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177 inmates arrested for protesting in Cameroon’s notorious Kondengui prison
July 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

Police forces deployed at the Kondengui Central Prison in Yaounde, Cameroon, July 23, 2019. ( M. Kindzeka, VOA)

Police forces deployed at the Kondengui Central Prison in Yaounde, Cameroon, July 23, 2019. ( M. Kindzeka, VOA)

The government of Cameroon has via a communique penned by the Minister of Communication said they had arrested some one hundred and seventy-seven detainees in relation to last Monday’s prison riot at the Kondengui Central prison, one of Cameroon’s most notorious detention facilities.

This come 24hours after it was reported that hundreds of prisoners where unaccounted for after violent protest breakout in the detention facility situated at Cameroon’s capital city, Yaounde.

Some media report state that at least 300 prisoners were removed after the prison protest with other feared death after security forces used live bullets on protesting prisoners. Though Amnesty International has requested investigation into the allegations, the government claims that no shots were fired and that just 177 prisoners who initiated the protest were transferred to police and gendarmerie cells.

Leading the protest which also took place at the Buea Central prison were detainees arrested in relation to the country’s Anglophone crisis.

In an open letter sent to the Prime Minister, the detainee requested their freedom, stating that their arrest was unjust. Campaigning for an end to the war in the English-speaking regions the detainee denounced overcrowding, judicial delays and what they described as deplorable conditions at the Yaounde prison, which was constructed for 750 people but now holds more than 6,000 inmates.

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Cameroon Official Blames Opposition MRC Supporters for Prison Protest
July 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Kondengui Maximum prison

Kondengui Maximum prison

An official of the Cameroon government has blamed supporters of a detained opposition leader, Maurice Kamto, for a riot at the Kondengui prison in the capital, Yaoundé. Hundreds of inmates went on a rampage on Sunday July 21, burning the prison library and infirmary as well as the destruction of a workshop meant for female inmates, reports indicate.

A government official, Jean Claude Tilla, who visited the prison to assess the damage, told the BBC that supporters of Mr Kamto’s Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) were the instigators of the violence. At least 400 of the party supporters are held in different facilities in the country, but it is unclear how many detained at the prison took part in the protest.

Speaking to the BBC reporter in Yaounde, Mr Tilla said supporters of the CRM have been causing trouble in Cameroon prisons since they were detained. “We know that they are hiding behind the Anglophone problem to foment such trouble,” he told journalists”.

Cameroon’s communication Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi in a communiqué said at least 177 detainees have been taken into custody in relation to the protest. According to the Minister, the detainees were the brains behind the prison protest.

Minister Sadi however indicated that the protest led to two detainees injured while dismissing reports that there were deaths during the protest.

The riot which was live streamed on Facebook showed prisoners calling for the release of Anglophone separatist leaders held for over a year now. They chanted pro-independence slogans and described President Paul Biya’s government as incompetent.

Cameroonian security forces restored control after shooting in the air and firing tear gas into the prison. The Anglophone detainees – many of whom have never been taken to court – were moved to different detention facilities.

Another riot equally broke out Tuesday July 23, at the Buea central Prison which houses detainees of the on-going Anglophone crisis. According to multiple reports, gunshots were heard early Tuesday morning around the premise which caused many caused panic among the inhabitants.

On visiting the scene, this journalist and others were barred from entering the prison as an emergency meeting was taking place, involving the Governor of the South West Region and others security personnel. A journalist’s camera was seized by one of the security personnel and only told to come back later and collect.

The strike action at the Buea central prison reports hold was in solidarity to that carried out at the Kondengui Maximum prison in Yaounde. A similar one was organized in Bamenda, North West Region of the country.

Following the security forces’ use of firearms, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Director said “authorities in Cameroon must refrain from using excessive force against prisoners and independently and effectively investigate the use of firearms and live ammunition reported during the riot”. “Prison conditions are absolutely dire in Kondengui, an overcrowded prison where many prisoners are waiting to be brought before a judge. Until this situation is remedied, there is a real risk of further violence”.

She added: “authorities should work to improve the grim conditions prisoners are crammed into, release anyone detained only for exercising their right to peaceful protest and ensure that all the people detained past the legal period of pre-trial detention are immediately presented to a judge or released”.

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Sierra Leone:Former APC Big Guns to appear in the ongoing commissions of inquiry
June 26, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

 

Former senior government officials in the Koroma administration are to appear before Justice Bankole Thompson Commission of Inquiry on Monday 1st July according to a notice of hearing from the Commission of inquiry headquarters, Special Court Complex in Freetown.

The former erstwhile senior government officials in the past administration that should appear before Justice Bankole Thompson  included Sheka Tarawallie former press secretary and official in the Ministry of Information , Momoh Konteh , former National Telecommunications Commission boss (NATCOM) , Tom Oberleh Kargbo also former Chairman of NATCOM , Alhaji A.B. Kanu former Minister of Information and Cornelius Deveaux ,former deputy Minister of Information and Communications respectively as persons of interest on issues pertaining to the Ministry of Information during their tenure in office.

It could be recalled that President Bio in January this year launched the Commission of Inquiry in order to look at the governance activities of the former Koroma administration that ruled the country from 2007- 2018 that ushered the new administration of President Julius Maada Bio.

 

 

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Cameroon:Kidnapped Kumba Students Freed
November 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono (Buea-Cameroon)

A group of students kidnapped November 20 in a school in Kumba, South West Region have been released.  The students and teacher were taken from the Lords Bilingual Academy by unknown men linked to the separatist forces.

The students according to the Senior Divisional Officer, SDO for Meme Division Chamberlain Ntou Ndong were freed after an operation carried out by the army which led to the death of some of the kidnappers.

“All the students have gone back to their families except the teacher who is in the hospital with an injury” he said “In the course of the operation, at least two assailants were killed, others injured, their camps burnt down and guns seized”.

He added that “three students were rescued by the army November 20 immediately after they were kidnapped while the others were freed in the early hours of November 21 during a crackdown on the kidnappers”.

“The operation that continued saw the army kill two other suspected kidnappers and seizing four guns and burnt down bikes used to transport the students”.

The Senior Divisional Officer however précised that nine students and a teacher of the Lords Bilingual College Kumba were kidnapped as opposed to previous figures reported in the media.

What began as protest in October 2016 in the North West and South West Regions against structural discrimination escalated into violence in 2017, and the situation has worsened considerably since. Armed groups have called on local residents to boycott schools until a referendum on independence is held. Protests against marginalisation by the country’s French-speaking majority have been met with a violent crackdown.

The violence has led to massive internal displacement-at least 436,000 people are believed to be internally displaced while more than 30,000 have fled to Nigeria since September last year according to the UN Human rights wing.

 

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Nigeria set to host Africa Trade Forum 2018 – ECA
November 1, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Teslim Olawore

Vera Songwe

Vera Songwe

The communication section of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that Nigeria is set to host the Africa Trade Forum 2018 in a statement posted on its website, adding that the forum would hold between November 2 and November 3 in Lagos.

It also said that the forum was being organised by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and co-organised by the ECA, The Rockefeller Foundation and the African Union Commission (AUC).

According to the commission, the forum will bring together stakeholders from across the continent, political and governance spheres, the private sector and entrepreneurs, philanthropists, academia, researchers and development partners. The statement added that the forum was aimed at discussing the process for realising the AfCFTA.

The AfCFTA that was signed in March 2018 by 44 African countries and if ratified, would become one of the world’s largest trading blocs. The agreement aims to provide improved competition and lower business costs among members.

The ECA said that the forum’s purpose was to take a deep look into the challenges and opportunities of the AfCFTA in individual African states. It is also to better understand how AfCFTA can drive economic development and prosperity on the continent for all African citizens.

The statement also quoted the Executive Secretary, ECA, Ms Vera Songwe as saying “in an age of trade wars, Africa is sending a strong message”.

“In order to ensure the AfCFTA has a game-changing impact on African economies, we must now develop clear strategies for product diversification and inclusive implementation,” she said.

Mr Mamadou Biteye, the Managing Director, Africa, The Rockefeller Foundation added that the foundation was delighted to support the ECA and AUC. He also said the forum was an opportunity to work together to address challenges, discuss solutions and increase awareness about the agreement’s ability to be a transformative tool that improves the lives of millions of Africans, especially the most vulnerable.

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Lone Congolese Bank to Sign the China-Africa Inter Bank Association Establishment Agreement
September 11, 2018 | 0 Comments
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Terrorizing the Terrorist: Cameroun Warfare and Human Rights Abuses in Ambazonia
August 1, 2018 | 0 Comments

(Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (7))

By Solomon Ngu*

Mancho Bibixy and many others have been slammed with lengthy jail sentences after controversial trials.many believe that unconditional release of prisoners could help in quelling tempers

Mancho Bibixy and many others have been slammed with lengthy jail sentences after controversial trials.many believe that unconditional release of prisoners could help in quelling tempers

I had started writing a piece about social media and the war in Ambazonia when three high profile images circulated on the internet: the execution of women and the babies they carried on their back, the rape of a 17-year old nursing mother and the killing of a priest. All of these crimes were carried out by the Cameroun soldiers. The first act was in the north of the country where we have the Boko Haram insurgency. This atrocity was possibly recorded by another soldier. The second and the third took place in Southern Cameroons. These incidences of inhumanity have been traumatizing, leading me to reflect deeply on why these soldiers felt so entitled to rape a woman or kill an unarmed priest (among many other atrocities). It dawned on me that they were in fact dealing with people they have classified as terrorists. 

Anyone living in a Western country understands that the underlying message of terrorism is associated, rightly or wrong, with Muslim fundamentalists after September 11th 2001. It now constitutes part of anti-Muslim sentiment or Islamophobia whereby Westerners associate the Muslim religion with violence. Emerging from this narrative and undergirded by an incitement of fear and panic is a definition of terrorism for purely political purposes. For example, we now witness that dictators in non-western countries have found it convenient to consolidate authoritarianism by describing political opposition as terrorism. This desperate call for attention is done by leaders who have realized that the foundation on which their power is built has become shaky. To safe themselves from an impending doom, they turn the gun against their own citizens who mysteriously become terrorists overnight. Among other things, identifying the terrorist is an appeal to Western powers, to warn them that their economic interests are at stake.

When Biya described protesting Anglophones as terrorists, he was in fact appealing to a Western audience, especially France, a former colonial master of Cameroun (Francophone Cameroon). Worth of note is the fact that over the past fifty-seven years, France has been keen at Francophonizing Ambazonia through French Cameroun. A couple of months ago, a video circulated online in which archbishop emeritus Cardinal Christian Tumi mentioned that at some point during his career while visiting France, he was congratulated – probably judging by his impeccable French – for their effort in Francophonizing the Anglophones. The French official was unaware that Cardinal Tumi was an Anglophone!

One must not downplay the language used to categorize citizens as terrorists. The language we use most often shape our reality of the world. This is not to mean language reveals an objective world, because the way we see the world out there is socially constructed. Thus, we see terrorists out there only after we define who they are and where we can find them. It is purely a matter of who has the power to classify who the terrorists are. Simply put, a terrorist frightens the population and for this reason, s/he is an unwanted element in the society. But it does not end there. Categorizing people as terrorists is a way of degrading their bodies and humanity. It thus sounds logical to torture them in any possible way since the belief is that they can inflict pain on others.

President Paul Biya and his military guys have produced the Ambazonian terrorist in war talk, which is to say the condition has been set for the soldiers to abuse, extort, kill, loot, etc, with impunity, with their action informed by the belief that they are fighting monstrous beings. In other words, the soldiers sent to occupy Anglophone towns and villages have the image of Ambazonian monsters locked up in their heads. The conduct of the war in terrorist territory demands that cruelty and any form of human rights are suspended. Field evidence is showing that most terrorists in the war in Ambazonia are civilians. It is thanks to social media that we are getting a glimpse of how the soldiers kill citizens for pleasure. Priests have been killed. Girls have been raped. Elderly people who are too old to run into the forests have been burnt alive. The soldiers have carried out drive-by shooting/killing of civilians who stand in front of their houses. Entire villages have been burnt and crops destroyed. Schools, hospitals and churches have come under attack (some burnt down as well). In short, the terror campaign is all-encompassing and is directed at Southern Cameroonians, their institutions and livelihood.

A still image taken from a video shot on December 9, 2017 shows Cameroonian refugees standing outside a center in Agbokim Waterfalls village, which borders on Cameroon, Nigeria. REUTERS/via Reuters TV

A still image taken from a video shot on December 9, 2017 shows Cameroonian refugees standing outside a center in Agbokim Waterfalls village, which borders on Cameroon, Nigeria. REUTERS/via Reuters TV

It is only when footage of these atrocities is revealed to the public that we see a certain level of resignation on the part of the government and its supporters who all along congratulate soldiers for the good work they do in eliminating the terrorists. The images also contradict their narrative of the Cameroun professional soldier. We all know those defending Ambazonia are armed and are ready to defend themselves and their communities which logically means the government soldiers are expected to confront these Fighters. It is unclear why all Ambazonian are targeted. When it comes to the killings, the minister of communication simply says the victims of soldier atrocities merely suffer from stray bullets. What about the looting? What about the burning of villages? Some activists online have mockingly said in the case of rape that the victims suffer from stray dicks. This may sound humorous but it points to the fact that the soldiers are simply irresponsible and also shows the extent to which they can do whatever they want because they have the license to do so. These attempts at justifying or diverting the soldiers’ cruelty in fact tell that the leadership is satisfied with what the soldiers are doing to the supposed terrorists.

But there is more reason for the denials. It is unsettling for the supporters of the war to admit that the soldiers’ conducts are unprofessional simply because this admission would mean they are implicated in lootings, murders, executions, rapes, summary executions, mass graves, torture, burning of villages, etc – which is what is going on right now as I write. This explains why Mr Issa Tchiroma, the minister of communication would deny all facts, terming them opinion, until a video about rape, torture and execution emerges to shut him up. Right now, we know just too much about the misconduct at the war front. What more can they deny that we do not yet know? NOTHING! All forms of war malpractices have already been exercised on Ambazonians.

The atrocities committed by the soldiers are not unfortunate occurrences; they are part of the war and have been used right from the onset to instill fear in the minds of the people. The military is doing exactly what it has been instructed to do. Recall that in September/October 2016, university girls were raped leading to the fiery speech in the parliament by Joseph Wirba, an Anglophone opposition MP who told the government that the people of Ambazonia are not the slaves of the Francophones, their territory was not captured in a war and that they have the right to defend themselves. Also, in Feb 2018, a video showing the torture of Sam Soya, a disabled man, circulated online. His was suspected of knowing people who killed government soldiers. In one of the photos, we see a soldier severing the head of Mr. Soya with a knife. Images of unarmed civilians tortured or killed at the war front circulate daily on social media. Hardly does one meet an Ambazonian who does not know of anyone who has been killed or who has become a refugee – fleeing from people who should protect them. I have mentioned earlier in one of the articles that such state terrorism pushes Ambazonians into the arms of the Amba Fighters (https://www.panafricanvisions.com/2018/life-war-zone-30-days-ambazoniaanglophone-cameroon-5/).

At no point can we suspect that Paul Biya misspoke when he referred to protesting Anglophones as terrorists. It’s time we do a critical assessment. Who are terrorists? Are they people whose presence make others to flee their homes into the forest for safety or they are those who are smoked out of their own homes? We are talking here about human beings who have nowhere else to go. And as I speak, these terrorists are in the forests and are tormented by cold and rain at this time of the year. Talk less of access to health facilities.

*This is part of the series Life in a War Zone:30 Days in Ambazonia by  Solomon Ngu for PAV under the blog Kamer Blues

Life in a War Zone: 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon

 

Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (2)

Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (3)

Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (4)

Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (5)

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Cameroon:People Who Think I Can Be Intimidated Are Clueless About Me-Cardinal Christian Tumi on “AAC 3”
July 29, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Elie Smith

His Eminence, Cardinal Christian Tumi

His Eminence, Cardinal Christian Tumi

In the last two years, Cameroon has been facing its worse existential threat since the unification of former British Southern Cameroon’s with the former French administered Republic of Cameroon on the 1st of October 1961. In this exclusive  interview with Pan African Visions, Elie Smith met with the Archbishop Emeritus of the Douala Archdiocese, Cardinal Christian Tumi who on the 25th of July in Douala along with other religious leaders announced the organization of   an All Anglophone General Conference in Buea on the 29th and 30th of August this year.

“In Anglophone Cameroon or Southern Cameroon, there are several opinions on the current crisis and also how to solve it. Anyone who refuses that is not honest but the conference will help to come up with a common ground,” says the Cardinal known for his acerbic critique of the Biya regime.

Fighting off controversy surrounding the AGC , Cardinal Tumi says those who think he is fronting for Biya or Munzu simply do not understand him or his convictions. The Cardinal says he has been thinking about such a forum for a while and took the initiative to reach out to other religious leaders and stakeholders.

PAV: Your Eminence, lots of questions are being raised regarding your planned Anglophone General Council, scheduled for Buea on the 29th and 30th of August 2018. One of such question goes thus: when did the idea for such a conference come up into your mind?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: the idea has been in my mind for quite some time. I listened to the interventions of Anglophones over televisions and radios and I arrived at the conclusion that, we were not saying the same thing and when I say we, I am thinking of myself as an Anglophone and sometimes, I think we don’t really know what we want or perhaps that, our problems are not clearly defined. So, I thought it will be good for the Anglophones of all sheds and opinions to meet and to objectively as possible, say orally and in writing, what their grievances against the central administration are.  This would serve as basis for any future national dialogue between us Anglophones with the central government. In reality, it will be an update form because such a conference has been held some two decades ago. And that is why, when I met Munzu that I have known for quite some time and who has international experience, I called him as I had called others before, but he was most available and we spoke about my project and he accepted to be a sort of secretary of my idea of the proposed 3rd all Anglophone conference albeit with a different appellation.  Dr Munzu quickly caught my attention and approval not because I had known him for long or because he was willing to run errands for me, but mostly because, I think he served in a similar position at the All Anglophone Conference that took place in 1993 from the 2nd to the 3rd of August. So that is how I arrived at what has now become a topic of debates. I called him and he came here and I told him, I will not like to do this alone, especially given my advance age. I also told him, I will like to achieve my idea with experience leaders of major religions in Cameroon. That is also how, the idea of contacting the Presbyterians Church, the Baptise Church and the Muslim community to provide elder persons, came up. In preference, I would have wanted retired pastors and imams.  But as far as the Presbyterians are concerned, it is they who decided that, a synod clerk should represent the Presbyterian Church. And then we also thought that, we should not forget our Muslim brothers, they have something to say. So we contacted therefore, the Imams of Bamenda and Buea and they made sacrifices to be here in Douala. The Imam of Bamenda central Mosque, arrived here at 4 O’clock and left at about 6 or 7 o’clock in the evening back to Bamenda. That is how the idea that was originally mine took shape and we arrived at the communiqué that was made public. For such a meeting, you bring a draft, which serves as a working basis. You don’t come empty handed. We had such, on to which every word was properly studied and collectively adopted as ours. That is how the final communiqué read by Rev Babila George Fochang came out or was made public.

PAV: What do you make of some Southern Cameroonians or Anglophones who think your initiative is remotely controlled by Biya’s regime?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: of course they are sure that, the government has authorized the meeting or may be pulling strings from behind. But I can assure you that, there is no such thing, I am still wondering whether the government will accept us to meet because it is a big meeting which they will need to protect us and make sure that, the meeting takes place calmly because it is our right. It is also our duty as pastors to take the initiative that, I have taken.

So, if anybody within or without the Anglophone community could think that, I can be pushed around; it is certainly because they don’t know me. Cardinal Tumi can’t be push around or forced to do things that he doesn’t believe in. I have my personal conviction.

PAV: Granted that you are the sole initiator of the August 29th and 30th conference, how come that, it is only now when the crisis is in its 2nd year that, you are taking such an enterprise?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: Because, I thought that, the initiative taken by the government then to send some officials to meet with people of the South west and North West regions would help reduce the tension, but I think, all of us will agree that, the tension is getting more and more serious. And we can’t just sit down and watch what is happening in a situation where by many soldiers, many civilians are being killed. So, we as pastors we want to speak and propose to the Anglophone Cameroonians and to all Cameroonians, what we think should be done to cease the violence that is taking place in the country.  It is a proposition, we are not imposing. As Pastors and as religious leaders and for us Catholics, Christ has said: propose in season and out of season, whether they listen to you or not. You have done your work. We don’t have to sit down and see things go wrong and we say nothing. If we say nothing, we will be guilty before God.

PAV: Are you the initiator of the project or it is Dr Simon Munzu who is an avowed federalist or that, you are fronting for Dr Munzu?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: Can you imagine me at my age fronting for a young man such as Munzu? The Anglophone General Conference is my initiative, which coincidentally caught the interest of Munzu that I have known for years. So, is it difficult for me to make proposals such as the current one? Even if  he were the one who proposed it to me or you and I owned it and assume it, it simply becomes my own and it is the same with you, if I make  or bring up an idea, and you assume it and makes it known, it is yours. There is no contradiction here, whether he proposed it to me or I took the initiative and invited him. But it is my idea and I was waiting for the opportune time and that time is now. No one can manipulate me. The Anglophone General Conference is my initiative that I didn’t want to carry out alone and I associated other religious leaders.

PAV: Your communiqué read by the Synod clerk, said it will be an inclusive dialogue and this has equally raised more suspicions and doubts. How do you guarantee that armed militants and Anglophones who are abroad with arrest warrants dangling above their heads will attend without risk of being arrested by the government?

Cardinal Christian Tumi:  Well, your question partly removes the doubts or claims that, it is the government sponsoring the conference. If they were the ones, how come that, you will be asking such questions on those who are fighting in the bushes or those who are abroad? That is why, we are telling the government to please allow everyone to come in freely. And if it is legal, to free those who are in prison, so that, they will participate personally or by delegation in the meeting because it is called inclusive.

PAV: what is going to be new or said at the August 29th and 30th meeting that will be different from the ACC1 &ACC11?

Cardinal Christian Tumi:  The first is that, this initiative is taken by religious leaders. Second, we are going to be updating our grievances and this last point could be what will make August 29th and 30th different from AAC1 and AAC2.  We have a pastoral approach. We have no arms, but we tell love and forgiveness. These are the virtues we will be insisting on: love and forgiveness, objectivity and truth. This is not political language and that makes our approach different. As we take part in that meeting, we the religious leaders, we will invest in all those virtues that make man: truth. If intellectually, you see someone saying something good, by virtue of intellectual honesty, you have to accept it as the truth. When someone else brings up an idea that you accept or disagrees, but you find out that, it might help solve a problem, you need to concede and it  shows that, you have truth in you and also that, if you claim to be an intellectual, then you are an honest intellectual. We must learn to be truthful and honest intellectually. In Anglophone Cameroon or Southern Cameroon, there are several opinions on the current crisis and also how to solve it. Anyone who refuses that is not honest but the conference will help to come up with a common ground.

PAV: Do you think the government will accept or authorised your conference?

Cardinal Christian Tumi:   the Anglophones are not coming together with a fix political or should I say, they don’t have a fix position or one stand on the current crisis rocking their country or region. There are those who are for secession, others are for federation and others are for decentralization that the President of the country is proposing. All we are saying is that, anybody who wants to be part of this dialogue must be objective. That is to say, you must be ready to take and give. I have spoken with some Anglophones who say, especially those in the Diaspora and who claim 90% of Southern Cameroonians are for secession, then I ask them, how do you know? What is your basis for making such claims? I tell them, I can also affirm that, 90% of Southern Cameroonians are for two states federation, but what will be my basis? This come together, I repeat will permit us to know who is who in Anglophone Cameroon.

PAV: finally, I am not in any way putting in doubt your integrity, but can you affirm before God and man here that you not being remotely controlled by the regime or fronting for Dr Munzu?

Cardinal Christian Tumi:   Only God knows. To be frank with you, I was never consulted by anyone or groups of individual not even the government to make any intervention on this crisis. If I am not convinced personally of something, no matter how it is being presented to me or by whom, I don’t accept it. May be because the idea of the conference came from this house, some groups have started thinking that, it will be a start to solving the problem,  hence they think I have been influenced by somebody or an occult group or groups, as claimed by a French-language daily, Info-Martin of today. I repeat, no one has influenced me or is influencing me. All I and other religious leaders are saying is that, peace, love and forgiveness should be given a chance.

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Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (5)
June 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

Amba Fighters and the Question of Anglophone Freedom in Cameroon

By Solomon Ngu*

The Red Dragons are one of the most dreaded groups.Picture culled from YouTube

The Red Dragons are one of the most dreaded groups.Picture culled from YouTube

When I began to look at the Amba Fighters, it flashed in my mind that fairly organized boys’ movements have existed before in Anglophone Cameroon. Over the past hundred years, beginning in the later part of the 19th century, various boys movements – some state-sponsored and others, disorganized – have challenged constituted authority and made their impact felt in what we now know as Ambazonia (plus the Western Region). Nicolas Argenti describes some of these movements in his research on violence and state formation in the Cameroon Grassfields.  First were the tapenda, a name derivative from the interpreter. These were either connected to, or imitative of, the interpreters of the early colonial days. These boys posed a threat to the kings (Fons) and the German colonial authority. Later, at the turn of the 20th century, there emerged the free boys, so called because they drew inspiration from the freed slaves. Some of them simply refused to provide labor to the elders as was required by tradition. There was also the Gendarmerie, a French paramilitary organization known for extortion, rape, murder, incarceration without charge, unlawful arrests, etc. They crossed the border into Anglophone Cameroon after the two countries formed a federation in 1961. Needless to mention that this organization still operates, unfortunately, as a state-sanctioned criminal gang.

What underlines these movements is their tendency to harass and intimidate an established order. The movements were and are out for themselves and in no way would a population admire or support gangs that extract what others have earned through hard labor. To put it clearly: their infringement into the daily lives of people was and is received with scorn.

There is a reason why I refer to these movements and this is it. When I visited Cameroon and after hearing positive stories about the existence of the Amba fighters, I began to ask myself the question: why would villagers feel comfortable harboring people who are fighting a well trained and organized army? At the present moment, it does not take long before one realizes among the Anglophones that the government soldiers are seen more as a trained boys’ militia sent to destroy the Anglophone zone of the country. And it is within this context that the Amba Boys are greeted with relief. They are lauded for resisting the Francophonization of Ambazonia. Come to think of a situation where young men and women are courageous enough to punch a fat bully on his nose.

Hardly did I meet an Anglophone who did not admire the Amba Boys. In fact, they were even described as Pikin Them (The Children), The Amba Soldiers, The Boys, Our Boys, etc. which is a way of making them ordinary and at the same time, affirming an intimate connection to them. Against a background where the government soldiers treat everyone in the Anglophone battlefield as an enemy, there was the popular narrative that these boys are out to protect the people. This is demonstrated by their readiness to pay the ultimate prize for Ambazonian freedom by standing on the front line to take bullets from the government soldiers. Ironically, the government soldiers hardly confront these Fighters; they go for easy targets – the civilians.

That people should be oppressed to the extent that they take up weapons to defend themselves, and in doing so, kill other human beings, is unfathomable. In all oppressive systems where violence is used to keep the oppressed in their place, the oppressors must develop enough reasons to believe or portray those they humiliate are less human. These reasons advanced by oppressors free their consciences when they go about dehumanizing the oppressed. In Cameroon, the oppressive government has always been aware that it is despised by the people. But it chooses to ignore this. The question of freedom has been fundamental in the Anglophone struggle in Cameroon. They just want the predatory bully called government to get out of their way. In Cameroonian pidgin, the Anglophones don’t want to be the kokoh of the Francophonized system.

To get glimpse of how this bully operates and to be more concrete about what I am saying here, read below a scary encounter I experienced in Cameroon:

In mid-April 2018, I traveled from Buea to Bamenda (two Anglophone cities), passing through the Francophone part of the country. My first bus from Buea dropped me off at Bekoko on the Francophone zone. From here I took a mini bus to Bamenda. In the car was this young military man, a guy so brutish that I never wish to meet him again in my life. He sat on the right front seat. First of all, just after three hundred metres or so, we got to a police checkpoint and he became irate that the police stopped our car. He went out of the car and almost started a fight with the policeman who was merely doing his job – the Cameroonian way. About an hour later, he threatened to beat a civilian. And this is the story. An obstacle on the main road caused cars to divert their course, passing through a dusty road in a village. The villagers started placing wood across the road to block the passing cars.

This young soldier, a member of the notorious American-Israeli trained (and equipped) elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) unit, got out of the car and grabbed one of the villagers by his pants. So tight was the grip that one could see the genitals of the civilian bulge on the left side of his trouser. The villager winced with pain as the soldier tightened the grip, pulling his pubic hair in the process. As soon as he got back into the car, after the passengers pleaded for him to let go of the civilian, he said it was the Anglophones who were responsible for blocking the road. Pointing his finger warningly in the air, he shouted indignantly ‘C’est eux. C’est sont les Anglophone qui amenenent les problemes dans ce pays’ (It is them. It is the Anglophones causing problems in this country). This frightened the hell out of me and I could now understand why it took long for him to let go of the villager; he had in fact been torturing someone who belongs to a category of citizens he is trained to humiliate.

The young soldier saw himself as the law and had this belligerent courage and bullying attitude so characteristics of the so-called forces of law and order. They know the law isn’t for them. Surprising was that the passengers in the car praised the soldier and referred to him as l’homme de l’ordre (a man of order). The Francophones believed it was wrong for the police to stop a car carrying a soldier.  They went further to say the Anglophones (not the Amba Fighters) have themselves to blame for daring to stand up against the government forces. The soldier and the Francophones in the car plainly saw Anglophones as problem people and not as people with a problem. This would suggest the Francophone oppressive regime targets the problem people and not the problems that these people face. A recent video showing a military operation in the Anglophone farming town of Ekona tends to support this view that Anglophones are seen as the problem. In the video we see the military spraying bullets at buildings along the roadside. They did not care if there were people in these buildings. We do not even see counter fire coming from the buildings.

It was simply disheartening to hear how the passengers in the car believed some people are not expected to comply with the laws of the land. But to despise them would be missing a point. A century of brutal dictatorship, first starting with the French and then the two post-colonial Francophone regimes, has produced these authoritarian-admiring subjects; they perceive authority and power mainly in terms of how those in control could subdue the less powerful. That Amba Fighters have picked up arms to fight for Anglophone freedom is precisely because the post-colonial Francophone regimes just do not know what it means to live in a free country where the rights and opinions of others are respected.

I will end with this note:

There are criminal gangs who now use the name of Amba to loot, kill, extort, revenge and intimidate adversaries. The respectability accorded this movement may diminish if such rogue elements are not identified, named and shamed. Still, we are aware that the ruling government has either infiltrated some of these groups or formed distractionist units that want to be identified under the general umbrella of Amba Boys.

*This is part of the series Life in a War Zone:30 Days in Ambazonia by  Solomon Ngu for PAV under the blog Kamer Blues

Life in a War Zone: 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon

Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (2)

Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (3)

 

Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (4)

 

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Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (4)
June 16, 2018 | 1 Comments

Amba Fighters: Power Respects Power 

 

By Solomon Ngu*

In The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin, the legendary African-American novelist, says the police in America (and white supremacists) were cautious in attacking members of the Nation of Islam (NOI). Members of this black (or Negro as it was called in those days) movement were not ready to turn the other cheek in the face of police/white supremacist violence against black people in America. They believed in a tooth for tooth and an eye for an eye. These Muslims were encouraged to arm themselves, not to attack their rivals but that if attacked, they should fight back with a maximum force. For them, it was better to die standing. Malcolm X, a leading figure in the Nation of Island once said the only thing that power respects is power. Events in Anglophone Cameroon in recent months are undeniably validating Mr X’s viewpoint.

There was virtually no armed resistance to the militarization and Francophonization of Anglophone Cameroon before Mr Biya declared war on them in November 2017. Messages circulated on social media stating that the government was out to massacre the population. Images of troops in military cars –some of them photoshopped – heading to the two Regions were a frightful sight. The government had cut off internet in the two Anglophone Regions but people found a way to send images on social media by going to the francophone side of the country. We all suspected mayhem. And mayhem it was particularly in the home village of the interim Ambozonian president, Tabe Sisuku Ayuk. In fact the local administrator in this area told citizens to vacate their homes. This, they did. Most of them fled into Nigeria and have remained there ever since.

By the end of 2017 however, young men began to arm themselves. Hunters started using their rifles to defend unarmed villagers. And there was nothing the government could do about it. A few gendarmes were killed sending shock waves into the spine of political leadership and the soldiers. This was unexpected in a country where the military and the police are always above the law. There were online genocidal messages by Francophones, their journalists included, calling on the government to annihilate the Anmbazombies and Anglofools. The minister of communication cried foul and insisted that it was intolerable to allow terrorists to kill gendarmes. This incident, he said, further justified why Ambazonia needed to be militarized.

A Facebook post by a Francophone reads: block the borders with Nigeria so that no one leaves. Kill everyone including 6 months old babies. This horde of sheep fought Nigeria (referring to the Biafran War) and later established themselves on Cameroonian soil. Eliminate even those who speak French, they are Nigerians who have settled on Cameroonian soil. There aren’t Cameroonians in Bamenda (an Anglophone town), so, kill also the children, mothers, fathers, young people, etc.

A Facebook post by a Francophone reads: block the borders with Nigeria so that no one leaves. Kill everyone including 6 months old babies. This horde of sheep fought Nigeria (referring to the Biafran War) and later established themselves on Cameroonian soil. Eliminate even those who speak French, they are Nigerians who have settled on Cameroonian soil. There aren’t Cameroonians in Bamenda (an Anglophone town), so, kill also the children, mothers, fathers, young people, etc.

What Mr Issa Tchiroma did not realize at this point was that these soldiers on a mission to kill unarmed civilians unexpectedly clashed with another force that was bent on retaliating the death of the villagers. It did not for once occur to the minister and the soldiers that they were not the sole armed force in what was becoming a battlefield. Prior to their death, this group of gendarmes had killed unarmed civilians in the invaded village. Those lives did not matter in the eyes of the government, so to speak. The army had and still has the weapons as well as soldiers trained to fight the enemy, the Anglophones. Those defending their dignity have two things: courage and knowledge of the war terrain. In a nutshell, the scoundrel soldiers who had hitherto not encountered any resistance now knew there was power on the other side; and the only thing their power fear is this power that has not restrained from exercising itself through ambushes and other guerilla tactics.

Ironically by Feb 2018, the minister of communication stopped announcing the death of soldiers who die in the battlefield. Private TV stations and digital media footages captured by private citizens have revealed dead and dying soldiers. Some of them, facing threats of death, have defected; others have sold their weapons to the Fighters while some have simply escaped into neighboring countries. In early April 2018, I witnessed three military trucks that were purportedly carrying corpses of soldiers killed in the front line. It is well-known in Buea that the mortuaries are filled up with the corpses of the military men killed in the combat zone. Here is the thing though: the government conceals the death of these soldiers from the Francophones, fearing that parents may questions why their children are sent to die in a senseless war.

This strategy of not announcing the death of the soldiers on the public media is surely intended to deceive the bereaved families, making them think the death of their son or daughter is an isolated, rare and unfortunate occurrence. This strategy has no precedence in Cameroon where the military people who die in action are sent off in a solemn public ceremony with flags and medals adorning their coffins.

But how has this power evolved over time? As mentioned earlier, there wasn’t any resistance when the government sent rogue soldiers to teach Anglophones a lesson during and after the Anglophones celebrated their independence day on Oct 1st 2017. Soldiers chased, beat and shot the unarmed civilians. In the Anglophone capital city of Buea, helicopter gunships sprayed bullets on people from the air. No one for sure knows the death too. Some neighborhoods became aware of deaths in their vicinity only through the stench of decomposed corpses. It is believed some of the corpses were dropped from the helicopters. In all this, the soldiers were winning – their sense of victory was emboldened by fearful citizens fleeing life bullets. The government media institutions celebrated the triumph of brutality against unarmed civilians. Little did they know they just provoked an embittered population amongst them, the kids that were into a second year of not attending school.

Out of nowhere, we started witnessing armed and masked young men threatening to resist the marauding soldiers. They became known as Amba Fighters/Amba Restoration Forces/Amba Boys or just Amba. These Fighters do not have a central commander but all aim at fighting/sending away what they see as the colonial forces of La Republique. So far, they have been putting up a strong resistance and have become confident to the extent that they do not mask their faces anymore when delivering threats to the government and its soldiers. A few weeks ago I watched a video, in which the young people sang songs, displayed their guns, introduced their hierarchy and talked about liberating their homeland. There was this kid, not more than 15 years old, who threatened to take as booty, the sliced testicles of the president of Cameroun. This is what he said in pidgin: ‘We go kill you Popol. Me I want na that your canas’ (we will kill you Polpol [Paul Biya]. I want those testicles of yours’).

The gun has undeniably emboldened the resolve of these young people to speak without fear. Has this power been useful so far? Well, the government soldiers have not launched any military attach to free arrested/kidnapped soldiers or administrator of the regime, perhaps for fear of counter fire. In those cases where the kidnapped/arrested officials have been released, a bounty has been paid to the kidnappers.

In my next article, I still focus on Amba Fighters: how they are perceived by the Anglophone public?

*This is part of the series Life in a War Zone:30 Days in Ambazonia by  Solomon Ngu for PAV under the blog Kamer Blues

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Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (3)
June 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

After Fleeing from the Marauders – Refugee Stories

By Solomon Ngu*

The Humanitarian crisis has attained alarming proportions tens of thousands displaced from their homes

The Humanitarian crisis has attained alarming proportions tens of thousands displaced from their homes

Why the Biya government decided to launch war in the countryside, I suspect, was because he feared a Maoist-style revolution whereby villages mobilize enough fighters who eventually move en masse to capture the cities. Whether the government is succeeding in this or not is questionable. What we know is that some of the villages in the countryside have, through guerrilla tactics, put up strong and unbelievable resistance to the government forces. The Fighters are currently talking of cruising into Buea irrespective of whether they control the countryside or not. I must stress that the government forces barely occupy deserted portions of the villages; they haven’t captured any territory through combat. Those in the occupied parts of the countryside are living in the forests, have fled to unaffected villages or the city.

Photos and videos depicting the living conditions of Anglophone refugees in Nigeria and those living in the forests in Cameroon circulate daily on social media. Despite their condition, they – especially those living in the forests in Cameroon – go an extra length to take videos and photos within a setting where they do not have access to electricity to charge their phones. I recently got a call from one of my childhood friends, a farmer living in the burnt farming village of Munyenge and he said they have found a way to charge their phones by sneaking into those houses that have not been burnt down.

Villagers in the war zone, especially those in the thick forests region, do monitor the moves and location of the soldiers. They know which paths and routes to take if they want to leave the countryside. This task is further made easier by the Amba Fighters located in the villages. I met several people whose escape to Anglophone cities and to the Francophone side of the country was facilitated by these Fighters. These escapes are sudden and those fleeing have just a small window of opportunity to pick up a handful of their belongings.

To get a deeper understanding of the experiences of those who fled the countryside, I decided in mid April to visit some of the families hosting refugees. I talked with the refugees and must say their ordeal, courage and resolve to run for their lives in the face of advancing soldiers are worth commending. Take for example, the horrifying experience of Agnes (a pseudonym) who escaped into the forest for two days, leaving behind her very sick mother. She was too old to run with the others into the forest. Luckily, the grandma was still alive when Agnes returned from the forest. In less than an hour, she picked up her few belongings and was already on the run again to a neighboring village. The compound they fled into hosted more than 25 people. They all slept on the floor. She eventually reached Buea thanks to transportation money sent to her by her sister. In her words:

“We were told that there had been confrontations between the Fighters and the La Repubique [government] soldiers in a neighboring village which is about one day trekking from our village. We didn’t know the fight would reach us so soon. But events unfolded so quickly. I was on my way from the farm when I heard the sound of the guns. It sounded like the end of the world.  Bullets rained on our roof. One of the falling bullets pierced through my new jacket.”

Agnes showed me scars of the wounds she sustained on her legs and arms as she ran through the forests with her children and mother. Amidst the commotion, she had forgotten to take money. She took another risk of returning to her house alone. She came face to face with the Fighters who were all dressed in Cameroon military uniform. The uniforms and weapons had been taken from killed and capitulated government soldiers. To her surprise, one of the Fighters called her by her name and instructed her to leave the village as soon as possible. This, she did.

Another story is that of a woman who is in her early 60s. Transport services into and out of her village were completely cut off after the government forces attacked. She took into the forest, trekking for more than 50km. It took her two days before she finally got to the Francophone town of Dschang from where she took a bus to Buea.

But here comes another problem, the challenge of living in the city. With tears in her eyes, Agnes described how life in Buea is strange and unfriendly. She had thought her refugee status would last only a few days but two weeks after getting to Buea, her village, including a semi-urban settlement around it, was completely deserted by mid April 2018. Agnes had lost her freedom and privacy and needed money to survive in the new place. She was a farmer, a money-lender and a trader in the countryside. She left the village at the beginning of the planting season meaning that there is a possibility she may starve next year if she returned to the village. In my recent communication with her, she wasn’t sure if she would ever return to her house.

During my stay in Cameroon, I traveled to a few border towns hosting refugees. I spent two days in Dschang where the car parks serving Anglophone passengers were scanty. Listening to the hardship of those hosting the refugees was heartbreaking. Nearly everyone I met in Dschang was hosting refugees from Lebialem. There is this friend of mine whose five relatives fled the village to live with her in late March. As of the time of writing this article, the number has increased to six. She has a two-bedroom apartment. She avoids loss of privacy and stress at home by spending most of her free time in the church and farm.

The government has refused to recognize the Anglophone refugee disaster. Talk less of any conversation about the Anglophone Crisis at the national parliament. Responding to my first post on this series, someone insinuated that ‘this mad war [has been] initiated by desperately power hungry Cameroon diaspora’. What he failed to mention was that the war was declared on Anglophones, the ‘terrorists’, by the president in November 2017. The Anglophone diaspora started supporting the Fighters after they realized that the soldiers were killing Anglophones indiscriminately. The minister of defense actually praised the soldiers for massacres in villages in Manyu Division where people resorted to fleeing to Nigeria. It is estimated that between 40.000 and 50.000 Anglophones have sought refuge in Nigeria.

The narrative put forth by the government surrogate such as the one who commented on my first post specifically aims at excusing the government of war against people it sees as despicable. How do I know this? How the Cameroon government choose to treat – or choose not to treat – its citizens who happen to be refugees tells a lot about who is considered a true Cameroonian. We have all seen how the government provides humanitarian relief to Francophone refugees fleeing Boko Haram attacks. They have been treated as unfortunate people whose humanity is being destroyed by terrorists. The Anglophone refugees, to quote Franz Fanon, live in a zone of non-being; a zone where people are not recognized as full humans and their lives are less valued.

In my next post I will focus on the Amba Fighters – how they are perceived in Anglophone Cameroon. Part of my argument will be that they do no longer want to condone the dehumanization they experience daily in their country.

*This is part of the series Life in a War Zone:30 Days in Ambazonia by  Solomon Ngu for PAV under the blog Kamer Blues

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Burundi’s president says he won’t run for another term
June 8, 2018 | 0 Comments
AFP | File photograph of Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza

AFP | File photograph of Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi’s president has announced he will not run for another term, even as he puts in place a new constitution that would allow him to stay in power until 2034.

President Pierre Nkurunziza on Thursday told supporters that “I will support the new president who will be elected in 2020,” adding that “a man can change his position in the bed but he cannot change his word.”

Deadly political violence followed Nkurunziza’s decision in 2015 to pursue a third term, which critics called unconstitutional.

 Burundians in a referendum last month approved changes to the constitution, promoted by Nkurunziza, which extended the length of the president’s term.

Opposition activists called it an effort to cling to power and alleged intimidation and harassment of people who didn’t support the amendments.

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Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (2)
May 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

-Far-Near War While Anticipating an Attack on the City

By Solomon Ngu*

If one takes seriously the popular narrative surrounding the marginalization and oppression of the Anglophones, the conclusion would be that those who have taken up arms against the government are fighting a war of decolonization – they want to send away the colonizer. This evokes memories of decolonial wars fought around Africa between the 1950s and 1970s. Just how brutal these wars were is a subject that one cannot deal with in detail here but what we all know is that a certain category of people were fighting for their freedom. This war of liberation – according to the Fighters – is no longer about a return to federalism that the country experienced between 1961 and 1972. They want an independent Ambazonia or Southern Cameroons. Government crack-down, particularly soldiers’ unchallenged killings of unarmed Anglophones within the past twenty months, is fuelling the determination of those Ambazonians who want to get their country back. At the center of all this is the Francophonization of everything in Cameroon.

Anyone familiar with Anglophone Cameroon would attest that people in this part of the country talk about loss of freedom all the time. But the reality is that Cameroon is a police state where human rights violation, usually encapsulated by police brutality, has been normalized. Armed resistance against the government by the Amba Fighters has seen authorities devising many methods to further curtail the freedom of citizens. We witness that the government, fearful of what the Fighter could do, imposes curfews, undertake mass arrests, kidnappings, detentions and killings. It does not take long for anyone familiar with daily life in the Anglophone major cities of Limbe, Buea, Bamenda and Kumba to realize a shift in attitude as well as visceral adjustments to the new realities of urban uncertainty. In Buea where I spent most of my time, all the people I met constantly speculated when the war may reach the city. But at the same time, they went about their daily routine, cautiously.

I quickly adjusted to the new realities partly due to my familiarity with bodily discipline. I have been visiting Cameroon yearly for more than a decade and can thus easily tell what a tensional atmosphere is. Going to the countryside, a practice deeply rooted in my visits to Cameroon, was completely out of the question.  All I could hear was that I would be endangering myself and the family if I dared ventured into the village. In a worst case scenario the fear was that it could become difficult for me to get out of the war zone in time to catch my flight back to USA. A point I made in my earlier post and to which I will return frequently is the ravaging war in the villages where the soldiers, out of desperation to eliminate the Amba Fighters, have resorted to burning down villages. These acts of vandalism also take an opportunistic trajectory as when they set up their command post in one or more of the deserted houses and then feed and feast on the food, cattle, chicken and pigs of the fleeing villagers. There have been reports of soldiers setting these occupied houses on flames when they relocate to another part of a village. Videos and photos of vandalized villages continue to circulate on social media.

Amba Fighters’ guerilla strategy whereby they attack the soldiers and then vanish into the bushes has left a frightened urban population. They fear what the soldiers could do to innocent civilians if the Fighters attack individuals and institutions they see as sustaining the Francophonization of this part of the country. Would they burn down entire neighborhoods and markets, destroy people’s livelihood and kill innocent civilians as they do in the villages? How the city dwellers survive in a war situation is the more troubling considering that unlike villagers who are relatively self-sustaining, these urbanites primarily depend on food imported from neighboring farming villages. It should be reiterated that the war has destabilized the vital rural-urban connection that has sustained sociocultural and economic ties between the city dwellers and their village of origin. Within the past hundred years, villages in Anglophone Cameroon have provided sanctuaries for urbanites who return to their land and ancestors when they encounter difficulties in the city.

As far as I could tell, no one took it lightly when it was rumored that the Amba Fighters were present in Buea. What I witnessed in Buea was that government administrators and the police people generally restrain from their well-known wanton lifestyle. Anyone familiar with urban life in Cameroon knows just well how members of the police force in uniform intimidate and bully ordinary citizens at non-office hours. But here is the thing I observed in Buea: police generally do not wear uniforms at non-office hours. In fact, they take off their uniforms before returning home from work. They do not go to the taverns and bars anymore in their uniforms. The words of one police officer I met in Buea summarize this transformed sartorial practice. Referring to a possibility of an attack by Amba Fighters in Buea, he said ‘who no di fear die (who isn’t afraid of death?)’. He took off his police paraphernalia as soon as he finished work so as to conceal his identity.

Police station in Molyko,Buea, partly surrounded by sandbags

Police station in Molyko,Buea, partly surrounded by sandbags

Police stations and checkpoints now have 1.6 meter tall wall of sandbags that are intended to defend the police in an event of an attack. The biggest surprise – when we see god-like figures responding to insecurity – has been that of the governor of the South West Region. Mr Bernard Okalia Bilai presently lives in the Francophone city of Douala from where he commutes daily to work in Buea flanked by security. Recall that this governor not too long ago said Anglophones are ‘dogs’ that would face the full force of the police if they dare protest on the streets. As it stands now, he has realized his own vulnerability and has come to terms with the fact that he no longer has the monopoly to subject citizens to discomfort.

As I began writing this piece about uncertainty in a war zone, I began to think of acts of profound love and pain that some women endured as the fled from the government forces in the villages. I think of this lady who walked for miles at twilight through the forest with her one and a half years old baby. She was seven months pregnant. There was also this lady who abandoned her ailing and helpless mother for hours when news of approaching government soldiers reached her village. Both these women found a way to flee to Buea but were now facing another possibility of fleeing again into the Francophone zone in case war erupted in Buea.

These feelings of impending war in the city point to the fact that there are diminished possibilities to live life as usual but most importantly, it has to do with the question of mortality. Diminished livelihood possibilities and death are catastrophes that have afflicted villagers ever since the military started invading the countryside in October 2017.  And there seem to be no end in sight. As I write, people are still uncovering  the corpses of unarmed civilians killed by a recent military onslaught in villages around Santa, Menka/Pinyin, Oshei, etc

*This is part of the series Life in a War Zone:30 Days in Ambazonia by  Solomon Ngu

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Cameroon holiday hit by violence in English-speaking areas
May 21, 2018 | 0 Comments
Even in Yaounde it was a heavy escort around the President

Even in Yaounde it was a heavy escort around the President

Cameroon’s national day Sunday was marked by violence in its troubled English-speaking region, with two policemen killed, soldiers wounded and a mayor kidnapped by suspected armed separatists.

In the capital, Yaounde, in central Cameroon, President Paul Biya, who has ruled since 1982, presided over a public show of the country’s military might.

But in the English-speaking town of Bangem in southwest Cameroon, the mayor, Ekuh Simon, was kidnapped. In a video shared by suspected armed separatists Simon said he and his deputy were kidnapped by separatists for planning independence celebrations. He said he is being held hostage by the Ambazonia Restoration Forces that had said the national day should not be celebrated. Ambazonia is the name separatists have given to the English-speaking area they want to become independent from French-speaking Cameroon.

Fighting was also reported in the English-speaking towns of Konye, Batibo, Ekona and several villages of Kupe Muanenguba, an administrative area in southwestern Cameroon.

 

At least two policemen and several people were killed, according to the governor of the south west region Bernard Okalia Bilai. In the towns that were attacked, many escaped to the bushes and safer neighboring towns.

 

In the northwestern city of Bamenda, there was a strong show of force to prevent any violence, but only a few residents turned up for the celebrations, saying that they feared retaliation from the separatists. Some students at the University of Bamenda showed up for the parade, saying they were forced by officials to come under the penalty of expulsion. Government officials also said they were also forced to come.

The Cameroon government had asked the population to come out in numbers and celebrate the national day as a sign of national unity adding that the military will protect the people from armed separatists who had vowed the day will not be celebrated in the English-speaking regions.

Cameron again imposed a curfew on its English-speaking regions. In spite of the curfew and heavy presence of the military, the armed separatists were able to chase out some public officials and close some schools.

Both the government and separatists have committed abuses, according to the U.S. ambassador. Ambassador Peter Henry Barlerin last week met with Biya and urged the president to initiate dialogue to lead the way out of violence.

International humanitarian organizations and rights groups have accused the government of harsh measures in its crackdown and the indiscriminate arrests of suspects.

Unrest in Cameroon began in November 2016, when English-speaking teachers and lawyers in the northwest and southwest regions took to the streets, calling for reforms and greater autonomy. They expressed frustration by the dominance of the French-speaking parts of the country and with what they charged is the marginalization of Cameroon’s Anglophone population. Cameroon’s English-speaking community accounts for about one-fifth of the country’s 25 million people.

The protests were followed by a harsh government crackdown, including arrests and a shutdown of the internet.

The crisis intensified when Ayuk Tabe, who declared himself the president of the English-speaking Republic of Ambazonia, was arrested in December with 48 others in Nigeria and extradited to Cameroon. They have not been seen in public since. The separatists are demanding his immediate release.

The separatists have chased many government workers and forced the closure of man schools, timber and palm oil processing factories. They vowed on social media to paralyze the country until they Ayuk Tabe and his colleagues are released.

Parts of southwest Cameroon remain under a curfew because the separatists continue to commit atrocities, said Bernard Okalia Bilai, governor of the Southwest Region

“The gunmen are hiding in the bushes, in the forests and usually they would appear on the roads to try to kidnap some passengers,” said Bilai. He said security information indicates most of the armed separatists are hiding in the bush along Cameroon’s southwestern border with Nigeria, especially in the Manyu and Lebialem administrative areas.

AP journalist Joel Kouam in Bamenda, contributed to this report.

 *AP
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Life in a War Zone: 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon
May 20, 2018 | 1 Comments

In early April 2018, I decided to visit Cameroon to enliven my family bond through face to face contact. I knew this was risky. Friends and family cautioned me, warning about the insecurity and war in the country. I have been to Cameroon two times ever since Anglophone Cameroonians took a bold step in late 2016 to openly talk about their oppression. Increasingly, the crisis has escalated and we now witness a full-scale war against the people, a form or punishment, meted on Anglophones by the Cameroon government.  Anyone familiar with the political developments in Cameroon is not surprised that Anglophones are fighting against what they see as occupational forces of La Republique du Cameroun (LRC). As an Anglophone Cameroonian, albeit with roots on the Francophone side, I find it is hard not to write about the marginalization we have experienced all our lives in country where we are made to understand we are undeserving citizens.

My name is Solomon Ngu . I migrated to Europe and eventually to USA at the turn of the 21st century. Like most Anglophone Cameroonians, I left the country in search for a better life abroad. Over the years, I have witnessed and researched the ways in which young Anglophone Cameroonians navigate through hard life in the country. Just as our generation at the turn of the 21st century, most of these young men and women paint a gloomy picture of life in Cameroon; they believe a better future awaits them out of their country. That the migrants constitute a heavy weight in the war and are the most vocal anti-LRC citizens is a point I turn to later.

This is an introduction to a series of articles that I will publish on Pan African Visions. The articles are ethnographic notes that bear testimony about the ongoing war in Ambazonia/Southern Cameroons. I will report on what I heard and saw in the urban areas as well as first-hand accounts from villagers who have escaped the villages to the towns. As of the time of writing this introduction, most of the fighting is concentrated in the villages all over Ambazonia. Villagers’ testimonies and the fact that they have left the rural communities to seek safety in the urban areas tell that there is a nasty war going on. In fact, Achille Mbembe, a Cameroon philosopher and human rights activist, says on Facebook that this is a ‘dirty war’, a description reminiscent of Argentinean state terrorism of the 1970s where thousands of people simply disappeared.

It is in fact a dirty war, a war that was totally avoidable had leadership taken into account the humanity of those who live in Ambazonia. The war is described as ‘nasty’ or ‘dirty’ primarily because of the meanness with which it is conducted. Take for example, the military burning down entire villages and properties, torture of civilians and the looting. As to how civilians and their properties – cattle, pets, farms, houses, shops, etc, provoke the soldiers is still unknown but what we know is that the rampaging soldiers’ actions are informed by a belief that they are dealing with people who are less humans, the monsters and aliens. So far, the villagers caught between the government troops and those fighting to restore the dignity of South Cameroons are paying the highest prize. It is a topic I turn to in one of the articles.

Before leaving Cameroon, I had a feeling that this was the last time I saw Ambazonia the way I know it; that is before a full-scale war engulfs the urban areas. Civilians in the major cities of Buea, Limbe, Bamenda and Kumba were making plans on where to escape to should the war reach their city. As I write, there are reports of people fleeing Buea en masse; they want to avoid what they foresee as potential confrontation between the Amba fighters and the Cameroonian army on the 20th of May, a day designated as the National Day.  The 20th of May is significant in that on that day in 1972, many legacies of Anglophone Cameroon were erased; it was a day the name of the country changed from the Federal to a United Republic of Cameroon. Much could be written about this but it suffices at this level to say those fighting to restore the independence of Anglophone Cameroon, do not want 20th May to be designated as Ambazonian National Day. Going by history, they see 1st Oct, as their day of independence – and rightfully so, for Anglophone Cameroon gained independence on this day in 1961. Recall that the conflict in this section of Cameroon escalated after the government massacred citizens who were out celebrating their independence on Oct 1st 2017.

I presume anyone reading this introduction and subsequent articles must be familiar with Cameroon – its colonial and postcolonial history. A very short version of this history is: Cameroon was a creation of Germany in late 19th century. Following the defeat of Germany in WWI, France occupied the eastern part of the country. The western part was colonized and governed alongside Nigeria by the British. The two parts evolved differently in socioeconomic and political spheres. The French governed their section of the country in the most colonially-belligerent manner imaginable; a type of French colonialism eloquently described in Franz Fanon’s works. French repression led to many Francophone political activists seeking asylum in the English part where governance was in the hands of the indigenes. East and West Cameroon reunited and formed a federation in early 1960s as equal states.

Over the years, the Anglophone legacy was erased such that by the mid-1980s, the country became known as La Republique Du Cameroun, a name Francophone Cameroon acquired at independence on January 1st 1960. The Francophonization of Cameroon has been resisted by Anglophone both openly and privately. As time progressed, the resistance was very much limited within the circle of the elite. In fact, the informed Anglophone elite couldn’t transmit the processes and forms of marginalization to the ordinary citizens but the situation was to change through the use of new media technologies during and post 2016 massive uprising. Thanks to social media, and more especially, the Smartphone, information about the marginalization, distorted history and police torture of peaceful protesters was readily circulated among Anglophone Cameroonians. This further fueled the conflict, emboldening young people to go to the street. Some of the articles in this blog focus on how social media is transforming the course of the conflict.

I will leave the reader here. My ethnographic notes will start appearing soon on this blog.

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World Cup: 25 stunning moments … No1: Cameroon stun Argentina in 1990
February 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

by *

François Omam-Biyik’s goal and an unheralded team of journeymen defeated Diego Maradona’s world champions in Italy

Of the great World Cup upsets – the USA’s victory over England in 1950,North Korea’s over Italy in 1966 and Algeria’s over West Germany in 1982 probably push it

Cameroon players celebrate their goal in the win against Argentina at the 1990 World Cup. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Cameroon players celebrate their goal in the win against Argentina at the 1990 World Cup. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Bob Thomas/Getty Images

close – this one stands alone in myth and memory. It was not a perfect match but it was an irresistible narrative, as the World Cup champions, led by the great Diego Maradona, were vanquished by an unheralded team largely assembled of journeymen players from the French lower divisions – though for some of them even that was either an impossible dream or a distant memory.

In the space of 90 minutes African football, once derided for being all about juju magic and Zairian defenders with a limited grasp of free-kick regulations, became credible. The result was celebrated not only inCameroon, where impromptu street parties erupted across the nation and a reporter from the Telegraph wrote, intriguingly, that “a lady in a floral dress and turban did a hand-stand”, but across Africa and beyond. When they were finally knocked out a woman in Bangladesh committed suicide, writing that “the elimination of Cameroon means the end of my life”.

“No one thought we could do anything here against Maradona, but we knew what we could do,” the goalscorer, François Omam-Biyik, said after the game. “We hate it when European reporters ask us if we eat monkeys and have a witch doctor. We are real football players and we proved this tonight.”

The match is best remembered for the moment, two minutes from the end, when Claudio Caniggia, Argentina‘s flaxen-haired substitute striker, went on a run down the right. Italia 90 was something of a festival of simulation during which neither Caniggia nor any other Argentinian was to become known for their refusal to go to ground under any kind of challenge, but with his side trailing and time running out he stayed up when an imprecise tackle came flying in, kept going despite a second attempt to bring him down, and was promptly taken out in the most emphatic style by Benjamin Massing, an assault that sent the tackler’s right boot, and possibly a few body parts, flying across the pitch, and earned Cameroon their second red card of the day. As Pete Davies put it in his peerless book about the 1990 World Cup, All Played Out, it was “a kind of full-pelt, waist-high, horizontal flying bodycheck. The general intention seemed to be not so much to break Caniggia’s legs, as actually to separate them from the rest of his body.”

The opening match set the tone for a tournament that was to feature precisely twice as many red cards as the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, which itself had seen more than any previous finals. “Cameroon neutralised Maradona mainly by kicking him,” wrote Matthew Engel in The Guardian. “He spent much of the game horizontal despite wearing calf pads as well as shin pads. His 10 team-mates seemed too stunned to make any trouble but they were kicked as well, if they got in the way.”

Though the first red card, shown to the goalscorer’s brother André Kana-Biyik for a foul on Caniggia, was harsh the French referee, Michel Vautrot, had little choice but to follow Fifa’s newly handed-down guidelines for ultra-strict arbitration. Brian Glanville, in his Story of the World Cup, insists that “a bruising game was made worse by [his] draconian refereeing” but in the following day’s Express, James Lawton proclaimed his victory over “a rising tide of wild and often cynical tackling” as “perhaps the greatest triumph” of the night. Sepp Blatter, then Fifa’s general secretary, boasted before the tournament began that, as a result of their fair play initiative, “players will behave in a decorous manner in all phases of the match”. The players, it turned out, hadn’t really been listening. “I’m unhappy the referee was forced to intervene as he did, but I’m pleased that he did,” Blatter said after the match, having criticised the behaviour of players who “want to destroy the game of soccer instead of letting creativity and genius flow”.

But though a recording of this match will never be of much use to anyone learning the art of clean tackling, there was significantly more to Cameroon than studs and muscle. “I don’t think they had any intentions of beating us up to win the game,” said Maradona. “I cannot argue, and I cannot make excuses. If Cameroon won, it was because they were the best side.”

“This was no fluke, the better team won,” wrote David Lacey in The Guardian. “They won, moreover, after finishing with nine men on the field … Such was their superiority that the Africans still finished looking as if they had more men on the pitch than their hapless opponents.”

Napoli, with Maradona their inspiration, had just won the Serie A title from Milan by two points, and the local fans delighted in his downfall, so much so that the Argentinian, who had been suffering from an ingrown nail and played with the aid of a protective carbon fibre “bionic toe”, claimed he had “cured the Italians of racism”. “The whole stadium was shouting for Cameroon,” he observed. “Wasn’t that nice?”

They say in Douala that “l’impossible n’est pas camerounais”, and never has the saying seemed more true than for those three weeks in 1990. For the Cameroon team that redefined the way the football of their continent was perceived arrived as if intent only on reinforcing stereotypes. Their preparations were shambolic, their squad divided, their players unappreciated, but for all that it took the unequalled penalty-earning skills of England’s Gary Lineker to beat them in the quarter-finals, when England came from behind to win 3-2 just as it was starting to look like Cameroon would be swept irresistibly to a showpiece reunion with Argentina on a wave of supple-hipped, corner-flag-bothering hysteria.

To say they were underestimated before kick-off would be to wrongly suggest that they were estimated at all. “The Soviet Union is a tough opponent, but I’m generally pleased,” the Argentina manager, Carlos Bilardo, said after the draw the previous December. “Our group is not the easiest but we should have no problems in qualifying for the second round.” Cameroon were widely quoted at 500-1 to win the tournament, among the rankest of outsiders.

A couple of years earlier Paul Biya, the country’s president, had asked the Russian FA to send over a few coaches who wouldn’t mind helping out for a while. The first to arrive was Valeri Nepomniachi, an unexceptional ex-player whose only experience of first-team management had been a single season at the helm of an obscure Turkmenistani club in Russia’s third division. Biya appointed him national team manager, even though he spoke no French and almost no English. At the World Cup his team-talks were translated by the man normally employed as a driver at the Cameroon embassy in Moscow, and by various accounts freely disregarded by the players. Nepomniachi only just made it to Italy, having come close to the sack after the country’s hapless displays at that year’s African Cup of Nations, where as reigning champions they lost to Zambia and Senegal and were eliminated in the group stage.

After that failure, and just a few weeks before the World Cup, Biya made another intervention. He called Roger Milla, a 38-year-old who had retired from international football three years previously and moved to Réunion, a tiny French-controlled speck in the Indian Ocean, where he played for a team called Saint-Pierroise. Biya demanded the striker’s return; Milla announced that he was “always ready to be called to my country’s colours” and back he came.

Cameroon’s pre-tournament training camps in Bordeaux and Yugoslavia not only featured frequent defeats to obscure club sides in warm-up matches, but also intense bickering, both about Milla’s arrival and the delayed payments of bonuses due to the players. The goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell became the voice of the players’ demands for cash. Perhaps, having just come second in the voting for France’s footballer of the year, he felt his position in the team was secure enough to survive a little controversy. But then, on the eve of the tournament, he criticised his team-mates in a newspaper interview, saying they had “no chance of coping with Argentina, or any other team” and that they “will go out in the first round without much glory”. Even though his place had, he insisted, been absolutely guaranteed by Nepomniachi, he was dropped. “I used to believe that he selected the team,” he said. “I don’t any more.”

Bell seems to be an unusually divisive figure. In 2011 he published a memoir, Vu de ma Cage, with a controversial section on the 1990 World Cup that was dismissed by the defender Stephen Tataw as “500% lie”. “I don’t do reflections, I write about facts. The book tells what I have done, it tells the facts of my life,” insisted Bell. “Every time he spoke his tongue dripped with the poison of selfishness,” countered Tataw. Bell returned to the team for the 1994 World Cup; when Cameroon were eliminated in the group stage fans back in Douala burned down his house.

Argentina's Diego Maradona juggles with the ball as he runs past Cameroon's Benjamin Massing. Photograph: Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images

Argentina’s Diego Maradona juggles with the ball as he runs past Cameroon’s Benjamin Massing. Photograph: Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images

Until just a few hours before kick-off in Milan Thomas N’Kono had considered himself unlikely to even be in the matchday squad – Bell didn’t like him, and wanted the relatively inexperienced Jacques Songo’o on the bench instead. Suddenly he was first choice, a decision taken so late, and so unexpectedly, that his wife missed his moment of glory having decided to go shopping instead. “I thought it was a very bad team and we were going to lose,” N’Kono told Jonathan Wilson in the latter’s book on goalkeeping, The Outsider. “Suddenly the coach said I was going to play. Five hours before the game. I said no way. I had no confidence in the coach. The federation, the minister of sport, seven or eight people were telling me I had to play and I was saying I didn’t feel ready. They said if I wasn’t going to play they would play Songo’o, and if he didn’t want to play they would put an outfielder in goal. I went to talk with the president of Cameroon, and eventually I agreed to play.”

The replacement’s performances at the World Cup proved so good that a promising 12-year-old midfielder from Tuscany decided that he’d prefer to be a goalkeeper all things considered, and bought his first pair of gloves. “It was N’Kono and his spectacular saves that made me fall in love with the position. He became my hero,” the kid said, many years later. As an adult, he named his son Thomas in the Cameroonian’s honour. The young Italian’s name was Gianluigi Buffon.

Argentina shared a few of their opponents’ problems, including controversial team selection – Jorge Burruchaga was surprisingly chosen ahead of Caniggia – and goalkeeping issues. Still, their evening did not start so badly. “Everything was under control until Cameroon went down to 10 men and we got disorganised,” said the Argentina manager, Carlos Bilardo. Six minutes later Cameroon scooped a free-kick into the penalty area, Cyrille Makanaky flicked it on and Omam-Biyik rose unfeasibly high, while his nominal marker Nestor Sensini hesitated. His header flew low towards goal, though neither very hard nor very far from the goalkeeper, but Nery Pumpido, a World Cup winner in 1986, inexplicably shovelled it into the net. Eleven minutes into their second match Pumpido broke his leg, and he would never play for his country again. Like N’Kono his replacement, Sergio Goycochea, went on to have a fabulous tournament, excelling in the penalty shoot-outs that took Argentina through the quarter- and semi-finals even if he was beaten by the one penalty that really mattered, Andreas Brehme’s in the final.

Bilardo called this defeat “the worst moment of my sporting career”, and after it Carlos Menem, the Argentinian president, and his predecessor Raúl Alfonsín both phoned him to recommend certain tactical tweaks. “Everyone called me to tell me what to do,” Bilardo said. “I heard from the president, two former presidents and the opposition leader.” The politicians clearly had some decent ideas, as Argentina made five changes for their next match, and improved sufficiently to reach the final. “I have never seen anything like it before in my life,” said Bilardo. “I have never seen anything unify the nation like that. Not politics or music or anything. Everyone was watching and hoping for the team. And when we came home, they were happy for us. We were proud to have reached the final.”

Milla played only the final nine minutes of this game, but settled into his role as Cameroon’s supersub and scored twice against Romania in their second game and twice again against Colombia in the second round, becoming one of the sensations of the tournament. He returned in 1994, where he broke his own record as the World Cup’s oldest goalscorer by grabbing his side’s consolation in a 6-1 thrashing by Russia at the age of 42 years and 39 days. “I’ll tell you something,” he told France Football after Cameroon were finally knocked out in 1990, “if we had beaten England, Africa would have exploded. Ex-plo-ded. There would have been deaths. The Good Lord knows what he does. Me, I thank him for stopping us in the quarter-finals.”

Having played for Laval in the French second division, Omam-Biyik’s performances earned him offers from some of the biggest clubs in Europe, but he refused to break an agreement to join Rennes. Shortly after the tournament he was asked in an interview with the Guardian whether his match-winning goal against Argentina had been the best moment of his career. “It was one of them,” he replied. “The best ‘moment’, if I can stretch the definition of the word, was the whole of that wonderful time we spent in Italy – the experience we gained, the atmosphere, and the money.”

The team returned to a rapturous welcome, with the government announcing a national holiday to enable everyone to celebrate. “When we arrived at Douala airport, the aeroplane had to pull up and come around again,” said Omam-Biyik, “because the runway was totally flooded with people.” The players’ victory parade lasted two full days, and ended with President Biya conveying honours not only upon the players, but their coaches, the support staff, and even journalists.

Twelve years later the holders were again beaten 1-0 by unheralded Africans in the opening game of the World Cup finals, France falling to Pape Bouba Diop’s goal. But while 11 of Cameroon’s 22-man squad in 1990 played for domestic clubs and not one outfield player was based at a European top-flight team, by 2002 all but two of Senegal’s 23 was based in Europe and 16 of them played in the French top-flight. “No team could ever again do what we did in 1990,” said Milla. “The element of surprise is not there. Everybody knows everything about all the teams now.”

The fanfare for Diego Maradona was drowned by the drums of Black Africa in Milan last night as Cameroon defeated Argentina, the World Cup holders, to open the 1990 tournament by destroying a whole package of preconceptions.

This was no fluke, the better team won. They won, moreover, after finishing with nine men on the field, the result of Michel Vautrot’s determination to obey Fifa’s guidelines in dealing with persistent and cynical fouls. The French referee sent off two Cameroon players but such was their superiority that the Africans still finished looking as if they had more men on the pitch than their hapless opponents.

This result, the biggest shock in a World Cup since Algeria’s 2-1 defeat of West Germany in the opening phase in Spain in 1982, has immediately thrown the new tournament off its predicted course.

Argentina’s chances of winning Group B already look slim. On last night’s evidence one would not give much for their hopes of defeating either the Soviet Union or Romania. Maradona began brightly but when he faded the whole team fell away, losing rhythm and confidence and looking just another poor side.

England, if they finish runners-up in Group F, will meet the second-placed team in Group B in Genoa in the second phase. Now Bobby Robson might prefer it not to be Cameroon. Better even Maradona than the inspirational Francois Omam-Biyik, who scored the winning goal five minutes after Kana-Biyik had been sent off and departed blowing a farewell kiss to an adoring crowd.

The Third World has long since threatened to arrive on the wider footballing stage in style but nobody seriously expected Cameroon to make the entrance they did on a balmy Milanese evening after half an hour of noisy pomp and ceremony had made it a natural setting for Maradona.

Long after the finish, in a stadium empty except for reporters, the PA system suddenly burst forth into the theme music from Ben Hur. Certainly this was one race which had seen several collisions and the finish that the majority wanted. The Milan supporters, remembering the way Napoli had pipped their team for the Italian championship, made sure that Maradona did not feel at home by whistling and jeering every time he touched the ball.

Cameroon, and in particular the tall muscular figure of Benjamin Massing, one of four French League players in the side, fouled Argentina’s new ambassador for sport at almost every opportunity. Maradona must have felt he was encountering a distant relative of Claudio Gentile.

Massing became the second Cameroon player to be dismissed when Vautrot showed him the red card two minutes from the end after he had taken out Caniggia, sent on by Argentina’s manager Carlos Bilardo in the second half to give his struggling team an extra attacker, thigh-high. Massing had been the first of three Cameroon players to be cautioned, so he had to go.

And so did Kana-Biyik, without the preliminary of a caution, for coolly tripping Caniggia just past the hour. To him fell the distinction of being the first player to receive a red card in the opening game of a World Cup since referees started carrying red cards.

Fifa had been specific in its instructions on how to deal with this sort of offence and Vautrot set the sort of disciplinary standards the World Cup needs to heed, otherwise there will be anarchy.

While there was a natural inclination to rejoice with Cameroon, ugly images of their tackling lingered in the mind’s eye. But when all is said and done it was a joyous occasion which did not lack a sense of irony. Four years ago, when Maradona sent Burruchaga clear to score the winning goal in the last World Cup final, their green-shirted opponents West Germany collapsed in the centre circle in despair. When the game ended last night the green shirts, what was left of them, dissolved into a celebrating heap, leaving Argentina to wonder if the new roof of the San Siro had not fallen in on them.

Cameroon never looked like a side which had been sent into the opening match to play stooge to Maradona. Their man-to-man marking system was tighter, they were first to the ball in all parts of the field, they created space with greater ease and opened up ever widening gaps near goal as the holders’ defence became threadbare.

From the start Omam-Biyik’s willingness to run at a retreating defence looked like causing Argentina problems. Not only that, Cameroon had more skiil on the ball than their supposedly superior opponents.

There was little hint of a shock at the start, which was an anticlimax after all the hype. A couple of touches from Maradona might have given Argentina two goals had not N’Kono, keeping goal instead of the more experienced Bell, somehow blocked the danger.

A goal then might have settled the holders. As it was, they became unsettled by Cameroon’s close marking and hard tackling and never got their act together thereafter.

Midway through the first half Burruchaga was just able to flick the ball away from an empty Argentina net after Omam-Biyik had caught them square with an early through ball. Seven minutes before half-time the same player produced a sudden shot from a narrow angle that nearly went in under Pumpido’s body.

Cameroon players pile on top of each other as they celebrate the only goal. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Cameroon players pile on top of each other as they celebrate the only goal. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Bob Thomas/Getty Images

When Cameroon scored Pumpido was badly at fault. Ironically the goal followed a gratuitous Argentinian foul by Lorenzo, who conceded a free-kick on the right.

Cameroon players pile on top of each other as they celebrate the only goal. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Bob Thomas/Getty Images

As the ball came across, Lorenzo rose with Makanaky and it spun off the defender high to Omam-Biyik, whose header was well aimed but should not have carried the power to beat a goalkeeper of international class. However Pumpido appeared confused by its direction, reacted like a dosing slip fielder and allowed the ball to squeeze under his right hand and over the line.

Argentina could not believe it, the crowd could not believe it, the world television audience probably did not believe it and even now it seems like something out of a fantasy. It is one thing to beat Argentina with a full side but to finish on the attack with nine men is rather rubbing it in.

*Source The Guardian . Watch full game here

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"Embrace a new spirit of patriotism."-Biya to Cameroonians in new year message
January 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

My dear compatriots, The year 2013 gave Cameroonians genuine reasons to feel satisfied, thus paving the way for excellent prospects for the future Let me explain. The senatorial elections of 14 April and the legislative and municipal elections of 30 September took place in a calm and transparent atmosphere. All observers confirmed this fact and I believe that it reflects the maturity of the Cameroonian people who have understood that achieving social progress requires stable institutions and sound policies. The few failings reported were not enough to challenge the validity of the said elections. In this regard, ELECAM deserves to be commended. The enhanced credibility of the legislative and municipal elections sufficiently justified the time it took to introduce biometrics into our electoral system. I therefore believe that there is every reason for us to be satisfied with this new milestone in our democratic process. The marked increase in the number of women in Parliament and municipal councils is a further sign of progress. In any case, having put in place the Senate and local and regional authorities, the establishment of the Constitutional Council within a reasonable timeline will complete the institutional structure enshrined in our Constitution. Our political horizon is now very clear. It is time for serious and objective discussions on issues that are dear to Cameroonians which, as you know, are purchasing power, employment and living conditions. In other words, such issues constitute what our people legitimately expect from a prosperous and equitable economy and a just and interdependent society. Of course, this is no revelation to us. In recent decades, we have spared no effort to improve the living conditions of Cameroonians. This has been achieved despite the often tense political context, the economic crisis and threats to peace. Significant progress – perhaps still unevenly shared – has been made. Let me mention just two examples, namely health and our major projects. With the resurgence of malaria in its most severe form which affects infants, we have approached international partners for assistance. With their help, we will be able to secure free treatment of this pandemic for under-five children. Furthermore, I am pleased to announce that our country’s health map will soon have three additional referral hospitals, namely the Yaounde National Emergency Centre, the Douala Gynaecological, Obstetric and Paediatric Hospital and the Sangmelima Referral Hospital. Regarding our major projects, those of the first generation are, as you know, either ongoing or in the start-up phase. Concerning second-generation projects which will be implemented as from 2015, the related studies and financing are currently under negotiation. These include notably power generation, transportation, water supply, road and highway infrastructure as well as industrial and mining facilities. As you can see, our economy is picking up and some kind of national consensus on the goal of economic emergence is discernible. I believe that we should muster all our energy to champion this cause and summon all our strength to ensure growth. In fact, it seems that our efforts alone, no matter how laudable, will not suffice to make Cameroon an emerging country in 2035. International financial institutions have sounded this friendly warning to us; and it is in our interest to heed it. In 2013, our growth rate stands at 4.8%, and thus below our forecast of 6.1%. Of course, there is nothing so dramatic about this, yet it clearly indicates that we need to redouble our efforts. Our growth is currently sustained by buoyant oil revenues and public appropriations. Private investments remain inadequate. We still need to improve the business climate, but this certainly does not spare us from pursuing ongoing structural reforms and further strengthening fiscal discipline. Definitely, there is still room for improvement in the effectiveness of our economic policies. We have a growth and employment strategy which guides us towards achieving our goals. But, how come then that in some sectors of our economy, State action often seems to lack consistency and clarity? Why is it that in many cases, decision-making delays still constitute a bottleneck in project implementation? Why can’t any region of our country achieve a public investment budget execution rate of over 50%? Lastly, one can rightfully question the usefulness of certain project monitoring committees which are unable to take any decisions. What we need in the coming years is a real contingency plan. With the GESP, we have a trend chart. Now is the time to act. Our short-term priorities are well known, namely: to correct our growth curve by creating jobs and maintain a high level of performance over several years in a row. To this end, we need to set timelines on our roadmaps and strictly adhere to them. It will be absolutely imperative that we address the causes of our weaknesses by removing sticking points, areas of dispersion and duplication. Would we be unable to do what some other countries comparable to ours have done or are doing? I do not think so. We have talented, resourceful, well-trained and enterprising men, women and youth, who are capable of meeting these challenges. We have abundant and diverse natural resources as well as modern and democratic institutions. Our country is peaceful and stable. What then do we lack? I think we need to improve in two key areas: prioritizing general interest and coordinating our efforts. Though attached to our communities of origin – which does not prevent us from being fervent patriots whenever national honour is at stake – we are an individualistic people, more concerned with personal success than general interest. Our administration remains susceptible to private interest, which is most often in conflict with national interest. Such trends must not be tolerated in a modern state. At one stage of implementation or another, most of our major projects involve the skills of various services. I am not sure that there has been effective coordination between them. Clearly, therefore, there is a need for improvement in this regard. My dear compatriots, I would now like to draw your attention to a problem that has reached disturbing proportions in recent months – that of insecurity in our country. Not long ago, we were striving to overcome “ordinary” insecurity. Simply put, we fought minor and organized crime in urban areas and “highway robbers” in remote rural areas. For some time now, a new form of crime referred to as cross-border crime has reached a worrying scale, particularly in the northern and eastern parts of the country. This has been brought about by the presence around our borders of armed bands, driven by extremist ideologies and lured by profit. They do not hesitate to cross over to our territory where they commit various atrocities. This phenomenon is not entirely new. However, it has witnessed a fresh upsurge as not long ago there was an attack in Kette Subdivision in the eastern part of our country. Elite units have been deployed to the area to check such incursions. Over the months, in the Far North, such criminals have kidnapped foreign nationals for ransom. Memories of the abduction of the French family MOULIN-FOURNIER are still fresh. Thanks to our cooperation with the Nigerian authorities and French services, we were able to secure their release. More recently, a French priest was manhandled and taken to Nigeria. I strongly condemn such unspeakable acts perpetrated in the quest for gain against defenceless persons, including children. Of course, we are doing our best to prevent and combat such acts, and we will not relent. I congratulate the élite units ensuring security in these areas and urge the local population to cooperate with them as necessary. For some time now, terrorism has also become rife at sea. Its motivations are mainly financial, but the methods have not changed. They consist in inspecting ships to loot the contents and kidnapping crew members for ransom. Cameroon has witnessed this in its maritime space. The phenomenon has expanded to the entire Gulf of Guinea, such that the maritime trade of countries located in this area is being compromised. There was a first response at the Summit on Maritime Security and Safety in the Gulf of Guinea, held in Yaounde last 25 and 26 June. It is clear that, whether on land or at sea, security, which is first and foremost a national issue, also has a collective and even international dimension. It should not be underestimated. Where it is not guaranteed, anarchy settles in, abuses become rife, economic and social progress grinds to a halt. Examples of such forms of breakdown in societal values, unfortunately, abound in our continent and even in our immediate external vicinity. While it is true that the affected areas of our territory are very limited, we remain on the alert. Our security forces on the ground can intervene at any time. This is an opportunity for me to stress that each one of us must be aware of the benefits of living in a stable country where institutions are functioning normally, where the security of people and property is guaranteed, and where every citizen can nurse hopes of a better life. The current situation in the Central African Republic demonstrates the possible consequences of instability and disorder. Massacre, looting and displacement have become the order of the day in that brotherly and friendly country. It was the duty of, and an honour for, Cameroonian troops to participate in the operations of the multinational force aimed at restoring security and protecting people within the territory of our immediate neighbour. My dear compatriots, We are somewhat at a crossroads. Growth is within our reach; our budget is viable; our public debt is sustainable; in short, our economic and financial situation gives us every reason to hope for prosperity. -It is either we take the easy road by postponing reforms, in which case in 10 or 20 years time we shall have had such a cumulative delay that we can hardly meet the needs of our people. -Or we set high goals for ourselves, and adopt strict collective discipline, in which case we will embark resolutely on economic emergence. I suggest that we adopt the latter option, that of sacrifice and courage. At a time when we are beginning to see many concrete signs of our democratic, economic and social progress, I invite you to embrace a new spirit of patriotism. I believe we can do a lot better. I am not asking for your sweat, or blood, or tears; rather, I am merely urging you to commit yourself wholeheartedly to this new phase of our Grand National plan. At the dawn of this New Year, I would like, on behalf of you all, to address our Indomitable Lions. Dear Indomitable Lions, You have qualified for the final phase of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. We want you to follow in the footsteps of your illustrious predecessors of the glorious campaigns in Spain in 1982 and Italy in 1990. Give us a thrill once again. The Cameroonian people are with you. To conclude, I am pleased to announce the release of Father Georges Vandenbeusch. Thanks to the action of our services, backed by Nigerian and French authorities, this priest, so devoted to his mission, has been freed today. My dear compatriots, I would now like to extend to you all, my best wishes for good health and happiness in the New Year. Happy and Prosperous New Year 2014! CRTV]]>

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Government criticized as malaria deaths spike in Cameroon
November 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

Nearly 800 people have died in a recent malaria outbreak in northern Cameroon, one described by public health officials as “a severe and sudden epidemic.”

Doctors treating more than 12,000 victims of the disease say those who died in the past three weeks were mostly young children and pregnant women.

Heavy rains have flooded the region around Maroua, giving mosquitoes ideal breeding conditions.

“This is a severe and sudden epidemic. I see no end in sight,” Dr. Amos Ekane, a malaria specialist treating more than 2,000 victims in Maroua, told CNN.

Wednesday, a panel of Cameroonian journalists on state radio criticized the government for not spreading the news about the outbreak and not requesting international aid.

According to the Public Health Ministry, more than 12,000 people are seriously ill and have been admitted to hospitals. But there are fewer than 10 treatment centers are available to help those who’ve contracted the mosquito-borne illness, and thousands of children and women are forced to sleep in the open or in overcrowded rooms without mosquito nets.

“Three of my children have died here. Here is my wife lying helplessly with drips tied to this tree,” Abubakar Ardo Miro told CNN, pointing out the conditions at the overcrowded Maroua regional hospital.

“Only a few qualified physicians are available in the regional government hospital to handle malaria cases. This cannot yield a favorable result,” Ekane warned

The Cameroon Medical Council — a body governing the medical core in the West African nation — estimates a ratio of one doctor to every 40,000 patients. Less than 1,000 physicians currently work in the country, the council says, and toil under poor conditions and low wages.

“This is really a mess to the Cameroon government,” Tataw Eric Tano, a newspaper publisher in Cameroo, told CNN by phone.

The government footed the bill to transport thousands of voters to parliamentary and municipal elections earlier this month, he said, but is not transporting dying patients to other areas with less-crowded hospitals.

Observers have criticized President Paul Biya of ignoring the mounting malaria death toll as he focuses on lavish preparations to celebrate his 31 years in the presidency November 6.

“Even the propaganda state radio CRTHealth experts blame the upsurge of malaria cases on the poor use of malaria nets that were distributed free of charge among nearly 9 million Cameroonians in 2010.V is talking against this,” said political analyst Prince Tanda.

But a dwindling economy and the scarcity of food has forced some families to use the nets for other purposes.

“There is no reason for me to sleep under this net while my children need food to eat,” Elias Mbengono, a local fisherman, told CNN as he demonstrated how he could use the nets to catch fish for his family.

Climate change researcher Kevin Enongene said recent heavy rains and flooding in Northern Cameroon have transformed villages into mosquito breeding grounds. Lake Chad continues to spill water over its banks and no levee has been created to stop the flood, Enongene said.

“This should be taken seriously,” he added.

Public health experts are now targeting the heads of families in a daily campaign to stave off the malaria epidemic in Maroua.

“Sleep under the mosquito bed net. Do not use them as fishing nets,” one campaign banner read.

But state public health officials are raising fears that the death toll could reach the thousands in the next few weeks if international support is not received soon.

More than 660,000 people around the world died from malaria in 2010, according to the World Health Organization.

*Source CNN

 

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Cameroon Citizenship Council Urges President Biya to convene Sovereign National Conference
September 13, 2013 | 1 Comments

-Count on us for a new Cameroon in 2018

-Focus more on policies and programmes and not personalities

 -It is time to bring back the remains of President Ahidjo……….

 -Hafis Ruelfi on the way forward for Cameroon

 By Ajong Mbapndah L

 

Hafis Ruelfi,count on the CCC  for the 2018 elections

Hafis Ruelfi,count on the CCC for the 2018 elections

If there is one thing that sums up what Hafis Ruelfi of the Cameroon Citizenship Council will love to see President Biya do before leaving office, it is to convene a sovereign national conference. The conference Hafis says will put Cameroon on the rails towards confronting 21st century challenges. Issues like a new electoral code, a new constitution, the Southern Cameroons problems, reconciliation and more could be debated at such a conference. Although his party is in the process of legalization and will not participate at the upcoming legislative and municipal elections, Hafis Ruelfi says the CCC is aggressively putting in place structures across the country so as to make a strong showing in the 2018 elections. As Aminatou Ahidjo makes news by joining the ruling CPDM, Hafis says like any other Cameroonian, the daughter of late President Ahidjo has the right to militate in a party of her choice. President Ahidjo however deserves a state burial with full honors and his remains need to be brought back to Cameroon Hafis said.

Mr Hafis, it is election time again in Cameroon, how significant or important are the upcoming elections and what role is your movement the Cameroon Citizenship Council playing now in shaping political developments?

Hafis Ruelfi: I remain convinced about the greatness of Cameroon, its potentials, and also convinced that it is only through the political process that you can make the greatest impact in terms of changing the society. It is the political processes under a democracy; there is no other way. I remain convinced that we need to engage, those who believe they have something to offer to a country like Cameroon at its level of development; everybody who has something to offer must get involved from the aspirants to the electorates. As this elections will be a foundation and a hallmark to kick start the political transition and transformation to a true democratic country with the observation of the rule of law come 2018. In other to boost its presence all across the national territory, CCC has put up a formidable structure to mobilize support and convince the electorate on why they believe there must be a change in the leadership of Cameroon come 2018. The electorate has a very big role to play because people must have a change. That is why we said that this change we are talking about in the CCC is not just a change of government, but the change of attitude and people must vote according to their beliefs and consciousness of accepting who will do the right thing. Conscious of the challenges ahead, the CCC has constituted a powerful interim national executive, which compromise representatives from all the ten regions of the country. This interim national executive is presently on the field implanting the party in their respective regions.

A few months ago, Cameroon had Senatorial elections, what reading did you make of those elections and the composition of its leadership considering that in case there is a power vacuum, it is the President of the Senate who runs the country?

Hafis Ruelfi: The creation of the house of senate was a welcome development for our constitutional democracy first on the ground that it lays to rest and answered the questions which Cameroonians have been asking as to the successor of president Paul Biya where there is an unforeseen vacancy at the head of the presidency which our constitution does provides that it’s the president of the senate who will assume the powers of the head of state for three months while he calls a presidential election which the emphasized that he (the interim president) cannot contest in the election.

 A very interesting recent development is the return of the daughter of former President Ahidjo, Aminatou to Cameroon and her strong embrace of the ruling CPDM, what is your take on this? What impact do you think such a move on the part of President Ahidjo’s daughter can have on the politics of the country especially in the Grand North?

Hafis Ruelfi: Well it is true that the return of Aminatou to Cameroon and her embracing the CPDM is seen as a major event in the national political scene, to me these are reasons best known to her. As a Cameroonian who has attained the voting age has the free will to join and militate in any political party of his or her choice. And I think this is not different from Aminatou’s present position.

Secondly being the daughter of the late President Ahidjo to me still doesn’t change the fact, instead of building personality cults as the case with the CPDM most other opposition parties, viable programs should be presented to Cameroonians, viable visions on how candidates and parties will help solve the problems affecting ordinary Cameroonians should be what matters at this point and not just personalities.

 Many people think that it is finally time for the remains of late President Ahidjo should be finally brought home with the honors and respects it deserves; do you share the same view?

 

Posters of Hafis Ruelfi in Cameroon

Posters of Hafis Ruelfi in Cameroon

Hafis Ruelfi: The return of the remains of our late president his Excellency President Ahmadou Ahidjo are long overdue. He was a great president for our dear country who did everything possible to move this country forward by uniting the two Cameroons as a united indivisible nation and he deserves all the state honors as is done in other countries. Cameroon should not be an exception not with a leader like late President Ahidjo who did so much for the country.

The last time we had a chat with you, you said you were working towards implanting the Cameroonian Citizenship Council across the country, how far have you gone with that and may we know some accomplishments of the Council so far?

Hafis Ruelfi:  As I said earlier the interim national executive of our party are currently on the field setting up our party structures in every municipal and city council across the country.

On your own personal ambitions, you were not there for the Senatorial elections, you are not there for the legislatives and municipal elections, when do Cameroonians see Hafis Ruefli in the field?

Hafis Ruelfi: It is my conviction that led me to engage in wide consultations at the beginning of this year to ask our people; to ask wide-ranging questions. Basically, it centered around them. Does it make sense for us to get into the train again to say we are running for public office? Which office? Which level of engagement should we get into? Should we just kiss it goodbye and or should we remain engaged? In what form should we remain engaged? If we have to remain engaged in a political party system, which party? These are questions that formed the wide consultations that I said must have started January intensively. Of course, informally these discussions have been going on for some time. There is also greater demand that I should run for the office of President to help make Cameroon the true fatherland we all desire, building on the foundation that President Paul Biya has laid and his predecessor, to be able to take Cameroon to the next level. This will be a moment of peaceful democratic transition and transformation. That we need democratic transition and transformation, we need to consolidate on the gains of the past 31 years and those of his predecessors His Excellency Late President Ahmadou Ahidjo because he also built on something. That we need to continue to set the pace in leaps and bounds, so we need total transformation of our democracy and our political processes and the economy to consolidate and that can only be achieved by CCC beginning from 2018 when we will take over the presidency of our fatherland Cameroon.

The fight against corruption has led to the imprisonment of several barons of the regime from the Grand North, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, Iya Mohammed, etc., do you consider this a sign of divorce in the North-South alliance?

Hafis Ruelfi: The public institutional system of any nation is its future and hope, while the effective functioning of it is sine qua non for the total growth of our society because no nation can aspire to achieve her full potentials without transparency and accountability. Its potential cannot be realized if the institutions charged to do so are crippled by bad management, unaccountability and  profound corruption. It is, therefore, the aggregate of efforts that we put in to check corruption and other vices in public offices that will ultimately strengthen our institutions and promote transparency and accountability that will translate into a better future for Cameroon. I am happy that the present government is looking in that direction with its commitment to resolving the impasse with the public sector by investigating corrupt public officers. One of our objectives at the CCC is to promote justice and the rule of law in Cameroon. Laws of our country shall be supreme and whosoever contravene them no matter their social ranking must be prosecuted by our courts and if found guilty be punished by the law. There is no legitimacy of any alliance which will promote corruption or mismanagement of our public offices by public officers no matter which region, tribe or party they come from.

It is time for the remains of late President Ahidjo to be brought back home says Hafis Ruelfi

It is time for the remains of late President Ahidjo to be brought back home says Hafis Ruelfi

Even though you are not running, what message do you have for Cameroonians during this electoral period, from the candidates to the parties, is there a party you want your followers to vote for?

 Hafis Ruelfi: That is true and it is  unfortunate that our party the CCC was still under legalization when the electorates were convene to the polls and as such we could not file lists for these upcoming twin elections. We are now targeting but the presidential election in 2018 which Cameroonian will witness the formidable team that will lift this Cameroon to the next level. We the CCC members do not have any particular political party to ask our militants to vote but our message to all progressive Cameroonians to shun belly politics and take this opportunity presented to them by voting credible people who have the common masses at heart and have good manifestos which will bring development to their door step and not the ones to read in speeches.

We end by asking you a question on President Biya, if you were asked to name about five or six specific things that you will like to see him work on before his mandate expires or he leaves office, what will you consider as priority areas?

Hafis Ruelfi:  If I were asked today to name five or six specific things that I will like to see Mr Biya work on before leaving office will be; summed up in one which is  for him to call for a sovereign national conference to address the problems facing our country today. Beyond the facades of peace they say lies a badly fragmented polity which to me has been the reason for our underdevelopment to has led our country to regional interest politics. A national conference will lay a strong foundation for a regionalized country like Cameroon serious on being an emerging economy by 2035. With a national conference issues like separation of powers with check and balances will be looked at which will lay a good environment for the creation of strong institutions, genuine electoral reforms and the fight against corruption, with a national sovereign conference it will likely address and solve once and for all concerns of the Southern Cameroonians issue who feel to have been marginalized and are seeking the restoration of their statehood, with a sovereign national conference people will speak their minds and not hide any secret, people must be ready to listen and as hard as it might be forgive one another for this will bring a true and genuine reconciliation which to me will drive Cameroon to meet the 21st century challenges just like countries like South Africa, Ghana, amongst African nations with strong institutions and a vibrant economy, you can name a lot.

 

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Cameroon:Unpredictable President and Weak Institutions Call For Concern
July 21, 2013 | 5 Comments

-Prof T.Asonganyi on the Twin Elections and the Political Climate in Cameroon

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Prof T AsonganyiHe may be out of partisan politics but Prof Tazoacha Asonganyi remains one of the most articulate voices of reason in Cameroon. The former Secretary General of the Social Democratic Front-SDF has continued to offer insightful reading into political developments with luminary proposals on alternative paths to the change that has eluded Cameroonians for decades. As the country is caught in the frenzy of another ill prepared elections with predictable results, Prof Asonganyi opines that though the opposition has lost so much credibility, the elections are a choice between bad and worse and if the electoral system had a modicum of credibility, Cameroonians will prefer the opposition which is bad to the regime that has fared worse. With the unpredictability of President Biya’s mind and the weakness of Institutions to withstand any unforeseen shocks, there is every reason to be nervous says Prof Asonganyi.

Prof Asonganyi, President Biya recently announced Legislative and Municipal elections on June 30 to be held on September 30 and the decision seems to have taken people both in the ruling party and the opposition by surprise, why so considering that mandate of the present officials had long expired?

Yes, the mandate of Parliament and Councils had since expired. You know the twin Legislative and municipal elections that brought in the outgoing parliamentarians and councilors was held on July 22, 2007. Their 5-year mandate was supposed to expire in 2012, but it was extended twice to have them stay beyond the mandate up to mid 2013. Law No. 91/20 0f 16 December 1991 to lay down conditions governing the election of Members of Parliament, provided that a substantive candidate and the alternate would both pay a caution of 50.000 FCFA into the state treasury for their candidature. Law No. 2006-9 of 29 December 2006 modifies this amount to 500.000 FCFA. Parliament amended this to 3.000.000 FCFA in the bill of the Electoral Code that was debated and voted in March 2012 but I think before the bill was signed into law, it was modified to 1.000.000 FCFA (for candidate and alternate together). In general, it is usually the substantive candidate that coughed out this amount. The opposition and the grassroots of the CPDM have been complaining that this amount was too high. Therefore, people were caught unprepared to cough out this huge sum. I think it was more a feeling of financial unpreparedness than surprise.

Elections over the years have suffered from persistent flaws, with the computerization of voters’ registration any remote prospects of fairness and transparency in the September 30th elections?

You know the biometric system of registration of voters which was instituted is good but it is very delicate. It is only as good as you want it to be. The standard approach for setting up a credible electoral roll using the biometric system is that the first phase of general registration of voters in the field provides what would be called a “raw” – preliminary – list of voters. Following the first phase, the “raw” list is published in the various areas for verification and corrections. This second phase provides a “raw” corrected electoral roll. The “raw corrected” roll is then screened centrally with multi-biometric identification technology containing a matching server to automatically detect and delete multiple registration to clean up the register. It is this cleaned up register that constitutes a national electoral register that can be used for free, fair and credible elections. Indeed, it is this last phase that should tell us how many eligible voters have been actually registered by ELECAM using the biometric voter registration system. Unfortunately, the ELECAM chair is still talking about the 5.5 million voters that were registered in the raw, preliminary list of voters. This means that there has been no screening to remove double and multiple names entered in the roll. It is known that some people registered at their places of residence, and then went to their villages and registered again; or some people registered in their places of residence more than once.

The general expectation was that some 8 to 9 million voters would be registered. Since ELECAM could come up with a figure of only 5.5 million they must be shy of carrying out an editing process that would reduce the numbers even further. So it is now clear that ELECAM did not edit the raw list. The ELECAM chair is telling the press that “there are spelling errors in some card…..but these will not debar anyone from voting…” This is also an indication that the raw register was never sent to the field for corrections.

I kept reminding ELECAM during the registration phase that those with entrenched interests – the spoilers who made nonsense of past electoral registers: political thugs-cum-bandits-cum-party bigwigs – were still active in the field to re-enact their fraud exploits. They obviously succeeded. Therefore I do not think that as far as the electoral roll is concerned, much has changed: there are still multiple entries for some voters.

There are reports that only about five million voters were registered, and should the distribution of voters cards be mired with the deliberate cacophony we know, it means the number which actually votes may even be lower, what kind of legitimacy will those “elected” have?

Scared of its shadow?The ruling CPDM shied away from organizing primaries to pick its candidates leading to wide spread discontent

Scared of its shadow?The ruling CPDM shied away from organizing primaries to pick its candidates leading to wide spread discontent

Yes, as we have just said, there were some 5.5 million names in the raw list brought from the field. The standard practice for biometric registration is that a voter is issued a voter’s card upon registration. Since the raw list is usually edited as we have indicated above, those who registered more than once would not find their names in the final electoral roll; the cards they carry would therefore not permit them to vote. The responsibility for not voting would be theirs since they committed the crime of registering more than once. In the situation as it is now, unfortunately the receipts that were issued when people were registered did not show their polling stations where they will cast their votes; where they would have gone and collected their cards on polling day, if they did not find it now. So the distribution process will still be mired with the cacophony that has mired past processes. Those that win will enjoy only the type of legitimacy that others in the past enjoyed.

Looking at the bigger picture, just like the Senatorial elections, some analysts see the September 30th elections in the context of a post Biya era with the decision of  the CPDM leader to shun primaries a sign that he wants to maintain absolute control in the transition process, what is your reading of the political situation?

Yes. The CPDM seems to prefer people they know – incumbents that actively supported the amendment of Article 6 (2) which provided that the president shall be elected for a term of office of 7 years; he shall be eligible for re-election once. The amendment allowed Paul Biya to stay beyond two seven-year terms. Those people who helped him to obtain the amendment need to be maintained as compensation for such positive contribution to the regime, without any consideration for any other candidate sent forward by the grassroots. If the incumbents succeed to send a list to the Central Committee, however they come by it, they are assured of being selected over more popular candidates from the grassroots. These people the regime knows better are the preferred persons to have around during this end-of-reign period.

I wonder what criteria was used, but there is disenchantment from people on the way the parliamentary seats were distributed across the country, it is curious to see that it is CPDM militants like Ateba Eyene voicing out frustration at the arbitrary distribution of seats and not the opposition what is going on?

Well, Ateba Yene is a different kind of CPDM militant. You know the last population census in Cameroon was in 2005 but the results were only published in 2010, after some five years of manipulation of the figures. Indeed, the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks recently provided evidence that such manipulation took place to inflate population figures in places that support Paul Biya, or places that Paul Biya can easily manipulate and control. It is such manipulated figures that guided his creation of “special” constituencies in preparation for the September 30 twin elections. There is no reason why Tiko and Muyuka together should have one seat while there are two seats in Buea. There is no reason why a place like Lebialem, expected to have at least two seats should have only one while small areas in the South and other regions have multiple seats. The population distribution per seat in the country varies considerably, from an average per region of some 70.000/seat to over 100.000/seat. Incumbents usually gerrymander for personal political reasons; however, it is usually not as fragrant as the one we are witnessing in Cameroon. As for the opposition speaking up, the opposition has changed a lot over the last few years. It is usually said that those who have food in their mouths do not speak.

Looking at the opposition the way it is at the moment, can it win if the elections were free and fair, we wish the CPDM and its leader could take the risk and for once try free and fair elections, will the opposition fare any better in such a scenario today?

CPDM young Cadres like Dr Ateba Eyene have stepped up criticism of cronyism and incompetence within its leadership

CPDM young Cadres like Dr Ateba Eyene have stepped up criticism of cronyism and incompetence within its leadership

You know the overwhelming majority of Cameroonians would like to have a regime change in Cameroon. The present regime has lasted too long, and has very little to show for its longevity. So, most Cameroonians would vote against it if they had the opportunity to do so. The opposition has lost a lot of credibility but it is a choice between the bad and the worst. The devil we know is so bad that most Cameroonians will prefer the devil they do not know. So, yes, the opposition will fare better in such a scenario.

Is there anything that the opposition can do to register better results; one understands the level of mistrust but may mergers, zoning, or rallying behind specific parties based on strength in particular areas?

No, all that is impossible. It can occur in limited areas where a party’s list is rejected or the party did not have a list and therefore decided to support another opposition party. Otherwise, the parties have become like a source of self-enrichment for the leaders and they would hardly let their source of enrichment go! They want to remain the alpha and omega of their parties so mergers, zoning, rallying behind other parties is out! The reason why the parties have failed to field a single candidate to face Paul Biya since the experience of 1992 is because the parties have become a wealth-generating machine for the leaders.

One of the things that stood out during the Senatorial circus was President Biya’s obsession with older folks; a CPDM cadre blamed this on the inability of the younger generation to make use of their numerical strength, what is your advice to them and to others across Cameroon who will vote on Sept 30?

The youth want to have a say through primaries but they are refused that option. The youths usually want to see their decisions through from start to finish. When they are excluded from the start, they are demobilized. There was a national youth forum that was formed, that we all thought would become a voice for the youths, but it looks like the whole idea was hijacked by politicians and it fell apart. Otherwise, that is the type of structure that the youth can use to flex their muscles.  It is from such structures that they can articulate the politics of youths across parties, and mobilize to make their voice heard at elections. Without such collective mobilization with clear aims and objectives, I doubt that there is much that one can advise the youth to do on September 30 that can have any serious impact.

Sometimes people think the generational shift that is needed pertains only to the CPDM and the ruling elite, should it not also be the case within the ranks of the opposition parties especially the leading ones like the SDF,CDU,UNDP ,etc?

John Fru Ndi of the opposition SDF and Paul Biya of the ruling CPDM. Many Cameroonians think it is time for a generational change

John Fru Ndi of the opposition SDF and Paul Biya of the ruling CPDM. Many Cameroonians think it is time for a generational change

Of course it is a problem across all parties. The parties are structures that serve the personal interests of the entrenched leadership of each party. That is why the same faces are still there since 1990, tending what has slowly become their source of nourishment. To succeed, the generational shift may pass through the creation of different centres of power, rather than depending on what individuals consider as their “thing.” This requires mobilization by people of vision that put general interest first. Such people definitely exist in the country, and need to rise to the challenge.

Last question Prof, as the country moves forward, what should make us nervous and what should make us hopeful?

What makes us nervous is that we do not know what is in Paul Biya’s mind, and the institutions we have are too weak to resist any unforeseen shocks. So we are nervous about what the future holds for us as far as Cameroon-after-Biya (or Cameroon-without-Biya) is concerned. What should make us hopeful? I think the fact that Cameroon has continued to stand on its feet in spite of the several errors of commission and omission, the several misdeeds of the present regime, over a period of over 30 year…

Thanks very much for granting this interview.

It has been a great pleasure. Thank you very much too.

 

 

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The Limits of Lions As Political Cover
June 10, 2013 | 1 Comments

-Musings on the Chaotic State of Cameroon Football.

Biya and lionsOne of those moments when Cameroonians are most lucid about the myriad of problems plaguing the country is when the national football team is humbled by a defeat. Frustration becomes even more when the defeat is at the hands of countries of low football pedigree like Cape Verde and most recently Togo. It comes as no surprise then that shortly after the lions were walloped two nil in Lome,Togo, reports surfaced that armed security forces were deployed to protect the office of the Cameroon Football Federation-FECAFOOT.  In every game, there are losers and winners. No one team wins all the time, so why should there be the fear that Cameroonians may vent their anger somewhere? The stock of football and the lions as political cover for the CPDM government has fallen to lowest levels. Looking at the way football is managed and the way things have been shaping up in the country, should the defeat from Togo be a surprise?

After the 1990 world cup when the Indomitable Lions became the first African side to reach the Quarter Finals of the World Cup, out spoken goalkeeper Bell Joseph Antoine said what football had done in one major tournament to market Cameroon, diplomacy had failed to do in thirty years. He was right but how well has the country use the incredible resource that its football is? Besides President Biya and his government using football as political cover to shield failed policies, it has been a galore of incredible mismanagement. About five world cup participations, four nations cup victories, and the country of global legends like Roger Milla,Thomas Nkono, Patrick Mboma and Samuel Eto’o is unable to boast of a stadium which conforms to international norms.

Using the lions to foster political agaendas.Most recently, Fecafoot and the Ministry of Sports have engaged in a cat and mouse game which could only result in the kind of defeat that the star studded lions suffered in Togo. A local coach in Jean Paul Akono who was not producing the worse of results was unceremoniously booted out  in favor of a German Coach. No offence to the talents and merits of the current coach Finke, but what was the raison d’etre of sacking Akono? The man proposed a salary of circa $15.ooo.ooo, which is peanuts compared to what foreigner coaches less competent than him earn when they head the lions. Akono had taken the lions to the top of their group in the world cup qualifiers. He was based in Cameroon, so what was the reason for his sack? Foreign coaches tend to be interviewed in specific countries looking for coaches, in the case of Cameroon, a delegation had to be sent to Paris to audition potential coaches.

Not long ago elections for the Fecafoot President were postponed by the Prime Minister for security reasons. The government has clearly indicated that it does not want current President Iya Mohammed to continue. No doubt Iya is unpopular, no doubt Cameroon football will be better off with more fresh and visionary leadership instead of the team in place that seems to focus more on sharing the spoils of the game without investment. But how can a coherent case be built against Iya when the actors are so divided? How can icons like Milla,Bell,Mve, and others be on a different side and others like Kaham on the other side? And how comes it is only now that the regime is trying to build a case of corruption against Iya from the public company that he runs? The whole thing has been nothing but a show of shame. Why mix up efforts to bar him from running Fecafoot with corruption charges only at this point in time?Elections for the executive bureau of the Littoral Region taking place in the Center Region? It is pathetic and the irony is that the fight is less about football and more about the spoils.

Come to think of it, members of Fecafoot are all members of the ruling party and have in the past engaged in active political campaigns. How comes people who run the local football league earn wages which are about five times the average that players who are the key actors earn? With such cacophony, it is a miracle that the lions have produced the results that have made Cameroon world famous in football. Credit for this reputation goes not to the authorities but to the raw talent of its youth. Youth whose talent and character is forged in very difficult circumstances, disgraceful infrastructure, inadequate material, miserable wages etc.

Back to political cover, in 1992, with the opposition poised to dislodge him from power, President Biya cashed in on the popularity of the national team by using the logo of the lions for is campaign. Many may have forgotten but cash strapped ahead of the 1994 world cup, the government embarked on a nationwide fund raising campaign dubbed “operation coup de Coeur,” and Cameroonians were most magnanimous in their generosity . The money never got to the players and the most plausible answer given by a Minister of Communications at the time was that the money disappeared between Paris and New York.  Of all the months of the year, President picked the month of June in 2002 when the lions were participating at the world cup in Korea and Japan for crucial parliamentary and local government elections. The reason for the choice was obvious to many.

Nothing has brought more joy and united Cameroonians more than football and the regime and its Fecafoot have done little to grow the game or sustain positive results. It remains the same problem of coaches, unpaid bonuses or bonuses not paid on time, the Sports Ministry and the Federation permanently at daggers drawn because of the spoils.

Global brands like Milla and Eto'o have enormous potential to market Cameroon ,but where is the coherent policy?If football is not working then what else is going to work? When the lions are unable to put a smile on the faces of Cameroonians and portray that semblance of national unity what else will, perhaps with the exception of political fatigue ? The lions have missed two nations cup in a row, had a dismal performance at the first world cup on African soil and run the risk of missing out on the 2015 world cup. Not an eventuality to pray for, but the CPDM government ought to know the more victories and exploits from the lions become scarce, the more Cameroonians become conscious of the fact that there things going profoundly wrong in the country.

Leave football to actors in the game and things will be better, when the tide is so strong against Iya as it is now, he should put country first and step down, why should Cameroon soccer continue to be toyed with by unscrupulous folks and politicians? Which world class league or club have Cameroonians not played for? Barcelone, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Liverpool, Ajax, Marseille, Manchester United, etc, Cameroonians have played there. How comes the opportunity cannot be given to talented folks like Mboma, Song, Bell, Tataw,etc to shape policy? In Zambia, Kalusha Bwalya is President of the football federation. In Nigeria Stephen Keshi is coach and has already won a nations cup. Cameroonian footballers past and present need to take charge for the game to evolve positively.

 

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Cameroonians Must Lead The Charge for Change-Hafis Ruelfi
November 27, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L
Politicians have failed and it is up to Cameroonians to salvage the country says Hafis Ruelfi President of the Cameroon Citizenship Movement. The clarion call of his movement is to galvanize popular support and action from Cameroonians to rescue the country from the vicious grip of unscrupulous politicians in both the opposition and the ruling. Despite the failures of President Biya’s three decade rule, Hafis believes that the country has a bight future but it is up to Cameroonians to shape and work towards the change that is needed to enjoy that future.
You are head of the Cameroon Citizenship Movement; may we know what the
organization stands for and what is its mission?

Hafis Ruefli: Thank you for the interest on our activities and political programs and our appreciation for the promising work your publication is doing. Young Africans must remain a very active part of the way forward all over the continent. Our movement, the Cameroon Citizenship Movement has as its main mission, the galvanization of Cameroons of all walks of life to work together towards the restoration of a peaceful, progressive and development oriented Cameroon. A Cameroon which beams with promise, a Cameroon which will one more be the envy of others, a Cameroon which should be a power house in the continent. A Cameroon, where everybody enjoys the fruits of its wealth and resources instead of a handful of people as the situation is now. A Cameroon where science, technology and research are promoted. This mission is shared by many Cameroonians but the present generation of politicians has shown incompetence and unpatriotism in handling the affairs of the country. Hence, it is incumbent on the people to take destiny into their own hands. The Cameroon Citizenship Movement has the intention to rally Cameroonians in answering this call.
Cameroon currently has about two hundred political parties, and a ruling party that has been in power for multiple decades, where do you situate your movement within the current political context of Cameroon?

Hafis Ruefli: There are many Cameroonians who have lost fate with the political class in the country. Here I mean people on both sides of the political divide. The ruling CPDM has no credibility and has squandered all opportunities it was given to transform the country. The opposition on the other part is so divided and it is hard to believe that there will rule any better than the CPDM if given the opportunity. If in the opposition, the leaders who came in with so much promise in the 90s are still there and behaving exactly like President, then why should Cameroonians trust that , there will be any better if they get to power? These are very legitimate questions any concerned Cameroonian should ask.
Having 200 political parties does not make Cameroon a democracy, everyone knows these parties are either created out of political greed or are sponsored by the ruling party to keep Cameroonians confused and lost while there continue to ruin the country. Should Cameroonians sit arms folded? Absolutely no, we must fight; we must rise up as one people and put the country back on track. With all due respect, the present political class deserves no more trust and opportunities. If the country has to get back on track, the people must lead the charge. The change we need must come from Cameroonians, students, teachers, doctors, business people, farmers, Moto cycle riders, taxi men and pressure from progressive minded Cameroonians in the diaspora. Clearly, our movement is to see Cameroonians rightly stake the claim to power. It belongs to them and not a generation of self centred politicians.

You are based out of the country, is the movement implanted back at home and how are you able to measure the impact of its activities?

Hafis Ruefli: Saying that I am based out of the country is not necessarily a factor. For Professional and political reasons, I am often out, but I have a very active and regular presence in country. I have investment, business; charitable and family projects that constantly warrant my attention. I should also add that living out of the country should not be a reason for people not to be active in the fight for change. In some other countries, dual nationality has paid serious dividends. Any progressive minded politician will fight to attract its best brains back home, its engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs etc. back home. A serious government will ensure that it makes the investment climate friendly so its folks abroad can bring investments back home. Look around Africa and compare Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya or Nigeria in terms of what is done to accommodate its diaspora and the pathetic situation we have in Cameroon. Despite the stumbling blocks and discouraging messages from the CPDM government, I salute the efforts of Cameroonians abroad from sponsoring their younger ones, development projects etc. There should in every respect be back of the change that Cameroon needs. There should be part of the change that will see Cameroon elect a leader through elections that will make the country proud, and make the world look at us differently.
President Biya recently clocked thirty years in power, what is your assessment of his leadership?

Hafis Ruefli: When all your marks for over 25 years are just “can do better” or “more still to be done” that means it is a real failure of government policies. So I will use only one word “failure”. With the education he had, with smooth, peaceful, promising and debt free country he inherited, a country which had no rival in the sub region and was highly respected across Africa and the world, there is no way to describe the Biya years as a failure. It is part of the reason why the kind of movement we are working on is needed to ensure that Biya does not only leave but that Cameroonians are able to ensure that there is no chaos after he leaves. That the country does not generate to chaos when power eventually changes hands.

You said in a recent article that it was unfortunate for the remains of former President Amadou Ahidjo to be in Senegal, how important is it for Ahidjo’s remains to be brought back to Cameroon, and any advice to
President Biya on how to go about this?

Hafis Ruefli: First it is unfortunate that the reward Former President Ahidjo gets for serving Cameroon as President for 25 years is for his remains to remain buried in Senegal. He  had no better love than Cameroon and worked extremely hard to make the country a power house in Africa. No matter what issues he might have had with President, it is the hall mark of great leaders to pardon even their biggest enemies. The examples in history are many, you see a man like Nelson Mandela of South Africa not only forgiving those who wrongly jailed him for 27 years, but also working with them to help South Africa move forward. By not working towards the return of Ahidjo’s remains to Cameroon, President Biya confirms that he is not a great leader. You know even the late Bishop Albert Ndongmo who was jailed under Ahidjo compared Biya and Ahidjo in a Jeune Afrique interview and admitted that he thought Ahidjo loved Cameroon more and was a better President. There is no logic to justify keeping his remains in Senegal.Is it not odd for Cameroon to be celebrating 50 years of independence when the remains of its first President are buried in a foreign country? On a personal level as well, do not forget that it is President Ahidjo who voluntarily picked Biya as his successor. Cameroon is a country in need of healing; Cameroon needs reconciliation, the country is getting divided by the day. By bringing the remains of President Ahidjo back, President Biya could start a healing, and reconciliation process.

Looking at the political situation in Cameroon today, what do you suggest as the way forward and any political leaders both in the opposition and the ruling party you think could help move the country in
a better direction?

Hafis Ruefli: The country needs a younger generation to step up. It needs Cameroonians to rise up and take their responsibilities. Why we accuse President Biya of staying in power for thirty years, do not forget that in the SDF, Mr John Fru Ndi has led the party since 1990, Dr Ndam Njoya has led the UDC since 1990, Bello Bouba has led the UNDP for over twenty years. The country needs fresh faces, younger, more energetic leaders with a vision and the passion and excitement to move the country forward. We all need to get involved in one way or the other. We need to ask questions louder, we need to be more demanding and manifest a stronger interest for things to change. Cameroon is blessed with a abundant resources, it is blessed with amazing talents , that’s why you see Cameroonians excelling in all parts of the world. With a new political leadership, with a better environment, I have no doubt that the country will be headed for greatness again.

You are from the Grand North Region of the country where there have been reports of tensions following the arrest and jail term slammed on former Minister of Territorial Administration Marafa Hamidou Yaya, what is your take on this and should Marafa not have been arrested if guilty of corruption just because Biya is afraid of the Grand North?

Hafis Ruefli: Corruption should be condemned and sanctioned irrespective of what region any one comes from. The pervasive nature of corruption will remain one of the lasting legacies of the Biya decades in office. While fighting corruption must be supported and encouraged, when it is used as a tool to settle political scores, we must also avoid that. If someone is declared corrupt, there should be proves made available to Cameroonians to justify the case. People should not be labeled as corrupt and arbitrarily jailed just because they happen to be in the bad books of the President or the President sees them as political threats. Remember when he was asked some years back, President asked for proves. His actions and policies have helped to make corruption thrive and that is very unfortunate.

What is your general take on the whole crusade against corruption and the presence of an entire government in jail, Prime Ministers, Secretary Generals at the Presidency, Ministers, Directors, etc.?

Hafis Ruefli: It is a charade .The fight is seems to be politically motivated, the judicial process involved is a disgrace .Yes these people have embezzled funds, did the President just realized that all these people were embezzling public funds? Why are some arrested and not others? For all the arrests that have been made, how much has been recuperated and put back in the public treasury? The current crusade is a sham and is not serving any purpose as people continue to do the same thing. By the way is President was so serious about fighting corruption why has he not implemented Article 66 of the 1996 constitution which calls on public officials to declare their assets before and after leaving office? That article could be the simplest most effective tool to check corruption. Yet since 1996, the article has not been implemented. Can you imagine how much has been embezzled between 1996 and today?
Thirty years of Biya, the opposition looking confused, and Cameroonians disgruntled, what future do you see for the country?

Hafis Ruefli: I am always optimistic and positive and to be candid, I think the future is bright but it depends on usCameroonians.It is up to us to work for the kind of future we want instead of trusting in self centred politician who think of nothing but their survival. When I see the resources the country is blessed with, when I see the fertility of our land, the productivity of our farmers in hard conditions, the brilliance and talent of the youth and more, there is no reason not to be positive about the future.

 

 

 

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Thirty Years In Power and Biya’s Mission Unaccomplished
November 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

-What the Cameroonleader could do to beef up a porous legacy

As the world watches with keen attention the hotly contested elections between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, President Biya is celebrating thirty years in power. It is no mean feat considering that there are only about three leaders in the world today who hold a similar record. His partisans may be in celebration but many Cameroonians will agree that short of outright failure, the thirty years would have been a lot better. Without weighing in on the debate, since President Biya is still in the second year of his current seven year mandate, it is not too late for him to bolster his legacy with a number of reforms.

First, he should take the lead in ensuring that the next Parliamentary and Municipal elections are fair.The President has on numerous occasions prided himself in making Cameroon an oasis of peace in a troubled sub region. Well one of the biggest threat to that peace remains elections. For all his years in power, credible elections have been abundantly short. Few are those who take the current electoral body Elecam serious. Beginning with the next elections, Biya should vouch for transparency beginning with the ruling CPDM and then extending it nationwide. Let the CPDM sweat for its victories instead of using the administration and outright rigging that has tarnished its victories.
No one will deny the fact that corruption has thrived abundantly under President Biya.When quizzed about corruption some years back, he asked for proves, today there is an entire government in prison purportedly for corruption. There is little proof that the arrest of high profile personalities is doing anything to curb corruption. If the President is serious about fighting corruption, how about starting with article 62 of the 1996 constitutions which calls for state officials to declare their assets? Personalities arrested and jailed arbitrarily, a judiciary that takes forever to render justice, Cameroonians in the dark as to restitution if any. The current crusade neither serves as a deterrent nor does it render justice. Understandably fighting corruption under the current regime is like casting the biblical first stone, who exactly has not done something fishing while serving in government?

Looking at the unemployment numbers, there is nothing for President Biya to be proud of his thirty years. In terms of brilliance and share talent, Cameroonians have it but the opportunity is always denied them. From artists like Richard Bona, to talented soccer players like Samuel Eto’o playing in the best clubs in Europe. From computer gurus, to medical doctors, engineers etc, Cameroon should not envy any other country, but for all its potential, Cameroon remains way behind countries like Ghana and even Gabon. The President could make the investment climate more friendly, dismantle the bureaucracy at the port in Douala and launch a charm offensive towards the Cameroon Diaspora.

As serious as it is, President Biya has treated the Southern Cameroons problem with scornful levity. Unfortunately it is not one of those problems that can be wished away, it is not one of those problems that human rights violations will lay to rest, it is not one of those problems where bribing, leaders and creating factions is going to stem. It is about historical realities that no attempts at falsification can serve as a solution. When the President with arrogance changes the name of country as he did in 1984, it is a problem, when he abandons the Limbe deep sea port and out of the blues focuses on Kribi, people see the injustice. When the promise to tar the ring remains fallow decades after it was initiated, it is an issue. The absence of credible leadership and the numerous factions singing discordant choruses to the same song should not delude anyone about the seriousness of this problem: It is a ticking time bomb

At the sunset of his long stay in power, President Biya should look back in retrospect at how it started. It is just not normal that the remains of the man who voluntarily handed power to him on the Nov 6 1982 should continue to rot in Senegal. There was every reason for President Biya to feel rancorous after the 1984 coup, but his predecessor died since 1989, and should the devout catholic that Biya is not turn the chapter by facilitating the return of his remains?

If someone had told Cameroonians around 1984, that ten to twenty years later, they will look with nostalgia at the Ahidjo years, it would have been considered a joke.Biya has done little to earn the respect and trust of the people in thirty years but there is still plenty he can do catch up. All it takes is the will and the backbone, can he show Cameroonians he has one .He has been lucky to be a leader inCameroon where anything goes. With his style of leadership he will not survive two terms as Governor in a country likeNigeria where there is more political heat.

The odds are heavily deem that the Biya Cameroonians have known for the last thirty years will  do the above but since when was it wrong to nurse hopes that even in the darkest of prospects? By the way has the thirty years of Biya not been full of surprises? A leader who understands and knows the weaknesses of Cameroonians more than Cameroonians know him? A leader who has preyed on the weaknesses of his peoples his friends and foes? Who would have thought in 1982 that he will still be in power today? In 1992 that the revolution will not topple him? Every story has its ending and Biya has to decide how he wants his to end for better or for worst.

 

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The Wages of political confusion: Nemesis catches up with Tchiroma
June 23, 2012 | 0 Comments
Will President Biya spare Minister Tchiroma?

Will President Biya spare Minister Tchiroma?

Cameroon’s Minister of Communications Issa Tchiroma is living through very anxious  moments today.The man known for defending the undefendable, is fighting with his back to the wall thanks to the revelation from Marafa  in one of his letters that as Transport Minister he took very serious kickbacks from a South African Company charged with serving CAMAIR Planes. The insinuation from Marafa is that the kickbacks compromised the quality of services rendered by this company and may have had a direct relation to the crash of the Nyong in 1995. Instead of providing hard facts to debunk the charges levied by Marafa, Tchiroma’s strategy has been to cast doubts on the integrity and motives of his erstwhile colleague in government and fellow northerner. To make matters worse for Minister Tchiroma, former CPDM baron Chief Mila Assoute strongly corroborated the charges of Marafa.  If Tchiroma is counting on friends and allies to defend him in his hour of need he may not find few. It is a fact that many in the ruling CPDM donot trust him, it is a fact that he has made more enemies than friends within the press corps, within the opposition Tchiroma is a nonentity, and even within his own party, his own militants , known to be a handful have urged him to resign in the wake of the “Marafaleaks” . The Communications Minister is lonely,very “eperviable” and indeed nemesis may be catching up with him.But how did the man get here?

A casualty of the 1984 aborted coup, the cadre of the defunct National Railway Cooperation,Regifercam was in jail until the amnesty granted in the early 90s by President Biya. Tchiroma joined the National Union of Progress and Democracy viewed at the time as a regrouping of former Ahidjo loyalists. With Bello Bouba on exile in Nigeria, Tchiroma was one of the cadres who led the UNDP with then Chairman Samuel Eboua. First major intrigue from Tchiroma, he joined the mutiny that upstaged Samuel Eboua in a most unceremonious fashion. That mutiny took the shine off the enterprising UNDP brand. It cast Bello in bad light, and Tchiroma was one of the leading actors of that show of shame.

Second major intrigue, Tchiroma surreptiously joins the government alongside Hamadou Moustapha without the backing of the party. Appeals from the UNDP rank and file for them to shun the appointment fall on deaf ears and Tchiroma joins the government as Minister of Communication. It turns out that it is while serving as transport minister then that Tchiroma got his share of the loot that is now an open secret and may eventually end his political career. Dismissed from the UNDP, Minister Tchiroma starts the ANDP with Marafa Hamidou Yaya.The party did not do well in the parliamentary elections of 1997.

Booted out of government,Marafa wonders around with dwindling political fortunes till about 2002 or so when he uses the opportunity of the famous memo from the Grand North to stage a come back. The memorandum from the Grand North, listed a number of grievances of the people from that geographical area.It jolted the regime and created a kind of shock wave akin to what the Marafa leaks are doing today.Alongside Antar Gassagay, and Hamadou Moustapha, Tchiroma ever the opportunist exploited the moment and became a leading figure in the coalition of opposition parties that set out to challenge Biya for the 2004 elections.

The Coalition of 2004 turned out to be another pathetic performance by the Cameroon opposition.Rallies were held in all ten provinces by these leaders preaching unity and a new vision for Cameroon, demonstrations were held across the country, and because of egos, the party could not settle on a single candidate to challenge President Biya. Tchiroma who had all along been with his opposition comrades, endorsed Biya. It is in reward of this that Mr Tchiroma  was recalled to government as Minister of Communication.This after he left the ANDP and created his own party

He lacks the subtle sophistication of Kounchou Kuomegni. He heas defended the undefendeable for the regime in very crude ways. With tensions high over the death of Journalist Bibi Ngota, Tchiroma declared that he died of  Aids. On the theft of Venessa Tchouta’s baby, Tchiroma  turned clumsiness to an art. Most recently he tried to dabble in the Marafa saga before one of the letters humbled him.

So where has Minister Marafa belonged?

Hard to tell where he actually belongs, folks like Minister Tchiroma make politics in Cameroon unpalatable

Hard to tell where he actually belongs, folks like Minister Tchiroma make politics in Cameroon unpalatable

Where is his political ideology? Is he of the UNDP, the ANDP or the party he created later? Whose vision does he work towards , how comes he defends President Biya with greater vigor than when he was in the opposition?So it is all Tchiroma and not Cameroon? He is the poster child of politicians whose sole aid is a seat at the table. Rain curses when you are out of government and defend it with unbridled zealousness when called to government.

Ever wonder why Cameroonians are so frustrated with politics and its actors? It is in part thanks to folks like Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma . People who have no scruples, people who have no morales, people who will betray militants ,followers or comrades at the drop of a hat when a political appointment comes along. With all the nasty things he said about Biya while he was n the UNDP in the early 90s and later with the memo from the grand North in 2004,Tchiroma should have seen the humiliation coming when he was appointed to be the Chief Praise singer for the President. A man who takes his time to get at real and perceived enemies, will Biya pass by the opportunity to humiliate and humble Tchiroma even further? Should he be booted out, will he ever have the courage to consider himself  an opposition figure? Should he go ,it will be nothing but good riddance to bad rubbish. He represents the worse in a generation of leaders that has been more of a curse than a blessing to the country.But for the humor, few will certainly miss Mr Tchiroma

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Marafa May Have Jump Started The National Conference
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

At the dawn of the 90s, when the bloody launching of the SDF set off the democratization process in Cameroon, a National Conference was viewed as the panacea for a new direction for the country. The clamour for the National Conference was backed by the all powerful National Coordination of opposition parties, it was backed by the civil society, and the private media buoyed by exciting political developments amply articulated the case made by proponents of this forum. The response from President was “sans objet”, a National Conference will serve no purpose is a loose translation of his laconic response.

His response could be understood because in the Republic of Benin, where the first National Conference took place in the continent, President Kerekou sat helpless and

Marafa's letters have rekindled the political debate in Cameroon

Marafa's letters have rekindled the political debate in Cameroon

watched as he was stripped of all the dictatorial powers he had. The experience in Zaire now the DR.Congo had not gone well at all for President Mobutu. In lieu of the National Conference, President Biya organized the Tripartite Talks which did little to address the concerns of change thirsty Cameroonians. Over two decades later, there is every indication that Cameroon needs that National Conference more than ever before. Infact the urgency becomes fiercer considering the subtle viciousness of the raging succession battle within the ruling establishment which is overheating the polity. A lot of ink has flowed since the arrest of former Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni and former Territorial Administration Minister and Politburo member of the CPDM Marafa Hamidou Yaya. In a couple of letters Marafa by fate or by design may have finally jump started the National Conference.

Whereas the other high profile detainees have largely remained silent, Marafa has put the regime in panic mood  with embarrassing revelations contained in letters that have left the country only yearning for more .As the country watches in awe, as the CPDM is pinned to the wall unable to defend their Party Chairman cum Head of State, as the SDF joins the fray providing a high profile team of legal advisers to defend Marafa, and with the CPDM dominated parliament reportedly backing a demand for a commission of enquiry into kickbacks paid to former Minister of Transport and now Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma as revealed in one of Marafa’s letters, the former Secretary General at the Presidency and Minister of Territorial Administration may have launched that National Conference.

There may be no reason  to believe everything Marafa says , but if the Government and the ruling party are running helter skelter, then there should be elements of truth. That the ruling establishment is unable to articulate a coherent response can only add up to guilt. Rather than answer the charges , the regime thinks casting doubts on Marafa’s character and vaulting ambition will sweep the issues under the rug. But what about the facts he has used in making his arguments? Why  has the regime not provided facts to the contrary? Issues raised by Marafa have bordered on his doubts on the ability of ELECAM to organize free elections, advise to Biya to step down, instances of corruption brought to the attention of the head of state, his opposition to violent crackdowns in Douala et al. Most of these issues would probably never have occured had the National Conference taken place to lay a strong foundation for a country serious on meeting 21st century challenges.

A National Conference will possibly have vouch for separation of powers with checks and balances. It may have made it possible to have strong institutions instead of a strong man in power. It would likely have come up with the kind of electoral reforms that will make Cameroon the envy of other countries. The CPDM backed Biya in rejecting in. It possibly would have come up with reforms that would have quelled the institutionalization of corruption. Today there is a whole government in jail for crimes not clearly spelt out, with facts that are hazy though no one doubts the magnitude of corruption within the regime. It never took place and the result is a faulty constitution whose provisions have never been fully implemented since 1996. It never took place and since 1990, Cameroon has not known a single election that is free and fair election.

The National conference may have addressed concerns of Southern Cameroonians who have since continued to be humiliated and stretched and now want nothing but a restoration of their statehood.

Hard to make an exhaustive list of what a National Conference will have addressed but it is right to say the issues have been multiplied many fold. Even President Biya and his CPDM who “saw no merit” may rethink their stance if the clock could be turned backwards. While his collaborators in jail must have tasted the poison they helped serve Cameroonians, the President cuts a pathetic figure. In power for circa thirty years is Mr Biya proud of his legacy as it stands today?

For the National Conference, dialogue or whatever it is called to be successful, people must speak their minds, people must unburden secrets, people must be ready to listen and as hard as it might be forgive. Marafa has fingered Issa Tchiroma, Fame Ndongo and even the President himself. In the absence of a formal gathering, his letters serve a purpose. Cameroonians may love to know about election rigging and its techniques, there will love to know how proceeds from oil were managed when he was Chair of the National Hydrocarbons Company. How about shedding light on the operational command in Douala? What if someone tells us what really happened to money contributed by Cameroonians during the Coup de Coeur for the upkeep of the embattled lions ate the 1992?   How about Minister Fame Ndongo answer the charge from Marafa on his role in siphoning funds for some bogus satellite program at CRTV? Already former CPDM Central Committee Member Chief Milla Assoute is adding flesh to the corruption charge levied against Issa Tchiroma for on a contract for the maintenance of Cameroon Airline planes in the mid nineties.

While it is laudable that the SDF is pushing for a Commission of Enquiry on the compensation of victims of the 1995 plane crash, one must ask why the MPs of the leading opposition party did not ask for one on the Albatross, or for one to review the modus operandi of Sparrow Hawk. Hopefully Marafa’s barbs can fire up others within the ruling party, the opposition, civil society, the progressive forces in the Diaspora et  al to step up the fight for change. The country needs that National Conference or some genuine form of National dialogue. On it may depend whether the country makes or mars. On it depends genuine reconciliation because beyond the façade of peace lies a badly fragmented polity. Genuine reconciliation starts with dialogue, shedding light on issues not to reopen old wounds but to better understand each other and chart a better way forward. From the 1984 coup, the repatriation of the remains of former President Ahidjo, national recognition of heroes of the independence struggle like Roland Moumie, Ernest Ouandie, etc. South Africa had its truth and reconciliation with sordid tales that hurt but helped to heal the wounds of apartheid. Nigeria after Abacha tried the something similar. Cameroon needs its own and Marafa’s missives though inadvertently may be leading the country towards this ultimate eventuality.

 

 

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SDF AT 22: The Party Infront Of A Mirror
May 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

Launched on May 26 1990 in Bamenda with six innocent souls paying the supreme price, the Social Democratic Front has been in the thick and thin of the democratization process in Cameroon. There is just no way the history of modern day politics in Cameroon can be complete without the role played by the SDF in standing up to President Biya and the CPDM in the early 90s. From the mammoth rallies across the country, to the heroism of John Fru Ndi, the vibrant National Executive Committee meetings, the SDF was a party with a class apart. Real and imagined tales of bravery catapulted its Chairman John Fru Ndi from a bookseller to the defacto President of Cameroon. What he said was the equivalent of law. “Le Chairman a dis que” was the word in Douala, Bafoussam, Mbouda and other major towns in East Cameroon. “Chairman don talk say” to adepts of Pidgin English in Bamenda, Kumba, Limbe etc. Few are those who thought the CPDM will survive the raging momentum of the SDF.Indeed there are many who believe that the SDF leader and Union for Change Candidate John Fru Ndi actually won the elections of 1992. Today that SDF is a very pale shadow of its former self. Gone is the enthusiasm it generated .has tremendously evaporated, the clout and charisma of Chairman Fru Ndi has waned, turn out at rallies is a far cry from what it was in the 90s, emblematic lieutenants of the party have either left or been forced out of the party and many Cameroonians now doubt the potential of the SDF as a credible alternative to the CPDM.

As the party clocks 22 and with the critical nature of the times, the SDF needs to go back to the fundamentals that militated for its creation in the first place. For a party which led the opposition in Cameroon with brio, the party needs to step up its game again. From 47 MPS at the elections of 1997, the SDF has seen its membership drop to 22 in 2004 and even lower today. Scores registered by its candidate in the elections of 2004 and 2011 are a far cry from what the party obtained in 1992. It is common knowledge that the ruling CPDM owes its successive victories to flawed elections but that should not be any reason to underscore the fact there is something profoundly wrong in the SDF.It may be a challenge the CPDM may not risk but are there any certainties that the SDF as it stands now will record significant victories if there was a level playing field?

Despite the fraud that characterizes elections, been in the opposition requires that a serious party makes a credible case against the ruling party. It requires that the opposition draws a sharp contrast from the party in power with its vision, choice of leadership, choice of candidates, modus operandi et al. It is not enough to point to the blatant corruption, the absence of democratic progress, the lack of infrastructure and the endless litany of short comings of the ruling CPDM and imagine that Cameroonians even in free and fair elections will automatically vote you in. The electorate, Cameroonians are more politically educated than there were in the 90s when the SDF was created and will not just vote the party or its candidates just because the CPDM must be replaced. Has the SDF led by example?  Has the SDF proven beyond reasonable doubt that in power it will govern better than the CPDM? Has the SDF made a convincing case to Cameroonians that if given power it will be accountable or will be able to hold office holders accountable?  The answers to these and many are blowing in the wind.

Since the party was created in 1990, it has been led by Mr John Fru Ndi. The CPDM has been led by Mr Biya, the CDU by Ndam Njoya, the UNDP by Bello Bouba Maigari. If within your own party, you cannot change leadership why should the CPDM be in a haste to change its own leader? As cynical as this may sound, it is actually an argument the CPDM makes. Granted the SDF continues to hold conventions, but should a party leader not think of passing the relay baton for someone else to continue the fight or lead the party in a different way that might produce better results? Can the party not present a different member as a candidate for Presidential elections who is not the Chairman?A few years back, the party was torn apart in a debate on how to invest candidates for future elections. While some influential militants wanted the creation of an independent investiture committee, partisans of the Chairman will not hear anything of it. Their argument been that the independent investiture committee will emasculate the influence the Chair has in the party.

Chairman Fru Ndi and President in what was considered a historic meeting but with no impact on the stunted democratic process in Cameroon so far

Chairman Fru Ndi and President in what was considered a historic meeting but with no impact on the stunted democratic process in Cameroon so far

It is important for people to be loyal to a leader but when that loyalty is at odds with the values of the party, it becomes a problem. If the SDF is unwilling to create an independent investiture committee that will serve as a neutral umpire in the selection of potential office holders, why would the CPDM government give in to calls for the creation of a truly independent electoral commission in the country?

Corruption remains rife in the country and many have argued and rightly so that if the implementation of Article 66 which requires Office holders to declare their assets prior to assuming and leaving  office is the threshold of any meaningful fight. For obvious reasons, the CPDM government is not hot at all about implementing the clause. On the other hand the SDF could show Cameroonians about its seriousness to govern seriously by requiring its top leadership as well as Mayors and MPs to declare their assets. The party even has a shadow cabinet. The only known SDF MP who declared his assets is Hon Jean Michel Nintcheu. It was exciting when news circulated some time back that the Chairman was going to declare his assets, but disappointing that he backed down saying that he is not a government official and nothing mandates him to declare his assets.Fair enough, but does the symbolic gesture of declaring your assets not draw a contrast in the eyes of Cameroonians between you and the sitting President people are disappointed in?

No organization can thrive in indiscipline. When Ben Muna was axed from NEC in the 90s, it did not bother anyone, then came Siga Assanga, and many others. Far from serving as instrument to maintain discipline in the party, the dreaded Article 8:2 became a weapon to settle scores and purge the party of real and perceived enemies of the leadership. The result is that  the party’s NEC is hollow today.  No offense to those who constitute its membership today but who can deny the fact that since the departure of cadres like Akonteh, Nyo Wakai, Asonganyi, late Dr Tchenkwo, and others, the party has lost a lot of vibrancy?  Where are those strong communiqués that used to come from the Secretariat? Why is the party not taking stronger positions on issues like corruption? It is not enough to make press utterances and throw verbal punches at Biya for arresting state officials. If the SDF was in power, how will it handle issues of corruption? On what basis is the party putting its Lawyers to defend Marafa and for what crimes exactly?  So if there is tangible proof that indeed Marafa has tainted hands, will the SDF seek to help him prove the contrary?

It is a good thing to know the party is in dialogue with other opposition parties and has been holding several meetings. It may be no point crying over spilt milk but one cannot help wishing that such dialogue had taken place prior to the 2011 elections. For diverse reasons, there is a lot of mutual distrust amongst the political leaders.  The SDF by virtue of its size and historic importance needs to take the lead in bringing together the opposition. The opposition has aided Biya so much with the divisions, suspicions, and the war of egos between its leaders. In 1992, the Union For Change settled on Mr Fru Ndi as a candidate.  People may argue that in 2004 and 2011, the SDF leader emerged second in the Presidential elections. You run for elections to win and not to emerge as runners up. In the supreme interest of change in Cameroon, would it be more productive for the Chairman to be the king maker and rally people to stand by someone other than himself who has the potential to win or to run for elections and continue to be placed second?

After 22 years of existence, it is time for the party to do some soul searching. It is time to ask hard questions which will help get the party back on the rails. Of all the Founding fathers, only Mr Fru Ndi and Aloysius Tebo are still actively involved. It does not help the party when grievances aired by other Founding fathers from the late Albert Mukong, to late Dr Ngwasiri, Siga Assanga etc are not taken seriously. It does not help the party when proposals from brilliant minds like Justice Nyo Wakai are not taken seriously. It certainly does not help when committed, effective, and hardworking cadres like Akonteh, Paulinus Jua, and Prof Asonganyi are rewarded with shabby treatment from party hawks.

22 years at the helm of the party is way too long and if he is not thinking about it Chairman Fru Ndi has to start thinking about it. The party needs new blood; it needs people with a fresh perspective. Such people are not lacking in the party, Hon Nintcheu, Tchinda Fobi, Vice Chairman Joshua Osih etc . The party needs to seek reconciliation, genuine reconciliation with disgruntled militants so they can come back to the fold. Fortunately there is a Convention coming up. It will be the ideal opportunity for the SDF to start its reformation. Simple proposals for consideration could be limitations to the mandates of elected party officials and candidates for public office, mandating all elected

Many see in Vice Chairman Joshua Osih the future of the party

Many see in Vice Chairman Joshua Osih the future of the party

officials to declare their assets, publication of party accounts on a yearly basis, creating an independent investiture committee for the vetting and selection of party officials in a way that reflects the equal opportunity that the SDF stands for etc. The SDF remains a source of hope for many. Despite its short comings, it continues to be the leading opposition party in the country. The stumbling blocks have been many, the frustrations have been plenty. From the blood of innocent souls like Evaristus Toje, Juliet Sikod and others killed at the launching of May 26 1990, to the maiming of protesters in Bamenda, the controversial elections of 1992, the victimization of countless militants etc, the adversities have been enormous.

Curiously the dwindling fortunes of the party seem to emanate more from a disappointment in the way the party has been managed and less of the road blocks created by the regime. After all the party braved road blocks to be launched, the party braved road blocks to win elections in major cities in 1996, the party has braved road blocks to win elections over and over in a place like Kumba.Just as Biya is challenged to beef up his legacy, Chairman Fru Ndi must be urged to work on his. After providing courageous leadership in the early 90s, the Chairman must ensure that the party gets back on track with sound democratic principles, and a potential to lead Cameroon better than the CPDM has.

 

 


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What Operation “Epervier’ Tells Us About The CPDM
May 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

Ruling Party Needs Profound Reforms to Survive Post Biya Era

PM Inoni with party muffler on his neck, a victim of the system he worked so hard for

PM Inoni with party muffler on his neck, a victim of the system he worked so hard for

The operation sparrow hawk better known by its French acronym Epervier continues to claim high profile victims. Friends and foes of Paul Biya are among the high profile prisoners detained at the maximum security prison in Kondengui. There is palpable fear within the ranks of sitting and former state officials .Who is next is the murmur amongst them in private despite public praise for the President for adding teeth to the  fight against corruption with the arrests of close collaborators.

From Mounchipou Seidou former Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and Pierre Desire Engo of the National Social Insurance Fund in 1997, the list has evolved considerably. In jail now are three former Secretary Generals at the Presidency of the Republic, Titus Edzoa, Atangana Mebara, and Marafa Hamidou Yaya. A former Prime Minister in Chief Ephraim Inoni, a Minister of Health in Olanguena Awono, a Minister of Economy and Finance, Polycarpe Abah Abah. Also in jail are heads of top state cooperation like Yves Michel Fotso of Camair, Emmanuel Ondo Ndong of Feicom, Roger Belinga of SIC etc. It is no cynicism when people say what is lacking to form a whole government in Kondengui is a President.

Besides occupying very high state functions, a common denominator in all of these folks is that they are all militants of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement-CPDM. I talk here in the present tense because none of them has relinquished their membership of the ruling party maybe with the exception of Titus Edzoa. Virtually all of them were members of the Central Committee of the ruling party. Pierre Desire Engo was a member of the all powerful political bureau of the party. So too is Marafa Hamidou Yaya confirmed even at the CPDM Congress of last year. Think about those delegations the CPDM composes with great pomposity for party activities in the field? The folks in jail were permanent fixtures on those lists.

So what does epervier tell us about the CPDM? It only reinforces  the narrative that it is a sanctuary per excellence of folks who get rich quick at the expense of Cameroonians .People identify with the party not because of any ideology it represents but because it  not only offers you a passport to unbridled riches but also shields you from criminal persecution. You want to obtain funds for a contract and go scot free without executing the contract? Join the CPDM.You want be considered for plum jobs in the country without qualification and where you will not rated on performance , join the party. You want promotion even when you do not deserve one based on your output? Join the party. Everyday folks like myself who irk it out to survive daily know that rightly or wrongly the party is associated with all vices imaginable in the country.

Since its creation in 1984, the party has held just about four congresses. President Biya who has led the party since its creation did not even bother to get a formal endorsement for the party to run for Presidential elections in 2004. He is not known to use his office at the party headquarters. I wonder if any Cameroonian has ever seen him with a party muffler on his neck, a party T-shirt, uniform or cap at any public event. For some reason, the President seems to keep the party at arm’s length. There is little tolerance for dissent within the party.

Corrupt officials or victims of power play?Abah Abah(L) and Mebara

Corrupt officials or victims of power play?Abah Abah(L) and Mebara

Ahead of the 1997 elections, attempts by the late Victor Ayissi Mvodo to challenge Biya were not viewed kindly at all and he was forced to back down from his ambitions. In 2004, Chief Milla Assoute and his progressive movement severely jolted the party. Determined to challenge Biya at the party’s primary, Chief Assoute was not given the opportunity to do so.The party had no convention and Biya was proclaimed its automatic candidate.

A man like Gerard Ondo Ndong will remind people that some of the money he is accused of embezzling was used in financing party activities. The same will go for all the detained CPDM top shots who will tell you how much there have spent for the financial upkeep of various party activities. There is the perception that the line between the public treasury and that of the CPDM is blurry. Service cars, fuel and staff are used for party activities. The President can afford to call for elections in the heart of the raining season and it will be of minimal inconvenience to the CPDM because its cadres have access to all terrain service cars there will use at the expense of the tax payer.

There is a strong school of thought which believes the travails of Mebara, Marafa, Inoni and co are politically motivated. Maybe the CPDM Party Leader and President should be given a modicum of seriousness. It could be he is bent on getting serious in the fight against corruption .He did indicate in his speech at the last party congress that epervier will not only continue with greater vigour but will know no sacred cows. If it is about beefing up a legacy that does not reflect the multiple decades he and the party have been in power, the President needs to more. How about implementing constitutional provisions like Article 66 which calls on top state functionaries to declare their assets prior to assuming and relinquishing office? That remains the single most efficient tool that will tell those in his party and in the country that he is bent on getting serious.

Will the party survive a post Biya era?  It will be tough for the party to say the least. The crushing majorities the party has at the Assembly and in the Councils are a product of flawed elections. Besides the treasury at its disposal, the party relies heavily on MINAT and its field agents in the DO’s. President Biya has been the towering federating figure. In his absence the party may break into unrecognizable fragments. If the subtle succession battles have been this vicious with Biya still around, God alone knows what will become of the party when he is not there. Despite vituperations from young turks like Ateba Eyene and the dynamic Mayor of Buea Mbella Moki Charles who may well represent the future of the party, at the decision making level their influence is minimal and their cries for reforms are drawn in the wilderness.

If at a time when the opposition is almost inexistent, the CPDM with all its advantages still needs to rely on flawed elections, it speaks volumes. Why would a party whose candidate has won elections with circa 80% in the last couple of elections be shy about accepting the inclusion of a two round ballot in the electoral code? If the CPDM is so sure of itself why will it not militate for the creation of a truly independent electoral commission that will give its “victories” greater credibility or why would the party not vouch for electoral reforms that the party is clamouring for? The epervier will end up at best a smoke screen for any genuine all out fight against corruption will crumble the party like a house of cards.

Marafa is in detention but still a member of the CPDM Political Bureau

Marafa is in detention but still a member of the CPDM Political Bureau

If the party will survive a post Biya era, it needs a revolt from the base. Militants at the grassroots, genuine militants who believe in what the party stands for must elect leaders they believe in and not those money bags so often imposed by the party hierarchy. A few years back, veteran footballer Abega Theophile humiliated National Assembly Vice President Nicholas Amougou Noma at the party’s primary to pick a parliamentary candidate and his victory was over turned. Tales of this nature are rife within the party.  Grassroots militants need to take the bull by the horns choose leaders who are credible from the base to top and learn to toil hard for campaign victories .There will be a day when Biya will not be there , there will be a day when the agents of MINAT will not be there to help facilitate their victories, there will be a day when the Electoral Commission will not just be an appendage  of the party .This is a reality that needs to sink into the psyche of people who whole heartedly believe in the party and its vision for Cameroon.

 

 

 

 

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Marafa Sings The Blues
May 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

Belated Resignation Letter and Vision For Cameroon

 He was the all powerful Minister of Territorial Administration after a stint in another powerful office as Secretary General of the Presidency. He is still a member of the Political Bureau of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement –CPDM. Such solid credentials and his Peul Aristocratic background made him frequently cited as a potential successor to President Paul Biya. Unlike others who mask their ambitions; Marafa had the tenacity to tell Diplomats as wikileaks capable reveal that indeed he had Presidential ambitions. Cited here and there in the Albatross affair, Marafa had harsh words for operation sparrow hawk which had seen the incarceration of high profile state personalities. The operation he said had political undertones and he himself could be a potential victim. How prophetic those words were as today, Marafa is amongst the latest barons of the regime to be flung behind bars.

Unlike others who have remain mute, barely a few weeks after his arrest, Marafa is firing salvos which put President Biya the man he claims to have served with the greatest devotion in a very uncomfortable posture. First he dismissed the competence of the Judge assigned to his case. Pascal Magnaguemabé the Judge assigned to most of the Sparrow Hawk cases harbours a grudge against him for a refusal to help advance his career Marafa says. Hardly had the dust settled on this when Marafa fired another missive this time an open letter to President Paul Biya which offered insight into the dog eat dog administration he served in for decades. Marafa amongst others reminds Biya of conversations he had with him from the bloated nature of the cabinet to candid advice that the mandate Biya got in 2004 should be his last. All should be done so he can step down in dignity and take a well deserved rest Marafa recalls telling Biya. Tired of the intrigues and back stabbing within government circles, Marafa cited instances where he had expressed the desire to be dropped from government only for Biya to turn down his request.

In the entire letter Marafa comes across as a dedicated statesman while subtly painting a perfect Machiavellian character of President Biya. Obviously questions come to mind. Why is Marafa making his case public now? Is it because he now has more faith in the court of public opinion than a spineless judiciary sustained by the regime he was an integral part of? The letter he wrote to Biya sounds like a belated letter of resignation. Was he really serious at all about resigning or just trying to test the wits of his boss? If Marafa was serious about resigning, why did he not follow the example of Garga Haman Adji? Why did he not do it like Maurice Kamto? These two are amongst the handful of Government Ministers known to have resigned from Office .No matter how hard he tries now; Marafa was part of a system that continues to hold the polity hostage. A prison system that is archaic, a judicial system that refuses to evolve with the times, a President who decides when it rains and when it suns and is worshiped more than a religion by those  he considers Ministers and sub Ministers to paraphrase what he told Marafa when he raised concerns about the plethoric nature of the government.

It serves no purpose gloating over the misfortune of others but Marafa just like the other incarcerated barons of the regime are just getting a dose of the poison that average Cameroonians have been systematically fed with by the regime. A regime Marafa was until his arrest one of its pillars. No matter the sympathy anyone may have for Marafa and his unfortunate acolytes especially with the absence of a clear cut case, we must not forget that there are victims of a system perpetrated by them while in government. It is this system they worked for, it is this system they supported zealously when it served their interests. How many opposition rallies were broken? How many Cameroonians have been jailed and tortured for fighting against a system that goes nowhere near the edification of a modern state that meets 21st century challenges? How many elections were blatantly rigged?

No, even in the court of public opinion, Marafa’s case is heavily flawed .If it is equity he seeks by his missives, he may not get because he comes to it with dirty and heavily tainted hands. His latest missive possibly not the last one which talks about suggestions he made on electoral reforms and a vision he had for Cameroon does not get him much sympathy. He was part of the system; he was an architect of some of the most brazen electoral fraud that has taken place in the country. While in government there was nothing he did that remotely suggested that he is the martyr he tries to make himself now. Garga Haman Adji for instance stepped down as a matter of principle to join the Union of Change caravan in 1992. A tangible reason advanced by Garga then was the systematic blockage of corruption cases he had raised. Ayah Paul a CPDM MP raised hell for the party and publicly distanced himself from the ruling party when it forced through the constitutional amendment to decimate term limits in the constitution. In 1993, Justices Fombe, Epie and Fobellah risked the fury of the regime by throwing out a frivolous case initiated by the government against SDF militants after the October 1992 elections in Bamenda.

Marafa presenting new year wishes to President Biya,it is between them today

Marafa presenting new year wishes to President Biya,it is war between them today

There is no tangible evidence showing anything Marafa did to stem the excesses of the regime. He was either not as brave as he wants Cameroonians to believe today, or had a self serving agenda to exploit the system in pursuit of his own ambitions.

In a working democracy, Marafa or anyone else will be free to further his ambitions to the highest levels possible, he will live in a country where there is a free and unfettered judiciary, where there is the presumption of innocence, where you do not have to be in jail for four years before a verdict is given on your case as is the case with Mebara. In a democracy power will not be concentrated in the hands of one all powerful person like Biya with impotent institutions like parliament serving as window dressing. It is this kind of society that Marafa and all the other arrested barons and those who are still in government consciously and unconsciously worked to entrench. The irony, is the ones in government do not seem to get the lesson. Yesterday it was former Minister of Environment Elvis Ngolle Ngolle talking about Biya as if he is a deity, today, there are reports he is under investigation. Who will be next?

Like many I hope Marafa keeps sending the letters. More of them especially with even greater revelations may eventually make his case better in the eyes of Cameroonians. As Chairman of the board of Directors of the all power National Hydrocarbon Companies, SNH, he probably has an idea about the way proceeds from country’s petroleum resources are used. How about he continues to set the record straight on how the government works? How about telling Cameroonians more about his role in the fraud? Even if this does not sway opinions, it will be what my catholic friends call confession; it may be a mea culpa of sorts to Cameroonians. For Marafa like most of his unfortunate colleagues owes Cameroonians a big apology for all the pain, the insensitivity, the greed, the misery, the stagnation and ….the list of grievances is endless.

 

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