Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Repatriation of stolen money:Transparency International frowns at govt’s inaction

Officials say that strategies for the systematic detection, repression and recovery of stolen and siphoned state wealth may be a panacea for endemic thievery here

The Cameroon branch of the international anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), has frowned at government’s inability to get state funds that were stolen and stashed in foreign banks repatriated into the State coffers. TI-Cameroon observes that the phenomenon of corruption in the country has eaten so deep into the fabric of national life and continues to spread wildly that if adequate measures are not taken, and soon too, then the country could grind to a halt. The president of TI-Cameroon, Charles Nguini Effa, made the remark last week at a conference organised by the institution here. The conference had as objective to look into the phenomenon of siphoning of state funds to foreign banks by senior functionaries and how it could be curbed. It brought together legal and finance experts to brainstorm on the issue and suggest possible solutions. According to studies done by TI-Cameroon in 2007, Cameroon loses about 900 billion FCFA yearly (about 40% of its budget) to corruption. The study further reveals that about 495 billion FCFA of fiscal revenue is lost to corrupt government officials. To Babissakana, a renowned finance expert, it would require a well thought out approach to systematically stop what he described as a “severe financial haemorrhage”. He prescribed a strategy characterised by proper detection mechanisms, mechanism of repression and coordinated retrieval of the stolen credits from both local and foreign banks, adding that such mechanisms could only be instituted through legal instruments legislated by parliament. Babissakana regretted that government has still not instituted mechanisms that can ensure sustainable control of public servants. To Mathias Nguini Owona, a legal expert, government must put in place a law which compels government functionaries, especially vote holders, to declare their assets. He also said that government should train people that will be specialised in recovering such illegally acquired wealth.

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Fraud! Cameroon doubles vaccination figures to get more aid

The distinguished British medical journal, The Lancet, puts Cameroon among 32 other, mostly African, countries that inflate their vaccination performance rate in order to get more foreign aid for the vaccination campaign

To encourage vaccination against endemic diseases in Africa, the international community supports African countries financially. A Global Alliance for vaccines and immunisation (GAVI) pays 20 US dollars (about 10,000 FCFA) for extra child vaccinated beyond the given target in sub-Saharan Africa. With its greatest effort, Cameroon achieves only an estimated 40 percent, beyond its performance target. But in order to earn more money, it inflates this figure to up to 80 percent. But Cameroon is not alone in this practice. It is among 32 other African countries that inflate their vaccination performance figure in order to attract more aid per child. These disclosures are contained in a research article published in The Loncet, the highly respected British medical journal. Some of the countries listed are Ghana, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, DR Congo and Pakistan. Some countries out of the list are Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. Christopher Murray, the lead author of the report and director of the Institute for Health Metrics at the University of Washington said from 1986 to 2006, the UN announced that 14 million children received immunisations in the programs worldwide. That figure, according the report, has been scaled down by half to 7 million

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The New Testament begings a dramatic new stage in God's plan

"On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever", Is 25:6 - 10a

By Yemti Harry Ndienla
The mountain dearest to the people of Israel was Mount Zion, the place upon which Jerusalem's Temple was built.The prophet Isaiah (preaching during a time of political upheaval) foresees a day when God will gather on Mount Zion all people of the world for a great banquet. Fine food, choice wine, good company - all are symbols of God's gift. This is one of the most inclusive passage of the Old Testament.The backdrop of the passage is the great cosmic conflict between good and evil. The Old Testament sets the stage for this and tells the story of the progressive deterioration of the world which had been so good when God created it. But God did not abandon the world. God promised one day to save it. God chose a people - Israel - and protected them from the tide of evil all around them, a tide that seemed to be rising, and certainly not receding.The New Testament begings a dramatic new stage in God's plan. The Messiah arrives. His task is not only to protect the Chosen People but to save the world. "God so loved the world that God sent his only Son to be our Savior."We look at this great cosmic struggle and learn something about our ministry as delegates of Christ. My ministry is to share in the work of Jesus, to redeem this world, to minister goodness. I am to share God's goodness and help move this whole world one step closer to the Kingdom. How am i doing?

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Collective Contracts, the Press and Government in Cameroon

The talk in town now is about the noises coming out of the rubber-stamp parliament that as usual has completed its job of letting garbage in and letting it out virtually dressed in the same robes. With the deafening empty talk from the glass house, let us not forget the convention between journalists, their employers and the government. We should not forget it because, whereas the other “estates” are gagged by one man, at least this one can still bark, even if the caravan still passes with mocking pride!

By Tazoacha Asonganyi
There is no doubt that most journalists in Cameroon have a deplorable financial and social situation. Indeed, if we judge them with the standards of the public servants who go to their offices daily to paint their nails, shave their beards or lay ambush for those who come to seek public service, the verdict would be unequivocal: journalists earn too little for the much work they do in the interest of all of us.But there is much doubt as to whether the solution to this can come from collective conventions to guarantee better salaries, especially through government subventions to the press. Judging from the performance of public media like CRTV and Cameroon Tribune that receive huge government subventions, it is clear that such subventions only open a trunk road towards further gagging of this other estate.The commodities usually sold by the media are news and good ideas. Then there is the advert to fund the activities, including salaries for the journalists. The rule is simple: adverts are there if the public and private sectors are vibrant, and if there is democratic governance. We shall use advertising in some randomly selected Nigerian and Cameroonian newspapers to illustrate this.The Saturday Punch (Nigeria) of 18 October 2008 had 64 pages, sold for N100 (400 FCFA) and carried 17 full pages, 10 half pages, 5 quarter pages and 1 eighth page of mainly coloured adverts. The Vanguard (Nigeria) of 14 November 2008 had 56 pages, sold for N100 (400 FRS) and carried 24 full pages, 1 half page, 1 quarter page and 6 eighth pages of mainly coloured adverts.The Post (Cameroon) of 5 December 2008 had 12 pages, sold for 400 FRS, and carried 2 full pages, 1 half page, 1 quarter page, 1 sixth page, 1 eighth page and 1 twenty fourth page of adverts. The Eden (Cameroon) of 1 October 2008 had 12 pages, sold for 400 FRS and carried 2 full pages of advertorials and 1 page of advert. The Herald (Cameroon) of 27 November 2008 had 12 pages, sold for 400 FRS and carried no adverts. “Le Jour du Samedi” (Cameroon) of 6 December 2008 had 16 pages, sold for 400 FRS and carried 3 full pages and 3 eighth pages of adverts. Mutations (Cameroon) of 17 November 2008 had 12 pages, sold for 400 FRS and carried 2 full pages and 5 quarter pages of adverts. “Le Messager" (Cameroon) of 5 December 2008 had 12 pages, sold at 400 FRS and carried 3 full pages, 1 half page, 2 quarter pages and 2 eighth pages of adverts. Cameroon Tribune (Government sponsored) of 18 August 2008 had 32 pages, sold for 400 FRS and carried 7 full pages, 5 half pages, 2 quarter pages and 3 eighth pages of adverts.There is a marked difference between the Nigerian and Cameroonian sources of adverts in that there is great diversity in the sources in Nigeria. This is due mainly to the vibrant private sector in Nigeria and the far-reaching decentralisation programme with 36 states headed by elected governors, plus Abuja the federal capital territory; the further division of states into 774 Local Government Areas each headed by an elected “Chairman”; and simmering economic and political activities in each state and Local Government Area. Indeed, in Nigeria, there is not only inter-state competition, but there is also intra-state competition between politicians and the various suppliers of goods and services. This is a goldmine for adverts and advertorial reporting which flood the news media in Nigeria. Compare this to Cameroon where there is just one miserable centre of power in Yaounde! Without wishing to be the pessimist, I think the media can only give what they have, except perhaps to declare bankruptcy as some are already doing in advert-rich milieus. Like the “performance contracts” that attracted a lot of energy and noise from New Deal outfits before, the collective contract will come to naught because it is not based on any solid foundation. The private sector will remain moribund because of high taxes, stinking corruption and the one-party mentality imposed on our society by outdated and visionless leadership.The people have always been the only significant long-term threat to the hegemony of all dictatorships. Therefore dictatorial governments always consider citizens who are able to think for themselves as subverts, preferring a flock of timid citizens for whom the governments provides enlightened leadership. This is why the press whose mission is to educate citizens is never in the good books of dictatorial governments. Therefore we are not likely to see a media-friendly tax system; and there is not likely to be any government subvention to the media without strings. Further, even subventions with strings may turn out to be like the government subventions to private education that is on paper but nearly never in reality!With no vibrant private sector, with the exclusion of free, democratic competition and with the cosmetic decentralisation that leaves only one centre of power, journalists will continue to live in hardship in 2009, and beyond. But like Cameroon that has lived under sustained hardship and plundering for decades without dying, the media can never be out under hardship. Indeed, their present performance is commendable.Under the present hardship, the journalists should spend New Year 2009 pondering this saying of Mao Tse-tung: “So many deeds cry out to be done, and always urgently. The world rolls on. Time passes. Ten thousand years are too long. Seize the day; seize the hour”. To seize the day and the hour, we need vigorous, new leadership in politics as in industry, in science as in protest, and more importantly, in the media, to run our society according to the people’s will, not power’s whim. We too need an open, democratic, decentralised and vibrant society so that journalists and the rest of us can work as proud, healthy, dignified and prosperous citizens

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Trust in the Lord forever. For the Lord is an eternal Rock

"Trust in the Lord forever. For the Lord is an eternal Rock. He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down; He tumbles it to the ground, and levels it with the dust. it is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor", Is 26: - 1- 6).

By Yemti Harry Ndienla
The prophet Isaiah lived 750 years before Christ. Despite that period's political unrest, he looked forward to a kingdom so wonderful that even the world of nature is at peace. This perfect world would be ruled by a descendent of King David.When Isaiah proclaimed this prophecy, he spoke in poetic language of that time when the Kingdom of God would be fully established. He thought that this Kingdom would be achieved when the messiah came.Well, the Messiah has come and now we know something that Isaiah didn't know - there will be two comings of the Messiah. He has come... and he will come again.Right now we are at the time between the first and second coming of Christ, a time filled with preparation, growth. The seed has been plated... and there is work to be done before we will reap the harvest.Right now, our work as Christians is to proclaim in believable words and actions the Kingdom of God, building peace instead of war, justice instead of injustice, truth instead of error, persons instead of things, unity instead of disunity, love instead of hate, life instead of death.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December and Bush fallers

It’s December, that period of the year when the country receives the highest number of its successful bush fallers. They come to share their achievements with their families and, above all, to get life companions.

Tche Irene Morikang
And talking about life partners, there is this guy who has been on it for the past five years or so. Difficult to know why he has not yet caught that rare fish. But what is certain is that he has broken hearts, lots of hearts to the extent that he is known in some circles today as ITT, or “’International Tif-Tif”. The irony is that his reputation to “use and dump” has not stopped our pretty “ngonderes” from falling for him. Don’t blame the girls, anyway. How many jobless university graduates, or students will remain indifferent when a jacktious Johny-just-come knocks on their door with plans to live abroad happily forever after? This time again, we hear ITT would be around for another woman hunt. Members of his “scrutinising committee” are already at work, making a shortlist of the possible Miss Rights. Their target: young girls in their teens and early twenties. Poor pretty things! I hear some of them even have to do awfully demeaning things to be part of those to be “tested”. Well, who knows? But, tell me: would you like your daughter, sister or friend to be included in such a list?

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A paper presentation by His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi, Archbishop of Douala, on the occassion of African and Caribian Literati

Ladies and Gentlemen:
I will like to thank the organizers of this International Conference on Caribbean and African Literatures for inviting me here today. I must admit that your invitation came as a surprise to me. Not being a student of literature, I was wondering what experts in that field could expect of me. But then, as I looked closely at the theme of your conference: "Bridging the Atlantic", I began to see where I could say a word or two.
As we all know, Africa was, for centuries, linked to the Americas, in general, and to the Caribbean, in particular, by the infamous Middle Passage, that is, over four hundred years of the most brutal uprooting of Africans from Africa to the America's, as slaves. Millions died on the way and those who made the cruel journey never came back to their homeland. These are historical facts that have been thoroughly documented and we are not here to evoke them for the sake of evoking them.

The challenge for you, literary men and women, I would imagine, is to reflect on how the outcome of this history is expressed in creative writing in the Caribbean and Africa. We find in the songs, rhymes, folklore, music and other forms of artistic expression of the Caribbean writers the vestiges of their African past. African cultures, as we all know, are very religious. As some of you, students who study the survival of African cultures in the Americas tell us, it is thanks to religion that African cultures have survived in the United States, in the Caribbean and in Latin America. Brazil is usually the most cited example where religious practices of the Yoruba people of Nigeria have survived in their purest form.

So when scholars meet, as you are meeting here today, to discuss ways of bridging the Atlantic, I would imagine you would be looking at those vestiges of African cultures that survived the brutality of the master's whiplash in the plantations of the Caribbean and, in turn, examine what has come back to Africa from across the Atlantic. A bridge serves both ways; it enables people to go back and forth from one shore to the other, from one culture to another. African cultures are noted for their dynamism and elasticity, being able to absorb aspects of other cultures into theirs, thus creating new cultural hybrids in the process, which should also find expression in literary creativity.

You will be asking yourselves questions such as: " What have we, who live on both sides of the Atlantic, in common?" What bridges us?" What is the nature of this bridge?
What unites us is spiritual. We all are spiritual and material because we are all human persons; and because we are all human persons on both sides of the Atlantic over which the bridge is built, we have similar qualities: we both reason and will. That is to say man's nature obliges him to seek the truth, be it logical or ontological, scientific or theological. His intellect necessarily accepts the objectively true, no matter its origin, no matter from which end of the bridge it comes. Every truth is universal.
Because the Caribbean and the African are human beings, they both love the spiritually or the physically beautiful. They both, as writers, love what is literally beautiful. The Caribbean and the African are both endowed with faculties of being able to reason and to will.
On the stage of what is common to both, they have their different entrances and exits. What makes a Caribbean different from an African? They have the same essence, but distinct from one another. They have the same degree of being "which gives them a certain mutual similarity, but their essence has its own characteristics in each of them." Their substance is the same and universal but their accidents situate and make them different.
The Caribbean and the African are mutually similar but individually different. This essential identity explains the similarity in what they do, say or write. Their mutual similarity, their essence, is the bridge between them.

But they are different. A Caribbean is not an African and neither is an African a Caribbean. The Caribbean has his way of life influenced by his history and geographical location on the map of the world. This makes the way he expresses his ideas accidentally different from the way the African writer does his. Substantially the same is said in accidentally different ways.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there has never been a time in human history when cultures have been fusing, mixing and blending as rapidly as it is happening these days. This is made all easier by dizzying technological advances, especially in the field of information technology. These so-called "superhighways of information technology" bridge the Atlantic so easily.

I would imagine that in the course of your deliberations you will examine the challenges this poses to writers and critics of creative literature in Africa and the Caribbean. On what lane, along this "superhighway of information technology" is the African writer cruising? Is he on the slow lane, on the fast, or on any at all? On what lane is the Caribbean writer? Has his proximity to the United States of America, the source of much of these technological advances, given him a clear advantage over his African counterpart? I believe the answer is a resounding YES?
With such an advantage, how can he help his African counterpart on the slower lane to increase his speed so that both of them can cross this bridge over the Atlantic both ways with greater but cautious speed, picking up what is positive along the way from this new dispensation, but firmly rejecting the negative.

And the negative, there is a lot of it on this superhighway, particularly on the Internet. That is why I cannot end without sounding a word of caution, concerning the use of the Internet, in particular. His Holiness Pope John Paul II, one of the greatest communicators to have occupied the See of Saint Peter, strongly urged Christians to evangelize the Internet. It is a world that is still almost totally unregulated. It is as capable of the worst, as it is of the best. But, for the most part, we tend to go for the worst, characterized by unbridled violence, pornography, especially on children [paedophilia], promotion of hate literature, etc. So, conferences like this one, while rightfully lauding the advances of modern technology, should not fail to caution its users, especially the younger generation, of the dangers lurking in it.
One of the greatest difficulties creative writers in Africa have always faced is the lack of publishing houses. There is also the general lack of a reading culture in many places in Africa, notably Cameroon. The question that comes to mind is how a Cameroonian writer, for example, can survive in this world of instant communication and competition. Is it possible for him to publish his works on the web? If yes, for whom? If no, then how can he survive in such a highly competitive world as ours is today?

As you strive to bridge the Atlantic, never forget that, as creators of literary works, you also have the obligation to bridge the wide gap that separates our world into two: one inhabited by a handful of excessively rich and arrogant individuals, and the other by the majority of the downtrodden, the wretched of the earth. Whether it is in the Caribbean or in Africa, these two worlds stare us in the face, the one with arrogant glee, the other with tears and sobs of misery.
You, creators and critics of literary works also have the obligation to lay bridges of social peace and justice among peoples. African writers and writers of African descent everywhere in the world must promote the positive aspects of our people's image, while not refraining from condemning the excesses of some of our leaders, who have gained unenviable notoriety for their brutality and their embezzlement of public funds. The message that should go from Africa to the Caribbean and from the Caribbean to Africa through your creative efforts should be one that defends the inalienable rights of our people to freedom, social justice, peace and dignity. We need as many bridges as there are human needs.
Once more, thank you for inviting me to your deliberations and may God continue to guide and bless your literary endeavours.

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Cameroon: Stolen two-month-old baby re-united with family

A two-month-old baby of Richard Suh and Gillian Suh based in Bamenda in the North West province (region) of the republic of Cameroon may not immediately be consciously aware of what she has just gone through in the last five days or so, but her parents definitely have stories to tell.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

The baby was reunited with her parents after she was stolen. The country's State radio reported yesterday that the baby’s mother had taken her to the Bamenda regional hospital for a medical consultation when she was stolen. Gillian Suh is quoted as explaining that after consulting she was expected to pay 100 FCFA but she had only a 1000 FCFA bank note on her, so she left the room to change the money outside. Upon returning into the consultation room to pay the money, the report says, she asked a woman seated on a bench outside the room to help her and hold the baby. But when she came back, the woman was gone and the baby nowhere to be found. For about five days the baby was separated from her parents, who we learnt, carried out a desperate search for her. First, following a tip-off, they led a squad of the rapid intervention unit of the police to Bafut outside Bamenda for a search that did not pay off. Then someone hinted them of the presence of a supposedly stolen baby with a palm wine seller at Small Mankon still in Bamenda. This time around, the baby was found but only when the alleged thief was seemingly already getting fed up with continuing to keep the crying and visibly worried baby. (The baby was said to have been drinking only water, refusing to eat what the woman prepared). She willingly handed herself to the police. It was not clear what the police were planning to do to her. But she has since denied that her intention was to steal the child. «Why would a woman like me want to steal a baby,» she lamented.

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CAMEROON: Gov’t accused of neglecting disabled persons

The director of Sight Savers Cameroon, an organisation concerned with the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, has accused the government of failing to provide the necessary facilities needed to help disabled persons integrate fully into the society.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla
While lamenting that even the government still considered disabled persons as second class citizens,the director, Joseph Enyegue Oye regretted that disabled persons here were still being discriminated against. Adding that the society was not being adapted to meet the needs of this category of persons. Enyegue Oye said persons with disabilities, like other persons in the society, have the right to full and effective participation and inclusion in the society, healthcare, education, security, employment, equal opportunity, etc, and must not be subjected to any form of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, discriminated against or considered as objects of charity. He emphasised that persons with disabilities should be allowed the chance to freely participate in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport. The director encourage the administrative authorities to allow persons with disabilities to partake effectively and fully in political and public life on equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected.

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Paul Biya and his Yaounde diplomats: Why did the president not receive SA’s departing head of mission? Why this unprincipled treatment of accredited d

When it comes to relating to Yaounde diplomats Paul Biya is just as unpredictable as in other respects. That uncertainty makes for unnecessary (and even meaningless) distance between him and the accredited representatives of foreign countries.
But the president has become nice one small respect. He nowadays receives new diplomats’ letters of accreditation early enough upon their arrival in Yaounde. In the past it was never so. He would leave you there until you begin to doubt your welcome. In other African countries diplomats are readily received by the head of state when they ask to meet him, sometimes for nothing other than courtesy. But not so in Yaounde where manners are a bit stiff. Yaounde diplomats as such never have a one-and-one meeting with Paul Biya until they leave at the end of their tour of service. But when it comes to the representatives of the bigger and more powerful countries political expediency dictates otherwise. And so the US ambassador is readily received. Nowadays the French ambassador is received at a moment’s notice. Even then things haven’t always been smooth with all occupants of Rosa Parks avenue castle or residents of Atemengue Plateau. Jean-Francois Valette did not always find it easy obtaining audience at Unity Palace. Five years or so ago Paul Biya who had for long ignored a Churchill street request for audience chose to receive George Boon, the British High Commissioner on no other day than July 14th, obliging CRTV to make it the main news of the day, with the deliberate attempt to play down the traditional prominence of the reception. Jean-Paul Veziant the French diplomat at the time took Biya’s affront with equanimity. Not even with their might do the Americans have it much better with Biya. After a very warm relationship turned sour Paul Biya turned his back on Niels Marquardt the US ambassador and wouldn’t receive him again come rain come shine. But the president overdid it. Even the usual departure audience Biya tried every trick possible to avoid until Marquardt in exasperation announced his departure date. Most reluctantly, Biya yielded. But that was all. No send-off dinner! Marquardt happened to be the US ambassador and so there was absolutely no question of shifting that onerous duty to the Prime Minister. And that is exactly what Biya does systematically to African diplomats. He has no time for them and relegates them to the PM! That was the fate of the South African Simeon Selby Ripinga last week. Ripinga had already said goodbye to Ephraim Inoni earlier in the week and expected to be received by Biya when he was returned to the star building. You could see that both Inoni and the diplomat had nothing more to say to each other, not talk of being somewhat embarrassed. The president’s un-courteous treatment of the South African was easily brought to the public by the juxtapositioning of two CRTV reports, one showing Biya receiving the Chinese ambassador and the very next one Inoni receiving Ripinga. Why didn’t Biya also receive Ripinga who surely left Yaounde with a sour taste in the mouth? The only departing African Biya received in recent memory was the Nigerian Godwin Edobor, for obvious reasons. With the delicate issue of Bakassi still very high on the agenda of both countries’ relations it would have been an unpardonable and costly diplomatic gaffe for Biya not to have received Edobor. All said, it must be admitted that in spite of his high-handedness, the president like every cloud has his silver lining. When he receives Paul Biya seems to know what to do to charm his guests. Over the years we have witnessed diplomats who came out of a meeting with Biya and changed from critic to admirer! Instantly! The question they never are able to answer is how the man could be so “nice and knowledgeable on issues” and yet the regime is so unprogressive. The case of a lady special envoy of an important international organisation was dramatic. After frustrating the lady on two occasions by leaving town when she was due in on a proper appointment, Paul Biya finally yielded, not without pressure, to receive her. What did he do to the lady? Did the audience become a hypnosis exercise? When she came out of the meeting which lasted a good hour and a half her anger and frustrations were all gone! “Now I know what is happening,” the lady confided to this newspaper later at her Hilton suite, “Your president is being badly misled by his advisers and those who surround him.” The lady stuck to that view of Biya in the discussion that followed, insisting that he thought Biya was a good man. Biya completed his gallant hospitality by inviting his guest to accompany him to football Cup of Cameroon.She surely learnt better only long afterwards. But why does Biya disregard behaviours prescribed by world-wide conventions cheerfully respected by all? Does he realise that he makes himself a laughing stock by his quirkiness? How does receiving an ambassador lower the prestige and loftiness of his presidential status? What concept of power is the president trying to convey?
The Observer

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Cameroon:Yaounde archdiocese in desperate need of 6 billions FCFA bailout!

Bailing out failing institutions is now a world-wide practice. In Cameroon the Yaounde archdiocese, the flagship of the Catholic Church in Cameroon is in desperate need of a bailout.
The archdiocese is in the red by a staggering 6 billion debt. Schools and other production activities of the archdiocese have shut down because teachers and workers have not been paid for three months. All projects are at a standstill. The archdiocese cannot even pay its debt servicing that amounts to 300 million a month nor can it pay its management consultant anymore whom it owes 30 million. This financial failure is indeed a paradox because Victor Tonye Bakot the archbishop since undertook a restructuring of the activities and finances of the archdiocese which led to raising school fees, annual contribution by parishioners, creation of lucrative businesses and services. But all of this hasn’t yielded. Instead the diocese continues to sink financially. Critics think that poor management and the loss of goodwill caused by the archbishop’s style which antagonises priests and lay collaborators. His long-standing feuding with his recently posted assistant Christophe Zoa also alienated the big, rich and powerful Ewondo elite. Priests say Tonye Bakot does not trust anyone except his tribesmen to whom he has handed the real management of the diocese. He has strained relations with parish priests over weekly church takings. In dire straits Tonye Bakot, it is widely believed, is cap-in-hand seeking rescue from Paul Biya who earlier this year already underwrote the huge expenses (still undisclosed) of his five months hospitalisation in Paris. It is believed the president, who already has the archbishop in his pocket, will jump at the opportunity of rescue. To reward Biya, Tonye Bakot uses his position as president of the Episcopal conference to lend the government much needed political support viz: validation of the flawed 2007 legislative elections and of this year’s unpopular amendment of the constitution for Biya’s mandate extension. Helpful as a government bailout for the archdiocese might be to prevent it from outright collapse that will raise important questions both for the state as for the church itself. What justification would Paul Biya have to concede such a huge sum of money to a religious body when the country itself is in dire need of money for its badly neglected schools and health infrastructure? The government already gives a yearly subvention to private and religious schools why should it again bother about other problems of the church, problems caused by abusive management? If the government gave such huge bailout money to one religion would it be willing to do same to the others who are also always in financial stress? Wouldn’t that be a dangerous precedent? The question can also be asked as to what benefit the government would expect to get from making do with such huge money to the church? In a responsible government with an independent parliament the debate would be very heated, shor ot being acrimonious. From the side of the church, would it be healthy for the independence of the church as a moral authority to ask for and take such huge money from the state? Already Tonye Bakot is heavily criticised for being a crony of the regime. How do other archbishops like Christian Tumi in Douala and Esua in Bamenda keep their own corporations afloat without leaning on Etoudi? Why does Tonye Bakot not seek their support? The other question to ask is whether even with the bailout the Yaounde archbishop wouldn’t sink back into debt in a short time? This last question is important because it seems certain that it is the personality of Tonye Bakop that is at fault. Wouldn’t a bailout with him still there only postpone the problem?
The Observer

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Corruption in Government:Does Biya really care for the problem which is already getting out of hand?

In spite of his pronouncements and posturing, Paul Biya clearly lacks the strength to take the bull of corruption by the horns – for practical reasons. The awful disclosures of massive corruption in government may have forced him to stop and rethink his new government which should have been out a week ago. Given the critical juncture of the regime it is now commonsense to try to bring in new people with integrity and competence. The Biya regime is badly in need of a new, refreshing and uplifting look.

Last September Paul Biya vowed to the world from the rostrum of the United Nations that nothing would make him relent on his campaign against corruption in Cameroon. Three months on the president who often has difficulty following things through is still hesitating. With 2008 now at an end all the president did this year in fighting the monster were a few rabble-rousing arrests of former aides, which pundits even believe he did only for his political gain. Paul Biya used the arrests to woo a sour public much opposed to the constitutional amendment of last April intended to facilitate his extension of mandate. Sent to prison pending a charge, some of the detainees have become surprisingly impossible so far to incriminate. The government has not been able to summon enough evidence to charge Zacheus Forjindam, ex-GM of Chantier Naval. Neither have they succeeded with Atangana Mebara, former secretary general at the presidency. A few other senior officials of the regime have been invited for questioning by the police and state counsel but no arrests nor charges have been made. No doubt this record is anything but impressive, given the high ground the president takes on the issue. And while Paul Biya drags his feet the problem is not waiting for him. It is growing ever more formidable. There is the feeling that public officials believe the president is overwhelmed and has become increasingly helpless on the matter. This perception of Paul Biya’s helplessness appears to have opened floodgates for the evil which has apparently swept everyone along, almost everyone. It seems that it is now only a matter of degree, how deep individuals are involved! The last fortnight brought this home disturbingly vividly. The corrupt sharing out of about 50 out of 60 Indian aid tractors among senior men of the regime, as revealed by an inquiry conducted by ACDIC a Yaounde NGO was disturbing enough. But that was not all. The ACDIC inquiry also discovered that nearly all Common Initiative Groups that exist in Cameroon are fronts for senior public officials who use them to get public money in the form of support grants from the government! Since 2002, the report disclosed, government had given grants instalments totalling 1.2 billion fcfa! The ACDIC disclosures were like a window opened unto the world of corruption inside the government. What the window permits us to see is something of a Sodom and Gomorrah. Like in the Biblical cities of irredeemable corruption we are optimistic enough to believe there will be individuals here and there who still stand out even though it is now hard to say who.

Conspiracy of silence
ACDIC’s disclosures also suggest that there is some conspiracy of silence inside the government. It goes somewhat like this: I take, you take; we all know it is illegal or wrong but you don’t betray me and I don’t betray you too! Given the sheer magnitude and pervasiveness of the evil, Paul Biya in his helplessness and fear for his life or career has become defensive. Instead of embarking upon a wholesale attack he timidly picks on only a few whom he deliberately antagonises. Having done that the president then engages the others yet uninculpated through the party organ to sing his praises for his commitment to the fight against corruption. He himself takes every opportunity to claim the high ground for himself. That way Frankenstein is clever enough to keep his life-threatening monster at bay! Naturally public officials were so shocked by the ACDIC exposures that they quickly took the first opportunity to roughen up Bernard Njonga by arresting and assaulting him and his colleagues whom the police picked up as they prepared for a peaceful march in downtown Yaounde, accusing them of disturbing the public peace. Thanks to Paul Biya who stepped in and ordered that the man and his friends be allowed to go home. The president is said to be in full possession of the highly explosive report which incriminates far too many men, including even some who usually appear unassailable. One excuse Paul Biya usually gives to explain his cautiousness on this issue is that he wants proofs beyond reasonable doubt before proceeding to inculpate people. (But the president made an unfortunate exception in the cases of Forjindam and Atangana Mebara). The point we are making here is that beyond the unsubstantiated hue and cry of the masses ACDIC has jolted Paul Biya with incontrovertible evidence of theft and abuse of office at an unimaginable scale. Even the president’s sacred cows are all in! Paul Biya’s problem now is that the report and all the names are outside the government! Perhaps the report with all those names has already been sent to ACDIC’s sponsors abroad! Isn’t that potentially dangerous for the president whose regime could be blown up as if by a massive bomb? The president acted out of expediency by directing that Njonga and his colleagues be released. It is believed the charge against them will also in due course be dropped. But the greater problem for Biya is the safety of his regime. Would the damaging nature of the report have been the reason why Paul Biya changed his mind about announcing his much awaited new government at the weekend of 6/7th December, after putting CRTV on standby? Our usually reliable sources thought that the president cancelled the much awaited announcement in order to respect the Muslim festival which would almost certainly have been overshadowed by news of a new government. The announcement usually causes commotion with jubilation for some and mourning for others. Would Paul Biya have returned to his drawing table to review his list after erasing some names prominent in the ACDIC report? How would the president explain to the public that he had reappointed ministers with shouting proofs of their being involved in corruption and abuse of office at such a scale?

Corruption list
The public waits eagerly to see what the president comes up with. This newspaper has wind of the corruption list. Paul Biya likes to sleep over many matters and everyone knows this change of government issue has been on for several months now. While he takes his time to ruminate over the matter it is clear that Biya’s twenty-six year old regime is presently at a critical juncture. One underlying but powerful factor that the president cannot ignore at this point is the entire mood of his regime which has become sour, fearful, unreliable and antagonistic. Biya’s unpredictable selection of corruption culprits is the main reason for this. The president even went so far as to deliberately cast doubt upon the reputation of very senior serving officials, which is politically despicable. The deepest feeling since sometime now within the regime, including its most senior actors is one of pure fatigue. Almost everyone thinks it is in the country’s best interest for Biya to retire, and to do so sooner than later. Now for the first time ever the corruption perception of members of the regime will be taken into consideration in appointing the government. It would be strategically right to give the image of a government of people of integrity, or at least people who are not known to have soiled records. This will require Paul Biya to reach out, far out indeed, for competence and integrity. Bernard Njonga, for instance, is among the more experienced, committed and honest men for Agriculture that Cameroon now has. The idea is to come out of the CPDM box thinking and go for people who will give the regime a much needed new look and true leadership. We have had too much of the same thing and that is simply not helping anymore. If Biya sincerely wants to take public opinion into consideration then he must accept that some ministers simply make people sick in their very manners and incompetence. You see them and you know they are there simply to fill up the numbers. Along with the corruption beast is tribalism which Paul Biya must be ashamed to admit is very much a hall mark of his regime. Biya has no qualms whatever to continue to give the choicest and creamiest jobs to his kith and kin. From the South region alone there are ten ministers with nine of the choicest positions; ten army generals and ten general managers with the most prestigious and lucrative public enterprises and institutions. The SW and NW are left with the crumbs and bare bones! The president must overcome this primitive form of injustice which marginalises sections of the country and makes outsiders continue to refer to ‘their regime’ as opposed to ‘ours.’ It is simply the wrong way of operating and founding a young country like Cameroon. It is interesting to know that corruption is partly caused and sustained by the crass tribalism that Paul Biya practices. Let the president try for once to go for competence, integrity, ethnic balance, justice and equity in the distribution of public goods. That wouldn’t only give his regime a new and refreshing look; it will also provide it with much welcome new energy and direction

Source:The Herald

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cameroon: Prominent civil rights leader arrested for exposing corruption in Government

Bernard Njonga, president of Cameroon's most powerful civil rights association - Citizen Association for the Defence of Collective Interest, better known by its french language accronym ACDIC, has been arrested for exposing corruption by government officials.
But Njonga, who was arrested and detained alongside 10 other demonstrators,last 10th December, for organizing a demonstration to condemn widespread corruption in the country, has been charged with disturbing public peace.Charge many believe were politically motivated. In Cameroon, the charge of disturbance of public peace is usually made when the government cannot find a more substantive charge, but deliberately wants to hold people they consider troublesome.

Some two journalists who were held along with the demonstrators were later released.

It should be noted here that Njonga and his NGO ACDIC, recently disclosed sensitive revelations that were disturbing to public authorities in the nation's capital of Yaounde.

Njonga, who is noted for fighting corruption in the country noted that up to 49 of 60 tractors given to Cameroon as agricultural aid had been distributed among ministers, parliamentarians and army generals. He also disclosed from investigations that he had been conducting that an overwhelming number of common initiative groups in Cameroon were fictitiously created by public officials for the purpose of earning tax payers’ money.
Since 2002, he pointed out, a total of 1.2 billion FCFA had been given by the government as grants to these common initiative groups, money which went into the pockets of public officials.
Government had earlier band Njonga's press conference and other event intended to make known the result of his findings to the public. But he however went ahead to organise a demonstration to condemn the government.
Some analysts were of the view that if President Paul Biya sincerely meant to fight corruption, he should intervene and redeem Bernard Njong whose only crime is to speak out with proof against widespread corruption in the government.

It is a mighty shame that public authorities instead of trying to manage the immense damage done the government by the disclosures of massive corruption by Bernard Njongang, president of ACDIC, and NGO, they instead pounced upon him as if to throw the baby and the bath water.

Now global radio, BBC and RFI are making a sing-song of the story. The world now knows the story of how government ministers shared out Indian aid tractors given to support farmers across Cameroon.
Equally the world now knows that almost all the Common Initiative groups in Cameroon are fictitious creations of public officials who use them to siphon away public money. Since 2002 it is calculated that the government has disbursed a total of CFA 1.2 billion!
Njongang who is active in encouraging self-sufficiency in food and animal production took time to investigate the whereabouts of the Indian aid tractors. Many of them were found parked within the premises of public officials.
Paul Biya should see for himself the massive extent to which corruption has eaten into the fabric of government. Let the expected next government try to have a semblance of more decent humans.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Food security seeks cyber assistance

Many of us remember or may have been affected by a recent nationwide salmonella outbreak originally thought to be caused by tainted tomatoes that was then later determined to be caused by jalapeño and serrano peppers from Mexico. By the time the cause was determined, it ended up costing both industries millions, and causing many unsuspecting consumers much discomfort.

“Such incidents illustrate the potential vulnerability in the security of imported food products,” said William Nganje, associate professor in the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness, “and the need to develop a better tracking system.”
Nganje hopes to prevent these occurrences in the future with the help of a recently awarded $247,092 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for his latest food safety study, “Intelligent Food Defense Systems for International Supply Chains: The Case of Mexican Fresh Produce to the U.S.”

The grant allows him to find ways to identify a mechanism to prevent unsafe cargo passing through ports of entry (POE) at the U.S.-Mexico border and develop better tracking and accountability systems.
To make this possible, Nganje and Timothy Richards, professor in the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness, are collaborating with Rene Villalobos and George Runger of ASU’s Fulton School of Engineering. Their goal is to plan an information environment that will be the backbone of a smart inspection framework. The researchers also are working with CAADES, a major stakeholder in the Mexican fruit and vegetable sector, and other Mexican institutions to address issues related to intelligent food systems.

The concept the team is working on is information technology based and would allow the collection and storage of information as agricultural products move from production to ports of entry.
According to Nganje, intelligent food-defense systems provide a potential strategy with real-time controls to mitigate the food-terrorism/food safety risks of imported products.
“Currently there is an enormous gap and risk to the imported fresh-produce supply chain for the US,” he said. “These risks have both health and economic consequences.”

The team also will conduct a detailed cost-benefit analysis of a number of alternative intelligent system technologies using dynamic “real option” economic models and will assess the feasibility of intelligent systems for the U.S.-Mexico fresh-produce supply
“Adoption of intelligent technologies by private firms on a voluntary basis will only be economically viable if the expected economic returns are greater than the costs incurred,” he said.
Arizona is a key player in the import of produce. The economies of several local communities along the U.S. border, such as Nogales, Ariz., rely on trade and food imports.

For example, the port of entry at Nogales, Ariz. processes almost 50% of the United States fresh produce traded during the winter season (October-May). Approximately 300,000 trucks pass through the Nogales port from Mexico during the year. This is an average of more than 1,400 trucks per day during the winter season, of which approximately 900 contain produce.
The value of the fruit and vegetable shipments through the Nogales is estimated at more than $2 billion annually, which accounts for more than 4 billion pounds of fresh product. A terrorist attack on the fruit and vegetable industry in Arizona would create widespread losses to this community, as well as to the entire fruit and vegetable sector in Mexico.

“Imported produce threats can be naturally occurring or caused by acts of terrorism. In either case, the response of the supply chain should be accurate, swift, automated and transparent to the end user,” said Nganje.
The study is expected to be completed in the summer 2009.

Chris Lambrakis,
Public Affairs at ASU Polytechnic campus

Michelle Wolfe,
Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

CEMAC zone and its backwardness

The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa better known by its French language acronym (CEMAC) is an organization of states of Central Africa established to promote economic integration among countries that share a common currency, the CFA franc. CEMAC is the successor of the Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa (UDEAC), which it completely superseded in June 1999 (through an agreement from 1994). Its member states are Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

CEMAC's objectives are the promotion of trade, the institution of a genuine common market, and greater solidarity among peoples and towards under-privileged countries and regions. In 1994, it succeeded in introducing quota restrictions and reductions in the range and amount of tariffs. Currently, CEMAC countries share a common financial, regulatory, and legal structure, and maintain a common external tariff on imports from non-CEMAC countries. In theory, tariffs have been eliminated on trade within CEMAC, but full implementation of this has been delayed. Movement of capital within CEMAC is free.

On January 24, 2003, the European Union (EU) concluded a financial agreement with ECCAS and CEMAC, conditional on ECCAS and CEMAC merging into one organization, with ECCAS taking responsibility for the peace and security of the sub-region through its security pact COPAX. Though CEMAC is not one of the pillars of the African Economic Community, its members are associated with it through Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

But it is however regrettable that the CEMAC zone pales in front of all the other sub-regions in Africa when it comes to the level of development. When all development parameters are considered, the CEMAC zone is very backward.
Unlike other sub-regions in Africa, there is no sub-regional market in the CEMAC zone and the movement of goods and persons is still heavily restricted. In addition, countries in the CEMAC zone don’t keep to timetables and the governments lack the political will to implement sub-regional integration.

Development is further stalled in the CEMAC zone because of the absence of basic infrastructure, which the other sub-regions in Africa already have. Reason why experts have recommended that countries of the Central Africa sub-region, apart from working towards more integration, should improve on their production capacities, create enterprises, enlarge their markets as well as adopt strategies to cope with the global financial crisis.

Abdul Kane, the interim director of the Central Africa sub-regional bureau of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, has pledged the support of his organisation towards the process of sub-regional integration in the CEMAC zone.

His organisation would also sensitise all stakeholders on the importance of sub-regional integration which is very vital for the development of CEMAC zone countries, especially in this era of globalisation.

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Cameroon: Anti-corruption body declares its incompetence

The Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC) set up by the government of Cameroon to wage a war on corruption in the country has admitted that the task is overwhelming for the commission alone.

Members of the commission admitted recently that corruption scourge has eaten so deep into the fabric of the society that it will require joint action and efforts by the entire society to reverse the trend.
CONAC members made the disclosure on the occasion to launch a national coalition for the fight against corruption in the country. The meeting which took place at the headquarters of CONAC at the nation’s capital brought together representatives of government institutions, NGOs, the media and the general public.

Paul Tessa, president of CONAC said an autopsy carried out by the institution on society, revealed that all sectors of national life have been ravaged by corruption, with had far-reaching consequences on the economy, the mentality and the image of Cameroon and Cameroonians.
He noted that since its creation CONAC has been able to study only the education and transport sectors very closely and that all actors must be involved in the fight in other to touched and sought solutions.

By inviting other forces to join in the corruption fight, Paul Tessa said CONAC was adopting the recommendations of the UN convention on corruption which encourages the active participation of civil society. While emphasizing the fact that CONAC, does not pride itself in publishing lists of corrupt persons but rather sensitises the public on its existence as well as identify areas and cases and submit reports to the authorities Paul Tessa, however expressed hope that these new partners would help the body in enhancing its role of sensitising the public on the harmful effects of corruption.

It should be noted here that Paul Tessa is by nature and temperament quiet and unobtrusive. You hardly know if he has an opinion on anything at all. A long time partner of the Ahidjo and Biya regimes, Tessa’s best days lie in the past.
Tessa is best suited to the passive role of chairman of the board of SOPECAM, publishers of the government daily, Cameroon Tribune. He still keeps the job that requires him to chair two statutory meetings a year while enjoying his retirement.

Nobody thought Tessa suitable for the job when he was appointed to the chair of the newly created national anti-corruption commission in early 2006. The task of the commission was to investigate and bring out cases of illicit public behaviour.
The appointment of outspoken men like Garga Haman Adji a party leader not in the best books of the regime further strengthened the feeling of Tessa’s incapability. It took several months for the commission to appear to the public after which it began to hold advisory meetings with public services to discuss corruption.

It was only recently that Tessa finally made up his mind about what his commission is up to. Intimating that it is not their business to report people or submit names. That what they do is to forge coalitions against corruption because they cannot, and no single body can all alone fight corruption.
Whatever the case, Tessa needs to properly define how the coalitions would function to eradicate corruption. Analysts simply thought that Tessa had cowardly escaped back into his comfort zone, thus avoiding the probing task that is much unsuited to his nature and temperament.

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Three African dictators to face corruption charges abroad

Very corrupt African leaders may no longer have any hiding place as international NGOs are taking a strong interest in their alleged criminal activities.

The leaders of three countries in the CEMAC zone, Omar Bongo of Gabon, Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Republic and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea may soon be answering charges of massive embezzlement in a French court following action taken by international corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI).
TI’s France chapter Tuesday 2 December filed a suit against the three CEMAC presidents in a French court. The organization wants to force the French justice system to look into how these leaders were able to buy huge properties in France that could not be financed with their official earnings.
“There is no doubt that these assets could not be bought using only the official salaries and benefits of these heads of state,” said TI France, in a statement.
The three men have since over a year now denied accusations from numerous non-governmental groups that they embezzled huge sums of money accruing from the exploitation of oil in their various countries.

Similar accusations have also been levelled against Burkina-Faso’s Blaise Compaoré and Angola’s Eduardo Dos Santos, but anti-corruption campaigners have not gathered enough information to proceed to file a suit against them.

They are however confident that in the case of the three CEMAC leaders, they are on solid ground. TI’s Daniel Lebegue says that following 24 reports by police investigating the wealth of the three leaders, the case now has a “very solid legal basis”.
The campaigners referred to a 2007 French police probe, details of which were leaked to media earlier this year by judicial sources, revealing that Bongo and his relatives owned 39 properties in France, mostly in the rich 16th district of Paris, as well as 70 bank accounts and nine cars. The properties also include luxury villas on the Riviera.
The French police also established that Sassou Nguesso and his family owned 24 apartments and had 112 bank accounts in the country, while Obiang and his relatives had one apartment and eight cars.

Obiang’s son has faced a court case in South Africa over two luxury villas he owns there. Teodoro Obiang Nguema also came under fire from anti-graft campaigners in the United States in 2006 after he acquired a $35 million California beach house.

Meantime, lawyers for Bongo and Sassou Nguesso point out that owning property is not against the law and that the French authorities have no business judging the management of another country’s finances.
Bongo, who came to power in 1967, is Africa’s longest-serving head of state. Sassou Nguesso and Obiang Nguema seized power in their respective countries in coups in 1979. Obiang Nguema has ruled continuously since then, while Sassou Nguesso lost elections in 1992, returning to power in 1997 after a civil war.

Gabon and Congo Republic are former French colonies and successive French presidents have cultivated warm ties with Bongo and Sassou Nguesso. Obiang’s country, Equatorial Guinea, is a former Spanish colony.

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Human Rights violation: US to organize roundtable on Cameroon

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Cameroon’s human rights record remains poor and government continue to commit numerous human rights abuses year-in-year-out. Government backed security forces commit numerous unlawful killings; engaged in regular torture, beatings, and other abuses, particularly of detainees and prisoners with impunity. On the other hand, Prison conditions remain harsh and life-threatening while authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained anglophone citizens (SCNC) advocating secession, local human rights monitors and activists, other citizens and above all journalists. Furthermore, there are disturbing reports of prolonged and sometimes incommunicado pretrial detention and infringement on citizens' privacy rights.

Annual reports on Cameroon by the US Department of State have always buttress the above including the fact that “the government restricted citizens' freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and harassed journalists. The government also impeded citizens' freedom of movement. The public perceived government corruption to be a serious problem. Societal violence and discrimination against women; trafficking in persons, primarily children; discrimination against indigenous Pygmies and ethnic minorities; and discrimination against homosexuals were problems. The government restricted worker rights and the activities of independent labor organizations, and child labor, slavery, and forced labor, including forced child labor, were reported to be problems”.

The State Department report of 2007 was no different from others. “The government human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit numerous human rights abuses” notes the report published in March this year. Like previous years, the 2007 report dueled on press harassment, poor and life threatening detention conditions, corruption, and bad governance, among others. Despite efforts by the State Department to put things under control, the government of Cameroon seems to pay less attention to the dismal human rights violations.
Whatever the case the State Department is committed to publishing its reports and looks further to publishing that of 2008, which many believe would be more disturbing, considering the February 2008 nation wide civil disobedience which left several people dead, injured or jailed unjustly

On this score the US embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon will on 16 December organize a round table discussion to reflect on Cameroon’s poor human rights situation. Participant at the discussion will include representatives of the government, the judiciary, civil society and academia. In course of the discussion participants will focus on abuses by security forces, prison conditions, political right and women’s rights among others.
Janet E. Garvey, US ambassador to Yaounde, Cameroon, is reported to have said her office is hoping to “generate discussion on human rights in Cameroon by using our 2007 human rights report as a point of departure” in honour of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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The President’s assets: Paul Biya is a clever man; catch him if you can!

It is no longer a secret that Paul Biya spends considerable sums to manage his image. In the early 1990s at the beginning of multi-partism the new, and at the time powerful, opposition parties multiplied negative reports about him abroad using global radio and foreign newspapers.

Matters got to a head and Augustin Kontchou Kouomegni, then communication minister and government spokesman had to lead a delegation to RFI, BBC and elsewhere to warn them to no longer mess up Paul Biya and his regime. The president since learnt his lesson.

Paul Biya since took steps to make sure he minimises, if not completely avoid negative press mention. And after the problem he and the late Jeanne Irene had over their hospital in Baden Baden, Germany, the president learnt to be very careful and wise about his assets. You can comb all of Europe and the US you won’t hear of, let alone seeing anything belonging to the president of Cameroon. Yet it is all there and probably all over the place. That is how clever Biya is.

This is interesting because other African heads of state are not nearly so clever. Some of them are presently having a public relations pounding over their unwise display of wealth. Omar Bongo Ondimba, Denis Sassou Nguesso and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasosgo are having a bad time over their properties in France.
Transparency International France filed a suit against them a week ago or so, accusing them of buying properties in France that could not be financed with their official earnings. The French court would be expected to look into how the men were able to purchase their huge real estate portfolios.

Bongo and his family are said to own 39 properties including luxury villas, 70 bank accounts and nine cars in France. Sassou Nguesso and his family own 24 apartments, 112 bank accounts. Obiang Nguema and his family own one apartment and eight cars in France. Obiang Nguema’s son has faced the court in South Africa over two luxury villas he owns there. Obiang Nguema himself also had problems in 2006 over a $35 million California beach house he owns there. Information on the properties in France was obtained from police reports.

This matter had come up earlier in the year but was thrown out of court on the ground that it was beyond the French court’s competence. At about that time Sassou Nguesso was in Paris and instead spoilt their case by the ill-thought out answers he gave in an interview with RFI in defence of himself and the others.

“Why are we the only ones accused when other African heads of state and world leaders also own properties in France? I therefore consider the accusation discriminatory.
“And by the way you don’t mean that having been head of state for so many years it is not possible for me or any of the others to be able to raise money to buy the properties?”

That response missed the question as to the source of the money they used to buy the properties. It was such a shameful show for a head of state. Paul Biya is much wiser than that. To begin with Biya would never have accepted to give a live and unrehearsed interview on so controversial an issue.
That is why when it comes to such things you cannot catch Biya. The Cameroonian president is a fox. You never know its hole or the entrance into it. He disguises his tracts with all his genius. You will not find any business or property in the name of Paul Biya; we challenge you.

We learn from some of the closest men to the president that all his many businesses and shareholding in companies abroad are in the names of his bosom friends, not even in his wife’s or children’s names.
Jeanne Irene, for the nurse that she was, persuaded the president to invest in a hospital in Baden Baden. All was well until the tumultuous years of multipartism. Biya had a bad name and the Germans didn’t want him. He and his wife gave up the hospital. Paul Biya eventually found refuge in Geneva where he since became a distinguished and honorary citizen.

To satisfy public clamour, Paul Biya allowed it inscribed in the revised constitution of 1996 a provision for the declaration of assets by public officials upon taking and leaving office. That provision since became a dead letter for the simple reason that it is the president who should lead the way. He did not. Everyone can understand the president’s problem. What will he declare? He has nothing (in his name) to declare! Or if he really must declare he will easily shock everyone! You could learn, for instance, that the president owns the worth of several European countries put together! And, by the way, the president is not accountable to anyone, thanks to a new provision of the constitution.

So why get into such a mess. Let the assets declaration provision lie. Omar Bongo once ran into trouble over a luxurious villa he owns on the French Riviera. A now retired chief executive of the French oil explorer Total disclosed one of the sources of the president’s money.
In the evidence he gave in court the former CEO SAID that it was in the tradition of Total to pay Bongo something (100 fcfa?) per barrel of oil exploited in Gabon. By the way, he said, that was the practice with other heads of state of petroleum producing countries, which included Cameroon of course.

Cameroon presently produces 86,000 barrels of crude daily. We advise you to simply imagine what Paul Biya’s fortune might be. And, like Bongo, that is only from one source alone. Imagine it only. Don’t be foolish to dare to scream like the pastors who are now languishing in Kondengui prison for venturing a figure. They themselves couldn’t either write it or pronounce it. It serves them right!

The lesson is simple. You can’t catch Biya when it comes to finding out about his fortune or assets. The president is smart. And if you try to beat him you will go to prison.

The Observer

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Open letter to Barack Obama

What a dream come true! Dreams are dreams and realities are realities. It requires only people like you Barack Obama who can effectively bring positive change to interpret their dreams correctly.

One lesson has been learned, that the God of creation is a God neither for the black nor for the white but a God for His own creation, after all, being black or white is just a dream because we humans have been domesticated to these appellations. In my native language, there are only three colors; black, red and white. Anything ranging from brown, purple, red and yellow are all red, anything with the shade of black; blue and black itself are all black. Therefore, even you, who, because of our human domestication, have been termed “black ”are also“ red and the reverse, is true. True human values are not contained in these appellations but in what we as humans, be you “red” or “black” can offer the world. God can do what ever He wants and willed and at any time.

We need to stop and thank Him for reminding us that He is alive. Thank you Lord! History has been written and has been created and we are all part of that history and what does it mean if we cannot make “GOOD” use of that history! We pray that in no distant time it shall repeat it self across the globe and especially in Africa and in our fatherland.
That there shall be no more “come no goes”, no more “anglos”, no more “francos”, “sawas”, “bamis”, “South Africans”, “Zimbabweans”, just to name a few but one people of God’s creation. If we are where we are it is not because God loves or hates us so much but for a purpose. If there is a people I can congratulate, it is the American people. They have truly demonstrated the democracy they preach.

Thank you the American people. In a documentary I watch, I saw that you Obama as kid were present at the rally when one of my heroes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream”. May his spirit guide you to the end? To you Barack Obama, the American president-elect, thank you for burying your fears and for teaching the world that one can be what ever he wants but that one needs courage and determination to making that happen. God bless you, God bless the people you are going to Sheppard and God bless the world.

Africans in the Diaspora unite for a United Africa! “Yes I can” what about you? If you can, then we can.

Walter Nkeabeng

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Global Crises: A real problem to many

The global crises with the economy and its effects in our daily lives can be alarming. It is a real problem for many. Prices have risen, jobs are scares and people worry about the future.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

However, this is the ideal time for spirituality to kick-in. This is the ideal time when we need to turn to our biggest resource of all and allow ourselves to be guided by the power of faith.
Money is useful and necessary. Faith is essential and indispensable. If Jesus had wanted us to depend on financial wizardry He would have shown us how. Instead he wanted us to depend on Him and to learn to trust in Him. So He instructed us in the ways of faith, which involves learning how to survive crises, suffering and death.
Everyone suddenly has less money. Does that mean we have less faith? No.
Our income is seeing a small decline. And yet activity has increased: More involvement, more enthusiasm, and more commitment.
However, God is happy for our continued support and the work we do.
In the same way he is hopeful that our income might improve as the economy recovers, so God is hopeful for the personal financial difficulties we may be facing at this present time.
Christ first and Christ last. You have been trained to trust in Him. Do that now. You will find peace and the strength to persevere.

For your reflection:
Have you less money than faith?
Do you want more faith or more money?
Are you hopeful for the future?

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cameroon: DO bans press conference, parliamentary diner and rally of prominent civil rights movement.

The DO said all three ceremonies, which were intended to make public startling revelations on corruption in the agricultural sector in Cameroon, were against the 1990 law on public manifestations

By Roland Akong Wuwih

It is political parties hostile to the government whose activities are banned, fearful of what they might say against the Yaounde regime. But this time a non-governmental organisation, ACDIC, with no political agenda, announced a press conference to make uncomfortable revelations about the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development. The government, having had wind of what its report would be, wrote to the management of Hilton hotel as part owners and demanded that the ACDIC’s event should not be allowed to take place there.
When over 100 journalists and members of the public turned up for the event on Wednesday afternoon at 2 o’clock, they were told that it would not take place there. They had to look for another venue at the Lions Club at Rue CEPER.

The DO of Yaounde III subdivision, Locko Motassi Martin, had banned the press conference. In a letter addressed to the organiser of the event, ACDIC president Njonga Bernard, the DO said he banned the event because the planned declarations were against the 1990 law on public manifestations in Cameroon.
Also banned was a diner with MPs for the same purpose, and a demonstration by Cameroonians and supporters of ACDIC in front of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Nonetheless, Bernard Njonga pulled the crowd of anxious news reporters to the Lions Club where he unleashed his investigative findings.

ACDIC is a non-political, non-profit makin, non-confessional and non-tribal citizens association of the people, belonging to the masses from where it draws its roots. Thus members are Citizens and physical persons sensitive to problems and societal ills, and ready to seek solutions to these problems.
ACDIC has as main mission to: animate citizen awareness with no barriers on the choices and quality of life; reinforce the interests of the masses; improve their participation in the management of public affairs; to promote a society with a healthier, transparent and positive socio-economic environment which safeguards the interests of each and everyone

Authorities claim ACDIC is at the service of populations in general and grassroots, poor and destitute population in general through its strategies of Research; Studies; Surveys information (like the banned pres conference and rally); sensitization; training and support. ACDIC also carry out advocacy and lobbying based on alternative propositions and focuses its actions on citizenship; quality of life; collective interests; moral and ethical engagement, and the search for equity.
The association is actively involved in all the country’s ten provinces otherwise known as regions and managed by a five-man bureau headed by a president and a permanent secretary who oversea the day-day running of activities..

Harry Mcyemti, is pioneer permanent secretary for south west since and has contributed enormously for the success of the association in this part of the country in particular and Cameroon in general. “The idea of civil rights movement is a novelty in this part of the country. Reason why we are often mistaken for political activists”, Yemti, told the press during a sencitisation rally in Kumba, where he had confrontation with government security and administrative officials. “We have nothing to do with politics’, he insisted.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cameroon: Snapshots of 2009 draft budget

Budget assumptions
The 2009 draft budget which stands at 2301.4 billion FCFA is based on the following assumptions: a real GDP growth of 4 percent; an annual average inflation rate of 3 percent; oil price of 68 US dollars per barrel; and a dollar exchange rate fixed at 477 FCFA. Government also assumes that the measures it will take will offset the negative effects of the global financial crisis.

Education gets lion’s share

Education has always had the lion’s share of the state budget. The 2009 draft budget is no exception. The three main ministries in charge of education, notably Basic Education, Secondary Education and Higher Education, have a combined budget of over 397 billion FCFA representing 17 percent of the total budget. Secondary Education has the overall highest budgetary allocation (204.5 billion FCFA). Basic Education has been allocated 153.1 billion FCFA while the Higher Education budget stands at 39.4 billion FCFA. The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has the smallest overall budgetary allocation (4.1 billion FCFA).

Too few classrooms
Although the education ministries have the biggest budgets, not much of that will be used to invest in infrastructure. In the Basic Education sector, government will construct 1800 classrooms. That will mean an average of 180 classrooms in each of the 10 regions. Considering the acute shortage of classrooms in the country, especially in rural areas, that will be like a drop in the ocean. In the Secondary Education sector, the situation will be even worse. Government plans to construct only 400 new classrooms, representing an average of 40 classrooms per region. But government is yet to construct a single classroom in many of the new schools created in the last few years. Again, government will offer them little help this year. Universities will also continue grappling with overcrowded amphitheatres.

Better World Bank scores
Government is so confident of improving the business climate that Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni predicted in his budget speech Tuesday that Cameroon would have a better ranking on the World Bank Doing Business Report after 2009. One of the measures to improve the business climate is the setting up of a one-stop shop for registering new businesses. Government intends to set up the one-stop-shop with the assistance of the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank subsidiary that supports the private sector. The prime minister said the one-stop shop would also substantially increase the volume of internal and foreign direct investments.

Wage bill increases
The envisaged 2009 wage bill has increased significantly relative to the original 2008 budget. The expenditure on personnel has soared from 510 billion FCFA in 2008 to 624 billion FCFA in 2009, representing an increase of 114 billion FCFA. Civil servants should not jump in jubilation, imagining that their salaries will be raised again. The increase in the wage bill represents the salary raise for civil servants in March this year and the envisaged recruitment of new workers, especially the «absorption» into the public service of 9500 temporary workers. If there is anybody to be jubilant, it is definitely the temporary workers, some of whom have been working for decades in very miserable conditions.

Budget increase or decrease?
The explanatory note of the draft budget tabled at the National Assembly this week states that the budget has increased by 25.4 billion FCFA from last year. The budget voted by MPs last year stood at 2276 billion FCFA while the draft budget stands at 2301.4 billion FCFA. That, of course, is a clear increase. But the draft budget failed to state that following panic measures taken by government last year, after the February riots a presidential fiat raised the 2008 budget to 2482 billion FCFA, an increase of 206 billion FCFA. That is the real operational budget of 2008. The current draft budget which stands at 2301.4 FCFA, is less than the operational budget of 2008 by 180.6 billion FCFA. Government’s claim that the budget has increased is therefore inaccurate.

Allocations of 2009 draft budget

Libel chapter Recurrent Expenditure Investment Total

01 Presidency of the Republic ---------------------- 40.609 10.000 50.609
02 External services of the presidency --------------- 5.252 1.050 6.302
03 National Assembly ----------------------------- 11.710 2.000 13.710
04 Prime Ministry --------------------------------- 9.074 1.800 10.874
05 Economic and Social Council ------------------- 922 1.200 2.122
06 External Relations ------------------------------ 23.560 2.200 25. 760
07 Territorial Administration and
Decentralisation --------------------------------- 23624 6.500 30.124
08 Justice -------------------------------------------- 19.899 4.600 24 499
09 Supreme Court ----------------------------------- 3.914 700 4.614
11 Supreme State Control 3.526 1.400 4.926
12 General Delegation for
National Security --------------------------------- 58.049 5.200 6.3249
13 Defence ------------------------------------------ 150.958 11.100 16.2085
14 Culture ------------------------------------------ 2.987 1.700 4.687
15 Basic Education ---------------------------------- 115.559 37.543 15.3102
16 Sport and Physical Education ---------------------- 11.309 3.100 14 409
17 Communication ----------------------------------- 5.298 1.270 6.568
18 Higher Education --------------------------------- 23.933 15.500 39.433
19 Scientific Research and
Innovation ----------------------------------------- 6.086 6.500 12.586
20 Finance ------------------------------------------- 44.027 8.00 52.027
21 Commerce --------------------------------------- 3.240 1.000 4.240
22 Economy, Planning and
Regional Development -------------------------------- 10.018 17.576 27.594
23 Tourism --------------------------------------------- 2.964 1.300 4.264
25 Secondary Education ---------------------------- 182.507 22.000 20.4507
26 Youth Affairs ------------------------------------- 4.901 3.600 8.501
28 Environment and Nature
Protection ---------------------------------- 2.200 3.000 5.200
29 Mines, Industries and
Technological Development --------------------- 2.299 2.500 4.799
30 Agriculture and Rural
Development ---------------------------------- 34.627 21.125 55 752
31 Fisheries and Animal
Husbandry ----------------------------------- 9.735 5.949 15.684
32 Water and Energy----------------------------- 4.202 14.000 18.202
33 Forestry and Wildlife ------------------------- 10.893 9.885 20.778
35 Employment and Vocational
Training ------------------------------------------ 3.328 2.400 5.728
36 Public works ------------------------------------ 87.257 78.728 165.985
37 State Property and
Land Tenure ------------------------------- 7.998 2.300 10.298
38 Housing and Urban
Development --------------------------------- 17.346 39.622 56.968
39 Small and Medium Size
Social Economy and Handicraft ----3.889 2.100 5.989
40 Public Health ------------------------------------- 83.978 29.352 11.3330
41 Labour and Social Security ----------------------- 3.219 900 4.119
42 Social Affairs -------------------------------- 5.542 1.900 7.442
43 Women’s Empowerment and
Family --------------------------------------- 4.003 1.900 5.903
45 Posts and Telecommunication ----------------- 10.016 2.000 12.046
46 Transport ------------------------------------ 7.667 7.500 15.167
50 Public Service and
Administrative Reforms ------------------------- 10.513 2.000 12.513
Total 1.072.665 394.000 1. 465. 665
55 Pensions ---------------------------------------- 100.000
60 State Interventions
(ELECAM, CONAC) -------------------------- 131.800
65 Council Expenditures ---------------------------- 54.335
Chapitres Communs: (B) ----------------------- 287.135
Recurrent expenditure ----------------------------358 800
Principal Interest
56 External Public debt -------------- 97.800 70.400 27.400
57 Internal Public debt ------------- 247.800 237.800 10.000
Debt service --------------------- 345.600
External Finance Internal Finance
90 Development Operations -------- 418.000 140.000 278.000
92 Participation ---------------------- 5.000
93 Rehabilitation or Restructuring ---- 15.000
94 Investment Intervention ---------- 438.100
Total 438.100
State Budget
Source:The Herald

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