Thursday, November 27, 2008

Draft budget:Cameroon Gov’t to raise taxes

For the past several years, government has systematically raised taxes, an approach which seems to be at odds with its much touted policies of poverty alleviation and incentives to investors

By Clovis Atatah

The already heavy tax burden on Cameroonians will get even heavier next year if the National Assembly goes along with government’s budget proposals.
Government is envisaging tax increases next year to make up for what it describes as an expected drop in oil revenue.
Although government did not directly refer to tax increases in the budget bill tabled at the National Assembly this week and the prime minister’s budget speech on Tuesday, the allusion to “broadening the tax” base is a euphemism for higher taxes.

In some cases, such as non-salaried income brokers, new income taxes have been introduced. Other new taxes will affect alcoholic beverages and mining companies.
The exemption on customs duty on fish, wheat and fish has been extended, but only by six months. For half of next year, these commodities will again be taxed like in the past years.

New and higher taxes are intended to help government attain its objective of raising non-oil revenue. In the 2008 budget, government targeted raising 1429 billion FCFA from non-oil sources. Next year, the target is 1535, an increase of 106 billion FCFA.
Since the so-called tax reforms were initiated about a decade ago, government has either introduced new taxes or raised old ones. However, the poll tax was abolished.
The Value Added Tax (VAT) is the most significant tax introduced by government in the last 10 years. The tax, charged on virtually all goods and services, has pushed prices upwards.
Initially, the VAT rate was 17 percent but government raised it to 18.7 percent two years ago.
With the “broadening of the tax base” in 2009, it is likely that prices of some goods and services will rise while some income-earning consumers will have less money in their pockets.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The new Elecam law:Why is the opposition so dead silent? Are we now at the end of the road?

The silence of the opposition in the face of some of the most burning issues of the nation is a most disturbing sign. We regret to observe that one by one prominent opposition figures are surrendering to the Biya regime to settle down for some appointment. The silence of the SDF for whatever favour is clearly a monumental error. Politics is power and only a relationship of power will save Fru Ndi and his party; not compromise and begging for Biya’s pity which he doesn’t have anyway.

More than one week after the government announced the law detailing the functioning of Elections Cameroon, Cameroon’s new election management organ, opposition parties have remained surprisingly silent
Must it be that the law is considered by all the parties as fair and acceptable? Even then why wouldn’t they acknowledge it as such? Or is it indifference out of utter disgust with the endless manipulation by the authorities?
If it is indifference out of disgust, that must be all the more disturbing because it signifies surrender. Why should the opposition surrender when the war continues? Does it matter if so far they still do not feel victory near?
Isn’t it quite strange that not a single party has issued a statement to express its disagreement with the government over the heavily defective law? This silence is not only limited to the Elecam law, the opposition also turned their eye away from the issue of the irregularly long absence of Paul Biya abroad, a behaviour that defied all responsible leadership and good governance!
Why would a responsible and conscious opposition ignore such matters that are the very substance of partisan politics? Seeing the enthusiasm, and even desperation, with which the SDF and UPC fought the repeat council elections only last month, it is all the more surprising that the same parties would be so unconcerned about the instrument to govern future elections!

In the coming weeks twelve members of the Elecam board will be appointed but that wouldn’t matter much anyway because the new law already clips their wings, relegating them to a secondary supervisory/advisory role.
The real functional master of Elecam is the organ’s Director General who alone is directly responsible for electoral operations, keeping territorial administration minister informed as he goes on, and using the services of divisional officers as he sees fit.
The DG of Elecam does not have to be politically neutral nor independent as the board members of Elecam, neither does the law require him to take an oath of office. That opens the way for Paul Biya to appoint any CPDM partisan of his. Moreover, the provision to renew members’ tenure does not augur well for absolute independence.

Political will

These main objections and other minor ones render the new law unacceptably defective. The sad thing is Paul Biya has not seized the opportunity to come off clean and clear. Given the long, long history of flawed elections in Cameroon that is what Cameroonians and Cameroon’s foreign partners would have expected of the president. The least anyone can say of the president now is that he lacks the political will to correct things.
Could the opposition really afford to be indifferent to all this? This is not believable. Or could they have traded off their attacks for public office appointments and other favours? That possibility is very real. Biya often likes to bring potentially harmful adversaries to harness, in the name of peace and consensus. Examples abound.
One surprising case is Garga Haman Adji. Virulent and sometimes uncontrolled in his hostility to the Biya regime, the former public service minister and arch-critic of the government has since been effectively silenced since being appointed a member of the anti-corruption commission in 2006.

Another eloquent case is Jean-Jacques Ekindi who since went quiet in his anti-Biya speak after he entered the national assembly as a parliamentarian. His dramatic change of attitude is reinforced by his expectation, it is widely said, to be appointed into the long-awaited new government.

One of the more dramatic changes of political camps is former transport minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary. After long years of bitter attacks at the government, he yielded to the regime’s quest for support for Biya’s mandate extension.
Another noteworthy case is A F Kodock, the UPC faction leader. Quiet during his long years as a senior member of government he resumed his legendary attacks and threats against Biya after losing last year’s parliamentary election and falling out of government.
Matters were already getting out of hand when Biya reportedly urged him to calm down and wait. You don’t hear him again.

Bouba Bello Maigari will never make the error again to have Biya drop him from the government. To remain in the good books of the regime he often breaks ranks with his own party the UNDP on important issues like Biya’s term extension. No doubt he could never challenge the Elecam law and it is just as well that the party isn’t saying anything on the law.
Adamou Ndam Njoya and his CDU have never been friends nor real enemies of the Biya regime. Financially sufficient, thanks to his membership of the assembly and of being mayor of the Foumban council, Ndam Njoya is not tempted by the government’s overtures.
In his independence he could do much to challenge the government in its arrogance. But Ndam Njoya seems to lack the guts for a fight. Too bad!

No surrender

What can the SDF and its chairman John Fru Ndi do in the present situation? In spite of their many problems it is still possible to do something and not just surrender as their silence over current issues now suggests.
SDF’s silence is being interpreted as a bargain with Paul Biya to let off Fru Ndi from the hook of the murder case. As such Fru Ndi and his party have avoided attacking the government over Elecam and Biya’s undue stay abroad as a condition for securing Fru Ndi’s release!

But if Biya respects such agreements he wouldn’t in the first place have held Fru Ndi over the case. The ‘peace pact’ of 2002 would have come to play. If it didn’t save Fru Ndi how does Fru Ndi believe Biya to keep to his word on this occasion?
Politics is about power: fighting to get it and using it or abusing it. What is, and will always be, at stake in the relationship between Biya and Fru Ndi is the balance of power between the two men (better call them enemies because that is what they are).
In the beginning it is Fru Ndi who was the stronger. That balance is, and has for a long time now been, in Biya’s favour. Without necessarily being on top, Fru Ndi must always summon his last energy to face the regime and avoid engaging in any behaviour of weakness.

Fru Ndi, for instance, threw away a good opportunity of tackling the regime wholesale after Marafa accused him without evidence as having instigated February’s uprising. Who knows if a well-calculated attack wouldn’t have frightened Biya from coming up with the case which is evidence of how weak he perceived Fru Ndi?
That is why it is a mistake even NOW to throw away the wonderful opportunity offered by the Elecam law and Biya’s escape from work abroad. Those are the actions of power which the SDF must not miss. Going on his knees to beg Biya only portrays Fru Ndi as now completely helpless.

The way Biya treats his former aides, now locked up in prison, does not suggest that he has any pity to offer anybody. On the contrary if the SDF could be mobilised to shake up the country for whatever reason, that would be a powerful way of speaking to Biya.
At that time it is Biya who would be seeking Fru Ndi to talk peace. Power will then be talking to power. That we think is politics; not compromise, surrender and begging for pity.
Unless the opposition and the SDF will rise up and summon their last strength to do their work uncompromisingly as opposition parties, their present slumber will easily lead to death.

Source:The herald

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Contribution to nation-building: Energy, a very vital sector

Cameroon’s economy is enjoying a modest but encouraging growth rate (3-5%) but to sustain this growth the demand for electricity must grow at about two to three percentage points above the growth in economy, suggesting a power demand growth rate of 5-8% for the coming years

By Ako N. Mengot

In 2001, this author wrote in The Herald of 9-10 July, an article that was meant to sensitise the public at large and government in particular on the strategic role of energy (electrical power, to be precise) in a developing economy like Cameroon’s.
It is now seven years since that article was written, and today, because of population increase and additional demand for power from industries, both the old and the new ones seeking to invest in Cameroon, it is imperative that we examine our current situation and make proposals that would lead to some brain-storming in high government circles, in order that urgent decisions be made concerning this important issue of energy self-sufficiency.

Cameroon’s economy is actually enjoying a modest but encouraging growth rate (3-5%) but to sustain this growth, the demand for electricity must grow at about two to three percentage points above the growth in economy, suggesting a power demand growth rate of 5-8% for the coming years.
It is needless to remind readers that there can be no sustained economic growth for our country without enough electricity generating capacity to meet the demands of both industrial users and the private sector. New industries can only be attracted to Cameroon on the assurance of enough electrical power. It is through these industries, we believe, that jobs can be created for our young men and women who are graduating in their thousands from universities and technical institutions.

It is therefore praiseworthy to note that recent efforts have been made by President Paul Biya’s government to increase Cameroon’s electricity generating capacity, but we must be careful to ensure that the projects announced are executed in good time, or else we may find ourselves lagging behind in the demand/supply balance in the not-too-distant future.
Cameroon’s actual capacity totals approximately 908 MW for both the southern grid (Edea, Song-Loulou) and the northern grid (Lagdo). This capacity includes hydroelectric generation from the Sanaga river (Edea and Song-Loulou), the Lagdo dam in the north, and thermal generation with diesel or heavy fuel in many centres around the country.

President Paul Biya has himself championed the drive for new generating capacity for Cameroon and the projects concerned are the following:

- Creation of Electricity Development Corporation (EDC) with the Lom Pangar dam being the foremost project to be realised under the auspices of this company. This dam, with a projected water retention capacity of about 7 billion cubic metres, could bring an additional 100 MW of new power to the national electricity grid;

- Hydroelectric power generation projects like the Memvele (53 MW) and Nachtigal (250-300 MW) are currently under study but will not be finalised before 2013;

- A project for thermal generation using natural gas from offshore Kribi is advancing fairly well with the creation of the Kribi power development company (KPDC) by government and its partner AES-SONEL. KPDC will take charge of the gas power plant in Kribi (150-330 MW) as well as a thermal plant in Yassa-Dibamba with a generation capacity of 86 MW using heavy fuel.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cameroon needs states, not regions

For Cameroon to be prosperous and remain in one piece, the country must return to the federal system of government which was obtained in 1961, with an Anglophone state and a Francophone state

By A. S. Ngwana,

We are very disappointed to read that on Wednesday, 12November, President Paul Biya signed a decree changing the 10 existing provinces to regions. A worthless change of name.
Cameroon requires states, not regions. Cameroon needs a federal system of government, not a unitary system of government with decentralisation
In the federal system, the people vote their own chief executive (prime minister or governor) who owes allegiance to his electorate and is answerable to them. In the present system (the unitary government), the governor or chief executive of the region is appointed by the president and he owes allegiance to the president and not to the people of the region. He is just a senior civil servant who can be sacked or transferred by the president at will.

Cameroon is a bilingual country, and if we want it to be happy and prosperous, if we want Cameroon to remain one corporate unit, we must return to the federal system of government. We must return to the 1961 constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon. That constitution guaranteed equality of status between the Anglophone state of West Cameroon and the Francophone state of East Cameroon. It guaranteed equality and equal opportunities to all Cameroonians.
Since the abolition of the federal government, Cameroon has not been the same again. The Anglophones have suffered from marginalisation and discrimination. Subsequent manipulations of the constitution have further driven Anglophones to desperation.

Today the majority of Anglophones are fed up with Cameroon and some even want a break-up of the country. Every action of the CPDM government headed by a Francophone for 47 years since independence, has alienated and provoked Anglophones more and more.
In the interest of peace, economic development, happiness of all Cameroonians, we should return to the federation. Only in the federation shall all Cameroonians feel a sense of belonging; only in the federation shall we guarantee the corporate existence of Cameroon.

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AFRICAN SIDE ECONOMICS AND THE WORLD FINANCIAL CRISIS

The impact of the world financial crisis on African economies has been the subject of much debate in academic, business and popular circles on the African continent. Economic professors, financial analysts, ministers of finance, political scientists, journalists, and even opinion leaders in drinking spots, are all volunteering explanations like the six blind men describing an elephant. Some are parroting CNN without quotation marks, others are plagiarizing economic textbooks or financial journals but the question on what impact the crises will have on African economies remains.

By SNOWSEL ANO-EBIE

It is often taken for granted that Africa accounts for an insignificant proportion of world financial transactions. In the playground of world economics African countries can conveniently be relegated to the reserve bench even if South Africa is invited to sit among the emergent nations. Economically speaking, Africa has always provided problems for the world to solve and not solutions to world problems. One can therefore say that Africa will not have an impact on the world financial crisis but the crisis will have an impact on Africa.

In order to perceive how the crisis will affect African countries one must consider what I have decided to call "African Side Economics". Imagine an economy where the politicians decide what growth rate to announce today and what to announce tomorrow. The economic growth rate must thus be politically palateble irespective of the true performance of markets, and the laws of demand and supply. The government in place must constantly be given a good economic image. That is African side economics. Imagine an economy where the most successful businessmen are civil servants of the customs and taxation departments, or treasury officials who pay out money to government contractors for a percentage. Imagine an economy where those who succeed are those who win government contracts to supply everyday items at ten times their market value. That is African side economics. Just imagine a setup where all economic solutions are recommendations from IMF, the World Bank, the European Union and other bilateral donors. That is African side economics.
Now, how will African countries embrace the crisis if the global effect syndrome were to grip their countries?

1. The overbearing presence of politicians on the economy will become even more suffocating.

2. Commercial banks which are already reluctant to grant loans to investors will become more prudent. And this means that economic activities will slow down, for want of capital. Unemployment will attain astronomical proportions, and many more families and individuals will be recruited into the vicious cycle of poverty.

3. World Bank and IMF solutions will no longer be applied like gospel truth because the USA did not go to the IMF or the World Bank. If the US government attempted to bail out the economy why should African governments not also try this modus operandi?

4. The average honest investor will suffer a down turn as civil servants in "lucrative" government services invent new corruption tactics in order to finance their already arrogantly lavish lifestyles.

5. European countries and the USA are devoting more attention to their economies. This means that the money sent to Africa for debt relief and poverty reduction will dwindle or be granted with greater scrutiny.

6. Armed struggles resulting from illicit trade in diamonds and other natural resources will find more fertile grounds in Africa. The sale of arms will also be catalysed with the emergence of new warlords, followed by more blood shed.

7. African side economics will undoubtedly compete with capitalism, the welfare state, and diluted forms of socialism as different governments forge for a headway.
Truly speaking, if you ask me about Africa and the Financial Crisis, I will say that while Africa may not have any impact on the crisis, the crisis will have a huge impact on Africa.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

OBAMA COULD NEVER BE PRESIDENT IN AFRICA

Africans across the board have celebrated the election of Barack H. Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America with an over dose of frenzy and euphoria. This is not just another African way of mourning louder than the bereaved but the excitement of the moment has blinded "everybody" to a sad African reality. If Barack Hussein Obama were an African, he wil never be president!

By ANO-EBIE SNOWSEL

Inspite of his prestigious education at Harvard Law School, the Bachelors degree in Political Science, the merticulous planning, the popularity, the great oratory, and the unparalled articulation of burning issues, Barack Obama is not qualified to be president in Africa. And the one thing that disqualifies Obama and other great politicians like him is the one thing African cultures and by extension African countries are not ready to compromise with - Citizenship and Place of Origin.

African citizenship is so jealously guarded that children born to foreign parents cannot expect to share from it. Any child born in the USA is automatically considered as an American citizen, while any child born in an African country is considered a foreigner if his/her parents are from another country. Even when your father is born in a country, the very fact that his own father came from another country makes you a foreigner. If your father's mother is a national, and your own mother is also a national, you are still a foreigner and so cannot run for political office.
In some African countries like Cameroon, area of origin is so politically important that citizens are identified by their parent's Province(Region) of Origin and Division of Origin. If your grand parents leave from one part of the country and settle in another, you are still considered a settler or "come-no-go" . You are disqualified for political office and appointments because your presence on a political party's list makes it sociologically imbalanced. Can you imagine how Barack Obama will fair politically if he were born in Cameroon to a Cameroonian mother and a foreign father?

The concept of place of origin of parents has ignited and prolonged the civil war in Côte d'Ivoire. In the face of "Ivoirité", what chances will children like Barack Obama have when people like Alassane Dramane Ouattara are being rejected because it is speculated one of their maternal grand parents could have come from Burkina Faso or Mali?
In which African country can the son of a foreign father, conspicously bearing his father's complete names, expect to be elected head of state? In Ghana, Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings imposed himself through a military coup in June 1979, even if he later organised "democratic elections" and won like other African presidents of his generation. It is however a stubborn fact that a Jerry John Rawlings or a Barack H. Obama cannot stand any chance in contemporary Ghanaian politics.

A country like Kenya where Barack Obama's father came from, and eventually returned to, is not different. Successful politicians bank on a loyal ethnic following to get elected. If your victory is "stolen" the same ethnic group can fight and shed blood for it.Of course this group expects to harvest huge fringe benefits when their "brother" comes to power or clings to power. Who will want to place the fortunes of his tribe in the hands of the son of a foreigner like Barack Obama? Will he send down the ripe plums to the right quarters?
Many people do not know why women don't inherit land in African cultures even in cases where their fathers have no male children. The anthropological explanation is that the woman could get married and her husband will come and stay on the land with her. Later generations will perceive the compound as that of her husband the foreigner, and the memory of the original indegenous family will be wiped out. "God forbid"!

All over the world therefore, as Africans celebrate the success of Barack Obama, they should not forget that if Obama were an African this success will never come to pass. The miracle that propelled Barack Obama to the White House is an African impossibility. And the American dream that is now heralded, worshipped and adored across the world, taken within the African context is clearly a nightmare!

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The 44th President of the USA!

There has been euphoria all over the world following the landslide victory of Barack Obama to become the 44th President of the USA. Africans across the board have been urging their sit-tight leaders to take note of the free and transparent electoral process that brought about such heart-warming renewal in the USA, and especially the frequency of change at the presidency. From another perspective, some people see the victory as a sort of cleansing of the scars of slavery and colonialism that helped to build the West, but stand starkly as the main accused for the backwardness of Africa.

Tazoacha Asonganyi
Indeed, many major sins were committed by the West on their road to development, including Slavery, Colonialism and the Holocaust. The feelings of the Jews have since been assuaged by retribution and the founding of the state of Israel. So far Africa has had only empty apologies for the sin committed against it, until now that Obama has emerged to be totted like the ultimate reason why we should forgive and forget slavery and colonialism, since with the scars, an African or Africa can still be the best if the required effort is made.

Whether this is true or false, we cannot resist the lead Obama provided by his loaded campaign slogan: Yes, we can! Before reaching that conclusion, he first reached a similar conclusion about himself: Yes, I can! He reached this conclusion after finding answers to some questions that kept haunting him like: What is our community and how might that be truly reconciled with our freedom? How far do our obligations to the community reach? Who really am I?

To the questions about the community, he immersed himself in community work in Chicago. As for the questions about himself, apart from the knowledge he gained in the black community in Chicago during the community work, he went to Kenya to dig into his roots.
In Kenya, his grandmother told him that Obama "sired" Hussein Oyango, Oyango sired Barack and Barack sired him, Barack Hussein Obama. She told him about the confusion and blurring of vision of his father and grandfather following their various encounters with the colonialists. He was also told that when his father got interested in the struggle for independence, his grandfather used to tell his father that an African cannot defeat the white man when he cannot even make his own bicycle; that the African only wanted to work with his family or his clan while all white men work to increase their power; that the white man alone is like an ant that can easily be crushed, but they work together like ants; that the white man considers his nation and his business more important to him than himself...

After gathering all the information he concluded that his father may have had vision but lacked realism and flexibility; that his dreams seemed to have been choked by fear and lack of imagination; that he seemed to have preferred dreams to reality; impotence to compromise.
Humbled by the weight of his heritage, he went to the graves of his father and his grandfather which are side by side and holding both, he addressed his father, weeping:
"There was no shame in your confusion, just as there had been no shame in your father’s before you. No shame in your fear or in the fear of your father before you. There was only shame in the silence fear had produced. It was the silence that betrayed us. If it weren’t for that silence, your grandfather might have told your father that he could never escape himself, or recreate himself alone. Your father might have taught those same lessons to you. And you the son might have taught your father that this world that was beckoning all of you involved more than just railroads, and indoor toilets and irrigation ditches and gramophones, all lifeless instruments that could be absorbed into the old ways ... For all your gifts – the quick mind, the power of concentration, the charm – you could never forge yourself into a whole man by leaving those things (the best of your culture and traditions) behind..."

He left Kenya with the comfort and the firmness of identity that a name provides. He reminded his kith and kin that on this earth, one place is not too different from the other – and each single moment carries within it all that has gone before.
He had the strong conviction that respect does not come from what your parents are but from what you do. He believed in himself, in his ability to bring change to the USA, in his ability to revive "the American dream". Indeed, he believes that hardship always gives birth to what he calls a new faith – a faith in other people. It is this faith that transformed his "I can" to "we can"; and then to his war cry: Yes, We Can! His victory leaves us with no doubt that believing in oneself is a major precondition for any victory or success.

Yes, the lifeless things that surround us today can be absorbed into our "old ways" like the Japanese, the Chinese, the Indians and other peoples have proved. Yes, a major precondition of all success is self confidence; believing in ourselves. This is why Barack Obama set out his identity, thoughts and believes in his two books: "Dreams from my Father" and "The Audacity of Hope", which acted as strong vaccines against all types of blackmail during the campaign.
Today, it is sure that Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the USA because he believed in himself! There is no reason why his victory should not change the image Africa has of itself and of its situation in the world.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

DOUALA POLICE ADULTERY AND GENDARMERIE MURDER SAGA

The inhabitants of the city of Douala, Cameroon's economic capital are still digesting the story in which a senior gendarmerie officer gunned down a police inspector. The incident occured on the night of Thursday November 13 when Gendarmerie Major Joel Emile Bankoui came home and discovered Police Inspector Herve Mapuro Njifon in his home at the gendarmerie Barracks in Mboppi. In the confusion that followed, the inspector was shot several times, and he eventually died of the gun shot wounds.


By Snowsel Ano-Ebie

It is not clear what the police inspector who stays in the neighbourhood of Makepe was doing in the Gendarmerie Camp with the wife of the gendarmerie officer during the unholy hours of that night. Major Bankoui Emile who shot Mapuro Njifon several times, claims the inspector was making love to his wife. The police inspector is dead and gone with his own version of the story.

Madam Bankoui, a police constable at the Douala International Airport where she works alongside Inspector Herve Mapuro Njifon has not helped investigators. Instead she gave two contradictory versions of what transpired in her marital home. In the initial version, Madam Bankoui Danielle Mvoune à Ekoron denied the love nest story but in a later version she declared to police investigators led by Police Commissioner Vincent Minkoa Nga, the Commander of the Littoral Judicial Police that she was involved in an amourous encounter with her slain lover and colleague before her husband stumlbbed on the scene.

The slain inspector's colleagues at the Douala International Airport confirm that he was "very friendly" with Madam Bankoui and that on that fateful day, the victim had bought a large quantity of drinks worth more than one million CFA francs from the Free Shop at the airport, and placed them in the car boot of his colleague and friend Madam Bankoui Danielle Mvoune à Ekoron. They also confirm that he was preparing for his wedding coming up soon. This means that he could have gone to Major Bankoui's home that night to collect the drinks. And to continue his love affair? Or be caught in the crossfire of mistaken identity by a jealous and armed husband?
Whether Police Inspector Herve Mapuro Njifon was murdered in cold blood or he is the victim of his own adulterous acts remains the talk of the town.
Many people are surpried that Major Bankoiu Emile has not been arrested and placed in detention. Instead his boss, the Littoral Gendarmerie Legion Commander, Colonel Emmanuel Meka Meka has given him permission to stay at home and recover from the truma sustained during the incident. His argument of self defence seems to carry the day but many unanswered questions remain.

Why will a single police officer leave his empty house and all the hotels in Douala to commit adultery with a married woman in her husband's house in the gendarmerie camp?
Talking about self defence, the Cameroon Penal Code stipulates that one can use a proportionate amount of force to defend himself, his family and property. However, when a well trained and experienced law enforcement officer like Major Joel Emile Bankoui empties the contents of his service gun into the body of a naked man, can we still talk of proportionate amount of force?
What if a jealous woman framed up her lover who is about to get married, and entices him to her home where her angry husband will find him and act out of control?
And why did the major kill his wife's presumed lover shooting him several times and not hurt his wife who was also in his eyes "guilty"?
And why has the Douala Judicial Police not been given a free hand to investigate the case but entertains constant interference from gendarmerie officers who are reputed for their solidarity towards fellow colleagues?

The victim's family of orientation has in the meantime filed a a civil suit against Major Joel Emile Bankoui for voluntary homicide. This means that the top gendarmerie officer could be judged concurrently by both the military tribunal and civillian courts.
In cases of jungle justice when the perpetuators are identified, they are arrested and tried. Douala is waiting and watching to see whether some citizens are above the law just because they have been authorised to carry guns and wear khaki uniforms.

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Biya takes Cameroonians again on a ride! ELECAM: Manipulation in excelsis! Will opposition accept this hogwash?

Last week’s law on the functioning of Elecam does not take the electoral process in Cameroon any step forward towards credible elections. Paul Biya deliberately sidelines appointed electoral officers and gives power as chief electoral officer but to the Director General of Elecam whom he can appoint from the ranks of the CPDM! We sincerely urge the opposition not to sit back and moan as always. By doing nothing they simply allow Biya to have his way as he likes. We suggest that they should send a small delegation abroad to mobilise international opinion against the regime. We are sure their action will not be in vain.

No one who heard or read the decree announced last week on the functioning of Cameroon’s new elections management body, Elections Cameroon, was surprised. What first appeared like going forward is in the end anything but that.
At best Paul Biya tried to do some repackaging of the same thing to give the impression of something new and different, capable of leading to the much sought after Holy Grail of free and fair elections. But the disguising was poor. The trumpery is easy to see.
At worst (and that is what is deeply regrettable)it is evident that the president truly meant to continue his regime-long abuse of Cameroonians by issuing a defective organ that can only perpetrate the history of flawed elections.

Operationally Elecam is conceived like a corporation which is as such managed by a general manager, its chief executive officer who applies policies adopted by a board. The board, as we know it, meets occasionally in a supervisory capacity to continue to advise the CEO to apply the company’s policies appropriately.
Cameroon’s public corporations are unlike private companies whose board members actually own the company and are concerned about the future of their investment. With Cameroon’s public companies board members are appointed by the government like the GM and do not have any real stake in the company. They very often lack the power to exercise any influence on the GM who can sometimes ignore them with impunity.
Elecam’s Electoral Board, as indeed it is called, is only supervisory in function. It has 12 members, headed by a chairman, who meet four times a year but can summon extraordinary meetings. The members are appointed by the president for four years renewable once.
In principle Elecam’s board members are appointed from propositions made by political parties in the national assembly. They are expected to be independent, politically neutral, and reputed for their personal integrity. They swear an oath before taking office.

Director General

Last week’s decree stipulates that it is the Director-general of Elecam who is the executive head of Elecam. In addition to his administrative and financial management of Elecam, the decree states that the DG “shall be responsible for all election operations and referendums” under the supervision of the electoral board.
Last week’s law does not require the DG who is also appointed by the president to be politically neutral nor is it necessary for him to rise to the same level of personal integrity as the board members. Also he does not take an oath.
MINATD is the supervisory ministry of Elecam. The decree stipulates that the DG will obligatorily render a report of all goings-on within Elecam such as minutes of all meetings and all decisions. MINATD also has the power to demand any information it requires from Elecam.

As can be seen the problem of free and fair elections still surfaces. The unusual function of the DG of Elecam is a major problem. Why should that post exist at all? Shouldn’t the president of Elecam be the full and complete authority of the electoral organ?
As Chief Executive Officer of Elecam the president should not only preside over electoral matters, he should also be the ultimate financial and administrative officer of the organisation.
That is what happens elsewhere. That arrangement guarantees unity of leadership and avoids conflict. But the present structure of Elecam is two headed which naturally builds conflict into it on that account.

Moreover the arrangement deliberately disempowers members of the electoral board who sit there helpless while the administrative and financial officer (DG) undertakes electoral duties. Doesn’t that defeat the whole idea of an electoral organ with appointed electoral officers?
Moreover, the DG is allowed in the new law to summon help in men and materials from administrative officers across the country in doing his work. What impartiality would you expect from prefects and sub-prefects who are loyal employees of the government?
Also MINATD is given certain powers to demand information from the DG of Elecam! How can Elecam in such a relationship avoid the interference of MINADT in the conduct of any election?

Apart from the key electoral role assigned the DG of Elecam, his personal standing raises other important interrogations. Why is the DG not required to be politically neutral? If he will be the chief electoral officer, playing all the key and delicate electoral roles why is he not also sworn in on oath?
Isn’t it clear that the omission is deliberate in order not to tie Paul Biya’s hands in appointing anyone of his convenience? Who can then stop the president from appointing one of his CPDM partisans as DG to facilitate the ruling party’s victories in future elections?

Credible elections

In the end there is no question that every concession that Paul Biya appears to make in the interest of credible elections he equally withdraws. With Elecam the victory of the government party in any electoral contest is guaranteed. Elecam has therefore not taken the electoral system forward in any significant way.
Last April Paul Biya rammed down the throats of Cameroonians a constitutional amendment that takes him over the retirement bar of 2011. A few months later here he is again with a defective electoral organ
It is believed that Paul Biya often gets his way mostly because opposition opinion is not mobilised against him. The extreme sensitiveness that the president displays from just a handful of anti-government demonstrators when he travels abroad has been suggested as an indicator of what could happen if international opinion were to be mobilised against him.

To escape anti-government demonstrators abroad Biya has often disguised himself, cancelled appointments, and changed itineraries. Last year the man felt so harassed he practically slipped out of New York incognito by the back door
Mobilising international opinion against the tyrannical policies of the government, it is believed, could achieve surprising results. We think the opposition in Cameroon has by simply not doing anything at all allowed Biya to have his way all the time.
Abroad foreign partners believe these matters are internal issues for the people themselves. At best they issue formal statements and leave the matter there.
We think the matter would take a different course if some opposition initiative would seek to mobilise international opinion against political developments in Cameroon. Simply to sit back and cry as we hear so often that the opposition is weak and disorganised is very much self-defeating indeed.

SDF, CDU, UPC, UFDC, AFP etc, rise up and charge forward. Send a small delegation abroad to knock doors and raise alarm. Get governments, international, multilateral organisations to take an interest in what’s going on in Cameroon. Speak to the likes of Sarkozy, Brown, Barosso, the Commonwealth, Condoleeza Rice etc, etc. That will serve notice that at last the people are up.
Your campaign will not be in vain. Let there be some action, be it only the exposition of the dictatorship in Yaounde. Your action abroad will also fire up the home crowds that are only waiting for your leadership.
But if you will only sit back and surrender to Biya without lifting a finge, be sure you yourselves will be swallowed up by the monster. Oh what a shame would that be!

Source; The Herald

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What’s happening now to the world?

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Climate change is producing one natural disaster after another. Terrorism appears to be on the increase, the economy has everyone panicking and morality no longer seems important to many.
As Christians, an important question to ask is: Do we believe that God’s Spirit is at work in the world?
It is easy for us to say that with all the bad stuff happing that we can only see the presence of evil. But as believers in the risen Jesus, do we see beyond all of that and see good stuff? If we do not then we are not being true to our vocation as baptized Christians. If we do then we realize just how important it is for us to join forces and work for greater good of the Church.
If we together can see God’s hand actively doing good things in our community and in the world then we need to broadcast that piece of news, because it is good news.

In the end, if we ourselves are not good news, how can we expect others to know about Jesus Christ? It is easy for us to sit on the sidelines and just wait for the sky to fall on us. But that is not our vocation and not our destiny.
Look around you, even just in your family. Is God’s hand at work?

For your reflection:

These days, are you generally more optimistic about the world and humanity or pessimistic?
Can you identify one way in which God is actively present in your life right now?
Can you think of one good thing that is happening in the world right now?

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Monday, November 17, 2008

EU donates books for minors in Cameroon Prison



But inmates preferred food and other items

A special school for minors incarcerated at the Douala Central Prison at New Bell has had its trove of learning material substantially boosted thanks to a contribution from the European Union. Hundreds of books and other didactic material were handed over to prison officials recently.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Hyppolite Sando, a representative of the EU program for the amelioration of detention conditions and human rights (PACDET), said the donation was part of the second phase of the project. He estimated the cost of the text and notebooks, dictionaries, reams of paper, files, mathematical sets, etc, at over 2 million FCFA.
However, a fraction of the hundreds of minors said the money would have served a better purpose if it were meant to improve their feeding conditions. Mouthe Mathias, a 15-year-old inmate said he eats a diet of corn and beans or rice once a day and mostly goes hungry the rest of the time. He said the inadequate feeding adds to problems of intimidation from older inmates, chronic overcrowding, violence, sexual abuse, torture, poor sanitation, and rampant corruption, etc.
Nonetheless, a spokesperson for the inmates said they were overwhelmed by the EU gesture which he noted was not the first of its kind. He extended what he called sincere gratitude to the donors, adding that the donation will enormously help in facilitating the knowledge acquisition of the minors even while in prison. He assured the donors that the material will be used prudently and for the intended purpose.
The New Bell Prison Administrator, Joseph Tsala Amougou, for his part said the material would enormously contribute to the preparation of the kids for their future social reintegration. He said the special prison school, via the EU effort, will remarkably meet its objectives. The school offers lessons for various levels beginning from Class 2 primary education to Form 4.
Meantime, Hyppolite Sando, flanked by Littoral Delegate for Basic Education, Diwouta Mbengue, assured the beneficiaries of the EU largesse that they could remain hopeful that more of such gestures will come their way in the near future. Stressing that imprisonment was not commensurate to the end of life on earth, he told the beneficiaries to begin preparing their social reintegration by studying hard so as not to be left behind when they get freedom one day.
The New Bell Central Prison symbolises what some rights watchdogs have termed unendurable incarceration conditions nationwide. It was constructed in 1935 for a prisoner population of 800 inmates but today counts more than 3500 among which are hundreds of minors held there for prolonging pre-trial detention. According to Tsala Amougou most of them leave jail even more delinquent than when they first moved in, as they freely rub shoulders with some of the most hardened adult inmates for want of space

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Energy Production in Cameroon: An urgent need to respond to growing demand

That Cameroon is naturally endowed with enormous hydroelectric potentials – the second after the Democratic Republic of Congo on the African continent – yet exploits only 3 percent of it, not enough to meet the energy needs of the nation, is arguably disturbing. And not only Cameroonians are concerned about the consequences.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

The French ambassador to Cameroon, Georges Serre, said at a ceremony to launch the sixth edition of the Cameroon-Europe friendship days that there was an urgent need to seek long-term solutions to respond to the growing energy demand in the country. After all, he added, Cameroon besides possessing enormous hydroelectric resources had huge petroleum and offshore gas resources.
“Faced with this reality, what response should be taken? What can Europe do to help the situation?” he wondered, before pledging that Europe was ready to do all it could to introduce environment friendly energy sources – solar and wind – and raise energy production and supply in the country.
Without saying precisely how Europe would help Cameroon in its energy production struggle, the diplomat said France was already helping Cameroon to tap its energy resources at the Lom Pangar dam, adding that France has helped Cameroon to supply energy to some 28 villages in the north and others in the South West province. (Cameroon also taps energy from Edea and Songloulou.)
Goerges Serre enumerated a series of projects the European Union was carrying out in partnership with the African Union, which includes Cameroon, to among other things ensure energy security, develop environment friendly energy sources, build institutional and technical capacities in the energy sector, etc.
Meantime, the minister of External Relations, Henry Eyebe Ayissi, said at the Yaounde event that held on the theme, “Cameroon’s energy policy and cooperation with Europe,” that the energy situation in the country was dire and there was absolute need to improve cooperation with Europe. This, he added, would boost energy production and pave the way for the introduction of new energy sources – wind and solar energy.
Activities to mark the friendship days included colloquiums to discuss Cameroon’s energy problems, Cameroon’s cooperation with Europe in the energy sector, and Cameroon’s future energy situation. Celebrations ended with a meeting of Cameroonians and Europeans at the Yaounde city hall.

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Bad governance: Cameroon’s President gives himself leverage to manipulate electoral body

Provisions of a presidential decree signed on Tuesday which lays down some conditions for the functioning of the new elections management body suggest that free and fair elections will depend on Biya’s good will

By Clovis Atatah

Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), the elections management body to replace MINATD and NEO, is an improvement on the electoral process on paper, but in practice, it could be more of the same old arrangement where the government pulls the strings.
A presidential decree signed Tuesday 11 November, while maintaining the relatively progressive provisions of the ELECAM law of December 2006, has left loopholes that could give Paul Biya the leverage to manipulate the organ.
Paul Biya’s biggest trump card is the structuring of ELECAM, which separates it into a supervisory branch called the Electoral Board and an executive branch known as the General Directorate, which will be practically answerable to the president.
The Electoral Board comprises the 12 members of ELECAM who have a four-year term renewable by the president. Their role is akin to that of the board of directors of state corporations; they define policies but do not execute them. Headed by a chairperson, the board statutorily meets only four times a year, although they can convene extraordinary sessions.
By law, the members of ELECAM are designated by the president of the republic, after consultations with parties represented in the National Assembly “from the midst of independent personalities…, reputed for their stature, uprightness, intellectual honesty, patriotism, neutrality and impartiality”. They swear an oath before taking office.
On the other hand, the General Directorate, headed by a director general, is the executive organ of ELECAM. It is the director general, appointed by the president of the republic, who is responsible for the day-to-day functioning of ELECAM.
The law stipulates that the director general “shall be responsible for all election operations and referendums” under the supervision of the Electoral Board.
It is also the director-general who draws up and manages ELECAM’s budget. With this power, the Electoral Board members will likely be at his beck and call.
The law does not require the director general to be neutral or non-partisan and he does not have to take an oath of office. Such an arrangement gives the president the leverage to choose a pliant director general who will do his bidding.
Another trump card the president has is the requirement that all minutes of meetings of ELECAM and all its decisions, including internal matters, are sent forthwith to the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation. The minister also has the power to request any information from ELECAM, which the outfit must furnish.
The government will be therefore permanently monitoring ELECAM and could use subtle means to pressurise the director general to act in its interest.
But the ELECAM law and Biya’s decree also have very progressive elements, not least because the discredited MINATD will no longer organise elections.
ELECAM will also have an autonomous budget enacted by the National Assembly. This should reduce government’s influence on the outfit.
Unlike in the past, ELECAM will have the powers to publish election results pending the official proclamation by the Constitutional Council.
But overall, the success of ELECAM will largely depend on the good will of President Biya.
ELECAM is expected to go operational by the end of this year.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ladies and Handbag: Inseparable companion

Reasons for Women carrying handbags are as diverse as the handbags themselves. Generally women and handbags are inseparable. Carrying handbags is part of life for women and that explains why it is increasingly becoming a prominent practice. Not only does it beautify a woman, it also contains some of her private items.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

But of late many women are using them especially during occasions to carry food and other stolen items home. This, I must say, is disgraceful.
Women in Cameroon say handbags compliment their outfits thus constitute part of their dressing. Others describe a woman who does not carry a handbag as someone putting on one shoe. Others say they use their handbag to carry little and sometimes “secret” items.

”Women generally have a complicated system, which is why they tend to carry handbags wherever they go. Their bags usually contain things like purse, powder and dresses (when they want to snick to a party and also to make the bag have a good shape). Also they put make-up in their bags which they use to brighten their face whenever they realise that it has lost brightness”, says Maryline. Women, according to Josephine, carry handbags especially when traveling to put in some of their personal things like toiletries. That as a mother, she also carry some of her children’s personal effects like drugs, diapers.
Victoria says though Women carry handbags for different reasons nearly all the women carry handbags to hide their “secret” items. Hear her “handbags are where women hide their secret things. Even my husband has no right to search my handbag because he knows that it is where my “secret” items are kept”.

“Handbags are part of my dressing”, says Emelda. Intimating that she feels fine and admired by people whenever she dress and carry a handbag that matches her dress. On this score she says most women have specific handbags for specific dresses and for specific occasions. “You know women’s dresses do not have pockets like those of men and we can only put our little things in handbags”.

However, queen Elizabeth of England uses hers’ for different reasons too. “Her Majesty does use her handbag as a security blanket. She carries it with her throughout the day as she moves from one room of the palace to another. She is rarely photographed without a handbag. All tables and her desk at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences are equipped with special hooks on which the Queen may hang her ubiquitous handbag. Finally, the Queen never uses a shoulder bag or clutch bag as these make shaking hands and accepting flowers awkward.

It’s not only what’s inside the monarch’s bags that is significant, but the bag itself, for she uses it to communicate with her staff in a very subtle manner. Before dining with the Queen, a point is made to inform guests that dinner will end in about five minutes after she places her bag on the table top. On walkabouts, she holds the bag to one side to show she intends to move on, at which point a lady-in-waiting joins the conversation, allowing her to slip away without causing offence. When at a banquet, if the Queen’s bag is placed on the floor, then it’s a sign that she’s not finding the conversation interesting, and wants nothing more than to escape. However, if the royal bag is dangling happily from the crook of her left arm, she is happy and relaxed.

The Queen carries a comb, a handkerchief, a small gold compact, and a tube of lipstick in her handbag. The Queen does carry money on Sundays–a folded note of unknown denomination which she discreetly places in the collection plate. One thing that can always be found in the Queen’s handbags is an S-shaped metal meat hook that she places on the dinner table’s edge to suspend her bag from so that it doesn’t touch the floor.

Also to be found inside is a collection of good luck charms, including miniature dogs, horses, saddles and horsewhips - most of them gifts from her children, reports the Daily Express. Family photos are also present, the most treasured of which is a snap of Prince Andrew, from when he returned from the Falklands in 1982. Other things that the Queen never goes without are her mints, chocolate drops for her beloved corgis and a couple of crosswords, which her servants snip out of the papers for her. Also ever present is the metal make-up case, made by Prince Philip and presented to her as a wedding gift 60 years ago. And if there’s still room in the bag she happens to be carrying, the Queen slips in a camera to take snaps to add to her private…”

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President Paul Biya celebrates 26th anniversary in power amidst mix feelings

President Paul Biya, has just celebrated the 26th anniversary of his accession to power amidst mixed feelings by Cameroonians.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

They are clearly disappointed with their head of state. That despite inheriting a prosperous Cameroon from his predecessor, Ahmadou Ahijdo, he has ended up plunging the country into political – socio – economic chaos. However, a few people see him as having recorded some success.

“Paul Biya’s 26 years in office have not been a complete failure. It is true that no regime is perfect. Biya, for the past 26 years, has achieved some successes as well as recorded some failures. His regime has succeeded in maintaining political stability and peace, and in bringing about democracy and freedom of speech and expression. The opening of many schools in most remote areas is another success. However, he has failed to elevate the standard of education, provide employment and social facilities, and fight against poverty, embezzlement, corruption and favouritism” says Alain Atamoh. Like Atamoh, Victor Che believes Biya has recorded enough success politically, economically and socially though accepting there is much to be done. Hear him, “Politically, he has maintained peace and stability. Economically, he has increased the price of cocoa, and socially, he has succeeded in providing social facilities like water and electricity, and has opened many schools even in the most remote areas. But he still has a lot to do to reduce crime, fight unemployment and hardship, and reduce the prices of basic commodities”.
However, Ngong Rexs intimated that Biya’s 26 years in power have been a complete disaster as to what Ahijdo did especially in terms of infrastructure. “Ahijdo was an industrious president. But when Biya took office, mismanagement came and the country started depending solely on France and other donor countries for the development of Cameroon. For 26 years no good road has been built. Cameroon has all the resources to be a rich country, but mismanagement and embezzlement among other ills have made us beggars. I think it’s a disgrace to Biya”, he opined.
For 26 years Etaka Franklin says Biya and his collaborators “have been a complete failure. Biya’s regime seems to be proud to have won the corruption trophy twice. It is a regime characterised by unemployment, corruption, bribery, embezzlement, kidnapping, killing, insecurity, capital flight, exploitation, dictatorship, repression and depression, prostitution, deteriorating living conditions caused by uncontrolled prices of basic needs, among others”. That Cameroonians have been in bondage since 1982 when Biya took office. That Anglophones in particular are unable to enjoy social facilities like electricity, roads, a good communication network, water, among others and are thus regarded and treated as foreigners in their own country.

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Paul Biya’s 26th anniversary in office: With little money going to the provinces the event could not but be sober.

Anyone in power for more than a quarter century who still bothers about celebrating the anniversary of his accession to power is surely not a good sign. Celebrations are a feature of dictatorships, especially those that haven’t done well with economic development.

Typically dictatorships like Cameroon like to keep the people’s attention on their leaders. Observe, for instance, how Paul Biya even after all these long years in office, still wants to bring Yaounde city to a halt before taking a ride to or from the airport.
If you don’t live in Yaounde there is this other feature you surely know. The people must know that it is by the dictator’s grace that the nation ticks. On the very high directive of the head of state, we hear all the time, the Prime Minister will undertake his routine activity.
Yet another feature of dictatorships: Public officials must constantly refer to the divine wisdom of the head of state. Quote him as often or credit him with whatever you say. So came along 6th November the 26th anniversary of Biya in office.
But this was different. The cheap money that vote-controlling officials in the public sector used to throw out at the grassroots and bring so much life to party activities was no more available this time around.
Paul Biya’s unpredictable selection of his corruption culprits has frightened everyone and kept them on the look out. Although corruption itself has not stopped that careless ostentation and competition among budget managers has ceased.
There was far less to share this time and smaller were the crowds that turned up.
Most curious of all, the man for whom all the trouble was for did not as much as come out of his home to join in the climax event which was a variety show at the Yaounde conference centre.
And why would Paul Biya not even record a thank you statement to be run on radio? Yes, conceit and arrogance of the leader is yet another of those features of dictatorships. “I appointed them all to their positions, let them honour me,” the dictator says.

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Cameroon government fines 550m FCFA for neglected diplomatic building in US

Managers at the US city of New government fines 550m FCFA Rochelle have filed a lawsuit aimed at obliging the Cameroon government clears 550 million FCFA [$1.1 million] worth of unpaid property taxes on a diplomatic house it owns there.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Reports say the house, perched at 50 Montgomery Circle in New Rochelle ; a suburban city to the north of New York has been so neglected until it is now surrounded by thick shrubs and bushes. It reportedly sits in sharp contrast to other buildings in the posh neighbourhood.
The city officials say they believe the house is occupied but wonder why it has not been properly catered for since 1995.
Our attempts at reaching the Cameroon Embassy in Manhattan for comment when the news broke at the weekend all proved futile. However, garnered information indicates that the New Rochelle city lawyers successfully sought a lifting of diplomatic immunity on the Cameroon house in 2004.
The move rendered the building taxable. Immunity usually exempts diplomatic houses from property tax charges.
According to concomitant reports, the Cameroon diplomatic building has become an eyesore in its neighbourhood. They indicate that New Rochelle lawyers are only waiting for the outcome similar cases pitting the city of New York and several foreign diplomatic representations over tax liabilities to take further action on the Cameroon case.

New Rochelle has become a choice destination for African diplomats. Apart from Cameroon, other foreign nationals serving their countries in the US and residing at New Rochelle include diplomats from Somalia and Liberia. But sources say they usually leave and simply neglect designating persons to undertake maintenance of the buildings.
New Rochelle reportedly has a similar problem with Somalia. But via the United Nations, the Somali government has pledged its willingness to clear the property tax debt but complains it lacks the funding to do so.

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New judges for ICJ elected

The 191 electors of the UN general assembly and Security Council have elected five news judges for a full-time resident job at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) - the judicial organ of the UN at The Hague

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Contesters of the job who included legal luminary from different countries were beaten hands down by Somalia’s Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, during the election
Abdulqawi got 116 votes out of a total 191 electors from the UN General Assembly and Security Council, crushing Miriam Defensor-Santiago of Philippines and Maurice Kamto of Cameroon during the fourth round of voting to emerge judge, a UN press release said.
The Somalian judge was elected alongside Ronny Abraham of France, Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh of Jordan, Antonio Augusto Cancado Trindade of Brazil and Christopher John Greenwood of Britain. Ronny and Shawkat who had already been serving as judges at the ICJ were re-elected, respectively earning 152 and 151 votes on 191. Brazil’s Trindade scored 163 votes while Britain’s Greenwood got 157 votes.
The five elected judges will commence work on 6 February 2009 and will for the next nine years handle dispute cases tabled before the International Court of Justice for arbitration by conflicting member countries of the UN. They will work hand in hand with 10 other judges whose mandates are still running.

The 15 ICJ judges include, Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco), Thomas Buergenthal (USA), Kenneth Keith (New Zealand), Abdul Koroma (Sierra Leone), Hishashi Owada (Japan), Bernardo Sepulveda-Amor (Mexico), Shi Jiuyong (China), Bruno Simma (Germany), Leonid Skotnikov (Russia), Peter Tomka (Slovakia), Ronny Abraham (France), Antonio Cancado Trinidad (Brazil), Christopher Greenwood (Britain) Awn Shawkat Al-khasawneh (Jordan) and Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf (Somalia).

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New President of Cameroon Lawyers to instill transparency and accountability

A legal luminary in the republic of Cameroon, barrister Eta Besong Junior, has been elected president of the country’s Bar Council, with a mandate to shakeup the law profession.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Eta Besong Junior defeated challenger Henri Job to become the next Bar Council president after Charles Tchoungang, while Tiakouang Meli also defeated Peter Asongwe to become the president of the general assembly of the Bar Association
“My mandate is placed under the banner of change,” said Eta, shortly after the proclamation of results on Sunday.
While expressing his desire and willingness to bring about a much needed change in the club of lawyers, the new bar president told reporters, “I am not saying that my predecessors did nothing good, but we need to ameliorate the situation of lawyers, consider their rapport with clients, the society and the supervisory ministry. In short we need to give the Bar Association the image it deserves,”

Announcing priorities for his stewardship and how he would go about them, Eta Besong said he would do everything to restore transparency in management of the order’s accounts, ensure discipline by members in the exercise of their noble profession and above all convince the dissident rainbow coalition and their followers to join him in building a strong and vibrant association.
Asked if he would probe into the management of the last executive, Eta Besong said he needed first of all to get the report of the audit committee set up to study the management files of the former bureau.
About his relations with the former president, Charles Tchoungang, Eta Besong Junior said he and his predecessor were rivals before the elections but that Tchoungang after throwing in the towel called and wished him well.
Over 800 of the 1400 registered members of the Cameroon Bar participated in the elections.

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Cameroon: Newspaper publisher in detention

“It is now certain that incarcerated publisher, Lewis Medjo will spend Christmas and New Year 2008 away from his family and friends at the Newbell prison in Douala”, report The Herald newspaper. It should be noted that Medjo was placed at the Newbell prison in Douala on pre-trial detention since his arrest last 22 September.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

The Yaounde-based publisher of the private French language weekly, La Détente Libre was charged with propagating fallacious information. His incarceration has been linked to a publication in La Détente Libre of 7 August 2008. The report claimed that President Paul Biya had sacked Dipanda Mouelle, the Supreme Court magistrate famed for proclaiming election results in the country.
But the story proved false as Dipanda Mouelle is still very much in command.
The same story was repeated in edition no. 354 of the same paper, alongside another linking police chief, Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o in a plot to covertly hand back Yves Michel Fotso’s passport against a huge kickback. The vital travel document was confiscated by the authorities in April supposedly to prevent the tycoon from fleeing the country.
Fotso has been under investigation for his role in the purchase of a defective presidential plane, the Albatross. The matter has already landed some senior government officials behind bars. In a recent media outing, Fotso claimed that his father had been contacted by unnamed individuals demanding 100 million FCFA to give back his passport.
According to the La Détente story, Medjo [known to be a dear friend of incarcerated former finance minister, Polycarpe Abah Abah] revealed that the Delegate General for National Security, Mebe Ngo’o recruited a woman described as his girlfriend to contact the Fotsos and make the proposal, using pictures of the passport, which Medjo published in his story.
Medjo’s collaborators say for several weeks before his arrest, he had been under surveillance and intense pressure by police to reveal his sources regarding the Fotso passport story. He did not and was eventually arrested.
The first hearings in the protracting case began last 3 October at the Wouri Court of First Instance in Douala. It was adjourned to 7 November on grounds that Medjo and his lawyers failed to present his judicial track record and also that the plaintiff[s] failed to show up in court. Last 7 November, the presiding judge again adjourned the case to 2 January 2009 even as Medjo’s lawyers pleaded not guilty.
The court even asked the defence lawyers to help it identify the plaintiff[s]. Lawyers Kamogne and Dika say they are scandalized as it is abnormal they be handed such a mission while their client remains in jail. The state prosecutor however indicated that summons had been served people connected with the case and that their reaction was still awaited.

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Cameroon: Communication minister abandons private media


Jean Pierre Biyiti bi Essam, the controversial minister of Communication, of the republic of Cameroon, believes only government-run media organs, such as CRTV and Cameroon Tribune, are doing a good job.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Bi Essam, who seems to be having problems with the private media told public audio-visual media executives from Francophone countries during the opening of a conference in Yaounde, that private media in Cameroon are very unprofessional.
That private media organ frequently misleads the public through false information and sensationalism because of their quest for profit.
This unprofessional attitude of the private media, the minister said, has created a vacuum which the public media needs to fill. He did not say exactly what vacuum had been created.
Biyiti bi Essam challenged the conference participants who were meeting under the theme: “Public media, the stakes and challenges of new governance”, to define new orientations that will make for more viable public service broadcasting in Francophone countries.
While stating that Cameroon was following a gradual but sure democratic process, the country’s Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni, intimated that Cameroon government was determined to assist the public audio visual media to promote key values like good governance, democracy, human rights and the fight against poverty which are highly needed in the country and called on the media to be a strong force in the promotion of moral awareness.
However the prime minister regretted that
Cameroon’s social, political, economic and cultural values have been undermined by many Cameroonians due to the new information and communication technologies.

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Cameroon: High illiteracy rate among girls – UNICEF report

UNICEF, the UN children’s fund, has revealed that there is a higher illiteracy rate among girls, especially in the northern provinces of Cameroon.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Isatou Mbatibou, UNICEF representative in Cameroon, made the revelation during the launching of a sensitisation campaign on the education of the girl child which took place in Yaounde, Cameroon recently.
According to UNICEF statistics boys are given preference over the girls in the Northern provinces when it comes to sending children to school.
Isatou further disclosed that only 40 girls out of 100 attend primary school as compared to 60 boys even though there are more girls than boys in the general population.
The UNICEF country boos for Cameroon underscored the need for the people of the Northern provinces to abandon traditional practices that require girls to stay home to be prepared for marriage rather than going to school.
On this score Isatou Mbatibou suggested that a sub department in charge of the education of the girl child be created in the ministry of Basic Education.
Cameroon’s minister of Basic Education, Haman Adama, underscores the fact that failure to educate a girl child is a violation of one of her fundamental human rights. While pledging the support of her ministry to UNICEF, Haman Adama, called on all administrative, municipal, traditional and religious authorities to join UNICEF in the fight against illiteracy in the Northern provinces in particular and Cameroon as a whole.
It should be noted here that one of the goals of UNICEF is to provide education and equality to all children by the year 2015.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is Paul Biya afraid of his men? Why punish only the small people who only obeyed their chiefs’ orders?

The public was much surprised by Paul Biya’s decision to dismiss the police inspector and constable who kidnapped an Equatorial Guinea colonel on asylum in Yaounde, Cameroon. Police inspector …. and constable …. were terminated without any severance benefits, to add to the severity of their punishment.
Despicable as the kidnapping may be the men did not act alone. They acted on the orders of their superiors that they are in duty bound to obey. Many believe the president made an important error of judgment. He should not have sacked the policemen.
And if he must dismiss the small men why did he not also punish the senior police officers who used their positions to facilitate the kidnapping? If it should be argued that the senior officers’ punishment is yet to come, it is the more reason why the junior officers should not have been punished in advance.
The junior policemen’s dismissal raises an important question about obedience in the forces. Are there circumstances or cases in which a policeman can decide to disobey the orders of his superiors when obedience without questioning is made a cardinal virtue in the forces?
Ian Blair, London’s metropolitan police chief had to resign in recent weeks after assuming responsibility for a homicide by some of his cops. They erroneously cut down in a hail of bullets a Brazilian electrical technician whom they took for one of the terrorists who had bombed the London underground.
In the Yaounde kidnapping the responsibility of the senior police chiefs is a lot stronger. The cops may deserve some punishment but terminating them and without any benefits appears overdone.

When Paul Biya acts as he has done the impression he conveys to the public is one of injustice, out of fear of his own big and powerful chief.

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