Friday, January 30, 2009

Cameroon: Impunity underpins persistent abuse - Amnesty International

Cameroon's government has routinely used killings and torture to repress political dissent, according to a new Amnesty International report.

During a 10-year spell of gross human rights violations, Cameroonian security forces have habitually used excessive and unnecessary force – and the perpetrators have almost always enjoyed impunity.

“Political opposition is not tolerated in Cameroon,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa. “Any dissent is suppressed through either violence or abuse of the legal system to silence critics.”

In late February 2008, security forces killed as many as 100 civilians during demonstrations against the escalating cost of living. Amnesty International has received photographs and testimonies suggesting that some of the victims were shot at point blank range, without any effort made to arrest them.
“Unfair trials, intimidation and harassment, including death threats, are routinely used by the authorities to quash criticism from politicians, human rights defenders and journalists,” said Tawanda Hondora.

“The silencing of the media is particularly worrying. If a journalist is deemed too critical of the government they are silenced -- and radio and TV stations are shut down.”
Journalist Michel Mombio was arrested in September 2008 and spent 10 days in custody. He was then transferred to the central prison in the capital, Yaoundé, and charged with fraud and blackmail. He was still in custody without trial in January 2009.

Journalists covering street protests in February 2008 were assaulted by members of the security forces. The victims included a cameraman from Canal 2 International television, who was beaten and arrested and then had his camera destroyed. He was only freed after soldiers forced him to pay them.

The report, Cameroon: Impunity underpins persistent abuse, also exposes the appalling prison conditions in Cameroon. Jails suffer from inadequate food and medical care, as well as overcrowding.
Minors are often held together with adults and there is inadequate separation of males from females, which has led to sexual and other forms of violence and exploitation. Prisons are reported to be infested with rats and cockroaches and some inmates have resorted to sleeping in the toilets for lack of a place to rest.

Click on the link below to read, print or download complete report on pdf

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR17/001/2009/en/126d20cd-de59-11dd-b660-fb1f16ee4622/afr170012009en.pdf


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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rule of Law as Bulwark of Independents Electoral Commissions

Following the recent inaugural of Barack Obama, Paul Biya sent him a message in which he stated among other things that "our two countries share the same attachment to democracy and the rule of law"! Such statements strengthen the saying that some politicians survive by creating illusions! Judged by the recent appointments into ELECAM, one can easily conclude that such illusions in Cameroon are usually created by laws which at first sight look good until their spirit and letter are betrayed when it comes to their application.

By Tazoacha Asonganyi
Democracy can only thrive under the rule of law. It is the role of the judicial power in each country to uphold the rule of law. In this wise, the 1996 constitution of Cameroon states that "...the judicial power shall be independent of the executive and legislative powers...The President of the Republic shall guarantee the independence of the judicial power..."! Indeed, it is the President of the Republic who is the president of the Higher Judicial Council!
Since electoral commissions are the pillar of democratic elections, such commissions can only be independent and strong if the judicial power is independent enough to uphold the rule of law and protect the independence of the commission. This is important because people aggrieved by the electoral commission usually turn to the courts. Therefore the results of elections to parliament or to the presidency as declared by the electoral commission could be reversed by the courts. This means that if the court system is not independent, it could use such cases to weaken the commission and render its independence useless.

What obtains in a country like Ghana that stands out tall in a sea of confusion about democratic transitions in Africa shall be highlighted here to stress the importance of the rule of law in protecting the integrity of the electoral commission. It can be said that the Ghanaian Electoral Commission has "The 1992 Constitution of The Republic of Ghana" solidly behind it. The Constitution is a detailed governance programme arranged in 26 Chapters and 266 articles. Since the Constitution was a real product of the entire Ghanaian society, it enjoys general consensus because the change of Rawling’s NDC regime in 2001 to Kufuor’s NPP regime did not affect the constitution; and the present change back to Atta Mill’s NDC regime will not affect it either.

For purposes of understanding the solidity of the foundation of the rule of law in Ghana, the headings of the 26 chapters of the constitution will be cited here: Chapter 1: The Constitution; Chapter 2: Territories of Ghana; Chapter 3: Citizenship; Chapter 4: The Laws of Ghana; Chapter 5: Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms; Chapter 6: The Directive Principles of State Policy; Chapter 7: Representation of the People; Chapter 8: The Executive; Chapter 9: The Council of State; Chapter 10: The Legislature.

Chapter 11: The Judiciary; Chapter 12: Freedom and Independence of the Media; Chapter 13: Finance; Chapter 14: The Public Services; Chapter 15: The Police Service; Chapter 16: The Prisons Service; Chapter 17: The Armed Forces of Ghana; Chapter 18: Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice; Chapter 19: National Commission for Civic Education; Chapter 20: Decentralisation and Local Government; Chapter 21: Lands and Natural Resources; Chapter 22: Chieftaincy; Chapter 23: Commissions of Enquiry; Chapter 24: Code of Conduct for Public Officers; Chapter 25: Amendment of the Constitution; Chapter 26: Miscellaneous.
Under Chapter 7 (Representation of the people) is defined "the right to vote" and "political parties". Under the right to vote is created an "Electoral Commission" with the clear definition of its functions and independence, its qualifications, terms and conditions of service of members.

The Constitution states clearly that "the judicial power of Ghana shall be vested in the Judiciary, accordingly, neither the President nor Parliament nor any organ or agency of the President or Parliament shall have or be given final judicial power...The Chief Justice shall, subject to this Constitution, be the head of the Judiciary and shall be responsible for the administration and supervision of the Judiciary... The Judiciary shall have jurisdiction in all matters civil and criminal, including matters relating to this Constitution. .."

The Chief Justice is appointed by the President acting in consultation with the Council of State with the approval of Parliament. Other justices of the Supreme Court are appointed on the advice of the Judicial Council in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of Parliament. Justices of the Court of Appeal and the High Court are appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial Council. These justices serve until they retire at 65 years for High Court judges and 70 years for justices of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court...
Further, the Constitution states that "in exercise of the judicial power of Ghana, the Judiciary in both its judicial and administrative functions, including financial administration, is subject only to this Constitution, and shall not be subject to the control or directives of any person or authority... Neither the President nor Parliament nor any person acting under the authority of the President or Parliament nor any other person whatsoever shall interfere with Judges or judicial officers exercising judicial power in the exercise of their judicial functions... " Of course, this is not the case in Cameroon!

The Judicial Council, the guardian of the independence of the judiciary is made up of: the Chief Justice (chairman), the Attorney General, a Justice of the Supreme Court chosen by his peers, a Justice of the Court of Appeal chosen by Justices of the Court of Appeal, a Justice of the High Court chosen by Justices of the High Courts, 2 representatives of the Bar Council of Ghana, one of whom has at least 12 years standing as a lawyer, a representative of Chairmen of Regional Tribunals nominated by them, a representative of lower courts or tribunals, The Judge-Advocate General of Ghana Armed Forces, the Head of Legal Directorate of Ghana Police , the Editor of Ghana Law Reports, a representative of the Judicial Services Staff Association appointed by the Association, a Chief nominated by the House of Chiefs, 4 other persons who are not lawyers, appointed by the Head of State.

Indeed, the entire Constitution reads like a manifesto of the people of Ghana that they hand to every elected representative of the people to ensure that they do not deviate from the principles laid down in the Constitution and only make qualifications, rules and laws "...as are necessary in a free and democratic society and are consistent with this Constitution. ..".
The Ghanaian electoral commission does its work well because it is protected by the rule of law, which is upheld by a Judiciary that is independent. Does ELECAM enjoy the same protection? Looking at the recent ruling of the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court on the petition of the SDF related to the legality of the President’s appointments into ELECAM, the answer is a big NO!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The people of Cameroon are disappointed with the management of affairs in the country – Bernard Njonga, President, ACDIC

Bernard Njonga, president of Cameroon's outspoken civil rights movement; Citizens Association for The Defense of Collective Interest, better know by its French language acronym ACDIC, says the people of Cameroon are disappointed with the management of affairs in the country due to high scale corruption by those assigned to serve. Njonga,an anti – corruption activist whose NGO is determine to fight corruption to its logical end in the country, has been drag to court by the government of Cameroon for what many describe as politically motivated reasons.

They believe the Yaounde authorities have embarked upon a legal process which at best is an embarrassment to the regime that makes the fight against corruption its flagship.
Njonga, was summoned to court recently to answer charges against him for holding a meeting that denounced corruption.
The formal charge accuses Njonga of disturbing public order and peace. He had planned to move the meeting which was still taking place within ACDIC’s premises to a peaceful march which did not actually take place.
The incident took place in early December 2008, about a week after Njonga had published a list of senior public officials who had illicitly acquired 49 of 60 Indian tractors given to Cameroon as aid.
The publication caused considerable stir and embarrassment to the Yaounde authorities who then took the first opportunity to pounce on Njonga. After the case was adjourned without hearing, Njonga told reporters that he had absolutely no fear because he was sure of all the facts contained in the ACDIC report.
He said that the government-created anti-corruption commission, CONAC, has picked up the report and is using it to further unravel deep-rooted corruption at the Agriculture ministry. This, he says, vindicates him.
The publication which involved even the most unassailable public officials is believed by some quarters to be responsible for the continue delay in announcing the new government by president Paul Biya, who is said to have been concerned that with the issue still in debate, his new government should not be seen to be carrying names of people on the list.
The so-called tractor scandal list was part of a report which ACDIC sent to its sponsors in Europe.
When Njonga was first charged in December, it was widely believed that because of the bad publicity that the case will give the government, President Paul Biya would order that it should be dropped. The public was still of the same opinion when hearing had been expected to begin, but it did not.
The case was adjourned to 13 February. The magistrate, Mambingo, said he had adjourned it to allow the state prosecutor to put all the facts together.
Meanwhile authorities in Cameroon, refused to grant an entry visa to José Bové, the French international anti-corruption campaigner who had arrived without a visa to attend Njonga's court hearing. The gesture was interpreted as one of panic on the part of the authorities.
Bové is well known in France and in some other European countries and it is believed that he would cause Cameroon negative press reports in France on this matter.

In the following interview grated The Herald shortly before his recent court hearing Njonga, says he prefare going to prison than to stop the fight against corruption. Excerpt on this and more

What is the reason for your presence in court today?

We were arrested on 10 December last year and charged with holding an illegal public manifestation and for disturbing public peace. Contrary to the belief of many that we are charged because of the report we published about corruption in the Agriculture ministry, the police say we were not authorised to hold the meeting.

You pleaded guilty of the charge when you first appeared before the state prosecutor on 12 December. Why?
You are correct. Actually we held our meeting around the headquarters of my NGO, ACDIC. We did so because we thought it was out of the public. But when the police told us that the location of our office constituted part of the public domain we had no option but to accept our mistake. But again we told the police and the state prosecutor that we had written to the DO of Yaounde III to ask for permission and authorisation but he did not reply us.

Now that you have pleaded guilty what would be your reaction if you are sentenced to prison?
I would serve the prison term. If the judge decides from the facts of the case that I merit to go to jail, then fine. But what I have kept on telling them and which they don’t want to bring to the fore is the fact that even though it was an illegal meeting as they claim, we also had good intentions. We were out to denounce and expose deep-rooted corruption and clientelism in the Agriculture ministry. And today even the government has seen that our findings were correct. There was no other way we could get the government to react than to hold that meeting, and so we accept responsibility for any outcome even if it means going to Kondengui.

In one of your findings you said the vice PM in charge of Justice, Amadou Ali, unjustifiably appropriated one of the 60 Indian tractors that were meant to be tested by local farmers. But the vice PM says he merited the tractor as he owns a large farm and a CIG. What is your reaction to this?
That is the vice PM’s part of the story. What we said is that he took a tractor and he did not contradict that. The second point is that the tractors were meant to be tested by local farmers and to be examined if they were adapted to Cameroon’s farming conditions. The question we are asking is whether the vice PM ever tested the tractors. Secondly did he not use his influence as PM to get the tractor? And because the tractors were never tested the Indians never received any report on the tests and we have missed having a tractor assembly plant in our country. That is the point we are making.

Are you deterred by the police harassments and molestations? Don’t you think all what the government is trying to do is to intimidate you so that you can stop carrying on with your investigations?

If they think that they can intimidate me then they are fooling themselves. The truth always reigns supreme and so I have nothing to fear. If I feared intimidation then I would have stopped ever since because it is not today that I started. We are going to continue because we are doing all this for the suffering masses. We cannot accept to suffer in a country blessed with abundance.

Are you satisfied with the way the government reacted to your revelations?
Very satisfied. Everybody could see the interest manifested from all government circles. It was the talk in all government departments, and nobody ever challenged our findings. Instead the anti-corruption commission has picked up the file which has helped them see far more things than we could see. So we are happy.

What about the public’s appraisal?
You are a journalist. I don’t need to tell you. Instead it is you to tell me. The report made headline news in almost all news organs – radio, TV, newspapers, the internet - for several weeks. And it is still the talk of the town. I think this interest from the public only shows how disappointed the people are with the management of affairs in this country.





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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Electoral Commission: Pillar of Ghana’s Successful Democracy

National sovereignty in all countries is supposed to belong to the people who exercise it through their representatives. The people choose their representatives through elections which should be credible, free, genuine and democratic.

By Tazoacha Asonganyi
Ghana has been hailed for the manner in which the sovereignty of the Ghanaian people was exercised in choosing not only members of parliament but also the present president of Ghana. Indeed, in spite of several recent failures in other countries, Ghana succeeded with brio in December 2008 to carry out what has been described as free, fair and transparent elections in which the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) lost control of both parliament and the presidency to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). The elections were managed from the registration of voters through supervision of the polls to the proclamation of results by the Ghanaian Electoral Commission.

Following the appointment of members of Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) that has caused much ink and saliva to flow in Cameroon, it is appropriate to compare and contrast it with the Ghanaian Commission that is the pillar of the successful democracy being hailed in Ghana today.

The Ghanaian Electoral Commission is the institution in the Constitution that ensures the people’s right to vote. The composition, qualification, terms and conditions of service of its members, as well as its functions and its independence are all well defined in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. It has 7 members including a Chairman, 2 deputy Chairmen, and four other members. This is not the case in Cameroon where ELECAM is not one of the institutions in the Cameroon Constitution of 1996.

A person is qualified to be appointed a member of the commission if he or she is qualified to be elected as a member of parliament (is a citizen of Ghana, is aged at least 21 years, is registered as a voter, has paid all taxes). The Chairman has the same terms and conditions of service as an Appeal Court Judge (serves until retirement at 70, salary and allowances, immunity…) while his two deputies have the same terms and conditions of service of a High Court Judge (retirement at 65, salary and allowances, immunity…); the other four members earn allowances as Parliament may determine; they serve until they retire at the civil service retirement age!

They are all appointed by the President of Ghana after consultation with the Council of State and approval by Parliament. All this can be compared to what obtains in ELECAM: it is an outfit created at the whim of the President; and members have a term of 4 years renewable at the pleasure of the President! As for the Director General of ELECAM who in fact is in charge of performing all the duties devolved to ELECAM, he is appointed by the president alone, and serves at his pleasure! Remunerations and allowances of members of ELECAM are determined by… decree of the President!

The Ghanaian Electoral Commission has the following functions: compile the register of voters and revise it at such periods as may be determined by law; demarcate the electoral boundaries for both national and local elections; conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda; educate the people on the electoral process and its purpose; perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law. Such other functions now include the registration of political parties, the reception of the declaration of assets of political parties and their officials, the reception of the annual statements of the audited accounts of political parties, as well as applying to the High Court for the dissolution of any recalcitrant political party…

The Constitution of Ghana also states that "except as provided in this Constitution or in any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution, in the performance of its functions, the Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority... " In Cameroon, members of ELECAM "shall under no circumstances give or receive instructions or orders from public or private authority during the performance of their duties"! If ELECAM cannot give instructions, it is not supreme in the organisation and management of elections! Further, unlike in Ghana where the Electoral Commission is really independent, in Cameroon "the Minister in charge of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation shall ensure permanent liaison between government and ELECAM; in this respect, the latter shall submit copies of minutes and progress reports to him..."!

Following Parliamentary and Presidential elections, votes at each polling station are counted by agents of the Ghana Election Commission in the presence of representatives of candidates and the general public. It is the returning officer appointed by the Commission in each single-candidate constituency that gives the total number of votes cast for each candidate in the constituency and publicly declares elected to Parliament, the candidate who scores the highest votes.

As for the Presidential election, it is the Ghana Electoral Commission that declares the candidate who wins using "an instrument which is executed under the hand of the Chairman of the Commission, and states that the person named in the instrument is declared elected as president of Ghana at the election of the President". In Cameroon, ELECAM is only allowed to "publish presidential election, legislative, and senate election trends"; it forwards "election reports to the Constitutional Council or bodies provided for by law"!

In Ghana, the Electoral Commission is constitutionally bound to do its work properly and free from interference; in Cameroon, all is put in place for ELECAM to "fail" if trends are not favourable to the prince: "where ELECAM is duly established to be incompetent by the Constitutional Council, the President of the Republic shall under section 5 of the Constitution, take the requisite corrective measure...". As for the reason and timing of such a grave decision, only the President of the Republic (a probable candidate himself) knows!

Overall, the Ghanaian Electoral Commission and ELECAM are like night and day. ELECAM is so gagged that it is really doubtful that it can conduct and supervise free and fair elections, like the Ghanaian Commission. It seems that like NEO before it, ELECAM has been programmed to fail!

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Cameroon: Publisher writes to Obama. Says Paul Biya is a leader on the wrong side of history!

Barack Obama’s inaugural address following his swearing-in last week gave hope and inspiration to Cameroonians who were much delighted to understand that the new tenant of the White House has made political change in Africa one of his priorities. He should know that Paul Biya will be 79 in 2011 and it is then that he intends to assume yet another seven-year term following a change in the constitution last year that took off term limits. Cameroon’s economy is far from being a success. Cameroonians have endured unimaginable hardship for all of Paul Biya’s 26 years in office so far as a direct consequence of wrong policies. Below is the letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

Like millions of Cameroonians and Africans, we of this newspaper extend you hearty congratulations on your swearing-in last week as the 44th US president.

Thanks to global media we are fully aware of the urgency with which you and your collaborators are already tackling the huge and pressing problems of the US economy; the two US wars abroad as well as the long-drawn and thorny Middle East problem. And much more.
The challenges are monumental but you have vowed to resolve them all in good time. We sincerely believe you. Your electoral campaign is the evidence. The road was long, the odds too many and sometimes almost impossible, but “yes we can”, and there you are.

One of your major foreign policy objectives is to reassert America’s leadership of the free world which has been severely compromised over most of the last decade.
Within this broad policy perspective we know that you are particularly concerned about Africa whose socio-economic development continues to suffer a setback due to eternal problems of governance.
We could perceive how that pain found its way into your inaugural speech, short as it was, on January 20.

“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history.” You nevertheless promised to extend a hand of friendship to such men if only they would “unclench” their fists.
Terse as that was, your message was well understood and instantly became a source of inspiration and hope among the forces of democracy in Cameroon who are now eager for follow-up action.
Though your words were directed generally to African countries and beyond, don’t be surprised President Obama to learn that they fit Cameroon so exactly as if you had only Cameroon in mind.

Surely you know that Cameroon has been ruled by Paul Biya continuously for 26 years. Last year he used parliament to take off term limits from the constitution in order to extend his mandate that expires in 2011.
The move was extremely unpopular but the president had his way all the same. Parliament is hand-picked; opposition parties exist but in name; and the courts are under the president’s direct control.

Paul Biya can expect to win the next election because election management, like every institution, is under his control. Every single election, presidential or legislative, since October 1992 has been a deceit forced down the peoples’ throats, irrespective of protests.
In 1990 a one-party dictatorship was changed into a multiparty system which promised competitive politics along with the democratic institutions that should have made it functional. But as soon as Paul Biya saw his power slipping away, he quickly reneged on the change.

Well-entrenched

In the absence of opposition and credible elections the regime has become well-entrenched. No doubt Paul Biya who will be 79 in 2011 still projects another seven-year term, and why not another again!
Had the regime’s unflattering governance record been balanced by a defendable economic record there would be some argument in its favour. Isn’t it remarkable that the miracle economies of the SE.Asian tigers were produced almost without exception by heavy-handed rulers?

But the government’s unwillingness to modernise political institutions is compounded by a stagnant, if not regressive, economy. All economic growth is the result of sustained and prioritised investment. Bold and ambitious nation-building is the work of a highly nationalistic and committed leadership.

Cameroon has vast natural resources and sufficiently trained man-power. And, unlike many other African countries, Cameroon has enjoyed remarkable peace. The sure conclusion for its failure is that Paul Biya has not provided the strong development-oriented leadership that Cameroon very much needed in the last two-and-a-half decades.
A simple example drives home the point. In its nearly 50 years of independence Cameroon has only managed to build ten percent or less of its road infrastructure. That translates to about 5,000 kms out of an estimated 50,000 kms of the country’s road grid.

Even then only about 3,000 kms are presently useable, the rest having become badly deteriorated through neglect by the government. Given the capital importance of a dependable all-seasonal road network because of its overall effect on any country’s development it is easy to appreciate the government’s inability to master the country’s resources for its development.
By contrast Angola that began to develop its road infrastructure only in 2002 following the end of a destructive 30-year civil war had to its credit by mid-2008 more than 2,600 kms of excellent modern roads with a good third of that dual carriage ways.

Cameroon’s manifest lack of development commitment combines, regrettably, with a destructive management culture of corruption and wide scale office abuse with impunity. The government’s machinery is grossly inefficient, and the authorities appear unwilling or helpless to correct that.
The annual World Bank survey on ease of doing business repeatedly ranks Cameroon among the worst on the globe. So do other international watchdogs on corruption, governance, human rights, etc. With such an unenviable record it is small wonder that Cameroon does not attract foreign direct investment.

President Obama, we do not think a letter is the place for a comprehensive review of the regime in Cameroon. Yet it is important for you and your new administration to know that Cameroonians are sick and tired of a regime that has caused them so much hardship and pain, all of which could have been avoided. And the regime plans to stay on indefinitely.

We thank you for your policy goal of striving for political change in Africa. We have no idea how you intend to go about that. Yet we feel certain that with strong and determined US leadership so much that is now not imaginable can change for the better.

Leadership vacuum

Given its many problems elsewhere, the previous administration in Washington clearly lacked the necessary leadership in Africa. In that vacuum we have seen a significant rise in flawed elections, mandate extensions and sitting tight against the will of the people.
In the last half century of independence in African countries irresponsible governments have been responsible for failed economic development. A staggering 650 billon USD is the estimated development aid made to Africa. Donors have since been asking what there is to show for that in Africa!

The approach in the last two decades or so to condition aid to good governance was good but was little respected. Moreover the old attitude of developed countries patronising some African countries as belonging to their spheres of influence only encouraged the same ills that created the problem of failed development.
In our humble opinion the problem of Africa’s development should now be approached as a global issue involving all stake-holders i.e. all bilateral and multilateral donor organisations and institutions working together.

That approach backed by the strong leadership of the US, we think, would stand a good chance of effecting desired change. No doubt there will be emphasis on transparent elections which we also think should be funded and closely monitored by the global community.
It should be absolutely possible for an African country to change its government through a justly conducted election. This is fundamental and non-negotiable.

In the mid-1980s it was accepted for the first time that where there was massive and intolerable abuse of fundamental human rights in any country the doctrine of non-interference in the affairs of a country was no longer tenable.
From that understanding the US entered Somalia and Ronald Reagan justified his bombing raid over Tripoli to check what he considered to be Lybia’s acts of terror.
Since then the world has become smaller thanks to globalisation in trade and culture. The global village has made Africa’s poverty and misery more and more of a scar on the global conscience.

One manifestation of that scar is the new scourge of clandestine immigration whereby unending droves of young Africans flee the hardship and hopelessness at home at great risk to life and limb for a better life abroad. Since the wars and misery that degrade Africa and its peoples are mostly the result of irresponsible government we believe it is time for the global community to justifiably take a close interest in government in Africa. Africans themselves have rendered the principle of non-interference, legitimate in many ways, no longer tenable. Here is mighty leverage!

No doubt, President Obama, these thoughts are completely without prejudice to yours and your administration’s approach to this matter. But be sure we are now eagerly waiting for your action for political change in Africa.
We bring this letter to a close congratulating you once again on your very bold and brave success at winning the presidency of the US following your heroic electoral campaign.
We also thank you for making Africa’s development one of your priority goals. Assured of your bold and determined leadership we too, oppressed as we are, can now summon The Audacity of Hope. Yes, we can!

We wish you and your family the very best.

Yours sincerely,

Boniface Forbin
Publisher/Editor,
The Herald


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Sunday, January 25, 2009

What is a prophet?

To understand the biblical meaning of “prophet,” one has to distinguish the biblical sense of prophecy from the popular notion that a prophet predicts the future. A person who claims to foretell future events is more properly described as an “oracle”.
By Yemti Harry Ndienla

The word “prophet” comes from a Greek word that means “one who speaks on behalf of another.” In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the “another” is God. Thus, prophets are those who speak on behalf of God. They have the gift of seeing things from God's perspective and their primary focus is on the present. Insofar as they talk about the consequences of the present course of action, they also look to the future.

It would be best to say: “Prophets forewarn; they don't foretell.”
“On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.(Is 29:17-24)

And “the lowly will ever find joy in the Lord..” Joy.
Great tidings of joy. Joy to the world.
The word “joy” can be used in different ways. Roget's Thesaurus says it can mean happiness, gladness, delight, delegation, cheer, glee, gaity, intoxication – you get the rest.

When Jesus says to the disciples at the Last Supper table: “I have told you this so that joy might be in you and your joy would be complete” - he uses the Greek word “chara”. Taken from the word “charis” which means grace.

That's getting to the heart of what biblical joy really mean.
Simply put, “grace” means God leaning towards me, bending over me, inclining towards me kindly, favorably.”

That's what God is and that's who God is for us. There is never a moment when God isn't moving toward me that way. No matter what the situation, God is leaning toward me kindly, favorably. And it's God's initiative. It's got nothing to do with whether I deserve it. Now that's a tiding of great joy.


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Saturday, January 24, 2009

God is gravely upset with Cameroon’s leaders - Christian Cardinal Tumi

The recent conference of Catholic bishops in Cameroon that took place in Maroua, was something the Yaounde authorities would have stopped had they been able to.

More than anything that conference exposed the Biya regime as a way of informing the Papal Pontiff as he prepares his journey to Cameroon in mid-March.

Christian Cardinal Tumi, used his homily during New Year’s Day mass at the Douala cathedral to attack the government on a wide-ranging number of policy issues. The cardinal concluded: God is gravely upset with Cameroon’s leaders.

Tumi’s onslaught, harrowing as it was, was easily dismissed as the ranting of an implacable enemy. But when in the next few days the volleys began raining down from Maroua the church’s anger against the regime was no more in doubt.
Yaounde huffed and began the blame game. Why are they so hostile? Don’t they see that they are damaging the regime just when the Pope is preparing to come to Cameroon? What image do they want to portray of Cameroon to the world.

Victor Tonye Bakot, the Yaounde archbishop who missed the first days of the conference to represent the church at the New Year’s wishes ceremonies that took place at Unity Palace was literally taken hostage. As a friend of the regime, he found himself in the awkward position of taking the unending queries by Paul Biya’s aides.

The unspoken message was an indictment. You are our friend and chair of the Catholic Episcopal conference, why do you allow your colleagues to attack us with such hostility?
In that mind frame Paul Biya surely nurses a deep grudge against the church. What does not even occur to the president to do is some introspection?
He would, for instance, ask himself why the hostility? How true are the criticisms? Are there things I can do to remedy the things they are disappointed about?

Should the president allow himself only a little opening through which to dare to see possible responses to such inward looking that could be a welcome first step that leads on to a few more shifts in policy and personal style.
One major point made by the bishops is that of neglect or inaction. Something wrong happens and generates wide public disapproval.
Normally you would expect the government to take a firm policy position on the matter, banning it, or banning behaviour that led to it; or stating a clear line of action that should minimise the effect of that happening. But Yaounde authorities typically remain silent and not say a thing.

For instance, why has the government been unable to say anything about the Indian aid tractors that public officials helped themselves to at the high cost of the underprivileged farmers to whom the equipment was truly given?
In the same light why has the government been unable to make a statement on the huge controversy surrounding the ELECAM appointments or the scandal implicating Samuel Fonkam Asu’u, its board chair? That is most surely not competence nor leadership.

Absence of leadership is the main cause of drift. Of course the country does not move forward. It problems multiply and become complex. Isn’t that the present state of Cameroon, sinking under the weight of poverty, underdevelopment and social ills?
In all fairness the exact expression that describes what has happened to Cameroon is leadership failure. It is surely painful for Paul Biya to have someone say this but the answer is not in thinking that people are enemies.

The regime will help itself a lot more by looking within itself for answers to the criticisms that it faces.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Cameroon: Publisher says Paul Biya’s arrogance is causing him harm.

Call for collective efforts by the opposition to fight the regime

Boniface Forbine, publisher of Cameroon’s leading News paper of English expression, The Herald, says president Paul Biya’s arrogance is causing him harm and call for collective efforts by the opposition to fight the regime govern by the Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM), party.

The publisher in a recent editorial says though the Biya regime is presently weak and inefficient, President Paul Biya, takes advantage of the rather lazy opposition that exist in the country to do as he likes. He however intimated that the government has been damaged by the recent controversy surrounding the country’s electoral body – Elections Cameroon (ELECAM). On this score the paper noted for tough editorials on the regime states, “We think this is a timely opportunity for the remnants of the opposition to pull themselves together and give the regime a fight. It won’t be a wasted effort”.
Below is an excerpt of the editorial

William Shakespeare, the 16th century English playwright once observed thoughtfully, that there is a tide in the affairs of men which when taken at flood leads on to good fortune.
It is clear that Paul Biya’s 26-year regime is presently at a bumpy turning. We think a timely opportunity now presents itself for the opposition not to miss but to rise up boldly and challenge the regime.
By arrogantly taking the people for a ride as he normally does, Paul Biya has inadvertently put his regime on trial. Condemnation is raining not only at home but also from abroad. Opposition forces couldn’t have a better time now for a good partisan aim at the weakened regime.

ELECAM, Paul Biya’s new election management organ is a sham and could never deliver on its promise of free and fair elections.
To divert attention from the hogwash, Paul Biya cleverly, arrogantly filled ELECAM’s board with senior CPDM operatives in obvious violation of the law that stipulates neutrality.
That way he could then revise the appointments and win public applause for having harkened to the people. No doubt public outrage has not been wanting.

Still, the president took a risk. Barely controllable, the extent of the anger seems to have been more than expected. Opposition forces that had gone to sleep awakened, challenging not only the illegal appointments but also ELECAM itself as incapable of organising credible elections.
Albert Ngwana, leader of the little-known Cardinal Democratic Party wasted no time in summoning a press conference in Douala at which he called for the boycott of future ELECAM elections. Fru Ndi also echoed the appeal.
John Fru Ndi and his SDF also woke up from a slumber lasting more than a year. Fru Ndi and the SDF shocked the public with their absolute silence over the highly controversial constitutional revision for Biya’s term extension and other big issues last year.
Adamou Ndam Njoya also summoned his CDU party and used the occasion to take an aim at the disappointing ELECAM. Bernard Muna, even before his AFP party’s convention at the weekend, had castigated ELECAM in no uncertain terms.

As if the pounding was not enough the government has also had to cope with a scandal in which the newly appointed board chair of ELECAM Samuel Fonkam Azu’u is implicated. His signature was found on fraudulent travel warrants intended to facilitate illegal immigration. The culprits claimed they bribed him for the service.

Personal integrity

The scandal further raised questions about the personal integrity of not only Fonkam but also other board members, thus causing double damage to the perception and public acceptability of ELECAM.
Matters appear so bad that senior CPDM officials simply think that Fonkam, who is supposed to have tendered his resignation from the ruling party, should nevertheless be expelled from the party.

To these problems add last year’s highly controversial constitutional amendment intended to facilitate term extension for Paul Biya and the long relationship of abuse and mistrust between Yaounde and the Commonwealth. What you get is a potentially weakened regime.
Yaounde diplomats may not yet have commented on ELECAM since the year-end appointments but their disgust for Biya’s unending manoeuvring on this and other issues is no more hidden. They unveiled their feelings at the Cameroon-EU dialogue last July.

It was clear at the second session at Christmas that the European Union had lost enthusiasm in providing support funding for ELECAM due to the government’s inability to be transparent on it. The Commonwealth will also not find justification for funding ELECAM for the same reason of Paul Biya’s untrustworthiness as a partner.
There is a campaign already underway, spearheaded by Lord Avebury a member of the British House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British parliament. It is an error to underestimate the damage that Avebury’s campaign can do. He is addressing not only donor members of the Commonwealth but also powerful multilateral organisations like the EU.

We think the time is strategic now for Cameroon’s opposition forces to come together and cash in on the regime weakened by these developments and especially by the discomfiture of powerful foreign partners on whom it often depends for vital aid and validation.
In spite of their personal disagreements opposition leaders and parties share in a common disgust for the Yaounde regime. It is this common disgust that we suggest they should articulate and use as the centre of an international campaign.

For this purpose such a campaign should express outrage at the very idea of plans for mandate extension for Biya. There is, of course, no shortage of material for such a memo, given the well-known record of the government in almost every area of development.
The case is certainly very good and appealing. What it very much needs is the agreement and unity of the opposition. With the right will a two or three man committee can draft an all comprehensive memorandum, something of a charter of grievances against the Biya regime.

Mobilise partners

The aim should be to strongly mobilise Cameroon’s partners and the international community to prevail on Paul Biya to retire in 2011 and at the same time prepare the nation for a free and fair election for the popular election of the country’s next leader.
Signed by the leaders of the main political parties, such a memo should be marketed by a three or four-man delegation on a tour of European and US capitals to personally present it to appropriate authorities. Such a move is not totally new, having once taken place in 1991. Only the spirit will be new.

The point about going oneself is that the international community works on the premise that political change in any country is a matter for its citizens themselves. This is correct.
Such an action is in nature similar to the nationalist struggles that took place to bring about the granting of independence to African countries by colonial masters. Just imagine how long more independence would have waited without the pressure mounted on metropolitan authorities by strong and purposeful nationalists.

We take this opportunity to hail them all.The following come quickly to mind: Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nnamndi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo of Nigeria; Sir Milton Margai of Sierra Leone, Ahmed Sekou Touré of Guinea, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania; Gamel Abdel Nassar of Egypt and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
We are convinced that any well-conducted campaign of this nature will yield miracle results. It will convince foreign partners of the will of Cameroonians at last to fight for the liberation of their country from the death clutch of Paul Biya’s unprogressive regime.

Furthermore such a concerted international campaign will also awaken and mobilise Cameroonians to rise up like one man to challenge the regime. Weakened by the docility of the opposition Cameroonians are forced to resign to their suffering and hardship inflicted on them by 26 years of failed policies.
Don’t be mistaken to think that such a move will not rock the Yaounde authorities and put them on the defensive, to say the least. You need to know how profoundly disturbed and shaken they were last week when Catholic prelates meeting at their conference in Maroua fired volleys of criticism at Yaounde.

Cameroon, they alerted the Pope dutifully, in view of the pontiff’s coming visit to Yaounde, is a nation in which all evils have been allowed to grow and flourish because of the culpable neglect and incompetence of its leaders.
The example of the bishops, limited as it is, is a useful indicator of the success that awaits a good challenge of the regime that thrives simply because it is left unchallenged. That challenge must now begin, not an armed campaign but good purposeful partisan action. Isn’t that what party politics is about? Let it begin.

Personal animosities

In the past personal animosities were so strong that opposition leaders preferred to abandon the strength that unity always brings. They thus gave away the victory that was clearly theirs.

The result is there for everyone to see. In 1992 in broad daylight the government stole the election from the presumed opposition winner. The rancour that had separated the leaders apart even prevented them from coming together to challenge the thief and recover the stolen victory.

What a shame, the baby was thrown away with the bath! The nation lost a golden opportunity to effect leadership change. The continued division and weakness of the opposition only helped the ‘lion man’ to continue to take advantage of that weakness and lord it over Cameroonians.

Isn’t it the logic of that domination and the corresponding helplessness of Cameroonians that led Paul Biya to conceive of remaining in power ‘till death do us part’, and why not afterwards? What a shame that not a single soul can lift a finger of protest and undertake good purposeful actions to bring the regime and its arrogance to its senses!
The question now is whether we are comfortable with Paul Biya’s undemocratic and unprogressive rule. Do we want the same impotence and indifference to continue? No matter how weak individual parties have become we still believe that they can cause the regime no small damage if only they will summon themselves together and deny Biya his arrogance and dictatorship.
We therefore plead with John Fru Ndi of the SDF; Adamou Ndam Njoya of the CDU; Bernard Muna of the AFP; Albert Ngwana of the CDP and as many of the other parties as possible to awaken to the failure of the past and rise above personality disagreements in order to fight the Biya regime. That is a task that must be done.

We urge Fru Ndi to consider SDF participation and initiative in this idea as unavoidable. The SDF remains Cameroon’s most important opposition party. It must not allow its shortcomings to deny it its critical role in the process of political change in Cameroon.
By the way Fru Ndi must see this as yet another opportunity to redeem the pledge he still owes Cameroonians to fight and never tire for political change in Cameroon.
This is the time. Let the opposition, in the wisdom of Shakespeare; take the tide now at flood in order to lead Cameroonians to good fortune.

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Obiang Nguema loses 4bn cash, other items to servant!

At a time when eyebrows are steadily rising over the amounts of money held in cash by some African leaders, the sum of 4 billion FCFA is said to have been stolen from the home of Equato-Guinean President, Theodore Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

According to the French news agency, AFP, an estimated 4 billion FCFA, alongside jewels and other high-priced items were stolen from the home of the president recently. A Paraguayan couple with loyalty to the Obiang Nguemas, is alleged to have staged the theft recently.

The trickling reports indicate that the expatriates, hitherto working at the president’s clinic and private residence in Malabo took advantage of his absence to stage the theft. They had won the confidence of the presidential couple as well as that of his entourage. From long years of apparently loyal service, they had free access to his palace, the reports intimated.
Several business concerns belonging to the presidential couple is known to be run by expatriates including Asians, South Americans and Lebanese. And there is every reason to believe that many of them will come under meticulous scrutiny.

And so, Paraguayan man and his wife simply seized advantage of the absence of President Obiang Nguema and First Lady Constancia Mangue Okomo from the Equato-Guinean capital recently to stage their act. They ransacked the presidential couple’s private quarters; breaking into and emptying safes of all their contents. The cash, reports claimed, included thick piles of FCFA, euro bills and dollar banknotes.

Attendant reports at the weekend indicated that a manhunt had been launched to track down the suspects after their sudden disappearance revealed the robbery. They are so far known to have unperturbedly boarded a regular flight from Malabo that ended in Madrid, Spain.
But it remains unclear how they managed to circumvent and sidetrack customs officials and airport security officials with the huge amount of money and valuable item.

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Women and husband’s former girlfriend (s): Enemy or friends?

Two trends of thought pervade the answers of respondents in a recent survey conducted in Cameroon. The first is that it is good for a former girlfriend to attend such a wedding because she and others would get to know that the man no longer has anything in common with her. While the second trend of thought is that the ex-girlfriend should be prevented from doing so in order not to jeopardize the new relationship.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Many claimed to know how wicked girls could be towards others especially when it concerns a boy. “Some of them, knowing that they have been dumped, attend the weddings of their former boyfriends just to cause confusion. My wedding day would be the happiest day in my life and I would not want anything that would disturb it. Also, allowing her to attend your wedding may give her the opportunity to reconcile with your husband and so cheat on you thereafter,” says Celia. Adding, “I would not like my husband’s former girlfriend to attend my wedding because she would likely take advantage of her presence at the wedding to cause discord in my marriage. You know very well that the human heart is wicked. Knowing that she no longer has anything to gain or lose, she might do just anything. It is good to take precautions. If she were a good woman my husband would have married her”.

Unlike Celia, Mary claims she would accept her husband’s former girlfriend to attend her wedding without second thought. This to her would give the ex-girlfriend the opportunity to know that her husband no longer belongs to her (The “Ex”), and also an indication to the fact that she holds no grudge against the “Ex”.

To Matilda, “it would be madness to allow my husband’s former girlfriend to attend our wedding. It has been proven that most men who allow their “Ex” to attend their wedding usually lose concentration when they see the girls in the hall. On our wedding day we need to focus and concentrate well on what is said and done and I would not like to see someone who could jeopardise this concentration in one way or the other”.

Others say they would allow her to attend the wedding on condition that she is married. And that she would be given VIP treatment for being the first to know the husband. “If she is not married, allowing her to attend my wedding would be synonymous with inviting trouble to myself because women are jealous and could be dangerous”.

Kevine says it would depend on her husband for the “Ex” to attend. “I don’t know who his former girlfriends are. The fact that he is getting married to me means that he preferred me to all others. So if after rejecting them they still want to attend his wedding then it’s left to them. But their presence at the wedding should not be with any intention to perturb the activities of the day. They should simply enjoy themselves, surely, in envy”.

To Mecy, it would be sheer provocation for her husband’s former girlfriend to attend her wedding in the same way as it would be unacceptable for her former boyfriend to attend her wedding. Hear her, “common sense would not permit that as anything can happen along the line. You know that in church the officiating priest or pastor usually asks if there is anybody in the congregation who for any reason would not want that the couple be joined in holy matrimony. How would it look like if such a person were there and raises an objection?” she questioned.

Though Elizabeth is of the opinion that her husband’s “Ex” should attend she warns, she or they should behave themselves”, adding, “Marriage is a life union between one man and one woman. Every other person is excluded. So if he is marrying me it is clear that he has no intention of keeping the other girlfriend(s). And if I am that girl I would not attend his wedding even if he invited me. But some girls still muster the courage to do so”.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

ELECAM and Paul Biya’s arrogance:Strategic time for powerful opposition action to fight regime

The Biya regime is presently not at its strongest. Taking advantage of an opposition that exists only in name Paul Biya does as he likes. But his arrogance appears now to be causing him harm. The ELECAM controversy has damaged the government. We think this is a timely opportunity for the remnants of the opposition to pull themselves together and give the regime a fight. It won’t be a wasted effort.

William Shakespeare, the 16th century English playwright once observed thoughtfully, that there is a tide in the affairs of men which when taken at flood leads on to good fortune.
It is clear that Paul Biya’s 26-year regime is presently at a bumpy turning. We think a timely opportunity now presents itself for the opposition not to miss but to rise up boldly and challenge the regime.

By arrogantly taking the people for a ride as he normally does, Paul Biya has inadvertently put his regime on trial. Condemnation is raining not only at home but also from abroad. Opposition forces couldn’t have a better time now for a good partisan aim at the weakened regime.
ELECAM, Paul Biya’s new election management organ is a sham and could never deliver on its promise of free and fair elections.

To divert attention from the hogwash, Paul Biya cleverly, arrogantly filled ELECAM’s board with senior CPDM operatives in obvious violation of the law that stipulates neutrality.
That way he could then revise the appointments and win public applause for having harkened to the people. No doubt public outrage has not been wanting.
Still, the president took a risk. Barely controllable, the extent of the anger seems to have been more than expected. Opposition forces that had gone to sleep awakened, challenging not only the illegal appointments but also ELECAM itself as incapable of organising credible elections.

Albert Ngwana, leader of the little-known Cardinal Democratic Party wasted no time in summoning a press conference in Douala at which he called for the boycott of future ELECAM elections. Fru Ndi also echoed the appeal.
John Fru Ndi and his SDF also woke up from a slumber lasting more than a year. Fru Ndi and the SDF shocked the public with their absolute silence over the highly controversial constitutional revision for Biya’s term extension and other big issues last year.

Adamou Ndam Njoya also summoned his CDU party and used the occasion to take an aim at the disappointing ELECAM. Bernard Muna, even before his AFP party’s convention at the weekend, had castigated ELECAM in no uncertain terms.
As if the pounding was not enough the government has also had to cope with a scandal in which the newly appointed board chair of ELECAM Samuel Fonkam Azu’u is implicated. His signature was found on fraudulent travel warrants intended to facilitate illegal immigration. The culprits claimed they bribed him for the service.

Personal integrity

The scandal further raised questions about the personal integrity of not only Fonkam but also other board members, thus causing double damage to the perception and public acceptability of ELECAM.
Matters appear so bad that senior CPDM officials simply think that Fonkam, who is supposed to have tendered his resignation from the ruling party, should nevertheless be expelled from the party.

To these problems add last year’s highly controversial constitutional amendment intended to facilitate term extension for Paul Biya and the long relationship of abuse and mistrust between Yaounde and the Commonwealth. What you get is a potentially weakened regime.
Yaounde diplomats may not yet have commented on ELECAM since the year-end appointments but their disgust for Biya’s unending manoeuvring on this and other issues is no more hidden. They unveiled their feelings at the Cameroon-EU dialogue last July.

It was clear at the second session at Christmas that the European Union had lost enthusiasm in providing support funding for ELECAM due to the government’s inability to be transparent on it. The Commonwealth will also not find justification for funding ELECAM for the same reason of Paul Biya’s untrustworthiness as a partner.

There is a campaign already underway, spearheaded by Lord Avebury a member of the British House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British parliament. It is an error to underestimate the damage that Avebury’s campaign can do. He is addressing not only donor members of the Commonwealth but also powerful multilateral organisations like the EU.
We think the time is strategic now for Cameroon’s opposition forces to come together and cash in on the regime weakened by these developments and especially by the discomfiture of powerful foreign partners on whom it often depends for vital aid and validation.

In spite of their personal disagreements opposition leaders and parties share in a common disgust for the Yaounde regime. It is this common disgust that we suggest they should articulate and use as the centre of an international campaign.
For this purpose such a campaign should express outrage at the very idea of plans for mandate extension for Biya. There is, of course, no shortage of material for such a memo, given the well-known record of the government in almost every area of development.
The case is certainly very good and appealing. What it very much needs is the agreement and unity of the opposition. With the right will a two or three man committee can draft an all comprehensive memorandum, something of a charter of grievances against the Biya regime.

Mobilise partners

The aim should be to strongly mobilise Cameroon’s partners and the international community to prevail on Paul Biya to retire in 2011 and at the same time prepare the nation for a free and fair election for the popular election of the country’s next leader.

Signed by the leaders of the main political parties, such a memo should be marketed by a three or four-man delegation on a tour of European and US capitals to personally present it to appropriate authorities. Such a move is not totally new, having once taken place in 1991. Only the spirit will be new.
The point about going oneself is that the international community works on the premise that political change in any country is a matter for its citizens themselves. This is correct.

Such an action is in nature similar to the nationalist struggles that took place to bring about the granting of independence to African countries by colonial masters. Just imagine how long more independence would have waited without the pressure mounted on metropolitan authorities by strong and purposeful nationalists.

We take this opportunity to hail them all.The following come quickly to mind: Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nnamndi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo of Nigeria; Sir Milton Margai of Sierra Leone, Ahmed Sekou Touré of Guinea, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania; Gamel Abdel Nassar of Egypt and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

We are convinced that any well-conducted campaign of this nature will yield miracle results. It will convince foreign partners of the will of Cameroonians at last to fight for the liberation of their country from the death clutch of Paul Biya’s unprogressive regime.
Furthermore such a concerted international campaign will also awaken and mobilise Cameroonians to rise up like one man to challenge the regime. Weakened by the docility of the opposition Cameroonians are forced to resign to their suffering and hardship inflicted on them by 26 years of failed policies.

Don’t be mistaken to think that such a move will not rock the Yaounde authorities and put them on the defensive, to say the least. You need to know how profoundly disturbed and shaken they were last week when Catholic prelates meeting at their conference in Maroua fired volleys of criticism at Yaounde.
Cameroon, they alerted the Pope dutifully, in view of the pontiff’s coming visit to Yaounde, is a nation in which all evils have been allowed to grow and flourish because of the culpable neglect and incompetence of its leaders.

The example of the bishops, limited as it is, is a useful indicator of the success that awaits a good challenge of the regime that thrives simply because it is left unchallenged. That challenge must now begin, not an armed campaign but good purposeful partisan action. Isn’t that what party politics is about? Let it begin.

Personal animosities

In the past personal animosities were so strong that opposition leaders preferred to abandon the strength that unity always brings. They thus gave away the victory that was clearly theirs.
The result is there for everyone to see. In 1992 in broad daylight the government stole the election from the presumed opposition winner. The rancour that had separated the leaders apart even prevented them from coming together to challenge the thief and recover the stolen victory.

What a shame, the baby was thrown away with the bath! The nation lost a golden opportunity to effect leadership change. The continued division and weakness of the opposition only helped the ‘lion man’ to continue to take advantage of that weakness and lord it over Cameroonians. Isn’t it the logic of that domination and the corresponding helplessness of Cameroonians that led Paul Biya to conceive of remaining in power ‘till death do us part’, and why not afterwards? What a shame that not a single soul can lift a finger of protest and undertake good purposeful actions to bring the regime and its arrogance to its senses!


The question now is whether we are comfortable with Paul Biya’s undemocratic and unprogressive rule. Do we want the same impotence and indifference to continue? No matter how weak individual parties have become we still believe that they can cause the regime no small damage if only they will summon themselves together and deny Biya his arrogance and dictatorship.
We therefore plead with John Fru Ndi of the SDF; Adamou Ndam Njoya of the CDU; Bernard Muna of the AFP; Albert Ngwana of the CDP and as many of the other parties as possible to awaken to the failure of the past and rise above personality disagreements in order to fight the Biya regime. That is a task that must be done.

We urge Fru Ndi to consider SDF participation and initiative in this idea as unavoidable. The SDF remains Cameroon’s most important opposition party. It must not allow its shortcomings to deny it its critical role in the process of political change in Cameroon.

By the way Fru Ndi must see this as yet another opportunity to redeem the pledge he still owes Cameroonians to fight and never tire for political change in Cameroon.
This is the time. Let the opposition, in the wisdom of Shakespeare; take the tide now at flood in order to lead Cameroonians to good fortune.
Source:The Herald

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Stakeholders worry over PM’s decree regulating the motor-bike taxi sector in Cameroon

Take a visit to any general hospital. You will be shocked at the number of wards occupied by patients suffering from motorbike accident injuries. From one early 2007 account a good one quarter of the patients of the Yaounde Central Hospital were sent there by ‘okadas.’ Also there appear to be more people dying nowadays from okada than from car accidents.

Yet all that notwithstanding the motorbike taxi is rendering a much needed service to the public. It is available everywhere, including the most enclaved villages inaccessible to motor vehicles.
For township dwellers, okada, as the taxi bikes are called in Anglophone towns, is also flexible. It takes you to your front door where taxi-cabs are usually reluctant to get to. It is cheap: 100 fcfa for most journeys.

For okada operators themselves the cheap Chinese bikes have become a source of living and hope for a whole generation of young unemployed Cameroonians who would otherwise be small-time thieves or highway robbers. From their daily work they are now able to house, clothe and feed their families as well as send their children to school. Okada has indeed changed lives!

For a people rendered poor and miserable by their government, okada is a welcome gift, both for the operator and for the passenger. That is why when you consider the valuable service it renders one can only try to minimise the down side to this powerful new transportation phenomenon.
That is exactly what Ephraim Inoni’s year-end decree sought to do – introduce some usage and operational regulations to the new phenomenon. On the face of it, the requirements appear quite in order and the six months’ grace period appears also fair enough.

Trouble is all change is difficult and tends to be resisted. The star building seems to have ignored this. Considering the changes and grace period granted to be fair deal, they went straight ahead with their decree. That has provoked resistance where a little public relations management should have facilitated compliance. Now it appears that Inoni did a bad job.

The decree demands that okada operators be at least 18 years old; wear a helmet for themselves and only one passenger; have insurance cover; paint bike tank in yellow which is the taxicab colour in Cameroon.
The decree also requires operators to wear recognisable jackets; pay an assortment of taxes. Operators must also have a category A drivers’ licence.
All the requirements must be complied within the next six months latest.

Admittedly there are a few things to talk about between representatives of okada operators and government representatives. For instance why shouldn’t there be a bike-riding licence instead of obliging operators to obtain a category A car driving licence?
Also it seems that present bikes can be safely adapted to take two passengers (and no more). Once the need is expressed, we are sure that the Chinese manufacturers will soon design bikes with seats for two passengers. The ban should be for more than two.

Considering the transportation service rendered by okada and the unemployment reduction that it represents which in turn gives hope to thousands of amilies we think it would be counter-productive to bring a heavy tax burden on these struggling operators with razor thin business margines. Insurance and taxes must necessarily be kept to a minimum, a token.

By and large the new measures should be aimed at increasing safety, authorising and registering operators and promoting the activity, particularly in rural areas. Okada should on no account be discouraged by ill-thought out policies.
There is also need for dialogue, even at that level. Government should not ignore them or underestimate what problems they could cause. We are only less than a year away from the 2008 uprising that began with public officials underestimating the damage taxicab drivers could cause.
Ephraim Inoni should beware okadas are determined to hit him!

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Cameroon: Government worry over negative media reports on Country’s Electoral Body

Joseph Dion Ngute, Cameroon’s minister delegate in the Ministry of External Relations in charge of relations with the Commonwealth, has described as baseless media reports here that the Commonwealth had suspended aid to Cameroon on grounds that the president appointed mostly CPDM lackeys to man the country’s electoral body - Elections Cameroon (ELECAM).

He told the country’s CRTV in an interview that the Commonwealth, having learned of the press reports, did not hesitate to debunk the claims and issued a statement indicating that they had not yet made any judgment on the appointment of ELECAM members.

The alleged Commonwealth statement refuting the press reports carried by the state News paper - Cameroon Tribune, states that the media reports are inaccurate and that, “we will be discussing the matter as part of our ongoing engagement with the government”.

Dion Ngute said the Commonwealth has been accompanying the government in a number of initiatives, which deal with governance and democracy and that it had discussed elaborately with the government of Cameroon in view of putting in place a neutral organ responsible for carrying out all aspects of elections in the country.
“They (Commonwealth) have no specific mandate to determine who is a member of ELECAM. It is the sovereign act of the government of Cameroon,” he said.
But various newspapers have remained sceptical about the Commonwealth’s rebuttal, arguing that they have not yet seen a signed copy of the Commonwealth’s reaction to press reports that it suspended aid to Cameroon.

Reports about the Commonwealth’s suspension of aid to Cameroon came amidst widespread indignation within Cameroon and abroad over the partisan composition of ELECAM and serious questions about the integrity of the outfit’s chairman, Samuel Fonkam Azu’u, currently embroiled in a forgery and illegal immigration scandal.

Biya postpones ELECAM’s swearing-in

Meanwhile, the long-awaited appointments of ELECAM’s board were made at the same time last month with the announcement of the swearing-in date of 15 January.
But when Thursday 15 January, passed uneventfully it was clear that the controversies surrounding ELECAM forced President Paul Biya not to proceed with the swearing-in.
Domestic and international opinions have expressed outrage at the wantonly partisan character of the appointments. At least eight of the 12 board members are senior operatives of the ruling CPDM, while the remaining four are said to have CPDM sympathies.
This violates article 8 of the ELECAM law which stipulates the appointment of politically neutral persons.

To add salt to the injury, questions have been raised about the personal integrity of the board chair, Fonkam Azu’u. In his capacity as assistant secretary general at the national assembly, Fonkam is implicated in a case of aiding and abetting the illegal immigration of four Cameroonians.

These issues are presently being hotly debated in the media. It is believed that President Paul Biya is likely to review his appointments to the ELECAM board, in order to respect the provision of neutrality. It is not clear how soon this change would be done, but the postponement of the swearing-in remains the strongest indicator that the revision of appointment is coming.
Source: The Herald

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Cameroon: Government Worry over negative reports on Country’s Electoral Body

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Why not share your faith with someone in 2009?

Three wise men came a long way in order to see Jesus. Can you imagine the amount of supplies they needed? The baggage they carried. It was one huge road trip. But they saw a light that was shining in the distance. It was a light they knew to be of importance.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

The spiritual life of each one of us brings its own journey, its own advantage and we take a lot of baggage with us. However, faltering our steps, we were gifted with the inner wisdom that guided us towards the Nativity Scene, and the alter during our Christmas celebrations. Today we are blessed and reassured to know we were on the right path.

There’s a lot of darkness in the world right now. People do not know where to go or where to turn. The roof over their heads is being threatened either with foreclosure, rocket fire or the unknown.
There are many different lights shining – some of them natural, some artificial. But only one real light shines and offers the greatest hope: The light of Christ.

What is important for us to realize is that Jesus, the savior was born for all – not just us. Even for those in the darkest corners, the most sinful of conditions and the most desperate of circumstance – Jesus is for everyone.

Is it possible for us who have seen that light and followed that star to the alter at our Church or parish, to bring someone else along with us on the journey?
I put that question to us today because I feel that our faith life can be at times a bit self – absorbing.

We struggle with prayer so that we can feel right with God and feel ok. But we forget that part of our faith life has to involve bringing others to the table as well. It’s about bringing others to see the Jesus. It’s about showing others the light.
If we don’t then we become spiritually complacent or spiritually dry or spiritually lazy.
As we start a new year lets look around us and see who we can invite to join us on our journey to the alter of God. There are many out there who crave to have what we have and do not know it. Why not share your faith with someone who needs it in 2009?

For your reflection
Do you know someone in need of spiritual support?
Do you know someone who may benefit from an invitation to attend Mass with you?
Do you value the gift of faith enough to share it with others?

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hot peppers: taking the medical world by storm.

Hot peppers have an array of health benefits and it’s time to get them in your diet.Dawn Jackson Blatner, registered dietitian and author, once said people need to get creative in the ways they incorporate these little red, green, yellow, red and orange vegetable fireballs to acquire a taste for some of nature’s piquant foods.Blatner said hot pepper medicine is exciting because people have these foods already in their cabinets.

Yemti Harry Ndienla

“The first take home message for people is that these foods taste good and it can be good for you too,” the Chicago-based nutrition expert said.
“Hot peppers and their active ingredient, capsaicin, acts as an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory agent, reduces risk for heart disease, and is great for people with arthritis or marathoners regarding inflammation. It’s a pretty special spice.”
Preliminary research proposes that adding a teaspoon of cayenne pepper can cause the body to burn an extra 15 calories after eating the meal.

The spice to healthier life.
Capsaicin, the hot pepper’s natural heat-causing component, has been proven to kill cancer cells, prevent sinus infections, serve as an anti-inflammatory agent, provide gastric relief and produce fat oxidation.
A daily dose of hot peppers lets people breath easier, feel less pain and lower their body fat.
The burn felt while eating a jalapeno, habenero or cayenne pepper comes directly from the food’s capsaicin. Capsaicin, though odorless and flavorless, is primarily found in the pepper’s seeds and ribs, but is also evenly distributed throughout the vegetable’s flesh, according to the Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition.
It retains the unique ability to provoke prostate cancer cell suicide, repress joint pain, block pro-inflammatory chain reactions in the blood and reduce nerve fiber swelling in the brain.
The hot pepper’s fuel has the same metabolic effects as Ephedra without containing Ephredra’s negative cardiovascular side effects. It has been added to vitamin and weight loss supplements to increase effectiveness and safety.

Ulcers and small intestine irritation: The Common Myth
There is a common myth that hot pepper cause ulcers and small intestine irritation. However, research asserts that though spicy food may add to ulcer pain and irritation, it does not function as a cause: Ulcer development has never been factually linked to spicy foods or hot peppers.
Recent experiments at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles provided experimental evidence supporting capsaicin’s ability to halt prostate cell replication and encourage programmed cell death. Heiser said the uncovered benefits of capsaicin are on the right evolutionary road and we as eaters should get on the bandwagon.
“The first path was treating cancer cells with capsaicin and then to use the data to write the study that would then be applied to animals,” she said.
Animals might even be skipped because [hot peppers] are already in our food supply.”
Hot pepper research has become incredibly popular in 2007 with more than 200 placebo-controlled studies conducted.

Chili peppers, according to the Journal of Biological Chemistry can do more than just make you feel hot. “The active chemical in peppers can directly induce thermogenesis, the process by which cells convert energy into heat. Capsaicin is the chemical in chili peppers that contributes to their spiciness; CPS stimulates a receptor found in sensory neurons, creating the heat sensation and subsequent reactions like redness and sweating”.

Now, Yasser Mahmoud has found that capsaicin can create "heat" in a more direct manner by altering the activity of a muscle protein called SERCA. Normally, muscle contraction initiates following the release of a wave of calcium ions from a compartment called the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR); SERCA then actively pumps the calcium back into the SR (using ATP energy), causing muscle relaxation and renewing the cycle.

Capsaicin, however, can attach to SERCA and "uncouple" this pumping activity; that is, the protein still burns ATP energy but doesn't use it to pump calcium. Instead, all the ATP energy is given off as heat. This uncoupling, known as thermogenesis, is one important method of staying warm and is most often seen in hibernating animals.

These findings according to the America Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology further explain how capsaicin intake can increase metabolism and body temperature. And although these studies required relatively high amounts of capsaicin (probably more than someone could eat), the structure of capsaicin could be used as a model to design more potent compounds that might have clinical use such as treating hypothermia.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Insecurity: 56 journalists jailed in 2008, many others killed, and displaced


Some fifty-six out of 125 journalists jailed worldwide in 2008 were bloggers or editors or reporters for the web, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).However, others were tortured, killed or forced to go on exile by the repressive regime of their various countries. And many continue to have problems in course of their duties.CPJ executive director Joel Simon commented: “The future of journalism is on-line and we are now in a battle with the enemies of press freedom who are using imprisonment to define the limits of public discourse.”

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Among them two Nigerian bloggers, based in the United States; Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, and Jonathan Elendu, who were detained in Nigeria, in October. Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, editor of HuhuOnline, was “questioned over matters of national security”, according to a security spokesman while Jonathan Elendu of ElenduReports was held for ten days. He was asked about alleged links with another site SaharaReporters which published a picture of President Yar’Adua’s teenage son wielding an AK 47.Elendu said his detention “was the most horrible experience I have ever had”.

In Cameroon, Lewis Medjo, managing editor of the weekly, La Détente Libre, was arrested and later jailed in January for three years. He was accused of spreading false news in a report that President Biya was pushing out the president of the Supreme Court.

At least seven journalists were killed in Pakistan, against eight in 2007, and ten journalists in India. The Pakistani media make it clear that the toll reflects the unsettled situation particularly in areas bordering Afghanistan. One of these areas, Bajaur, has seen ruthless fighting between Pakistan’s army and local Taliban. In December, Taliban issued a fatwa saying two journalists deserved to be killed, as ‘agents of the West’. The press club in Khar, Bajaur’s capital, was hit by two rockets aimed at an army post on the roof. A journalist remarked: “If we report that civilians are killed by government or Taliban firing, we risk our lives.”

In the Swat valley, a TV man’s sister was killed when soldiers fired through the metal door of his house. A neighbour said that soldiers often fire when on the move, to keep militants at a distance. In the same area journalist Qari Muhammad Shoaib was killed in November. Soldiers shot at his car, believing him to be a suicide bomber. In January the Swat home of Dawn correspondent, Hameedullah Khan, was blown up. He had been forced to leave it by an army attack on December 28.

Canadian journalist Khadija Qahaar was kidnapped in November by Taliban. In the city of Peshawar, an Afghani and a Japanese journalist narrowly escaped kidnap. The Afghani was shot in the chest, arm and hand. Further west, in Baluchistan, two journalists were hurt when a bomb exploded outside newspaper offices in Quetta in October. In January a bomb thrown at an intelligence office in Baluchistan also damaged a TV booster station.

Away from the border, a newspaper editor was shot in November near Lahore and died four days later. Also in Lahore Ahmad Faraz, crime reporter for Geo News TV, needed 25 stitches in his head after he was attacked by security men at a gated housing estate in January. He had gone there after three men were killed during an armed robbery.

Ansar Abbasi, investigations editor at The News, Islamabad, has been told his life is under threat. On January 1, over 30 armed men from the Sindh Nationalist Front went to the office of the Sindhi daily Awami Awaz and threatened staff, reminding them they once broke a reporter’s legs. Editor-in-chief Jabbar Khattak said his paper had been under pressure from the SNF to publish its statements unedited.

Journalists’ other complaint, apart from insecurity, is pay. Those in the frontier areas complain they often do not receive it. A TV employee in Islamabad, Mohammed Azam Khan, killed himself at the end of November. He had not been paid for five months. Journalists held protest rallies in six cities against failure to pay a wage award dating from 2001.

Many more journalists are having hard times around the world. Fiji government has asked for the publishers and editors of the Fiji Times and the Daily Post to be jailed for six months for contempt of court. They published a letter from Australia criticizing the High Court for validating the 2006 military coup. Journalist Barbara Dreaver was put on a plane back to New Zealand when she arrived in December to cover a row between New Zealand and Fiji.

Four years after editor and government critic Deyda Hydara was shot dead in The Gambia, no one has been prosecuted for his murder. Key witnesses have disappeared, says Reporters sans Frontieres.

In Ghana, Metro TV complained to the police about attacks on its staff by supporters of the two presidential candidates. The attacks were in Accra, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and Tamale. Journalists from Joy FM and Nhyira FM (Kumasi) and an opposition party cameraman also suffered assaults. In India, B.V.Seetaram, chief editor of a Mangalore evening, was detained with his wife in January on a charge of defamation filed two years ago. The case appears connected with his reporting of communal conflict.

Journalist Lenin Kumar Roy and two assistants were detained for ten days in December over a book exposing violence against minorities in the state of Orissa. Hindus and Christians have been in conflict there.

In Malawi, Joy Radio, which has had a lengthy battle with the government-appointed regulator, resumed broadcasting on December 16 after a month off the air. A judge said it could broadcast pending a judicial review of the decision revoking its licence. In Mozambique, Anibalzinho, convicted killer of leading journalist Carlos Cardoso, was on the run in December, having escaped prison for the third time. Staff members of the Abuja-based daily Leadership in Nigeria, were twice detained in November after it reported that Saudi Arabian doctors had been flown in to treat President Yar’Adua.

In Srilanka, a court in December rejected a plea that a confession by Tamil journalist J.S.Tissainayagam during his four months’ detention was made under duress. He and two colleagues are charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.Meanwhile two editors of the state-run Sunday Observer and Daily News were demoted in December after the papers reported remarks by the army chief. The remarks prompted a protest from India.

A son of a bishop in the Divine Healing Ministries in Swaziland, used fists and a knife to attack Swazi Observer news editor Ackei Zwane in a butcher’s shop on December 26. He complained of negative reporting of his father. He LATER gave himself up to the police. The bishop went with him. Mfonfo Nkambule, a popular columnist and former cabinet minister, apologised to the king for critical articles, after pressure from the police and a chief. Still in Swaziland, Media people were banned from covering a traditional ceremony in December. A South African TV crew had their equipment seized.

In Tanzania, Journalists protested on the streets of Dar-es-Salaam against a three-month ban on the weekly MwanaHALISI, which had reported an alleged plot to stop President Kikwete being re-elected in 2010. While in the United Kingdom, police found a new weapon against inquiring journalists – the offence of abetting misconduct in a public office. Sally Murrer of the Milton Keynes Citizen was accused of this after police put a bug in the car of her informant, a detective. Her reports in question related to a young offender, a footballer and a murder victim. She was cleared when a judge ruled that the public interest did not justify the bugging, which infringed her human rights.

In Zimbabwe, Jestina Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project and a former TV newsreader, who was seized from her home on December 3, was brought before a court on December 24. She and others were accused of organising a police officer’s trip to Botswana for training to overthrow President Mugabe. The peace project has constantly publicised political violence in Zimbabwe. A freelance photojournalist, Shadreck Manyere, disappeared ten days after Mukoko and was in court with her. Lawyers alleged they had been tortured and applied for medical treatment for them. Manyere denies charges of being involved in bombings. On his part Obrian Rwafa, an editor with state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting, was abducted and beaten in December by three men who accused him of lying about Zimbabwe’s situation.However, a disciplinary committee cleared Bhekinkosi Ncube, editor of the state-owned magazine Umthunywa, who had been accused of sending an e-mail insulting President Mugabe. Foreign media now have to pay 30,000 American dollars to operate an office in Zimbabwe.

Source: CJA

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