Shifting Battlefronts In Africa
November 16, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Scott Morgan*
The current struggle against the Islamic State (IS) is shifting fronts. No longer will the major campaign take place against the former concentration of power in Syria and Iraq but it will shift to the Sahel.
During a Ministerial Level meeting that took place at the State Department on November 14th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced to his counterparts that change in strategy would in fact be taking place soon. What would this actually look like is a question that is certain to be bandied around by analysts across the CT spectrum.
If we are to assess what the struggle in the Sahel will look like we should look at the operations in Iraq and Syria for some guidance. We saw a group that took advantage of a vacuum that had a space that needed to be occupied. In the Middle East the voids were provided by a long standing civil war in Syria and poor governance originating from Baghdad. These actions created the situation where IS were able to find willing recruits to join their crusades.
Switching focus to the Sahel we do see several areas where a very similar scenario has been unfolding. One area of concern we should have is this area has had this issue that actually predates the rise of the IS. Weak governments which have porous borders with their neighbors actually provides a context where cross border operations can be conducted with ease by a non-state actor. This is a key fact when the actors are native to the region as well. So should it really be a surprise to learn that some of the routes being used by the terrorists date back to the days of the Mali and Songhai empires?
Another point that is often overlooked is the rise of Al-Aqaeda in the Maghreb. The group rose to prominence after the controversial 1992 elections in Algeria. Back then it was better known as the GPSC (Salfaist Group for Preaching and Combat). It later played a prominent role in the ouster and demise of Qadaffi in Libya and in the collapse of the central Government in Mali before the French led intervention known as Operation Barkhane.
Speaking of Libya one has to consider that the offensive by General Haftar and his international partners have to be considered as a factor in the rise in the spread of Jihadist acts in the region. His drive southward at first then west and finally north towards Tripoli has forced some fighters to seek a new place for sanctuary.
Currently where do we stand regarding the Sahel? Despite the French led intervention and a United Nations Peacekeeping Force which has allowed for both a tentative peace deal and several elections in Mail the situation is still in flux. There are still attacks in the Central part of Mali that have the potential to unravel the work that has been accomplished.
Another country that currently fits the profile of a potential front is Burkina Faso. It was earlier in the year when the late IS leader Al-Baghdadi called upon attacks on French and Crusader interests in the region. After the release of his statement for a month a Catholic Church in the northern part of the country was destroyed per week. Mosques have also been targeted as well as well as the extractive Gold Industry.
Niger which has seen its share of attacks by Boko Haram over the years is now the home base to a US facility that will be flying UAVs. With the presence of US Special Forces in Mali as well indicate that the US is concerned with events in the region and will do what it can to support France.
This action is being taken now so that the West doesn’t wake up one day and realize that the Jihadists have taken over parts of Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast and Benin. These Governments are already warning that IS is already in their countries.
*The Author is President Red Eagle Enterprises, a firm with the dual Mission of Supporting African Business Development, and also Providing Analysis of African Intelligence, and assistance in relations with the United States Government .He sits on the Round tables for the Advocacy Network for Africa, and the International Religious Freedom Caucus in Washington ,DC.
When the Anglophone Crisis meets Elections: advice from a Constitutionalist
November 12, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Barrister Paul Simo, Esq*
Cameroon’s political firmament is at present gripped by two major quandaries: that of resolving the first major crisis bordering on armed conflict to have affected the country in close to 50 years (the Anglophone crisis), and renewing the 5-year electoral mandates of the members of its Lower House of Parliament (the National Assembly), as well as elected Municipal Councilors (who in turn vote local government Mayors). The said mandates have already been extended for one (1) year. Both are indisputably national priorities, and both affect the NW/SW Regions in a particular manner. However, as every manager knows, there is a distinction between what is important, and what is urgent. All important tasks are not urgent, but an urgent task (even if unimportant) left unattended to, may dramatically increase its importance.
In the coming days, we will be releasing a major, longitudinal study of Special Status, Special Regional Autonomy, and Special Administrative Regions in countries around the world, informed by the crisis affecting the Northwest and Southwest Regions. The said 40-page study contains proposals for a Legislative Whitepaper on the Special Status framework for Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. One of the fundamental pre-requisites we observe in Special Status regions around the world, is that for them to be created, and for their attributes to be modified, legislation adopted by the national Parliament is not enough. Due to the fact that they create a unique type of relationship between a region of the country and its central State, Special Status arrangements need to be ratified through a democratic vote by a constituent assembly or by the elected representative body (legislature) of the Regions in question.
Presently, the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon do not have elected Regional Councils (same with the country’s other Regions). Therefore, any crafter of Special Status arrangements for both regions needs to scan keenly for which elected, representative body will stand in their stead, to validate the Special Status law once it is enacted by the National Legislature. It does not take particular constitutional genius to discern that the only democratically-elected alternative in place is to have recourse to a sui generis (specially-constituted) group of elected representatives from both regions, namely their Senators, Members of the Lower House (National Assembly), and Municipal Councilors. The current composition of those representatives from the Northwest and Southwest regions, elected in 2013, hold a popular elected mandate.
If elections were to be held in the Northwest and Southwest regions in February 2020, it must be assumed either that the current group of regional representatives will approve the Special Status content before the election, or that the February 2020 election will produce a democratically representative group of elected officials. And furthermore, that there will prevail a climate of sufficient calm and security in both regions, to allow a meaningful exercise of the most fundamental civic duty. None of the above assumptions sound feasible, let alone likely.
It must also be borne in mind that Special Status or Regional Autonomy arrangements, where undertaken to resolve a political crisis bordering on an armed conflict, must be embedded in a peace agreement which reaches out to, entices, and involves the belligerent armed groups. The August 2005 agreement signed in Helsinki, Finland, and brokered by the renowned Finnish Statesman and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Martti Ahtisaari, which brought to and end the separatist conflict in the Indonesian Island province of Aceh (fought for three decades between 1976 and 2005) is a shining example in this regard.
That peace agreement contained the prospect of regional autonomy, and succeeded to wean off the Free Aceh Movement (an armed insurrection that had received support for armed struggle from as far away as Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya), to renounce its separatist project and aspire for regional autonomy within a Unitary State of Indonesia. That peace agreement continues to hold to this day, 14 years later. The Peace Agreement (2005) was then reflected in a Special Status Law on the Governance of Aceh (2006). Special Status Legislation and Peace Agreement went hand in hand, whereas in Cameroon’s context, the Special Status process at national level, and the existing and undeniable early-stage peace process with armed groups are operating in silos, heightening the risk that the latter will later fundamentally revise the former.
To return to the timing of elections in the Northwest and Southwest regions, the most likely prospect, given current incidents, is that elections convened in February 2020 (even assuming a Special Status law has been passed) will meet hostile terrain. It is not the civic, traditional, and political Anglophone elites who met in Yaoundé from 30 September to 4 October (and endorsed the regional Special Status proposal) who are wreaking havoc in the two Regions, nor is it they who will disrupt an election therein. There is therefore the risk that an election held in the two Regions will have extraordinarily low levels of voter participation (anywhere from 1 to 2 % of the registered voters), casting a major doubt on the democratic, electoral legitimacy of the resulting Municipal Councilors and elected Lower House Representatives. To give such an unrepresentative group (since Regional Council elections are not also yet foreseen) the onus of endorsing and granting Regional imprimatur to the Special Status arrangements, is a way of killing this important prospect for peace in the two Regions.
It is therefore perennial that no-one who means well for resolution of the crisis should argue for elections to take place within those Regions without considering the dynamics above. Putting in place unrepresentative electoral “representatives” of both Regions, knowing fully well that those Regions’ representatives need to validate and endorse regional Special Status legislation to give it legitimacy, is culpable.
In order to address the counterargument that the entire country’s elected institutions cannot be left indefinitely in a limbo, the best approach for Cameroon will be to proceed with a split election. Hold the Legislative and Municipal elections in the other eight (8) regions of the country and defer the elections in the NW/SW for another year or so, pending the Special Status Legislation and Peace Agreement. (By the way, if deep insecurity blights parts of the Far North and renders elections materially impossible, they can be deferred, and by-elections conducted when security conditions improve). The practice of conducting by-elections is not anathema to democracies around the world – those are also convened when a local or regional election result is overturned in postelectoral litigation.
The argument that Cameroon is one unique national “constituency” and no citizen should be disenfranchised, falls on its face: Article 9 of Cameroon’s Constitution envisages both a State of emergency and a State of war, which can adequately, legally justify deferring elections. And it is questionable what “enfranchisement” of their residents occurs when those Regions have to hold “elections” amidst violence, impracticability of road transport, and massive internal displacement of their citizens across the country.
* The author specializes in the areas of constitutional, public, and international law. For 20 years (1999 to 2018) he worked on countries undergoing peace-processes and political transitions in East, Central, and West Africa. Between 2007 and 2018, he served the United Nations at Headquarters, and in multi-dimensional peace operations in Africa. He advised senior UN diplomats working on the following countries’ peace/reconstruction processes: Uganda (LRA conflict), DR Congo (regional conflagration in the 2000s), Burundi (2000s peace process), Sierra Leone and Liberia (Mano River region conflicts in the early 2000s), and the Central African Republic (escalation of politico-religious violence since 2013). He was Law valedictorian of the first graduating cohort of the University of Buea, Cameroon (LL.B. 1996) and holds a graduate law degree, summa cum laude, from the Catholic University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He is an Attorney at the Bar of New York (2001) and a Barrister in Cameroon (2010). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author. He is based in Douala and Yaoundé, Cameroon. Email: email@example.com.
How Europe’s Greedy Lending to Africa Is Driving the Migration Wave That Fuels the EU’s Xenophobic Politics
October 23, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Vijay Prashad*
If you ask an African migrant in Europe who came across the Mediterranean Sea in a boat if they would make the journey again, most of them would say “yes.” Many of them had been on vans and trucks that took them across the dangerous Sahara Desert, and many of them had beenon board vessels that struggled to get across the choppy waters. They might have seen their fellow migrants die of thirst or of drowning, but none of that halts their conviction that they’d cross the sands and the seas again.
Harsh treatment by European border guards and an overwhelming experience of racism inside European society do not bring regret or suggest that they would not do it again.
“It was all to earn money,” said Drissa from Mali. “Thinking of my mom and my dad. My big sister. My little sister. To help them. That was my pressure. That’s why Europe.”
Myths About African Migrants
A UN Development Program report, released on October 17, shows that 97 percent of the nearly 2,000 African migrants in Europe interviewed would take the same risks to come to Europe again knowing what they know now about the danger of the journey or what life in Europe would be like. What is powerful about this UN report is that it dispels the many myths about African migration.
There is a terrible view that Africans are somehow “invading” Europe, even worse “swarming” into Europe. Anti-immigration rhetoric speaks of building fences and creating a Fortress Europe. It is as if there is a war, and Europeans must arm themselves against invaders. A year ago, the UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng warned that European politicians fan the flames with hateful rhetoric that “is legitimizing hatred, racism and violence. While extremists spread inflammatory language in mainstream political discourse under the guise of ‘populism,’ hate crimes and hate speech continue to rise. Hate crimes constitute one of the clearest early-warning signs for atrocity crimes.” At the UN in Geneva this May, Dieng—a Senegalese lawyer—said, “Big massacres start always with small actions and language.”
The UN report shows that the hatefulness around the African migrant is misplaced. The reasons for major flows of migration to Europe actually come from within Europe itself. Those leaving war zones—Syria and Afghanistan in West Asia, but also Eritrea and Libya—come in expected numbers as they flee bombs that are often produced inside Europe. These numbers are much higher than for those Africans who come to Europe for work.
In fact, more than 80 percent of African migrants stay on the continent. The proportion of African emigration out of the continent compared to Africa’s population “is one of the lowest in the world,” says the United Nations. Most of the migrants who go to Europe, according to European data, come by regular channels—with a visit to the embassy, an application for a visa, the granting of the visa, and then a flight into the country; irregular arrivals, many of whom might come by boat, are far fewer than those who come with a valid visa. It is racism that fails to acknowledge this reality.
If you dig into the numbers from the UNDP report, you find that 58 percent of the African migrants in Europe were either employed at home or in school when they decided to leave; most of the migrants had jobs and earned competitive wages. What drove them is the insecurity in their countries, and the fact that they felt they could earn more elsewhere. More than half of the migrants had been supported financially by their families to make the journey, and 78 percent sent back money to their families.
World Bank statistics show that remittances to African countries are growing. In line with the global trend, sub-Saharan Africa received more foreign exchange from remittances than from foreign direct investment (FDI).
In 2018, according to the World Bank, remittances to sub-Saharan Africa totaled $46 billion—almost 10 percent more than in 2017. The countries that received high remittances were Comoros, Gambia, Lesotho, Cabo Verde, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria.
The total FDI flow into sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), was $32 billion, up by 13 percent from 2017, but a significant amount less than the remittance flows.
Migrants who send money home are more important than the corporations and banks that bring investment dollars into these countries. It’s too bad the bankers are treated better than the migrants.
African Debt Crisis 2.0
Africa is on the threshold of a major debt crisis.
The last debt crisis was in the 1980s, as part of the broader Third World debt crisis. In the decolonization period, Africa—looted of its wealth by colonialism—had to borrow money for development; these funds were large, but worse was the manipulation of dollar-denominated debt by the London Interbank Borrowing Rate (LIBOR) and by the U.S. Treasury’s interest rates. Skyrocketing debt in the 1980s produced a long period of austerity and suffering. That debt simply could not be paid as long as multinational corporations effectively stole Africa’s resources and refused to pay taxes on that drain of wealth. This was the reason why initiatives such as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) were created by the World Bank and the IMF in 1996 and 2005, respectively. By 2017, these initiatives provided $99 billion to reduce Africa’s debts from a debt-to-GNI (Gross National Income) ratio of 119 percent to 45 percent.
No change in the structure was made—no assault on transfer mispricing and base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), mechanisms used by Western-based multinationals to continue their plunder of the African continent. When the 2014 commodity price shock came, many African countries slipped gradually toward a new debt crisis. The new debts are not all government debt, but they include very high proportions of private sector debt, which has tripled from $35 billion (2006) to $110 billion (2017) according to World Bank figures. Debt repayments have risen dramatically, which means that investments in health and education have declined, as has access to capital for small-scale private sector businesses.
Currently, according to World Bank numbers, half of the 54 states in Africa struggle with high debt-to-GDP (Gross Domestic Product)—with many of these over the 60 percent threshold that signals a crisis. The rate of increase of this debt has set off alarms across the continent.
What does this mean?
It means that if there is any financial crisis in the West, it will draw away financing from Africa, plunge the region into another major debt crisis, and set millions of people in search of better earning opportunities. Families and countries in Africa have come to rely upon these remittances. They are part of the structural fabric of finances.
Racism against the migrant is an enormous problem, and it must be tackled in itself.
But deeper than that is another problem that has grown as a result of no effective post-colonial policy—the structural problem of the ongoing theft of resources from Africa, and of the lack of financing for the continent to develop its own potential. Allowing multinational firms to steal African resources, and allowing foreign banks to lend to Africa at virtually usurious conditions, simply creates a cycle of crisis that results in migration and remittances as the band-aids.
Europe does not have a refugee or migration crisis. The real crisis is in Africa, where the thief—often a European firm—continues to undermine the continent’s ability to breathe.
*This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün.
Please Hold Your Horses…A word of caution about the dismissal of the African Union permanent representative to the United States of America.
October 20, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ed. DUCHE
The African diaspora in the United States of America and around the world is riled up in controversy following the dismissal of the African Union Head of Mission to U.S., Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao by the African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Farki Mahamat.
A petition on the popular site ww.change.org initiated by Professor Apollos Okwuchi Nwauwa
Secretary of the African Diaspora Congress to “Reinstate African Union Ambassador Chihombori-Quao” on Sunday, October 20, 2019 has garnered approximatively 60,000 signatures in counting. The petition reads as follow:
“…Dr. Arikana has been outspoken about neo-colonial maneuverings and exploitation that still exist today. Her dissemination of the truth has garnered her attention and support around the world… However, not everyone is embracing her bold but honest discourses for effecting change for the betterment of Africa. On October 7th, 2019, Ambassador Quao was relieved of her position as the “Permanent Ambassador” in a unilateral decision made by the African Union Commission Chairman without any hearing or explanation, and yet presented as representing the opinions of all 55 countries. The questions are: why was she dismissed, or better, who benefits from her removal? Were African heads of states and governments consulted? Who called the shot? Or is Africa, and peoples of African descent, still facing the debilitating effects of modern colonialism or neocolonialism? Leadership based on self-interest and preservation that does not benefit the people they serve is no longer acceptable…”
An cnn.com article, authored by Bukola Adebayo, dated October 16th 2019 and titled “AU faces backlash after terminating ambassador’s appointment”, the authorstated that on October 7th, 2019, A.U. Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat relieved the Ambassador from her position in line with the commission’s rules, and suggested that the dismissal was due to her “strong views on France’s occupation and hold over its former African colonies, which she shared publicly”. The assertion is that the firing occurred under direct pression from the French Government. Apparently this is also Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao narrative and argument in pushing back on her dismissal and in making a case directly to the diaspora in support of her reinstatement as the continental organization permanent representative to the United States of America.
Believing that Ambassador Dr. Arikanna Chihombori-Quao was fired over her criticism of the French and their colonial practices in Africa, several preeminent members in the African American community, the Diaspora and International leaders, appalled by the A.U. action, are adamantly criticizing the leadership of the African Union and calling in to question the independence of African countries vis-á-vis their former colonial power. The situation is rapidly degrading and becoming another public opinion nightmare for the A.U. commission and its leadership. In the U.S. and especially in Washington DC, Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao appears to be another “victim” of a stand against colonialism. Many are expressing outrage on her behalf and throwing their support behind her in pressuring the A.U Commissioner to give her the job back.
Looking at the way the situation is unfolding, the mastery in display, the activism deployed and the narrative peddled by the Ambassador’s supporters, It is of a paramount importance to exercise caution in embracing the situation as painted, and restraint from jumping to conclusions. Indeed, a closer look reveals that there may be a lot more to the story than what we have so far read on social media and in news stories.
Curiously, for all the communication that has been selectively leaked both from the AU to Ambassador Chihombori and from her to the AU, there is no mention of the existence of a damning audit report about the Ambassador’s tenure. Is this just an oversight, or a deliberate attempt to peddle a narrative that favors one party as the victim and hero, while labeling the other as the villain? Indeed, on August, 22nd 2019, an investigation into Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao governance of the A.U., mission in Washington DC for the period of September 2016 to February 2019 was submitted to the chairperson of the Commission.
The subject of the investigation report is “Alleged violation of Procurement Procedures, Abuse of Authority/Misuse of Office and Conflict of interest” and the transmittal letter reads in its entirety as follows:
“The investigation is based on the allegation by a whistleblower that the Head of Mission (HOM) Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao has been violating AU procurement rules by single sourcing contracts, bid splitting to circumvent procurement procedures, receiving three quotation from the same bidder to create the semblance of legality and also failure to submit bids above the threshold of $50,000 to the headquarter Tender Board for approval. It is also alleged that Ambassador Quao misapplied funds earmarked for other activities to Miss AU Pageant, the AU Diaspora retreat and the African Diaspora Youth League summit without approval from the AUC Chairperson…” the report continues, “…Furthermore, Ambassador Quao is alleged to abuse authority/misused of office and also involved in conflict of interest issues with the African Union-African Diaspora Health Initiative (AU-ADHI) is registered as her private organization and the “Wakanda One” project. The AU-ADHI is registered under her name as a private citizen and currently being funded by AU as political sub division of the African Union approved initiative established for the purpose of galvanizing the African Diaspora to participate in the development of Africa as stated in an Agreement signed by her with a Washington DC based Attorney”.
The investigation report was very damning to Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao. It described in detail a stream of procurement violations, misuse of public funding as well as instance of conflict of interests in details and concluded by ascertaining the veracity of the whistleblower allegations and recommended sanctions against the Ambassador.
For example the audit reported that “$181,204 Miss AU pageant cost was a misapplied funds earmarked to other activities…” “Ambassador Dr Quao cancelled the MOU with Newdesk Media and single source the contract for the production of the Magazine -invest in Africa- to AMIP family business at the cost of $60,000 USD”, “Dr.Quao single-sourced the production of the 2017 Calendars to 5 Star Eventz for $9,583 meanwhile the 2019 Calendars were printed for $3,600 following a Request for Quotation initiated by the Finance Officer...” Moreover, the Ambassador has “registered associations in her own name that are being funded using AU resources” thereby creating a blatant conflict of interest. Two companies “Homestrings and Global Political Solutions were single-sourced and awarded a contract without the knowledge of the Finance and Administrative Officer…”
As one reads the investigation report, it becomes clear that there is a lot more to the history about why the Ambassador was fired. It is now obvious that one should exercise caution, wonder, ponder, and hold the horse, before jumping too quickly into the bandwagon of an emotionally driven narrative on the news. The anti-colonialist narrative for being the reason for the Ambassador’s dismissal has “muddied” the water. The conclusion that the Ambassador was relieved of her duty due to her stand and denunciation of the French colonial engagement in Africa is questionable in light of the damning audit report.
It is well known that French colonial engagement is an issue, many people have spoken and continue to speak against it both in Africa and in the diaspora. Leaders like President Paul Kagame who have lashed out at the French are some of the most admired, and influential people in Africa and beyond. While we may not completely rule out that veracity of the allegation from Arikana’s partisans on the French influence in forcing her out, we must put everything in context, evaluate all the factors and circumstances before jumping into conclusions .
This opinion piece is essentially a cautionary advice to not let the situation spin out of control and in the process cast a discredit of the AU Commission as well as in damaging the Diaspora judgment. It is understandable and counter intuitive for many not be outraged in light of what appears to be an injustice perpetrated against Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao especially when she performed admirably well and above expectation on her duties in Washington DC. However we can’t overlook the facts in the Audit report and if history teaches, let’s then remember lesson learned from high profile cases of rush to judgment, public response that followed suit and ultimately jury conclusion.
As the AU spokesperson Ebba Kalondo said in statement, diplomatic transfers and changes are standard practice. In the USA for instance, it is hard to see an Ambassador spend four years in the same duty post. While emotions may be charged, it would be good if the diaspora could channel this energy into more useful initiatives. It could be to lobby for projects to Africa, raise funds to support development initiatives, use its clout to build useful networks and more. For all she did and that the AU acknowledges , the Mission to the USA did not start with Ambassador, nor will it end with her. The diaspora should build on her successes and ensure that the momentum she has created is built upon or sustained by her successor for the greater good of Africa. After all, not many in the diaspora knew Ambassador Arikana Chihombori prior to her appointment and not many probably knew she would perform well. I am sure she will be the last person interested in seeing the work she did go up in flames or to see the mission she led destroyed because she was relieved as Ambassador.
For Ambassador Arikana Chihombori, there is still more
for her to do out there. It will be good if she can rein in her partisans by
letting them understand that, the services we render to mother Africa are
beyond any one individual. There are people in the diaspora and specifically in
the Washington, DC metro area who have spent a lifetime fighting for African
causes without fuse, and without expectations. Some of them actually worked
with Ambassador Arikana, just as they worked with her predecessor and will
hopefully work with her successor. Just like someone ran and handed the baton
to Ambassador Chihombori, she too has done her own running and should pass the
baton to another person in peace for the task of moving Africa is like a relay
race , where it will take the efforts of many, infact effort from all Africans
and its diaspora for sustained progress to be made.
 AU inter office Memorandum from the Director of Internal Audit to the Chairperson of the Commission
 AU inter office Memorandum from the Director of Internal Audit to the Chairperson of the Commission
How the 1996 Constitution Can Take Care of the NW/SW Exception: A legal Perspective of a ‘third option’.
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
BY: ASHU NYENTY (Ph.D.).*
As delegates to the major national dialogue, especially those from the two regions that triggered the dialogue in the first place, converge on the Conference Centre beginning this Monday, and judging from the tenor of proposals in the consultations engineered by Prime Minister, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, the debate has largely focused on two potentially rancorous and divisive concepts: Unitarism v Federalism. It is on these two concepts that most of the attention is focused, as if to say it is either one or the other, as a solution to the crisis in the NW and SW regions.
The mistake that may be ineluctable if care is not taking is that delegates get into what I call an ideological blockage and fail to adequately explore an alternative that appears to be at arm’s length, but which seems to have been long forgotten. This is mainly so because of lack of familiarity with the various territorial or regional organization models available to Cameroon.
The purpose of this paper, as my own contribution to the major national dialogue, is therefore, to inform public opinion that these two are not the only alternatives and that they should watch out for the potency of a possible ‘third option’ or model that may send everybody home happy- the NW and SW, the other eight regions and of course the government. The issues discussed here would be more relevant to the commission on decentralization and local development, though they may necessarily have ramifications on the work of other commissions such as education and justice system. The reason is that this is the most politically sensitive area of the discussions that may have legal repercussions after the dialogue.
What is the current status of the issues at stake?
Writing on the issues at stake in the national dialogue, Barrister Paul Simo, who has over 20 years’ experience working on countries undergoing peace-processes and political transitions across the world, opined that the discussion has often been tailored in terms of three options, to wit, “separatism, federalism and unitarism”.
In this analysis, I deliberately leave out separatism, because in the context of a national dialogue, that option is dead on arrival. I will proceed to discuss the other two. Federalism in the present state of discussions has two variables. First, an “arrangement similar to the 1961-1972 federation, or in another, to a new multiple federated-state configuration”. The inconvenience of this is that if either of the two configurations is adopted it would lead to a sudden and drastic transformation of the administrative configuration of the state that may force the other eight regions into an arrangement they never asked for or for which their base did not mobilize for; many in the other regions do not yet understand the contours and ramifications of a federation. If there could be an agreement on that fine, but in my view, still coming out of a three-year gruesome war, be sure this option will be resisted with vigour.
Unitarism on the other hand is considered, even by many in the other regions as largely responsible for the despicable state of affairs in the North West and South West regions. Many in the other regions also feel the pinch of Unitarism even though they have not been as vocal as their counterparts’ from the two regions. It is clear that Unitarism as it is currently perceived and practiced may not satisfy or meet “the high aspirations of the people of the NW and SW” and also “of all the other components of our nation”, who clearly want to have a greater say in the management of their local affairs. If these two concepts, in the current state of affairs may be resisted or rejected, what then is the way out?
What is the ‘third option”?
The crux of the matter is that because of their peculiarities( to be discussed shortly) the NW and SW regions desire an arrangement that would provide them with a greater hand in what goes on in their respective regions. That is what leads us to what I have termed the third option (its political and administrative advantages will also be elucidated shortly). In discussions of this nature and based on our immediate past history, I think it would be counter-productive to appear intransigent or take a zero-sum posture of this or nothing. It seems to me that it is advisable to be flexible, weigh the different options and then give and take. That is the very essence of a dialogue.
In my view, the third option is found in the current Constitution of Cameroon. Since the 1996 Constitution was adopted, one provision that has often been ignored and indeed even overlooked, since the search for solutions to the crisis started, is the last Section of Part X devoted to Regional and Local Authorities. That Section 62(2) stipulates that:
“Without prejudice to the provisions of this Part, the law may take into consideration the specificities of certain Regions with regard to their organization and functioning”.
The underlying notion in that section is what is known in modern constitutional engineering as “territorial asymmetry”, which is consonant in countries that have an entrenched minority factor as is the case of the NW and SW regions. According to Barrister Simo, this is an arrangement “in which some regions…would be granted certain attributes and competences different from those granted to other regions”, because the latter regions do not have the same specificities. This model has been practiced with success in countries such as India and even China over Hong Kong, in what is known as the one country two systems paradigm. Even though not everybody in Cameroon espouses this variable geometry in the treatment of regions, the beauty of this asymmetric treatment is that it also works well in a unitary form of state. The example of China and its asymmetric treatment of Hong Kong, and which is a much more centralized system than Cameroon is necessary to point to again. This means that the present Decentralized Unitary system could be maintained, while at the same time the NW and SW find satisfaction in the management of their local affairs. Besides, given that the present Constitution of Cameroon allows for the continuous application of the Common Law, it is recognition of the exceptions that constitute the NW and SW regions. Apart from the examples already given, two of Cameroon’s colonial masters, whose double heritage the Cameroon of today enjoys, that is, Britain and France are plausible other examples. In the case of the United Kingdom, there is a separate status each for Wales, Scotland and even Northern Ireland within the same unitary state. In France, the Corse has a special status. It must be pointed out that it were calls for greater autonomy and threats of breakaway that among other factors pushed the French authorities to give a separate administrative status to that region.
Furthermore, in the couching of the provisions of Section 62(2), it would appear the drafters were foresighted enough to preempt the possibility of considering variations between the different regions in the extent of the powers they should have, depending on their ability and history. My understanding of that section is that the drafters of the Constitution of Cameroon had already envisaged a situation where some regions could be allowed to sail in different boats within a unitary state framework, based on their linguistic, historical, cultural or even demographic peculiarity. The case of the two regions is a very good example, where these conditions of peculiarity are amply fulfilled.
How are the NW and SW peculiar?
To amply justify the need for a special status each for the North West and South West, it would be necessary, in my view, to demonstrate the peculiarity of these two regions. It is clear to everybody of good faith in Cameroon that there are fundamental differences between the NW and the SW on the one hand, and the other eight regions on the other. However, some detail analysis of a few examples would be necessary to make the point. The fact that francophone parents in their numbers send their children to English speaking schools is an eloquent testimony to the fact that there are differences in the educational systems between the two components. It is not simply the language of instruction, the culture of teaching and learning is also fundamentally different.
In addition, in the legal domain, the common law is practiced in the English speaking regions while the civil law holds sway in the other regions. Though some attempt has been made at harmonizing some aspects of the two, they still remain for all intent and purposes walls apart. The Constitution of Cameroon clearly recognizes this legal disparity. It is instructive that it is the perceived adulteration of the educational and legal systems that is the immediate cause of the current crisis.
Again, the colonial past of the two components is different. While the British practiced indirect rule and the Native authority which gave the people much leverage in the management of local affairs, the French system of assimilation, paternalism and the Jacobin-style strong state authority did not afford much of that. So in matters of governance the colonial experiences of the two components differed and this heritage which has been transferred to younger generation has now met zones of friction and conflict.
Even though there are many other examples, these few, in my view sufficiently make the case for the NW/SW exception, within the bigger Cameroonian picture.
What should be the content of the special status arrangement?
Since the current constitution already mentions that possibility, it sounds reasonable that the main worry now for the delegates, if this third option were to be adopted, is to present a basket of what should go into the special status arrangement. What powers do the two regions want to have for themselves exclusive from the central state authorities? Before I proceed to discuss what this basket could contain, it is germane to point out that the special status arrangement could be applied exclusively to the two regions concerned as a matter of priority. However, in order to allay the fears of geometric treatment of regions, which I mentioned, earlier, these powers could also be extended, of course in relative degrees to the other regions if they find no objection for the time being.
Having said that emphasis should at this juncture be focused on the package deal or what I will call the content of the basket. That is what I think the commission on decentralization and local development should be able to do. This is because as I said earlier this is the most political of all the eight commissions. The other issues to be canvassed by the other commissions could only come to add up to that. The basket would certainly be for the delegates to fill but based on my own experience in the understanding of the conflict, the package deal may include but not limited to the management of the education system, the protection of the common law legal system, the proportion of the use of the two official languages in the regions. That basket will include the powers that the regions want to control and the powers of the local councils as well. The central government should be clear on what it intends to irreversibly relinquish to both the regions and the councils.
In addition to the merit of this model mentioned already, this model is neither to the right nor to the left of the debate spectrum. It is at the Centre. It accommodates the desires of those who are opposed to a change of the form of state and also satisfies those who seek greater autonomy. There is no doubt about it; we have already seen that special status arrangements work perfectly well in a unitary state arrangement. In that way everybody is satisfied and consensus is easy to reach on both sides.
Some of these changes if adopted would obviously necessitate legislative, administrative, policy or even constitutional reform. If the commissions consensually agree on what to do then they can easily propose the kind of reform that may suit their agenda so as to protect what they may have proposed.
I submit that the tenor of section 62 discussed above requiring the law to “take into consideration the specificities of certain Regions” is weak. I would rather propose that based on comparative constitutional law, and even Cameroonian history, such fundamental aspects are better guaranteed in the highest legal norm in the hierarchy. In this case it is the Constitution. If that were the case a constitutional revision could be sought to the extent that those guarantees are entrenched.
Is a constitutional amendment possible?
In the run up to the convening of the dialogue and even after the fundamental question on many lips was whether proposals and or conclusions arrived at may be translated into constitutional reform. To this question and analyzing the tenor of President Paul Biya’s 10 September speech, convening the dialogue, some legal experts have argued that such reform was “neither mandatorily required of, nor specifically excluded from the purview of the Dialogue process”.
But that possibility comes to life when you read other portions of the speech together with legal and constitutional provisions in force. On page 14 of the English language version of the speech, he announced his decision to convene a national dialogue “in line with our Constitution”, to “enable us to seek ways and means of meeting the high aspirations of the people of the North West and South West Regions”. My understanding is that if the high aspirations of the people in those two regions are to take charge of those affairs as we have discussed above, and possibly other arrangements agreed to in other commissions, it means that based on what the President said we have to go into the Constitution to seek to satisfy them. Either the Constitution has the answer directly or it points at the direction we must take.
If the Constitution does not have a direct response then a constitutional revision may be necessary to accommodate the issues at stake. And if a proposal is made in this regard, it seems to me that it does not overstep the confines of the Constitution. Provided the revision is pursued in a procedure that is in line with the Constitution of Cameroon, which the President swore to uphold.
On this score, it should be noted that the ‘Natonal Dialogue’ if it is working within the Constitution, does not have the locus standi or power to deliver “binding resolutions” or seek Constitutional amendments. It may only propose. Based on the President’s speech, which for now is the guiding instrument on the purview of the Dialogue’s powers, it has the power to propose whatever it wants to propose, if these can address the concerns and aspirations of the people in those two regions. But it is not within its powers to insist, to push amendment to Parliament, otherwise it would be acting ultra vires and out of tune with the fundamental law of the land.
Who has the power to seek a constitutional amendment in Cameroon? According to section 63(1), “Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed either by the President of the Republic or by Parliament. These are the only two authorities that are constitutionally empowered to seek an amendment of the Constitution. This may of course be through a government bill from the President of the Republic to Parliament or a Private Members bill in Parliament. However, The President of the Republic may also decide to bypass Parliament and directly “submit any bill to amend the Constitution to a referendum; in which case the amendment shall be adopted by a simple majority of the votes cast” and that will be constitutionally correct. .
While a constitutional amendment is not illegal, there are some amendments that will be inadmissible.
According to section 64 “No procedure for the amendment of the Constitution affecting the republican form, unity and territorial integrity of the State and the democratic principles which govern the Republic shall be accepted”. This means in clear terms that any amendment that seeks to change the state from a Republic to a monarchy, transfer part of our territory to another state or institute a one-party state shall not be accepted.
In fine, given the positions held by the different protagonists in the national dialogue and leveraging on my understanding that more consensual conclusions and recommendations may be viewed in a better light, I submit unequivocally, that a third option as I have discussed should be given a thought and explored, if all the parties must take back something to their bases.
*The author of this article is a Doctor in Law and Political Scientist. (The content are his personal views) .The article was previously published in the Median Newspaper on 30 September before the National Dialogue started in Cameroon
Anti-corruption war: A case for whistleblower law in Nigeria
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Godwin Onyeacholem
At every given opportunity, President Muhammadu Buhari not only proudly re-affirms his administration’s commitment to mount a vigorous fight against corruption, he also as best as he can often ticks off some of the initiatives laid out for that purpose and the achievements so far. Here is the reason: waging war against corruption was one in the triumvirate of key promises he made to the electorate in the run-up to the 2015 election.
In fact, nothing else could be said to have fetched him the presidency other than the general belief that he would be ruthless in tackling corruption, and also a perception of him as a steadfast symbol of integrity.
Nigeria’s 59th independence anniversary on October 1 was yet one of such familiar opportunities where Buhari once again used his speech to gloat about how the war against corruption under him has been living up to its billing. In that speech he ran through a couple of his administration’s anti-corruption strategies and, as he had done in the past, never failed to mention the whistleblower policy which in many respects remains the flagship of his anti-corruption design.
Recounting the achievements, Buhari said those initiatives had “saved billions of naira over the last four years, and deterred the rampant theft and mismanagement of public funds that have plagued our public service.” That’s not entirely true. Although stealing may not be “rampant,” a somewhat disturbing degree of subtle stealing of public funds, combined with barefaced impunity, is still going on.
He also said, “This administration has fought corruption by investigating and prosecuting those accused of embezzlement and the misuse of public resources.” That is also not completely true. At least there are two personalities under the presidency who were accused of corrupt practices but are still enjoying the protection of Buhari, if nothing else. One is his own chief of staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, whose was never investigated much less prosecuted.
Then there is Dr. Marilyn Amobi, the MD/CEO of Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Plc. Both Abba Kyari and Amobi cavalierly spurned repeated invitations from the popular Brekete radio to state their side of the story. Although Amobi was investigated and indicted by ICPC, and the report of the investigation submitted to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in March, up till the time of writing this piece, she has not been suspended, much less prosecuted.
All of this you expect not to witness in a government with Buhari as the head, given the subconscious awe and no-nonsense aura around his reputation prior to 2015. In essence, for the war against corruption to be convincing, Buhari needs to do more than self-laudatory speeches and come down much harder on the perpetrators of corruption in both the public and private sector. And he must do this with as much evenhandedness as can be summoned.
A significant chunk of the billions of naira which he said had been saved since the inception of his administration are most likely looted funds recovered courtesy of the whistleblowing initiative which was introduced just about one and a half years after the government was inaugurated. But this highly commendable initiative is now in grave danger of extinction as nothing is being done by this government to protect those patriots, yes patriots for that is what they truly are, who continuously risk their lives to blow the whistle.
In its operations, the whistleblowing policy is only currently restricted to corrupt practices and other variants of wrongdoings in the public sector. Since it came on stream, huge sums of looted public funds in various denominations as well as property have been recovered through the efforts of whistleblowers, a majority of whom are public servants who are not even induced by the reward attached to successful recoveries.
This administration acknowledges the efficacy of the whistleblowing as a tool for fighting corruption but regrettably closes its eyes to the varying degrees of unwholesome retaliations perpetually meted out by top public officers to courageous subordinates who heed the call to report corruption and wrongdoing. These reprisals range from long-term suspension from work without pay, outright dismissal, denial of salary and other entitlements (annual leave, promotion, etc.), intimidations, threat to life sometimes extending up to family members, undue harassments, physical assault and other kinds of unimaginable inhuman treatment.
Just last week, Murtala Ibrahim, once the deputy head of internal audit at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) was fired by the bank’s management after about two years of being subjected to constant maltreatment which culminated in his transfer from the headquarters in Abuja to Jalingo, Taraba State. His boss, Teslim Anibaba, was transferred to the Kaduna office from where he resigned last year out of frustration.
Both were punished for uncovering official alterations of figures of a half-year report and for refusing to co-operate in other corrupt transactions initiated by top officials of the bank. The Nigerian government, which said it could not successfully fight graft on its own, and therefore urged citizens to join in the fight, could not save them from the ruinous excesses of the bank’s management. It is important to point out that whistleblowers who were lucky to be reinstated are still going through some form of victimization in their offices. The envisaged whistleblower law can take care of this.
However, whistleblowers like Sambo Abdullahi of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc and Joseph Akeju of the Yaba College of Technology, to mention just a few, are still wallowing in the misery imposed by the way they have been treated by the heads of their places of work. The main anti-corruption agencies received their petitions, but the petitioners have yet to see any sign of reprieve from their predicament. Sambo has been denied his salary and other entitlements since December 2017, while Akeju was sacked barely two weeks to his retirement from public service. Their offence was nothing more than reporting corruption and abuse of office in their places of work. Buhari needs to investigate these cases and ensure that these whistleblowers get justice.
Continuing, he said in his independence anniversary speech, “We are determined to ensure that transparency and good governance are institutionalized in public service. We must commit to installing the culture of good governance in all we do.” It’s a commendable, lofty aspiration that is unrealizable unless a critical agency of actualization, the whistleblowers, are given effective protection through the provisions of a progressive whistleblower law. US, Britain and our African brothers–South Africa, Ghana and Uganda, already have one as a sign that they are committed to caging the monster of corruption.
As corruption continues to chip away at the development edifice Nigeria has been struggling to construct in the past six decades, Nigeria cannot afford to keep lagging behind. To this end, Buhari should urgently direct conscious efforts towards seeing that a whistleblower bill is submitted to the National Assembly for passage into law and his assent of same in the next 12 months. It must be done within this time frame before activities for 2023 elections begin to gather momentum.
Unless whistleblowers enjoy protection via a firm legal backing, the seed of the whistleblowing tree planted in 2016 will die in no time. It doesn’t seem that is what this government wants. Neither does any stakeholder in transparency, accountability and good governance in Nigeria.
*Godwin Onyeacholem is with the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
“Wirbalized” Resistance: Anglophone Cameroon Matters in Postcolonial Cameroon (1)
September 22, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Hassan Mbiydzenyuy Yosimbom*
“A Divided and Dividing Parliament cannot Stand: The Birthing of “Wirbalized” Views of Struggle and Resistance in Anglophone Cameroon”
In Chapter nine – “Views of Struggle” – of Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah, a tall elderly gaunt-looking Abazonian with a slight stoop of the shoulders (112) and a voice with compelling power and magic (112), the leader of the Abazonian Delegation that has come to Bassa to “say their own yes” (116) to the Big Chief in order to rescue the Abazonian water project from total abandonment by the disgruntled government, tells his fellow Abazonians that “the Almighty has divided the work of the world” (113). In his first categorization, the elder argues that “[t]o some of us the Owner of the World has apportioned the gift to tell their fellows that the time to get up has finally come (113) To others “He gives the eagerness to rise when they hear the call; to rise with racing blood and put on their garbs of war and go to the boundary of their town to engage the invading enemy boldly in battle” (113). Lastly, “there are those others whose part is to wait and when the struggle is ended, to take over and recount the story” (113). Asserting the importance of the third categorization in the Almighty’s world, the Abazonian elder explains that “[t]he sounding of the battle-drum is important; the fierce waging of war itself is important; and the telling of the story afterwards – each is important in its own way. I tell you there is not one of them we could do without. But if you ask me which of them takes the eagle-feather I will say boldly: the story” (113). The elder further points out that when he was younger if anyone had asked him the same question, he would have replied without a pause: the battle (114). To the elder, the story is chief among his fellows because recalling is great. To him, the story plays several important roles: It continues “beyond the war and the warrior; outlives the sound of war-drums and the exploits of brave fighters; saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of a cactus fence; escorts
” (114). It also “owns and directs us; makes us different from cattle; the [story is the] mark on the face that sets one people apart from their neighbours; [and it is] everlasting” (114). The elder stresses that “[w]hen we are young and without experience we all imagine that the story of the land is easy, that every one of us can get up and tell it. But that is not so” (114). He acknowledges that even though we all have our little scraps of the tale bubbling in us, what we tell is “like the middle of a mighty boa which a foolish forester mistakes for a tree trunk and settles on to take his snuff” (114). He concludes that the appointment of someone to tell the story of the community is always the responsibility of the Agwu, the god of healers, who picks his disciple, “rings his eye with white chalk and dips his tongue, willing or not, in the brew of prophecy; and right away the man will speak and put head and tail back to the severed trunk of our tale” (115). Furthermore, “[t]he miracle-man will amaze us because he may be a fellow of little account, not the bold warrior we all expect nor even the war-drummer. But in his new-found utterance our struggle will stand reincarnated before us” (115). I have quoted the Abazonian leader’s three categorizations at length because, first; there is a parallelism between them and Honourable Wirba’s and the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda’s roles in the November of 2016 through January of 2017 uprisings in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, and second; that parallelism provides a corollary between Wirbalized resistance and the Anglophone Matters that the Bishops presented in the Memo to the Head of State, Paul Biya, on the 22nd December 2016.
On December 13, 2016, a man with physical features and a voice like those of the Achebesque Abazonian elder, Honourable Joseph Wirba, an SDF parliamentarian from Jakiri, North West Region of Cameroon, delivered a rousing speech through which he told his fellow Anglophones that the time to get up had finally come. In an unapologetic voice Wirba told parliament that “a slave has risen in the master’s house”. He reminded Cavayé Yéguié Djibril, the Speaker of the National Assembly, that “there are two Cameroons that came together. If you are telling us like a state minister stood here last year and told us that what happened in Cameroon is like dropping a few cubes of sugar in a basin of water. Then tell us who is the sugar and who is the water?” He went down memory lane to argue that, “Our ancestors and forefathers trusted you to go into a gentleman’s agreement. That two people who consider themselves brothers could go to live together.” He then concluded that, “if this is what you show us after 55 years, then those who are saying that we should break Cameroon are right. They are correct! the people of West Cameroon cannot be your slaves. The people of West Cameroon, are not, you did not conquer them in war.” In the same manner that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. showed deep commitment to black freedom in the USA, Wirba spoke with deep commitment to Anglophone freedom. He called on Anglophones to rise with racing blood and put on their garbs of resistance and go to the boundary of their Anglophone heritage to engage the invading Francophone enemy boldly in battle against marginalization and assimilation. In one of the most defiant voices ever heard during a parliamentary session in the entire African continent, Wirba told the Speaker of the National Assembly in particular and the Francophone-dominated parliament and government in general that after more than 50 years of cohabitation with East Cameroon, West Cameroonians were fade up with a political union that had only succeeded in creating Francophone Prosperos and Anglophone Calibans. Wirba repeatedly quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s idea that “when in justice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty.” Wirba’s speech highlighted two distinctive features of a genuine advocate of freedom: authentic anger and genuine humility. He was visibly upset about the condition of the Anglophone Cameroonians. When Cameroonians saw him speak or heard his voice, it was projected on a gut level that the Anglophone situation was urgent, in need of immediate attention. Cameroonians even got the impression that his own stability and sanity rested on how soon the Anglophone predicament could be improved upon; he was angry about the state of Anglophone Cameroon and that anger fuelled his boldness and defiance. This boldness and defiance constitute what I identify in this essay as “Wirbalized Resistance”, the “Wirba force” or the “Wirbalization” of the Anglophone problem. In stark contrast to most present-day Anglophone political leaders “who appear too eager for status to be angry, too eager for acceptance to be bold, too self-invested in advancement to be defiant” (West, 1993:58); in dissimilarity to present-day Anglophone political leaders who “when they drop their masks and try to get mad (usually in the presence of [Anglophone] audiences), their bold rhetoric is more performance than personal, more play-acting than heart-felt”(58), Wirbalized Resistance makes sense of the Anglophone plight in a poignant and powerful manner and avoids contemporary Anglophone leaders’ oratory that predominantly appeals to the Anglophone community’s sense of the sentimental and sensational (58). With Wirbalized Resistance, even aggressiveness is accompanied by a common touch and humble disposition towards ordinary Anglophones. It preaches that humility which is “the fruit of inner security and wise maturity” (59) and insists that “to be humble is to be sure of one’s self and one’s mission that one can forgo calling excessive attention to one’s self and status” (59). This explains why on June 21, 2017, Wirba came back to the same parliament and asserted, “I am back for the same purpose; you cannot shut the mouth of the people forever. I am back and I want us to go back to issues that have to do with West Cameroon. I am asking Parliament to put the issue of West Cameroon on the table and let us talk about it. That is what I have come for.” He further affirmed the government’s indifference to the Anglophone’s plight by reiterating that “the people cry out and they don’t listen. More than a million students are out of school for over six months and the National Assembly cannot talk about it. Businesses have been shut down.”
More pointedly, Wirbalized Resistance through its unapologetic tone, “revels in the accomplishments and potentials of Cameroonians, especially those with whom one identifies and to whom one is linked organically” (59). It abhors the relative absence of humility in most Anglophone political leaders because that absence is symptomatic of “the status-anxiety and personal insecurity pervasive in Anglophone middleclass Cameroon (59). Wirbalized resistance is the product of what one may (with inspiration from Cornel West’s idea of “race-transcending prophetic leaders” (61)) refer to as the hallmark of an Anglophone-transcending prophetic leadership. It requires “personal integrity and political savvy, moral vision and prudential judgment, courageous defiance and organizational patience” (61). The most disturbing thing about the reception of Honourable Wirba’s speech was not only the mean-spirited attempt of Cavayé Yéguié Djibril to stop him but also the spineless silences of some parliamentarians of Anglophone origin – both revealed the predictable inability of most ruling party politicians to talk candidly about the marginalization of Anglophones in Cameroon. Less than a month after Honourable Wirba’s call to battle, the Bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province, in Achebesque terms, were appointed by Agwu, the god of healers, to tell the story of the Anglophone community. Agwu picked these men of God as his disciples, rang their eyes with white chalk and dipped their tongues, willing or not, in the brew of the Anglophone prophecy; and right away the men spoke and put head and tail back to the severed trunk of the Anglophone tale. These miracle-men amazed Cameroonians not because they are fellows of little account, but because they are not the bold warriors Anglophones all expected. They are not even the war-drummers. But in their new-found utterance, the Anglophone struggle suddenly stood reincarnated before all Anglophones. These Bishops, Agwu’s disciples, produced a Memo, an epistolary expression of “minority history” that authenticated them as democratically-minded historians fighting the exclusions and omissions of mainstream narratives of the Cameroonian nation. The Memo is a challenge to official or officially-blessed accounts of the Cameroonian nation’s past by these champions of Anglophone minority history. As a critique of the grand narratives of Francophonized and Francophonizing Cameroon history, the Bishops used the Memo as ammunition in the process to argue that the Cameroonian nation “cannot have just one standardised narrative, that the nation is always a contingent result of many contesting narratives” (Chakrabarty, 1998: 15).
In this essay, I attempt an exegesis of the Bishops’ Memo as epistolary aesthetics whose content qualifies it as minority/apocryphal history, border thinking, decolonial thinking and an epistemology from the South. In the course of my analysis, I interdependently use the word matters as a noun designating issues that concern Anglophones and are of important to their wellbeing; and a verb denominating the insistence that Anglophones form an indispensable part of Cameroon’s past, present and future. For all its disturbing polysemic malleability, my usage of the concept “matters” in these two interdependent senses circles back and touches the tail of other Cameroonian minority writings, participating in what Ben Okri describes as an “African aesthetic” which “is bound to a way of looking at the world in more than three dimensions. It’s the aesthetic of possibilities, of labyrinths, of riddles . . . of paradoxes” (1992: 87–8). Proceeding from an affirmation of human subjectivity, and assuming an individual’s capacity to produce history, my polysemic use of Anglophone matters remains solidly humanist in orientation, attempting to provide a fascinating but often-neglected alternative to the anti-humanism that has continued to characterize mainstream Cameroon history. Anglophone matters as noun and verb acknowledge that there is difference, but not inferiority or antagonism, the usage attempts to generate a cultural model which respects, rather than fears, undecidability, complementarity, and otherness. The Anglophone matters in/of the Memo suggest that minority history “describes relationships to the past that the rationality of the [mainstream] historian’s methods necessarily makes ‘minor’ or ‘inferior’ as something ‘irrational’ in the course of, and as a result of, its own operation” (Chakrabarty, 2000: 101). The Memo testifies that the cultural and political work of the subaltern or minoritized historian (in this case the Bishops) is to “try to show how the capacity (of the modern person) to historicize actually depends on his or her ability to participate in nonmodern relationships to the past that are made subordinate in the moment of historicization [and that] [h]istory writing assumes plural ways of being in the world” (101).
The projection of the Memo’s Wirbalized resistance is not to say that other Anglophone writers have not been critiquing Anglophone marginalization. Rather, the point is that because the Francophone has continued to be all over the Anglophone in an outwar of marginalization and the Anglophone has been all over the Francophone in an in-war of emancipation lead by Anglophone writers, Wirbalized resistance’s unremitting defiance becomes crucial in any de-colonial project that will start from the weaker end of the Francophone imperial/colonial/hegemonic difference. Unlike most critiques of Anglophone marginalization, Wirbalized resistance is an intensified form of de-linking that requires analysis of the making and remaking of the imperial/colonial Francophone differences and visions and strategies for the implementation of equality leading to de-colonization of Anglophone power, knowledge, being and the English Language. That defiance aims “to remove the anchor in which the “normalcy effect” has been produced as to hide the fact that the anchor can be removed and the edifice crumbled” (Mignolo, 2010: 352-3); it asserts that “[t]he future could no longer be owned by one way of life, cannot be dictated by one project of liberation and de-colonization, and cannot be a polycentric world within [Francophone] categories of thoughts” (353). It insists that “[a] world in which many worlds could co-exist can only be made by the shared work and common goals of those who inhabit, dwell in one of the many worlds co-existing in one world and where differences are not cast in terms of values of plus and minus degree of humanity” (353). Wirbalized resistance is the intensification of liberation projects that have emerged and are emerging in Anglophone Cameroon; opening the possibility of Anglophones and Francophones entering into a pluri-versal dialogue of equals in a common march toward a Cameroonian world in which “Free Life” will be the horizon in which many worlds will co-exist with a pluri-versal and not a uni-versal vision.
This commentary draws on the Memorandum presented to the Cameroonian Head of State, Paul Biya, by the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda on the current unrest in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon to demonstrate that the emergence of Anglophone-nationalist sentiments in these Regions of Cameroon from November of 2016 through January of 2017 to the present, especially among young people, is a revolt against a sense of always having to “fit in”. The Memo bears witness that the variety of Anglophone-nationalist ideologies from the moderate views of John Ngu Foncha’s “unitarism” through “secessionist Groups”, “restorationist” and “Federalists” to Mancho Bibixy’s “coffin revolution” and Joseph Wirba’s “duty of resistance”, rest upon a foundational truth: Francophone Cameroon has been historically weak-willed in ensuring cultural justice and has continued to resist fully accepting the humanity of Anglophones. The commentary further affirms the Memo’s argument that if double standards and differential treatment abound, Anglophone nationalisms will continue to thrive. The Memo suggests that to establish a productive framework for Anglophone-Francophone interdependence, Cameroonians need to begin with a frank acknowledgement of the basic humanness and Cameroonianness of each Cameroonian. Cameroonians must recognize that as a people, they are on a slippery slope towards economic strife, social turmoil, and cultural chaos. The November 2016 through January 2017 to the present upheaval forced Francophones and Anglophones to see not only that Cameroonians are not connected in ways they would not like to be but also, in a more profound sense, that this failure to connect binds Cameroonians even more tightly together. The commentary concludes that there is no escape from a Cameroonian intercultural interdependence yet enforced cultural hierarchy dooms Cameroon as a nation to collective paranoia and hysteria – the unmaking of any democratic order.
*African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA)Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Urban Management Studies (CUMS)University of Ghana, Legon . The article is the first of a three part series
Russia Spreading Its Tentacles Across Africa
September 20, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Scott Morgan*
When it comes to special operations in Central Africa initiated by the Russians most thoughts and conversations focus on the operations conducted within the Central African Republic over the last two years as either a point of contention or outright fear in some Capitals. But once again history is again repeating itself in Africa.
There have been allegations that after the 2016 Presidential Elections in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) that the incumbent President Soussou-Nguesso reportedly hired a Russian Private Military Company to put down the unrest in the vital town of Pointe Noir that occurred after the controversial polls. There was virtually no coverage of the influence in this election. It should be noted that when President Soussou-Nguesso was President for the first time Brazzaville was considered to be an ally of what was then the Soviet Union.
Also when it comes to Russian Operations in Central Africa even though it is not considered being part of Central Africa, the role of Sudan cannot be ignored. Khartoum has been used as a transit and logistics hub for its Operations in CAR. The Change of leadership that recently took place within Sudan will have an impact on Russian Operations in Central Africa. Russia was one of the countries that was coaching the Military in how to react during the final days of the Bashir regime. It would be wonderful if this dynamic was looked into. For the near future it should be taken as a fait accompli that whatever projects are launched in the region by the Kremlin it will have some form of presence in Sudan.
Another aspect that has been proving to be interesting regarding Russian Activities in the region is the media coverage regarding them or the efforts by the Putin Government and their allies to manipulate their coverage of the activities. One needs to recall the incident where four journalists for a Russian Opposition news site were ambushed and killed in the Central African Republic. That only occurs when a party wants an activity to be shielded from public view and scrutiny.
Another action taken by the Russians to spin events into their worldview has to be the deals to provide content to some African Media Outlets by either Sputnik or RT (Russia Today). A perfect example happens to be the deals reached with RTNC (National Radio and Television Corporation) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. RT was the first entity to reach a deal with the Congolese in November 2018, Sputnik has reached a similar deal in May of 2019. This effort in the DRC has been a success for Moscow. When Russia celebrated the fifth anniversary of the annexation of the Crimea , one of the largest events was actually held in Kinshasa.
Another tactic that Russia is using ties between the Duma and local legislatures on the ground. Once again the topic focuses on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is already a Russia-DRC Friendship Group already in the Parliament of the DRC. This is a simple and easy way for Russia to not only to promote its agenda in Africa it can be done in such a way that most other powers that have interests in the region such as the former colonial powers of France and Belgium and even the United States could find themselves be left on the outside without realizing what they allowed to Happen has indeed taken place without their ability to properly address the situation.
*The author is President of Red Eagle Enterprises and the views expressed are his.
Nigeria:EKWEREMADU’S ASSAULT AND THE DYNAMICS OF REVOLUTION
August 19, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
The assault of Nigeria’s former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in Germany is unsurprising, but shocking. Unsurprising because it’s certain Nigerians would revolt against their leaders misrule someday. It is shocking because many never envisaged such could happen now, and in this manner. The popular support, but low turnout at Omoyele Sowore’s Revolution Now protest, and the fading outcry for his release is a pointer that Nigerians want a revolution, but are reluctant to revolt.
Aside shocking the reluctant populace, Ekweremadu’s assault also stunned the revolution vanguards. Most never imagined any tribe could, at this moment in time, revolt against the same leaders they have been programed to exalt and defend irrationally. Is revolution taking a new, unexpected dimension? Departing the long occupied arena of inter-ethnic confrontations for home?
Ekweremadu is the leading political figure of the Igbo ethnic group. He was Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President for three consecutive terms (2007-2019). Ekweremadu comes next to the late Alex Ekwueme, Nigeria’s first elected Vice-President (1979-1983). Ekwueme and ex-President Shehu Shagari’s government was deposed in 1983 by retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s incumbent President.
At the invitation of the Igbo community in Germany, Ekweremadu was in Nurnberg to deliver a keynote address at the Ndi Igbo Second Annual Cultural (new yam) Festival. He was denied entry to the event by irate members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Igbo secessionist group led by Nnamdi Kanu, a fugitive wanted for jumping bail to hide abroad after the military unjustly invaded his home. Kanu is undergoing trial for treason at the Federal High Court in Abuja. The Nigerian government proscribed IPOB, declaring it a terrorist organization in 2017.
On the instruction of Kanu, IPOB on 17 August, 2019 attacked and tore Ekweremadu’s cloth for allegedly not advancing the course of Igbo independence and not condemning the killing of his people by Fulani herdsmen. In all fairness, Ekweremadu couldn’t have done much, being an opposition figure. He spoke against the Military’s Operation Python Dance in Igbo land, but apparently not as vehement as IPOB wanted. Ekweremadu was being cautious. Defending IPOB fervently would have set him against the northern senators who are largely in support of the military invasion and IPOB’s proscription. Not playing along could have resulted in his removal as Deputy Senate President.
It would have also put him at loggerheads with the federal government. The President’s intolerance to criticisms would make him unleash his attack dogs against Ekweremadu. He would have been terribly harassed, arraigned on trumped-up charges and incarcerated. Nigerians won’t be surprised if Buhari arraign him for sponsoring treason and a proscribed organization. The circumstance surrounding the condition at the time puts Ekweremadu at a crossroads: to either pick ‘self’ or ‘us’. He settled for ‘self’ as most of the IPOB members that assaulted him would have done.
Kanu also picked ‘self’ over ‘us’ by abandoning the secession struggle at the most crucial time. Many of the hundreds of families who lost lives and properties are still grieving to date. They surely aren’t happy that Kanu brainwashed their loved ones to fight a battle he has no capacity to win. If those affected are Lustitia, their sword won’t spare Kanu for taking cover abroad after destabilizing the polity. He may neither be contacting the bereaved nor providing them support. If that’s the case, then it is unreasonable for IPOB to assault Ekweremadu for a wrong Kanu is also guilty of.
The southeast governors are more deserving of IPOB’s intimidation than Ekweremadu. They were conspiratorially silent when the python was dancing and IPOB was being proscribed. They failed to speak despite being immune from the incarceration and prosecution Buhari is using to silence critics. Be that as it may, the governors’ silence may not be unconnected with Kanu’s personalization of the secession struggle and uncouth utterances. He singlehandedly issued sit-at-home orders and called for the boycott of elections. This didn’t sit well with the politicians and Ohaneze Ndigbo, the leading Igbo socio-cultural group. Ekweremadu is just a lone voice among these persons. He cannot order them to do his bidding.
But then, one cannot exonerate Ekweremadu of blame. Ekweremadu is elected to represent his constituency and region, not himself. If the wish of the Igbo majority, as it seems then, is to secede, it is Ekweremadu’s responsibility to interface with the federal government and find a middle ground. This should have been done with IPOB and other relevant stakeholders in the know, but Ekweremadu acted differently. His action was largely self-serving. Escaping prosecution from alleged corrupt practices was his priority. He chose to favor ‘self’ when he is elected to represent ‘us’. He deserves to be punished, but through the ballot, not assault.
Ekweremadu was punished for the wrongs of his fellow elites ruining Nigeria. He was made to feel the anger of the people. Nigerians across boards believe the assault is a viable way of making leaders accountable. Assault is immoral, but many are willing to get involved, if it would bring good governance. If corrupt politicians are being shamed, there’ll be less misrule as they and their families can’t stay away from schooling, receiving treatment and holidaying abroad. Nigeria would transform when the politicians have no other choice than Nigeria.
Celebrating new yam festival in faraway Germany is a misplacement of priority, at a time when incessant killings is occurring in Igbo land. Who among the organizers of the festival owns a farm or ever planted a yam? The real farmers who should be celebrating their outputs are being killed and losing their loved ones and farms to bandits. Partying under this situation is a mockery of the farmer’s misfortune. Leadership is service. The huge cost of organizing the events and the travel expenses incurred by dignitaries such as Ekweremadu could have been used to assist those who lost persons and properties during the secession struggle and bandits attack. Wealthy Igbos and the foreign branches of Ohaneze Ndigbo needs to be more philanthropic.
IPOB’s assault on Ekweremadu is somewhat unjust and misdirected. Buhari and his appointees who outlawed the organization and apparently failed to address the challenges in the southeast have been left unthreatened. Those at the helm of affairs are ignored for the governors who can neither control the security agencies nor restore Biafra. The unintended consequence of IPOB’s action is that her real ‘oppressors’ chance to win elections is being heightened by her actions. Defaming the People Democratic Party’s government in the southeast would only help the All Progressives Congress have an easy win in 2023. But for one thing, Ekweremadu’s assault is a message to the President’s top aides that it may be their turn next.
Aside the president and vice, Nigerian leaders can’t get the extraordinary protection they enjoy in Nigeria abroad. Unlike in Nigeria, where protesters are being hounded, the western nations allow people to enjoy their right to peaceful protest. Nigerians in the diaspora would be allowed to air their grievances, but assaults won’t be tolerated. That of Ekweremadu sailed through because it was unexpected. The foreign security agencies would be more present in Nigerian high profile gatherings to forestall future occurrence. IPOB has vowed to give Igbo leaders the Ekweremadu treatment wherever they are sighted abroad. This could create a bandwagon effect. Aggrieved persons and groups from other regions of the country may adopt the same strategy.
Ekweremadu’s assault and Sowore’s Revolution Now are well-coordinated moves against government and high-profile politicians. Could this be the manifestation of the decisions reached when Kanu and Sowore met abroad? Or the hounding of unharmed local protesters attracted sympathy abroad? Is the Buhari government’s intolerance making peaceful protesters adopt a violent approach? Has the government’s high handedness created another menace? Do the aggrieved protesters have a more violent approach of driving home their point in the bag? The time is pregnant.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
The 50th Anniversary of My First Speech at the United Nations And the Bitter Lesson I Learned
August 19, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Dr. Gary K. Busch*
During the 1960’s, after Sharpeville, the nations who comprised the United Nations embarked on a plan to restrict capital flows to the apartheid government of South Africa. They passed a number of rules and recommendations attempting to restrict the interaction between the South African Government and the major international banks. The UN’s Special Committee on Apartheid, under the chairmanship of Abdulrahim Abby Farah, the UN representative from Somalia, called a meeting of the Special Committee at the UN New York Headquarters, from 17-18 March, 1969, to discuss the role of the international banks in supporting South Africa and to make a plan to expand the campaign to get these banks to boycott capital interactions with the South Africans.
Invitees to the meeting were drawn from several U.S. groups active in the anti-apartheid movement. I was invited as the specialist on Africa from the United Auto Workers (UAW) and as a Board Member of the American Committee on Africa, led by George Hauser. I had been one of the main contacts for the African liberation struggle leaders who visited the U.S. and had taken many to the House and Senate Committees for meetings. I had also arranged their meetings with groups like SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and others. I was very pleased to be invited to the meeting and hoped to contribute my thoughts on the issue.
We convened in a large conference room in the UN where, in addition to the invitees, there was a substantial group of UN delegates from countries which supported the anti-Apartheid movement. The program opened with an introduction by Ambassador Farah and followed by speeches by the Algerian and Nigerian ambassadors. Oliver Tambo was there on behalf of the ANC and he made a speech. After several more speeches we were allowed to speak.
I was more than ready to speak. In fact, I was quite upset. I had just been looking at the day’s New Yok Times newspaper where I saw a quarter-page ad by the Chemical Bank of New York Trust headlined by the line “The American Capitalist”. It descried the role of the Chemical Bank in arranging a large loan and ancillary financing of a Japanese company to buy iron ore from South Africa. This was the very thing we were meeting to discuss and, with good effort, prevent. I rose and asked permission to read the text of the advertisement into the record of the Committee. I did so and then said “Here you have a major American bank financing apartheid. You should realise that this is no rogue bank; this is the official bank of the United Nations. Your salaries and expenses are paid through this bank. It has branches inside UN installations worldwide. If you want the world to support the Banks Campaign of the UN perhaps you can start with your own bank.”
After a moment of silence heated discussions broke out. Mr Reddy, the administrator of the Committee, confirmed that Chemical Bank was the official bank of the UN. Chairman Farah called upon the Algerian delegate and the Indian delegate to speech who pronounced their outrage at what I had discovered. They. believe it or not, agreed to send a telegram to the UN Secretary-General from the floor of the meeting requesting an urgent response and review. I suggested that the UN Secretary-General’s office was only six floors above us and I would volunteer to hand deliver it immediately. I was told this telegram was the normal procedure for UN business. We broke for lunch.
I was having lunch with Oliver Tambo who was quite pleased with the proceedings so far. He did say to me “You may feel that this was an important blow for the Banks Campaign, but don’t be fooled. Nothing will happen but chit-chat and pointing fingers. The banks will go on lending as usual”. He was wise. There were stories in the press; there were earnest discussions with the anti-apartheid groups; there were fiery speeches from the African delegates. What finally happened as the result of my speech was that the copywriter of the article at the newspaper lost his job. Everything else went, as Tambo promised, out of the minds of the Committee.
I was immensely proud that I had used my opportunity to speak at the UN with some effect but, in retrospect, I had learned an important lesson. One cannot move international institutions by speeches or embarrassment. The United Nations is a permanent compromise looking for problems to work on. It was a bitter lesson for me in my youthful naivete but helped to shape my future expectations. I attach the official Committee report on my intervention and a picture of me before my speech, with Ambassador Farah.
“Although sympathetic U.N. delegations were aware of and concerned about the bank campaign, it was again in 1969 that action look concrete form. In 1966, the General Assembly resolution on the policies of apartheid had appealed to all Slates to “discourage loans by banks in their countries to the Government of South Africa or South African companies,” but in March, 1969, during a Special Committee on Apartheid seminar held at U.N. headquarters, the question of Chemical Bank, a consortium member, being the bank located at the U.N., came to a head. By chance. Chemical Bank New York Trust Company had placed an advertisement in the New York Times the same day as the seminar meeting in which it lauded the bank’s role in securing a deal between South Africa and Japan for the sale of iron. This remarkable situation, where U.N. resolutions were in essence being ignored by the United Nations itself, resulted in proposals by the Special Committee to the Secretary General asking an investigation of Chemical Bank’s role at the U.N. This culminated in a General Assembly Resolution passed in November, 1969, which called upon the United Nations and its affiliates “to refrain from extending facilities to banks and other financial institutions which provide assistance to South Africa and firms registered there.”
* Dr. Gary K. Busch is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations www.ocnus.net and the distance-learning educational website www.worldtrade.ac. He speaks and reads 12 languages and has written six books and published 58 specialist studies. His articles have appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Wall Street Journal, WPROST (a leading Polish weekly news magazine), Pravda and several other major international news journals
An Account of the Corruption and Anomalies in the Nigerian Immigration Service
August 14, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
One of the primary responsibilities of government is to provide – or regulate the provision of – efficient service to the populace. Successive Nigerian government has failed in this regard. It has become a convention to get inefficient service, despite paying high. Both private and public institutions are culpable, but the latter errs more. Public officials are more of exploiters than service providers. The uniformed ones are worse. You are bound to pay extra before being attended to. Such is the case of the Nigerian Immigration Service. This piece brings you a firsthand account of the anomalies and corruption going on at the passport offices.
I flew into Nigeria for some engagements and noticed my passport would expire in six months. This qualifies it for renewal. I had two options: renew it in Nigeria or abroad. I opt for the former to avoid the stress I faced to procure the expiring passport. Besides, it is more expensive to renew the passport abroad and I stay far from the embassy. Renewing a Nigerian passport abroad is an uphill task many try to avoid. The unethical conducts of the embassy officials would make you want to renounce Nigeria. But patronizing the embassy is better. You won’t realize this till you visit the passport offices in Nigeria.
“You can’t just walk in and get a passport”, my friends warned. They vowed I won’t get it quickly unless an immigration officer ‘assist’ me. ‘Assist’ means paying an officer to monitor and hasten the passport application process. Rejecting the suggestion made them recount the tales of people who failed to subscribe for assistance. They narrated how such person’s application hit the rocks with “no record found”. How their image gets captured wrongly – rendering the passport unusable – was also recounted.
Other persons I chatted also stressed the importance of ‘assistance’. They disclosed that applying without being ‘assisted’ can take you up to 5 months, while you’d get your passport between 1-14 days when assisted. I remained adamant, but succumbed when a contact said “I know someone (an immigration officer) who’ll do it fast for 30k. Pay the standard 18, I’ll add the remaining 12”. That silenced me. I couldn’t dissent. To overegg the pudding was unnecessary. I agreed, on a condition that I would pay all.
We were welcomed by touts advertising ‘assistance’ when we visited the passport office. Most of them are agents of the immigration officers. Some officers were at the gate that day, and every other day. They were positioned as security, but seen scouting for new applicants; identifying them by their demeanor. The ideal thing is to direct applicants to a guideline or office, but they never did. They were asking them “do you know your way?” Answering “no” or making inquiries makes you prey. You would be connected to their partnering tout or officer to ‘assist’ you. Answering “yes” means you’ve already established contact with an officer inside.
We met an officer who charged me N35,000 for the 32 page passport, but we slashed the price to N30,000. The officer reluctantly agreed; persuading us to pay more. I paid N30,000. The original cost of the 32 page passport I applied for – lately before the issuance of the enhanced e-passport commenced – is about 18,000. Paying N30,000 made me unhappy till I eavesdropped that some people paid N45,000 for the same 32 page passport. That made me feel N30,000 was a good deal. I was somewhat glad. You would too.
My money did some work. The officer ‘assisting’ me fast-tracked the application. I did the face and fingerprint capturing within three hours. Don’t say I waited long! Capturing within such a timeframe isn’t possible without ‘assistance’; the applicants were over hundred. Nonetheless, the assistance wouldn’t have been necessary if the system is efficient, but those profiting from the inefficiency would not let it be.
The officer ‘assisting’ me collected my file after capturing. Like every other colleague, the officer has a client’s record book. My data was added to several others contained therein. I was told to come for the passport in two weeks. Efforts to secure a faster date failed. I left and couldn’t return till after a month due to an interstate engagement.
I got back and need to return abroad. Having performed the bribe ritual, I wasn’t worried about the passport, but the cost of flight ticket. I searched for ticket and was lucky to get a good offer from a reputable airline. This got me excited. My eyes stared at the ticket as I reminisced my last experience with the airline, hoping to have a good time again. I was tempted to book the flight, but held back. Being confident the passport is ready isn’t enough, lay your hands on it, I counseled myself. That turned out to be my best decision in the year.
“Your passport is not ready, we don’t have booklet”. The immigration officer ‘assisting’ me uttered the next morning. I smiled thinking it was a joke, only to discover it isn’t. I became worried about my scheduled activities abroad. How do I explain to a foreign organization that I won’t return at the agreed time due to passport renewal delay, when such doesn’t happen in their country? Efforts to get the passport quickly exposed me to several other wrongs in the passport office.
There’s no orderliness and feedback mechanism. You must always be present, even for minor things. The officers are used to earning extra from ‘assistance’ daily. This affects their commitment to you. They no longer give you much attention after the first day, their attention is always on the new clients. They have so many clients that they struggle to remember their name and situation when they dial. This made me resolve to always visit the passport office to monitor progress.
My regular visits made me a familiar face to some of the officers. A narration of my engagements abroad and the implication of not travelling immediately only earned me pity, not solution. I discovered the officers have factions and an unofficial policy. The officer you pay is responsible for you; no officer will assist you even if they can, no matter how terrible your situation is. This immensely affected me.
The officer ‘assisting’ me, a senior one at that, no longer have strong links in the production room due to recent reordering of duties. Clients of those who have strong networks in the room were collecting passports. Then, I discovered my officer was greedy. Officers in the production room charge colleagues for speedy processing because they know they’ve been paid too. The officer just submitted my file without tipping. As the days passed, I got more disturbed as I receive emails to explain my absence abroad.
An officer advised I should explain my situation to the head of Service Compact (SERVICOM) – the complaint and efficient service delivery section. I met the head of SERVICOM after a long wait. “Who is assisting you?” he asked. My eyes popped. The SERVICOM head knows about ‘assistance’. Great! I answered and was told to summon the officer over immediately. I felt uncomfortable, thinking the officer may be reprimanded, but nothing happened. They both checked my application status and detected no problem.
The SERVICOM head therefore instructed the officer to regenerate my file. He promised to indorse and send it to the production room, but I must do something before that happens. I must have a flight ticket and get a letter from the organization am with abroad, stating why I have to return urgently. That got me infuriated. Booking has not helped most of the applicants I’ve seen around. Moreover, I can only show proof that I’m affiliated with a foreign organization and why my trip is urgent, but can’t get a letter from abroad.
I contend that it is unreasonable for Nigerian immigration to be directing Nigerians to get a letter from foreign institutions before they can be issued a passport. The noisy room suddenly went silent. Unbothered, I stated that the passport is my inalienable right and no foreign institution would persuade Nigeria before I get it. The room was still silent, an indication that I’ve either misfired or scored a hat-trick. It was the latter. I was told to only explain my situation in writing and provide evidence that I must travel soon. No foreign letter needed.
I returned the next day with my letter and supporting evidence. To my utter dismay, the passport office had no network to check my status. I was amazed, but the officers weren’t. They experience such regularly. No one could do a thing that day. The entire office was practically shut down.
We were all waiting for network when I overheard the officers discussing about a just released promotion list. They’re annoyed that many of the officers who participated in the promotion exercise and passed, without any query, were not promoted, because they’re Southerners. The Northerners, particularly the Hausa-Fulani were massively promoted and posted to promising places. They also complained about the lack of proper documentation in the Nigerian Immigration Service. Many retired and deceased officers name came out as promoted. The officers lastly discussed the new enhanced e-passport and how much they should be charging for ‘assistance’. No amount was agreed. I went home happy. The revelations made my coming worthwhile.
The next day, my officer advised I shouldn’t regenerate my file for one reason: the officers assigned to search files often declare them unfound without conducting any search. The officer collected extra N3,000 from me to tip a new contact in the production room. I was glad I didn’t ask the foreign body for letter and my predicament was earning me uncommon findings.
I later visited the passport office with Dr Akin, an erudite scholar and researcher who just landed in Nigeria. I briefed him of my past findings and tasked him for more. Dr Akin gathered facts from the applicants through informal discussions. His respondents revealed they’re being ‘assisted’ by different officers who charged them between N30,000 to N45,000, instead of N18,000. He briefed me of a septuagenarian who vowed it’s impossible for anyone to procure a passport at the official fee. The old woman shared her desire to see a working Nigeria, but regrets that can’t happen during her lifetime. I got my passport that day, about three months after applying.
The Comptroller General, Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede have to step up his game. He needs to inject more transparency, efficiency, accountability and discipline into the service. More passport offices need to be established and the existing ones should be provided with enough amenities. More seats are needed. Many applicants stood under the sun to collect their passport and the public address system was inaudible. Those in front have to repeat the names being called before others could hear. People were charged N50 for using the lavatory, why?
This piece is an advocacy for efficiency, not vilification. The passport office and persons were deliberately not mentioned. An encounter with me shouldn’t make them the fall guy. What is needed is a holistic reform, not punishing few persons for the wrongs being committed by virtually everyone in the service.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via email@example.com
Celebrating Africa’s digital potential on UN Youth Day
August 14, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ime Archibong*
|Africa’s young population could be its greatest asset in an age where many other regions in the world are aging as a result of declining birth rates|
ACCRA, Ghana, August 12, 2019,Many things have been said about the future Africa and its potential, it has been called the Opportunity Continent, the Next Frontier and Africa rising, with all of these true. For me the excitement comes in how Africa can, and will one day lead in the digital economy, not only creating a better future for its young people, but for people across the entire continents, whether here in Africa or elsewhere like in Europe or the US.
Africa’s young population could be its greatest asset in an age where many other regions in the world are aging as a result of declining birth rates. As the world’s human population grows from 7.4 billion people to 8.2 billion people between now and 2025, 40% of that growth will come from Africa, and with more than 628 million people aged below 24, this young, dynamic and innovative population will become one of the most powerful engines of growth the world has ever seen.
Personally, I’ve always been so inspired by the creativity and talent across my home continent – whether it’s creating mobile phone apps which makes motorcycle taxis safer and more convenient, like in the case of Safe Motos in Rwanda and now DRC, or building technological solutions to solve agricultural challenges, like Plantheus, a recent graduate of Facebook’s (www.Facebook.com) NG_Hub Accelerator Program, we see people, especially youth, building solutions daily to local problems and needs. As eager and early adopters of technology, we’ll likely see the next wave of global digital innovations and apps coming from the continent and taken to the rest of the world.
Adoption of social media, mobile phones and mobile money are enabling Africa and its youth to leapfrog to the next wave of digital technology. This infrastructure is the foundation upon which so much innovation in Africa is built and will be built over the next five years. At Facebook, we’re committed to empowering young people to build their digital skills and harness them for the future – whether they are digital builders, developers or product innovators.
In the month of UN Youth Day, I’m delighted that we will be recognizing just some of these talents from across the region. Bringing together over 40 Facebook Community Leaders, SMBs, Entrepreneurs, Developers and Content Creators from across Sub-Saharan Africa, under the banner of ‘Celebrating Icons of Change and the Future of the Continent’ – celebrating the positive impact they are having in their community, something which is important to us here at Facebook.
Our commitment across the region remains strong, and Africa continues to be important for us, with this building on many partnerships, programs and initiatives already in place to help develop digital and entrepreneurial skills among young people. Whether it’s training SMBs through digital boot camps, helping interested youth to acquire digital marketing skills and placing them in employment, training women in leveraging digital solutions to grow their business, or bringing together 52,000 Developers from across 17 countries through our Developer Circles (http://bit.ly/2MbZe3t) program, we are excited to play a part in supporting the next generation of start-up founders, investors, developers and change makers.
As one of my favourite African proverbs says “For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today”, and we look forward to that tomorrow in the years to come.