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WEEKLY POST, April 2011.

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12 Million Skilled Cameroonians Unemployed!!!

 

Cameroon has a population of about 20 million and of this number, about 13 million are employable. This means that about 13 million Cameroonians have skills that can enable them get employed. But of this 13 million Cameroonians, less than one million are employed, leaving about 12 million unemployed employable Cameroonians!

 

These figures are updated from figures obtained during a 2009 survey by the National Institute of Statistics (NIS).

 

According to the National Institute of Statistics, the number of Cameroonians holding gainful permanent employment in the private sector stands at 386,263 of which, 281,972 are males (73%) and 104,291 are females (27%).

 

The public service on its part employs about 196,056 Cameroonians with almost the same number gender distribution statistics.

 

This brings the total number of Cameroonians holding permanent gainful employment in both the private and public sectors to 582,319 from a population in the neighbourhood of 20 million.

 

In 2009, there were about 10 million employable Cameroonians without employment so within the past two years, the number of unemployed employable Cameroonians has gone up by 30%, i.e. about 10% annually.

 

The above figures point to the fact that about 7 million Cameroonians today depend on the informal sector – buyam sellams, shoe menders, tailors, masons, carpenters etc) to provide daily bread for their families.

 

The NIS study shows that a majority of the employed are concentrated in the cities of Douala and Yaounde with 68.4% and these two cities account for 73.8% of the national income turnover. Of the 68.4% employed, Douala provides jobs to 47.1% while Yaounde employs 21.3%

 

The very small and small business enterprises contribute 15.4% of national turnover and provide 47.7% of the permanent employment while the medium-size and big business outfits account for 84.6% of the national turnover and employ 51.3% of the permanent workers.

What the figures demonstrate is that the economy of Cameroon depends to a large extent on very small enterprises for its survival. And most times, these very small enterprises receive no government assistance and are more likely than not forced into folding up because of killer taxes and graft by government functionaries.

 

The 2009 figures which are the latest available show that there are 93,969 businesses registered in Cameroon and of this number, 86.5% are within the tertiary sector, 13.1% in the secondary sector and only 0.4% in the primary sector.

 

Cameroon counts very much on its small businesses to ensure its growth”, says Professor Roger Tsafack Nanfosso, an economist.

 

This is a great contrast to Gabon where the primary sector dominates and accounts for 50% of economic growth.

 

Over the years, the economy of Cameroon has been retrogressing instead of growing and the majority of Cameroonian economists are of the opinion that with about 75% of the population not holding gainful permanent employment, consumption would remain low thus accentuating the downward trend of the economy.

 

“Under these conditions, it would be difficult for Cameroon to come out of the hole in which it now finds itself if the number of consumers does not increase considerably”, opined one economist.

 

According to Prof. Tsafack, the state has not been doing a very good job in the area of policies that generate jobs, and although he lauded government’s announcement that 25.000 young Cameroonians would be absorbed into the public service, he said this was not good enough, taking into consideration the fact that about 13 million employable Cameroonians are out there searching for jobs.

 

Besides the rather dismal employment record, punitive taxes have been forcing many enterprises to either close down or retrench workers, thus curtailing any advances that might have been occasioned by the recruitment of new workers.

 

Prof. Tsafack says the fact that 94% of the active population of Cameroon is but in the informal sector is an indication of the gross abnormality and instability of the national economy.

 

Biya May Not Stand For Re-election!!!

 

By Chief Bisong Etahoben in Yaounde

Six months away from the next presidential election which is supposed to be held in October this year, incumbent president Paul Biya is yet to announce whether he would be his party’s candidate or not. If the noise his party and government agents/assigns have been making all these months were anything to go by, then it is almost certain Biya would be the CPDM’s candidate for the presidency.

                           

But with the Jasmin revolution that started in Tunisia still spreading in the Maghreb and all indications that it can head southwards in the ‘Black Continent’, many sit-tight African leaders who have been on the throne for two decades and above are beginning to ask themselves whether it would not be better to bow out honourably than wait for the Jasmin tide to ignominiously sweep them away from office.

 

Paul Biya should certainly be one of those leaders who must be having sleepless nights contemplating on what to do. For one thing, his name has been frequently coming up for mention whenever there is talk within the international community/media about African dictators and despots who continue to cling to power even when they are slowly but certainly becoming senile. And for another, the February 2008 hunger riots continue to haunt the memories of the Cameroonian people and the world at large especially following the killings that were visited on innocent Cameroonians who were only clamouring to let those that rule them know that they were hungry.

 

Biya should really find himself now between the devil and the deep blue sea. If he were to remain in power, he would continue to remain the target of unfavourable media assaults by both the local and international media which would always savour reminding him that he was among the world’s ten oldest leaders still in power. Contempt for him would also increase and accentuate calls for him to be prosecuted for real or imaginary crimes just to remove him from power. If he were to quit, he would give room for the opening of the Pandora box out of which would crawl all the unpalatable and even devilish actions of his close associates, government and party. This could lead to acts of vengeance by those who suffered through the actions of his agents, cronies and thugs.

 

Perhaps one thing should be made clear here: President Paul Biya of Cameroon is a God-fearing leader, who though having spent almost three decades in power, hardly has the blood of a large chunk of Cameroonians on his hands. In fact, President Paul Biya has been doing his best to ensure that none of his opponents loses his life just for opposing him. Most of the deaths that have during his rule tarnished the image of Cameroon have been some sort of collateral damage following the over-zealous actions of his haw-haw men who want to be seen by the king as being loyal servants ready to kill for him. Placed in the balance of international norms and public opinion however, these exactions could really put Biya in a tight corner. The leader is always by implication blamed for the shortcomings of his subjects. What with the International Criminal Court and its investigators sniffing all corners of the world in search of gross human rights violations and extra-judicial killings and their perpetrators whom they would not hesitate one little bit in dragging to court for their crimes.

 

If Biya is not that much of a sanguinary ruler always in search of the heads of those wanting to unseat him, the actions of his government agents would not however score favourably if put in the balance by human rights assessors. Being a product of the era of judicial exceptions during which a French system with an exaggerated appetite for despicable national interests pushed it into becoming head-hunters of nationalists, the Biya regime has not been hesitating in visiting colonial-type torture and human rights abuses on Cameroonians. And this at a time when the world is paying particular attention on the respect of the human being and his rights and privileges.

 

Within the past several months, there have been persistent rumours that Biya the individual, and his family have been weighing heavily on the side of he not standing for re-election, come October. This sort of fits into the order of perception of the Biya of April 1984 who was reported to have opted to surrender himself to the attempted coup leaders in order to avoid bloodshed.  But 1984 is not 2011. So much water has passed under the bridge. In 1984, Biya was less than two years in power when the attempt to unseat him was hatched. He had not yet been imbued in the trappings of power – and wealth. Today, twenty-nine years at the centre of power and money, Biya has tasted the salt and as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. He may not be that ready to remove the piece of meat from his mouth and the mouths of all the hangers-on and political slaves who have been using his name to sack the public treasury.

 

Nevertheless, had the Biya dynasty ended with Frank and Irene, one would easily have imagined that Biya the family man would damn the consequences of an unsavoury after-power scenario. But with the addition of Chantal and her children to the Biya lineage, he might be preoccupied with what would happen to his children were he to be forced out of power.

 

“President Biya does not come across as someone who would want to cling to power even at the expense of the complete annihilation of his family in the event of a forceful ejection from the throne”, one knowledgeable political scientist opined.

 

Chipped in another Cameroonian in contrast to the political scientist: “To get to where Biya is now surely entailed a lot of sacrifices both human and material, Godly and ungodly. When they attain such heights, they no longer allow themselves to be bothered by any other considerations than power and wealth”.

 

Unfortunately for Cameroon, infighting within the ruling party and class has alienated almost all those whom Biya might have been considering as his possible successors.

 

“If Biya is the Mr. Clean who has strived to cut a positive image of himself in the conduct of statecraft, most of his close collaborators cannot be viewed in the same light. Most of those he might have considered as his possible successors have always ended up being tainted by the brush of corruption, graft and all the ills of mis-governance”, said one establishment veteran hand.

 

Yet another challenged such line of thinking: “People talk as if there would be no Cameroon the day Biya dies. The same opinions were expressed when Ahidjo was in power. At that time, sycophants talked and behaved as if Cameroon would end with Ahidjo. He went and Cameroon lives. There are thousands of Cameroonians today who can steer the ship of state better than Biya. It is just that they have not been given the chance. And too, many of them fear to expose their capabilities for fear they may be thought to be outdoing the king for mischievous reasons”.

 

But as Biya grows older and it dawns on the big thinkers within the CPDM that if he does not go voluntarily, nature would surely take its pound of flesh, some have been imagining themselves as tenants of the Etoudi Palace. And so, the battle for succession has been raging within the ranks of the ruling party. Senior operatives within the party have been doing a great job scheming against their real or imagined rivals within the party and the war is on for the Biya succession.

 

Cameroonians can only pray that an implosion of the CPDM does not entail collateral damage within the national population. God forbid!!!

 

U.S.-Based Human Rights Group Condemns Continued Detention Of UB Student Leader.

The Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CCDHR), a U.S.-based non-governmental organisation with affiliates in Cameroon has strongly condemned what it terms the “arbitrary arrest and continued detention of Kingsley Ashu”, the former University of Buea Students’ Union president, describing it as political and unacceptable.

 

In a strongly-worded statement on the detention of the young university student, CCDHR says “the incongruousness of the offence in question and the treatment Kingsley is being subjected to supports the suggestion of a politically endorsed action against Kingsley Ashu rather than the mere application of the law”.

The full text of the statement reads:

 

“The Cameroon Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CCDHR) is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Kingsley Ndip Ashu, arrested on February 23, 2011 in the city of Kumba, South West Region of the Republic of Cameroon. Kingsley, a young civil society activist and former University of Buea student leader has been languishing in the Kumba central prison without bail for more than a month on the bogus charge of misinforming officers of law and order about his place of birth and possession of falsified documents.

 

“Motivated by successful peaceful demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, some political leaders and civil society groups had called on Cameroonians to go to the street on February 23, 2011 to demand freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, free and fair elections, and for the resignation of Paul Biya who has been in power for 29 years. On the said day, Kingsley stood in front of a popular news stand in Kumba where he engaged in discussions with other denizens of Kumba on the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, and the possibility of it happening in Cameroon. This gathering drew increasing number of people, and the police which was already on high alert because of the planned demonstration got involved, and arrested Kingsley for inciting public disorder and insulting the Head of State, Paul Biya.

 

“Upon discovering later that Kingsley’s birth certificate and national identification card carry difference places of birth, Buea and Eyumojock respectively, the Government shamefully dropped the original charge of inciting public disorder and insulting Paul Biya for which Kingsley was originally arrested. He has now been charged with misleading uniform officers with falsify documents and has been held without bail for more than a month. It must be noted that the documents in question (birth certificate and identification card) are officially issued government documents, and while the places of birth on both documents are contradictory, none of these documents is forged. In addition, Kingsley has argued that the error on his identification card had been made by the issuing authority not him, and that steps were already being taken to correct that error. Meanwhile, the incongruousness of the offence in question and the treatment Kingsley is being subjected to supports the suggestion of a politically endorsed action against Kingsley Ashu rather than the mere application of the law.

 

“It must be recalled that under the leadership of the University of Buea Student Union, the students of the University of Buea in November 2006 took to the streets in opposition to the corrupt educational practices by the Minister of Higher Education in connivance with the University of Buea authorities. The demonstrations followed impropriety in the selection process into the School of Medicine at the University of Buea and was sparked by the imposition of a list of 153 candidates selected for interview as part of the admission process into the School of Medicine. The list of 153 candidates, which was signed by the Minister of Higher Education, was inconsistent with the list of 127 successful certified examinees previously signed and published by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea. The Minister’s list was inflated with 26 new names most of whom had not even sat for the entrance exam into the School of Medicine at the University of Buea. Among the leaders of this vigorous stand against the Government of Cameroon was Kingsley Ndip Ashu, the then Vice-President in charge of Economic Affairs of the University of Buea Student Union.

 

“Kingsley is being held against his will by the Government of Cameroon for political reasons rather than the spurious claim of misinforming uniform officers about his place of birth. His arrest, denial of bail, and continued detention appears to be an act of retaliation against this young and bright Cameroonian, who along with his brave colleagues of the University of Buea Student Union, exposed the corrupt practices of the Government of Cameroon in its fraudulent meddling with university admissions. CCDHR is very concerned about the physical and mental status of Kingsley Ashu. His arrest and detention is in violation of Section 30 (4) of the Criminal Procedure Code which states that:

 

‘No bodily or psychological harm shall be caused to the person arrested’.

 

“Since his arrest on February 23, 2011, the administration continues to play with time by continuously adjourning his arraignment before a court of law, thereby subjecting him to various forms of psychological torments in an effort to break his will and force him to refrain from ever again engaging in criticism against the Government of Cameroon.

 

In addition, the detention of Kingsley Ashu under deplorable prison conditions continues to be in violation of Section 37 of the Criminal Procedure Code which states that:

 

Any person arrested shall be given reasonable facilities in particular to be in contact with his family, obtain legal advice, make arrangements for his defence, consult a doctor and receive medical treatment and take necessary steps to obtain his release on bail’.

 

“Since his arrest, Kingsley has not been afforded access to medical care even though he has sustained injuries from being assaulted in prison, and the defence motion to get his release on bail has not been entertained because of a deliberate delaying tactic by the regime in Cameroon as they plot strategies to victimize and make a scapegoat of this young Cameroonian for no justified reason. CCDHR would like to express its legitimate fears that because of the political nature of this case, Kingsley’s chances of a fair trail before the Cameroonian judiciary are slim to nothing. In Cameroon, the President appoints all prosecutors, judges, and other officers of the judiciary. He equally guarantees the independence of the judiciary, and as we have seen in Cameroon, this means that the government is given a free ride to trample on the rights of its citizens as judicial recourse in situations of human rights violations is almost always nonexistent.

 

“CCDHR is requisitioning the Government of Cameroon to immediately and unconditionally release Kingsley Ndip Ashu and other political prisoners across Cameroon for the sake of respect for human rights. The Government of Cameroon needs to be conscious of its obligation towards its people, and respect their rights to hold opinion and freely express their opinion without fear of reprisal. The action of Kingsley Ashu on the day of February 23, 2011 falls squarely within the ambits of constitutionally guaranteed and internationally recognized human rights. The Government of Cameroon must respect the laws of the country and adhere to international standards guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression. Ambushing people who hold opinions different from that of the regime is a tendency only favored by dictators because they have no facts to proof their allegations except through force and judicial fraud. CCDHR is also calling on Cameroonians across the world and sympathizers of victims of human rights violations in Cameroon to give the case of Kingsley Ashu the widest publicity so as to pressure the Government of Cameroon to release him and refrain from persecuting Kingsley or any others in the future barely because they express themselves”.

 

CCDHR is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization, independent of any government influence, political ideology, and religious persuasion. Established in August 2006, CCDHR is dedicated to improving and transforming the Cameroonian society through innovative research, practice, and programs based on a collection of factors necessary to foster an overall improvement in human dignity. At the core of our work is the need to build a strong civil society on the belief that this is critical for the democratic transformation needed in Cameroon.

 

How SDF Can End Its Reverses And Win All Future Elections

By Julius Nyamkimah Fondong*

 

Since its audacious launching in May 1990, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), Cameroon’s frontline opposition party has gone from an influential political powerhouse to an inconsequential player on Cameroon’s political chessboard. The story of the SDF as a political formation during the last nineteen years of its existence is also a story of deferred dreams, bungled chances, unfulfilled promises and dashed hopes.

 

If performance at elections can be considered the main barometer for measuring progress made, or lack thereof, by a political party, then as far as the SDF is concerned, the numbers speak eloquently for themselves.

 

During 1992 presidential elections, SDF candidate, Ni John Fru Ndi lost to incumbent CPDM candidate Mr. Paul Biya by 4 percentage points (35.97% for Fru Ndi and 39.98% for Biya).  For some inexplicable reasons the SDF didn’t go in for the 1997 presidential elections. Fru Ndi however, participated in the 2004 presidential elections, and lost to Biya 17.40% to 70.92% (a difference of 53 percentage points). This inauspicious pattern of decline is the same for the legislative elections. In 1997, the SDF won 43 parliamentary seats. That number dropped to 21 in 2001 and then to a paltry 16 in 2008. Regions like the Northwest, the West, the Douala and Yaoundé metro areas, the Mungo region and parts of the South-West like Limbe, Kumba, Muyuka and Lebialem, once considered safe SDF strongholds are now being gradually taken over by the CPDM.

 

The question I have often asked myself is: in the face of such monumental failures, how does the SDF, a party that was once  an incarnation of  the hopes and aspirations of every Cameroonian yearning for change; a party that once wielded so much street power and influence and touched the hearts of many; in the face of such failures, how can  the SDF leadership - I was asking -   continue  to  exude the kind of near imperial arrogance that Mr. Fru Ndi spurted out following  the resignation of Akonteh?

 

There is no gainsaying the fact that since its inception the SDF has made invaluable contributions to the promotion of democracy in Cameroon. The party has changed the political landscape in Cameroon in a way that no political organization before it had ever done. But since political parties are created with the objective of acceding to power and using the political capital garnered during the process as a catalyst for change, the SDF has fallen far short of that objective. The fact of the matter remains that the SDF is today further away from power than it was in 1990, mainly due to policy inconsistencies, a lack of vision, intolerance and the arrogance of its leadership.

 

It may be hard to believe but it is now becoming increasingly evident that the SDF has never been able to develop and implement a long-term strategic plan for conquering power in Cameroon. Its vision has been extremely constricted and its strategies have been haphazard, perfunctory and improvised, to say the least. 

 

A case in point is its attitude towards elections. Political analysts in Cameroon are unanimous that the March 1992 legislative election was relatively freer and fairer than any elections ever held in post one-party Cameroon. It was held at a time of political uncertainty during which all the emerging opposition parties and even the CPDM were anxious to gauge their real potentials within the new political dispensation that the return to multi-partyism had engendered. On the streets, the SDF was undoubtedly the strongest challenger poised to grab a majority of parliamentary seats. But for reasons no one has ever understood, the SDF boycotted those elections.

 

It is important to note that Mr. Biya, in a bid to make concessions and end the SDF-led ghost town operations, had publicly pledged to appoint the next Prime Minister from the party that will win a majority of seats in the 1992 legislative polls. Had the SDF gone in for the elections and won a majority (as many expected it to do) the party would have had to nominate both the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Assembly. With the government and parliament under threat of SDF control, Mr. Biya would have been left with no choice but to make further concessions or negotiate from a position of weakness. By boycotting the 1992 legislative elections, the SDF indubitably lost its single  best shot at gaining power and  by so doing, strengthened the resolve of the ruling CPDM to make sure the SDF never rises again to any position  of political significance.

 

Political parties gain and retain political capital by creating, nurturing and sustaining momentum. One way of doing this is through unremitting popular mobilization, participating and improving their scores at each political consultation. The SDF’s participation at presidential elections has been perfunctory thus depriving it of the necessary drive that should keep it alive in the sub-consciousness of the voters. For instance, Mr. Fru Ndi went in for the 1992 presidential elections and lost narrowly to Mr. Biya by a mere 4 percentage points (even though many suspect he won). Just when many expected the SDF to take stock, reorganize, build and maintain its impetus and storm the national stage again, the party decided to boycott the 1997 presidential polls and thus gave Mr. Biya and his CPDM the leeway to consolidate their hold on power.

 

Mr. Fru Ndi came back to contest the 2004 presidential elections and tried to re-invoke the memories of his historic run of 1992. But twelve long years had elapsed since the voters last saw his name on a ballot paper and the bulk of those who were voting in 2004 were either too young to know what the 1992 momentum was all about, too old to remember it, or just simply didn’t care. He lost woefully to Mr. Biya by a 53 percentage point margin.

 

As a political organization the SDF has also been considerably weakened by unsound policy decisions made without a proper analysis of the risks and the rewards involved. Two good examples are, first, the decision to call for a boycott of French goods (thus gratuitously seeking confrontation with an influential former colonial power); and second, publicly calling for the disbandment of the corps of civil administrators (D.Os, SDOs and Governors) as well as the national gendarmerie.

 

Any serious politician seeking to accede to the pinnacle of power in Cameroon should know by intuition that it is in his best interest to be - even if only in appearance - in the good books of the French. He should also do well to avoid any confrontation with the civil administrators (who run elections in Cameroon) and the ubiquitous gendarmerie, even if he really doesn’t think highly of them. I don’t know for sure why the SDF sought confrontation with the French, the civil administrators and the gendarmes and I’m not sure I know what this kind of confrontation was intended to accomplish, but I do know for a fact that it turned out to be both politically and strategically costly for the SDF.

 

Another important short-fall of the SDF has been its benign neglect of the Greater North. As far as I am concerned, all the about two million odd votes in the three northern regions are swing votes. Evidence of this is the way the Greater North has gone from being a CPDM stronghold, to a UNDP/MDR/CDU stronghold, back to CPDM stronghold.  All in a decade, or so! And in all of this the SDF has never shared in the spoils because the party has never made of the Greater North its priority, instead preferring to cast all its fortunes in the Greater West. 

 

The SDF has never had any political operation of meaning in the northern regions aimed at breaking new ground and expanding its support and militant base. On the eve of any presidential election in which he is in the mood to  participate, Mr. Fru Ndi makes a quick one-week drive-through in the Greater North, comes back and tells his supporters he has “conquered” the region.

 

During the 2004 presidential elections I was serving in Garoua as an Adviser to the Governor and part of my election-day duties were to collate and analyze exit polls as they were being reported by field civil administrators. All through election night I was bombarded with phone calls from friends in Bamenda and elsewhere who wanted to know if it was true that Fru Ndi was “sweeping” the Greater North. And my glib answer was: not the part of the North I am familiar with! The SDF has further alienated northerners from the party by systematically purging from its ranks all Northern elite who used to hold executive positions in the party: Souleymane, Maidadi Seidou, and Sani Alhaji, just to name a few.

 

Going back to Mr. Fru Ndi’s disparaging comments following Andrew Akonteh’s resignation, such an attitude is symptomatic of the kind of native arrogance that has rendered the SDF incapable of conducting a thorough soul-searching so as to determine the root causes of its visible self-annihilation.

 

Where does a Chairman, on whose watch the SDF has consistently lost an average of 30% of its political fortunes after each election, find the nerve to be so foul-mouthed? Mr. Fru Ndi might have pulled Akonteh from the gutter and paid his rents as he claims, but Akonteh’s commitment and service to the SDF and to Cameroon’s democracy are also unimpeachable. It is thanks to his courage that the SDF asserted itself in the Northwest and thanks to his investigative abilities as an MP that the massive fraud at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications were uncovered, leading to the arrest, trial and imprisonment of Minchipou Seidou, who was the Minister of P&T at the time. The least Mr. Fru Ndi could have done as a leader was to thank Mr. Akonteh for his service and wish him well. Or better still, shut up.

 

In the face of patent ineptitude and crippling performance deficiencies plaguing the party, the SDF has one simple strategy: blame it all on the CPDM. Militants who seek to usher in new ideas or propose policy options that are different from the Chairman’s are branded as “CPDM agents” and promptly dismissed from the party under the nefarious article 8.2 of the party’s constitution.

 

In 1998, when I was still serving as First Assistant Senior Divisional Officer for Momo Division, I was appalled by the scandalous and unorthodox way in which the newly elected SDF mayor of Andek Council was managing its affairs. After one year in office, the mayor had not bothered to draw up a budget as required by law and was literally pocketing all the revenue that the council was collecting. When several attempts to call the mayor to order failed, I had no choice but to go public with the details of the mayor’s mismanagement. I also did an audit of all the five SDF-run councils of Momo Division at the time and discovered that at the rate an which they were going, the SDF mayors may end up accumulating more debt in five years than their CPDM predecessors ever did in twenty years.

 

Instead of taking action on my audit report and collaborating with me to deal with the problem, some SDF officials took to threatening and then intimidating me, claiming as it was common to do in those days, that I was just another CPDM Divisional Officer trying to discredit the newly minted SDF mayors. Let me note in passing that Andek Council, like many others in the Northwest, has since been re-taken over by the CPDM.

 

Twenty years down the line, Cameroon’s vanguard opposition party is by all counts a dismal failure and an unmitigated disaster. Through the arrogance and intolerance of its leadership it has deprived itself of a crop of committed cadres and talented technocrats who could have helped re-define the party’s long term strategic vision. When a supposedly modern political organization like the SDF goes to great lengths to modify its constitution such that its top executives are handpicked by the Chairman and not elected, that speaks to fear, desperation and naked arrogance. Not to strength.

 

Nowhere is this lack of technocratic leadership forcefully visible like on the party’s website www.sdfparty.org. The latest piece of information on the website’s “What’s New” webpage dates to 2007 and some of the facts (like the number of parliamentary seats won by the party in 1997) are incorrect. If in this age of information and communication technology an important political organization like the SDF lacks the technocrats to maintain something as common place as a website, what else can it possibly do?

 

I think it was Al Ries and Jack Trout, in their much-acknowledged book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” who averred that “Success often leads to arrogance and arrogance to failure”. This of course holds true for politicians too and we have had many instances of daring and popular politicians like Ni John Fru Ndi turning arrogant and this arrogance leading them to the abysses of failure. 

 

But it may not be too late yet for the SDF to redeem itself. The fundamentals of the party - namely the strength and commitment of its grassroots militants - are still very strong. All the party needs is for a visionary and tolerant leadership, imbued with the capacity to craft and implement a new and realistic long term strategy for conquering power, based on the principles on which the party was founded. The SDF must also accept some responsibility for its own failures and stop blaming them on CPDM. Most importantly, its leadership should shed some of its arrogance, take steps to end the systematic exclusion of its cadres and learn to tap into and manage the rich diversity of its militant base.

 

*The columnist is a former Cameroonian Field Civil Administrator and currently a Civil Affairs Officer.

 

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“I Will Be Back …”

April 6 Coup Leader Promises

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25 years ago a 30-year old army Captain cast in the mould of the young African revolutionary soldiers of the 1980s rallied young officers in Cameroon in an attempt to overthrow the Biya regime. After the failure of the coup attempt, that soldier, Captain Guerandi Mbara, successfully evaded the massive security dragnet of loyalist forces and made his way to Burkina Faso where his friend and former classmate at the Yaounde Military Academy, a certain Blaise Compaore had just organized a successful coup less than a year earlier which brought Captain Thomas Sankara to power. Upon arrival in the “land of the incorruptibles", Guerandi did not simply fade away, a bitter and frustrated former soldier unable to adapt to civilian life or to life in exile. Instead, he reinvented himself and became an erudite scholar. Today, he holds a doctorate in political science from Université René Descartes in Paris, a DEA in International Relations and Economics from same university, and a DESS in geopolitics and strategic studies from the Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales still in Paris. He now runs a successful international consulting firm and is also a lecturer at the Diplomacy and International Relations Institute (IDRI), the Higher Institute of Economy and the National School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM), all in Burkina Faso. Guerandi has however not forgotten about Cameroon. "I think about Cameroon every five minutes" he declares. Rarely does a month go by that he doesn’t write about or comments on events in Cameroon. Feared by a regime which has tried unsuccessfully to have him kicked out of Burkina Faso, rumours of a Guerandi coup or armed insurrection surface with mathematical regularity in security circles and in the media. This is a man who rightly or wrongly gives the Yaounde regime nightmares. As one paranoid government official once put it; “Guerandi is up to no good; there is only one reason in the world why he would be interested in 'strategic studies'”… Surprisingly, in the past 25 years, Guerandi has never talked or written about the coup plot itself – that is, until last April 5, 2009 when he granted an interview to cameroonvoice.com, the Montreal-based Cameroonian online radio. It was a much anticipated interview, which lived up to its billing. During the interview, Guerandi threw water on a number of long held assumptions about the coup and its initiators, and also outlined his vision of tomorrow’s Cameroon. Here are selected highlights that deal directly with the coup attempt: On The Rationale for the Coup ”We were motivated by a number of factors, some dating back to the colonial period and others to events of the 1980s… Cameroon was already suffering from a sclerosis caused by an organic, hegemonic and even legitimacy crisis. The state was sliding towards what the Anglo-Saxons refer to as a “failed state.” The collapse of the state was already very very visible back then, from the race to plunder state resources to an increase in tribalism and nepotism, etc. Who does not remember the statement ‘It is now our turn’? or ‘the goat eats where it is tethered’? These statements have not ceased. They have instead multiplied today. We hear of percentages, of ‘gombo’ in the media… ”Who does not remember the squandering of financial resources under the guise of creating a new ethno-regional bourgeois? Who does not remember the arbitrary arrests? Or, the desire to wipe out certain regions that were targeted by the ethno-fascists in power? Bamileke and Islamo-peuhl entrepreneurs come to mind. ”Who does not remember the judicial proceedings, initiated by those vengeful individuals, which threatened the fragile national cohesion? Who does not remember the sectarian practices within our armed forces and security apparatus which exacerbated the frustrations of the different sociological components [of the country] and created tensions between the different ranks of the armed forces? ”Some argue that [at the time of the coup] Paul Biya had not yet found his bearing. Granted. But do they realize that Paul Biya is the continuation of the system? He has been an important player within the system since 1962. When he became president he was well versed in the arcane mysteries of power… ”Our primary objective was to prevent the chaos that we are witnessing today and to anticipate solutions to the socio-political and economic disorders which were emerging from within the new administration. ”Many have wondered what the term “Jose” meant. It is «Jeunes Officiers pour la Survie de l’État» (Young Officers for the Survival of the State). As early as 1975, my comrades had been analyzing the geopolitical situation in Cameroon within secret cells. I cannot say more”. On His Relationship with President Ahidjo ”While in Cameroon, I did not have any relationship with President Ahidjo. I was just a poor officer in the army; I wasn’t even a member of the presidential guard… However, while in exile, I was able to meet him, (thanks to two heads of state), and satisfy my need to understand certain events in our history... let me repeat, we did not go to battle in order to return Ahidjo to power. That would have been unthinkable. It was against our ethics and our politics. We knew the role that each and everyone played in the events which marked out the road to Cameroon’s independence. Let’s stop these tales which people use to assuage their conscience or to justify the post April 84 criminal repression. History is always written by the winners. Back then is was a good strategy to stigmatize Ahidjo in a bid to achieve that final victory…” On Colonel Saleh Ibrahim the Alleged Coup “Ringleader” ”The highest ranking members in the “Jose” movement were Captains. Colonel Saleh Ibrahim, whom they executed, Colonel Ngoura Belhadji or Ousmanou Daouda, etc. were simply victims of the hatred of Paul Biya’s men. Saleh Ibrahim was not the leader of the coup. In fact, we also kept him under guard in his house to prevent him from leaving. We did this because we understood the mentality of superior officers, their propensity to switch sides. Therefore, we could not involve them in this patriotic venture. The so-called victors had to justify their cruelty by blaming officers from the North. The leadership was a coalition of which the JOSE movement was the frontline, the armed wing. Some of the members were Marxists. This you did not know. ”As for Issa Adoum, he was a vital player in obtaining civilian support for the coup, and his designation as Head of State resulted from a vote within the Higher Military Council. This does not mean that he would necessarily have become the president in the event of a victory. I am convinced because the majority of our comrades were determined to completely restructure national life. Remember that back then, Africa was in the throes of a series of coups inspired by young revolutionary officers”. Why The Coup Failed “Without going into details, there are a number of noteworthy factors that explain what happened, among them, the disclosure of the plot by an officer of presidential security at 3 pm on April 5; the sending away of certain officers at the presidential palace to their homes after the disclosure, when they were supposed to arrest the occupants of the palace (you know whom I am talking about); the about-face of the airborne commandos from the Koutaba military base; the failure to transmit key instructions to comrades who were camped on the outskirts of the capital; and I think the failure to create an urban guerilla front, etc…. “There were also a number of technical and logistics problems, along with other subjective factors which I cannot discuss here”. Any Regrets? “In all seriousness, I don’t regret our action. You know, the absence of the rule of law [in Cameroon today] continues to comfort me in my belief that we were right. What is the meaning of the recent constitutional revision? What is the meaning of the creation of ELECAM and the manner in which its members were selected? This is nothing but a confirmed monarchy. We cannot accept this… in the end, these two acts constitute fatal errors for this regime. “We want the rule of law, democracy, social justice and progress. I think that every Cameroonian today – and I am speaking to all Cameroonians, we must know when to cross the red line in order to liberate our people from dictatorship. No one, and I mean no one, will do it for us. It is a collective right and obligation. “Nevertheless, you want to know if, 25 years later, I regret the actions that we took. In the name of my comrades, I offer my regrets and my most sincere condolences to the victims of our actions… It will be irresponsible on my part not to do so. "Cameroon Will Be Back" “Last February, Cameroonians commemorated the first anniversary of the youth revolt. Once again, I pay a vibrant tribute to all these assassinated youths for saying no to the fiddling about with the constitution... The jailed youths must be freed without condition. I also call for the liberation of Lapiro de Mbanga. I am also thinking of all those imprisoned militants of the SCNC, at a time when dialogue with these compatriots should prevail, they are being forced into an escalation... At this beginning of the 21st century, our towns and villages deserve better... the stakes and challenges are not insurmountable. "Cameroon will be back."

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Former Ambassador Jerome Mendouga - The Dog That Must Return To Its Vomit

By Avitus Agbor in The U.S

 

Former Cameroonian Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Jerome Mendouga, made a petition for political asylum in the United States recently. That petition, based on its demerits, was declared ‘dead on arrival’ by the United States Immigration Services, a division of the United States’ Department of Homeland Security. His previous official position as plenipotentiary of the Government of Cameroon to the United States; a priceless actor in the political affairs of Cameroon on the international terrain; a member of a ‘state gang’ that has perpetrated gruesome atrocities against its people; a disciple of the disastrous socio-economic and political policies of the CPDM regime, and currently a person of interest in the investigation of the Albatros affair; no wiser decision could have been reached by the asylum officer than denying the petition.

H.E. Jerome Mendouga resided in the United States, one of the countries in which the number of petitions for asylum (political) by Cameroonians is skyrocketing. As a seasoned diplomat who was misled to believe in the perpetuity of his tenure, he insulated himself from the contextual realities; with regards to the bases upon which such petitions are made, and secondly, who, in practical terms, deserves protection in the United States. Having perused the cap that articulates the eligibility for asylum, he must have been lured to think that not being a permanent resident or citizen of the United States, he would obviously be eligible to make such a petition. However, eligibility to petition for asylum does not necessarily mean approval of that petition.

Had he reflected much on the contextual framework within which asylum petitions are made; he would have understood that different routes could take him to the destination (approval) without electing the option of political beliefs or affiliations. An apostle of a government that has no regard for bono mores, an incarnation of deceit, manipulation and segregation, he could have taken the extra mile to spin his individual circumstances to give some credibility to his claim. To rely on social grouping could have been a viable option. That could have been wiser and better, considering the fact that Cameroon’s persecution of homosexuals has earned the contempt and dismay of the international community. Governors in the United States have openly denounced their families as they change their sexual orientation. Not suggesting what may amount to a conspiracy, he could have engaged in a surreptitious transaction with his family, openly changed his sexual orientation to gay or bisexual, and made his claim. Could he have predicated a case on the UN Convention against torture? Apparently, that is not a remote possibility. However, he was once a distinguished official in a government that is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture, but is in constant violation of its international obligations as torture (and cruel and degrading treatment and punishment) remain meted to Cameroonians. He who seeks equity must do equity. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. How clean are his hands if he has to count on protection based on the UN Convention against Torture? Not being streetwise, he could not devise any way to bend the law without breaking it.

To have been appointed an ambassador to the United States, performed the duties articulated in his job description, condoned and endorsed the gruesome political violence and atrocities of a regime he represented, defended a system that is indefensible, and shuttled from one nation to another as chief diplomat of the CPDM regime, the entire world is a living witness to the fact that he actively supported the system and vice versa, and it is too late for him to wash his hands like Pontius Pilate.

Even if he were to wash his hands, the bloodstains remain indelible. The prosecution of Nazi criminals following the surrender of Germany in 1945 was made easier by a simple but effective strategy developed and implemented by United States Supreme Court Justice and Counsel to the International Military Tribunal, Robert H. Jackson. The Allied Powers accused the Nazi regime of criminal conspiracy that led to the perpetration of crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Considering the commission of the crimes to be the offshoots of a criminal conspiracy, the Nazi regime (the Party, its leaders, and affiliate organizations like SS, SA, Gestapo) was labelled a criminal enterprise, and its members criminals based on voluntary membership. Applying that approach, strict senso and mutatis mutandi, the economic and political crimes committed by the CPDM regime would make it a joint criminal enterprise, and its key leaders and members like Jerome Mendouga, would be brought to justice.

As chief diplomat to the United States where Cameroonians seek political asylum based on past or well-founded fear of future persecution, Jerome Mendouga stiffened services to those who authored or benefited from such petitions. He established a system that penalized such individuals, confiscating passports sent to the embassy for renewals. With a staff that could not contain its callousness towards Cameroonians with an English accent; arrogance, disrespect and unprofessionalism were the pillars upon which it built its customer service. With live cables building an unattractive cobweb, the embassy building looks desolate and inhabitable. Well located in the heart of metro Washington (DC), it is the epicentre of the healthiest and heaviest roaches, shamelessly and boldly harassing visitors and interrupting conversations. With the staff adapted to such working conditions, any visitor to the embassy down Mass. Avenue ends with an avalanche of pity for those who work there. Circulars dated in the late 90s decorate the walls, at times struggling to secure themselves to the paint that is being eroded by even the gentlest wind. A visit to the embassy building, an assessment of the services rendered, the customer service relationship, and the facilities within the building automatically dictate to the visitor that an intense and undiluted opposition to change resides in the ambassador. Cameroon’s embassy in Washington (DC) is a glimpse of the infrastructural cesspool and decay of the country’s socio-economic and political institutions.

A regime that is saturated with intellectuals who know how to bend the law without breaking it, they possess uncommon skills in a different kind of administration. They record their activities with Teutonic thoroughness. With their records being examined and details of transactions verified, the stage is now set for the settlement of political differences. In what seems to be the scandalum magnatum of the decade, some of Cameroon’s key political actors are now facing the wrath of the master and the judicial system. Needless to name names, surreptitious transactions of unimaginable consequences have been exposed, and political reprisals in the form of accountability before administrative and judicial authorities seem to be the sweet wages for their allegiance to, and betrayal of their master. The Albatros Affair seems to be akin to a Judas Iscariot kiss, both in the nature and consequences contemplated. However, unlike Judas Iscariot, the perpetrators’ master (and his family) did not perish. He survived in order to see them face-to-face and appreciate the nature of their bond. Political tit-for-tat in different forms must come as the unavoidable consequences. Ambition kills, and absolute ambition kills absolutely. It is not new in African politics to see the authors of a political storm identified and victimized in the ensuing calm.

Jerome Mendouga sought to gain political asylum in the USA as a means to circumvent investigation and possibly prosecution. A perfunctory decision that conveys imbecility and naivety, for, had he read Asylum 101 thoroughly, he would have understood that asylum is not, and can never be used by an ex-diplomat like him to evade prosecution. Having lived and worked in the United States, it was commonsensical for him to know that the United States is a country of law, and is built on the rule of law, distinct from the country he represented, which is built on rule by law, and is a country of people and passions. As a country of people and passions, founded on rule by law, he took no positive step to make the judicial system better. Having lived and worked in a democratic country, he must have learned that rule of law is a key institution to the democratisation of a country. If the administration of justice did not bother him because he had been raised to the apparatchik of CPDM, he now sees himself as a potential victim of what he failed to make better. Having coated himself in different layers of self-deception, inevitability and superiority above the legal system, he oscillated between impunity and immunity. Today, he occupies an uncertain position as he vacillates between vendetta with the master, and the wrath of a judicial system that will probably intern him.

No matter how long the extradition process will take, Jerome Mendouga should be bold enough to return to the country he proudly served. He deserves a colossal pension for his extraordinary service to CPDM. It is practically unwise and politically incorrect to castigate a system that he once served when there has been no major change in circumstantial realities. He should go to Cameroon, then, consider returning to the USA to petition for asylum. That would actually give him a sense of what others have experienced, or fear when they make a case based on a well-founded fear of persecution. Jerome Mendouga should return home and drink the cup of coffee he made. Asylum seekers have detested the situation, and he may as well be part of the bandwagon. He should return to Cameroon, reconnect with the political ancestors, see eye to eye with his accomplices, and get the benediction of his long time pal, brother and master, before returning to the United States. As moral author of the atrocities of the regime, he must return to Cameroon to eat, and if possible, choke in his own vomit. Yes, Jerome Mendouga will be the perfect exemplum of a washed sow that returns to its wallow, and as he does that, one lesson he did not know but must learn is that a political system that does nothing to protect the oppressed is a political system that will do nothing to protect the oppressor.

My Inquisitive Pen

 

Minister Adibime’s Upmanship And The Rot Inside His Ministry

 

By Chief Bisong Etahoben

 

For the past several months, only ministers who have a clear conscience and do not see exalted public office as an inheritance to conserve for yeas on end (like my friend) have been sleeping soundly. What with persistent rumours of a cabinet reshuffle, ministers who yesterday saw ministerial office as some place to sit on the throne and pass orders, have been forced to put on their work shoes and hit the road.

 

One minister on whom a lot of attention has been focused recently, has been the Minister of State Property and Land Tenure Pascal Anong Adibime. Honestly, I think that man has been doing some brave things that others before him dared not do perhaps for some reasons the public may only know afterwards. He has succeeded in chasing away illegal occupants of state houses, some of which were brazen-facedly seized and rented out for commercial purposes by people who have never even worked for government, not to talk of ever occupying them. Minister Adibime seems to have succeeded in dismantling a network of individuals who were making millions from renting out state houses to private individuals.

 

However, this aspect of his job has only come to the forefront because of his activism in throwing these unscrupulous individuals manu militari from properties that did not belong to them.

 

The axe the average Cameroonian has had to grind with Mr. Adibime’s ministerial department over the years has been that concerning the issuance of land certificates. It is no secret that getting a land certificate from Mr. Adibime’s ministry has always been as difficult as finding a hen with teeth in a poultry. And this problem continues to this day in spite of all the noise on radio, TV and newspaper columns by the minister himself and his assigns.

 

One would have thought that with all the arrests of highly-placed government officials for bribery, corruption and embezzlement, those in office would by now be sitting upright doing their job and only their job without having to extort money from users of public services. No! Corruption and bribery are still very much alive and well in the Ministry of State Property and Lend Tenure in spite of all the noise by Minister Adibime. Workers in that ministry still openly ask for bribe before even tracing one’s file there, not to talk of treating files promptly.

 

I am writing this with all the authority because I am a victim of the evil machinations of Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure operatives who have been holding my documents for a land certificate for about five years now. Living and working in Yaounde, I have made several trips to that ministry, following my documents which were forwarded there from Limbe for a piece of government land allocated to me but to date, I am yet to be issued a land certificate.

 

In fact, but for the official stamps appended on the letter forwarding my documents to Yaounde in the various offices through which the documents have passed, one may be forced to think my documents are missing. Each time myself or any of the persons I send there to follow up the documents gets to the ministry, we are openly told that to even start searching for the documents, we must give bribe! The woman in the said office asks for the bribe with such alacrity that one would think it is a debt.

 

I have personally written a number of letters to the minister but I am yet to be honoured with even one reply. People working there behave as if they are in their family estates. Even greeting someone who greets them back seems like a luxury they cannot afford to spare.

 

Perhaps the day public service workers realise that the offices they work in belong to all the people of Cameroon and that they are only wage-earners in the employ of the people of Cameroon, they would start respecting service users who come to public offices.

 

The English in their knowledge called government workers ‘civil servants’, which implies they are supposed to serve the public. But in Cameroon, they have gradually elevated themselves to civil masters and today, they are the bosses to the public they are supposed to serve.

 

Mr. Adibime is doing a great job freeing state property from the pangs of rogue individuals but he needs to do a bigger house-cleaning job in his ministry so that people are better served without being obliged to give bribe money.

 

Police Demand 100 Million FCFA Bribe To Return Fotso’s Passport

 

By Our Economic Affairs Reporter

 

Mr. Yves Michel Fotso, heir to the Fotso business conglomerate and one-time General Manager of Cameroon Airlines who has been in the news recently in connection with the presidential plane the “Albatross” and other alleged misdemeanours, has categorically declared that he had nothing to do with the “Albatross” affair adding that the affair broke after he had already left Cameroon Airlines.

 

Mr. Fotso who has decided to give his own side of the story after several media stories accusing him of many wrong-doings and interrogations by the press and the police respectively revealed that on being appointed General Manager of CAMAIR he met a file on the purchase of a presidential plane that had been conferred on his predecessor Mr. Atangana Etoundi. He said he continued negotiations for the plane, a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) and the sum of 31 million U.S. dollars – 21 billion FCFA at the time -  (about 40% of the total cost of the plane) was eventually advanced to the Boeing company for the manufacture of the plane.

 

“In fact, the plane was actually manufactured, according to the specifications of the Head of State, i.e. fitting it with the various security gadgets such as anti-missile capabilities etc., inspected by Cameroonian authorities and received by a team from CAMAIR and the Etat Major of the Presidency of the Republic. At the last moment however, for reasons not known to me, the presidency decided not to take delivery of the plane after all”, Mr. Fotso revealed.

 

Mr. Fotso revealed that having made the Boeing company to manufacture a plane according to particular specifications and deciding not to buy it afterwards must necessarily involve wasted expenditure, as the manufacturer would not return the exact amount of money deposited as advance.

 

Pressed to say why he thought the presidency decided not to take delivery of the plane, Mr. Fotso said it would appear some people in the presidency thought he had been paid a commission on the purchase of the plane and felt he had to share the commission with them. However, since he did not ask nor receive any commission, there was nothing to share and so the head of state’s collaborators decided to torpedo the arrangement in the hope of starting a new arrangement from which they would harvest huge kickbacks. They actually did by way of the Albatross.

 

As concerns the Albatross which is today making headlines and to which he is being linked, the Fotso empire heir declared that he had nothing to do with the Albatross affair adding that he had already left CAMAIR when arrangements for the plane were decided upon.

 

Asked whether he was sacked from CAMAIR and why, Mr. Fotso revealed that he thinks the decision to send him away from CAMAIR was informed by the fact that he refused to allow CAMAIR planes fly without being insured. He said CAMAIR was owing several millions by way of unpaid insurance and so the insurer informed the company that it would no longer cover its planes. However, pressure was put on him to let the planes fly, a thing he refused to do as this was illegal and against the interest of the passengers. CAMAIR planes, he said, remained grounded for 48 hours during which time the president was pressurised into signing the decree replacing him.

 

The former CAMAIR boss who revealed that since leaving CAMAIR in 2003 he has never spent more than a week in one country said his passport has been seized since April this year and so he has been forced to remain only within the national borders for the last five months.

 

Some media houses had alleged that Mr. Fotso had taken refuge under his father’s armpit in Bandjoun their ancestral home since his passport was seized in the hope that his father would protect him from arrest. To this Mr. Fotso replied that he needed time to prepare his response to all the allegations being made against him, and revealed that so far, he has released about 25.000 pages of documents to Cameroon’s judicial authorities to help them in their investigations. Nevertheless, he said, those making such allegations seem not to understand that whether he stays in Douala or in the village, so long as he is in the country, he can be arrested wherever he is. And too, he went on, whenever he is in Bandjoun, he lives in his own house and not with his father.

 

Also talking about his passport, Mr. Fotso confirmed that some individuals had approached his father demanding the sum of one hundred million (100.000.000) FCFA for them to cause the release of his passport but his father, whom he said believes in the rule of law, has reported the matter to the competent authorities including evidence. “It is now left for the competent authorities to decide on what to do”, he declared.

 

Mr. Fotso categorically denied rumours that he intended to escape and to live in Singapore adding that he had long before the present imbroglio wanted to go stay in Singapore simply because Singapore is the principal financial centre of the world after New York and he being involved in banking, it was just normal. “I never said I was going on exile”, he insisted.

 

As to allegations by one Francis Nana, said to be the Director General of a financial outfit known as Sygma that he was a money launderer, which led to investigations being opened against him in Switzerland, Mr. Fotso said he had never ever met the said Francis Nana. He said he did not know why Nana had to make such damaging allegations against him. All the same, he said the allegations were untrue adding that there is no separate case against him in Switzerland but rather, the same allegations Nana made here in Cameroon were deposited at various diplomatic missions here. He said he has never committed a crime in Switzerland.

 

He revealed that he was convinced the intention is to destabilise the Fotso Group of Companies adding that Nana Francis is a fraudulent individual who claims to be a financial expert owning Cabinet Sygma. He categorically declared that Francis Nana who claims to be a chartered accountant in France is not known as such within French financial circles and the President of the French Accounting and Auditing Commission says he is unknown in France and as such is an impostor.

 

Mr. Fotso spoke at length on his stewardship of CAMAIR, where Nana is said to have accused him of having embezzled billions of FCFA. He revealed that he was appointed General Manager of CAMAIR on June 20, 2002 and met CAMAIR in “a catastrophic financial situation”. CAMAIR, he said, had been ordered to hand over two of its Boeing 737 latest June 21, 2002 because of debts owed. The Boeing 747 at the time was held up for several months in France because CAMAIR could not pay for its repairs and there were arrears of salary unpaid including penalties on the hire of one CAMAIR plane.

 

He said when he arrived at CAMAIR, the company had not been audited for over five years and as such, the company had no financial records to treat with.

 

He finally discovered that the company was 72 billion FCFA in debt when he took it over and some of these debts were fictitious. He said before leaving the company, he had reduced the debt to 49 billion FCFA. Mr. Fotso revealed that he was appointed to head CAMAIR because government wanted him to rescue the company from total collapse. He said contrary to other appointments where people get up to hear their names announced, he was invited by President Biya to discuss the appointment before it was made. He said he is not and was not a civil servant so his was the first appointment of a purely private sector individual to head a state corporation.

 

Without wanting to call names, Mr. Fotso revealed that after his audience with the president and his subsequent appointment, he set to work to save CAMAIR from total collapse with the conviction that the president’s close collaborators linked to CAMAIR would work in the same spirit. “But it would appear some of his close collaborators were not as faithful to him as they should have been. They rather used their positions to feed their ambitions”, he revealed, insinuating that the Cabinet Sygma headed by a fake financial expert is patronised by some of the president’s close collaborators.

 

The former CAMAIR boss revealed that immediately he arrived at CAMAIR, he ordered an audit and established accounting records from the 1995/96 fiscal year to 2001/2002 but these records disappeared immediately after he left.

 

He said he saved CAMAIR about 400 million FCFA monthly by renegotiating some of its hire and rents contracts. Citing one example, he said when he arrived, CAMAIR had a Boeing 737-200 that it was hiring from Ansett at 484.000 dollars (about 217.800.000 FCFA at today’s exchange rates) a month. He eventually renegotiated and brought it down to 295.000 dollars (about 132.750.000 FCFA) thus saving the company about 85 million FCFA monthly on that arrangement alone. He revealed that when he arrived CAMAIR, its annual turnover was 56 billion FCFA, which during the less than two years he worked there, he increased by 64% to 92 billion FCFA.

 

Talking about fictitious debts, Mr. Fotso cited Mobil Oil, which was billing them more than double the actual amount of fuel consumed and since there were no accounts, the individuals involved in the scam pocketed huge sums of money.

 

He said certain individuals might be after him because he shut a lot of holes through which CAMAIR money was siphoned into private pockets.

Could Mbango Be Stripped Of Gold Medal If She Fails Further Anti-doping Tests?

*Assures She Will Pass Any Further Tests

 

By Kombe Erick in Yaounde

Cameroon’s lone Olympic gold medallist Françoise Mbango may undergo another anti-doping test and should she fail it, she may be stripped of her medal. Fortunately however, Mbango is sure she would not fail the test and has reassured Cameroonians that should another anti-doping test be necessary, it would be normal Olympic procedure. She revealed that she is in regular contact with the Beijing Olympics Organising Committee should she be needed for further tests.

Mbango who was speaking during a press conference at the Yaounde Hilton Friday August 29, 2008 revealed that during the Athens Olympics in 2004, she underwent four anti-doping tests and passed them all with flying ties adding that this time would be no exception should it be decided that she be further tested.

Contrary to the very belligerent Françoise whom Cameroonians saw before the Beijing Olympics who spared no opportunity to lambast the Cameroon Athletics Federation and its president Ange Sama, Mbango who spoke August 29 at the Yaounde Hilton was conciliatory, pouring praises on the Athletics Federation and the National Olympics Committee for contributing to her success at the Beijing Olympics.

“Everybody in his/her own way contributed towards my victory. The Cameroon Athletics Federation contributed by registering me for the Olympics; I have a 2008 licence, and it is still the Federation that recognised my requisite output to enable me take part in the Games. The same thing applies to the National Olympic Committee. I would say that they essentially performed their duties”, Mbango told the press.

The Olympic gold medallist however said the Cameroon Athletics Federation and the National Olympic Committee would have to examine their consciences and ask themselves why a sporting nation like Cameroon could only win one medal at the Olympics though it sent up to 30 athletes to the competition.

Françoise Mbango nevertheless  reserved her ultimate gratitude for the presidential couple whom she said contributed most towards her success by offering her 80.000.000 (eighty million) FCFA to enable her prepare for the Games.

“That is why I have dedicated my medal to the President of the Republic”, Mbango said.
Françoise Mbango revealed that her ultimate goal is to beat the world triple jump record adding that her determination at the Olympic Games had been to do just that but regretted that she did not succeed in that regard.

“I am satisfied with my performances but I think I can do better. There is still the world record to be beaten and that record should be held by a Cameroonian”, Mbango said with determination written all over her face.
The 32-year-old world champion revealed that she would be going to Germany on September 14 where she would take part in an athletics competition in Stuttgart.

“I am 11 centimetres away from the world record and it is necessary that I beat it”, she said.

Asked how she thought she would use her Olympic glory to help young Cameroonians, Mbango revealed that she would soon begin touring various schools in the country to encourage young Cameroonians to take part in triple jumping.

She revealed that she brought along some sporting equipment from China, which she intends to distribute to various schools for the promotion of triple jumping.

The press conference ended with a one-minute silence in honour of a man who died in Biyem-Assi whilst taking part in a debate on the Mbango phenomenon. The said man was on the side of Mbango against other debaters who were on the side of the Athletics Federation president Ange Sama. A fight ensued during the debate and the man was mortally wounded.

As we went to press, Mbango was still camped in the Yaounde Hilton waiting to be received by President Paul Biya on a date yet to be announced.

Gov’t Should Stop Paying Lip Service To Bakassi And Make Sure Civil Servants Posted There Effectively Move There With Their Families

 

Dear Editor,

A lot has been said and written on the final transfer of Bakassi from Nigeria to Cameroon since the ceremony on August 14, 2008. The noise-making is good enough, especially when it comes from the mouths of politicians who want to win some kudos from the settlement. It is not as if one is saying here that the settlement of the Bakassi dispute is not a big political coup for President Paul Biya. It is. But like some philosophers have said in the past, it is sometimes easier to win a war than to keep the peace.

 

Our government should not forget that it was because of the abandonment of the Bakassi area that the Nigerians took advantage and occupied the area in the first place. Cameroon did not only abandon the area by not physically and officially occupying Bakassi. It even allowed the few government services that were sited there to remain unoccupied.

 

Since the handing over, commentators have been talking about the presence of government services that have been established in the area since Nigeria started the handing-over process two years ago. Implanting some government services in Bakassi is good but making sure these service localities and offices are effectively occupied by Cameroonians is best.

 

When we talk of Nigerians constituting the majority of the inhabitants of Bakassi, it is not as if there are thousands of Nigerians there at the turn of every corner. No! If the Cameroonian authorities made sure that the government services currently being established there were effectively occupied, the number of Cameroonians living in Bakassi would easily surpass that of Nigerians.

 

It is estimated that each Cameroonian worker takes care of about ten family members. Just imagine the number of Cameroonians who would be in Bakassi if government were to establish the services of all the various ministries in Bakassi and put its feet down that all those posted there effectively move there with their families, both immediate and extended.

 

Let us estimate that about five civil servants were posted to each government ministerial department there i.e. Basic Education, Secondary Education, Health, Forestry and Wildlife, Environment and Nature Protection, Tourism, Scientific and Technical Research, Small and Medium Size Enterprises, Land Tenure and State Property, Housing and Urban Development, Transport, Agriculture, Fisheries, Police, Gendarmerie, Post and Telecommunications, Communication, Culture, Justice, Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, Finance, Economy, Planning and Territorial Development, Social Affairs, Women and Family Planning, Industry, Mines and Technological Development, Commerce, Public Service and Administrative Reforms, Sports and Physical Education, Youth, Water and Energy, Employment and Professional Training, as well as Labour and Social Security. These are about thirty-two services multiplied by five, which would amount to 160 civil servants. When you add their children and extended families, this could add up to about 1.600 Cameroonians in each administrative unit chief town in Bakassi. If government were to insist that all these civil servants register their children in schools there in Bakassi, there would be enough primary school pupils to feed the secondary and high schools there to warrant the posting of enough teachers who have to be forced by all means to stay in Bakassi.

 

What has been happening all along is that Cameroonians only pay lip-service to Bakassi. Even administrative officers posted there remain in Yaounde, Douala, Limbe, Kumba and Mundemba while creating the impression that they are in Bakassi thus leaving the area to be permanently occupied by Nigerians. And too, the way government treated the funeral of the Divisional Officer and gendarmes who were killed in Bakassi recently does not serve as an example to encourage Cameroonians posted there to hurry to go to Bakassi.

 

I think it is time government stops paying lip-service to the occupation of Bakassi and make sure this Cameroonian territory is effectively occupied. It is possible and it can be done if government wants it done.

 

ATABONG NKENGFACK

KUMBA TOWN

 

Column – My Inquisitive Pen

By Chief Bisong Etahoben

 

Making Cameroonians Feel At Home In Bakassi

 

I have always told friends that if there truly is reincarnation, then in my second coming on earth, I would not go to school. That way, you live a happier life like my kinsmen have been living in the village over the centuries. They grow older and die happy. Yes, they do because they are not involved in all the skulduggery that “book” people and town dwellers are artists at.

 

In my village, folks get up in the morning, wear their farm dresses, pick up their cutlasses and hoes and head for the bush. Those who have their felled palms tap them and during rest time, their wives roast some cocoyams, which they jointly eat with red oil and salt and finally, they take sweet seeps of the palm wine. By evening they are done for the day and head home with the foodstuff they have harvested which they cook on arrival at home and feed themselves and their children with. The same exercise starts all over again the next day and so on and so forth.

 

Try to discuss some complicated political issues with them like the embezzlement of public funds, nepotism, bribery and corruption and all the ills in our society today and sometimes some of them even ask you how that concerns them and you!

 

The Bakassi hand-over thing once again aroused my worries about the way that part of Cameroon is being treated. Some years back after the Nigerians had put in about five years in Bakassi, I travelled to Ubenikang and had the opportunity to discuss with some young Cameroonians from that area. Honestly, I was shocked by what they told me. They informed me for the short time Nigerians had been in their area, they had done enough development to last them the lifetime of all Cameroonian administrations. Besides infrastructures, youths from the area had been granted scholarships to enable them attend school and some had even been sponsored to universities in Europe.

 

In fact, I was shocked to hear a compatriot say they would rather that Bakassi is not handed back to Cameroon! “What did they do for us for the whole time we were under Cameroon?”, the young man asked. Though shocked, I was honest to see with him there. What really had the Cameroonian government been doing for the Bakassi people until the Nigerians came? Nothing!

 

I know many Cameroonian administrators who were supposed to lead the way for the Cameroonisation of Bakassi who rather remained in Kumba or Ekondo-Titi at most than go to Ubenikang, Kombo Abedimo, Kombo Etindi etc when posted there. Most government functionaries who were supposed to lay the groundwork for the movement of Cameroonian people, goods and services to Bakassi remained in other divisions in the Southwest province and some even in Yaounde from where they wrote fictitious reports about their activities in Bakassi.

 

Even treasury officials who were posted there and who were supposed to oil the investment machinery by disbursing funds intended for the development of the area stayed away from there but connived with administrators and other government services to embezzle budgetary allocations meant for Bakassi.

 

Nobody cared about Bakassi and even as we make noise about the place today, so many things are still happening there yet our big talkers turn their faces the other way. One big tool of sovereignty is the national currency. In most parts of the Bakassi peninsula today, the Cameroonian currency is not legal tender. Even our military posted in those areas use the Nigerian naira!

 

One may be forced to ask: What is the difficulty imposing our currency in our territory there? Over the years, even the military posted to Bakassi went there only to extort money from the few Cameroonians and majority Nigerians living there. In fact, the Cameroonian military did a lot to chase away the few Cameroonians who were trying to compete with the Nigerians in Bakassi.

 

I knew a classmate of mine who was hurried to his grave because of the treatment he received from the Cameroonian military in Bakassi. James Tambe, whose other family now lives in Mile 4 Bonadikombo in Limbe, was a tailor who had a workshop in Gardens. He eventually raised enough money and decided to buy a canoe and venture into fishing in Bakassi. That was about twenty years ago. He started off very well and shortly afterwards, bought another canoe. Then the Cameroonian military one day swooped down on him. They seized his two canoes ostensibly to use them in tracking down Nigerian military infiltrators. Tambe’s canoes were never returned to him! With everything he had taken away from him, he was forced to leave Bakassi and headed back to Manyu, his division of origin where he died shortly afterwards because of frustration.

 

To date, nobody has asked to know where he is. Granted that his two canoes were commandeered in order to help our military secure Bakassi for us, did it mean the owner of the canoes did not merit any compensation? You know of my classmate’s case now because I have written about it here. There are so many other Cameroonians who were chased out of Bakassi who left the place and went away to die in silence and despair.

 

Francophones have always treated Anglophones as Biafrans. And those Cameroonians who were in Bakassi who tried to liase with our military there were always treated with suspicion and branded “Biafran” spies.

 

We have taken back Bakassi but unless we make it Cameroonian and treat the Cameroonians living there as compatriots, militant Nigerian groups would continue to call the shots there.

Detained Minister’s Daughter Jailed 5 Years In America

 

By A Special Correspondent

 

The daughter of detained former Minister of Mines and Water Resources and former General Manager of the National Ports Authority, Siyam Siwe was August 7, 2008 sentenced to five years imprisonment and a fine of 100.000 dollars (about 45 million FCFA) in the United States of America for illegal trafficking in ivory.

 

Thirty-two-year-old Tania Siyam, whom his father had with a Canadian woman while studying in that country more than thirty years ago, is said to have used the cover of his father whilst he was General Manager of the National Ports Authority to be exporting the said ivories in containers through the Douala port between 1998 and 2005. She holds dual nationalities of Cameroon and Canada.

 

According to the Last Great Ape (LAGA) an international animal rights protection non-governmental organisation (NGO), Tania was jailed by a court in the town of Akron in Ohio State, USA.

 

Tania who had earlier moved from Canada to Cameroon exported ivory under cover of arts objects and she was first arrested in Toronto, Canada in 2004 but after her release, she continued the illegal activities until she was again arrested this last time that has taken her to jail.

 

According to LAGA, the illegal activities carried out by Tania Siyam alone were responsible for the death of about 12 African elephants.

 

It should be recalled that the sale of elephant ivory has since been banned by international conventions.

 

British Gov’t Statement On The Final Handover Of Bakassi By Nigeria To Cameroon

 

The United Kingdom as a Witness to the Greentree Agreement attaches great importance to successful and peaceful implementation of this Agreement, which implements the judgement of the International Court of Justice. British High Commissioner to Nigeria Bob Dewar represented the UK at the ceremony in Calabar on 14 August, which transferred authority in the Bakassi Peninsula.

 

We congratulate the Government of Nigeria and Cameroon for giving, in this way, an important example to the rest of the world of the peaceful settlement of differences in accordance with international law. 

 

We commend the continued commitment of the United Nations to this process and the diligent work of the UN Secretary General, his Special Representative for West Africa, the Chairman of the Follow Up Committee and the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission in facilitating this peaceful settlement.

 

The British Government extends its good wishes to the peoples of both countries, in the hope that this agreement will open new prospects for bilateral good will, confidence and co-operation as well as consolidating peace, stability, human rights and prosperity in this sub-region.

 

 

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Drought in Niger aggravates the nation's poverty

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