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‘It May No Longer Be Enough To Be A Journalist Here ... It Adds Prestige To One When International Colleagues Screen And Admit Him/Her Into Their Midst On Merit’

Forum For African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) Board Member Chief Bisong Etahoben

Since June 2010 when WEEKLY POST Editor/Publisher Chief Bisong Etahoben qualified for the professional membership of the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) he is no longer at ease. Besides attending the FAIR West African Regional conference in Cotonou, Benin Republic from August 29 to September 3, 2010 where he was one of the skynote speakers, Chief Etahoben has travelled to South Africa and elsewhere on FAIR business.

The WEEKLY POST’s Eric Kombey Wolete took some of Chief Etahoben’s now very limited time to talk to him about FAIR. Excerpts:

ERIC: About a month ago, I read an article in EDEN newspaper reporting that you had been elected into the Board of FAIR. And before then, we had read a lot about an investigative article on corruption in soccer in Cameroon in particular, and Africa as a whole. What is this FAIR all about and why is it taking so much of your time?

CHIEF ETAHOBEN: As can be seen in the FAIR poster on the wall behind you, (there is a FAIR poster on the wall of the WEEKLY POST editorial offices in Yaounde) FAIR aims at entrenching investigative journalism within the African media landscape. Its motto is: Aim Higher, Dig Deeper, Expose More Truth. I got initiated into FAIR through the soccer corruption investigation you have mentioned and since then, things have really been on the fast lane for me in FAIR. From Cotonou where me and other colleagues – Theophilus Abbah of Nigeria and Eric Mwamba of Congo now resident in Australia – lectured on our participation in FAIR sponsored trans-national investigations (TI’s in our parlance), I was invited to the combined FAIR Annual General Meeting/African Investigative Journalists Conference (AIJC)/University of the Witwatersrand Power Reporting meet that took place in the University of the Witwatersrand.

During the FAIR AGM, I was elected into the nine-member Board of FAIR and during my first meeting as a Board member of FAIR, I was elected Chairman of the Standards Committee, which is easily the most important committee of FAIR since it deals with professional ethics and standards. And too, during a FAIR Board meeting on December 2, 2010, I was elected a member of the four-man headhunt committee for the recruitment of a new Director for FAIR. An advertisement to that effect is published in this issue of the WEEKLY POST.

ERIC: From the Power Reporting programme, I can see you were scheduled to deliver two lectures: one on "Killing Soccer in Africa" and the other on "Reporting African Traditions". What were these all about?

CHIEF ETAHOBEN: I don’t know what criteria the organisers (FAIR and the University of the Witwatersrand) used in selecting me to speak from the galaxy of investigative journalists from around the media world who converged on South Africa for the meeting. I can only guess that this might have been occasioned by my performance during the FAIR West African Regional Conference in Cotonou. And I can also guess that if the applause I received after my two lectures was anything to go by, then I acquitted myself very brilliantly of the tasks. National universities most times use the presence of professional talent in their countries to get professionals to lecture their students on the various professions. That is exactly what the Wits University has been doing with FAIR and AIJC over the years. So it was the same thing in November 2010 and we were drafted to lecture on how we went about investigating the award-winning articles to our credit and fielding questions from journalism students and colleagues.

ERIC: How does one become a member of FAIR?

CHIEF ETAHOBEN: There are many categories of FAIR membership. But the main category is that of professional member to which I belong. To become a professional member of FAIR, one must be an investigative journalist first. And then, one must have published at least two thoroughly investigated and acclaimed articles that had a positive impact on the lives of the society in which the one operates. The articles have to be screened by the Standards Committee of FAIR which Chairman I am with effect from October 31, 2010. After passing through this professional hurdle, one must then pay his/her annual membership fee of US$50. To maintain the membership, one has to go through the same exercise every year i.e. presenting two published well investigated articles and paying the membership dues.

Perhaps I should add here that as of now, I am the only Cameroonian member of FAIR and I want to use this medium to encourage all my professional colleagues here in Cameroon to join this continental professional organisation. It is not enough to be a journalist here at home. It adds more prestige to one’s professional ego when one knows he submitted his/herself to the scrutiny of international professional colleagues and succeeded in being admitted into their midst by merit.

ERIC: What other activities does FAIR engage in?

CHIEF ETAHOBEN: FAIR encourages not only its members but also other continental journalists to engage in investigative journalism by financing investigative journalism projects considered worthwhile by the organisation. You see, FAIR realises that carrying out good investigative journalism involves money, which most media houses in Africa cannot afford. So it financially sponsors projects it deems worth undertaking for the benefit of the societies involved. I think I should add here that any Cameroonian, member of FAIR or not, who has a good investigative journalism project he/she has not been able to undertake because of lack of funds, should submit such project for FAIR’s appreciation which may result in financial sponsorship. Such project ideas and estimated costs should be sent directly to mentor@fairreporters.org or sent to me at chiefetahoben@aol.co.uk for onward transmission.

Besides this, FAIR also organises an annual competition for the Editors’ Courage Award and the African Investigative Journalist of the Year Award. The current award winner is Emmanuel Mayah from Nigeria who has won the African Investigative Journalist of the Year Award twice as well as the CNN Journalist of the Year twice. In fact Mayah was with me in my house in Limbe from December 18 to 22, 2010 for consultation on some very important professional projects as well as FAIR business. Mayah has in fact won 19 international journalism awards and is one of the best not only in Africa, but the world at large.

If Biya Is Patriotic, Let Him Tour All Divisions Of Cameroon During His Presidential Election Campaign 

Dear Editor,

I have a few suggestions for those who think Mr. Biya should still be President of Cameroon for another term. I would suggest that their candidate tour all the divisional headquarters of the country going by road from one town to another. In the next ten months, he should be able to campaign personally in all the divisional headquarters and see the realities of the life those he has ruled for thirty years are living in.

For example, let him tour the whole of Northwest Region going through the Ring Road on the ground and not by air; after touring the Northwest Region, he should leave Bamenda by road through Mamfe to Kumba to Ndian, Bangem, etc; tour the other provinces of Francophone Cameroon by road. That should prove his ability to stand the strain and that would prove that he loves Cameroon.

To just sit in his palace and have people feed him with lies does not qualify him as President of Cameroon.  Within these next ten months, he should tour the nation on road not by air. He cannot appreciate the suffering of his people by flying. Let him visit the hospitals and schools. Let him not use a four wheel drive vehicle from Mamfe to Kumba but his limousine. Let him go with the ministers, CPDM parliamentarians and governors of each region and let all of them drive in their beautiful Mercedes by road.

Let the President see how equipped the hospitals are in the country he has ruled for thirty (30) years and compare with the hospitals he has often gone to receive treatment in France and other European countries.

Let him see how difficult it is to drive through 120 kilometres, for example from Mamfe to Kumba or even from Mamfe town to Besongabang, a distance of less than 5 kilometres. This should prove that Mr. Biya wants to continue to be President of Cameroon.

The people of Cameroon should insist on seeing and knowing who their president is in person not as some cinema movie star because that is what he has been to Cameroonians. Let Mr. Biya make these tours and witness for himself how the country he has ruled for thirty (30) years has developed. Let him go round the city of Douala and compare the roads to those of other cities in other countries, such as, Tanzania, Zambia, our next door neighbour, Nigeria, etc.

Let him not compare Cameroon to Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali because that has been his yard stick. At the end of his tour, he should sit down and come to a decision whether he really loves Cameroon and why? If he has not loved Cameroon after benefiting from Cameroon all his life, let him at least show some remorse by stepping down, and dissolving his party CPDM because his failure is that of his party too. 

However, if Mr. Biya does not tour Cameroon to see and meet the people he wants to continue ruling but depend on listening to lies by his lieutenants, that will be a demonstration of not loving his country but himself and not being patriotic. If Mr. Biya depends on using tax payers’ monies and the resources of Cameroon for his campaign by using the services of civil servants who should not be used by any party for campaigns and sits in Yaounde and have those boys and girls run around and rig elections for him, encourage bribery by giving bags of rice and money to villages, that would be a demonstration that Mr. Biya does not care about Cameroon.

Let him know that his supporters use threats of force and/or killing those who have opposing views and support other candidates for presidency; that his not showing concern for these behaviours is a demonstration of lack of love for Cameroon.

Cameroon needs a president who loves Cameroon. Cameroon needs a president who cares about Cameroon. To whom much is given much is expected. Cameroon has given Mr. Biya free accommodation for over 60 years; the last thirty years Cameroonians have surrendered their pocket book to Mr. Biya hoping he would be a good steward but he has failed them woefully.

If Mr. Biya can go by road from Kumba to Mamfe using his limousine and no one pushing that car, keeps his windows open and in his Presidential suit, by the time he reaches Mamfe, let him look at his suit and even the car he drove in and tell us how good the road is. Let him camouflage like some old ordinary Cameroonian and go to a hospital and pretend that he is sick and see how clean and equipped the hospitals are! Let him evaluate his performance, the performance of his ministers, governors, divisional officers and grade himself and see if he can score and E. Let him camouflage and enter public transportation and see how many checks from Yaounde to Douala and how effective the checks are except for collecting 1,000 frs from each vehicle. These are my suggestions to our dear President. FOR THE LOVE OF MY COUNTRY.

Dr. Peter N. Njang

Barrister at Law

USA

Bravo Chief Etahoben For Column On Land Certificates

 

Dear Editor,

I write to say Bravo to Chief Bisong Etahoben for his column in the WEEKLY POST issue of September 24-30, 2008 concerning the voodoo that is involved in the issuance of land certificates. As Chief Etahoben pointed out, the public surely appreciated Minister Adibime’s decision to chase out individuals who illegally occupied government houses.

 

However, this has not been the main preoccupation of Cameroonians as concerns the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure. As Chief Etahoben rightly held, Cameroonians are more concerned with being issued land certificates for land they rightfully acquired. That files for land certificates sometimes take up to ten years before certificates are issued should be cause for the raising of eyebrows.

 

What really accounts for the long delays in issuing land certificates? Why is it that land certificates still take long to be issued in spite of all the noise Minister Adibime and his collaborators have been making about easing procedures in that ministry? Chief Etahoben’s case is a living witness to the decay still going on in that ministry so Minister Adibime should stop chasing the shadow and concentrate on the substance that has been the big cry of most Cameroonians. Once again, thank you Chief Etahoben for your timely alarm bell.

 

EWANG GEORGE

CHURCH STREET

LIMBE

The Good Example Of Mandela’s Wives

 

Dear Editor,

Thanks a million times for publishing the very educative picture of the Mandela wives on the front page of your newspaper of September 24-30, 2008. I guess your reason for publishing this picture was to send a message to Cameroonian households and especially to housewives that sharing a husband with another woman must not necessarily lead to war as is always the case here in Cameroon.

 

We here know of several cases where jealous housewives have resorted to juju in order to punish either their husbands for taking other wives or the new wives for daring to replace them in the matrimonial bedroom. That picture of Gracia Machel and Winnie Mandela sent a strong message to African homes that marriage is not a war front and just like a stage, actors come on stage and exit and should not declare war on those who succeed them on stage.

We thank you Gracia and Winnie for this very strong educative example.

 

AKUMAWAH DIANNE (MRS.)

AKWA - DOUALA

“Until Our People Learn Basic Hygiene, Hopes Of Totally Eliminating Malaria Will Be Futile”

 

Mrs. Jeannette Fongang Akeh Tebeh, a senior nurse working for a private clinic in Yaounde participated at a recent workshop on malaria control and treatment (See page four). She spoke exclusively to WEEKLY POST’s Augustine Uzoigwe on the outcome of the workshop:

 

WEEKLY POST: The three-day workshop on malaria control organised jointly by the WHO, Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health and UNICEF, has just ended and you took part in it. How do you evaluate it?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: My personal evaluation is that the workshop was good and beneficial to all doctors, nurses and other health personnel who took part in it. We were taught various forms of malaria control, treatment and prevention, especially on pregnant women and children under five years.

 

WEEKLY POST: Malaria continues to be a major killer in Cameroon and other countries within the tropics despite enormous efforts, financial and otherwise, made by governments to combat it. Why is malaria such an intractable disease? Why can it not be eliminated completely like in Cuba, a country within the tropics?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: For now, malaria seems intractable because mosquitoes, which carry and distribute the malaria parasite live and thrive in dirty and untidy surroundings. You look round our environment today and you find stagnant waters, dustbins full and sometimes unemptied for days or weeks, garbage cans littered here and there. These are breeding places for mosquitoes. There, they increase and multiply and through their bites inject the malaria parasites into our blood stream. No matter how much money governments spend to control malaria, until the population learns basic hygiene, the efforts of governments remain an exercise in futility. I do not know the case of Cuba, but if it is true that malaria has been eliminated in that country, you can be sure that the success was due to the preservation of the basic hygiene conditions of the Cuban people.

 

WEEKLY POST: The workshop seems to have laid emphasis on malaria and pregnant women. What were the main recommendations?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: The main recommendations were that pregnant women should be given preventive doses of anti-malaria drugs immediately they come for their first medical consultation and subsequent visits. Then from the 16th week of pregnancy, through the time of delivery and until the baby starts to walk, the women should take at least two tablets of fansidar regularly. Pregnant women also should endeavour to sleep under treated mosquito nets to avoid all possible direct contact with mosquitoes.

 

WEEKLY POST: Malaria is said to be taking more lives today than HIV/AIDS, yet people are not as frightened of malaria as they are of HIV/AIDS. Is it because we are so used to malaria that it has become part of our lives?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: No. I do not think so. If a patient comes to me and complains of malaria, I know the patient has a cure for his illness. But if he complains of HIV/AIDS, I am frightened because the patient has no cure and is on his way to the grave. It is not because malaria is part of our lives. It is simply because we have two illnesses: one can be cured and the other cannot be cured.

 

WEEKLY POST: The deadliest kind of malaria is known as plasmodium falciparum and is said to be found exclusively in Cameroon and other Central African countries. How does this kind of malaria manifest and why is Central Africa its favourite habitat?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: Malaria is transmitted by two kinds of mosquitoes: the anopheles and the culex. I am not sure if plasmodium falciparum is found only in Central Africa. In an interview like this, it is not necessary to go into scientific or medical details, but it is true that plasmodium falciparum kills easily. It is a very malignant kind of malaria. It manifests in profuse sweating, high temperature, loss of appetite and restlessness. But it can be treated if the patient sees the doctor or other qualified medical personnel quickly on attack.

 

WEEKLY POST: The kind of workshop you have just participated in is often held in the big cities and hardly, if ever, in the villages. Don’t you think such workshops are better held in villages where people are more vulnerable and where basic knowledge and treatment are non-existent?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: You are right. But I am not going to answer for those who have organised the workshop here. Hopefully, they would repeat the same exercise in the villages. But I must stress that malaria attacks everybody whether in the village or in the city and everybody is entitled to know the havoc malaria inflicts on the lives of people.

 

WEEKLY POST: You are a nurse in private practice. What help or facilities do you receive from government or from those who organised this workshop to enable you propagate what you have learnt to those who did not participate?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: This is rather a difficult question. But I think that the first help we have been given is to give appropriate and efficient treatment based on what we have learnt to those who consult us. By treating them, we are propagating what we have learnt. We ourselves, can also go ahead and organise similar workshops in our villages, in our family meetings and groups etc. Let me also mention that throughout the duration of the workshop, we were provided with taxi money to and from the place of the workshop in Efoulan District Hospital, not to mention the numerous books and literature we were given and encouraged to read even after the workshop.

 

WEEKLY POST: There is an anarchical proliferation of anti-malaria drugs in the market. Some are said to be fake. How do you advise patients on which drugs to take?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: I advise patients to consult a doctor or qualified medical personnel who will carry out necessary tests and prescribe appropriate and effective drugs. Patients should avoid self-medication.

 

WEEKLY POST: What about traditional herbs and plants and the so-called native doctors who say that malaria is a native disease and is better treated with native herbs and not drugs from Europe where mosquitoes and malaria do not exist? Do you sometimes prescribe native herbs and plants for malaria patients?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: I am aware that there are effective native treatments for malaria but we must differentiate between good native doctors and charlatans who, for example, administer excessive doses of native herbs to patients. Some of these people do not carry out laboratory tests to make sure the patient is suffering from malaria. It is not necessarily when you have high temperature or fever that it can be said that you are suffering from malaria. A great number of other illnesses have these same symptoms so it is necessary to go for tests and have good treatment, which would eliminate the malaria parasites from the blood and check the after effects of the infection.

 

WEEKLY POST: You have recommended that people should sleep under mosquito nets in order to avoid mosquito bites. But asthma patients, for example, would complain that the nets would prevent them from breathing freely. What advice do you give to that kind of patients?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: I think that the nets have small holes that allow in oxygen to enable people sleeping under them breathe. But the holes are too small to allow mosquitoes to penetrate and inflict bites. However, I would advise asthma patients to see a doctor or any qualified medical personnel who may recommend them to wear long clothing that could cover the whole body down to the toes.

 

WEEKLY POST: What about such products like moontiger, which emit smoke that drives the mosquitoes away but which are said to be toxic and dangerous to human respiratory organs?

 

MRS. FONGANG AKEH TEBEH: In as much as I do not intend to condemn any products manufactured for the purpose of malaria control, yet I would say that products that could be dangerous to human respiratory organs should be avoided especially in rooms where babies and children sleep. Instead, treated mosquito nets or long clothing should be used, not forgetting periodic administration of preventive drugs and medical consultations.

Regional And Tribal Discrimination In Employment At Embassies In Cameroon?

Dear Editor,

I am a university graduate from the Southwest province and I have been living in Yaounde since I graduated from the Anglo-Saxon University of Buea. It is over five years now since I left school and I have been searching for a job in our national capital in vain.

One disturbing thing I have noticed during these my years of job-hunting is that most international organisations and foreign representations in Cameroon are not equal opportunity employers as some of them (especially the Americans) claim. I have discovered that because people from certain regions of this country found their ways into these diplomatic missions as employees when they were just installed in this country, they did and have been doing everything to ensure that only people from their provinces of origin have ended up being employed there.

Diplomats are expected to know the political, geographic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds of the countries in which they serve. With this hindsight, they are expected to employ on merit with due consideration to avoiding turning their embassies and diplomatic representations into tribal and regional work stations. Unfortunately however, this has not been the case with most embassies in this country.

I say this with special reference to the embassies of English-speaking countries which have become playgrounds for regional political and tribal discrimination. I believe that within the two Anglophone provinces in this country, there are enough university and high school graduates from each of the provinces that it would not be just for a foreign embassy to have an Anglophone ratio of 20 to 1 in favour of one Anglophone province. This is not equal opportunity employment at all.

I know that those who mislead foreign diplomats who do recruitment, into recruiting only their tribesmen and provincial brothers and sisters would say the recruitment is based on merit. This cannot be true. How is it possible that out of twenty job opportunities in the embassy or diplomatic mission of an English speaking country, only one Southwesterner would qualify for employment as compared to nineteen Northwesterners? This is impossible.

I think what usually happens, and this is true, is that whenever there is a job opportunity in some of these embassies, those already working there make sure that applications from those who are not from their provinces of origin never reach the tables of recruiting officers of the embassies. I know this because I have been a victim of this sort of evil machinations myself.

I write here to alert the foreign missions based in Cameroon to ensure that recruitment in their missions is done to the satisfaction of their hosts and gives equal opportunities to all segments of the Cameroonian population. They should not allow themselves to be manipulated by regionalists and tribalists already working with them.

EBUNE MARTIN EPOLE

OBILI

Road Construction Coy Uses Eyumojock Sub Prefect To Cheat Njem-Akarem People.

 

By Andy Effimoben in Eyang-Emanghe

 

Three communities in the Njem-Akarem area of Eyumojock sub division in Manyu division were recently at war with SODIC, a road construction company that was involved in the construction of the Ndebaya-Abat road, over unfulfilled promises.

 

According to the concerned communities, when SODIC got the contract to construct an earth road from Ndebaya to Abat about three years ago, the whole Njem-Akarem area felt their problem of disenclavement was going to be over. Luckily, at Eyang-Emanghe and Onaku, the company found a huge quarry. These two communities which are not within the Ndebaya-Abat road axis, were not included in the road construction project. However, thanks to the quarry, SODIC undertook to bulldoze a road to these villages, grade it and put three wooden bridges over the three streams on the road. Furthermore, the company was to grade the school field at Onaku.

 

Some Inokun people who were to lose their cocoa trees as a result of the passing of the road to Onaku had to have some compensation from SODIC. The company was also to grade a handball pitch and create a roundabout in Inokun.

 

The SODIC company has now negated on all these points. It merely made a small track to enable its vehicles cart away the stones at Eyang-Emanghe and Onaku and did nothing else.

 

When the indigenes realised that they had been tricked, they stood up for their rights. Ekpe injunctions were put on all the heaps of stones gathered by SODIC ready for transportation, so as to prevent the company from carting the stones away.

 

SODIC reacted very sharply. It reported the indigenes to the Eyumojock administration and as usual, the D.O. for Eyumojock Ndubi Shadrach Abono who is ever so ready to be bribed into intimidating the local populations, sent a contingent of gendarmes to intimidate the people.

 

Today, it is on record that SODIC carried away about one hundred twenty-ton loads of stones from this area with the connivance of the Eyumojock Sub Prefect Ndubi Shadrach Abono and the gendarmerie brigade commander without fulfilling it own part of the contract. The company has since parked its equipment and vanished from the area without compensating the local people for their God-given natural resource, thanks to money received from SODIC by Sub Prefect Ndubi Shadrach Abono and the gendarmerie brigade commander.

 

This writer is of the opinion that the Eyumojock administration did these communities a great wrong. It is simply scandalous.

 

To show the ill intentions of the company, some young men from the villages who were working with the company and were owed about three months’ wages were abandoned without being paid. A sub contractor, whose name the WEEKLY POST got as Joseph Ntui Ambang is also in a legal battle with the company over unpaid money for work done.

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