Tuesday, May 27, 2008

President Biya grants clemency to February strike convicts, and other prisoners

President Paul Biya of Cameroon has granted presidential pardon to all those who where jailed
(mostly youths) as a result of the February upheavals in that Country and especially those whose jail terms have become final at the date of signature of the said decree signed on 20th May.

The clemency gives total remission for sentences in favour of those persons whose prison terms are equal to or below one year and 2/3 remission for sentence in favour of those persons whose prison terms are above one year.

But the pity does not apply to those convicts who had escaped at the date of signature of the said
presidential decree, as well as recidivists and those detained as a result of their conviction for an
offence committed during the period at which they were in detention.
It should be noted here that a total of 1.671 people (mostly youths) were arrested around the country after the violent strike of February 2008, 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.

Consequently a host of them were summarily sentenced to various jail terms and fines of hundred of thousands CFA

Until the presidential pardon the young boys and girls, generally aged between 13 and 23, serving their jail terms in the different prisons the country.

An other presidential decree signed on the same day also gave clemency to other prisoners as follows; life-jail terms for those originally sentenced to death, 20 years remission for those originally sentenced to death but whose sentences had already been moderated, 20 years remission for those originally sentenced to life imprisonment but had not yet benefited any clemency, three years remission for those originally sentenced to life imprisonment but
whose terms had already been moderated to a fixed term, Two years remission for those originally sentenced to life imprisonment but had been reduced to 10 years or more, 15 months remission for those originally sentenced to terms equal to or below 10 years but above five years, 12 months remission for those originally sentenced to prison terms equal to or below five years but above three years, Eight months remission for those originally sentenced to prison
terms equal to or below three years but above one year, Six months remission for those originally
sentenced to prison terms equal to or below one year. For application, the decree states that minors who have been sentenced shall in addition benefit from one third of the applicable remission.

Meanwhile the said presidential pardon exempted those imprisoned on the following charges; Capital murder, aggravated theft, embezzlement of State funds, corruption, favoritism, trafficking, fake currency, customs and tax fraud, exams fraud, crimes related to legislation on arms, crimes related to forest laws, unlawful possession and traffic in drugs, unlawful possession and traffic in toxic waste, torture and unlawful possession and traffic in arms.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Clandestine immigration: Biya admits: no future for Cameroon youth

Many Cameroonian youths have no future here, President Paul Biya confessed to a visiting French minister Monday. He admitted that job prospects for the bulk of the country’s teeming youths are more than bleak which explains why they are taking such dangerous risks to leave the country

By Bainkong Godlove in Yaounde

It is rare for a government to admit its failures, but that is exactly what President Paul Biya did Monday at Unity Palace during a lunch offered visiting French minister of Immigration, Integration, National
Identity and Co-development, Brice Hortefeux.

President Paul Biya told his guest that hordes of youths were fleeing Cameroon to seek greener pastures abroad because they are unable to find jobs in the country.

He said the country’s economy is not strong enough to assure jobs for all youths, especially university graduates. This has discouraged many youths, Biya explained, who do not see any future in Cameroon.

The president admitted that there is widespread misery in Cameroon, adding that the February strikes that were “motivated by hunger” were a warning signal which should not be ignored.

It is the economic hardship suffered by the youth, Biya noted, that has favoured the massive migration to the West.

He said some of these youths use very unorthodox methods to escape the poverty here, with many of them losing their lives in the process.

To solve the problem of poverty in Africa and the subsequent curbing of migration to the West, Paul Biya advocated a Marshall Plan for Africa.

He told his French guest that poor Africans would continue to migrate to the West if the economic gap between the rich countries of the North and Africa is not significantly reduced.

Many economists have repeatedly pointed out that Cameroon is endowed with enormous human and material resources and it is bad governance that has kept the country on its economic knees. Often, aid from foreign donors is mismanaged or embezzled with impunity.

During the lunch at Unity Palace, Paul Biya offered a toast to Hortefeux, who extolled the warm relations between France and Cameroon.

The French minister arrived at Unity Palace at noon and spent about three and a half hours there. He later told the press that he found President Biya a good listener.

Hortefeux also handed a letter to President Paul Biya from French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. The contents were not disclosed.

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Cameroon’s suspension is long overdue: Open letter to Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma

Yours sincerely,
Boniface Forbin

Relations between Cameroon and the Commonwealth are anything but good. Paul Biya has refused to undertake the reforms that he promised as a condition of membership since 1995. That neglect has not been helped by the unprincipled approach by the
Commonwealth secretariat. Failure in Cameroon and lapses elsewhere do not portray the Commonwealth as a strong and effective organisation. The task before Kamalesh Sharma, the new secretary-general, is to review the organisation and make it more useful and effective. But the suspension and punishment of
Cameroon is overdue.

Dear Secretary Sharma,

It behoves us at this newspaper to write to you at this time and to extend you our warmest congratulations on your successful election to the very distinguished office of secretary-general of the
Commonwealth. We want to assure you of our best wishes for a successful tenure. Since you only just assumed office last month, we imagine it would take you a little while to feel your way through to the case of the disturbingly irregular membership of Cameroon. We write to already draw your attention to it.

Cameroon’s is the very strange case of a country that was admitted unqualified on the condition that it should proceed vigorously to fulfil the good governance requirements enshrined in the Harare
Declaration. But this has not been so, to say the least.

Thirteen years into membership and there isn’t any significant step taken so far towards good governance reforms. What is worse, the country is now decidedly headed towards a future of political uncertainty.

Power alternation has been rendered impossible since 1992 because of a history of flawed elections. The recent manipulation of the constitution to cut out the term limit is intended to keep Paul Biya in office for as long as he chooses.

The Malborough House administration under your predecessor, Don Mackinnon, has practically been on its knees in vain to urge Biya to fulfil the conditions of membership which he pledged to do.

That membership is a veritable tale of deceit, abuse and broken promises. How Cameroon could remain a bona fide member of a self-respecting multilateral body like the Commonwealth under such conditions, is a question repeatedly raised in Cameroon.

The Yaounde authorities have often found it burdensome receiving all those unending missions from Malborough House pressing for promised reforms which the government has manifestly been unwilling to undertake.

Clearly embarrassed, Paul Biya has on several occasions tried to avoid receiving Malborough House envoys, even on appointment! The government would rather be comforted with the suspension of Cameroon, so it seems.

We appreciate Mackinnon’s patience and tenacity. But his total inability to secure anything meaningful from Biya in ten years leaves the observer with the sad feeling that he was helpless and did not work from a position of strength. That does absolutely no good to
the image of the Commonwealth.

We believe there is a strong case for suspension. If it came now it would weaken the government’s present resolve to drag Cameroon into uncertainty. You must know that Biya’s desire to continue in power beyond the statutory 2011 instantly implies the will to flaw
future elections.

Could the Commonwealth that is founded on the heritage of good governance values stand that?

Secretary Sharma might want to know that Cameroon’s desire for membership was not in the least inspired by the desire to share in the values that bind member countries.

The government was desperate for legitimacy following an election that was anything but one. Commonwealth membership seemed to be the perfect answer.

Opposition spokesmen cried frantically that the application should be a golden opportunity to force the government, whose resistance to democratic change was already well-known, to concede some key reforms.

Sorry, the opportunity was thrown away! Government spokesmen carried the day. It was believed that once in, Cameroon would readily yield to the pressure inside. That did not happen!

Biya began with truancy. He kept away from his first CHOGM in 1997 in Edinburgh where he was to render account of his efforts at reforms as promised at Oakland, New Zealand. He has since been a permanent absentee at the biennial summits.

The demands on Biya were reduced to four key ones viz: free and fair elections; better human rights, independence of the judiciary and the rule of law; and decentralisation of the administration.

It is hard to say in which of these four key areas Biya has willingly made a significant concession.

But it is in the conduct of elections that the Biya regime has earned its worst name. Three presidential and four legislative elections in sixteen years – all of them were ‘elections designed to fail.’

The rudest twist in the election saga came more recently. The government made a sudden u-turn on a much advertised project for the creation of an independent election organ for which it had
Commonwealth funding and expertise.

Before such criminal betrayal at the highest level the Commonwealth shocked Cameroonians by still pledging to continue to work with the government on election matters! What disappointment!

Cameroonians are now finding it difficult to respect the Commonwealth. The feeling is that the organisation has acted without integrity in pursuing a member state to live up to principle. What a shame!

We have no need to appear critical. But these lapses as well as others observed elsewhere in recent times incline the observer to ask if the Commonwealth remains truly well adapted to its objectives.

We have already mentioned the conditioned admission of Cameroon. That was surely a monumental error. Also, it is a pity that Malborough House has related to Cameroon from a position of weakness.

Further afield, we note Helen Clark’s pain with your predecessor for authorising the military leader of Fiji, suspended from the Commonwealth, not only to be invited, but to be given a red carpet at the Port Moresby sub-regional summit. The New Zealand PM was
simply scandalised by that violation of principle.

Having been elected at the Uganda CHOGM, Secretary Sharma is certainly aware of the furious debate that took place over the democratic credentials of that country. Many Ugandans believed that the Kampala summit was a regrettable endorsement of what they considered to be the doubtful election of Yoweri Museveni in office for a third term.

These cases, to keep them to those, obviously raise questions about the integrity of the Commonwealth, and eventually of its usefulness.

In a world subject to continuous changes the assumptions and values of yesterday are in constant challenge. For instance, of what real substance is membership of the Commonwealth? What does a member really lose for being suspended or expelled?

In eight years of Perez Musharraf, Pakistan has been out and in twice. It was first suspended because of military rule, but its membership was re-instated while military rule was still on!

Also, Zimbabwe is the case of a former bona fide member who decided to defy the Commonwealth and walk out on it! What does suspension or expulsion do to a member who cannot feel the organisation’s hold on him?

We believe that Secretary Sharma must himself have contemplated these issues of the Commonwealth’s relevance and effectiveness in a changing world. You might take comfort in the fact that similar questions have been asked of the World Bank and the IMF.

For poor African members like Cameroon, membership of the Commonwealth should offer a highly attractive and much treasured boost to their development and welfare as a way of encouraging good governance.

Correspondingly, suspension should be tied up with strong deterrent measures.

Tor Gesdal, one of the earlier directors-general of UNESCO once observed: a tool is only as good and effective as the skill of its user.

We close this letter, Secretary Sharma, by wishing you again our very best in the courageous enterprise of reviewing and operating the Commonwealth in a creative and more effective manner.

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US agency donates 600m for more power generation

Power outages may be curbed following grants by the US
government to the state of Cameroon to fund the expansion of the natural gas plant in Limbe and feasibility studies for the construction of a hydropower plant in Bini à Warak in northern Cameroon

By Ojong Steven Ayuk in Yaounde

Electrical power in Cameroon has always been in short supply but the issue waded into public discourse about six years ago when economically important urban centres started experiencing acute power shortages.

Recurrent promises and efforts by the Cameroon government and the monopoly electricity production company, AES-SONEL, have not yet solved the problem

It is against this background that Cameroonians have greeted recent grants by the US trade and development agency (USTDA) to fund more power generation capacity.

The grants totaling over 1.3 million US dollars (over 600 million FCFA) will be used to fund two major power expansion projects in Cameroon, notably the Limbe natural gas plant and studies for a hydro-power plant in Bini à Warak, in northern Camreoon. The Limbe
project will consume 695 thousand US dollars while the Warak studies will cost 662 thousand US dollars.

US ambassador in Yaounde, Janet Garvey, and Cameroon’s Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Jean Bernard Sindeu, signed the grants agreement at a ceremony in Yaounde on 16 May.

In her remarks at the signing ceremony Janet Garvey said that the expansion of power generation infrastructure is closely linked to Cameroon’s capacity for economic expansion and job creation.

Garvey said the grants reflected America’s commitment to work with the government and people of Cameroon as partners to bring development to the country.

USTDA regional representative for sub-Sahara Africa, Paul Marin, said the US agency seeks to advance economic development and US commercial interests in developing countries.

He said the USTDA chose to fund the Limbe and Warak projects because they are the top two power priorities of the government of Cameroon.

While the Limbe gas plant will help diversify power generation capacity and bridge seasonal power deficiencies, the Warak plant will provide supplies for both home consumption in northern Cameroon and exports to Chad and Nigeria, a USTDA release stated.

Bernard Sindeu expressed Cameroon’s gratitude to the US government for the gesture and prayed that the long and fruitful cooperation between both countries continues.

The projects will be executed by American contractors to be selected by the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources.

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Two Cameroonian journalists molested, detained by soldiers

by Hinsley Njila

Some two Cameroonian journalists of English expression and members of the program Cameroon Calling broadcast over state radio, CRTV, Sampson Wepsi and George Kellong were recently molested and detained by Cameroonian soldiers for being critical to the regime during the program on18 May that focused on national
unity. Their detention at the gendarmerie brigade in Madagascar, Yaounde took place shortly after the said program. To sway public opinion on the main reason behind their molestation and detention, the soldiers also accused one of the journalists of bumping into
the car of the son of an army general

Recounting the story to a group of English-speaking journalists who turned out at the gendarmerie brigade in a show of solidarity, the Herald Newspaper reported that Moki Edwin Kindzeka of CRTV said Wepsi was picked up at Madagascar by two soldiers who accused him of accidentally hitting the car of a general’s son.

That the soldiers deflated the tyres of Websi’s car and took him to the gendarmerie brigade, but not before complaining that the programme he anchored that morning preached against national unity.

It was at the gendarmerie station, that Websi telephoned his colleague, George Kellong, and informed him of his plight. But unfortunately to Kellong he was received with a series of blows by the gendarmerie officer who welcomed him at the station. As if that
was not enough Kellong was bundled and forced into the cell to join his colleague.

The situation attracted other members of the Cameroon Calling crew, who rushed to the gendarmerie station where they protested loudly against the poor treatment meted out to their colleagues. They were later joined in their protest by other Anglophone journalists of the independent press.

The detained journalists were finally released through the intervention of a senior colleague Ngetiku Musi, of CRTV who mediated between them and the stubborn gendarmes and soldiers

Though fanatics of the regime like the stubborn soldiers believed the program on 18th May, was critical to the regime, many listeners say the said Cameroon Calling maintained its tradition of critical
but objective and balanced journalism.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cameroon, Nigeria and the UN all in tandem for the peaceful ceding of Bakassi Peninsula in August 2008

THE Observer Team from the United Nations Office for West Africa has promised full co-operation with Nigeria as the country prepares to move natives of Bakassi indigenes from the ceded Bakassi Peninsula, reports the Vanguard.

"The Senior Military Advisor, United Nations Office for West Africa, Brigadier Danilo Paiva disclosed this in Calabar when he and his team met with Governor Liyel Imoke at Government House in Calabar" the paper said further.

The paper quoted the senior Military Advisor, saying that the resettlement of Bakassi indigenes is
receiving tremendous attention despite significant challenges associated with new experience in
resettlement process.

Meanwhile Governor Liyel Imoke in his addressing to the UN Team, reiterated his government's commitment to also co-operate with the United Nations in the implementation of the Green Tree Agreement on the peaceful handing over of the peninsula in August, 2008.

He expressed confidence that peace will be maintained in the area in consonance with the Green Tree Agreement reached in 2002 with the co-operation of the UN Team.

The leader of the Nigerian delegation at the Nigeria-Cameroun Mixed Commission and
Director-General, Border Communities Development Commission, Cross River State, Mrs. Nella Ewa said so far, the Maritime Boundary bordering Nigeria and Cameroun had been resolved while resolution on the land boundary between the two countries is underway.

Ewa said the UN is looking into the development and management of Bakasi as partners in the resettlement process.

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Yet another smoke-screen anticorruption charade designed by Paul Biya solely to deceive western diplomats and the Cameroon people

After a long history of failed promises to improve on governance, the latest promise to accelerate anti-corruption arrests was not nearly so inspiring

By Ndien Eric in Yaounde

In a surprise move the government summoned diplomats from Western countries and multilateral institutions to announce its decision to accelerate its anti-corruption campaign. The campaign of arrests of senior public officials believed to have embezzled public funds has so far been on a stop-and-go basis to the utter disappointment of Western diplomats

The government used the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni to flatter the diplomats by giving the impression that the new accelerated programme was based on a programme proposed one year ago by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
and that they were all partners in its anti-corruption campaign. The programme goes by the ear-catching name of CHOC, “change habits, oppose corruption.”

Commentators are unanimous in believing that the government had used the opportunity to try to warm up its relationship with Western diplomats after the unpopular amendment of the constitution which was opposed by Western countries. They further observed that the UNDP anti-corruption programme was proposed since a year ago and the government had only turned to
it now to give the impression that it was responding to Western concerns on corruption.

But many Western diplomats who attended Wednesday’s meeting did not appear to be much impressed by this new development. Television cameras showed many countenances in doubt and in a wait-and-see mood.

The relationship between Western diplomats and the Biya regime is distinctly one of love-lost because the government has a history of reluctance in adopting good governance reforms.

A year ago, the government summoned a similar meeting of Western diplomats and vowed that for once it would conduct transparent and credible elections. But it failed to do so. The legislative elections of last year turned out to be such a horrible mess that Western embassies who had been promised a change issued a statement to denounce the exercise as a missed opportunity for democratic advance in Cameroon.

President Paul Biya has not shown a strong political will to punish culprits and discourage corruption in Cameroon. Instead, the president has used corruption arrests more as a political expedient.

In February 2006 he held and imprisoned a handful of senior public officials to strengthen the government’s application for debt cancellation under the HIPC initiative. He since resisted public clamour to continue with more arrests. He resumed the arrests, which usually spark public enthusiasm, last March just prior to the highly controversial and unpopular amendment of the constitution.

After that, the president has been interrogating more suspects to change the public mood after the unpopular constitutional amendment. And also, it is believed, to prepare the public for what is believed to be important dismissals in the much- expected government change.
It is, in fact, believed that there will be more interrogations and arrests in the days ahead, but it
is not known if the campaign will be sustained.

The president’s uncertain and unsystematic handling of the war against corruption has been so disappointing to Western diplomats that Sophie de Caen, the UN system representative who left Cameroon a few months ago, became inhabitually cynical. The UN diplomat who was otherwise principled and respectful openly dismissed existing public anti-corruption structures as being non-efficacious. She expressed the view that without a political will, the multiplication of structures will not solve the problem of corruption in Cameroon.

It is difficult for anybody to tell what the president is up to with the announcement of a change of gears. That is why Western diplomats as much as the wide public remain sceptical.

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Food price inflation in Cameroon

Importers blame resistance to price cuts on customs procedures and sabotage by some local companies

By Ntaryike Divine, Jr. in Douala

The Cameroon Chamber of Commerce, Indus-tries, Mines and Craft has warned that current waves of food price hikes across local markets will persist if the government fails to urgently enact motivating agricultural policies.

The Chamber, an interface between the government and business people, met in Douala recently to evaluate relief measures to cushion food price inflation in the country. Attendees, including importers, bankers and traders also sought to identify reasons for resistance to new prices homologated following consultations between the government and business people last March.

Christophe Eken, president of the Chamber, in a presentation, explained that galloping food prices was a global phenomenon. He said the situation was not heading for any perceivable change in the near future. According to him, the government needs to quickly elaborate new agricultural policies taking into consideration subsidies, slashed tariffs on imported farm input and equipment, and the development of farm-to-market roads, inter alia.

Participants at the meeting were unanimous that the price cuts instructions, contained in a presidential ordinance of 7 March, were still not felt at the level of local markets. They pinned blame on some customs-related procedures which implied that import duty exonerations on some products were not effective, obliging importers to maintain old rates. Others said bank loan rates remained high [22 percent], rendering the search for profit to reimburse loaned money primordial.

André Sohaing, an importer, said the fault was not theirs. He said world supplies in food and other products were on a continuous downturn. Another importer taking part in the meeting blamed what he called sabotage regarding the importation of products like cement. Without directly saying it, he gave the impression that the lone cement producer, CIMENCAM,
was staging a hold-up and frustrating strides by competitors at bringing cement into the country. The worries of the economic operators were compiled in a document which Francoise Foning, president of the industries section of the Chamber said she would personally hand to President Paul Biya

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Ozone depleting substances still abundant in Cameroon

But ozone office officials say Cameroon is allowing in prescribed quantities of CFC-containing items and would eradicate their influx by 2010

By Ntaryike Divine, Jr. in Douala

Despite the many workshops and seminars on completely phasing out Ozone Depleting Substances, ODS, in the country by the end of this decade, the bulging influx of used refrigerators, inter alia, still leaves much to worry about.

But officials of the National Ozone Office are confident. They say Cameroon is only letting in the
allowed margin of 25 metric tons. “You head the minister’s declaration; by 2010 no ODS will be allowed to enter Cameroon ,” Enow Peter Ayuk, coordinator of the National Ozone Office said here Tuesday. He spoke on the sidelines of yet another ozone-related workshop grouping stakeholders from 13 Francophone African countries.

Helle Pierre, Environment and Nature Protection minister, who flagged off the 5-day deliberations
Monday, lauded results obtained by Cameroon in the CFC eradication program. He, however, said more investments were needed to readapt and correct shortfalls in refrigeration equipment and the foams manufacturing industry.

The workshop, which wraps up this Friday, 15 May, sought to examine modalities for regional information exchange, networking, capacity building, inter alia towards the complete eradication of ODS by a 2010 deadline prescribed by a 1999 Montreal agreement ratified by Cameroon. According to Peter Ayuk, considerable investments had been pumped into the ODS
phase-out program.

But used fridges, with dreary CFC [Chlorofluorocarbons] amounts from the West, have
continued to be shipped to Africa and Cameroon in particular with ostensibly little or no restrictions whatsoever. The dangerous trend is clearly illustrated by the ever-increasing number of shops in Douala’s streets dealing in second-hand household equipment from Europe and America . Elsewhere petroleum and foam manufacturing companies, and fetilizers brought into
the country also contain CFCs.

“We do not submit the fridges to any form of inspection even at the level of customs. Whether they carry stickers or not, they pass through and I have never had a fridge seized. What they ask for is their money, and once that is paid, we collect the goods without further complications. CFCs? I don’t know what that means, let alone the ozone layer,” Fidelis, a dealer in used imported fridges in Akwa, told The Herald Tuesday despite claims by experts that a communications and sensitization commission was meeting desired goals.

Under the terms of the Montreal Protocol, Cameroon was expected to have phased out 50% of ODS by 2005 and 85% by the end of 2007. Refrigeration appliances are known to contain the bulk of ODS. While CFCs have been discarded in refrigeration equipment in the West in
preference for more environmentally-friendly gases, African countries have become a waste basket for the perilous fridges.

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National Day: Tracking the road to 20 May re-unification

Ahidjo advanced many reasons for the establishment of a unitary system of government

By Elangwe Esino Evaristus, Yaounde

When on 11 February 1961, the former British Southern Cameroonians voted in a plebiscite in favour of the independent Republic of Cameroon against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it was clear indication of their commitment to the idea of a Cameroon nation as it existed under German rule, astonishing the British authorities and the northern regional government in Kaduna.

A federal system of government was born after the two entities came together. Unfortunately, this federation lasted only 10 years 8 months. For, from the creation of the Cameroon federation, late President Ahmadou Ahidjo was never a federalist. He found all means and ways to dismantle the federal system.

In 1961, he carved out six inspectorates for the Cameroon Federation to be manned by inspectors who were direct representatives of the federal president. He went on to facilitate the formation of a unitary State by the merger of all political parties in 1966 to form the Cameroon National Union party (CNU).

On 9 May 1972, Ahidjo informed an emergency session of the Federal National Assembly of his plan to ask Cameroonians whether they approved or rejected the institution of a one and indivisible United Republic of Cameroon.

The intensive campaigns in both West and East Cameroon resulted in an overwhelming vote in support of the creation of a unitary State. The reasons put up by Ahidjo for the dismantling of the federal system of government were convincing and the unitary constitution had numerous effects.

The people of Cameroon had to maintain four Assemblies, namely the Federal Assembly, the East Cameroon Assembly, the West Cameroon Assembly and the West Cameroon house of chiefs. The maintaince of the posts of president, vice president and two State prime
ministers. To Ahidjo this drained billions of FCFA, which could be channeled to other developmental programmes, from the country’s coffers.

From the issue to consolidate national unity, to the inability of the state of West Cameroon to balance its budget, Ahidjo had the desire to assimilate the Anglophones whose Anglo-Saxon democratic tendencies were a nuisance to his desired centralised system of government. He was afraid that West Cameroon might follow the attempt of the Biafrans to secede since a number of West Cameroonians sympathized with the Biafran cowrse. It was also feared that West Cameroon would secede from the federation since huge oil reserves were discovered in the area, which pointed to the viability of the area to stand on its own.

The date therefore for the referendum was 20 May 1972. The electorate had to vote “Yes” or “No” to the question:

“Do you approve, with a view to consolidating national unity and accelerating the economic, social and cultural development of the nation, the draft constitution submitted to the people of Cameroon by the president of the Federal Republic of Cameroon and instituting a republic, one and indivisible to be styled the United Republic of Cameroon?”

The above question is clearly lopsided. The merits of the federal system of government were not proposed. Again, time was not given for Cameroonians to discuss the advantages and disadvantages. Many Cameroonians voted without knowing the political implications of
the change of system of government.

However, there is no turning back. The next National Day is just around the corner. Speeches will be made but the dichotomy of Anglophone and Francophone, South West and North West, first class and second class citizens, Christians and Moslems, Oroko, Bulu, Maka, Bakweri or Meta difference remains. The question of who is more Cameroonian follows us daily. Happy Nation
Day 2008!

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Celebrating 20th May

Despite everything, the union of the two Cameroons has made history for the last 47 years. Such history is only useful when it teaches lessons. Therefore, as we celebrate 20 May this year, it is useful to look at some signposts in the road that lies behind us, in the hope of building on our post

By Tazoacha Asonganyi, Yaounde

May 20 is an anniversary date shrouded by cynicism. It is the handiwork of Ahidjo for whom “democracy” was anathema and “national unity” a prize he sought greedily. He can be said to have decreed 20 May as a national day single-handedly, without due consideration for the complete history of the entire Cameroon. In the landscape of the united country that was born following the UN supervised plebiscite of 11 February 1961, 20 May 1972 like 4 February 1984, fall in the constellation of the conceit of nationalists of the “Republic of Cameroon” that formed the union with Southern Cameroons.

In spite of everything, the union of the two Cameroons has made history for the last 47 years. Such history is only useful when it teaches lessons. Therefore, as we celebrate 20 May this year, it is useful to look at some signposts in the road that lies behind us, in the hope of building on our past.

One-man rule in a one-party regime has characterised the united country for the better part of its life. Whether the side of the party coin was named CNU or CPDM, the party usurped the authority of the State. Indeed, the party has been more harmful to the country than useful. The arrest and detention of barons of the party for embezzling huge sums of public money is testimony of the conspiracy of the leadership of the party against the State!

The suspects being arrested and thrown into jail are hard-core party barons and strong believers in the new deal regime, like many others, who profited from a long history of impunity of party barons and confused State coffers for their purse. The regime allowed corruption to become so entrenched that, in the present clash with the formidable network, the regime consciously makes it impossible to find the truth, and extremely dangerous to seek it. The “truth” lies with shady documents mounted against the chosen few from the sea of heads in the corruption fraternity. What we are witnessing is not a fight against corruption but a struggle to acquire window blinds to provide shade for the entrenched fraternity. Whatever the case, the pressure has been unleashed and the tide could become so strong that it overcomes even the worried circle of men who hold court in the new deal...

Many people are applauding, not so much for any effort to fight corruption as for the reality of the saying that what goes up must come down. By their applause, they are comforting themselves that all of them without exception will eventually come down in one way or the other. They are sending the clear message to the regime that it shall not be allowed to go away with half measures on corruption.

Unfortunately, it is clear that in much of what the regime is doing, it is placing perception ahead of
reality. Lack of seriousness can be judged from the refusal to apply article 66 of the constitution on the declaration of assets. It can also be judged from the weak and confused law no. 2003/005 of 21 April 2003 laying down conditions for the organisation and functioning of the Audit Bench of the Supreme Court that is supposed to keep watch over public funds.

If history means anything, the regime would have borrowed from the past in this fight against
corruption. Indeed, it is history that in Southern Cameroons as far back as 1958, a Commission of Inquiry Ordinance (Cap 36 of the 1958 law) existed and empowered the prime minister to appoint commissions of inquiry to publicly investigate wrongdoing in any department of government. In turning a blind eye to present and past frameworks for checking corruption, the regime has refused to depersonalise and depoliticise the fight, and so allowed continuing, persistent and serious breaches of the public trust across all arms of government.

Further, the regime has failed to pay enough attention to the “small” thieves that populate our ministries, like in Public Service and Finance. Instead of undercover police agents going around and listening to the small talk of citizens in bars, the regime would have mounted and introduced “documents” into the system for the agents to “follow” for purposes of identifying and dismantling the “spiders” in the cobwebs of fraud, bribery and corruption that entangle operations in the ministries and frustrate citizens daily.

As the barons of the regime join in the celebration of 20 May this year, they should not only think about these issues of corruption. They should also remember that Southern Cameroons experienced a democratic change of government as far back as 1959 with Foncha taking over from Endeley; and that unification-citizens of Cameroon have never experienced a change of government leaders based on individual choice, since 1961.

Our union is already 47 years old. Forty and over is a time for reflection. It is the duty of the regime that has governed us in different shades since 1961 to create the appropriate environment for serious reflection on the future of the united Cameroon.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

International humanitarian law: Red Cross presses for Cameroon’s implementation

A two-day sub-regional workshop which rounded off in Yaounde yesterday sought ways of getting the conventions, most of which have been ratified, integrated into Cameroon’s legislation

By Bainkong Godlove in Yaounde

The International Red Cross Movement (IRCM) is bent on seeing that the illicit circulation and use of arms and other crimes committed against humanity are controlled by legislation. The use of arms by security forces on unarmed civilians, the unauthorised buying
and use of arms by civilians and the outright violation of the rights of children are contained in international conventions ratified by Cameroon but whose integration into the country’s legislation is
still a dream.

Speaking during the opening of a two-day workshop here Wednesday on how Cameroon can integrate the international humanitarian law into its legislation, the regional delegate of the Red Cross Movement for Central Africa, Philippe Gaillard, said the illicit
circulation and use of arms cause untold suffering to the civilian population who are most often plunged into war. He advocated the integration of the international humanitarian law into the doctrines of armed forces and the development in them of a reflex of the respect of the law. Gaillard cited the February unrest in Cameroon and other upheavals that almost brought Burkina Faso, Senegal, Gabon and Mozambique to their knees as fruit of disproportionate
use of force which, he said, threatened the security of the State and so should not be neglected by any government.

So far, Cameroon has ratified the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of victims of armed conflicts, the 1925 protocol agreement on the use of toxic gas, the 1989 convention on children’s rights and the 1993 convention on the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons, among others. These conventions are yet to be integrated into the country’s legislation.

Philippe Gaillard said concerted efforts should be made towards making these conventions a law so that impunity could be a thing of the past and for people to go freely about their activities.

A representative of the Justice ministry, Kouam Tekam, said his ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Presidency of the Republic and the ministries of Defence and External Relations are working in synergy to integrate the international humanitarian law into Cameroon’s legal system and to ensure its application.

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The Intrigues of Privatisation and the Stalemate at CAMAIR

By Nfamewih Aseh*

The law of neo-liberalism states that “government is a bad manager”; that business men and women were more transparent and accountable and were thus better able to manage corporate business within the framework of the private corporate sector than the state; that this business men and women should either be white or have a white backing. Most importantly, that the white control of the corporate private sector is the foundation for “good governance”, hence the need for privatisation.

Neo-liberalism by definition would refer to that period in Africa, in the late 1980s, when the white man countries returned to reclaim the economy, towards the end of the cold war, and after the end of the independent struggles of the 1940s and 1950s. And one way of achieving that goal was by making sure that the structure of the state “adjusted” to accommodate the private corporate capital; by taking away the corporate sector from the state and handing it over to the private business men and women, in this case whites whose economic activities would bring about “good governance”. It thus became imperative for the United Nations to commission its specialised organs such as the World Bank and the IMF to come up with a strategy of achieving that goal.

They did and that strategy was embodied in the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) which had privatisation and liberalisation as main items on the grand agenda and targeted thirty seven African countries including Cameroon. Like any other agenda
that is set by the West destined for Africa, the announcement for the coming of SAP in June 1987 raised the hopes of Cameroonians who believed in the daydream of private business coming to rescue Cameroon’s economy from the state, the “bad manager”, and bring
to about “good governance”.

All the noise about liberalisation, democratisation, and privatisation as antidotes for an economy in crisis; as pre-conditions for “good governance”, turned out to be a doom, an eyewash, a cover-up; a butterfly chase that kept Cameroonians dreaming of a
pie in the sky. Even the political liberalisation only successfully liberalised the political sphere achieving only the creation of “opposition” political parties whose duty has only been to check the
mismanagement antics of the state, also turned out to be hogwash. Before long, even the “Good Governance” singsong went into a tail spin while the white man, acting through local allies, were all over the place buying up everything under SAP with the state told to
hands off the provision of social services.

In Zimbabwe, the imposition of ESAP (Economic Structural Adjustment Programme) in 1989 by the very Bretton Woods twins (World Bank/IMF), being the Zimbabwean version of SAP, brought back the descendants of the Rhodesian rump capital from
Johannesburg with a mission to wrest power from the state on behalf of Britain and the USA. It also selected from among the urban “jobless” elite Morgan Tsvangirai to, in collaboration with the white
business class, fight Mugabe on the ticket of Britain and the USA whose political agenda was to wring power from Mugabe and reclaim the economy of Zimbabwe and overrun the entire Southern African sub-region. Unlike the case of Zimbabwe which is a revolutionary state under a nationalist president, the state in Cameroon is rather a contrivance for political cover-up for economic crimes under a collaborating stratum over which is a President.

The role of this collaborating stratum is to prove as much as possible that, truly, the state is a “bad manager” to ensure the successful implementation of SAP; to ensure that SAP reaches its “completion point”. In that case, both the numerous opposition
political parties that sprouted in Cameroon in the 1990s following the wind of liberalisation that was blowing from the East, the state bureaucrats and managers of state corporations were struggling to
achieve the same goal: to prove as much as possible that the neo-colonial state is a “bad manager”. While the hardcore opposition political parties were busy counting the failures of the state, state bureaucrats and managers of state para-statals, for their part,
were busy “mismanaging” state affairs, all of which brought ample evidence against the state as a “bad manager” and validated the neo-liberal law of which corruption and embezzlement can be understood in that light.

For example, before CamPost was sold to a Canadian firm, Tescult International Ltd, on February 26, 2007, over FCFA 50 billion of Cameroonian’s savings were deliberately stolen from that corporation which was then used as good reason to sell it to a white man’s corporation on the grounds that the black man cannot manage a corporation; that “the neo-colonial state is a bad manager”, which is actually what prompted the IMF/World Bank joint delegation to Cameroon in September 2007, whose intention was to hasten up the privatisation process; to quickly reclaim the economic
sector from a “bad manager”. And almost all the para-statals that have been privatised in Cameroon have gone through this experience.

The case of the Cameroon Electricity Corporation (SONEL) offers another perspective of understanding the neo-liberal law in which “government is a bad manager”. After the sale of that corporation to a USA company, AES-SIROCO, in 2002, the country was immediately plunged into fits of incessant darkness with the idea being to prove that the Americans had inherited a corporation in a very bad state from a “bad manager” and so was putting in “expert” knowledge to revive it. That was also a public relation stunt
for AES-SONEL, which was intended to win the confidence of the Cameroonian public into believing that the Americans were bringing magical solutions to Cameroon’s electricity problems; to do what the “bad manager” could not do. The case of Cameroon Airlines,
which also shows how government officials deliberately swindle funds from state para-statals to justify the idea that “government is a bad manager” so as to justify the sales of such outfits to white man companies, is another case in point.

Although the headaches of the Cameroon Airline company, as a purely indigenous airline company, created by former President Ahmadou Ahidjo who jolted out of the French controlled Air Afrique and created CAMAIR on July 26, 1971 with government owning over 96 % shares in it and which made its inaugural flight on
November 1, 1971 from Douala to Yaoundé, was initially that of victimisation by the French civil aviation authority, which on September 16, 2005 on all CAMAIR flights to France for an indefinite period on grounds that the company did not meet several international as well as transportation norms, leading to serious
revenue losses for the airline company whose activities were finally grounded in March 2008, there was also the problem of negligence on the part of government appointees in the management of the affairs of CAMAIR whose intention was to validate the
neo-liberal law that “government is a bad manager”.

Between 2001 and 2006, the state of Cameroon spent over FCFA 200 billion, in the form of subvention, on CAMAIR but before the end of 2006 CAMAIR was in deep crisis, unable to pay its workers. Even the 433 workers that were retrenched could not be paid their dues, leading to protestations and sit in strikes by
the ex-workers. Before the Belgian consortium was called in to resurrect CAMAIR, the sum of about FCFA 8 billion, being the salary of the 433 ex-workers of CAMAIR, disbursed for payment by the then Minister of Economy and Finance, Polycarpe Abah Abah, by
Ministerial Decision N0 1/D/MINEFI/DGB/PC/BR of October 17, 2006, paid into the CAMAIR account number 2015421-R at CBC Bank Douala, could not be found one year afterwards and the 433 protesting ex-workers had not yet received their pay. Yet accounts showed that they have actually been paid.

Yet still, CAMAIR, in the course of 2006 and 2007, realised FCFA 52 billion plus state subvention of about FCFA 65 billion, making a total of FCFA 117 billion in two years, but was still unable to pay
workers’ salaries. Compounded by the ban by the French civil aviation authority, the crisis of CAMAIR deepened and in conformity with the neo-liberal law in which white man companies are expert managers, SN Airholding, the parent company of SN Brussels
Airlines, was called in to restart CAMAIR to no avail, leading to its grounding in March 2008. Unfortunately for CAMAIR, government being a “bad manager” could not manage it and as an indigenous company, created and run by a “bad manager”, it was not worthy to be bought by a white man company, which could explain why the
attempt to privatise CAMAIR resulted in a stalemate.

Besides, the entire privatisation process, including that of CAMAIR, has remained a shady (“black market”) deal between the state and foreign companies whose only mission is to take total control of all the strategic economic sectors of Cameroon while the
state, the “bad manager”, should content itself with the “fight against poverty”. And that has been the intrigues of the white man against Africans, against Black people, for the last 500 years, since July 1472 in the case of Cameroon. And the fault is with us that, for all these years, we have not yet realised the wickedness of the white man against us; we still see the white man, who operates through proxies, as God.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cameroonians die attempting to cross to Europe

They perished in their quest for pastures green alongside other African nationals when their boat ran out of fuel

By Ntaryike Divine, Jr. in Douala

Several Cameroonians are now known to have perished in an umpteenth futile attempt to sneak into Europe from North Africa . A Tunisian daily said Monday that in all 50 people including other African nationals died.

The exact number of Cameroonians involved in the incident was not known. The Tunisian Arab language daily, Assabah Ousbouii said 16 people out of a total of 66 survived.

According to details of the story that shocked the world Monday, 12 May, the illegal immigrants including “mostly Cameroonians, Nigerians, Kenyans, Tunisians and Moroccans” embarked on the perilous journey from the Tunisian coast. The 66 traveled aboard a
5-metre-long boat.

Unfortunately for them, the boat soon ran out of fuel on the high seas some 400km off the coasts of Libya and several nautical miles from the nearest Italian island. They floated without direction for five days. Assabah Ousbouii reported that initially, some 47 of
the passengers died of hunger, thirst or just froze to death.

Unable to bear the stench, the surviving passengers flung the dead into the sea. The boat apparently drifted back to starting point. It was discovered on a Tunisian beach around Monastir with three cadavers and sixteen people dangling between life and death.

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Tradi-practitioners brainstorm on HIV/AIDS treatment

The training-of-trainers workshop was intended to get the traditional doctors sufficiently acquainted with the manifestations of HIV/AIDS so as to improve their treatment of the disease

By Ojong Steven Ayuk in Yaounde

Eighty-five percent of Africa’s populations resort to traditional medicine for their healthcare needs, yet the role and implication of tradi-practitioners in HIV/AIDS treatment and management has generally been ignored.

Members of the Cameroon Association for the Promotion of Traditional Medicine (PROMETRA) have blamed this on the way public health authorities perceive HIV/AIDS.

According to members of PROMETRA, opportunistic infections suffered by AIDS patients such as like malaria, herpes zoster, cough, diarrhoea, rash etc were commonly treated with traditional medicine even before the discovery of HIV/AIDS.

PROMETRA members made these and other remarks at a workshop to train traditional healers on the manifestations of HIV/AIDS with a view to better their understanding of the disease and to improve the treatments dispensed. The three-day workshop that ends
today took place at the Palais des Congrès here and brought together some 50 traditional healers from the 10 provinces of Cameroon.

Speaking at the sidelines of the workshop, PROMETRA president, Dr Edward Fai Fominyen, said the FABEG (healers self-proficient training) method, adopted by PROMETRA for treatment of HIV/AIDS and other related diseases, requires that healers have a good knowledge and understanding of diseases before they can dispense

PROMETRA, Fai Fominyen said, currently has a potent drug for HIV/AIDS treatment, concocted from five medical plants, and scientifically tested in laboratories in Africa and the USA.

The three-day workshop had as objectives to train some
traditional healers on the manifestations of HIV/AIDS so that they should in turn train other colleagues on the field, with a view to improving their handling of the decease, Fominyen said.

The members of PROMETRA, during the workshop, brainstormed on aspects like HIV prevention and management as well as fighting against the stigmatisation of seropositive persons. They also discussed on the treatment of STDs, diarrhoea and other diseases.

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World Bank `Destroyed Basic Grains' in Honduras By Alison Fitzgerald, Jason Gale and Helen Murphy

May 14 (Bloomberg) -- Fidencio Alvarez abandoned his bean and corn farm in southern Honduras because of the rising cost of seeds, fuel and food. After months of one meal a day, he hiked with his wife and six children to find work in the city.

``We would wake up with empty stomachs and go to bed with empty stomachs,'' said Alvarez, 37, who sought help from the Mission Lazarus aid group in Choluteca in January. ``We couldn't afford the seeds to plant food or the bus fare to buy the food.''

Honduran farmers like Alvarez can't compete in a global marketplace where the costs of fuel and
fertilizer soared and rice prices doubled in the past year. The former breadbasket of Central America now imports 83 percent of the rice it consumes - -a dependency triggered almost two decades ago when it adopted free-market policies pushed by the World Bank and other lenders.

The country was $3.6 billion in debt in 1990. In return for loans from the World Bank, Honduras became one of dozens of developing nations that abandoned policies designed to protect farmers and citizens from volatile food prices. The U.S. House Financial Services Committee in Washington today explored the causes of the global food crisis and possible solutions.

The committee examined whether policies advocated by the bank and the International Monetary Fund
contributed to the situation. Governments from Ghana to the Philippines were pressured to cut protective tariffs and farm supports and to grow more high-value crops for export, reports by the Washington-based World Bank show.

Haiti Pressure

The IMF pressed Haiti, as a condition of a 1994 loan, to open its economy to trade, Raj Patel, a scholar at the Center for African Studies in the University of California at Berkeley told the committee. When trade barriers fell, imports of subsidized rice from the U.S. surged, devastating the local rice farmers, Patel said.

``That is very odd,'' said committee chair Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. ``For anyone to have looked at Haiti at that time and thought that it was a functioning economy is a sign I think of ideology going rampant.''

``Of course they got it wrong,'' said Robert S. Zeigler, director-general at the International Rice
Research Institute, southeast of Manila. ``It will work if you're an extremely wealthy country and you
can import rice at any price. But if you're not an extremely wealthy country, I think that's very poor

`Command and Control'

The bank's strategy -- summed up in a 1989 article by its chief economist for South Asia, John Williamson --became known as ``The Washington Consensus.''

``The focus of the liberalization was on lowering domestic food prices,'' said Mark Plant, the IMF's
deputy director of policy development in Washington. Governments' ``command and control'' policies
increased consumer costs and cut farmer income, he said.

Williamson, now affiliated with the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said in a May 9 interview that the ideas are still sound, though they may have been pushed too hard by the World Bank.

``My own view is that all those things are good for countries,'' he said. ``But I'm not terribly
sympathetic with the World Bank going in and laying down a list of things countries have to do.''

Highest Tariffs

Honduran agriculture stagnated through the 1980s because of subsidies and market controls, prompting
the bank to recommend economic changes, said Adrian Fozzard, the institution's manager for Honduras.

Rice farmers in Honduras were protected by the highest import tariffs in Central America when former
president Rafael Callejas took office in 1990 with the economy stalled. The trade barriers that helped the country meet more than 90 percent of domestic demand were dismantled under an agreement for a World Bank loan in September that year, allowing cheaper imports to flood the market.

The requirements for the loan included eliminating import restrictions and surcharges and reorganizing
the agricultural finance system, according to Eurodad, a network of 54 European non-governmental
organizations that was granted access to the World Bank's loan database to monitor loan conditions.

Prices Plunge

Prices paid to farmers fell by 13 percent in 1991 and 30 percent more in 1992, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

In August 1993, the World Bank advised Honduras to adopt a second round of economic changes as part of another loan, according to Eurodad. Those conditions included eliminating all price controls and cutting tariffs further.

``Remaining trade and price controls should be eliminated,'' bank officials said in a 1994 internal
report. ``The program of privatization of state silos should be completed; and the use of a grain reserve
for price stabilization should not be reinstated.''

The report's author, Daniel Cotlear, now a World Bank economist for Latin American and the Caribbean, declined to comment for this story.

The bank pushed the policies because food prices fell in real terms for at least two decades, and few
economists expected that to change, said Mark Cackler, manager of its Agriculture and Rural Development Department. Free trade and open markets remain the best path to competitiveness, he said.

``There are actually opportunities to reduce protectionism that have a beneficial impact,'' Cackler

Tegucigalpa Rally

There now are 1,300 rice farmers in Honduras, compared with more than 20,000 in 1989, according to human rights group FIAN.

``The international lending agencies have destroyed the basic grains industry in Honduras,'' said Gilberto Rios, executive secretary of FIAN Honduras. ``The best land now produces things like African palms, which are not for consumption.''

Last month, thousands of activists, students and farmers blocked highways and rallied in the capital,
Tegucigalpa, to protest food prices and policies that made their country the most open to free trade in
Latin America -- and one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

Per capita income rose by 0.5 percent a year from 1990 to 2004, one of the slowest growth rates in Latin America, a January report by the International Food Policy Research Institute found.

Not `a Boon'

``Trade liberalization does not appear to have been much of a boon to the Honduran economy,'' the
Washington-based institute said in the report.

In the Philippines, the World Bank encouraged the country, the world's biggest importer of rice, to stop
striving for self- sufficiency and instead to diversify into crops like tropical fruits which have
greater export value.

It approved a $60 million loan in 2004 to help the Philippines' Department of Agriculture become more
market- oriented, diversify crops and stimulate private investment.

A World Bank Group technical working paper in June 2007 said the government shouldn't stockpile grain to stabilize prices. Rather, it should keep enough on hand for disasters and social welfare programs. It also advocated opening the domestic market to competition by cutting tariffs.

Philippines Reverses Course

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo now says the country has to change course toward being able to feed itself.

``We must move toward more self-sufficiency, not necessarily 100 percent, but more self-sufficiency,
less import dependence on rice,'' she said last month.

African nations including Ghana and Mali similarly followed World Bank advice. In 1992, the bank required Ghana to cut tariffs on rice to 20 percent from 100 percent, leading to a tripling of cheap rice imports, Patel said.

In 2004, the bank advised Ethiopia to stop providing fertilizer and credit to small farmers as part of a
debt relief package, and it persuaded Indonesia to dismantle its rice marketing board, according to
Elizabeth Stuart in Washington, who is the head of relations with the World Bank and IMF for Oxfam
International, the U.K.-based alliance fighting poverty.

Now farmers are asking the Honduran government to reverse policy and provide cheap, long-term loans to buy the seeds and fertilizers they need to survive.

The government of Honduras yesterday asked the IMF to send a team to the country to examine how the rising food and fuel prices are affecting the economy and whether they should reconsider some aspects of a current economic program, the IMF said in a press release.

``We haven't seen the worst of it yet; that's to come,'' said Jarrod Brown, president of the Mission
Lazarus. ``They need help now.''

For Alvarez and his family, help can't come quickly enough.

``We want to go back to our land, it's all we have,'' he said.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Western Diplomats must Review their attitude toward the Biya Regime!

Source;The Herald Cameroon

Western diplomats in Yaounde surely disagree with the manoeuvring of the regime. They once issued a strong statement indicting the government. What is surprising is how they could so easily and comfortably resume business as usual with the same regime. This is a contradiction difficult to explain. Far from criticising our western friends, this essay is an appeal to them to review their posture. If they find they cannot summon the bravery it takes to challenge the regime, let them give up all talk about good governance and focus on giving Cameroon more economic
aid. China and Japan are good examples for them to follow.

In the long and troubled quest for democracy in Cameroon there once was a time when opposition leaders sincerely believed that powerful western governments could simply descend upon Yaounde and literally dethrone Paul Biya.

To keep that hope alive opposition leaders courted Yaounde diplomats desperately. There was such high traffic to western chancelleries that government spokesmen referred cynically to as “opposition embassies.”

It since came home rather painfully disappointingly that the opposition had been naïve. They made many more mistakes and squandered their huge early advantage.

Paul Biya has grown from strength to strength. Now his appetite for power is seemingly insatiable. To feed and sustain it, Biya is now poised to drag Cameroon to ruin.

Cameroonians are in shock, and their political heart is bleeding. Alvin Toffler, the sociological futurist, and author of the 1970 best-seller Future Shock, predicted the coming shock of humanity due to the many unexpected social changes he foresaw. That book could easily have referred to Cameroon, seeing the horrible man-made changes taking place here since some time.

This shock is partly due to the absence of any force that can stop Biya in his steps. The opposition is irretrievably compromised; the civil society is weak, and the intellectual class is non-existent. The church that once spoke up for the people is now more of an ally of the government.

Foreign partners

This is the context in which, in their helplessness, Cameroonians often count on the support of their foreign partners, who they believe have the lever to influence things for the better.

Diplomats are their accredited liaison officials. Imbued with first hand knowledge of developments in Cameroon, diplomats can be powerful instruments of good responsible government, especially so if their countries give themselves that objective, as we know western countries do.

We beg to observe, regrettably, that western embassies in Yaounde have not always played that role well enough. Once a long, long while there emerges a man or woman of character who rattles the Yaounde establishment or a statement is issued that causes the government to tremble in self-doubt.

But occasional threats, powerful though, have not gone far enough to discourage the Yaounde autocrats. In the meantime the country is gathering momentum on its descent into the abyss.

Would western diplomats rather wait until the damage is all done? How would they explain it to their consciences, their home governments and peoples that they watched it all happen, and lacked the guts to challenge it?

These thoughts are not, of course, addressed to non-western diplomats. The Chinese, everyone knows, are unconcerned with good governance issues in their relations with African countries which they keep strictly to economic matters. The Japanese also limit themselves to socioeconomic aid. Africans are totally out of consideration - for obvious reasons.

In their ongoing concern for good governance in Cameroon, three western missions jointly issued a strong statement last year dismissing the July legislative election as a missed opportunity for
democratic advance. The statement was a devastating indictment of the regime that put the government on the defensive.

It received much public applause and instantly raised expectation of a follow-up. Then there was a let-down. The assembly for which the electoral farce was organised has since been constituted, and also since voted the constitutional amendment authorizing Biya to reverse the course of democracy in Cameroon.

Business as usual

What is surprising is the ease and comfort with which the same western chancelleries since returned to business as usual with the same government as if nothing had happened at all.

However it is explained, this posture of contradiction is profoundly disturbing to Cameroonians, to say the very least. And, with due respect to our western friends, that sermonising on corruption, human rights or press freedom which is, ab initio, of no consequence to the government, only highlights this contradiction.

Let us admit, none of that can ever make up for diplomats’ inability to face up to the regime. What it takes is a sense of purpose and character.

Where are the Cooks and the Marquardts? Where are the Edwin Snows, the British diplomat who in recent years put the Kenyan government on the defensive over corruption? Must we conclude that Yaounde is short of diplomats of enterprise to rise up to the situation that Yaounde presents?

Yet, apart from the military, diplomacy is that other public career with vast opportunities for initiative and bravery in service to humanity since the diplomat in his different assignment faces ever new, unforeseen and constantly changing challenges.

Two years ago a ceremony took place in Washington to mark the release of postage stamps honouring six extraordinary diplomats. In her citation, Condoleezza Rice said the six diplomats “made their mark on history as trailblazers, as strategic thinkers, as peacemakers and humanitarians.”

One remarkable case was Hiram Bingham who served as vice-consul at the US consulate in Marseilles, France, during World War II. Bingham did the unusual. He violated US policy by issuing visas that saved the lives of more than 2000 Jews and other refugees. He was honoured for “constructive dissent.”

Many diplomats have shaped their government’s policies by advising different, more adapted approaches to the problems they encounter.

Marshall Plan

Isn’t it a great credit to diplomats that the huge and very influential post-war European Recovery Programme is better known as the Marshall Plan after its originator, George Marshall?

Henry Kissinger, the man who raised shuttle diplomacy to its height, formulated and implemented US policy in-between flights. A recent book has drawn attention to the terrible conflicts and mutual suspicions that existed between him and Richard Nixon because of the diplomat’s unilateral policy initiatives.

Nixon enjoyed a strong foreign policy much of which was the work of Kissinger. So he couldn’t afford to send off the creative and enterprising diplomat.

Going by these standards it is difficult to understand the indifference of the diplomats of Yaounde before the challenge they live with. Yes, there are risks; but what truly worthy endeavour is risk-free.

After the well-known position of Washington, the EU, Britain and France, on Cameroon, would the queen of the fortress of Rosa Parks Avenue still consider it so dangerous a risk to face up to the arrogance of Yaounde?

Is that what also explains the timidity of the men of Churchill Avenue, and others? Don’t they know that the Yaounde regime also acts in fear? The cowardliness of its adversaries only strengthens and furthers it!

We sincerely urge our western friends to review their attitude. But if after a sincere review they cannot bring themselves to challenge the regime in a more meaningful way, we would understand them. In that case we suggest two things.

There should be no more reason for western diplomats to make advocacy speeches for good governance, human rights, corruption and the rest which is all hogwash anyway.

Secondly, if politics is too risky and life-threatening, our western friends must then consider giving us a lot more bilateral economic aid which so far comes in trickles. Cameroon is awfully
wanting in socioeconomic infrastructure.

China and Japan are good examples to follow. They give big, meaningfully, and with surprisingly less noise to go with all that. Journalism and other seminars by our western friends are welcome but they are better quieter.

Again, this essay must not be taken in the spirit of criticism, but rather as an expression of the bleeding political soul of Cameroonians calling out to western diplomats to break free of their lethargy and help. And, we know they can.

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Cameroon: Moving forward to 2011!

With all the distractions around us, like selective arrest of embezzlers of State funds, noises about impending big projects, pompous declarations about the food crisis and more, we should not lose sight of the momentous 2011 that is approaching at a gallop

By Tazoacha Asonganyi,Yaounde

It is of historical interest that once in a while, extraordinary human beings that stand out head and shoulders above all others appear on the scene. We all had this in mind when we embarked on the politics of change with the return of multi-party politics in the early ‘90s. This was especially so because experience from South East Asia had taught us that one commanding personality could change a country in a generation…Such a personality gets thrust up by forces under the surface and they alter the direction of the forces in their poor, underdeveloped countries and make their life a legend, like Mao, Park Chung Hee and others...

It is true that the opposition figures that emerged on the stage in the early ‘90s were products of different backgrounds: some were realists, others were idealists, but they seemed to be all aware of the weak foundation on which the country stood. They also seemed to be aware of the forces under the surface that had brought the country to its knees. All of them had one thing in common: each behaved like a star. It was not long before we became aware of the dangers that had been cast on the struggle by these “shining” stars. Since great stars are only happy in their own
unimpeded orbits, it was difficult to put them in one orbit! Each time they were “forced” together, it was more a partnership of circumstances and convenience, than of friendship and cooperation. And so under our eyes, the mission of the struggle whittled down and was departed from. In their dazzling, competitive orbits, they developed “strategies” that were more shell than kernel... As years went by, each developed the myopia of old men that it is difficult to imagine a satisfactory younger successor!

So what was the challenge the emergent leaders were bound to meet? Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai has responded with a question: “...why is Africa one of the richest continents on the planet, endowed with oil, precious stones, forests, water, wildlife, soil, land, agricultural products, and millions of women and men, and yet most of Africa’s people remain impoverished?” The simple reason is the lack of serious leaders with vision like Mao Tse-tung (for China) and Park Chung Hee (for South Korea) that truly emanate from within the society to create the appropriate environment for their countries to emerge from poverty, underdevelopment and helplessness.

Africa’s false step was taken by the leaders that took over African countries following independence, because of their “limited and conditioned vision”. Although they were colonised and abused, they identified with the colonial forces that denied them what they dreamt to become.

Since the coloniser had inspired “admiration”, being like the coloniser would also inspire “admiration”! Consequently, the opportunity to rule was confuse with oppression; they imitated the use of power and authority by colonisers and ruled their people in the manner of the colonialist they had just replaced.

Unfortunately, those who succeeded to replace these “strongmen” or “fathers of the nation”, continued in the imitation. Therefore the mission that faced the “new” opposition parties that emerged in the early ‘90s was to end this sterile imitation by providing appropriate leadership to lead our country out of the stalemate of underdevelopment and poverty. As would be realised later, the leaders did not seem to have a single grain of conviction, except in the hope that by some luck, they could grab the country and commandeer it in the image of those they were fighting to replace. Their political attitudes seemed to be dictated by opportunism, rather than by any coherent corpus of belief. “Democracy” was always their pet slogan, and they invariably included it in the names of their parties, although they had very little idea of what it meant. It was like a password for self-preservation and self-promotion…

Most of the “leaders” spent precious time uprooting plants from the gardens of ideological certainties and replanting them in the gardens of the outfits they had set up as political parties; giving them funny names like rigour and moralisation, new deal, grands ambitions, power to the people, equal opportunity, republican ethics... and even creating “shadows” that fell into desuetude upon their creation... As expected, the gardens became more and more barren with passing years… and the hungry and expectant people became more and more restive!

After Ahidjo’s 22 years at the helm, it seems the only ambition of the present man at the top in our country is to be remembered for having blown out the highest number of candles in the presidential palace. As we move forward to 2011, the various “stars” circling their individual orbits leave us only to hope that the year will mark our own “once in a while” when, from relative obscurity, an extraordinary human being with vision and patriotism will emerge on the scene.

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HIV/AIDS: Antiretroviral drugs in short supply!

Medics unofficially blamed the situation on supply delays, as patients worried their treatment procedures would be comprised

By Ntaryike Divine, Jr. in Douala

Fright abruptly gripped HIV/AIDS patients across Douala last week as antiretroviral [ARV] drugs ran out of stock at approved distribution centres. Patients at the Laquintinie Hospital and other medical centres complained all week they were being told to exercise endurance.

Except for Triomune, two other drugs associated in ARV treatment for HIV/AIDS treatment [Nevirapine and Duovir] were simply unavailable. HIV/AIDS officials at the Laquintinie Hospital, Douala’s biggest medical facility and the central supply point for the drugs, upheld an information blackout.

They mostly refused to officially comment on the situation that roused escalating anxiety amongst
patients. In some cases, they even either appeared aloof or hostile at the slightest mention of the
subject. But anger and frustration seemed to mount amongst patients who said the scarcity had already spanned a week!

“I have just been informed that the shortage is linked to a supply delay provoked by some technical problems. They say the situation may return to normal by the end of the week but my situation may complicate if I don’t take the drug very soon”, a patient whose name we are
withholding testified Thursday, the same day medics assured patients the ARV shortage will end. It did not.

ARV treatment is provided gratis for some patients in Cameroon since the last two years. But haphazard supplies of the product, especially to some African countries, have meant a threat to the lives of thousands of patients whenever it occurs. Medics hold that once begun, ARV treatment should not be interrupted to avoid a build-up [by the human immuno-deficiency virus] of resistance to the drug.

Some of the panic-stricken unwell protesters wielded placards indicating that deaths were certain if they continued to be deprived of the treatment medication. Manufacturers, according to critics, usually accord attention to [Western] countries who place bigger orders. Watchdog organisations have urged African nations to mount pressure on ARV manufacturers who are mostly Indian, to pay closer attention to demands from Africa , which hosts the worlds bulk of HIV/AIDS

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Here’s why Cameroon and others got to the recent commodity price explosion, and how governments are making it worse!

By Hinsley Njila (contributor)

Pretty much every developing country (Cameroon included), no matter whether they have democratic or totalitarian political systems, heavily tax farmers in order to subsidize their urban populations, while developed nations like France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and others heavily subsidize their farmers, no matter how small the agricultural sectors. In fact, some countries in Europe subsidize farmers more generously than the United States which has a slightly larger farm sector than most in Europe. On the surface, this universal tendency for rich countries to subsidize farming, no matter how different are the details of their political systems, is a paradox. For since only a small fraction of the populations of these countries work in agriculture, farmers cannot contribute much to any majority voting coalition.

Taxing of farmers in developing countries is as true of India as of China, Cameroon as well as Peru, Libya as well as South Africa, and similarly for the other poorer nations. In all these countries, farmers are a significant fraction of their populations, and they form a majority in many, such as Cameroon, India and China.

Make no mistake that the recent strikes in Cameroon, South Africa, and other developing countries about the global explosion in the prices of commodities is a direct result of these differences in the ways farmers are treated. The United States and European Union have been subsidizing biofuels which is an important factor behind the rise in food prices, for these subsidies directly raised the price of corn to consumers, and indirectly raised the prices of other grains. Riots broke out in many cities around the world in protest against the increases in the prices of bread and other food stables.

Well here’s the interesting part about all these. People like Paul Biya and others decided to either reduce the prices of commodities or restrict exports as a way of quelling the riots and increase supply. Of course you don’t have to be an economist to realize that this obviously reduced the incomes of farmers (which are already low), and denied them the ability to trade on Global markets were prices are higher.
This response to rising food prices by third world governments is clear evidence that they have no idea how to fight poverty in their countries. Farmers in countries like Cameroon are on average vastly poorer than their city residents, and reducing their incomes in such a manner fuels migration, less interest in farming and continuing high prices because fewer crops will be grown, on top of the already poor investment in farm technology.

So by reducing the prices of commodities in the case of Paul Biya, or restricting exports in the case of China and others, developing countries are not only making their economies less efficient, but also they are adding to the overall incidence of poverty among their populations. The gap between the incomes of rural and urban families is much smaller in developed countries that subsidize rather than tax farmers.
It may seem very simple, but with high prices of commodities like cereal and other foods, subsidized farmers are getting far richer than city residents, while taxed farmers are getting poorer as the taxes have increased on those situations to accommodate city living.

In the last few months, everyone from the UK minister of Agriculture to the chief of the UN world food program have been warning of a looming global food crisis, but the only ones who do not seem to be bothered by such an alarm are the developing nations who incidentally are the most under-prepared to deal with it.

The solution to this crisis is not as simple as just subsiding the developing farmers, for this would require imposing high per capita taxes on their relatively small urban populations since farmers are a rather large proportion of the total population in these countries. Instead, the same political pressures as in developed countries lead poorer countries, regardless of the nature of their political systems, to subsidize the smaller urban populations at the expense of the larger farm populations.

People far smarter than me have shown that a common approach to the political process based on interest group pressures can explain both the taxing of poor farmers in developing nations, and the subsidies to well off farmers in richer nations. Whatever the case may be, unless actions are urgently taken to help poor farmers in developing countries and the agriculture sector as a whole, we are in for a period of unavoidable violence resulting from massive global food shortages.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - Rethinking the Contemporary State in Cameroon

Book Title: Political Philosophies and Nation-Building in Cameroon: Grounds for the Second National Liberation Struggle
Publishers: GVDA Buea
Printers: Unique Printers Bamenda
Year of Publication: 2006
Author: Nfamewih Aseh (E-mail: mbibiuh@yahoo.co.uk)
Number of pages: 261
Price: Cameroon FCFA 6.000, Europe/North America USA $30 including postage.
Reviewer: Dr. Mbuh Akungwi

As the battle-cry for freedom in post-war Africa was sounded, due to the promise of freedom that was roused by the creation of the United Nations, the idea of Cameroon becoming an independent nation, free from the European stranglehold and internal enslavement, was set afoot. Coincidentally too, the response to the call for freedom in the whole of Black Africa came from Cameroon with the creation of the national liberation movement, Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) in 1948. Unfortunately, in its struggle for freedom, the movement met with a counter insurgence from the French and the British who had invaded Cameroon since 1916 and were enslaving the people to produce wealth for Europe. The movement was eventually destroyed by these two European invading powers who installed their proxies in office in the 1960s to head a neo-colonial government in Cameroon; a government run by blacks on behalf of whites.

This book, which sets out to unravel the hidden history of on-the-spot slavery in Africa, using the case of Cameroon, attempts to establish the correlation between the twin concepts of political philosophies and that of nation-building. It takes a multidisciplinary approach in showing the colonial origins of the various political ideas that have been epochal in Cameroon, as a neo-colonial arrangement, since 1945. The author blends with ease a sound knowledge of philosophy and political science in showing the historical trajectories on which Cameroonians have trod, sixty years on. The book is not only an illustration of how history is subordinate to political ideas but it also goes a step further to demonstrate the historical processes through which political ideas are roused into existence. It departs very remarkably from the ordinary approach to the writing of history by rather interrogating history and probing into the psychic states of the historical actors to show how political philosophies develop and how they impact on history.

The book uses the case of Cameroon to bring to light how political ideas in contemporary Africa are roused into being by foreign “invisible forces” and kept in existence from offstage, being a classic example of how Adam Smith’s theory of an “invisible hand”, which operates the economy from behind the scenes, creates and sustains political ideas in contemporary Africa. It is segmented into eight chapters, which are preceded by a preface which qualifies to be a chapter in itself. In chapter one the author critically interrogates all the political actors in post-war Cameroon one after the other and wonders how, in Fanonian terms, they could have been asking for “an improvement in living conditions” from the very forces that had invaded and occupation their lands and were enslaving their people. As a direct consequence of that lacklustre approach to politics, typical of contemporary African politicians who are trapped in the neo-colonial mind set, “they failed at the decisive moment to recapture what they have lost” (p. 21), hence the need to rethink new political strategies in post-colonial Africa if the continent must disentangle itself from decades of foreign political domination and economic stranglehold.

In chapter two the author re-examines what he calls the critical issues which have marked political life in contemporary Cameroon. Chapters three, four, and five focuses on those the author describes as “the three principal political actors in Cameroon”, namely Um Nyobe who initiated the liberation project in post-war Africa, Ahmadou Ahidjo who appeared on the stage as a French acolyte and instead aided France to kill Um Nyobe and to destroy the national liberation movement and was enthroned by France to implement French designed programmes (planned liberalism) in Cameroon in that capacity until the curtains were drawn on him from the backstage, by the same France who thought that his time was up. Consequently, Paul Biya who, upon his returned from France in 1962 after six years of studies came along with a letter of recommendation from Luis-Paul Aujoulat, a French man who is presented as the “French God father” of Cameroon politics, to Ahmadou Ahidjo, was stage-managed by France to replace Ahmadou Ahidjo as Cameroon’s second President towards the end of the cold war.

Paul Biya, within his political philosophy of communal liberalism, aided the World Bank/IMF to liberalise both the economic and the political spheres but maintain restrictions at the entrance into the ruling circles when the countries of the North, in concert, were poised to play a new kind of political game: to re-invade Africa in a more direct manner through multinationals for the continuous enslavement of black people on their own soil and for the continuous enrichment of white man countries under the cover-up of “modern” paradigms such as liberalisation, democracy, etc. The author then shows that Um Nyobe, who was the Vice President of RDA (Rassemblement Territoriale Africaine), with Houphouet-Boigny as its President and Sedar Senghor as its Secretary General, fought to liberate Cameroon while Ahidjo and Paul Biya rather fought to hand it back to Europeans for their enterprise of invasion and enslavement in non-European societies, a project with whom the European proxies in power share the spoils of internal slavery, in a slave-worked economy, with their metropolitan masters.

In chapter six the book illustrates how both internal and external factors have been woven together to render the sixty-year-old political experiment a complete failure, a disaster, as the political and economic hiccups in Cameroon keeps on obeying the political and economic climatic changes in the white man countries, depending on the latter’s economic needs. And since the white man countries hold the political and economic handle and Cameroonians hold the political and economic blade, each time the metropolitan dictators pull the handle the palms of Cameroonians bleed. And the role of the UN in the project for the liberation of the Black Man from the yoke of the White Man and that of the IMF/World Bank Bretton Woods twins, all UN specialised agencies, are put to serious question.

Although the entire book introduces a social scientific theory for the understanding of the political history of Cameroon from a global perspective, chapter seven takes a more global dimension to that effect. This chapter traces the historical circumstances and processes through which the White Man became ubiquitous on the global scene, having migrated out of a small peninsula in Europe and occupied three large continents after killing the aboriginal populations and owning their lands and, like termites, rapidly multiplied their population and have since then used stolen wealth, technology, and the spread of disease, to spread their tentacles to all the nooks and crannies of the globe. It revokes the question of slavery and shows how slave trade might have been “abolished” in the West and how slavery was transposed into Africa where it continues still this day in varying forms under political structures that were purposefully put in place to cover up criminal intentions for the perpetrators of modern slavery.

Like a research project the book is, here incontrovertible evidence are brought out to demonstrate how diseases have always been the main ally of the White Man in their mission of ecological expansion, global invasion, and global dominance. It opens the way for discussions on a topic hitherto held as taboo, namely that of the myth of the origins and the spread of AIDS. The book shocks its readers about the Western origins and spread of AIDS and wonders whether the Black race may not be facing extermination in the hands of the White race.

Chapter eight introduces yet a new dimension in the understanding of history. It critically examines how politico-psychological factors played a great role in determining what Karl Marx refers to as historical materialism and postulates that if Cameroon must become a truly independent nation, Cameroonians must re-invent a new path and to completely turn away from these politico-psychological factors which have been the major pitfalls which have impaired their ability to think independently and to act decisively to become Men as Jean Paul Sartre puts it. The book does not only end at examining the political blunders of the past and showing how they have had disastrous social, economic, and political consequences on the lives of unsuspecting Cameroonians but proposes the way forward. Drawing from the historical experiences of some pre-colonial nations, it advances a theoretical proposition for forging a solid independent and autonomous nation in Cameroon that is integrative in approach, based on a social contract, rooted on a mastery and control of the physical world on which the people should depend, free from the white man’s burden.

Grounded on a theoretical approach as a methodological option to show how Cameroonians have no control over their own destiny in their own country, the book is certainly a must read for every Cameroonian and by extension all Africans who truly desire freedom. It draws on valid conclusions that there is need for rethinking the political destiny of Cameroon. In academic circles the book promises to be an invaluable document for most social science disciplines especially political science, history, sociology, media studies, philosophy, education, etc. It is available in bookshops in all the major towns in Cameroon.

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