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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.).*

Cameroon Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute chaired the dialogue

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.

Dr Ashu Nyenty

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.

People gather at the Congress Palace during the opening session of the National Dialogue called by President Paul Biya, in Yaounde, Cameroon, Sept. 30, 2019. Photo Credit VOA

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

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Cameroon:Teachers Celebrate International Day under Precarious Situation in Anglophone Cameroon
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Teachers celebrate International Day under dire situation in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon. Photo Boris Esono Nwenfor Pan African Visions

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.

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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*

British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) takes part in a press conference with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House on July 19, 2011 in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo credit Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Europe

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.

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Cameroon: 148 detainees in connection with Anglophone crisis Released
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Some prisoners have been in captivity for two years in relation to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon. Photo Boris Esono Nwenfor, Pan African Visions

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.

Jubilant Prisoners in Buea as they were released in connection to President Biya’s Pardon. Photo Boris Esono Nwenfor, Pan African Visions

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.

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Cameroon: Charges against Political Prisoners, Kamto’s Allies dropped
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Kingue, Penda Ekoka, Kamto and Albert Dzongang in Prison. Pic credit Facebook

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…”

Tweet from Cameroon’s President Paul Biya

“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.

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Verve International celebrates 10 years of resilience, innovation, determination and unmatched services to Africa
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

(L-R) Mitchell Elegbe, GMD and Founder, Interswitch Group; Patrick Akinwutan, MD / Regional Executive, Ecobank Nigeria Plc and Mike Ogbalu III, CEO, Verve International at the Verve at 10 media parley held in Lagos, September 27, 2019

Verve, a leading payment technology and card business established in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, is celebrating ten years of unparallel service and innovation.

The celebration comes barely weeks after Verve penned an agreement with Discovery Global Network, a US-based direct banking and payment service in New York, enabling Verve cardholders to use their Verve Global Cards on the Discover Global Network which provide acceptance in more than 190 countries and territories worldwide.

Assessing the path covered so far by the giant in African card business, Mike Ogbali III recounted that what started as a mare dream, has today concurred the African economic sphere and is set to take on the world.

“Ten years ago, a group of young, vibrant, innovative minds decided that it was time to challenge the status quo, it was time to drive financial inclusion; economic prosperity by building durable Nigerian enterprises; propositions that the rest of the world is willing to embrace. All they had was a dream…today we are gathered here to celebrate that dream, which has not only become a reality but has helped to re-define the payment landscape in Nigeria, Africa and beyond.”

Recalling that before its introduction in Nigeria the sector was flooded with foreign card business, he pointed out that “Verve was created to cater to the need of Nigerians and offer real value to the Nigerian market…As a domestic card of African origin, with a better understanding of the African Market, we have delivered this promise in issuing our card to 21 African countries.”

“Ten years after we have become an international brand…It is general knowledge that the global financial technology ecosystem is accelerating at a rapid pace and as Africans we cannot afford to be left behind, not just as users, but more importantly as innovators and enablers. That is why over the past years, we have evolved from being a domestic card scheme to a globally accepted brand giving Africans the opportunity to explore the world with an African key,” he added.

Weighing in, Mitchell Elegbe, Group Managing Director/FOUNDER, at VERVE, an Interswitch digital company that prides itself as a pacesetter in facilitating seamless electronic transaction referred to the last 10 years of Verve’s journey as a period colored with different experiences, stories and emotions.

His words; “the Verve brand, which is the focus of our gathering today, has come a very long way. The card scheme has grown from just an idea to solve the payment inefficiencies in Nigeria, into a bouquet of innovative payment solutions for Nigerians, Africans; rest of the world, including Verve Classic card, accepted in Nigeria 21 African countries; Verve Global card, accepted in 185 countries including U.S, U.K and Dubai.”

Reiterating that despite their steadfastness its not been an easy ride, Mitchell Elegbe pointed out that such turbulent times have helped the brand to earn its stripes and come this far.

Verve card scheme started out as a small branch of the Interswitch family, over-time has grown into an independent company of its own with several product offerings in its portfolio. Behind this growth has been our people. They have remained resilient in the face of all the challenges, odds and seasons of doubt. They have trudged on, ensuring that objectives set are met, projects are delivered, relationship with partners are well nurtured, ultimately customers are satisfied.”

Attributing Verve’s success to the dedication of its employees, the Group Managing Director adds; “today, the solutions and products Verve has brought to the marketplace so far demonstrate what can happen to any endeavor when met with the right people, opportunities and environment. I consider these first 10 years as years of consolidation and growth. We anticipate the next 10 years as years of massive investment in unprecedented customer service delivery. In the coming 10years we will improve financial inclusion even more and make payment much more seamless efficient.”

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Clear frameworks key to investor interest in Africa’s renewable energy industry
October 4, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Grant Henderson*

Solar panels in Africa. Image: IRENA

With a population of more than 1 billion people and a collective economy of around US$1.5 trillion, Africa is a continent ripe for economic growth.  Developing the capacity to satisfy its people’s energy demands is key to unlocking that potential.

We already know that sustainability is a critical component of any real, meaningful development. Increasingly governments are coming to realise what this means; that in order to deliver on their broader economic and socio-political objectives they need to focus their attention on producing more power with renewable energy projects and innovative electricity storage and distribution strategies being a key part of this.

Historically, one of the biggest inhibiting factors associated with renewable energy projects has been the cost, however, the cost of delivering power from renewable energy projects is declining as a result of emerging technologies.

Securing the buy-in of the private sector is key to development in this sector. Incentivizing investment in the industry is at the heart of this, but so too is the establishment of clear, transparent frameworks for procurement and the setting of tariffs.  Investors need not only a thorough understanding of the environment in which they are committing, but assurances that these markets will remain predictable and stable. In the absence of these frameworks and the security that they provide investors will simply take their capital to countries to where the environment is perceived as more secure.

The second iteration of DLA Piper’s Renewable Energy in Africa summarises the regulatory environment for renewable energy in twenty African countries, highlights the key policy objectives for national governments and provides insight into the projects which are expected to deliver these goals. In showcasing the diverse approach to renewable energy being adopted across the African continent – and the legal, economic and technological developments being implemented – this report highlights that African governments are, despite the challenges they face, increasingly prioritising the creation of policies and frameworks that allow for the industry to be developed.

Kenya, for example, has since the 1990s allowed for independent power producers to operate in the country. Now with its long-awaited 2019 Energy Act finally having been passed in March of this year – the private sector will also have the opportunity to participate in the industry in a distributive capacity.  This is likely to result in a significant increase in competition which, in turn, should see the quality of the service being provided drastically improve. This in the wake of last December’s launch of the Kenya National Electrification Strategy, which provides a roadmap for universal access by 2022.

Uganda, meanwhile, is actively working to promote private sector participation in the renewable energy industry and encouraging partnerships that can effectively harness the potential of the country’s vast untapped natural resources. This as the government moves to reach its target of a rural electrification rate of 22% by 2022. Add to this the legislative changes introduced in 2016 that are serving to open up Botswana’s energy market to independent producers and you can see a positive and progressive picture of the industry’s development on the continent.

If the improvements to the regulatory environment continues, then so too will the accompanying spike in investor interest. Coupled with the wealth of renewable energy resources Africa has to offer – including solar power, wind power, geothermal energy and biomass – this could herald in the start of a whole new era for the continent’s renewable energy industry.

The future could hold some exciting developments, such as the ability to store electricity and a move away from fixed grids to the development of mini or micro grids to power remote communities and businesses.

The direct employment opportunities that emerge during the construction and development of renewable energy projects are, on their own, significant, but so too are the knock-on effects. Put simply, the absence of power is an economic inhibitor and developing and adding power to the grid provides and encourages opportunity in many forms. Ultimately, more power drives stronger economies and that is something that we should all get behind.

*Director at DLA Piper Africa

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Cameroon :Government signs FCFA 650 million contract to reconstruct burnt Kumba hospital
October 4, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Allegra Baiocchi Resident Coordinator of the UN system and Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon visiting part of the burnt Kumba District Hospital in February

A contract worth FCFA 650 million have been signed by the Cameroon government to reconstruct parts of the Kumba district hospital that went up in flames several months ago.

The Minister of Public Health Dr. Manaouda Malachie made the announcement via his Twitter account on Thursday, October 3, 2019, stating the part that had been razed by fire will get a new facelift. I have just signed the public contract for the reconstruction of the Kumba district hospital, including the block that had been burnt by secessionists, for a total of 650 million CFA francs, Dr. Manaouda Malachie tweeted.

It should be recalled that fire broke out at the Kumba district hospital, located in Meme Division in the South West region on the night of February 10-11 killing at least four persons and injuring several others with the military and separatist fighters trading accusations at each other over the act. The dead who where patients are said to have been caught in the fire with their corpses later retrieved in the morning, as some patients remained stranded.

The fire ravaged sections of the hospital including the Male and Female surgical wards, the Nurses quarter as well as the Generator room. Valuable properties were equally destroyed including at least three vehicles on the scene of the incident.

Part of Kumba District Hospital in flames after it was attacked by unidentified gunmen

Ms Allegra Baiocchi, Resident Coordinator of the UN system and Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon, on visiting the burnt site regretted that their appeal for humanitarian support in North West and South West Regions remains very underfunded. Today, we have decided to try to find a place where we can find a better place to live, to understand how the situation is evolving — what are the big challenges, but some things that are already in place, Ms Baiocchi said, quoted by Camerooninfo.net.

“We have always agreed on the importance of information sharing. We are looking for the most efficient way to get to the people,” the Humanitarian Coordinator said as she re-echoed the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

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Cameroon:As National Dialogue Ends: Massive Changes Awaited in NW, SW
October 4, 2019 | 0 Comments
the dialogue has not met expectations according to many people

House of Chiefs re-established, Special status for North West and South West

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

The Major National Dialogue convened by Cameroon’s President Paul Biya is expected to end this Friday, October 4, 2019, with major recommendations already coming out of various committees.

Various delegates have ditched the call for federation that is the goal of many personalities in favour of effective decentralization. According to officials, federation will go a long way to appease and quell the violence in the North West and South West Regions.

Prior to the dialogue, traditional rulers, members of the civil society organizations, and Diaspora leaders had reiterated the need for 10 decentralized federal states as a means to solve the crisis in the Anglophone Regions.

One of the major recommendations that have been made known is for the South West and North West regions to be giving a special status. Late Thursday, delegates adopted a resolution at the dialogue’s plenary session recommending “special status” for the English-speaking areas aimed at re-enforcing the autonomy of administrative areas.

They (delegates) have equally recommended the re-establishing of the House of Chiefs-something that was greatly demanded by Traditional rulers in Fako and their counterparts across the South West. Speaking to Chief Etina Monono of Great Soppo Buea, He said Traditional rulers across the South West have many things they want to see being achieved. “We have a standpoint. We want a house of chiefs and elected officials”, He told Panafrican visions.

Delegates have equally proposed the position of government delegate to be scrapped. The delegates are just not in favour with such a position in the English-speaking Regions. If this issue is passed, it will spell trouble for some government delegate across the Anglophone Regions. What it will mean is the position of government delegates to the Limbe City Council, Kumba City Council and Bamenda City Council will all be abolished.

The decision will however bad news for the Mayor of the Buea council who has been working tirelessly to see the Buea council be upgraded to a city council-with him probably as government delegate.

Other recommendations made known included amongst others the reducing of the position of the Governors, Senior divisional Officers, Divisional Officers, Governors and Co. staying off council affairs, mayors to be consulted before appointment of council SGs and treasurers, council to be empowered and giving kickoff grants, and the powers of the Governors to be reduced.

As indicated in the program, the restitution of the work of various commissions will be held under the effective coordination of the President of the Grand National Dialogue, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute from 11 am local time. The restitution session will be followed by the adoption of the final report of the Grand National Dialogue,” said George Ewane, spokesperson for the dialogue.

The event that is held at the Yaounde conference center aims at seeking solution to the crisis in two English-speaking regions of Cameroon. In a report published last week, International Crisis Group (ICG) estimated that around 3,000 people have been killed by separatist violence and the military crackdown.

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The Time has come for American Super Dividends through Pro-Growth Angolan Investments
October 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Sergio Pugliese & Verner Ayukegba*

João Lourenço is President of Angola

Angola is again offering skillful American players of all sizes the opportunity to participate in mutually-beneficial partnerships
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, October 3, 2019/ — By Sergio Pugliese, Angolan President of the African Energy Chamber and Verner Ayukegba, Senior Vice President of the African Energy Chamber

On the 16th of October, the U.S. – Angola Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Embassy of Angola in the United States and the Angola Representation at the World Bank Group, will host the first Angola Economic Forum (AEF), just before the 2019 Annual World Bank – IMF meeting. The Africa Energy Chamber (https://EnergyChamber.org/) endorses this event and encourages US based investors to take a new look at Angola in light of recent improvements made in Angola’s business operating environment.

The timing and the theme of the event, “Unlocking Angola’s Growth Opportunities”, couldn’t be more appropriate. After nearly two years of deep institutional, legal and fiscal reforms, the Angolan business landscape is almost hard to recognize for anyone familiar with the business environment in the country over the last decade. The government of President João Lourenço has kept its promise to overhaul the country’s financial system, deconstruct chronically established rent-sinking structures and, above all, take direct aim at reorganizing the country’s economic backbone, its oil and gas industry.

From the onset of his ascension to power, President Joao Lourenco sought to make changes in key institutions like the National Oil Company Sonangol and the Oil ministry, favoring tried and proven professionals to political appointees as has often been the case in the past.

At the same time, the government took the landmark decision of stripping Sonangol from its regulatory role, putting an end to decades of conflicts of interest that stifled decision making and investment in the key oil and gas sector. Sonangol is no longer responsible for awarding oil exploration and production licenses to companies to which, it is technically a competitor. That is now the responsibility of the newly-created National Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG), an independent institution that, since 2018, manages the country’s oil and gas licensing procedures. 

The Petroleum Agency is guided by a new oil and gas framework that has been in place over the past two years, a new natural gas specific legal framework, the first in the country’s history, was also drafted to provide clarity and give license-holders the right to explore these resources for their own benefit and that of the country. A new fiscal framework was drafted and implemented to make the industry more competitive and attractive to foreign investors and, more specifically, a comprehensive master-plan was drawn for the country’s extensive network of marginal fields, with which the government hopes to address dwindling production rates while it waits for renewed investment in exploration to pay off. 

The energy sector is second to none on Lourenço’s agenda. The Minister Dimantino Azevedo has made it a priority to listen and be proactive to the industry concerns and create an enabling environment to execute Lourenço’s agenda. Opportunities to invest span from exploration in new blocks on offer to mid-stream refinery and downstream distribution expansion projects. Plans have been drawn to boost the country’s LNG production, and extensive works for new refinery capacity are well underway to rid the country of its dependency on fuel imports and permit Angola to become the refining hub for the subregion. A plan for monetizing Angola’s natural gas reserves and using them for power generation and industrial expansion has also been devised.

Beyond the paperwork, the regulatory institutions have been thinned, made more efficient and goal-oriented, while licensing procedures have been streamlined and are now much easier and quicker to navigate. Good governance and efficiency are driving the development of a conducive and enabling business environment. It’s a welcome all out house-cleaning that was long overdue.

So now, the time has come to address investors and partners, and open the doors for new mutually beneficial relations to be born.

Perhaps no action speaks louder in this sense than the Marginal Fields Bid Round that the Petroleum Agency and the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Petroleum is launching on the 3rd of October 2019. 10 fields will be put on offer in 2019, block 10 of the Benguela basin and blocks 11, 12, 13, 27, 28, 29, 41, 42 and 43 in the Namibe basin. The ongoing roadshow by the Petroleum Agency that had stopovers in Houston, Dubai and London was very widely attended, an indication of the interest that Angola’s oil and gas sector continues to foster with investors.

The fiscal and contractual incentives inscribed in the new fiscal and legal frameworks overseeing these fields have turned what used to be uneconomic prospects, into extremely enticing opportunities for capable oil and gas players. This is a landmark moment, as the last time an international public tender was held for oil licenses in Angola was back in 2011. The ANPG plans to hold a new tender every year in the run up to 2025. 55 licenses have been earmarked for bid rounds during this period, with estimated reserves in the billions.

The official announcement for the tender was made in early September 2019, in Luanda. Unsurprisingly, the second stop on the map of roadshows the ministry has prepared took place in Houston, Texas, on the 10th of September. It is no secret that the Angolan government has sustained a decades-long relationship with many of the US’s biggest oil players. Today, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Baker Hughes or Halliburton are dominant names in the market, alongside a few of their European counterparts. 


The oil companies in particular, as describe in NJ Ayuk’s “Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals,” which is currently available for order on Amazon, was a fundamental partner of the Angolan government in sustaining and developing the country’s oil industry through a civil war and many different crisis.

Now, Angola is again offering skillful American players of all sizes the opportunity to participate in mutually-beneficial partnerships that will contribute to the healthy and sustainable development of this world-class oil play.

After a successful roadshow in Houston, investors now have the opportunity to further understand the major opportunities available in the Angolan market by attending the Angola Economic Forum. This will be the first in a series of annual events designed to showcase the economic opportunities available in the Angolan market and build bridges with competent and capable partners. The one-day forum will focus on Angola’s economic outlook, its financial systems and, notably, on the recently-implemented reform efforts and the opportunities for private capital investments available today.

There has never been a better time to understand this market, so full of growth potential, at a moment when opportunities are being built on principles of transparency, profitability and long-term partnerships. Perhaps the most exciting oil play in Africa is at the verge of a new era, and American players should keep their eyes and ears open if they don’t want to miss out on the game.

* Sergio Pugliese is the Angolan President of the African Energy Chamber, and Verner Ayukegba is Senior Vice President of the African Energy Chamber .Courtesy of Africa Energy Chamber
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Verve Promises Continued Efficient Payment Solutions Delivery
October 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

… As Card Scheme Clocks 10

(L-R) Mitchell Elegbe, GMD and Founder, Interswitch Group; Patrick Akinwutan, MD / Regional Executive, Ecobank Nigeria Plc and Mike Ogbalu III, CEO, Verve International at the Verve at 10 media parley held in Lagos, September 27, 2019

Lagos, Nigeria. Monday, September 30, 2019. Verve Card has promised to continually improve financial inclusion across borders and make payments much more seamless and efficient.  This promise was made in Lagos by Mitchell Elegbe, Founder/GMD, Interswitch Group, during a media parley on Friday, September 27, 2019, to mark Verve’s 10th year anniversary.

The event, which held at the George Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, had in attendance members of the media, partner banks, other trade partners and a representative of the payment industry regulator – Samuel Okojere, Director of Payments Systems Management, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Verve is a leading payments technology and card business in Africa established by Interswitch Group in 2009.  It has since grown to become an independent company of its own with a portfolio of several product offerings.

Elegbe stated that the card scheme has experienced steady and explosive growth in the payment segment.  He said: “Our card scheme has grown from just an idea to solve the payment inefficiencies in Nigeria, into a bouquet of innovative payment solutions for Nigerians, Africans, and the rest of the world.  I consider these first 10 years as years of consolidation and growth. We anticipate the next 10 years to be years of massive investment in unprecedented payment service delivery”, he said.

Noting that nothing good comes easy, Elegbe said that the company has had its fair share of turbulent times, but has succeeded because of its people.  He said: “Our people have trudged on, ensuring that objectives set are met, projects are delivered, relationships with partners are well nurtured and ultimately, customers are satisfied. All these have helped the brand to earn its stripes and come this far. Today, the solutions and products Verve has brought to the marketplace demonstrate what can happen to any endeavor when met with the right people, opportunities and environment.”

Currently, the Verve Classic card is issued in Nigeria and eight other African countries and accepted in 21 African countries; while the Verve Global card is accepted in 185 countries including the U.S, U.K and Dubai.

For Mike Ogbalu III, CEO, Verve International, the story of Verve is one of resilience, innovation, determination and most importantly, a business proposition that has turned out to be successful.

He said: “At the time Verve was introduced, Nigeria was dominated by international card schemes. There was the need to have a domestic card scheme with better understanding of the needs of the Nigerian populace and Africans at large. Today, we have built a payment solution that does not only allow ease of payment across Africa, but has a superstructure that the rest of the world is willing to embrace”

He added: “Verve is not only a payment card; Verve has become a lifestyle for its users. It is the way we pay, play and interact. Verve is both a contact and contactless payment solution, a physical and virtual store of value. It is African’s key to exchange”. 

The event kicked off with a rendition in spoken words by Wana Wana titled ‘Vervolution’, followed by a 10-minute documentary on ‘The Verve journey, story & Future’.

There was also a panel session moderated by Mike Ogbalu III which featured discussions about the e-payment sector in Nigeria, its attendant challenges and solutions. The panelists were Gbolahan Joshua, Executive Director, Operations and Information, Fidelity Bank Plc; Olu Akanmu, Executive Director, Retail Banking, FCMB; Akeem Lawal, Divisional CEO, Payment Processing, Interswitch and Stanley Jacobs, Chairman, Committee of e-Business Industry Heads, (CeBIH).

Verve was launched in 2009 and is currently the only African card scheme that is a member of EMVCo, the global body responsible for setting and regulating payment card standards.

  About Verve

Verve is Interswitch Group’s innovative card scheme, offering products and solutions that enable consumers to transact all over Nigeria and across international markets. As the first African card scheme to be recognized as a valid, globally accepted e-payment gateway, we have built a world-class value chain ecosystem that benefit from the services we provide.

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Cameroon National Dialogue:Agbor Balla says Form of state must be in discussion
October 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

Akere Muna storms out of Major National Dialogue

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Barrister Agbor says form of start must be part of discussions

Renowned human rights lawyer and the leader of the ban Anglophone civil society consortium has insisted that the form of the state should be discussed at the ongoing Major National Dialogue to bring a long-lasting solution to the crisis in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon.

The Head of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, CHRDA was speaking at the Yaounde Conference Centre, during the working session of the Decentralization and local Development Commission.

According to Barrister Agbor Balla, if federalism is not adopted, the debates aimed at seeking lasting solutions to the Anglophone crisis will be fruitless, and the President will have to convene a new dialogue next year.

“We believe in the oneness, and the unity of this country, we believe that Cameroon should be one and indivisible, we equally believe that decentralisation will not solve the problem We have to get to a federation that is the minimum the people who have taken up arms would accept. Bar Agbor Balla said.

Barrister Ballas stance on one and indivisible Cameroon has received a backlash from Ayah Paul. In a Facebook post, Ayah questions who mandated Agbor Balla to represent Southern Cameroonians. He writes: WHO GAVE HIM THE MANDATE?

We are for ONE AND INDIVISIBLE CAMEROUN  the spelling of Cameroun not certified; and the highlights are mine. The barrister is entitled to his opinion: it is his most absolute right. Some other persons think likewise and so firmly hold. But with the difference that many such other persons hold that it should be the end product of legality, the reflection of the will of the people, at the least, in their majority. And that is the RUB!”

When Barrister Agbor Balla says WE, what group of persons is he referring to? Did those persons give him a mandate? What were the terms of the mandate? What is the nature of the mandate? When was the mandate conferred? What is the term of the mandate? How was the mandate conferred? As a lawyer, Mr. Barrister knows, or, at least, is presumed to know what I am talking about! WE AWAIT ANSWERS!

Since the President announced the convening of a Major National Dialogue without exclusion on September 10, 2019, many have been reacting on the need to adjust the form of the State and go in for federalism instead of decentralisation.

Prior to the dialogue, traditional rulers, members of the civil society organizations continue to reiterate the need for 10 decentralized federal states as a means to solve the crisis in the Anglophone Regions.

Akere Muna storms out of Major National Dialogue

The leader of the Now Movement Barrister Akere Muna pulled out of the Major National Dialogue citing his discontent over the way the event is unfolding. Akere Muna said at the end of the first day that he will not be returning to the dialogue table if all political prisoners in jail are not released and if the form of the state is not inserted in the agenda.

Akere Muna

“I was hoping to find a platform where all stakeholders can make their voices heard, where all opinions however divergent would be taken into account so a way out is found at the end of a healthy debate He said while adding that “Unfortunately, the unfolding of the events of the first day of the National Dialogue reveal that everything was carefully staged and produced from a script from which the organizers could not stray.” “Worst still, certain topics such as the form of the state and the situation of political and economic prisoners which are important in the current context, have simply been avoided. From what I saw, I could only suspend my participation in this event as it became painfully clear that they needed spectators, and not participants.

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