in Africa is a problem, through digitalization you can make profit as you can be in your field working and ordering at the same time as movements cost money and time. So, we just given the choice to our farmers for them to make the one that is convenient for them.
PAV: So, we know it is working for Guinea. Any plans to move the platform to other African countries for them to benefit?
Mohamed Kagnassy: Yes, and as I said we have a model which is adapted to Guinea. We will go and offer the platform to other African countries. Each country has its own reality. As I said agriculture is not theory, it is reality. Anything which is social means progress.
PAV: You are currently adviser to President Conde; you have had experiences working in Mali, and recently you met with President Tshisekedi. When you interact with them, do you get a feeling, they are willing to attach seriousness to agriculture and rural development?
Mohamed Kagnassy: Most of our African countries are very young. There are a good number of challenges in Africa, and we have very few resources available. I like to show them today that some solutions can be gotten to improve on rural economy that we didn’t have few years back at a very affordable cost. Africa has a good climate, water, young people, and it doesn’t make sense today for us to keep importing everything even to feed ourselves. We are used to it but we have to change now and say this is not normal. This sector can give jobs to the majority of our people, and this is the start to get a secondary sector which is industrialization. If we don’t produce how can we transform? Everything starts from production, and we can get other sectors growing. This sector has a lot of potential with an available market to increase economic growth across Africa.
PAV: What message do you have for the youths on how to make use of the huge potential agriculture has?
Mohamed Kagnassy: I will invite them to come see the innovation in agriculture today. We will like the youths to go into agribusiness as it is the branding of agriculture. Farmers in Africa today are not like those of 50 years back. Our children go to school, and they have more knowledge of the world because of technology and the internet. Most of the immigration today is for economic reasons. I will like to tell the young people to take time to see what is available. Agriculture made America and there is no economy without agriculture. So they should not go away from agriculture as people are coming from China because they know the value of agriculture.
PAV: You are originally from Mali and here you are advising the President from Guinea, what can Africa learn from this in terms of integration?
Mohamed Kagnassy: Thank you for that interesting question and I can only say how grateful I am to President Alpha Conde, a leader who has also been President of the African Union. Like Mandela, and other great men, great nations like America had Barack Obama whose father is originally from Kenya. Guinea has been the capital of Africa. When I was in West Africa I was told that President Nkrumah was called the President of Guinea which was of course a title. President Conde believes in an Africa which is united, and it is easy for him to look for expertise around Africa. Colours or origins do not matter for President Conde, but how useful you are for your community whatever your nationality. For us the integration of Africa should be a reality, but the reality is that it is rare, leaders like President Conde should be saluted for their openness and strong vision.
PAV: We end with recommendations you have not just for President Conde, but other Presidents. What is it that all countries in Africa must be able to do so that they can get maximum potential from the benefits of agribusiness?
Mohamed Kagnassy: Africa should invest in agriculture and agribusiness. Africa has water, land and young people. Africa has a population of more than 1 billion and by 2050; we should be the most populated continent. The future of agriculture is in Africa due to its population growth, availability of land, and our leaders must do everything to create the enabling environment, and for young people to take advantage of the huge opportunities in the sector.
*Full Interview will feature in the October Issue of PAV Magazine
How the 1996 Constitution Can Take Care of the NW/SW Exception: A legal Perspective of a ‘third option’.
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
BY: ASHU NYENTY (Ph.D.).*
As delegates to the major national dialogue, especially those from the two regions that triggered the dialogue in the first place, converge on the Conference Centre beginning this Monday, and judging from the tenor of proposals in the consultations engineered by Prime Minister, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, the debate has largely focused on two potentially rancorous and divisive concepts: Unitarism v Federalism. It is on these two concepts that most of the attention is focused, as if to say it is either one or the other, as a solution to the crisis in the NW and SW regions.
The mistake that may be ineluctable if care is not taking is that delegates get into what I call an ideological blockage and fail to adequately explore an alternative that appears to be at arm’s length, but which seems to have been long forgotten. This is mainly so because of lack of familiarity with the various territorial or regional organization models available to Cameroon.
The purpose of this paper, as my own contribution to the major national dialogue, is therefore, to inform public opinion that these two are not the only alternatives and that they should watch out for the potency of a possible ‘third option’ or model that may send everybody home happy- the NW and SW, the other eight regions and of course the government. The issues discussed here would be more relevant to the commission on decentralization and local development, though they may necessarily have ramifications on the work of other commissions such as education and justice system. The reason is that this is the most politically sensitive area of the discussions that may have legal repercussions after the dialogue.
What is the current status of the issues at stake?
Writing on the issues at stake in the national dialogue, Barrister Paul Simo, who has over 20 years’ experience working on countries undergoing peace-processes and political transitions across the world, opined that the discussion has often been tailored in terms of three options, to wit, “separatism, federalism and unitarism”.
In this analysis, I deliberately leave out separatism, because in the context of a national dialogue, that option is dead on arrival. I will proceed to discuss the other two. Federalism in the present state of discussions has two variables. First, an “arrangement similar to the 1961-1972 federation, or in another, to a new multiple federated-state configuration”. The inconvenience of this is that if either of the two configurations is adopted it would lead to a sudden and drastic transformation of the administrative configuration of the state that may force the other eight regions into an arrangement they never asked for or for which their base did not mobilize for; many in the other regions do not yet understand the contours and ramifications of a federation. If there could be an agreement on that fine, but in my view, still coming out of a three-year gruesome war, be sure this option will be resisted with vigour.
Unitarism on the other hand is considered, even by many in the other regions as largely responsible for the despicable state of affairs in the North West and South West regions. Many in the other regions also feel the pinch of Unitarism even though they have not been as vocal as their counterparts’ from the two regions. It is clear that Unitarism as it is currently perceived and practiced may not satisfy or meet “the high aspirations of the people of the NW and SW” and also “of all the other components of our nation”, who clearly want to have a greater say in the management of their local affairs. If these two concepts, in the current state of affairs may be resisted or rejected, what then is the way out?
What is the ‘third option”?
The crux of the matter is that because of their peculiarities( to be discussed shortly) the NW and SW regions desire an arrangement that would provide them with a greater hand in what goes on in their respective regions. That is what leads us to what I have termed the third option (its political and administrative advantages will also be elucidated shortly). In discussions of this nature and based on our immediate past history, I think it would be counter-productive to appear intransigent or take a zero-sum posture of this or nothing. It seems to me that it is advisable to be flexible, weigh the different options and then give and take. That is the very essence of a dialogue.
In my view, the third option is found in the current Constitution of Cameroon. Since the 1996 Constitution was adopted, one provision that has often been ignored and indeed even overlooked, since the search for solutions to the crisis started, is the last Section of Part X devoted to Regional and Local Authorities. That Section 62(2) stipulates that:
“Without prejudice to the provisions of this Part, the law may take into consideration the specificities of certain Regions with regard to their organization and functioning”.
The underlying notion in that section is what is known in modern constitutional engineering as “territorial asymmetry”, which is consonant in countries that have an entrenched minority factor as is the case of the NW and SW regions. According to Barrister Simo, this is an arrangement “in which some regions…would be granted certain attributes and competences different from those granted to other regions”, because the latter regions do not have the same specificities. This model has been practiced with success in countries such as India and even China over Hong Kong, in what is known as the one country two systems paradigm. Even though not everybody in Cameroon espouses this variable geometry in the treatment of regions, the beauty of this asymmetric treatment is that it also works well in a unitary form of state. The example of China and its asymmetric treatment of Hong Kong, and which is a much more centralized system than Cameroon is necessary to point to again. This means that the present Decentralized Unitary system could be maintained, while at the same time the NW and SW find satisfaction in the management of their local affairs. Besides, given that the present Constitution of Cameroon allows for the continuous application of the Common Law, it is recognition of the exceptions that constitute the NW and SW regions. Apart from the examples already given, two of Cameroon’s colonial masters, whose double heritage the Cameroon of today enjoys, that is, Britain and France are plausible other examples. In the case of the United Kingdom, there is a separate status each for Wales, Scotland and even Northern Ireland within the same unitary state. In France, the Corse has a special status. It must be pointed out that it were calls for greater autonomy and threats of breakaway that among other factors pushed the French authorities to give a separate administrative status to that region.
Furthermore, in the couching of the provisions of Section 62(2), it would appear the drafters were foresighted enough to preempt the possibility of considering variations between the different regions in the extent of the powers they should have, depending on their ability and history. My understanding of that section is that the drafters of the Constitution of Cameroon had already envisaged a situation where some regions could be allowed to sail in different boats within a unitary state framework, based on their linguistic, historical, cultural or even demographic peculiarity. The case of the two regions is a very good example, where these conditions of peculiarity are amply fulfilled.
How are the NW and SW peculiar?
To amply justify the need for a special status each for the North West and South West, it would be necessary, in my view, to demonstrate the peculiarity of these two regions. It is clear to everybody of good faith in Cameroon that there are fundamental differences between the NW and the SW on the one hand, and the other eight regions on the other. However, some detail analysis of a few examples would be necessary to make the point. The fact that francophone parents in their numbers send their children to English speaking schools is an eloquent testimony to the fact that there are differences in the educational systems between the two components. It is not simply the language of instruction, the culture of teaching and learning is also fundamentally different.
In addition, in the legal domain, the common law is practiced in the English speaking regions while the civil law holds sway in the other regions. Though some attempt has been made at harmonizing some aspects of the two, they still remain for all intent and purposes walls apart. The Constitution of Cameroon clearly recognizes this legal disparity. It is instructive that it is the perceived adulteration of the educational and legal systems that is the immediate cause of the current crisis.
Again, the colonial past of the two components is different. While the British practiced indirect rule and the Native authority which gave the people much leverage in the management of local affairs, the French system of assimilation, paternalism and the Jacobin-style strong state authority did not afford much of that. So in matters of governance the colonial experiences of the two components differed and this heritage which has been transferred to younger generation has now met zones of friction and conflict.
Even though there are many other examples, these few, in my view sufficiently make the case for the NW/SW exception, within the bigger Cameroonian picture.
What should be the content of the special status arrangement?
Since the current constitution already mentions that possibility, it sounds reasonable that the main worry now for the delegates, if this third option were to be adopted, is to present a basket of what should go into the special status arrangement. What powers do the two regions want to have for themselves exclusive from the central state authorities? Before I proceed to discuss what this basket could contain, it is germane to point out that the special status arrangement could be applied exclusively to the two regions concerned as a matter of priority. However, in order to allay the fears of geometric treatment of regions, which I mentioned, earlier, these powers could also be extended, of course in relative degrees to the other regions if they find no objection for the time being.
Having said that emphasis should at this juncture be focused on the package deal or what I will call the content of the basket. That is what I think the commission on decentralization and local development should be able to do. This is because as I said earlier this is the most political of all the eight commissions. The other issues to be canvassed by the other commissions could only come to add up to that. The basket would certainly be for the delegates to fill but based on my own experience in the understanding of the conflict, the package deal may include but not limited to the management of the education system, the protection of the common law legal system, the proportion of the use of the two official languages in the regions. That basket will include the powers that the regions want to control and the powers of the local councils as well. The central government should be clear on what it intends to irreversibly relinquish to both the regions and the councils.
In addition to the merit of this model mentioned already, this model is neither to the right nor to the left of the debate spectrum. It is at the Centre. It accommodates the desires of those who are opposed to a change of the form of state and also satisfies those who seek greater autonomy. There is no doubt about it; we have already seen that special status arrangements work perfectly well in a unitary state arrangement. In that way everybody is satisfied and consensus is easy to reach on both sides.
Some of these changes if adopted would obviously necessitate legislative, administrative, policy or even constitutional reform. If the commissions consensually agree on what to do then they can easily propose the kind of reform that may suit their agenda so as to protect what they may have proposed.
I submit that the tenor of section 62 discussed above requiring the law to “take into consideration the specificities of certain Regions” is weak. I would rather propose that based on comparative constitutional law, and even Cameroonian history, such fundamental aspects are better guaranteed in the highest legal norm in the hierarchy. In this case it is the Constitution. If that were the case a constitutional revision could be sought to the extent that those guarantees are entrenched.
Is a constitutional amendment possible?
In the run up to the convening of the dialogue and even after the fundamental question on many lips was whether proposals and or conclusions arrived at may be translated into constitutional reform. To this question and analyzing the tenor of President Paul Biya’s 10 September speech, convening the dialogue, some legal experts have argued that such reform was “neither mandatorily required of, nor specifically excluded from the purview of the Dialogue process”.
But that possibility comes to life when you read other portions of the speech together with legal and constitutional provisions in force. On page 14 of the English language version of the speech, he announced his decision to convene a national dialogue “in line with our Constitution”, to “enable us to seek ways and means of meeting the high aspirations of the people of the North West and South West Regions”. My understanding is that if the high aspirations of the people in those two regions are to take charge of those affairs as we have discussed above, and possibly other arrangements agreed to in other commissions, it means that based on what the President said we have to go into the Constitution to seek to satisfy them. Either the Constitution has the answer directly or it points at the direction we must take.
If the Constitution does not have a direct response then a constitutional revision may be necessary to accommodate the issues at stake. And if a proposal is made in this regard, it seems to me that it does not overstep the confines of the Constitution. Provided the revision is pursued in a procedure that is in line with the Constitution of Cameroon, which the President swore to uphold.
On this score, it should be noted that the ‘Natonal Dialogue’ if it is working within the Constitution, does not have the locus standi or power to deliver “binding resolutions” or seek Constitutional amendments. It may only propose. Based on the President’s speech, which for now is the guiding instrument on the purview of the Dialogue’s powers, it has the power to propose whatever it wants to propose, if these can address the concerns and aspirations of the people in those two regions. But it is not within its powers to insist, to push amendment to Parliament, otherwise it would be acting ultra vires and out of tune with the fundamental law of the land.
Who has the power to seek a constitutional amendment in Cameroon? According to section 63(1), “Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed either by the President of the Republic or by Parliament. These are the only two authorities that are constitutionally empowered to seek an amendment of the Constitution. This may of course be through a government bill from the President of the Republic to Parliament or a Private Members bill in Parliament. However, The President of the Republic may also decide to bypass Parliament and directly “submit any bill to amend the Constitution to a referendum; in which case the amendment shall be adopted by a simple majority of the votes cast” and that will be constitutionally correct. .
While a constitutional amendment is not illegal, there are some amendments that will be inadmissible.
According to section 64 “No procedure for the amendment of the Constitution affecting the republican form, unity and territorial integrity of the State and the democratic principles which govern the Republic shall be accepted”. This means in clear terms that any amendment that seeks to change the state from a Republic to a monarchy, transfer part of our territory to another state or institute a one-party state shall not be accepted.
In fine, given the positions held by the different protagonists in the national dialogue and leveraging on my understanding that more consensual conclusions and recommendations may be viewed in a better light, I submit unequivocally, that a third option as I have discussed should be given a thought and explored, if all the parties must take back something to their bases.
*The author of this article is a Doctor in Law and Political Scientist. (The content are his personal views) .The article was previously published in the Median Newspaper on 30 September before the National Dialogue started in Cameroon
Cameroon:Teachers Celebrate International Day under Precarious Situation in Anglophone Cameroon
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The 25th edition of the World Teachers Day has been commemorated in Buea despite the threats and dire situation in which the teachers are in. The celebration which took place at the esplanade of the Buea council was under the theme, “Young Teachers: The future of the profession.”
This day comes at a critical point in Cameroon history with the country facing upheavals in the Anglophone Regions. The over three-year crisis has seen teachers beaten, manned, kidnapped, and others killed simply for practicing their profession.
The Regional Delegate of Secondary Education Dr. Hannah Mbua Etonde speaking during the ceremony urged the teachers to shun fears and be courageous, considerate, and daring knowing that if they stay away from classes, they are killing generations. “Let us measures that will see teachers work in a calm atmosphere. At this point in time, teachers need to be credible and courageous while adapting to the changes to the profession taking into consideration technological advancement.”
For the past three years, teachers have been beaten, maimed, kidnapped, and some have been killed simply for practicing their profession. “There is a good number of challenges that the teachers are going through in the South West Region. No matter the challenges, let us remain teachers,” she said while calling on the teachers to shun fears and be courageous, considerate, and daring while knowing that they are killing a generation if they decided to stay away (from classrooms). “Teachers should shun the unwilling attitude to teach students.”
The upheavals have equally had a devastating effect on educational establishments in the Anglophone regions. Many schools have been destroyed as the teachers have been chased away by separatist fighters. Speaking on this issue, the Regional Delegate called on the teachers, and proprietors of such establishments or those that are not functional to apply for redeployment, so they could be posted to areas that are operational.
To Esunge Ndive, President of the Buea Area Teachers’ Association, BATA said, “The very unfriendly environment where we are working today, due to the sociopolitical upheavals plaguing the Anglophone regions where teachers are kidnapped or killed is evocative. It is an environment where teachers are afraid to go to work due to fear of the unknown.”
He went further to outline some issues that are plaguing the teaching profession such as the non-award of academic honors and medals to the teachers of the Basic Education sector, very low salaries, especially for teachers in the private sector which cannot even pay their house rents, non-registration of teachers of the private sector for pension schemes, and no signing of labor contracts for teachers in the private sector with their employees — this leaving them at the mercy of such employers, who demise them whenever they desire.
The SG appreciated the teachers for having turned out to celebrate the day despite various threats at their safety. The teachers are the main actors of development. He went on to call on teachers to be the ambassadors of their generation, to preach by example and to serve as a model for the youths. They should equally work according to the ethics of their profession.
Another issue that was greatly frowned upon was the slackness new teachers have about their profession. According to officials, many present day teachers are only in search of the matricule number and not having the teacher spirit. “To the young teacher, teaching is not seen as a vocation,” Njikang Gabriel noted.
Nigeria: David Cameron Got it wrong On Nigeria Under Me-Goodluck Jonathan
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
– My Response To David Cameron’s Claims
By Goodluck Jonathan*
I read the comments by former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in his new book, For the Record, in which he accused me and the Nigerian Government, which I headed, of corruption and rejecting the help of the British Government in rescuing the Chibok Girls, who were kidnapped on April 14, 2014.
It is quite sad that Mr. Cameron would say this because nothing of such ever occurred. As President of Nigeria, I not only wrote letters to then Prime Minister David Cameron, I also wrote to the then US President, Barrack Obama, and the then French President, François Hollande, as well as the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appealing to them for help in rescuing the Chibok Girls.
How could I write to appeal for help and then reject the very thing I appealed for?
Also, history contradicts Mr. Cameron. On March 8, 2012, when the same Boko Haram linked terrorists abducted a British expatriate named Chris McManus, along with an Italian hostage Franco Lamolinara, in Sokoto, I, as Nigerian President, personally authorised a rescue effort by members of the British military Special Boat Service supported by officers and men of the Nigerian Army, to free the abducted men.
So, having set a precedent like that, why would I reject British help in rescuing the Chibok Girls, if it was offered?
I also authorised the secret deployment of troops from the United Kingdom, the United States and Israel as a result of the Chibok incident, so how Mr. Cameron could say this with a straight face beats me.
Moreover, on March 8, 2017, the British Government of former Prime Minister, Theresa May, in a widely circulated press statement, debunked this allegation and said there was no truth in it after Mr. Cameron had made similar statements to the Observer of the UK.
In his book, Mr. Cameron failed to mention that I wrote him requesting his help on Chibok. Why did he suppress that information? I remind him that copies of that letter exist at the State Houses in Nigeria and London. He never called me on the phone to offer any help. On the contrary, I am the one that reached out to him.
He accused me of appointing Generals based on political considerations. How could that be when I fired my service chiefs twice in five years, to show that I would not tolerate anything less than meaningful progress in the war on terror.
I was completely blind to ethnic or political considerations in my appointments. In civil and military matters, I appointed people that I had never even met prior to appointing them, based on their professional pedigree. Though I was from the South, most of my service chiefs came from the North.
I do, however, know that Mr. Cameron has long nursed deep grudges against me for reasons that have been published in various media.
On July 24, 2013, while celebrating the passage of the United Kingdom’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, 2013, Mr. Cameron said “I want to export gay marriage around the world”.
At that occasion, he boasted that he would send the team that successfully drafted and promoted the Bill, to nations, like Nigeria, saying inter alia:
“I’ve told the Bill team I’m now going to reassign them because, of course, all over the world people would have been watching this piece of legislation”.
As President of Nigeria at that time, I came under almost unbearable pressure from the Cameron administration to pass legislation supporting LGBTQ Same Sex marriage in Nigeria. My conscience could not stomach that, because as President of Nigeria, I swore on the Bible to advance Nigeria’s interests, and not the interest of the United Kingdom or any foreign power.
As such, on Monday, January 13, 2014, I signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill into law after the Bill had been passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Nigeria’s parliament, in line with the wishes of the Nigerian people. This happened shortly after a study of 39 nations around the world by the U.S. Pew Research Center came up with a finding which indicated that 98 percent of Nigerians were opposed to the idea of Gay Marriage.
Immediately after I took this patriotic action, my government came under almost unbearable pressure from Mr. Cameron, who reached me through envoys, and made subtle and not so subtle threats against me and my government.
In fact, meetings were held at the Obama White House and at the Portcullis House in Parliament UK, with the then Nigerian opposition to disparage me, after I had signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill into law.
On the issue of corruption, it suffices to say that Mr. Cameron is not as competent as Transparency International, which is globally acknowledged as the adjudicator of who is corrupt and who is not.
During my administration, in 2014, Nigeria made her best ever improvement on the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, moving from 144 the previous year, to 136, an 8 point improvement. As a nation, we have not made such improvements on the CPI before or after 2014.
In line with these facts, I would urge the public to take Mr. Cameron’s accusations with a grain of salt. I will not be the first person to accuse him of lying on account of this book, and with the reactions in the Uk so far, I definitely will not be the last.
*Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Chairman of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation and President of Nigeria 2010-2015. Caption from PAV and response culled from his facebook page.
Cameroon: 148 detainees in connection with Anglophone crisis Released
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
One hundred and forty-eight persons including two females arrested in relation to the ongoing Anglophone crisis in the North West and South West Region have been set free. The release took place October 4, 2019, in Buea during a court session at the Military Tribunal.
The release follows a decree signed by Cameroon’s President Paul Biya to discontinue the case of 333 inmates arrested for their alleged roles in relation to the Anglophone crisis in the North West and South West Regions. “I have ordered the discontinuance of proceedings pending before Military Tribunals against 333 persons arrested for misdemeanors, in connection with the crisis in the North West and South West Regions,” said Biya on Twitter.
“I am thanking the President for such a gesture to us. I am going home to invite my friends to come out from the bushes. I know that if they come out nothing will happen to them,” one of the released people told this reporter.
“I am very happy today that my son has been released after more than a year in prison” said Joana Nwanjo while calling on the released children to hold on to God as he is the one creating all the miracles today.
To the President of the Buea Military Tribunal Colonel Mem Michael, “They (released inmates) have learn a lot and hopefully they will join to build a better nation.” On his part, Frederic Poh Boule, EMIA Commissioner of Government told reporters that the release of the prisoners is a measure to solve the Anglophone crisis and we appreciate the measure taken by the Head of State.
The Secretary General of the South West Governor’s Office Dr. Mohammadou has cautioned the released inmates not to go back to the activities they were doing prior to them being arrested. He said, “Let them go now to their respective communities to preach the message of peace and tolerance, the message of living together.”
The separatists have however called for the release of what they say is 5000 people imprisoned since 2016, including 10 leaders who were sentenced in August to life in prison on terrorism charges, and the withdrawal of Cameroon’s military from the North-west and South-west regions. “We will not accept an olive branch from someone whose troops are still in our territory,” said Ivo Tapang, a spokesman for 13 armed groups called the Contender Forces of Ambazonia. “We will intensify our struggle with guns and bullets.”
Speaking to Barrister Ishi Daniel, he said when someone is arrested and is at the process of investigation security forces ask for their ID Cards and never return it. There is no law which says that the ID card of the suspect or accused person should be retain and made part of the case file. At the time they use the ID cards; they fill statements and even add information that is against the spirit of the law,” Barrister Ishi Daniel said.
The insurgency emerged after a government crackdown on peaceful protests late in 2016 in the Northwest and Southwest regions by lawyers and teachers who complained of being marginalized by the French-speaking majority.
Cameroon: Charges against Political Prisoners, Kamto’s Allies dropped
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Barely a day after the conclusion of the Grand National Dialogue, the President of Cameroon Paul Biya has ordered that charges against some officials, and militants of political parties including those of the Cameroon Renaissance Party (CRM) of Maurice Kamto be dropped.
In the statement seen by Pan African visions, the government did not say whether charges against Maurice Kamto, the leader of the MRC Party has been dropped. According to the statement signed by Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, Minister of State, Secretary-General of the Presidency of The Republic, said the President has dropped the charges following the conclusion of talks at the Major National Dialogue.
“… President Biya has ordered the discontinuance of proceedings pending before Military Tribunals against some officials, and militants of political parties in particular the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM), arrested and detained for acts committed during protests against the result of the recent presidential election,” the statement read.
He added that, “the decision is guided by the President’s constant resolve to promote peace, fraternity and concord amongst the sons, and daughters of Cameroon” while adding, “that the President is determined to look for ways to provide a peaceful solution to any crisis and disagreement…”
“Professor Kamto is being held at Kondengui Central prison of Yaounde infamously known for its horrendous conditions of detention. Reports of torture as well as cruel and inhuman conditions by law enforcement agents have surfaced on many occasions,. Our concern is heightened by reported systematic violations of accused persons’ due process rights by law enforcement and judicial authorities in Cameroon including the use of unlawful and prolonged detention, coercion, and torture,” the New York City Bar Association, one of the world’s oldest bar association said, as quoted by todaynewsafrica.
Kamto was arrested and jailed in January along with more than 200 of his supporters after they refuted the victory of Cameroon’s long time President Paul Biya at the 2018 Presidential election. Kamto organized a nationwide peaceful protest, and equally indicated that he was the winner of the election and not the incumbent. His decision to protest led to him arrested and several others.
At SBEC Training: Business owners, Agribusiness persons enlighten on Basic entrepreneurship skills in Cmeroon
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The third edition of the training on Small Business Management and Entrepreneurial skills has been organized with participants educated on Business management, Tax requirement, registration, declaration procedures and access to finance. The training exercise took place October 3, 2019, in Yaounde.
The SBEC training is the third in a series of six events organized by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Centre of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation in partnership with Global Affairs Canada. The training aims at equipping small business owners with basic managerial and financial management tools.
During her welcome remarks, the Director of Programs Agathe Djomeghu enjoined participant during trainings to become more dynamic business owners.
Dr. Ahanda Sosthene, Lecturer of Business administration, and project management at the University of Yaounde One speaking on the theme, “Business Management” drilled participants on the importance of knowing what they are selling, why they are selling, and the size of the market, who is best in that sector, how they can add more value, and what their obstacles are.
Usmanu Baba, SBEC Director indicated that access to finance sustains any good business idea. Participants were taught various sources of finance that they can explore for their businesses which included internal, external, formal, and informal sources. They were equally were enlightened on the different mechanisms put in place by the banks to assist small business owners.
According to information, access to finance is a key factor to the growth of SMEs but that notwithstanding, because of the difficulties faced by financial institutions in obtaining information on the borrower-solvency, lack of reliable financial statement of SMEs, absence of guarantee or inadequate collateral and lack of business plan, they (banks) become reluctant to award loans to these SMEs.
On his part, Ngeh Edison Tamfu, Founder of REO Cameroon, and a Small Business Consultant speaking on the module “practical approach to the small business tax systems in Cameroon edified various participants on the importance of operating their business in the formal sector and the skills they need to understand and comply with the tax modalities in Cameroon. As per the 2009 IMF study report, heavy taxes and 15 percent interest ceiling on loans on SMEs also discourage these institutions from financing the sector.
SMEs in Cameroon face serious challenges (inadequate capital, lack of managerial skills, lack of knowledge on the tax system)-which affects their growth and sustainability. Thus, this training falls within the framework of the prime purpose of the Small Business and Entrepreneur Centre (SBEC) — to spur economic growth in Cameroon through the provision of tools to establish, expand and sustain private sector business.
Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) contribute around 36% of Cameroon’s GDP, make up over 90% of businesses in Cameroon, and employ above 60% of the population. Yet, glaring realities indicate that enormous potentials inherent in this sector are unfortunately not fully harnessed — especially given that above 70% of SMEs still operate informally.