Monday, June 30, 2008

Cameroon: Moving Forward to 2011

By Tazoacha Asonganyi in Yaounde.

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.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?" (

Thesimple 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".

To paraphrase Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed), the perception of the leaders of the colonised people was impaired by their submersion in the reality of colonisation. They were so inside the system that they could not see themselves in the struggle to free their countries except in terms of raising themselves to the status of those who colonised them.

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 confused 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!Although a politician should always be ready to prick the balloon of his own enthusiasm, none of ours allowed their balloons to be deflated.

Slowly, most of them came to believe in the illusion that the people can "rise up like one man" against injustice and frustration without nurture and prompting ... without professional managers of the emotion of change. What is difficult to understand is that although some of them led themselves up futile, blind alleys, they still seem to be persuaded that they are on the crest of a winning wave!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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Cameroon: Parliamentary Privilege, Proxies and Hate Politics

By Tazoacha Asonganyi.

Adama Modi, one of the parliamentarians of the National Assembly has openly expressed his disgust at the repeated preference of the CPDM party for Cavaye Yegui� Djbril, another MP, for the presidency of the national assembly.

History has it that in spite of his parliamentary immunity
defined by Ordinance No. 72-12 of 26 August 1972 which clearly states that Members of Parliament should not be questioned elsewhere for votes or debates in the National Assembly, he was questioned by a committee set up by the Head of State, President of the CPDM for opinions he expressed in parliament. This was nothing short of a breach of parliamentary privilege!

Further, although Chapter XIII (Articles 56-59) of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly clearlydefines the "delegation of voting rights" by a member of parliament, there has been much accusation and counter-accusation in the press about whether or not Paul Ayah, another MP left such a delegation in the assembly, which was used to vote on his behalf. The CPDM parliamentarian who voted on his behalf is most vulnerable to the line of attack opened by the press on this issue, whether she is guilty as charged or not, because it fits in with the general fraudulent character and behavior of barons of her party.

It is incredible that although the rules on the issue are very clear, she has not made any serious effort to convince us that she acted within the ambit of the rules when she voted on behalf of her colleague.To remain in a party and yet disagree with its leadership on central issues of the day is not a joke.Forcing members to vote against their convictions or drawing artificial lines to contain rebellion tocontentious issues are all familiar behavior in party politics.

In general, although a party member can speak for the party on public issues, the party cannot speak for its member on such issues! It is immoral for a party to force its member to violate his conscience or violate the national interest. Using fraud to obtain the consent of a member on an important societal issue can only be the handiwork of persons with the same morals as those daily exposed as embezzlers of public funds.

MPs are supposed to use the immense moral authority of their positions to offer leadership and inspiration?Interestingly, although article 15(2) of the constitution of Cameroon states that each member ofthe national assembly represents the entire nation; we are told that Chief Inoni (the Prime Minister)had to answer for the "negative" vote of an MP against the amendment of the constitution to give Paul Biya the latitude to rule for life! We are also told that he was not answering for it because he is the Prime Minister of the entire nation, but because he originates from the South West Province with the MP.

After all, by the constitution, you are either "autochtone" or "allog�ne"; native or stranger! One of the hallmarks of the "new deal" regime is duplicity: representing the whole nation while being native or stranger; professing "national unity" while institutionalizing divisiveness!Sometimes the expression of political opinion based on conscience can attract visceral dislike and cloud the political judgment of even one?s colleagues.

One may hate the guts of a colleague, but to extend the hatred to family, village and area of origin is a mark of the bankruptcy of politics in our country. Several weeks ago, Hon. Ayah brought the case of the ethnic conflict in Akwaya to public attention. No one seemed to listen except the press! Only recently did we learn that Manyu Chiefs met and decided to pay attention to the problem.
It is like the administrative authorities were saying that since the MP did not want their amendment to pass, they did not care what was happening in Akwaya, his place of origin.It is a good thing that the Manyu Chiefs have also drawn attention to the conflict. It is also a goodthing that Divine Ewane, NGO personnel recently highlighted the problem in a newspaper interview,although surprisingly, he failed to mention the MP even once!

We can only hope that the partisan administrative authorities will shed their hate politics, theirincredible intolerance and spite, and their insensitivity to the sufferings of citizens under their charge, and pay attention to the welfare of the people without any consideration for the political opinions of their leaders.

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Cameroon :State Authority and The Rule of Law

By Tazoacha Asonganyi

All politics and the democratic processes that govern politics take place in society.
Carved out from society is a referee usually referred to as the state.Indeed, the state is the level at which all factionsin society meet. The state plays the noble role ofreferee and facilitator of political and democraticprocesses.

To play these roles well, the state should be non-partisan.Early thinkers who created the concept of the state knew that humans are not angels; that they can be both good and evil. They can usually be blinded by theirpassions and self-interests. This is why it is the duty of the state to produce laws, rules and regulations to guide the actions of both rulers andthe ruled in society.Many of such laws, rules and regulations exist inCameroon.

On paper, most of them are reasonable, but in practice they are usually ignored to the benefit of individuals or partisan groups like political parties,especially the ruling party! Most agents of the state are known to treat laws as if they are informal rules that they can obey or disobey at their discretion!
Therefore one of the main problems with the rule oflaw in Cameroon lies with people who implement laws.

In fact, it is the generalised disregard for the lawby state officials that has bred the culture of corruption that is the main challenge to governance inCameroon today.Since 20th May 2008, a drama has been played out in Menji Local Council in Lebialem Division, South WestProvince, out of the knowledge of the press thatusually highlights such events! On 20 May just beforethe start of the march past at the Menji Municipal Stadium, the Senior Divisional Officer (SDO) of Lebialem moved to the front of the grandstand and solemnly announced that he had suspended the Mayor indefinitely on the frivolous charge of "unpatrioticattitude"!

By this he meant that the Mayor refused togive out the council vehicle at his behest, even ifthe mayor had explained that the vehicle was not ingood mechanical condition. Then the SDO proceeded tofloat the usual information peddled by over-zealous administrators to gain support for their wrong decisions, or by political misfits to put down theirpolitical rivals - that the mayor is a closet SCNC militant!

Although law no.2004/17 of 22 July 2004 on orientationof decentralisation, and law no. 2004/18 of 22 July2004 to lay down rules applicable to councils, both ofwhich are in force today, do not give such powers tothe "the representatives of the state" who is the SDO,he actually proceeded to seal the office of the Majoras a sign of the effectiveness of the suspension!

For those who may not be aware of the provisions of the new laws, section 94 of law no. 2004/18 of 22 July2004 to lay down rules applicable to councils states unequivocally that "In case of infringement of the law and regulations in force, or of serious misconduct,mayors and deputy mayors may be suspended by order ofthe Minister in charge of regional and local authorities for a maximum period of three months after hearing them or requesting them to furnish written explanations on acts for which they are accused. After such period, they shall either be rehabilitated or dismissed? by decree of the President of theRepublic;...the suspension orders and dismissal shall give reasons thereof..."

The law is therefore clear on the duties of the"representative of the state" (the SDO) and on that ofthe minister in charge of local and regional authorities. Representatives of the state wherever they may be are supposed to be symbols of facilitationand leadership, not vessels of power. In a council,power has been devolved to the mayors; they are theones supposed to get things done. It is not the dutyof the state to remove the sense of pride and personal responsibility from mayors in councils. There is no use deceiving ourselves by producing documents and making official pronouncements that assure outsiders that there is the rule of law on decentralization inCameroon, as was the case last week during the African Ministerial Conference on Decentralisation (AMCOD),while the reality is different.

For the good of society, laws are supposed to bedecisive moral arbiters. Obedience of a law should be non negotiable. The law is not secure if representatives of the state behave as if they are the law, and infringe it as they see fit.

The act of the SDO of Lebialem is nothing short of sabotage of thelaw, especially as his action was a deliberate,skilfully executed plot to stir up protest during the20 May celebrations so as to impute the disturbances on a supposed lack of patriotism of the people! His assault on the law was not for the good of society but for his personal good.It is the insecurity dictated by human nature that propelled human societies to allow their lives to be governed by the state. The state provides laws, rules and regulations to govern activities in society.

A law is therefore not something that a representative ofthe state should feel that he is doing somebody afavour by obeying it. It is unfair, unjust and disruptive of council activities if the new laws on decentralisation are not obeyed by all stakeholders. A decision to disobey the law should be considered personal and should not engage the state, at the riskof discrediting the authority of the state.

It isincumbent on the state to build trust, confidence and respect for the role of the state by regularly disciplining its representatives who show disrespect for the rule of law.

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The Advent of Barack Obama!

By Tazoacha Asonganyi

The euphoria that has greeted the victory of Barack Obama in Africa can only be compared to that which greeted the election of Kofi Annan as the Secretary General of the United Nations some years ago.

To some, Obama?s feat is a signal that the hour of the black race to dominate the world as predicted by Colonel Ghadafi has come!

Such wishful thinking is indicative of the fact that even if we have refused to organize and prepare ourselves for such a possibility, we would be happy if it came our way!

It is the regular changes imposed by presidential term limits in the USA that allow people like Barack Obama to emerge from relative obscurity. Indeed, Barack Obama may never have emerged if the first president that took up office in the USA in 1789 and subsequent ones each served for 20 years or more!

To qualify to dominate the world, there must be appropriate processes that allow us to regularly identify the best among us to lead the way in all domains. This is why it is appropriate to revisit the recent debate on Presidential term limits in Cameroon which featured the usual classical arguments on the issue, except that it was taking place in a poor, underdeveloped country that needs innovative and strategic thinking to turn the country around.Those who were against term limits were mainly barons of the regime in place.

They argued that a "good" president could be lost through term limits; that the two-term limit is undemocratic because it limits voter choice; that in some western democracies there are no term limits for the heads of executive branches; that some policies require long term leadership to ensure their success...Those who were for term limits were mainly those who think that our society has to constantly renew itself to meet the various challenges of bringing prosperity to the country.

They argued that the role of President of the Republic is so important that unlimited terms may breed elective dictatorship; that unlimited terms allow the use of the advantages of incumbency to win election after election; that the longer a specific individual is in place and has the potential to continue to be in place in the future, the greater the chance that council, legislative and regional elections would be fixed to ensure personal support for him nationally; that the longer the tenure, the greater the chance for corruption; that no one man is greater than the office of President, the more reason why Ahidjo "the father of the nation" went and the presidency continued to function; that in our multi-ethnic, bi-national country, the best option for just and equitable rule is to have term limits that allow regular changes in the Presidency to manage our diversity; that the checks and balances that allow the legislative and judicial branches to
control the executive in western democracies are absent in Cameroon where the president of the republic is the "head" not only of the executive but also of the legislative and judicial branches; that if the people really support the policies of the incumbent, the party the President belongs to can continue them when his term is up...The term-limit debate was therefore about the best form of an executive branch that should lead governance processes in Cameroon.

Unfortunately, it was turned around to become a debate for or against Paul Biya. Having decided to put personal interest over national interest, we can surely not seek to eat our cake and have it! The processes that familiarized us with Barack Obama do not resemble those that allowed us to conduct and decide on the outcome of the term limit debate...The people in every society that seeks to dominate the world are inherently plural with different opinions, different points of view, different passions... They are always debating issues, in permanent struggle, in permanent self-reflection and permanently engaged in self-criticism.

These activities open the society to challenge, innovation and change. Since 1982, we have zigzagged from no-term-limits to term-limits and back to no-term-limits to satisfy a single individual! Such zigzagging cannot be said to be characteristic of people who are even imagining that they can one day rule the world... or produce a welcome surprise for the world, like Barack Obama!

The manner in which the term-limits debate was conducted and resolved is symbolic of the personalized and haughty manner in which governance business is conducted in Cameroon. This gags our society and constitutes a major impediment for those who pretend to be preparing to dominate the world. A second impediment is our lack of both a framework of governance and a form of state laid down in a constitution of Cameroon that is accepted by all stakeholders.

The present constitution, cherished by the party in power is contested by political parties in the country, since each has its own "constitution" for Cameroon that they would "adopt" if they got to power. It is also contested by civil society groups like the All Anglophone Conference that proposed its own constitution for Cameroon in 1993.

Further, there is presently a call from within some political parties like the feminist Coordination of alternative forces that is clamouring for the holding of a "Peoples? Assembly" to debate and adopt a framework of governance in Cameroon.

The country that has thrust Barack Obama to the fore has a framework for the organization of government laid out in their Constitution that is unanimously accepted by all stakeholders in the USA. Their constitution provides a solid foundation on which politics and political processes are conducted, to the benefit of all. Unfortunately, we lack such a solid, firm and unshakeable foundation for our country.

One of the principal failures of the regime in Cameroon is its refusal to heal this rift on constitutionalism by facilitating the provision of a framework for governance that is acceptable to all of us, without discrimination of political party, ethnic group, factional interest or other considerations. Without such a solid foundation, we are unable to stand up in the world, not to talk of aspiring to dominate it!We need a framework of governance that depersonalizes the conduct of issues of national interest, and gives citizens equal opportunity to pursue their happiness and wellbeing.

The absence of agreement on the supreme law of the land alienates stakeholders and leaves them quarrelling over trivialities, instead of freeing citizens to engage in individual, reasoned actions and productive efforts to bring prosperity to our society.

This is why the time to dominate the world still has to wait. But we should not fail to learn the "lesson from America": that in an appropriate environment, Africans can be just as good, sometimes better than other peoples!

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"Cameroon is now a high risk investment country and is not attracting any more foreign investors" says A. S. Ngwana, Chairman, Cardinal Democratic Pa

"Cameroon is now a high risk investment country and is not attracting any more foreign investors"
says A. S. Ngwana, Chairman, Cardinal Democratic Party.

After the shameful and disgraceful unconstitutional and illegal amendment of the Constitution in April this year, Cameroon is now going through a dangerous period of uncertainty and apprehension which calls for prayers to avoid catastrophe, calamity and complete chaos.
However we must tackle some urgent matters which affect our standards of living, growth and economic development. The economy is terribly affected, our standards of living are falling, and Cameroon is regressing instead of progressing

Corruption and Embezzlement Of Funds.

In 1987, the President of the Cameroon Democratic Party, (now Cardinal Democratic Party) CDP, in his address to the Cameroon community in London sounded the alarm that the economy was getting into serious trouble. In that address, he highlighted the following reasons for the economic malaise:

?Institutionalized corruption and embezzlement of public funds,
gross mismanagement of the economy and global fall in prices of raw material?. (Note that crude oil was then $14 per barrel, now it is more than $200 per barrel)
In 1999, The Prime Minister, Mr. Peter Mafany Musonge on National Television said ?the government is corrupt from top to bottom?
Again on March 12, 2000 The Herald News paper reported that the Chief Justice of the North West Province, Justice Tengen Pius admitted that some magistrates in the region are so corrupt that their professional malpractice not only marred the image of the judiciary but was also responsible for the increasing loss of confidence in the courts. ?We are aware of the situation where some magistrates have transformed their chambers into business premises where justice is sold for money instead of applying the law as it should be? he said

We are appalled that for more than 20 years today since the alarm was raised in London, President Biya has made no concrete move to stop corruption. The excuse he gave was that there was NO EVIDENCE.
Thank God, today America and other foreign countries have provided EVIDENCE of the accounts of some Cameroonians with huge balances of laundry money.

According to reliable information, there are nearly 50 Cameroonians, civil servants and Directors of public corporations who have the equivalent of more than 3 billion francs in their accounts and assets.
These figures are staggering and frightening, because none of these people could have this money if they did not steal it.

Since last year only a few people have been arrested and only a few of the arrested ones have been tried and convicted and none of the embezzled money or properties have been recovered.

The pace at which the investigations are taking place, is too slow. Most of these criminals will cover up their loot before they are caught.

1. We suggest that a special Task Force should be set up immediately to investigate all suspected cases of corruption, bribery, embezzlement and stealing of government, corporations and parastatals, funds.

2. This Task Force should be made up of security personal, government auditors, and accountants and external auditors from reputable private firms or companies.

3. It shall be the duty and responsibility of every Cameroonian to report to this Task Force in writing or by word of mouth any suspected cases of bribery and corruption, fraud, stealing or embezzlement. All cases so reported must be investigated immediately by the Task Force and suspected culprits brought to court. Any persons reporting to the Task Force shall be protected by immunity from liability of defamation or libel.

Special Tribunals headed by Judges of the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal are to be set up to try with dispatch all cases forwarded to them by the Task Force.

5. Only in very special cases should appeals be granted and bail only granted if twice the amount involved has been deposited in cash to the Court. We are fighting a war against hardened and merciless criminals.
6. If found guilty, the accused is to be given a maximum penalty ranging from 30 years to life imprisonment, all the monies recovered, and all properties acquired before and after the crime most be confiscated and forfeited to the State.

7. In this exercise, there shall be no ?regional balancing? because the criminals never thought of ?regional balancing? when they where stealing.

8. The President, Prime Minister, Parliamentarians, Judges, Heads of Government Departments, Army and Police Chiefs, Directors and Chief executives of corporations and parastatals, must declare their assets on joining and leaving the service. Any unaccounted assets or money must be forfeited to the State.

9. Cameroon is going through the worst period of its history.
We must declare war on corruption and prosecute it seriously.
The thieves are occupying very high positions in Cameroon, but our collective effort will bring all of them down.

If these monies were not stolen, we would have moved from the World Bank?s ranking of ?middle income? category of developing countries, in 1987, to the ?rich? category of developed countries today. In 1987 our GDP per capita was $1,262 but by 2000 it had dropped to $580 per capita. We have fallen to be among the poorest countries of the world and are happy to have our loans and debts written off. We should bury our heads in shame. We most stop this downward slide into chaos. Every year billions of francs CFA, are voted for roads, schools, hospitals etc, but the situation gets worse. Our standards of living keep falling, our country keeps growing poorer every year. The government is selling all government corporations and parastalals, liquidating some and creating unprecedented joblessness in the country. These thieves are killing us and they should be treated as ? armed robbers?.
Cameroon is now a high risk investment country and is not attracting any more foreign investors.
If we do not fight corruption seriously we shall remain poor for ever.
The window-dressing exercise going on now to impress the International Community that we are fighting corruption is not enough, we have to show that we mean business to fight corruption. If we don?t, the International Community should bring pressure to bear on the government as it did to force the CPDM government in 1990 to allow multi-party politics in Cameroon. We again appeal to lovers of democracy, to the International Community, and friends of Cameroon, to come to our assistance. Economic and diplomatic pressure should be brought to bear on President Paul Biya and his government to relent in their negative ways, to practice democratic principles and good governance. As in 1990, all aid, grants and loans to the Biya Government should be linked or tied to the observance of human rights, democratic principles and accountability, to ensure that the monies do not end up in foreign private bank accounts.

The Common Wealth should be ashamed that it is now a ?toothless bull dog?, unable to enforce even minimum standards of good governance, among its members, impotent to intervene in the gross violation of its principles, and blind to the cronyism that have robbed it of any political or moral weight. The Common Wealth has become a caricature of its own powerlessness; hence the Cameroon Government can treat it with scorn and contempt, ignoring all its pleas.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Reproductive health sensitization to be intensified

A three-day workshop took place in Yaounde to adopt strategies to achieve this
Representatives of civil society, NGOs and the media from six African countries have been meeting in Yaounde since Tuesday to try to agree on the most effective strategies to educate the public on reproductive health issues.

The three-day workshop seeks to implement the Maputo Plan of Action for the putting in place of a continental mechanism through which lessons on sexuality and reproductive health could be better served the public.

Organised by the Cameroon National Association for Family Welfare, CANMNAFAW, in partnership with the International Planned Parenthood Federation, IPPF, the Yaounde meeting is seeking to define the practical modalities of collaboration between the media, NGOs and the civil society for the effective implementation of the Maputo Action Plan, build the capacities of media practitioners on how to facilitate the implementation of the Action Plan and to see how useful the media could be in the coverage of health related issues in the subregion.

According to the minister of Public Health, Andre Mama Fouda, who co-presided at the opening ceremony with the minister of Communication, Jean-Pierre Biyiti bi Essam, the implementation of the plan here would greatly help ease the universal access to integrated services in the domains of sexuality and reproduction.

Speaking during the official opening of the workshop, the deputy regional director of IPPF, Pamela Ebot Arrey, said reproductive health and the economy should be placed side-by-side so as to know the number of offsprings to bring forth. She noted that complaints on unwanted pregnancies and unplanned children being born are rife in the continent.

The initiative to limit these undesired happenings was born out of a 27 August 2004 sub-regional forum on sexual and reproductive health in Yaounde. African Public Health ministers underlined that there was an alarming child mortality rate, low use of contraceptives and a high rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.

As such, they took upon themselves and their respective governments to promote, develop and reinforce public knowledge on these issues as part of measures to improve the situation.

The Yaounde workshop to round off Thursday, 24 April has participants from Burundi, Congo, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Cameroon.

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World Bank recommends private sector participation

by Harry Yemti

A report by the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank subsidiary, says that a well-managed and effectively regulated private sector health system could be a panacea to health delivery problems in sub-Saharan Africa
Health care in most of Sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst in the world, despite decades of enormous foreign financial, material and human resource assistance.

The private sector department of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has reported that very few countries are able to spend the required World Health Organisation (WHO) minimum standard of 30 to 40 dollars per person per year for health care.

The IFC report, published recently, observes that in spite of billions of dollars from international donors, a disturbing 50 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s health expenditure is done through out-of-pocket payments from its largely impoverished population.

In addition, the region lacks the infrastructure, facilities and trained personnel needed to provide even minimal levels of health services, the report notes.

To the IFC, the private sector has a critical role to play if sub-Saharan Africans must have more and better quality health care.

A study conducted by the IFC shows that an estimated 25 to 30 billion dollars will have to be invested in health care in the region over the next decade for the provision of over half a million additional hospital beds, training of about 90,000 more physicians, 500,000 nurses, and 300,000 community health workers, and to create better production and distribution facilities for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

The study shows that it would take a combined effort of both public and private sectors to reverse existing trends.

And even though the report finds that the private sector already delivers about half of Africa’s health care needs, it calls for a closer partnership with the public sector and a better-managed and effectively regulated private initiative.
Already most Sub-Saharan Africans prefer private hospitals because of their staff courtesy, convenience, quality service, availability and shorter waiting periods, says the report.

The report also highlights the role of the private sector in bringing significant improvements to health services to Africa’s poorest people and in reducing the financial burden on governments.

The report recommends that impediments to a productive private health care sector should be eliminated, burdensome regulations scrapped, increased access to capital and personnel training be facilitated, and risk-pooling mechanisms like health insurance services be encouraged.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Firewood, coal kill 1.5 million worldwide yearly

WHO proposes a shift towards ‘cleaner, more modern fuels’ that are unfortunately beyond the reach of pauperized majority of Third World dwellers

By Ntaryike Divine, Jr. in Douala

A recent WHO report warned that primitive methods of cooking and heating were tacitly snuffing some 1.5 million lives yearly, and mostly in the Third World.

The report, published last year, additionally indicated that more than 3 billion people worldwide
depended on solid fuels like firewood, dung, crop residues and coal for cooking and heating purposes. Such reliance, it said, caused indoor pollution which in turn provoked diseases like pneumonia and chronic respiratory complications affecting mostly women and kids.

Solid fuel dependence and subsequent indoor pollution accounts for 5 per cent of all deaths and diseases in the 21 most-affected countries named in the report which are Afghanistan, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda.

After noting that solid fuel usage has become one of the ten most significant menaces to public health worldwide, the WHO is proposing a drift from the primitive and polluting heating and cooking methods to more contemporary, safer and cleaner fuels like biogas and kerosene. In fact, energy and environment ministers from some of the concerned countries met in New York late April within the scope of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

Their intention was to settle on whether or not to rank indoor pollution on country policy agendas. If that were to be the case, it would imply that strides be engaged towards reining in dependence on solid fuels especially in the worst-affected countries. The same countries would also imperatively have to ensure that costs of contemporary fuels like the aforementioned biogas and kerosene are slashed.

That is already almost unimaginable in a country like Cameroon where despite its poise as an oil-producing nation, fuel prices have galloped steadily over the past couple of years. Kerosine currently costs almost 500 FCFA (about 1 USD) while the cost of a 12-kg bottle of cooking gas skyrocketed to 6.500 FCFA.

Even in the urban areas where dependence on solid fuels was relatively low compared to the rural parts of the country, households have returned wholesale to solid fuels, disconnecting gas bottles and depending on candles for lighting amidst frequent power cuts, and firewood for cooking.

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