Thursday, January 31, 2008

If Biya has no regard for the supreme law of the State, then citizens have no legal or moral obligation to obey him" (An open letter to Paul Biya)

Dear Mr President,

The Constitution is the supreme law of the State. The Constitution is an all embracing, permanent, immutable body of rules which regulates the government of the State and guarantees the rights, freedoms, and duties of citizens. Its provisions have the force of law and are binding on all institutions of government, the President, parliament, Judiciary, and all citizens of the country. In fact, the Constitution as the supreme law of the State, is at one and the same time a legal document, which judges interpret, the blue print of a machine which warring parties may draw their texts, and a shrine where resides most, if not all, of the political values which the nation cherishes.

When the President is sworn into power, he swears to uphold and defend the Constitution.

When soldiers make a coup d’etat, the first thing they do is to abolish the constitution, they abolish the presidency, (in many cases they kill the president) they abolish parliament, the judiciary, and rule by marshal law. Under marshal law, all rights and freedoms of citizens are suspended.

Civilian Dictators and tyrants act in the same way as military dictators, the only difference is that civilian dictators, who eventually become life presidents, do so in a more subtle manner.

The colonial masters left their colonies with a multiple political system of government, but shortly after independence, the new native presidents, abolished political parties and adopted the one party system, following the communist system. The one-party system then bred the life presidents, who were re-elected with monotonous regularity.

With the fall of the Communist Soviet Union and the gradual introduction of Democracy globally by the United States of America and Europe, the one –party State disappeared and with it, most of the life president despots.

In Cameroon, Ahidjo left Biya with the one-party state- the CNU and Biya continued it under the new name –CPDM.

Even though, Biya had all power because there was no opposition party in the country, he was forced by the Cameroon people aided by the International Community, to allow multi-party politics in Cameroon. Biya devised a crafty means of staying in power even with a multi-party situation. He made sure that he was never defeated in any election by conducting the elections himself through his appointed Minister of Territorial Administration.

By refusing to appoint an Independent Electoral Commission, Biya has always been declared winner in all elections. In this way, Biya was sure to be a life President in Cameroon.

But then pressure was mounted on him from the International Community and from honest patriotic Cameroonians, for transparency and democracy.

Biya went to the Cameroon Constitution to give himself legitimacy to stay in power for another 14 years. He was certain that he would not last more than 14 years, so he amended the constitution to say that the President can only be elected for two terms of 7 years each, thereafter, he cannot stand for election again.

In 2007, Biya suddenly realized that he had made a serious error, to restrict his tenor of office to 2011, he called for parliamentary elections, to be conducted by his appointed Minister of Territorial Administration. He refused to appoint an Independent Electoral Commission to conduct the election, and massively rigged the election to give his Party more than 85% of the parliamentary seats.

Biya now wants to use this rigged majority, to amend the constitution again, by scrapping Article 6.2 of the constitution.

President Paul Biya, must be told in unmistakable words that he cannot be allowed to destroy the Constitution of Cameroon, and make it a tool in his hands. a thing which he can change at will, a thing he can manipulate at his convenience using his handclapping Parliamentarians

If Biya destroys the Constitution by ignoring it, abusing it or disrespecting it, then Biya has no legal or moral right to invoke the Constitution for his powers.

Biya can as well rule as a military dictator.

If Biya is allowed to amend the constitution at his convenience, then he is no more bound by the constitution.

Cameroonians will get up one day to find that their rights, duties and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution have been amended and abolished.

Even Religious bodies will be shocked to see amendments to the Constitution, banning them. Biya could amend the Constitution and legalize corruption and other abominations.

What will Biya not be capable of doing? He could amend the Constitution and abolish parliament and the Judiciary or any other organ of the government which is not conducive to him. Eventually he could abolish the Constitution itself.

If Biya has no regard for the supreme law of the State, then citizens have no legal or moral obligation to obey him. They will not have to pay taxes or perform their civic duties. The president will have to resort to force. He will be forced to rely on the army and security forces to rule, and eventually these forces too will overthrow him in a coup and rule by marshal law.

Cameroonians whether in the government party or in the opposition parties, must realize that this is a national issue and not a party issue.

The Constitution is above party politics, it is a question of our future and the future of our children and the future of our country.

We cannot allow President Biya to destroy this country. By 2011, Biya would have done nearly 30 years in ruling Cameroon. Our life style has grown from bad to worse. Our country is getting poorer and poorer every day. Our future is at stake. Enough is enough.

Biya must go in 2011.

If President Paul Biya is blinded by his inordinate ambition to die as life president of Cameroon, then he will find Cameroon ungovernable in his last days.

Cameroonians challenge Paul Biya, to call for a referendum to amend the Constitution. A referendum to be conducted by an Independent Body.

Mr. President please note that Cameroonians will not allow you to become life president. You must go on or before 2011.

The day that Biya sends a Bill to Parliament to amend the Constitution, so that he can continue to rule after 2011, the CDP will join all Cameroonians, (in CPDM and opposition parties), to make Cameroon ungovernable for Biya

Mr. President, the whole country will rise up against you.

May God save Cameroon.

By A.S Ngwana.

Chairman, CDP

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Monday, January 28, 2008

HIV/AIDS: Traditional Rulers in Cameroon to break cultural Barriers.

Traditional Rulers are expected to cause their subject abandon certain repugnant beliefs, and behavioural patterns.

Traditional rulers In Cameroon and particularly those of the North West province, are now expected to play a major role in the fight against the killer disease – AIDS
The North West Province of Cameroon, according to national statistics, has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the country with more than 28.000 people living with the virus. Its 8.7% rate is unevenly distributed at 5.2 for men and 11.9 for women. Consequently more than 50.000 AIDS orphans have also been identified in the Province.

Though the 2004 demographic and health survey indicate that some 98% of the population have adequate information about the disease a greater majority still keep to old habits. Statistics from the Provincial Technical Group for the fight against HIV/AIDS show a remarkable increase in the rate of infection.

On this score experts have attributed the annoying increase to vehement denial of serology status by most infected patients, excess alcohol consumption, the practice of widow inheritance, the culture of silence, and the practice of traditional autopsy, late might dances such as “bottle dance”, trial marriages and secret hosting of widows which are still very common among most tribes.

It’s within this backdrop that some 335 traditional rulers of the Province, under the banner of North West Fon’s Union (NOWEFU) took the vow to breakthrough every cultural barrier that hither to impede the fight against the killer HIV/AIDS pandemic in the province.

Reason why NOWEFU executive and a team of North West health officials meet recently at the place of the Fon of Makon to elaborate and adopt a common functioning structure designed to eliminate detrimental customary beliefs and practices through mass sensitization and training in their respective chiefdoms.

“We met within the framework of the partnership agreement recently signed between NOWEFU and the ministry of public health”, said Fon Chafa XI of Bangola, president of NOWEFU.

“The Fons have received the sum of CFA 44m from the ministry of public health to enable them contribute effectively in the fight against HIV/AIDS by rallying their populations and passing the right message. The Fons are expected to cause their subjects abandon certain beliefs and behavioural patterns deemed repugnant to the national strategic programs against the pandemic” he revealed, warning, “The money is not meant to be shared. Its use will be strictly supervised by the provincial technical health committees to ensure that desired results are produced. Defaulters shall be legally implicated”.

Dr. Etongue Mayer Magdalene, coordinator, North West Provincial Technical group for the fight against HIV/AIDS says the aspect of stigmatisation is gradually dying out and that some family members now collect drugs for their infected relative. But that infected mothers are amongst those who are no longer at ease due to the fact that they are forbidden from break feeding their babies. “With the influence of the NOWEFU, the situation will improve” hoped Dr. Etongue, who however frowned at the Bastion of traditional healers and charlatans who claim they cure HIV/AIDS. Some of whom she accused of keeping patients under concoction up to terminal stage before releasing them. Despite the fact that they have been educating and encouraging people to go for voluntary screening, the coordinator expressed regret to the fact that “traditional healers and charlatans operating in enclave rural areas are still doing a lot of harm”.

It’s regrettable that though HIV treatment is free in the country, many patients are still not able to afford the compulsory CFA 3.000 meant for pre-therapeutic and follow-up fee as well as the FCFA 1.500 to establish a treatment file. Reason why only 5.218 of some 28.000 eligible patients in the North West Province currently receive treatment, meaning some 23.000 patients still lack access to treatment. On this score she called on government to create more treatment centres in the hinterlands, and equally reinforce medical teams in order for drugs to be transported to enclave areas.

Courtesy - Harry Ndienla Yemti

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Biyiti bi Essam, the Military and the Media in Cameroon

Human beings always want to be seen to be innovators. When "new" ministers or others come to the stage -however they get there - they always want to look and act different from their predecessors. They make even slight changes in the predecessor’s approach in order to give the impression that they are different. Check the "renouveau communicationnel" of Mr. Fame Ndongo(former Cameroon’s Communications Minister) and the "new deal communicationnel" of Mr. Biyiti bi Essam( present Cameroon’s Communications minister)! In this effort, Mr. Biyiti bi Essam should not forget that truth is universal, and is unchanged by the fact of being known by one, many or none.

He should also not forget that the goings-on in the government today deprive any government minister of the platform to preach patriotism to ordinary Cameroonians. Indeed, his recent preaching on his” new" communication policy seems to give muscle to the belief that totalitarian temptation is always embedded in the self-critical society that emerges when liberty trims the confines of Power to create space for self-expression. In such societies, the paths are usually democracy or the rebirth of totalitarianism. He seems to want to drag us down the same path we have treaded before and want to forget! He should know that in republican government, the military is subordinated to civil power. Therefore the first rule of the soldier is unquestioning allegiance to the civil power; providing disciplined service to the civilian power. In other words, the army is not supposed to dictate policy in a republic.

The leading military virtues have always been discipline, courage, loyalty, and respect for authority... Mr. Biyiti bi Essam seems to be treating this as a new discovery and drumming into our ears that the army is "le grandmuet" [the corps that never speaks]... therefore nobody should talk about it! There is no doubt that a good government needs ministers who can fight battles in the media as well as in other areas. But Mr. Biyiti Bi Essam is leaving us with the impression that he came to office not because he persuaded anybody that he could fight the right battles, but because he was a beneficiary of the New Deal negative politics of changing ministers very often to let the national cake benefit as many cronies as possible. The battle he is warming up to fight is the wrong one, and he will lose woefully. His new communication policy may turn out to be his personal apologia for his own role in the great dramas eating into the flesh of Cameroon. He seems to be calling on journalists to paper-over the cracks; a wrong message when the mood of the country is for change, for rebuilding the foundation. Indeed, he seems to be sending the sorry message that he might be ill-suited for his job! For the general good, debate on public issues should always be uninhibited, robust and wide-open. In such debate, errors are inevitable; they should be protected, not used as an excuse to impose self censorship. It is the people who have empowered the government to act on their behalf; they deserve to retain their sovereignty over government action.

Invoking simplistic patriotism to deny them that sovereignty is obviously not in the interest of the country. The media in every society not only informs the public on what policies its government is pursuing and how those policies are being executed, but also keeps records of what happens in society for later sorting out by historians. Therefore it is the media that provides the vital link between the people, the government and the Army. In a way, the media is the people’s representative in the government and the Army; it is an estate that enters into the checks and balances equation of a society.
Military literature informs us that censorship of media products and controlled access to the battle area are the methods used by armies to maintain operational security. The military has usually controlled battlefield access and publication of media-held information deemed a threat to operational security. In doing this, armies have the historic responsibility not to lie to the people and to always provide all the information possible, truthfully and as early as possible, in order to short-circuit the media penchant for conjecture in the wake of an information vacuum. Therefore, the handling of the Bakassi murder of 21 of our valiant soldiers was and has remained most unprofessional, and has left the field wide-open to speculation. No one has the right to control the media and what the media appropriately produces about the goings-on in the army, especially in peacetime. It is in the interest of the military to exploit the capabilities of the media in order to be able to use it as a weapon in war. Mutual mistrust has always dominated the relationship between soldiers and journalists in time of war, but this has usually only reinforced their inevitable, mutual accommodation.

The information age is definitely overwhelming every aspect of governance and must impact military-media relationships. Media reports usually raise legitimate questions and concerns, to which the military must provide responses quickly and accurately. Whether Mr. Biyiti bi Essam likes it or not, new technologies have made the media a direct and influential participant and a factor in all conflicts - military and social. The military’s effective communication with the media and the public has become as important as effective use of their weapons in conflicts! The military’s image as "le grand muet" belongs to the past. The military has no choice but to educate the media regarding current military tactics and systems, how the enemy might exploit them for propaganda purposes, the concept of limitation of access with sufficient rationale, etc.
The army should also make their elements aware of tactics of dealing with the media. Modernization of our army to cope with millennium changes was supposed to be about all these and more! If I have any good advice for Mr. Biyiti bi Essam it would be to remind him not to be thin-skinned about the media! And he should nurture the military-media relationship, not destroy it!!

By Prof. Tazoacha Asonganyi -Yaounde, Cameroon

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dentists in short supply in Cameroon

The entire country counts on 212 dentists, with the bulk concentrated in Yaounde and Douala where business booms.

There are indications that thousands of mouth and teeth disease sufferers in Cameroon helplessly watch their situation worsen due to the scarcity of specialists. Indeed, formal statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that the entire country counts only 212 recognized dentists! The already disconcerting situation is further compounded by the fact that of the figure, 82 percent are concentrated in Douala and Yaounde where business flourishes. By implication, vast parts of the country with a population estimated at above 17 million have no dentists.

The troubling picture was painted Monday, recently in Douala, at the start of a week-long buccodental (month-teeth) forum grouping attendees from Cameroon and beyond. Organized by the apolitical and not-for-profit association of Cameroonian dentist, christened SMILE, the 7th edition of the buccodental health days airs at proposing antidotes.

Marguerite Lamanak, SMILE president, expressed disappointment with trivial or total government nonchalance in redressing the situation. She said a combination of poverty and ignorance implied that month and teeth ailments like tooth decay, swelling gums, buccal cancer, etc, were bound to prevail. She regretted that only a small number of Cameroonians cared enough to conduct prescribed annual month exams. She said SMILE will teach dentists and other medics new and less costly treatment methods that can be administered every where.

“We are training dentists on new treatment methods that require electricity or plumbing…This means it can be administered anywhere, and even in rural areas where there is no electricity and running water. We shall also train them on new hygiene methods to pass on the populations, as well as introduce basic knowledge on dental research,” she explained.

Smoking, high alcohol and carbohydrates consumption, etc, have resulted in the developing world hosting the highest prevalence of mouth and teeth ailments around the globe. Cameroon WHO country representative, Helen Mambu-ma-Disu, said bucco-dental diseases had become the fourth most-disturbing health problem in the world with 6-12 year olds being the most vulnerable.

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Euro 2008 vs. Ghana 2008: one clear economic winner and no runners up

by Hinsley Njila

Sports economists are always interested in what the lasting economic benefits are for a country or city that hosts a major tournament like the African Nations cup, World cup or European competition. Almost all of them agree that because of the costs involved in running these competitions (security, logistics, payroll etc), it is almost impossible to breakeven or turn any kind of profit.

In fact many are plunged into debts that sometimes take decades to pay off. Case in point, Canada just serviced its last note from the last Olympics it hosted in the 80s a few months ago. Because hosting these games are so expensive, many developed countries often opt for high quality durably designed world class facilities that long after the competition would still generate some revenue to service bonds taken out by local governments. That is why London has already in place, adequate plans for how its new Olympics venues would generate money well after 2012, so did Atlanta, Athens, Rio, Madrid and so on. In case you’re wondering, Austria and Switzerland do, and Ghana doesn’t, Burkina Faso didn’t and so on.

So why do poor countries bid to host these competitions you ask, and how have they faired in the past, how did they secure bonds for previous competitions?

All great questions, why you’re so smart. Sadly, poor countries have never been honest with their people about the costs involved in hosting a competition as such. For one, some of the huge amount of debt they currently carry also includes that for sports competitions for countries that have hosted in the past. In the past, they have refused paying their players and coaches’ salaries as a way to offset payroll costs (sort of), and worse of all they have always opted for the worst facilities that never even last till the end of the competition. None of the countries (including Ghana and Cameroon) that have won these competitions multiple times have any decent sports facilities to show for it. Corruption and debt servicing have eclipsed all potential economic gains.

After the competition, poor people especially those around competition venues are often left with inflated prices, scarcity for basic goods, no lasting employment as most jobs are event based, and of course the all too familiar forgotten promises. What a disgrace to humanity. In the first day of the current competition, the Ghanaian players and coaches thought the stadium they played Guinea on was the worst any of them had ever seen (I rest my case).

Competitions are also supposed to spur the development of young talent, like players and coaches. For as long as I can remember (and that’s a long time), African teams have always been coached by foreign coaches. That’s just disgusting in 2008 I can tell you, especially with the abundance of ex-African stars like Abedi Pele, Roger Miller, George Weah, Daniel Amocachi etc who are more than qualified to coach even some of the best teams in Europe. Develop your own coaches, referees and players people; get yourself in a position to truly address the causes and effects of poverty in your communities.

Lastly, log on to the web sites of the two soccer competitions taking place this year [euro 2008 ( and Ghana 2008 ( ], and you’ll get my point.

Ghana 2008 has a laughable website with almost no commercial support, while on the Euro 2008 website, there’s almost no more space available for a new advertiser. The competition is being supported by some of the world’s biggest companies in terms of revenue. Of course some reasons for that are too lengthy for this article, but it shows you clearly why these competitions are not to be hosted by poor countries. You’d expect MTN, Orange, Renault, Carrefour and others that have exploited the African consumer to be advertising on a website as such.

Develop your human capital by educating your people and get them out of poverty before you start hosting competitions, and create committees that can get the kind of corporate sponsors needed to offset some of the massive costs. 2008 results are as follows:

Winner = Euro 2008
Clear loser = Ghana 2008

Disclaimer: Ghana 2008, Euro 2008 and all others mentioned are respective trademarks of their owners.
Hinsley Njila is a PrinceReport special correspondent

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President Paul Biya to buy presidential jet worth CFA 45 Billions

Despite abject poverty and misery in the republic of Cameroon, the president H.E Paul Biya, is nursing plans to purchase a new presidential plane estimated to cost CFA 45B, from an American company GulfStream (, reports Charles Atangana, permanent correspondence of Afrique Echos Magazine According to the Magazine, two African heads of state notably Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Biya are planning the purchase of new presidential jets, confirming that the information concerning the said purchase can be found in the command booklet of Gulf Stream, a company specialized in the construction and sales of private jets. Though there is no clear-cut information concerning the cost of the jet, Charles Atangana noted in his report that the price catalogue of Gulf Stream private jet construction indicates that the jet – G5 cost about FCFA 45B.

But the presidency of the republic of Cameroon has declared the information bogus and misleading. “The civil cabinet of the president of the republic informs the public that these allegations are false and totally unfounded, as no such transaction took place” wrote Jean Baptist Beleoken, director of cabinet at the presidency of the republic. President Paul Biya is said to be worried ever since scandal surrounding the purchase of the last presidential jet (ALBATROSS), started making news in the country. It should be noted here that the where about of the ALBATROSS, whose controversial purchase allegedly caused the sacking of some top government officials remain cloudy. Barely a couple of months after purchase, the presidential jet disappeared shortly after it started developing technical faults which left the president uncomfortable each time he used it. No doubt, the new G5 jet is for the replacement of the PELICAN and L’hirondele that have been 28 years old but far more less expensive than the G5 jet.

Many are those Cameroonians who wonder aloud why the president who pledged to fight poverty, would embark on such extravagant project which they strongly believe would only help to drive the country into a state of economic stalemate. By Yemti Harry Ndienla

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Illegal immigration: the effect of the cavernous slit between rich and poor countries

Lasting solution is to tackle poverty as well as concerted efforts between the countries of origin of immigrants, the transit countries, and the countries of destination.The phenomenon of illegal immigration is growing at an alarming rate now more than ever before. It involved most especially the risky illegal immigration of Africans to Europe.
It is beyond reasonable doubt that the major causes of illegal immigration is the cavernous slit between the rich and poor countries. However it is amazing that rather than finding lasting solutions to the crises in tackling poverty as well as pooled efforts between the countries of origin of immigrants, the transit countries, and the countries of destination some Western governments are using repressive measures against immigrants and control of immigration routes as solutions to the rising phenomenon.
Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, shared this same view when he said in 2004 that “Combating illegal immigration should be part of a much broader strategy. Countries should real channels for legal immigration, and seek to harness its benefits, while safeguarding the basic human rights of migration.” It is an open secret that poverty, war, political unrest and persecution of opponents have been pushing Africans to Western shores in horde. Thus each year thousands of Africans, especially the youth make a journey that they hope will ultimately lead them to Europe that is generally believed here to be an Eldora do. In course of their adventure they use unsafe boats, trucks, trains, and sometimes even trek through the desert, to seek for greener pastures.
A 2000 migration report states that an estimated 30 million people are smuggled across international frontiers every year, while between 400,000 and 500,000 illegal migrants annually enter the European Union. The report further made it clear that some three million people are believed to reside in Europe surreptitiously.
Furthermore the International Officer for Migration (IOM), in its 2007 report, say 6.300 Africans made it into Spain clandestinely, down from 12,000 in 2006. While the total number of intercepted migrants has gone down, Vijaya Souri, IOM deputy director for Mauritania, says many more women are joining their male companions in the adventure. In 2006, figures show that some1000 Africans arrived in Spanish Canary Island in a day. Many of them die from extreme harsh climate, rough water, perilous boat conditions, accidents, inter alia, before even reaching Europe.
In addition the IOM explain in their report that fourteen dead migrants, were recently found floating near a submerged boat off the coast of the Italian Lampedusa. Despite the risk, Africans never cease to stream to the West to seek greener pastures. Therefore notwithstanding the negative effects of immigration, many are those who believe it is advantageous to both poor and rich countries. While European societies need immigrants to deliver vital services and boost their economies, poor countries benefits from the colossal remittances immigrants hurl back home. “There can be no doubt that European societies need immigrants. Europeans are living longer and having fewer children.
Without immigration, the population of the soon-to- be twenty-five member states of the EU will drop, from 450 million now to under 400 million in 2050 (…), jobs will go unfilled and services undelivered, as economies shrink and societies stagnate,” said Kofi Annan.

On the other hand, he added, “Migrants sent at least 88 billion dollars in remittances in 2002 – 54 percent more than the 57 billion dollars those countries received in development aid”.

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World Bank dialogue suggests potential support for controversial Cameroon dam

World Bank uses your humble journalist Harry Yemti as a resource in thinking energy policy in Cameroon.

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Human Rights and the concept of Law

The concept of human rights and freedom is very complex thus many people, institutions and governments don’t have a uniform understanding of its principles, functioning and its application. Though many people believe that human rights began during the era of the foremost Charter on the declaration of human rights the concept is as old as creation itself.
When God created the world he made Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden where he instructed them to eat all what they saw in the garden excerpt the fruit of good and evil. At this stage of creation at least God realized that man had the right to food .The right to food today is being cited as one of the fundamental human right. This was one of the very first human rights at the era of creation. When God prohibited Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of good and evil, he was putting a restriction on that human right to food a situation to ring a bell in the modern world that human rights and freedom have some restriction.
Still at the era of creation, God’s original intention of making Adam and eve was to let them live for ever and take care of the things he had created. God therefore realized that man had the right to life .And today the right to life is being cited as one of the fundamental rights. As time went on, Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and they realize that they were naked and God drove them from the Garden of Eden. They started searching for an abode. This was the beginning of the right to shelter And so the basic human rights came to be known as the rights of life, the right to food and the right to shelter, which to many are classify as traditional human rights.
However, when society evolved during the medieval era, the concept of human right and freedom started developing several facets. And so we past from the basic rights to human right notion, like the right to education, the right to healthy living , the right to be married , etc. Further more when modernity and globalization set in, the concept of human rights and freedom became more and more complicated as notions like women’s rights, children rights; the rights of the disabled, the right of the minority etc became the talk of the century. And notions of freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of associations etc are today being variedly echoed, interpreted and applied by mankind to the extend that some countries and governments recognize the right for some one to even change his or her sex.
There is no gain saying that the advent of the phenomena of modernity and globalization has some serious impact on the legislation of various countries on the issue of human rights and freedom thus making the implementation of most legislation on human rights and freedoms very difficult especially for agencies charged with the follow up of human rights abuses. Difficult again because ¾ of the records of human rights abuses emanate from government agencies such as the administration, the forces of law and order and some other institutions charged with the administration of justice. As far back as ancient times, countries were colonizing others e.g. the partition of Africa, as well as slave trade, which are all aspects of violation of human rights. Furthermore I consider the urge for international trade, and the pressure of international financial institutions like the IMF, and World Bank just to name a few as salient aspects of human rights abuses which if you don’t use a pseudo-political and economic microscope you will not see.
To the least, various governments policies of some states especially the underdeveloped and developing countries as regards to human rights are also impediment to the checking of human rights abuses. Dictatorship is still much practiced in most countries .International conventions on human rights exist but there is a systematic refusal to implement them by some governments. Certain international resolutions on human rights issues are sometimes viewed by some states as an attempt at interference in their domestic affairs just because the concept of human rights is not perceived in the same way in various countries. In Cameroon for example the law enforcement agencies are usually an impediment to the endeavors of human rights Activists. And so in most cases it becomes very difficult if not impossible to pursue to the end an offence of human rights abuse. Sometimes you are frustrated in the process by an administrative authority or the forces of law and order or the institution charged with the implementation of the law. “When for instance the government set up a commission to probe into a particular problem, take for instance an accident which led to the death of human beings and findings of that commission is that no person died whereas people died it becomes so frustrating to imagine such a finding” Says barrister Dang Elias, provincial president of the national organization of human rights for the south west province of Cameroon.
Apart from the case of violation of human rights coming from the government agencies some institutions and individuals are often also guilty of human rights abuses. Ignorance sometimes is responsible for violation of human rights. If you don’t know your right you may not know that you are trampling on someone’s right because your right ends where someone’s right begins. At times the person or personality charged with managing a government agency or a law enforcement structure is responsible for the frequent human rights abuse may be because he is not fit for that post or he is corrupt or simply ignorant of his duties .Reason why it is recommended that only men of integrity should be selected to manage such agencies. This cannot be otherwise because when laws are made no matter how sound and good they may be, if there are no upright people to enforce the rule of law or to execute or cause the law to be executed then the law makers as well as those who render justice labor in vain. What we should note here is that issues of human rights and freedoms are no chocolate issues. They are the very backbone of any good governance.
The way human rights issues are handled by any country or government reflects the image of that country or government. One can conclude just from that aspect alone whether a particular country, government or regime is corrupt, dictatorial, partial or impartial. When everyone knows that all men were born equal and some people think that they are more equal than others then it is an aberration and a serious injury on human rights. The primordial preoccupation for those concerns to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights should consist of mobilization, sensitization and education of the population and where possible institute legal proceedings against persons suspected of human rights abuses. As said earlier you can have the best legislations, best structures, best institutions but if the brains in charge of implementing the laws, as well as those managing these structures and institutions are not capable people of a certain degree of probity (because there is no perfect human being - as a human being each person has his or her own human frailties – shortcomings) then everything will come to naught.
Many people living under authoritarian rule probably feel a strong desire for the enforcement of fair and binding rules for all than for democratic self determination. An independent and credible judiciary must control all state actions. Otherwise corruption, arbitrary decision making and abuse will prevail with hash consequences for human rights as well as for economic development.

Note should be taken of the fact that no where in the world does conform with the letter of the law absolutely. Even in the world’s respectable Unions, not everything is done by the book. But the difference between the law on paper and the law in practice is particularly marked in poor and developing countries. In fact some judges in some countries have for decades rule against state authorities and past orders in favor of civil society organizations such as human rights campaigners.

In doing so these have sparked intense debate and changed perceptions of the law. The big obstacle here is that these judgments need to be implemented by the very administrations the courts repeatedly ruled against.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

HIV/AIDS; Ravaging Cameroonian population - Youths in Great Danger

Cameroon has a population of about 17.000, 000, people with almost 8.9%, including 43,000 children infected with HIV/AIDS. About 240.000 children have lost a parent to the pandemic. The rate of infection is increasing and this prompted the government of Cameroon to declare HIV a health emergency and HIV control a priority programme in 2005. The high rate has persisted due to: unsafe heterosexual behaviors, cultural taboos associated with the disease, mother-to-child transmission, increase in truck drivers, sex workers especially along the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, limited education/preventive measures about the disease, etc. Cameroon, harbors more than one specie of the disease (HIV 1 and 2), which is not the case with other countries.
The last result of the demographic and health survey carried out in
Cameroon in January 2006 indicates that 1/3 of youths ranging from 15-24 years have already had their first sexual intercourse. In the same year 48000 cases were detected with 78.4 percent involving people between the ages of 20 and 34. With the passing of time youths interestingly indulged in premature sex with devastating consequences ranging from early pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmissible diseases and above all the deadly HIV/AIDS.
It should be noted here that the period when the risk of sexual exposure is high in the country is during holidays and especially third term because it is the moment when the youths make new acquaintances and have time to hang out, go out to nightclubs, parties and cinemas.
Little wonder why the 2006/2010 HIV/AIDS national strategic plan has brought about several initiatives aimed at re-enforcing the prevention of HIV/AIDS among the youths.
One of such initiatives is the AIDS free holiday campaign which is in its 4th edition and supported by the country’s first lady Mrs. Chantal Biya, through her humanitarian organization in collaboration with various ministerial departments and international organizations.
The country’s former minister of public health Urbain Olanguena Awono once revealed that thousand of Cameroonians are already infected with the HIV/AIDS virus and reiterated the fact that youths are the most affected group in the society. In the bit to prevent more infections the minister said his ministry would during HIV/AIDS campaigns deploy health educationists to sensitize youths on the prevention of HIV/AIDS, through educative talks.
Also disturb by the situation is the country’s minister of women empowerment and the family Susan Bomback, who have called on the youths especially girls to adopt responsible attitude by dressing decently because as she puts it provocative dressing and loose manners make girls an easy target for HIV/AIDS.
Similerly the minister of youth affairs, Adoum Garoua, has re-assured youths that the fight against HIV/AIDS is a government priority but nevertheless called on the young men and women to participate in the fight against the disease because they are responsible for their destiny.
The rate of infection is growing rapidly not withstanding all the efforts. With more than one
percent of pregnant women tested positive,
Cameroon considered to be in a generalized epidemic, stands at the brink of a full-blown crisis. Total death currently stands at about 55,000 annually reducing life expectancy to 47 years. The pandemic has moved from just a health issue to a developmental one with social, political and economic dimensions. Some salient facts worth noting about the disease are that: HIV/AIDS tends to strike young adults between the ages
of 25 to 45 disproportionately. This reduces population growth and dependency ratio increases
substantially as there are few people to take care of the sick, young and elderly. Therefore the society is loosing most of its professionals - teachers, lawyers, farmers, police officers etc.
Due to the conservative nature of cultural practices in the society, it is difficult to embark on sex
education or any open discussion on preventive measures. In most places, it is a taboo to even talk about sex, safe sex or even mention or acknowledge that people have contracted the disease.
The dominant Roman Catholic Church has not helped matters with it endorsement of controversial issues like being against the use of condoms. In other words, Cameroonians view HIV/AIDS as a shameful disease. Victims are being rejected by the society. For fear of stigmatization and rejection, victims prefer not to disclose or accept their HIV status. They however prefer to consult charlatans who claim to cure the disease, who not only fail but often
worsen their clients' health by encouraging them to interrupt ARV treatment, causing them to develop resistance to future ARV medications. This situation has instead helped charlatans selling “AIDS cures” to flourish, as their places are often crowded by these patients on a daily basis. The World Bank at the initiative of the Minister of Agriculture carried out a programme. It was expected to affect the lives of 350,000 people in rural areas, UNDP and WHO have, also supported the education of health professionals to treat people living with HIV/AIDS and to treat people with STIs. The NACP, in collaboration with Coopération Française, took the initiative of opening daycare hospitals and reducing of mother-to-child transmission. These initiatives are almost present in Health outfits’ nation wide. The project, “Preventing the Sexual Transmission of
HIV/AIDS in the Armed Forces and Police of Cameroon” received a subsidy of US$ 102 000 from the SPDF, from 1997 to 1999. Furthermore, two important private sector initiatives in Cameroon are carrying out prevention activities: Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) (country’s second-largest employer after the State) – an agro-industrial business with 12,000 employees and Cameroon Aluminum Company (ALUCAM), which set up an HIV/AIDS prevention
programme in 1996, with the help of OPALS. ALUCAM also launched the atri-therapy treatment programme called TRICAM, with contributions from the
Rothschild Hospital in Paris. There also exist some high-level structures in support of the national response such as National AIDS Control committee, (a multi-sect oral initiative that was set up in 1986), and Inter-Ministerial Committee. So far several people as well as civil society organizations have been trained
on HIV/AIDS - related issues. There has been a good foundation laid to combat it. Many NGOs like the Clinton Foundation have stepped in and there is a flood of resources from Organizations to facilitate and coordinate the effort. Today, there is a mobile service for voluntary counseling and testing. HIV/AIDS test now costs 500 francs CFA, in all medical establishments in the country. Above all free ARV drugs are available in all treatment centers in the country.
The government was very slow in intensifying urgent measures to combat the disease. Initially, it paid lip service and only got up from slumber when the velocity of infection and death became too rampant.

Unfortunately some patients are still derailed by charlatans, mostly Tradi-Practitioners who provide alternative medicines. Also, the rampant rate of corruption in the government has prevented the smooth functioning of anti-AIDS programme. Recently, it was widely reported that drugs donated to be distributed free ended up being sold by the officials of the Ministry of Health to a population that lives on less than a dollar a day. Also, the departure of most health workers for greener pastures abroad has not helped the fight either. Many patients become bored
hence ending their treatment prematurely.

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Constitutional amendment sparks debate in Cameroon

Cameroon's President Paul Biya has been in power for 25 years, but he still has other
intentions - to change the law so that he can continue in office indefinitely after his mandate ends in 2011. Consequently, the president’s particular interest is on article 6.2 of the country’s constitution, which reads; “the president shall be elected for a seven year term renewable once”. But a good segment of the population is angrily against such intention by president Biya described as “a constitutional Coup d’etat”. Consequently, Bishops of the Catholic Church,
Cameroon’s largest religious body through their Episcopal conference have condemned in strong terms any attempt by the head of state to temper with the country’s constitution and has thus called on all Christians to stand against such manipulation.

Interestingly, the head of state and the prime minister are all Catholics. “Constitutional amendment is not a priority now”, reads the caption on an endorsement form designed by the justice and peace commission of the national Episcopal conference of Cameroon. “By my signature I hereby endorse the protest against any constitutional amendment in Cameroon as contained in the memo”, reads the form which is being signed by catholic Christians.
Furthermore In most churches on Sundays, Christians are being cautioned by priests through their sermon to stand as God’s children against the constitutional amendment which is now a topical issue in the country. Conscious of the fact that some Christians especially civil-servants are afraid of signing the form for the simplest reason of being victimized, they are being
told by the men of God to put all fears aside and stand firm in their believe.

The Catholic Church has been joined by the civil society as well. On this score over 40 civil society Organizations under the umbrella of Cameroon Alliance of Voluntary Organizations for Development (CAVOD) meet in Bamenda northwest
province of Cameroon to say
no to any constitutional change in the country. CAVOD which is in a nation wide tour to press her claims is aimed with a mission statement as stated below;

• In a bid to contribute to the ongoing debate sparked by calls for the amendment of Cameroon’s Constitution;

• Noting that President Biya, in his end-of-year address on December 31, 2007, formally endorsed these calls with particular reference to Article 6(2) which he described as “undemocratic”,

We, members of the Civil Society network known as the Cameroon Alliance of Voluntary Organisations for Development (CAVOD), met in extraordinary session in Bamenda on Saturday January 12, 2007, and after an exhaustive examination of the subject, came out with the following preliminary statement:

1 That the present constitution does indeed warrant revisiting by reason of the following serious shortcomings among others:
a. It gives the head of State sweeping powers including the power to appoint members to elected bodies. For instance it empowers him to appoint 30% of the Senate, to sit with 70% elected members, thus undermining the regulatory power of this body over the functioning of the Executive;
b. It makes no provision for independent candidates for Presidential elections, or for the participation of the Civil Society in policy formulation and implementation, thus making public policy a monopoly of political parties;
c. It lends itself to manipulation, notably with regard to Article 66 which provides for the
declaration of assets, but whose text of application makes such declarations a private matter);
d. It leaves the appointment of members of government to the president’s unqualified discretion whereas elsewhere these appointments are made from amongst elected legislators;

2 The above shortcomings have, over the years, informed wide-ranging calls for the present
Constitution to be revisited, but the President has ignored them, only to spring into action now because a tiny fragment of his own party seeks the amendment of one article to favour his own ambition.

3 Those calls, it is to be noted, emanated from a small, negligible caucus that is demonstrably
unpopular even in its own base and, considering the low voter turnout at the last legislative elections, the nation runs the risk of seeing them validated with the support of less than 30% of the electorate.

4 Allowing this to happen would deny the vast majority of Cameroonians the right to participate in the making of a major decision with far-reaching consequences. It is thus at variance with the government’s avowed commitment to the letter and spirit of international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Fundamental Human Rights in its Article 21(3)

5 The present Constitution is the 1996 revision of the 1972 constitution, and even with the above flaws, basic logic demands its full implementation before another amendment is considered.

6 Even in the event of any such amendment, we deem a review of Article 6(2) unwarranted, especially as applied to the incumbent who has been in power for over a quarter century.

7 Just as the selective implementation of the present Constitution, notably the by-passing of the Constitutional Council, is tantamount to a constitutional Coup d’Etat, its selective amendment to suit the designs of the incumbent would amount to unacceptable tinkering with the fundamental law of the land.

8 The President, by allowing or being party to these violations of the institutions of State of which he is the sworn guarantor, can be deemed to have exposed himself to impeachment.

9 In the face of the current threats to the fundamental instrument of our existence as a State, it
behooves the people of
Cameroon, in whose hands lay the sovereignty and destiny of the Nation, to make their voices heard through every lawful means.

10 We count on all friends in the international community to throw their full weight behind the
restoration of sovereignty to the Cameroonian masses.

Done at Bamenda,
January 12, 2008

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HIV/AIDS ravaging Cameroon’s Youths Over 1/3 of the youthful population in great danger

The last result of the demographic and health survey carried out in Cameroon in January 2006 indicates that 1/3 of youths ranging from 15-24 years have already had their first sexual intercourse. In the same 48000 cases were detected with 78.4 percent involving people
between the ages of 20 and 34. With the passing of time youths interestingly indulged in premature sex with devastating consequences ranging from early pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmissible diseases and above all the deadly HIV/AIDS.
It should be noted here that the period when the risk of sexual exposure is high in the country is during holidays and especially third term because it is the moment when the youths make new acquaintances and have time to hang out, go out to nightclubs, parties and cinemas. Little wonder why the 2006/2010, HIV/AIDS national strategic plan has brought about several
initiatives aimed at re-enforcing the prevention of HIV/AIDS among the youths.
One of such initiatives is the AIDS free holiday campaign which is in its 4th edition and supported by the country’s first lady Mrs. Chantal Biya, through her humanitarian organization in collaboration with various ministerial departments and international organizations.
The country's former minister of public health Urbain Olanguena Awono once said thousand of Cameroonians are already infected with the HIV/AIDS virus and reiterated the fact that youths are the most affected group in the society. In the bit to prevent more infections the minister said his ministry carried HIV/AIDS campaigns of which some 525 health educationists were deployed to sensitize some 5000 youths on the prevention of HIV/AIDS, during which about 25000 educative talks were organized.

The minister of women empowerment and the family Susan Bomback, has always called on the youth especially girls to adopt responsible attitude by dressing decently because as she puts it provocative dressing and loose manners make girls an easy target for HIV/AIDS.
Like the Minister of Women Empowerment and the Family, that of youth affairs, Adoum Garoua, re-assures youths that the fight against HIV/AIDS is a government priority but nevertheless called on the young men and women to participate in the fight against the disease
because they are responsible for their destiny.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

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Traditional medicine: free for all Profession in Cameroon

Though about 80% of the country’s population use traditional medicine for primary Health care the sector is not regularized

The practice of traditional medicine has become a major phenomenon in Cameroon. And the non-regulation of the profession has made it accessible to charlatans who are highly concentrated in big cities like Yaounde, the nation’s capital, Douala, the economic capital including other provincial and divisional capital. Here, they are found in nearly all the
neighborhoods where their numbers increase by day.They preferred these areas because the business is more fruitful than in the villages. In effect the numbers of sign boards guiding people to the homes of these traditional healers are numerous. Meantime Statistics from the country’s ministry of public health hold that about 88% of Cameroonians use traditional medicine for primary health care. However, the quality of treatment received from these healers
remains questionable. Reason being that most of them found in towns are charlatans and quacks.
Nji Thomas is a young traditional practitioner who lives in the Bepanda neighborhood in the country’s economic capital of
Douala. At the main entrance to his home, a big sign board welcomes you, indicating the presence of a traditional healer. Amazing on the board is a list of common diseases purportedly to be treated in the traditional clinic. Consequently it is common to fine a queue of people at the clinic daily for treatment. Nji who says he has been in town for
over a decade claims the practice was a gift from his late grand further, a native Doctor with whom he worked since childhood. Hear him, “I only moved to
Douala when my grand father died over ten years ago. I end my living from healing people. I preferred to come
here because the business is more fruitful than in the village.”
But Dr Ekeke monono Martin, Director of Health care organization and Health Technology at the ministry of public Health seems uncomfortable with the practice of traditional medicine in the country.
To him the problem is that traditional medicine is not standardized. “In conventional medicine one has to follow a certain method of training and it is tested. When they fulfill a certain number of conditions then they are declared doctors of medicine or nurses, etc”, said Dr Ekeke, who however expressed worried as to the fact that the situation is not the same with the practice of traditional medicine. Thus making it difficult to ascertain who is a traditional healer and
who is not. According to him one of the ways of sorting out this situation is to make a number of
criteria which the government is currently working on. On this light the organization for the protection of property rights has come up with some guideline to facilitate the identification of traditional healers. “We hope that this idea where somebody leaves from somewhere and comes to a big city like Yaounde or Douala sets up and say he is a traditional healer will be controlled” said Dr, Ekeke Monono M.
Furthermore government is making frantic efforts in regulating the practice of traditional medicine through new reforms that will be put in place in the days ahead. Such will include the creation of a national council of traditional healers and each health district in the country will have a council or a committee of traditional healers. The said council will be able to judge by criteria which they know who belong to where since in the practice there are those who can know who is a traditional; healer, bone setter, herbalists, birth attendant etc. Reason why the director of health care organization and Health Technology expressed hop that “by sitting these set of rules, regulations and guidelines, we would be able to reduce the number of charlatans and quarks, who parade the streets of our cities in the name of traditional healers”.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

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Paul Biya at twenty-five: A lost for opportunity for Cameroon’s development

It used to be a delicate task to make an assessment of the government short of praise-singing. The regime and its partisans would quickly dismiss the effort as the work of ill-willed partisan sycophants. Now that task is enthusiastically done by international watchdogs. Those who want to know about the standing of the Biya regime over the last twenty-five years only need to call up the regular reports of Transparency International, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Amnesty International, World Bank, UNDP, etc. With soberness the government has learnt to accept reports of its mediocrity in key respects. But on this 25th anniversary of the regime Paul Biya and his men may rightly celebrate “the peace that reigns in Cameroon” – and some other note-worthy achievements of the distant past

Paul Biya was given only twelve hours to answer a rather strange and wholly unexpected question put to him by his political overlord, Ahmadou Ahijo. “Would you be interested to assume the functions of Head of State and take over from me?”

More suspicious than excited, Biya, then Prime Minister, remained unbelieving as he watched a scene of political drama suddenly begin and unfold within the next few days with the rapidity and surrealism of a motion picture. It took the grandiose ceremony of 6 November 1982 when Ahidjo actually handed him the reins of power on a platter of gold for the mild-mannered and unassuming Biya to believe his infinite luck and immeasurable good fortune.

Today makes the 25th anniversary of Biya’s accession to power. In activities that already began at the week-end state media and organs of the ruling CPDM are highlighting the achievements of the regime over a quarter century.Incredible inheritance. The celebrations have only provoked debate. What has Paul Biya done with his incredible inheritance over so long a period?
Going by the universally accepted understanding that socioeconomic development and general prosperity are among the more important and urgent tasks of governments, the regime’s score-card is definitely somber, Far more so than the enthusiasm of partisans would have us believe. Yet the beginning was promising. The mood of the nation was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Cameroonians had become dead weary of the same president for twenty-two years without much to show for it.
It was this popular enthusiasm for change that the new president cashed in on. He preached change; change especially in public morality and social justice. Now, twenty-five years later, the story is very different, to say the least. Cameroon is in a crisis of modernization. The economy has instead shrunken; political institutions are archaic and awfully in want of reform. Social justice and basic administrative efficiency are all major problem areas. All the same the picture is all bleak. The Biya cloud has its silver lining. Under Biya Cameroon has so far avoided the armed conflicts that have ruined many other African countries. Only recently, OXFAM the British NGO, published a report which estimated that more than 300 billion dollars was the cost of wars in African countries in the last fifteen years.
That was money that could otherwise have been invested in development. Another bright spot of the Biya regime is freedom of speech and of the press. With the return to the multiparty politics in 1990, the government freed the newspapers. The audio-visual media has also been progressively liberalized. Movement in and out of Cameroon was also freed thanks to the easy obtainment of a Cameroonian passport which was previously near impossible to get. General amnesty The state of emergency under all of Ahijo’s twenty two years was lifted and a general amnesty granted, thus permitting Cameroonian exiles abroad to return home.

These measures were widely acclaimed as harbingers of political change and socioeconomic development. But alas the much-awaited change did not come, and now looks ever more unlikely to come before 2011 when Biya leaves office? The promise of democratization especially failed woefully even when it had the most favorable conditions of success. After a three year effort by the government, partly fighting strong forces at home that opposed it, Cameroon obtained membership of the commonwealth on condition of key democratic reforms that it willingly pledged.
It was widely believed and openly said at commonwealth chancelleries in Yaounde that membership would play the trick by bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Yaounde authorities. Probably the most disappointing aspect of democratic failure is the long history of flawed and acrimonious elections. The failure of democratization could somehow have been made up for by impressive economic growth just like the authoritarian regimes of South-East Asian countries generated miracle socioeconomic development.
Not so with the Biya concept of power whereby there is a strong nexus between politics and economics. Almost all of the Biya tenure has been mired in an economic slump. After a long decade of recession the economy has not been given the necessary bold incentives to bush it back up. All possible gains of the present 3.5% growth rate are instantly swallowed up by the negative effects of recession.
Education, health and roads due to long years of investment neglect are in their worst possible condition. The government has also been neglectful over the yearly rise in prices of essential commodities. Far from generating prosperity and pulling the masses out of poverty through economic expansion, the Biya regime has instead in its twenty-five years visited unemployment, penury disease and crime at an unprecedented scale upon Cameroonians.
For a government that has as its flag-ship policy poverty reduction (officially called “the fight against poverty”) this pronounced anti-social behavior makes it a contradiction in terms. The recent boost in public finances, thanks to debt relief, has yet to trickle down to the masses if and when the government concedes to some important social spending. Until then the money remains in the indelicate hands of corrupt bureaucrats who swindle it with impunity.
Like poverty, disease, crime and other endemic ills of the Biya regime, corruption has grown so huge that fighting it threatens the regime itself. Biya is still using the escapist argument of wanting to take his time for tangible proofs. In analyzing the mediocre performance of the Biya regime, a few factors do not work in his favour. Cameroon, for instance, is not a poor country by any means. For its population of 17 million its natural resources of oil, timber, cocoa, coffee and banana could have been a great boon in its development. Critics hold this failure to poor management.
There is clear evidence that Paul Biya lacks the will to change Cameroon for the better. The government’s failed relationship with the commonwealth as indicated earlier is evidence enough. Furthermore the government’s indifference to the yearly assessment of credible watchdogs does not help to believe the president’s speeches to the country.
The third factor that wipes off any pretence by Biya to being a democrat is his obscurity over the issue of succession. No democrat would want to be in office for twenty-nine years and still nurse ambitions to continue. And to seek a life presidency by crook (no hook about that)! Understandably, partisans of the regime view its failures forgiving; some even want to ignore them. Also Cameroonian critics of the government are very often dismissed as partisan trouble-makers.
But it is doubtful that even the most enthusiastic supporters of the regime would ignore the very un-cheerful assessment of the Biya performance by international watchdogs and multilateral institutions. Who wants to ague with Transparency International on corruption; the World Bank on the economy and business climate; the UNDP on human development; Amnesty International on human rights or the Mo Ibrahim Foundation on governance?Courtesy The Herald CameroonIn Buea where most government offices were closed for the whole day, anniversary celebrations took place at the independence (Mbongo’s) square. Is there reason to celebrate?
Yemti Harry Ndienla Esq

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Friday, January 18, 2008

When tradition clashes with administration

To implement the rule of law and eliminate certain inadmissible cultures, the administration is increasingly “interfering” in traditional practices

Before now, the kinsmen or some group of people in every culture in Cameroon had the full autonomy to choose, sometimes “in collaboration with their gods or ancestors”, their rulers, their queen mother, etc. They also reserved the total rights to sack and exile or even molest or kill anyone of them who failed to respect the rules.

But, increasingly, the rule of law and globalization and modernity are greatly turning things around. It does not suffice today to molest or kill exile, sack or choose some person simply because the gods or the ancestors said so.

Sadly, conflicts between the administration, who go by the rule of law and modernity and globalization or even by some interest, and the traditionalists, who hold firm to the spirits of their lands, have sometimes burst into sheer animosity and outright antagonism.

Recently, tradition clashed with administration in sop, a remote village in the northwest province of Cameroon. The administration intervened when traditionalists there, with authority from the Fon of Nso, Sen Mbinglo III, took a decision to “sack” their queen mother – “Wirba – accused of witchcraft and having caused untold horror and havoc. A native of that area confirmed she is a witch and has killed people.

But, for the love of his wife, the traditional ruler there took the matter to the gendarmerie in Jakiri and with instructions from the gendarme, the ban on the “Wirba” from coming back to the chiefdom was removed and she was reinstated, against the will of the people. But the Nso fon, who did not welcomed the idea, immediately ordered that the traditional ruler be “washed” of his traditional title and escorted into exile.

Though the whereabouts of the traditional ruler and what he was intending to do was not known it is clear that but he could still be reinstated by the administration if he deems it necessary.

Similarly, an attempt by the administration to impose an exiled ruler on the people of Babanki still in the North West province some two years ago resulted in the brutal killing of the ruler and a chain of court cases and arrests and detentions. Recently too, the installation of an imposed lamido on the people of Sabga met with stiff resistance. In fact such cases are rampant.

Yemti Harry Ndienla Esq
Senior Journalist,
P. 0 Box 494 Buea,
Southwest Province Republic of Cameroon,
West Africa.
Cell; 237 772 52 03

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Jitters of social unrest

Ethnic conflict here, Demonstration there, Gunshots mowing down unarmed civilians was the social climate in Cameroon in most of 2007

Once again, the so-called forces of law and order demonstrated that they are still to learn lessons on respect for human rights. In demonstrations triggered by frequent and prolonged power outages in Abong Mbang, mid year and in Kumba in November anti-riot police killed five students, with scores of others injured.

Two unarmed students were shot dead at close range in Abong Mbang, while three died after police opened fire in kumba. There were other demonstrations concerning power outages or the lack of electricity in Mballangi, a village near kumba and at Obala. In Obala, vehicles plying the Bamenda-Bafoussam-Yaounde road waited for many hours as angry residents barricaded roads to protest against a blackout that had lasted several months. Police eventually broke up the protest. Police also did not spare commercial motorbike riders who held a protest in Bamenda to denounce harassment by the forces of law and order. Although most protestors were sitting on the ground, police still opened fire on them and two persons were killed, while several others were injured. Still in the North West, negligence by state officials resulted in ethnic clashes that left at least five people dead, over six thousand homeless, large scale destruction of property, scorching of farmlands and wanton killing of livestock. That was the case in an ethnic conflict pitting Oku and Mbessa. Twice in 2007, clashes broke out between the two ethnic groups over a disputed farmland. At least five people were reported dead, more than 100 injured, over 1500 houses destroyed and about 3000 people rendered homeless. The conflict had been intermittent for decades, but promises by the administration to demarcate the disputed boundary were never kept. It was a similar situation in a conflict pitting the Bali and Bawock ethnic groups. Clashes erupted in March when the Bawocks allegedly destroyed a Bali deity that they said had trespassed on their land. But Bali traditional authorities believe the entire territory on which the Bawocks are settled is their land. In retaliation, Bali marauders went on the rampage, destroying over 1000 houses in Bawock, scorched farmlands, indiscriminately slaughtered livestock and bashed residents, most of who fled to safety in neighboring villages and Bamenda. Over 3000 people were rendered homeless.

The tardy intervention of the administration is blamed for the scale of violence and destruction. That type of violence was not witnessed in the South West even though students there were very angry and made it known. Students in various schools in Fako division and Kumba went on strike to demand the reimbursement of computer fees. The students had paid fees for computer classes but the subject was not offered. However, no deaths were reported in the strikes. Workers of various state corporations and ministries engaged in several strikes over pay. MATGENIE workers barricaded a street in Yaounde to call government’s attention to 27 months of unpaid salaries. Staff at ANAFOR equally organized a strike to press for the payment of many months of salary arrears. Nurses in Yaounde caused panic when they organized a strike to press government to improve their working conditions. They only called off the strike when government promised to look into their problems. University students were also angry.

Students of the University of Yaounde I staged a demonstration to protest against the introduction of a new evaluation and credentials system which they perceived was being applied in an unfair manner. Students of the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences in Yaounde, popularly known as CUSS, also held a demonstration to protest against what they considered as attempts by their dean to frustrate their studies. There were equally unrests attributed to witchcraft. This particularly was true for a trance falling phenomenon that hit schools across Cameroon. Only female students were affected. Angry protesters sometimes resorted to destruction and attack on persons suspected of orchestrating the mysterious phenomenon. Trance-falling was reported in Ebolowa, Bamenda, Maroua and Douala, among other towns.

Yemti Harry Ndienla Esq

Senior Journalist,

P. 0 Box 494 Buea,

Southwest Province Republic of Cameroon,

West Africa.

Cell; 237 772 52 03

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How biya steered constitutional revision maneuvers

Admirers applauded him for being a master planner, while some exasperated detractors only saw an evil genius at work When President Paul Biya addressed the nation on 6 July, less than three weeks to the 22 July twin parliamentary and council elections and called for “clear majorities”, very few Cameroonians understood his underlying intentions.

Paul Biya repeated his call through the government run CRTV airwaves on 22 July shortly after casting his vote. On 15 August, after the Supreme Court had already declared results of the elections, Biya thanked Cameroonians for giving his ruling CPDM party the “clear majorities”. The president was a very triumphant man. His CPDM party finally grabbed 153 out of the 180 seats in Parliament, way above the two-third majority required for a constitutional amendment. But at the time, although many suspected that Biya had intentions to revise the constitution and make himself president for life, most of them hoped they were wrong. The mist surrounding the issue began to clear on 30 October 2007 when the French television channel, France 24, broadcast a recorded interview Biya granted them a few days earlier. In the interview, when asked about whether he would modify the constitution so as to be able to run for the 2011 presidential election, Biya said he had more important preoccupations than the 2011 elections, then added, “I leave those who want to open the debate to do so. Because there are also people who say that to ensure continuity, I should run again in 2011”. Seven days later, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Biya’s accession to power, the CPDM baron and general manager of the Cameroon Shipyard corporation, Zacheus Forjindam, led a team of CPDM officials in his native Santa – NorthWest Province to send a motion to President Biya advocating the revision of Article 6.2 of the constitution that provides for a seven-year term for the president renewable once. For other CPDM barons across the country, Fornjindam had demonstrated political ingenuity at its best. In panic, Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni got his Fako CPDM constituents to adopt a similar motion two days later. But even then, Lekie division had beaten him to it, as the CPDM there had already adopted a motion late on 6 November.The rush had begun. In the subsequent days and weeks, CPDM elites dashed to their constituencies across Cameroon to obtain motions pleading with Biya to reign for life. Although some CPDM officials, MPs and grassroots militants tried to resist, the constitutional revision machinery trod the nation like a pitiless colossus, crushing every dissenter.

When the CPDM Central Committee finally issued a communiqué thanking militants for their calls for a life presidency for Biya it was only a mater of time for Biya to make his penultimate move. On 31 December, during his end-of-year message, Biya finally announced that Article 6.2 of the 1996 constitution would effectively be revised to allow for unlimited presidential terms. During most of the CPDM hysteria over motions for a life presidency, many opposition parties and civil societies groups whispered threats of resistance. But as one observer said, they all sounded like the cowardly bark of a dog that already has its tail between its legs. Biya’s ultimate act would likely be to table a bill this 2008 at the National Assembly where his crushing CPDM majority would rubber stamp his proposal to become Cameroon’s president for life. As to what might happen, your guess is as good as mind. God safe Cameroon.

Yemti Harry Ndienla Esq

Senior Journalist,

P. 0 Box 494 Buea,

Southwest Province Republic of Cameroon,

West Africa.

Cell; 237 772 52 03

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New reference hospital: Why Sangmelima again? Where’s social justice?

The pressure and the pain of eking out a living, direct effect of corruption, inefficient government services and abusive human rights practices, combine to make another great and unpardonable evil of the Biya regime not appear so obvious. However, if you look at the way the entire public sector is organized the South province; Paul Biya’s home province always gets an exaggerated share of scarce public goods to the detriment of other provinces. Social injustice is just as destructive as other well known evils of the Biya regime, even if less obvious.
Not a few Cameroonians were surprised that a new reference hospital is to be located in Paul Biya’s hometown of Sangmelima.
Only a month ago the same town received a well-equipped modern primary school of the champion series donated to the government through Chantal Biya by French publishers, Hachette.
The school was built and equipped at the colossal sum of 500M FCFA. For a primary school where there is crying shortage across the country of classrooms and desks, that was much too exorbitant.
The criticism came not only from the press but also, some said, from Paul Biya’s family. Yet the very location of the school and its lavishness were done to favour the South province and placate the president who hails from there.
The location of both the hospital and primary school would ordinarily not cause a stir if there were enough public goods equitably shared among all ten provinces. ZERO SUM GAME No, that is not the case! The South province has a disproportionately larger share of public goods. With the national cake as tiny and in-expansive as it is, the more one province takes, the less there is for others to have. A zero-sum game indeed.
The former Ntem division of the former Centre-South province was upgraded into a full-fledged province by Biya, “son of the soil,” in 1983 for the very reason of pushing the development of the area – even at the high cost of the other parts of the country. As a province the former division would instantly qualify representation of the Yaounde ministries. It would also have its own share of members of parliament, government ministers, heads of public corporations, army generals, police commissioners, and much more. Not many people would want to quarrel with the idea as such.
But as it is everyone can see that Paul Biya has overdone it! For its size and population, the South has a far greater share of public goods, even in absolute terms in many respects, than any other province.
When it comes to representation in public institution the South is by far in the majority. For its population of about 350,000, which is a little less than that of Mezam Division in the North West Province with a population of more than two million.
In the government, the South easily has ten ministers, including persons of ministerial rank, ie if you consider the national security delegate of the police force and the secretary-general at the PMs, office.
But for the minister delegate at MINATD all are portfolio ministers with strategic positions e.g, finance, economy, pubic works, defense, higher education, communication. Compare that to the North West province again, with one portfolio minister (of culture), one minister for special duties and two secretaries of state. OVER REPRESENTED
Again the South is over-represented in the management of public corporations and institutions. The number presently stands at seven, after the GMs of FEICOM, Credit Foncier, and SIC were dismissed and arrested for corruption. The South holds the juiciest jobs, with corporations like the CNPS, CAMTEL and the contracts regulatory board.
In the army there are six generals from the south province, after one died recently, out of a total number of twenty-five. The North West and South West have only one each.
The South province also has a disproportionate majority of secretaries-generals, directors and sub-chiefs down the hierarchy chain and throughout the public services. They also have more rank and file personnel in the civil service.
This pattern is generally reflected in all public corporations and institutions. Because elite of the south control the public apparatus they instinctively recruit more of their own kith and kin at every opportunity.
Under the Biya regime, the public service does not function on professional lines. Because hard work, competence and seniority are not often taken into consideration, that opens the way for the same people to advance themselves, always at the expense of workers from ‘outside’ provinces. Even the president’s appointments do not pay regard to fair play or regional balance. This favoritism for the south and the centre, close allies of the south, permeates the entire constitution of the Biya regime. This has provoked accusations at various times in the past of marginalization by elite of the Littoral, West, the North and the East, and the Anglophones. It is the Anglophones that have been more persistent and militant in their outcry against Biya. At a well attended All-Anglophone conference held in Buea in April 1993, speaker after speaker condemned the failure of the 1961 union with Francophone Cameroon. SHORTCOMINGS
Allowing for the shortcomings of Anglophone leaders who failed to secure a union based on spelled-out terms, they accused Ahmadou Ahidjo of bad faith in disrespecting the spirit of the union.
As it turned out, Francophone power received Anglophones as a conquered people whom they sought instead to assimilate into their own system rather than recognize their integrity and values as a sovereign people.
Such was the foundation of the Anglophone problem. The problem itself lay in the policy of marginalization. As much as possible Anglophone were (and are still) left on the margin, instead of being brought into the centre of public affairs and given a central role in the march of the new nation, their nation too.
Correspondingly, Anglophone territory is neglected. Activists say that for the contribution that crude oil, explored in the off shores of the south west province, makes to the national budget there ought to be some return to the area in infrastructural development. Forty-six years into the 1961 union, roads are even worse than in the colonial days!
The third dimension to marginalization is total disregard of the Anglo-Saxon values that inspired Anglophone society. A bilingual policy exists only in name. French is the working language in Cameroon while English is accepted as a second language. Neither Ahidjo nor Biya ever used English in transacting government business.
The SCNC, the southern Cameroons National council, which was founded to militate for a more central role for Anglophones, since decided that separation was the only answer. In December 1999, they forced their way into the studios of Radio Buea and ran a message for the independence of southern Cameroons.
Social injustice does not usually attract press headlines as such in Cameroon. That is because of the greater prominence of other evils that have a direct effect on the daily lives of the people.
People will raise a hue and cry over electoral malpractices that rob them of their victory. Long months of daily struggle to get a claim out of inefficient and long-finding government services; the toil for daily bread; corruption in its many forms that cheat people of their day’s earnings and the unjust court verdict are among the many pains of everyday living.
What time and energy are there left to worry about the social injustices built into the very way society works to keep some permanently outside while others, owners of the regime, are inside to savour the cream?

Courtesy - The Herald

Yemti Harry Ndienla Esq
Senior Journalist,
P. 0 Box 494 Buea,
Southwest Province
Republic of Cameroon, West Africa.
Cell; 237 772 52 03

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