Monday, March 31, 2008

UK to pay Cameroonian asylum seeker 15m

Rights organisations say this development is a major milestone that heralds a new approach by the UK Home Office in the handling of asylum applications

By Ntaryike Divine, Jr. in Douala

An occurrence in the UK, where asylum applications and especially those from Cameroonians are almost always summarily rejected on grounds of deficient and/or incoherent evidence, may henceforth change the future of the issuance process for good.

A female Cameroonian asylum seeker is set to bag 15 million FCFA in damages, a UK court has ruled. It said the lady, not named, fled torture and rape from her native Cameroon and arrived in the UK in 2006 but was directly detained. Her several applications for asylum were rejected, as well as ensuing appeals and she was listed for repatriation in January 2007.

But the measure was stayed as pressure for her release from a detention centre mounted from rights groups. Others called on the UK immigration Home Office to grant her refugee-status to no avail. And then last month, it was decided that her case be reviewed. Fortunately, it emerged that her detention since 2006 was illegal as apt medical examinations to verify her claims of torture and rape in the hands of Cameroonian gendarmes and a prison guard were never conducted.

The Guardian said Monday that details of the reviewed case were published only last Friday, indicating that the 15 million FCFA was to cover damages for the period the woman was held unlawfully.

The UK-based Women Against Rape (WAR) described the ruling Friday as «a fantastic victory and sets a crucial precedent for many other women in detention…» The organisation noted that many women, some with kids, have had similar asylum cases fast-tracked and been detained, denied legal representation, medical and other expert help.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 24, 2008

After last month’s upheavals: Picking up the pieces

What is evident is that since the February upheavals, politics (in Cameroon) has entered one of those febrile, nervous phases in which events seem to be moving towards some momentous but unknown climax, almost independent of the wishes of the actors!

By Tazoacha Asonganyi, Yaounde

All that is happening in Cameroon today is a result of the obstinate refusal of the regime to fully embrace political pluralism. It has refused to come to terms with the fact that the people are inherently plural, and that in a democracy, they represent an empty centre which no group, interest or institution can claim to incarnate. It has reduced the social domain to appointments and the privileges linked to them; and reduced differences to a slogan - «unity»!

The one party-like regime has so far tried to act like a vast refrigerator, replacing the habits of freedom with servitude; replacing the sovereignty of the people with the whims and caprices of administrative officials. It has given the false impression that official political expression like concocted motions of support are an expression of popular sentiments.

And the «opposition» has only helped to confuse the regime the more. By saying often that they would take action when they were not in a position to take it, the opposition and civil society allowed their bluff to be called so often that the regime became careless with the people. And so when the February upheavals came, they took them all off guard! The upheavals have left us with much speculation and many «facts» about the «»real» origin of the crisis. The process of sorting the «facts» from the truth is still on-going, accompanied by a most bizarre political communication strategy!

In the process, the hauty regime is so dazed by the effectiveness of people power that it still believes that the people are incapable of the feat! Somebody, obviously of «supernatural» powers must be behind it all, commandeering the people to unwillingly or unconsciously carry out their wishes!

Politics is a domain where the interaction of individual wills in various ways leads to the creation of a common will. Unfortunately, the repeated electoral «victories» of the regime have become an obstacle and a perennial illusion because they represent a utopian attempt to seize the people’s sovereign power through manipulations by a cabal. It has always been obvious that sooner or later, this would lapse into violence, destruction and killings. Indeed, the hydra-headed, polymorphous enemy that haunts the nights of the regime is neither the progressives, the G10, the G11 nor the «opposition»; it is democracy!

What is evident is that since the February upheavals, politics has entered one of those febrile, nervous phases in which events seem to be moving towards some momentous but unknown climax, almost independent of the wishes of the actors!

In the cacophony, we are witnessing the usual self-delusion in politics: individual politicians believing that they are better than the others, and that the people trust them more than they trust others! Some being foolish enough to think that they would be understood whatever they say; that people would read their minds and replace what they say with what they think they had to say! Some give the impression that handshakes and smiles on-camera can be the magic wand with which to sweep away the complicated problems the regime has weaved around us! To avoid the usual practice of eating their own words to remain credible, they should better always say what they mean and mean what they say.

Of course, conflicts and wars arise because we fail to consider the views of others, or communicate with them about mutual differences. Dialogue is a virtue in politics because it allows protagonists to find room for compromises that can save lives and in some cases, cause the mending of ways. Unfortunately, our politics since 1990 has been filled with mutual hatred and disrespect, to the extent that Paul Biya has not been able to bring himself to have direct communication with his «enemies» - the «opposition». He has instead indulged in secret deals, personal favours and intrigues, and thus failed to reassure the people that he has the nation’s good at heart.

Paul Biya should no longer confuse the leader pages of Cameroon Tribune for vox-populi. He should listen to the people attentively. He definitely has a lot of advice, but he should know that much of it is the advice of those who want to use him. In moments of crisis, or when issues are controversial like the one concerned with the amendment of the constitution of Cameroon, it is his bounden duty to listen to the people.

Sphere: Related Content

The coming crisis: Only the courageous acceptance by Paul Biya of what is now obvious will avert disaster

Editorial Comment by The Herald Newspaper

Even the greatest fool in the realm now knows that both Cameroonians and their foreign partners are overwhelmingly and vehemently opposed to Paul Biya’s plans to continue in office beyond 2011. Wasn’t that the unequivocal message of last month’s strike? We of this newspaper urge the president not, in his disappointment, to let his regime continue on its path of non-achievement. But to buckle up, change course, and hire a crack team to make the very best of these last three years.
Since the last fortnight there has been continuous talk of another government change that should be due any moment. Until last month’s strike this regular exercise of Paul Biya’s supreme authority through the appointment of friends and allies seemed alright.
But no more so since the strike which now forces the president to undertake a major overhaul of both the substance and methods of his politics in order to avoid a crisis that will compromise the last years of his regime.
The lessons of last month’s strike actually oblige the president to accept, if not embrace, a change of course. It is that change that should help Biya be more realistic in determining his new team.

And, should that be the case, a true and effective government wouldn’t be a matter of appointing to please friends or removing a banana just to put another in its place. This is, unfortunately, what some of the names that have been making the rounds in Yaounde amount to.
One thing is sure. Paul Biya is presently going through the kind of soul searching he has not known since his political career. The problem gnawing him is the prospect that he might not after all continue in office after 2011. Yet that is the stark lesson that last month’s strike brought home to him; twist and turn as he likes.

What is terrible is the fact that the president now stands alone and is going through this all alone. Biya feels a devastating sense of betrayal by his own regime. This feeling is reinforced by the president’s habitual distrust of his own aides.

It seems now certain that Paul Biya knows that those who took advantage of the strike to achieve political ends were not of the opposition but of the ruling CPDM.

The president also now recognises that the strike symbolised popular rejection of his policies, not least of which is the proposed constitutional amendment.

The third and perhaps most painful lesson of the strike was the president’s discovery that disagreement with his plans is widespread within his own regime, particularly among those who benefit from his favours.

Also, the Americans are pressing Biya to live up to a promise he voluntarily made to George Bush during his visit to the White House five years ago to retire in 2011.
No doubt the noose appears to be tightening around Biya and he now feels it. The president was openly sour and accusatory when he met with the government early this month. He was so austere that many believed that the much-awaited change of government had come.
Besides the unnerving feeling of betrayal by his own assistants who would willingly take advantage of some problem to nail him, Biya is now apprehensive of a new and dangerous enemy, ie the spontaneous action of the streets, ‘people power’, as we call it in this newspaper.
It is against this new danger that the president has let loose, hardly justifiably after the recent wave of arrests, an unforgiving military operation over the striking provinces to ‘seek out and deal with’ rioters, looters, etc.

It is regrettable that Biya has become a victim of his own policies and methods. In his 25 years in office, he has not brought economic growth and prosperity to Cameroonians, the overwhelming majority of whom live in abject poverty.

The Biya regime is also disrespectful of basic social justice. Biya favours in a permanent manner some provinces against others in the distribution of public appointments and privileges.
Paul Biya’s record on democratisation and good governance is dismal. Corruption is endemic.
To compound matters, the president is still not much concerned about being decent in his relations with the wide public, his party militants or his collaborators.
Paul Biya is distant and elitist. He does not receive people. He does not travel within the country and makes little contact as such with Cameroon or Cameroonians and how they live.
The president adopts the same attitude towards members of his ruling party. Unjust selection of grassroots leaders and election candidates in recent times turned the base of the party against him and created conflict among the party’s cadres.

Biya has refused to address that situation which will continue to cause him problems such as boycott of elections and instigation to riot during the recent strike, as revealed!
With his immediate assistants, Biya maintains a studied distance and unpredictability. He is difficult to approach, leaving aides to work very often in a vacuum.
The long term damage for Biya is that aides relate to him in fear and subservience rather than in loving loyalty. When they have to express their opinions on some matter, assistants are too cautious to be useful.

What we are saying here is that all taken together Paul Biya has become a huge burden on Cameroonians and his foreign partners. The sooner he goes the better will life be for all. This is what the strike brought home to the president.

It is no more a matter of choice if the president will avoid trouble for himself. This is where we suggest that instead of leaving crestfallen; Biya can still make up for failure by courageously adopting a u-turn in policies and style.

Only then, we believe, a change of government will make sense. Then it will not be a matter of pleasing friends anymore but even going across party lines to look for capable partners who can truly change things.

Paul Biya must fight to make the best of his three years left so he does not have a zero score card after 28 years of office in peacetime.
Those familiar with English history will probably recall the short but catastrophic reign of Queen Mary Tudor (1553 – 1558) which English historians easily believe to be the worst of any English monarchy.

Mary failed in everything she set out for. Not by any means an evil person, she burnt as many as 227 heretics at the stake in less than four years, in a desperate attempt to restore Catholicism that her father Henry VIII had repudiated in quest of a male heir. In the end not even England’s relations with the Vatican did she maintain!

Mary also lost Calais, England’s only remaining symbol of international power. Then she took ill with dropsy and while she was in agony Philip of Spain, her husband, who had never really loved her, left her. It was a marriage she contracted against popular opinion. The separation also affected relations with Spain, the leading world power at the time. Failure after failure was all she knew.

When at last Mary died at the young age of 44, it was the entire realm that heaved a great sigh of relief.
Surely Cameroonians deserve more in 2011 than the English had in Marian England in 155

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Prime minister of Cameroon says embarrassed by massive toll-gate revenue drop

Courtesy - Harry Ndienla Yemti

The government of Cameroon is said to have been embarrassed by the sweeping drop in toll-gate revenue from around the country in the last two years.

Statistics from the country’s ministry of finance indicate that toll gate returns stood at 5billion FCFA annually, between 2001 and 2005 when the activities where being managed by an inter-ministerial committee.

Regrettably, annual takings have crashed to CFA 3 billion, since the Programme to Secure Road Returns took over control in 2005.

Presiding over a meeting of the National Road Board, which took place in the country’s capital of Yaounde, the country’s Prime Minister, Inoni Ephraim, who doubles as chairman of the board, expressed shock and disbelieve that returns from toll-gates were dropping not only at the time when government has set up more toll-gates in the country, but equally when government
has had several roads tarred.

So embarrassed was the Prime Minister and head of government that he ordered the country’s Minister of Public Works to promptly investigate the problem.

Sources at the Ministry of Public Works say the ministry will in the days ahead set up a computerised system to manage the process beginning with some major highways including YaoundeDouala – Bafoussam, triangle which account for at least 75 percent of the
country’s tollgate takings.

Many critics have it that the Cameroon toll-gate sector is very corrupt, with agents openly receiving bribes from motorists who do not want to pay for the tickets. At the same time, it is believed that not all toll gate proceeds get to the State treasury. Reason why many are on the opinion that government should privatize the toll-gate sector

Sphere: Related Content

Seven Cameroonian students killed in Boat Mishap

Courtesy - Harry Ndienla Yemti

At least some seven people most of them Cameroonian students studying in Guinea Conakry; have been killed, and many others declared missing in a boat mishap which occurred on Saturday, 15th march 2008 at about 4pm.

Guinean media reported that the boat, over loaded with 39 persons amongst who were 33 Cameroonian students heading for a birth day party at the Soro Island, capsized off the coast of Conakry some 10 km from the Guinean capital, after being trapped in violent storms.

After a rescue team pulled out some 25 survivors, including a 4 man crew, Cameroon's ministry of External Relations has released the names of those confirmed dead as follows; Mbarga Boris 5th year medical student, Chedjou Manou 4th year medical student, Young Nancy 4th year medical student, Tachago Elvis Telecommunication Engineer, Tefouet Sandrine 2nd year medical student, Dassi Iniance 1st year polytechnic option Mechanics and Gouodoug Alida 1st year pharmacy.

Meanwhile, Fotso Christlan, Mvondo Estelle, Nouta Nadine, and Kamga Marius have all been declared missing.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

UB: Council Approves CFA 425m Research Grants

Courtesy - Harry Ndienla Yemti

The Council of the University of Buea (UB), has authorised a research budget of CFA 425M, for the 2008 academic year. The said amount which represents a 137% increase over the previous year will enable UB to implement its research plan. Consequently the University has launched a call for research proposals that many believe has so far received only a timid
“We urge all lecturers to form research teams and compete for these grants”, said the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Vincent P.K. Titanji. While underscoring the fact that research grants are public funds that must be managed transparently and in an accountable manner, the vice-Chancellor made it clear that “grantees, who fail to account for funds received, expose themselves to sanctions provided by the law and will certainly be issued collection orders”.

Even though the relative increase in the research budget is substantial Titanji, however, said, “it is still modest in absolute terms”, but that in conformity with government policy, the University,
expect to see a substantial increase in the number of links and palpable dividends that will result from the intensification of relations with the business world.

He further called on the faculties and ASTI, each in their own domain to render operational at least one revenue-generating activity during the current fiscal year, while stating that the target is to provide at least 10% of the current faculty/school budget from such activities over the next two years. “Unless we constantly evaluate and then adjust our actions, we run the risk of losing focus and improvising without a vision. Therefore, the newly created portfolio of Internal Control and evaluation should develop benchmarks and tools for internal audit and control, and implement the evaluation of teaching that has been on the drawing board over the year”.

Meantime during a recent presentation of New Year wishes to the Vice-Chancellor, the registrar Prof. Samson Abangma, sited the production of the strategic plan, the Research Policy and management guide and the successful organisations of the first research planning week as some commendable activities carried out in 2007. still in connection with the promotion of research activities and funding, the registrar acknowledge the Vice-Chancellor’s sterling-worth quality as an academic and researcher who in spite of his numerous administrative, social and political
functions, still feels most at home with test tubes and white laboratory over-alls. “We are grateful for the many grants you won in 2007 because most of our postgraduate programmes survive on the basis of such grants”, noted the register.

Sphere: Related Content

Power of Strike! Shaken, Paul Biya sues for peace! Yet rising people power threatens him

Courtesy - Harry Ndienla Yemti

Last month’s strike, for the first time ever in the long history of confrontation between the people and the government, revealed the balance of power in favour of the people. People power is a thing to beware of. That is why Paul Biya nervously hastened to make concession to fight rising peace; the first time he ever took a major decision to help the masses. Now unless he is willing to go all the way and work hard towards economical development and genuine democratization his regime will be doomed. He will face the wrath of the people.

Paul Biya certainly had a quieter weekend after he adopted important measures on Friday to fight a galloping inflation. The President truly deserved the applause that followed the announcement of the measures. It was the first time ever in his 25years in office that he made such a policy gesture in favour of the masses. Only a week before the president, who is by no means popular suffered more public opprobrium than anyone remembers in a long time. In a speech to the nation, Biya portrayed a shocking lack of touch with Cameroonians just when his understanding was much expected to end a strike that had sufficiently served its purpose in expressing the people’s grievances against the government. Biya’s disappointing outing only compound the damage done to the government by the strike whose success demonstrated a new sense of self-confidence among the masses.

The measures adopted on Friday were no doubt much welcome by the wide public, long resigned to economic hardships. What is interesting to note about the president’s gesture is that he acted out of fear of the ‘nightmare’ he experienced of the strike, which is why he hastened to ‘sue for peace’ The very fact that Paul Biya has never made any important concession to the masses-political, economic or social make the president’s sudden sense of weakness vis-à-vis the public something really to think about.

To face the fact, no one who observed the strike missed the new sense of self-confidence that the public demonstrated. When it ended everyone was satisfied the government had been taught a lesson. Indeed there began talk immediately that another strike was in preparation- sure evidence of this newfound power and the people’s eagerness to face the government. For the holder of absolute power that Paul Biya is, this must have been a truly worrisome development.
Not even the most predatory autocrat is comfortable about people power. In Romania in 1986, it was again the streets that seized power that crushed that country’s oppressive regime after the usually trigger-happy police for once disobey their supreme master Nicola Ceausescu. In the Philippines in 1986, it was again the streets that seized power from Ferdinand Marcos who, as incumbent, had claimed it after rigging an election as usual, all with Ronald Reagan’s approval.
Of the many factors that explain the coming rise of people power in Cameroon, two stand out, viz: the decline of the dissuasive power of the bullet and a corresponding sense of despair and a diminished self-worth among youth.

Long years of penury and unemployment among youth erode any sense of worth, leaving instead hopelessness about life, which easily gives way to acts of desperation. It is variants of this inner condition that inspire suicide, suicide bombers, acts of terror, and the willingness by economic migrants to undertake perilous sea voyages. And to that sense of despair the ready recourse to naked coercive force by the Biya regime.

Death resulting from gun-fire has become commonplace in Cameroon such that it is fast losing its sting. How else does one explain the fact that every successive ant-government demonstrated draws a bigger attendance when that of the previous week claimed lives- friends, colleagues and even relation? It is this new generation of youths who have nothing to live for and who don’t care about Biya’s bullets, that is at the base of the rising confidence of street power. With them taking the bullets, any anti-government movement will work. That is the new power that Paul Biya must reckon with. It was respect for it that the president hastened to make the anti-inflationary concessions of last weekend.

If the president will deal successfully with this new threatening power he will have to reverse much of these policies of the last twenty-five years that have been remarkably anti- people and elitist. It will be helpful for Biya not to wait until the people start demanding what they believe is their right. People power is not only potent, it is also unpredicted. The more he takes the public into confidence in dealing with them the more he will find it easy to control people power.
The history of decolonization in Africa which involved long years of struggling between the indigenous/ nationalist elite and their colonial rulers offers a useful lesson here. Each time the colonial rulers granted a concession, considering it something great, that only prepared the way for the nationalist fighters to demand more. That in turn only lengthened the struggle that often got really bitter and murderous.

The accounts of Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana or of Nigerian nationalists as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolow or of Herbert Macauley etc or of Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia, all teach the same broad lesson. At the height of economic measures in favour of the masses will be job creation hot by expanding the public sector but by the infusion of credit, for small and micro businesses. The goal should be to lift millions out of poverty and generate prosperity in as short a time as possible.

If Biya sincerely wants to turn public policy towards poverty alleviation much that is visible must happen to convince the public. Much money can be saved for that purpose from a considerable reduction in the size of the government and also of Cameroon’s sprawling diplomatic apparatus.

The daily operation of the government is also scandalously wasteful. Government processes are too much of a labyrinth and time consuming to support the implementation of the coming reforms. All good leadership is by example. Paul Biya’s lifestyle does not at all reflect the government’s flagship policy of poverty alleviation.

With more than three quarters of Cameroonians living on a dollar a day it is irreconcilable to know that Biya travels by a hired inter-continental jumbo jet at about one billion fcfa per journey at the taxpayer’s expense. In their powerlessness people say nothing until their opportunity comes. It is politics that will pose a much greater problem because of ego Investment. Paul Biya must drop his mischievous intention to continue in office beyond 2011 and prepare the nation for a free and fair election whereby Cameroonians will choose their next president.

If he is pro-active and takes leadership in enacting these reforms he will be surprised how easily he is forgiven his otherwise unpardonable political sins. In that way, unless Paul Biya willingly returns to the people what he has withheld from them for so long, i.e. genuine institutionalized democracy and a solid foundation for economic growth, he will face people power. That is better imagined than described.Courtecy, The Herald

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 17, 2008

An appeal to all chairmen of political parties and MPs to defend the constitution

We cannot allow one man or a small group of people to destroy our country because we fear. We must stand up and defend the truth!

By A.S. Ngwana, Douala

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
Our country is at the crossroads of history and the future of Cameroon will depend on your decision now. You can help build Cameroon for the better tomorrow or help destroy it for the worse.
The question is simple: Should we allow President Paul Biya to amend the constitution, to destroy the constitution, to enable him to become life president of Cameroon?
Will history forgive us if for any selfish reason we were to sell our consciences and allow Paul Biya to destroy Cameroon, before God calls him, as God will call each one of us to account for what we have done or failed to do?

Our responsibility as political leaders is to leave behind us a peaceful, prosperous and happy Cameroon, built on the unshakable principles of justice, love and peace. We must build a Cameroon where everyone is equal before the law; a Cameroon where everyone can aspire to the highest position in government, irrespective of his creed, tribe or region. We must build a Cameroon where human dignity is valued and respected. We must build a Cameroon where people are free from ignorance, poverty, disease, corruption, hatred, oppression, discrimination, marginalization and tyranny.
We have not made progress in building a prosperous, virile and democratic country since independence because we suffer from fear, because we are selfish, because we are not prepared to make sacrifices. We cannot build this country based on fear. We cannot allow one man or a small group of people to destroy our country because we fear. We must stand up and defend the truth! The constitution is the supreme law of the State and because the constitution has been ignored, treated with contempt and manipulated by the head of State, there is no «rule of law» or «separation of powers» in Cameroon.

Honorable ladies and gentlemen, we as the political leaders of our country have a serious responsibility to ourselves, our children and our country. We cannot allow Biya to amend the constitution to be life president of Cameroon . Various governments under the president have been most corrupt, inefficient and disastrous.

Our appeal to all parliamentarians is that they should throw out any bill sent by Paul Biya to amend the constitution, so that he can stand for elections after 2011. You can either vote out the bill or walk out of the House. The president of the National Assembly is advised not to manipulate the passage of such a bill because Cameroonians will never forgive him. He will answer for such a terrible crime to the nation.

Our appeal to all chairmen of political parties is that they have to unite and educate their militants on the importance of the Constitution. In this exercise personal differences must be dropped in the interest of the nation. We suggest that one of the chairmen whose party is represented in parliament should take the initiative to call the chairmen of all political parties to an urgent meeting to discuss ways of stopping this threatening catastrophe in our country. Fru Ndi whose SDF party has the largest number of parliamentarians after the CPDM can do this. Or why not Ndam Njoya? In the absence of these two men, any other chairman should do so. We may invite the chairman of the CPDM or his representative to this meeting, if necessary.
If we fail as political leaders to solve this national crisis, then we shall blame ourselves if Cameroonians take the law into their hands to solve this problem in their own way.
I am sure that no Cameroonian will want us to experience the sad situation Kenya is going through now.

May God save Cameroon from chaos, anarchy and doom.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sakorzy announces France-Afrique concept rubbishing

But some Cameroonians who staged demonstrations in Paris Saturday, criticised France for eternally propping African dictators

courtesy, Ntaryike Divine, Jr
The Herald

French President, Nicolas Sarkozy last week announced he was verging on taking to pieces all military and defense accords linking his country to some fifteen African states. But the announcement made in front of South African MPs is being taken with varying pinches
of salt by doubting Thomases.

Last Saturday, and 48 hours after the declaration that spiced his African tour that began in conflict-ridden Chad, scores of Cameroonians staged demonstrations in front of the French Embassy in Brussels . They denounced France ’s continuous support to dictatorial
African regimes, including that of their native Cameroon .

Moise Essoh, one of the organizers of the manifestations that convened placard-wielding
affiliates of various patriotic organizations, said it was thanks to the French backing for African tyrants that Cameroon witnessed nationwide bloodshed the same week. He said until words were transformed to action, the French president’s declarations would remain mere words.

Nonetheless, Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated the time had come for all defence accords linking his country to Africa to be negotiated. France currently has military and defence cooperation ties with some 15 African countries dating back to the dusk of the colonial era. While some of the accords stipulate direct French backing in case of aggression and technical military assistance, others have been firmly cloaked in secrecy.

It is such confidentiality that irks Africans, especially when France steps in to prop contested
regimes in the face of adversity like Idriss Deby’s Chad, or its meddling in internal affairs in the
Ivory Coast . But Sarkozy told South African MPs and President Thabo Mbeki that even the entire
France-Afrique umbilical cord sustained by covert networks and secret defense accords will be rubbished under his mandate.

He said the new approach in France-Africa relations had been announced when French troops who number about a thousand in Chad were told to stay off confrontations that erupted in February between the government and rebels. «Africa has to address her security problems,» he said, adding it was a major turning in relations between France and her former colonies. But critics who point to a recent French television broadcast of a probe into the assets of some African leaders in France say honesty warrants that such be seized, sold and proceeds pumped into stagnating African economies. Many are thus still waiting to see how far the French
president can go. Some say he may be stepping on the toes of powerful lobby groups with deep roots in Africa and behind corrupt leaders whose stay in power guarantees their endless sources of wealth.

France counts some 9,000 men in Africa alongside permanent military bases in Djibouti , Gabon and Senegal plus two others in Chad and the Ivory Coast . Some eight countries including Cameroon, Gabon , Senegal , Djibouti , Togo , Central African Republic , the Ivory Coast and the Comoros are involved in the accords renegotiation which Nicolas Sarkorzy said will be published for the sake of transparency. He however said any African countries willing to engage new
security-oriented partnership with France will be welcome.

Sphere: Related Content

Commonwealth Day: Queen Elisabeth II calls for joint action against climate change

Says protecting and conserving the environment and minimising the effects of climate change are the greatest challenges of the 21st century

courtesy, Ojong Steven Ayuk
The Herald

The head of the Commonwealth of Nations, Queen Elisabeth II, has said that protecting and conserving the environment and minimising the effects of climate change are the greatest challenges of the 21st century.

In her address on Commonwealth Day observed on Monday, the queen pointed out that conservation and the fight against climate change require the combined effort of
all the world’s populations.

During a ceremony to observe the day in Cameroon at the Yaounde city hall, the minister delegate at the ministry of External Relations in charge of Commonwealth Affairs here, Joseph Dion Ngute, said Cameroon had already taken laudable strides in the domain of environmental protection by ratifying all related international conventions.
He noted President Paul Biya equally announced at the UN general assembly in New York last year that Cameroon would create an observatory on climate change.

Week long activities took place in schools and universities across the country with a call on youths to safeguard the environment. Notable among the activities that focused on the theme «The environment – our future» were round table discussions, audio-visual programmes, essay and quiz competitions, clean-up campaigns, tree-planting operations and cultural events.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hurarah, Victory of the people

Masses force concessions out of Biya, weakened by strike

In frightened reaction to last week’s strike which the president himself referred to as a nightmare, Paul Biya announced measures to sue for peace with the masses. The question remains if he will now adopt a pro-people policy

By Douglas Achingale
The Herald

At the height of last month’s strike, President Paul Biya was booed and jeered by the nation including his partisans, when hiss to the nation portrayed him as being totally out of touch with the people. But last weekend it was applause to the president even by his critics after he made major concessions to the downtrodden masses. For the first time ever in all his 25 years in office, Paul Biya took a decision directed specifically to the welfare of the public who have suffered hardship and penury because of deliberate neglect by his regime.

The measures, in their very nature, were short-term. A challenge before the president is to follow through soon with measures of economic expansion and job creation. This would no doubt involve important investment in small business loans and social projects like more and better schools, medical services, rural roads, etc.

Unless the president is willing to follow through and soon with these measures and others, he will discover that he has awakened an appetite that in failing to satisfy only turns the wrath of the people more and more against him. Regularly, the president did not act out of strength. It was clear that the strike which proved so successful had exposed the government and him as vulnerable. Indeed the masses found a new strength in themselves to the point where a fresh wave of strikes was being rumored.

A salary increase which public sector workers have repeatedly asked for over many years and the cancellation of customs duty and value added tax on foodstuffs and a wide range of essential commodities were, in fact, welcome with much applause by the public. But this was perceived more as a victory over the government and the president rather than a freely given act of policy by Paul Biya.

It is this new relationship between the government and the people that the president must be careful about. With the balance of power shifting in favour of the masses, Paul Biya will need to make more and more economic and political concessions to the masses. The government will also be forced to strengthen its ability to speak convincingly to the masses as a way of getting them along with it where it does not have the goods to deliver.
On the political side, Biya must be ready to make democratic concessions. One thing the government must know in its new relationship with the people is that the easy resort to coercive power, i.e., the language of bullets, is increasingly less potent and dissuasive.

Sphere: Related Content

UNICEF reports rising infant mortality in Cameroon

By Harry Ndienla Yemti

is among 20 countries with very high infant mortality

A United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report titled “The Survival of the Child” has revealed that the infant mortality rate in Cameroon is on the rise.
According to the 2008 state of the World Children report published in Yaounde recently, the infant
mortality rate here jumped from 139 per 1000 children in 1990 to 149 per 1000 in 2006, for children between one and five years old.

For less than one-year-old children, the rate climbed from 85 in 1999 to 87 per 1000 in 2006, the world report stated. The report says the figures have been on the rise in the last two decades.
Among 270 countries classified, Cameroon is one among the 20 worst countries in terms of children’s survival.

On the global scene, the report, revealing the results of a survey carried out by the World Bank and UNICEF, says 26,000 children of less than five years old die each day across the world due to preventable diseases, with 75 percent occurring in developing countries, especially in Africa.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to the tens of thousands of young children who die everyday in developing countries, mostly from causes that are preventable,” football star and UNICEF ambassador, David Beckam, said.
The resident representative of UNICEF in Cameroon, Silvia Luciani, who has come to the end of her mission in Yaounde, said with exclusive breast feeding at birth, vaccination and provision of Vitamin A supplements, adequate deparasiting and the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, the situation can be checked.
She urged governments to concentrate their efforts on the needs of women, mothers and newborn babies. She recommended community – based health systems as a way
of curbing the ill. “Children’s survival is not only human rights imperative; it is also a development imperative.
Investing in the health of children and their mothers is a sound economic decision and one of the surest ways for a country to set its course towards a better future,” a World Bank statement has said.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 10, 2008

Anti-Biya life presidency coalition on offensive trip to US

By Harry Ndienla Yemti

The civil society platform against the institution of a life presidency for President Paul Biya of Cameroon, has embarked on an offensive visit to the US to acquaint various authorities with current attempts in Cameroon to institute a monarchy and kill democracy.

Upon their arrival in the US recently, the group which has been pressing US authorities to put pressure on President Biya to abandon his unpopular life-presidency adventure, was received at the US state Department by under-secretary of state for Africa, Jendayi Frazer.
Although much is yet to be gotten from their meetings, officials of the civil society platform in Yaounde told local newspapers that the US state Department was disturbed by reports that Cameroonians who are opposed to the life presidency project are not allowed to peacefully assemble freely and express their opinions. US ambassador to Cameroon, Janet Garvey, had already expressed her government’s position on the life presidency issue when she told journalists that the United States is opposed to self-seeking constitutional revisions.

She recently remarked “we have constantly spoken out against changing executive term limits in other countries, such as in Nigeria, and we would recommend against an effort to amend the constitution when such a move could be perceived as being for the benefit of one
individual or group,” Garvey told journalists in Yaounde, Cameroon.

She said while constitutional changes are themselves not bad, alternation of power is important. “The United States’ position is clear-as I have said already –we acknowledge that every country’s right to change its constitution and in our experience, term limits and periodic leadership change-at least every decade-are healthy for democracy,” said Garvey.

It is probably for that reason that various US institutions and organizations programmed working
sessions with the powerful delegation lead by Hilaire Kamga, of Nouveax droits de l’homme. They include the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Governors’ Association, Freedom House, National Democratic Institute, and National Endowment for Democracy, Open Society, Global Rights and the Voice of America.

The Civil Society Coalition announced in January that it was engaging in actions to put pressure on the Biya regime to abandon its announced plans to convert Cameroon to a de facto monarchy by revising the two-term limit clause in the constitution.

If the constitution is revised to allow for unlimited presidential terms, Paul Biya will almost certainly cling to power for life, as elections, which his agents control, are manipulated to ensure that he wins by a predetermined score

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 7, 2008

Cameroon detention centers overflowing with suspects

Courtesy - Harry Ndienla Yemti

Over 1600 suspects were arrested by government forces after the recent strike action which paralyzed part of the country

Police and Gendarmerie cells around the country are crammed with detainees, most of them youths arrested during the recent four – day strike action that paralyzed some parts of the country.
According to official figures from the country’s ministry of justice, a total of 1.671 people were
arrested around the country after the violent strike which claimed lives and the destruction of both
private and state properties amounting to several billion CFA. They include; 671, from littoral, 400, from the Centre, 100, from Southwest, 280, from West and 220, from the Northwest Provinces. It must be noted that these figures have not been independently confirmed.

From the number provided by the minister, only about 58 have been freed and 38 others sentenced to either a jail term or fine.

The young boys and girls, generally aged between 13 and 23, have been spending nights on corridors and halls after they were arrested for allegedly participating in the four days of rioting which rocked five out of the country’s ten provinces including; Littoral, West, Northwest, Southwest, and Centre (The nation’s capital), provinces.

Consequently the hygienic condition of the detention centres is increasingly becoming unbearable as the number of detainees largely exceed the holding capacities In some areas Gendarmes were forced to use a hall in a neighboring primary school to detain close to 200 youths.

In the meantime a few of the detained youths who were transported to the office of the prosecutors at various courts in the country for questioning recently, were released , while others have been taken to court for trial.

While at the prosecutor’s office, the youths were questioned as to whether they were paid to take part in the strike or brought in from other parts of the country. But most of them pleaded virtuousness and said they were ready to prove that in court even though many fear they might not be given fair trial given the circumstances of the strike

In effect, a host of them who were summarily sentenced last week to various jail terms and fines of hundred of thousands CFA are currently serving their jail terms at the different prisons while others are still being tried

Most of the over 1600 detainees around the country said they were rounded up by security forces in their quarters, not even near the sites of rioting. Others said they were picked up in the street as they were returning home from work while others said security forces forced their way into their homes to bring then out

Meantime, Lawyers of the Cameroon Bar Association have mobilized to guarantee that the detainees receive fair and transparent trial despite the odds. Little wonder why during one of the hearings, a battery of lawyers in Fako Division, lead by Eta-Bisong Junior, stormed
the Buea magistrates’ court, and raised an objection to attempts by the bench to charge, try and sentence same day, some of the suspects.

The lawyers learnt about the matter which the state council for Buea wanted heard that day, after the courts had risen and lawyers retired for the day. When they got wind of the matter, all of them rallied and converged on the court premises for a legal show-off.

When they expressed their desire to appear for defense, the judges reportedly appealed that the
matter be heard in chambers. But one of the Lawyers Blaise Berinyuy argued that the matter, which has been branded criminal, could not be heard in chambers but in the open court.

Then the bench went into a conclave from which it filtered that they decided that, since they were 16 out of the 40 accused youths present, each magistrate should be assigned three or four youths so as to thrash the matter fast.

“A sitting judge does not receive instructions; it is either Cameroon is a state of law as the Head of State stated the other day, or it is not,” Lawyer Julius Oben argued.

After the meeting, which held for over one and a half hours, the state Council came into the court-room and asked that the accused youths should answer their names as the court clerk called them out, so as to spilt them up into groups to be heard in different court rooms and by different judges. But the youths did not heed.

It was then the lead counsel, Eta-Bisong argued that the youths were arrested and charged with the same offence in the same jurisdiction. “When the offence is indivisible, the accused persons must be tried together,” Eta-Bisong charged.

Apparently, in anger, the State Counsel Suh ordered the youths to be remanded into custody.

“The law says the accused must be given three days to prepare his or her defense. How can they want to charge them here and now and hear the matter here and now?” Barrister Berinyuy quipped.

The Secretary General of the National Human Rights and Freedoms Commission for the South West Province, Christopher Tambe Tiku, held that: “if that is done it will ruin the reputation of the judges and the judiciary. The rule of the law must be respected.”

At the instructions of the State Counsel, the court wardens and police ordered the youths into a waiting police station wagon and it zoomed off.

“A country that prides itself as a state of law must be seen as respecting the law. The youths have a vibrant advocacy. The fight for human rights must prevail and I am going to champion that fight,” swore Eta-Bisong.

Members of the bar have revealed that they would be vigilant to see to it that the rule of law prevails

In effect, Ahmadou Ali, the country’s vice prime minister, in charge of justice, has intimated that the ongoing trial is fair and transparent. He made the statement during a press conference which took place last 6 March, 2008, at the nation’s capital of Yaounde. Though the press conference was called to enable government offer clarification on the proceedings on how the trial is being handled, the minister failed to address the issue of deaths casualty which human rights groups have estimated at over a thousand but which the country’s minister of communication puts at 24.
Like the president of the republic in a statement to all Cameroonians during the strike, Ahmadou Ali, however, believes strongly that the strikes were encouraged by individuals who are yet to be identified by the court.

Meanwhile firebrand Littoral SDF chairman and MP for Wouri East, Jean Michel Nincheau, was intercepted at the Douala international airport last Sunday by secret service. The MP, who is well known for organizing anti-government demonstrations in the economic capital of Douala, was escorted home where he has since been under permanent security surveillance.

Hon. Jean Michel Nincheau, who single-handedly mobilized his SDF party militants in Douala to
demonstrate against president Paul Biya’s life presidency project, had come under numerous sparingly disguised attacks by government ministers.

The MP who is not under arrest has the right to travel within the country.

Sphere: Related Content

Strike Aftermath: Lawyers Foil Plot to Sentence 40 Arrested Youths in Cameroon

By Retsim Smada
The Vanguard

A battery of lawyers in Fako Division, lead by Eta-Bisong Junior, stormed the Buea magistrates

court, March 3, and raised an objection to attempts by the bench to charge, try and sentence same day, youths accused of taking part in the last week
s nationwide strike.

The Vanguard learnt that instructions came in from Yaounde that the youth, arrested during the nationwide strike from February 24-25, be sentenced like their counterparts in Yaounde and Douala, who faced kangaroo courts and were sentenced to two years in prison each.
It is alleged that the judges were quickly rallied to try the youths and sentence them, according to
instructions from Yaounde.

The lawyers learnt about the matter which the state council for Buea wanted heared that day, after the courts had risen and lawyers retired for the day. When they got wind of the matter, all of them rallied and converged on the court premises. When they expressed their desire to appear for defense, the judges reportedly appealed that the matter be heard in chambers. Lawyers Blaise Berinyuy argued that the matter, which has been branded criminal, could not be heard in chambers but in the open court.

Then the bench went into a conclave from which it filtered that they decided that, since they were 16 out of the 40 accused youths present, each magistrate should be assigned three or four youths so as to thrash the matter fast as allegedly instructed by Yaounde.

A sitting judge does not receive instructions; it is either Cameroon is a state of law as the Head of State stated the other day, or it is not, Lawyer Julius Oben argued.

After the meeting, which held for over one and a half hours, the state Council came into the court-room and asked that the accused youths should answer their names as the court clerk called them out, so as to spilt them up into groups to be heard in different court rooms and by different judges.

The youths did not heed. Eta-Bisong argued that the youths were arrested and charged with the same offence in the same jurisdiction. When the offence is indivisible, the accused persons must be tried together, Eta-Bisong charged. Apparently, in anger, the State Counsel Suh ordered the youths to be remanded into custody.

The law says the accused must be given three days to prepare his or her defense. How can they want to charge them here and now and hear the matter here and now? Barrister Berinyuy quipped.

The Secretary General of the National Human Rights and Freedoms Commission for the South West Province, Christopher Tambe Tiku, held that: if that is done it will ruin the reputation of the judges and the judiciary. The rule of the law must be respected. At the instructions of the State Counsel, the court wardens and police ordered the youths into a waiting police station wagon and it zoomed off. A country that prides itself as a state of law must be seen as respecting the law. The youths have a vibrant advocacy. The fight for human rights must prevail and I am going to champion that fight, swore Eta-Bisong.

Lawyers and relatives of the accused suspected that the bench might sneak back and hear the matter overnight and decided to keep vigil. No date has been fixed for the matter. Members of the
bar have revealed that they would be vigilant to see to it that the rule of law prevails.

Sphere: Related Content

Opinion - The state of our country

Elali Effoe

Cameroonians took to the streets again a few days ago to, amongst other things, protest the hardship they face in their daily lives. Political leaders, unconnected to the daily sufferings of their people, are already unduly taking credit for calling for the protest. Cameroonians in the United States who are fed up with the status quo are planning a peaceful demonstration at the Cameroonian Embassy on March 14th; a march that I hope will not go in vain. We all need a reflective pause, to etch a new course for the nation we claim to so dearly love.

For once we must move the blame for Cameroon’s (and Africa’s) deplorable political and economic situation from the West and put it squarely on ourselves and most importantly, on our leaders. In the west, businessmen accrue wealth by venturing into the private sector, and in-so-doing, stimulating the economy. In Cameroon, businessmen go into politics as a primary investment. Their business plans target government contracts which are paid for in full but projects are never realized. The incompletion of government contracts and lack of accountability has left our roads, bridges, and offices without any maintenance and has greatly impeded growth in the agricultural sector. Politics is in the hands of businessmen where election victories are synonymous to out-sized profit margins. This has poisoned the political atmosphere to the point were Cameroonians don’t have any reasonable dialogue about the future of their nation. Those in power and their compatriots of the so-called opposition consider themselves enemies, vying for an opportunity to feast on an election victory. The time for constructive dialogue amongst our leaders is long overdue.

We need to take an in depth look at who we choose as leaders. A politician’s dream should not be a ministerial position. Never should economic development be tied to electoral votes. In Cameroon, most areas remain underdeveloped because of their opposition to those in power. Ethnic groups are subjected to years of abject poverty because some sons of the soil have demanded accountable/transparent governance. The distribution of basic necessities (water, electricity, schools), should never be tied to electoral votes. Cultural diversity should be embraced for all the beauty of its languages, attire and delicious dishes. It should not serve as a tool for leaders to strengthen their hold on power. We could celebrate our diversity with the creation of ten national museums in our provincial capitals. The University of Pennsylvania , Harvard, or the School of African and Oriental studies have an elaborate and educative African language program. Cameroon universities happen to be geared towards impressing the Francophonie. Why can we not teach our own languages at language centers in our universities?

The educational system in Cameroon needs to be completely overhauled. Public schools educate the majority of Cameroonians, but they have been completely neglected. What would it take to provide such schools with good libraries? What would it take to provide schools with provide schools with proper lighting so students could stay on campus for night sessions? The influx of most of our youths to professional schools undermines valuable research projects. Our schools should be endowed enough to find answers for malaria, typhoid and otherwise. An atmosphere should exist for partnership with the world’s reputable learning institutions. Cameroonian intellectuals should reject to be caged.

The problem in Cameroon is underdevelopment. We are not underdeveloped because of the absence of human and natural capital. We are underdeveloped because we are also not wise in our foreign policy. France should not have a pass to our natural resources if they wouldn’t invest back into our communities. Our governments should pursue a foreign policy that is beneficial to our nation’s interest. Should Japan not be lauded for the schools or drinking water system it provides to our people? Isn’t this the kind of project that should be expanded? We should focus on developing our nation, rather than engaging ourselves in divisive endeavors that turn to enrich a handful of Cameroonians. How many times has there been a change of leadership at the helm of SCNC? Why do some of these people become suspiciously quiet after a while? Why is everyone who talks about “Le problem du Grand Nord” turn up in cabinet reshuffles as ministers? Isn’t there a “Probleme de L’Est”? There is one Cameroon , and that Cameroon is underdeveloped. We should chart a common path to develop the whole nation.

Fellow Cameroonians, we should all embrace the diversity in our country. Economic solutions should be targeted to all Cameroonians. We should not be divided by lines that don’t matter – Anglophone/Franchophone, Northwest/Southwest, Christian/Muslim. We need leadership that is accountable to its people. We have a long way to go. Most importantly, the people have to fight for such leadership.

To begin to tackle these problems, we must identify, cultivate and nurture a New-Generation of Leaders that would have the audacity to articulate constructive critiques of the state of affairs, we must re-orient our thought processes to appreciate the nature of the change we want and the impediments we must overcome to achieve such a monumental undertaking. We can start by contributing the brain-power that is requisite if we harbor any hopes of change. This is the time for us to unite and become involved in various projects. We can make this happen.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

AFRICOM: Gulf of Guinea, area of special interest. What benefits to Africa?

Source; The Herald

AFRICOM is the abbreviated name of the United States Africa Command, created by President George W. Bush in February 2007, and headed by General William “Kip” ward.

The ostensible reason behind this new military structure is to bring together into one command
American military operations in Africa and seek to locate it at a strategic point on the African continent. With strength of between 500 and 700 personnel, the Americans say that it is relatively modest and discrete. The number will include civilians and humanitarians.

The Americans admit that AFRICOM will protect its sources of energy supply, but that that is not its main purpose. The main purpose remains the rationalization of the different American commands in the world.
The Americans also admit that AFRICOM can be instructed to undertake military operations against foreign aggressions and to come to the aid of its partners in difficulties.

Its critics think that behind this latter function is hidden so much that is suspicious.
The experience of America’s post 9-11 in the Middle East, the activities of the Americans based in Djibouti, America’s intervention in Somalia, the installation of a powerful intelligence radar in
Sao-Tome, negotiations for naval and air facilities with half a dozen African countries, from Mozambique to Mauritania, and the construction of new embassies in keeping with post 9-11 security norms, and other military activities of the US in Africa, have all combined to create suspicion that African countries are being dragged into America’s war against terrorism.

Add to this the necessity to protect the many big and small oil producers in the Gulf of Guinea, all
combined to point to The Pentagon (America’s ministry of defense). The need to create a single command based in Africa, which adds to the long list of existing commands that include the command in Europe EUCOM, in the Middle East CENTCOM and in The Pacific, PACOM is an idea that has met lukewarm reception.

The US therefore has every interest in establishing AFRICOM because it serves its true interest. It remains to know exactly in what ways Africa will benefit from AFRICOM. Analysts and critics of AFRICOM hardly see much gain for Africa in AFRICOM. No doubt there will be some financial gain for the country that will lodge the headquarters of AFRICOM, but that is practically all there is.

Americans, however, claim that the installation of AFRICOM in Africa will guarantee peace and stability for African countries. But against this argument, critics are of the view that AFRICOM will violate the sovereignty of African countries and their territorial integrity.
It will pry too much and collect a lot of intelligence that could be used against any country that goes against its own interest.

Furthermore, African countries deplore fact that AFRICOM was created unilaterally. That suggests that it was of no interest to Africa, but to harm it. Moreover, Africans are very much afraid that AFRICOM would attract AL-Qaeda terrorists to their countries rather than repel them. And it will drag Africa into America’s war of terrorism which Africa would rather stay out of.

African countries like South Africa that takes a militant stand in opposing AFRICOM has suggested that instead of basing AFRICOM in Africa let it be based in Europe. South Africa has even gone beyond this, calling on the US and Europe to close all military bases in Africa,
saying that these military bases have became anachronistic. The African union also supports this position.

Of the many sub-regions of Africa, namely Gulf of Guinea, Sahara- Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Darfour, the Gulf of Guinea appears to be of particular interest to the strategies of The Pentagon in seeking a host for AFRICOM. This is because the Gulf of Guinea is a substantial provider of crude oil to the US.

The US that since decided to diversify its sources of crude oil import envisages in the next ten years or less to raise its imports of crude oil from Africa to 25 percent as against less than 20 percent ten years earlier.

US commence sources say that sub-Saharan Africa presently supplies the US nearly as much oil as the Middle East.

In fact, the combined production of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Angola has risen substantially and presently represents about half the total production of the entire continent.

And this is even rising given that Sao-Tome and Principe has also begun production. This makes the neighboring countries of the Gulf of Guinea strategic partners of the US. This is one reason why the US finds the Gulf of Guinea of special interest. For this reason, the American marines since January 2007 set up a radar to cover the entire Gulf region at Sao-Tome and Principe.

The highly performing system cost an estimated 18m dollars and its range covers Central Africa in general and the Gulf in particular.

The radar is intended to facilitate the fight against crime, clandestine fishing which represents a loss to countries of the region of a billion dollar a year, and piracy which has become frequent in Gulf waters which serve as a major international cocaine traffic. The radar will also facilitate the detection of the criminal activities within the Niger Delta which have cost more than a thousand deaths in the last seven years and which have also let to the disruption in oil drilling.
Washington’s concern for the Gulf of Guinea region is the stability of the region, and especially that of oil-producing countries.

Critics say the installation of this radar in Sao-Tome only announces in greater force America’s military implantation on the island. Washington denies all of this and insists that it is only military cooperation within the waters.

In June 2007, the US navy sent out a ship on a six-month mission to the Gulf of Guinea. The ship
provides training for the military of the different countries. The ship had stops at Senegal, Liberia,
Ghana, Sao-Tome and Principe, Cameroon, Gabon and Angola.
It is expected that before AFRICOM is operational, these countries would have reinforced their purveyance capacities in the countries of this region. This is another indication that AFRICOM is eyeing this region for its headquarters. Is it Cameroon?

William “Kip” Ward, head of the US military command for Africa was recently received in Yaounde by President Paul Biya of Cameroon. Political commentators were in no doubt that he had come to seek the approval of the government to station the newly created military command that is intended to cover all of Africa and beyond.

Because Cameroon has the advantage of being strategically located more or less at the centre of
the continent, and is also a major player in the Gulf region, which is of interest to the US for its oil, it was believed that the US authorities would try hard to succeed in Yaounde.

Commentators feared that the offer will be tempting and almost irresistible to the Cameroonian president, who would jump at the opportunity to guarantee himself the necessary support of the US government for his highly controversial policies. President Paul Biya seeks to amend the constitution to permit him to continue in office beyond 2011 when he should retire.

The Yaounde welcome of General Ward was said to be unusually warm and further strengthened speculation that Yaounde may have granted his request. The General’s visit was presided by a meeting between Janet Garvey, the America ambassador to Cameroon, and Paul Biya.

Garvey stated afterwards that her meeting with the president had been on security matters, among other items of discussion.

Could Ward’s visit have been to confirm Biya’s acceptance of the deal? African countries of the West, North and Southern Africa have overwhelmingly rejected the offer. Even countries that have strong ties with the US like Ghana, Senegal, and Morocco

Africans’ fear is that the American military command is intended especially to fight Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups which will expose African countries to attacks by terrorists. Only Liberia which is recovering from over ten years of war and in desperate need of development aid, has openly applied to the US to lodge its command in that country, in the hope that it will get all the assistance it needs. But Liberia’s position is least interesting to the US authorities.

In spite of Biya’s presumed interest in the US request, Cameroon’s partners are opposed to AFRICOM, notably France and China.

One week after Janet Garvey spoke with Paul Biya in Yaounde, the French Ambassador to Cameroon, George Serre, also had a meeting with Paul Biya over regional security matters, as he declared later to the press.

Did George Serre convey the French government’s disapproval of AFRICOM to President Paul Biya?

President Nicolas Sarkozy who made a break with Elysee palace’s hostility to Washington warned nevertheless that notwithstanding the new friendship with Washington, France remained master of its own destiny. Also the Chinese, who are having a strong presence in Africa and giving infrastructure development assistance to Africa, are even more hostile to AFRICOM.
Commentators do not believe that it was only a matter of coincidence that a senior Chinese official was in Yaounde and was received by Paul Biya just before the American General’s visit.

The foreign Affairs minister in the Chinese Communist Party was in Yaounde, and had talks with President Paul Biya a day before Ward was received. Would the Chinese have come to express their objection to AFRICOM? It is believed that the Americans would have to make a decision on the choice of what country to base AFRICOM so that the command may begin to be installed and become operational well before the end of the year.
The headquarters of the command which has since been recruiting and training American citizens for jobs within the command will number anything between 500 and 700 men to begin with. In spite of its commitments to France, its traditional ally, and to China which is providing Cameroon with plenty of assistance, President Paul Biya is capable of taking surprising decisions.

In 2003, Cameroon pledged support for France which adopted a militant position against the US plans to go to war against Iraq.
But at the last moment, Yaounde, that was the Security Council on a rotatory basis, used its critical vote in support of war by the US against Iraq. Tempted by the prospect of long sought friendship with Washington, President Biya turned his back on Cameroon’s long time ally, France.

Sphere: Related Content

Hike in cost of basic commodities, a threat to peace in Cameroon - Citizens react

Courtesy - Harry Ndienla Yemti

Cameroonians are yet to come to terms with the bitter fact of price hike of basic commodities on various markets in the country. The situation became worse after the recent 4-day strike in the country orchestrated by the population against the rising prices of fuel and other commodities.

For example; bread, the staple diet of some residents is almost becoming a luxury just because the prices of flour have risen drastically within a very short period of time. Consequently a 50kg bag of flour rose from 14.500 FCFA to 21.500 FCFA in some areas. Thus a kg which used to sell at 250 FCFA is now sold at 500 FCFA.

This increase in prices has not been limited to bread and flour. There is a general increase in the prices of foodstuffs and other commodities. A basket of tomato that used to sell at about 500 FCFA is today sold somewhere above 1.000FCFA making a ‘hip’ to cost between 100-400 FCFA. Meat is also a sad story as a kg now cost between CFA 3000 and 4000, up from CFA 1500, before the strike.

Those not withstanding, other widely consumed products of basic necessity have also skyrocketed. These include; ‘njangsang’, ‘egusi’, ‘galic’, oil, salt and sugar.

On the other hand, the costs of building materials have also skyrocketed. A bag of 50kg Cement now cost CFA 6000, up from CFA4500, before the strike.

The astonishing fact is that the price hike is coming at an unusual period of the year owing to the fact that in the past, fluctuation in commodity prices have usually been experienced in the last quarter of the year which had also been matched my salary increases for civil servants.

In a vox pop conducted in some parts of the country, most of our respondents accused the government of mismanaging the entire situation. They all recommended a drastic reduction in taxes along with an increase in salaries to ameliorate the situation. Others believe farmers should be encouraged by giving them subsidies to enable them to produce more and sell cheaper.

The act is that of an irresponsible government.

“What I have noticed in this country is that the poor pay more and as a policy the government is rather politicizing them rather than putting policies in place that can alleviate poverty. We have noticed that there are price hikes because of high taxes and we see this as a deliberate government policy to force people out of business. We think they will again broaden the tax base since they have broadened government, and this means additional expenditure meaning prices increase because of high taxes levied on businessmen and their goods by the government.

In fact, all basic commodities – be they imported or home-made are over taxed by this regime, so
businessmen must increase prices to make profit. Government should reduce these taxes and increase civil servants’ salaries so as to increase their purchasing power. The situation has been terrible and disturbing since the beginning of the strike. The slow but steady increase in prices of foodstuffs has left Cameroonians wondering what government is doing to make things better. The series of meetings held between the minister of commerce and actors of the sector in order
to come up with measures to curb the problem seem to me a smokescreen. The situation has been worsening by the fact that money doesn’t circulate normally. If Cameroon is called African in miniature it’s because we have all the natural resources found on the continent; but to my imagination the government makes things very difficult for Cameroonians. I think our
country’s potentials are not properly used for the benefit of all.
It’s only an irresponsible government that can allow its citizens to wallop in abject poverty like in
Cameroon. Thus you will agree with me here that only people who care less if not little about the masses have been at the centre of our government over the years. The situation in our villages is quite deplorable with people living with less than 100FCFA a day to buy all the basic necessities at exorbitant prices.

The situation is alarming. I also think that if indeed prices have to increase, those of basic foodstuffs like tomatoes, rice, sugar, salt amongst others should not be touched. It’s a pity that most of those who vote such laws are not affected by same. At the rate at which things are going, many homes will be unable to afford more than one square meal a day. Thus my suggestion is that Cameroonians should go on the street to express their discontentment. That would
make possible the international community know they are badly treated by their irresponsible government”

Permanent Secretary’
ACDIC – Southwest Province.
Bad governance is the cause

“God has blessed this land with lots of natural resources and hardworking people, but prices are
increasing everyday because of bad governance. The people begin to wonder whether the authorities can standardise these prices. Now is the time for NGO’s to play their role to making the public understand that they have right to complain about unjust prices and protest against such? Hike in prices of basic commodities imply that the average Cameroonian can no longer afford for these commodities easily. This means that they are being deprived of their own resources. High taxes are not supposed to be imposed on home-made goods. The hike in prices of basic commodities is caused by the inconsistent tax policy of the regime. What one
pays today is not the same amount he pays tomorrow on the same business line”

Lyonga Williams Mumbe
Chairman, BONAVADA-Community,

Improve farm-to-market roads

“As a retailer, I am extremely touched by the price hikes in the country. It is a scandal that everything is expensive in this country. Like many of my colleagues, we have problems getting our goods from the villages due to the poor state of our roads. Farmers want to cover their transportation costs by all means and as a result make us pay high prices for commodities. We in turn, have to make profits. It’s therefore imperative on our government to improve farm-to-markets roads and also reduce fuel prices as this will enable us pay less and make possible food
products to reach the market in good condition”.

Mafany Nangahnje


This government cares about the welfare of it citizens only in terms of policy

“As a civil servant and husband, I think it weighs on us heavily in that our wage bills is not increasing but had decreased with about 60 percent so many years ago and government seems to do little or nothing to improve the situation. The cost of living is increasing daily there by coursing our purchasing power to go dawn thus increasing the level of poverty and malnutrition in many families to increase drastically.
May I say here that this government cares about the welfare of it citizens only in terms of policy but practically the government is doing very little to improve on the welfare of the common man. These situations also create a common ground and a fertile soil to breed corruption which is so rampant in the country”.

Luise Nkembi,

Sphere: Related Content