Friday, April 24, 2009


In the face of rampant corruption, attaining the status of a legal tender within the Cameroonian society, the government has resorted to desperate tactics to contain the phenomenon. The reactionary measures range from denying the reality of corruption, justifying corrupt practices, and attempting to combat individuals who have installed bastions of corruption within different spheres of national life.


One of the most publicized and most heralded reactions to corruption, particularly the mismanagement and embezzlement of public funds in Cameroon is referred to as “Opération Epervier”. The “épervier” is a sparrow hawk, scientifically known as Accipiter nisus, a bird which preys on other birds. The “Opération Epervier” so describes the attitude of the sparrow hawk when it stalks and snatches its victims. In “Opération Epervier”, individuals who are alleged to have embezzled public funds are monitored and arrested in a similar way. The “justice man” identifies his target and “comes like a thief in the night”.

Keen observers of the Cameroonian society have applauded the operation as a tangible proof of the unimpeachable willingness to combat embezzlement, and stamp out corruption. The head of state is portrayed as a patriotic nationalist who will encourage the arrests of his own kinsmen, members of his party, and particularly pillars of his regime in the quest to bring back sanity to the management of public affairs in the country. Citizens from different grids on the geo-ethno-political spectrum contend that if the operation continues the widespread and arrogant way in which some individuals swindle common wealth at the detriment of the common good, will soon be a thing of the past. Proof is the fact that thanks to this “Opération Epervier”, many managers and directors generals of state corporations now think twice before they do not fidget with the national cake.

Critical observers of Cameroon ’s power dynamics however look beyond the manifest functions and dysfunctions of “Opération Epervier”. They see the “justice man” playing to the gallery. They too give credit to the head of state, who like in the case of appointments, is discretionary in choosing and humiliating the épervier victims. The Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Justice is said to have the dirty files of all those who have embezzled. And like the famous FBI director in the USA , J. Edgar Hoover, the Minister knows who will next be arrested and detained for embezzlement. Some newspaper editors even play John the Baptist or the Bab, prophesying and publishing the names of the ministers or top government officials who will next be apprehended by the sparrow hawk. The presidency or executive is seen as a puppet master tele-guiding the judiciary as it metes out justice “a la téte du client”.

One cannot ignore a desperate attempt to give corruption a national coloration. Just because so many people have been arrested from a particular region or ethnic group it becomes imperative to arrest people from other regions of the country. This way corruption is seen as an ill that affects all tribes and ethnic groups not only those who have confiscated power, and imposed a reign of “it is our own turn to squander”. Somebody somewhere desperately tries to fight corruption with the policy of “regional balance”. And the cells where the épervier victims are detained are made to look like a national assembly where all the regions are represented. These geo-ethnic calculations in the entire process completely take away all sincerity in the quest for justice and accountability.

At the end of the day, the critical question is whether the spectacular and selective way of bringing down top government officials really brings justice to the Cameroonian people. When people are arrested, tried, found guilty, and detained without the money they have embezzled being recovered, has justice been done? When other people are arrested and detained for long without trial, has justice been done? And this is the intriguing one, when in the same country, some barons of the regime are found guilty of embezzlement by the Supreme State Control and asked to pay meager fines of two million CFA francs, while others are humiliated by police officers and paraded in front of television cameras, has justice been done?

Whether one chooses to identify with those who applaud or sympathize with those who have been vomited by a system they participated actively in perpetuating, one will be better off living in a country where the laws are just and justice is real. And justice is only justice when it upholds the sociological notions of equity, impartiality and equality. If we hold any truths to be evident that all humans were created equal, then we should implore a society with a judicial system where equals are treated equally.

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Teacher Steals Student’s Mobile Phone

In most societies today, the role of the teacher is very important. Apart from being seen as nation builders, teachers are role models for pupils and students.

With the proliferation of schools and the recruitment of teachers on clientele instead of competence and moral bases, a lot of things do happened in educational milieu. How can one imagine a mathematics teacher stealing her student’s phone…? It is reported that, the teacher while lecturing saw one of her students with an attractive multimedia phone…A few minutes after, she asked all the students to go out for two minutes because they looked weary. When they returned, the student could not find his phone….He immediately reported the matter to the teacher who refused to pay any attention. As the lectures went on, the class prefect decided to call the student’s phone using his. To the surprise of the entire class, the phone started ringing inside Madam’s miniskirt. Gripped by shame, the Madam rapidly rushed out of the class to the school toilet…When she returned, she told the Principal that she went to the toilet because she had running stomach and that she knew nothing about the phone…Since then, the teacher has been nicked name “Madam Running Stomach.”
Source: Cameroon Tribune

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Cameroon: sugar cane farmers in need of bailout

Sugar cane is a sub-tropical and tropical crop that prefers lots of sun, and water - provided that its roots are not waterlogged. Sugarcane was originally from tropical South Asia and Southeast Asia.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

However, different species likely originated in different locations with S. barberi originating in India and S. edule and S. officinarum coming from New Guinea. The thick stalk stores energy as sucrose in the sap. The crop is produced in about 195 countries world wide to produce 1,324.6 million tons (more than six times the amount of sugar beet produced). Uses of sugar cane include but not limited to the production of sugar, Falernum, molasses, rum, soda, cachaca (the national spirit of Brazil) and ethanol for fuel. Sugar cane typically takes about 12 months to reach maturity although the time varies widely around the world from as short as six months in Louisiana to 24 months in some places. Where it differs from many crops is that it re-grows from the roots so the plant lasts many cycles [or 'ratoons', a word derived from the Spanish to sprout] before it is worn out.

The crop is highly cultivated in Cameroon, and precisely – Buea, (at Muea and Mile 17 area where there is abundant running water and fertile soil). It is also cultivated at Banjonk, where there is a sugar factory in financial quark mire. Though there are several foods and popular dishes derived from sugar cane in most countries where it is cultivated, Cameroonians, particularly those travailing along Mutegene - Muea highway prefer eating them raw. Though the sale of sugar cane is making brisk business here, stakeholders are going through difficult time.

The sugar cane sellers, most of them teenage boys who approach aggressively any vehicle that stops along the highway, holding well washed and bundled short stems of soft sweet sugar canes do not only shout to the embarrassment of every first visitor ‘fine sugar cane’ but does the marketing so aggressively that most passengers do not hesitate to buy a buddle or two for 100 CFA frs each. From their sales the young men get a commission and the rest is handed to the real ‘patrons’ who does the cutting and parceling.

The sugar cane traders aren’t comfortable with recent hikes in prices of food which has also affected their business. Thus a bundle of healthy sugar canes which usual sold for 1000 francs now cost 1200 FRS and above. “It could be better if you have your own farms because the main farmers sell to us at very high prices,” says Ofon Julius 21, who has been in the trade for 5 years.

Behind the Mile 17 motor Park, where most of the dealers sit all day long cutting and parceling the sugar cane for their boys to sell, a good number of them said the business is profitable apart from the bad moments when they can’t make ends meet. Although they believe they can open their own farms and employ more people, some expressed regret that the business sometimes barely affords their rents. They also expressed dissatisfaction at a new site provided by the Buea council in a bid to get them more organized. To the dealers the site located behind the park is nasty and uncomfortable. “We prefer our former position which gave us a clear view from the road rather than this swampy and dirty area” says Ambe Jonathan, alias “Titanick”
Emmanuel Ndip, a sixteen year old school dropout says he joined the trade after the death of his single parent about three years ago. He presently works for one of the sugar cane dealers who prepares and gives him to sell. “Though I can sell up to 3000 CFA frs or more a days, I’m unable to do anything because times are hard,” says Ndip, who wished he could find somebody “to pay my school fees as parents do to other children”.
On the other hand, Sugar cane farmers too have their worries. Apart from hoping that a sugar company be based here to rescue them and offer tangible prices equivalent to the high cost of living today, some farmers expressed the wish to extend their farms if they have the means.

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Yarm cultivation: A flourishing yet undecorated business in Buea - Cameroon

Yarm is a common commodity in all local markets between the Months of May and August!

Yams according to are any of the 10 economically important specie of Dioscorea, a genus in the monocotyledonous family Dioscoriaceae. These species, all tropical in their origin, are cultivated for their edible tubers (enlarged, fleshy, usually underground storage stems). Yarm is eaten around the world and called differently. In the United States, for example the name yam is often misapplied to the sweet potato (Ipomea batatas).

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

There are two centers of yam cultivation worldwide. The first is the high rainfall region of western Africa - from Ivory Coast to Cameroon. Here the most important species are the white yam (Dioscorea rotundata) and the yellow yam (D. cayenensis), named for the color of their tuber's flesh. The second center is Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and neighboring regions where the most commonly cultivated specy is the Asiatic yam (D. alata). Secondary areas of yam cultivation are the West Indies, Pacific Islands, and southeastern United States (from Louisiana to Georgia). However, most yam species originated in Asia and Africa; only one, the cush-cush yam (D. trifida), is native to the New World.

In Africa and particularly West Africa, yams are usually prepared as fufu - made from peeling, cutting, and boiling the tuber, and then pounding it into gelatinous dough. It is served with soups or stews or cooked raw in palm oil. Nutritionally, the yams are equivalent to the common potato, containing 80-90% carbohydrate, 5-8% protein, and about 3.5% mineral. Yams are not feed to livestock because they are more expensive than other kinds of animal feed.

In Buea – Cameroon, where the crop is highly cultivated, various species are harvested during the peak period (Between May and August) by the various farmers, who either work as individuals or as groups. Unfortunately for the farmers, the prices of yam in the market also fall within this period due to the fact that most farmers harvest at the same time couple with the absence of modern transformation and storage facilities. Consequently, most of the farmers are forced to auction their produce to buyam-sellams who either sell in the neighboring towns or transport to neighboring countries.

Tanyi Augustine, a member of Bokova Yam Farmers’ group regrets having any support from government to facilitate transformation or storage. Tanyi, underscores the fact that “yam farming could be a very lucrative business if properly managed.”
Government officials are however insisting that the farmers can only benefit if they work as groups and do viable projects for the various programs put in place by government.
Though most of the money given by government to farmers as loans has never yielded the required fruits, Agnes Mediki, chief of agric post, Bokova, near Buea, however revealed that government has made money available in a local bank in Buea, to assist farmers under an agric program. But many farmers believe it was just another sing-song.

The world production of yams according to amounts to about 22 million tons (20 million metric tons) per year, of which two-thirds comes from tropical West Africa. “Yams are to tropical West Africans what wheaten bread is to North Americans and Europeans,” states In tropical west-Africa, many social and religious festivals are associated with planting and harvesting yams. The story of the “New – Yarm’ festival (celebration marking the yarm season) is quite common in Nigeria.
Besides, yams are a source of steroids and alkaloids-chemicals that are extremely active physiologically in vertebrate animals. The most important yam steroid is diosgenin used in the production of birth-control pills. Alkaloids from yams have been used to kill fish and to poison darts and arrows for hunting. Some yams are poisonous to humans because of their high alkaloid content, and their tubers must be boiled before eating to remove the toxins.

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Bush Fires: Frequent Manmade Disaster in Cameroon

Activities Linked to Poor Farming and Grazing Techniques!

Bush fire is basically the combustion or burning of bush, forest or woodland area. Though brushfires are natural phenomena which occur in many places around the world where there is plenty of wood, leaves or forest that can burn, the situation is different in

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Here quite often than not it is man made! And the activity is quite common in the North West Region of the country especially from grazers who have a tradition that when grass is not burnt in the dry season cows are not healthy. Furthermore, some farmers (who constitute majority of the country's population) believe that 'ankara', (that is, gathering the grass and covering it with soil before burning) is the best way to cultivate certain crops. However, some of the fires are set accidentally either by cigarette smokers or children. Though environmental activists had been working with these farmers for decades - encouraging them to assemble the grass for what is called the biomass, cover and allow it rot to form good manure for their farms, much is yet to be done.

The situation remains problematic. Bush fires have not significantly reduced because the population is increasing and bush fires are expanding. "The effective reduction is there but it has little impact because it's just like controlling human population," says Elame Germain.
"Ankara", and slash and burn are so embedded in the culture of farmers in Cameroon that if one is patient to listen to you tell him/her not to gather grass and burn, he/she is just being polite and will not stop because they believe that there are certain crops that if you don't burn will not do well. It's sad to hear this. They burn the heaps and go to the house while it continue burning and if it is windy the sparks are carried into the bush and that is the beginning of bush fires.

As a country, Cameroon has not taken a policy to take care of the issue that is threatening the population. If people continue to do things in their own small way instead of the ministries of agriculture, environment etc thinking together, things will not change because of the many sources of brushfires in the country.
The consequences of these brushfires in future farming activities and worst ill slash and burn, and 'ankara' are devastating in that the soil is burnt until it turns red. Consequently, all the living organisms and matters that make plants grow are destroyed. It should be noted here that crop growth is based on the micro organisms that exist there. They turn biomass into fertility and when you kill them completely, the soil has nothing, thus it is for the benefit of farmers to ensure that their soils stay alive by not burning.

Mafeni Mase, Scientist at the country's regional center for agronomic research (IRAD) based at Ekona, near Buea, intimated, "when you burn the soil some bit of potassium and other nutrients come out and some plants do very well for the first year and nothing will do well the next years."
Instead of burning, Mafeni called on grazers in particular to allow the grass to die and the natural grass sprout. This according to him "will be good for the cows". He further advised them to accept to do paddock - "make a fence, put your cows inside and if you have enough land you can plot and cows stay here and then move to the other area and by the time they come back, grass has grown."

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Monitoring and Observing elections

Following recent publications indicating that the Chairman of Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) has been invited to monitor elections in South Africa, the issue of monitoring and observing elections is brought to the fore. If one were to go by the dictionary definition of "observe" and "monitor", election monitoring and election observation would be used interchangeably. But they represent different concepts, even if there is a lot that is common to both.

By Tazoacha Asonganyi,
Usually, the election observer has no role in election administration while the monitor has. The election observer only observes and does not play a supervisory or executive role; the election monitor does not only observe, take note and report but also supervises and gives binding, corrective instructions to the election officials in the course of the electoral process.
In principle, the monitor is a representative of a political party or candidate. Since political parties field candidates at elections, their monitors participate in the maintenance of transparency of the electoral process, to ensure that no other party receives more favourable treatment; indeed, they look out for the interests of their party/candidate.
Not so for the election observer whose role is usually said to be the purposeful gathering of information regarding an electoral process and the making of informed judgement about the process on the basis of the information collected. In other words, the purpose of observation is to establish whether an election is carried out in accordance with the laws, rules, regulations and processes that govern the conduct of elections in the country concerned, and check the behaviour of officials and stakeholders in relation to the election.

There are usually local and international observers. In the African context, the most important local observers known include the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) in Ghana and the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) in Nigeria. Indeed, during the recent Ghanaian elections, CODEO deployed 4000 independent observers to polling stations throughout Ghana; among them were 1000 Rapid Response Observers (RRO) deployed in "statistically representative and randomly sampled polling stations" throughout the country.
Each RRO was required to send five text messages on Election Day to the CODEO Observation Centre at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre, Accra. Using the information received from RROs and other CODEO observers, CODEO carried out a Parallel Voting Tabulation (PVT) to publish exit polls. Their exit poll coincided to the nearest decimal point with the final results published by the Electoral Commission of Ghana for the first round of the Presidential election! CODEO also played an important role during the presidential election rerun.
This is why it is appropriate to recommend that the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church, the Cameroon Union of Journalists and other local NGOs that send out local election observers during elections in Cameroon would do well to form a coalition similar to CODEO, so they can play a more significant role during such elections.

International Organisations like the African Union, the European Union, the Commonwealth, The Carter Centre, the National Democratic Institute, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the Francophonie and others usually send out international observers to observe elections in various countries. Such observers stay for weeks/months before the actual Election Day to assess candidate registration, the legal framework, the media situation, the work of the election administration, and the campaign environment, or for about a week to Election Day to observe the opening of polling stations, the voting process, and the counting and tabulation of results. Some international observers usually remain in the country after Election Day for a few weeks to observe how possible election-related shortcomings and complaints are dealt with by the election administration and the judiciary.

Both local and international observers usually adhere to a code of conduct that prescribes strict impartiality, no conflict of interest, professionalism, discretion, no hindrance of the process, no giving of instructions, no contradiction of decision of election officials, fact-based conclusions, no individual declarations on process, and much more. Each Organisation that deploys observers during elections gives its specific instructions to its observers.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the Chairman of ELECAM is technically an observer, not a monitor; he is a short term international observer in the Commonwealth Observer Group for the South African elections.
What the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa will be showcasing on Wednesday 22 April, 2009 is actually the apex of a process that has been prepared for about five years. We do hope that the much the ELECAM Chairman will observe will inspire, not overwhelm him. In any case, the man who urgently needs such exposure is not the Chairman of ELECAM, but the Director General who is responsible for the organisation and management of the poll in Cameroon.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Well-planted time bomb in Yaounde!

Why has relocating petty traders in Yaounde become an impossible task?

There is groaning and cursing in downtown Yaounde. Thousands of petty traders who were evicted from improvised locations that were destroyed to give the Pope a more aerated and sunny town are still unsettled. The city delegate Ntsimi Evouna passed the buck to Paul Biya who is taking his time to decide. We hope it is not too late when he does so. We also take the opportunity to deplore the many abusive management practices of Yaounde: unilateral decision-making, and a painfully slow administration etc.

The visit of the Pope to Yaounde last month was widely regarded as a success. But, for a sizeable class of petty traders in downtown Yaounde the visit spelled disaster.
The government decided at the last minute to clear out the thousands of petty businesses that illegally occupied street pavements, crevasses and gaps in between buildings.
Though the occupation was illegal, it had been so for so many years that a certain legitimacy had been established. Over the long decades of poor economic performance in Cameroon these micro-businesses had become a reliable livelihood for thousands of families.
Then in one fell swoop public authorities evicted them with little, if any notice! The men watched helpless how Council bulldozers smashed their premises, with anti-riot troops on standby.
The Pope’s visit since ended, but the government has not so far relocated the petty businessmen. Everyday hordes of idle men throng the city centre bemoaning their predicament. Pick pocketing and other minor crimes are on the rise.
The idle traders have several times planned to demonstrate in order to draw the government’s and the public’s attention to their plight but each time police nip the plan in the bud.
To divert growing irritation on the matter, Gilbert Ntsimi Evouna, the Yaounde delegate washed off his hands and explained that he was still waiting for a decision from the government to whom he has since made proposals for resettlement.
Fingers have since been pointing at Paul Biya who probably does not suspect how potentially explosive the gathering anger downtown Yaounde is. The president is taking his time on the matter. For the long term planning of Yaounde it would be advisable to go way out of town to resettle the traders. The experience of the movement of the Douala motor park to Mvan in recent years is a case in point. At first it looked distant enough from town but in less than a decade Mvan has become so crowded that shifting the park even further away on the Douala road would still be the right thing to do now.

Yet the appropriateness of a new market site for the displaced traders is only part of the problem. The real problem is that government does not give sufficient thought to matters and acts in haste or on the spur of the moment.
That approach victimises the traders and at the same time makes the government appear antagonistic. Is there a reason for creating such a mutually hostile situation when the Pope’s visit was known several months in advance? Why didn’t the government think out its programme more completely and notify the traders in good time?
The ideal would have been to give notice in good time and at the same time prepare a resettlement market in order to facilitate a smooth transfer. Why is government penalising citizens who only want to eke out a living for themselves and their families?
The government equally conveys the impression of incompetence. Why would it take so long for public authorities to decide on resettlement with so much space still available all around Yaounde? It is sad but true that much of this incompetence arises from the way government operates. Its highly centralised functioning obliges that matters of doubtful importance still be sent to the president for his approval.

The inherent shortcomings of centralisation would have been remedied by fluidity and dispatch in the treatment of files. No. They are even further compounded by a baffling maze of slow processes that never seem to end! You absolutely need the intervention of people to get a file out of the works. But the more important problem, it would appear, is the absence of cabinet decision-making whereby policy matters are discussed at meetings of policy ministers before implementation. In Yaounde Paul Biya personalises this process as much as he can.
Decision-making in government as such is devoid of the contribution of the intelligence and experience of the governmental team. Having decided, Paul Biya details a minister to proceed with implementation. Sometimes the matter may not be within the minister’s portfolio. No doubt, the problems of this approach are many.

CAMAIRCO, the new national air carrier that succeeds Cameroon Airlines, was for instance, foisted on the government for implementation. The president decided all by himself, against the huge odds stacked against the success of the venture. CAMAIR’s failure has still not been analysed nor understood. The president even demanded to have the air carrier in operation in three months, i.e. seven months late now! How did he arrive at that? Why didn’t he get the views of technical experts? How comfortable does he feel now with that decision that was well advertised? Moreover, given the yawning deficit in human and socio-economic development in Cameroon, would a new air carrier be a priority at this time, before education, health-care delivery, and a road network? The problems arising from Yaounde’s personalised decision-making can again be observed in roads that the president has again unilaterally decided would be redone. The recent decisions to expand the Nsimalen airport road and the road through Emana are examples. Both roads are only about two decades old! Why was there no foresight?

Why would the government have taken so much trouble to build an airport so far away from town (24 kms) and failed to conceive of a sizeable enough road to link it to the town? It can now be said that having missed the opportunity at that beginning, it is now a doubtful decision to embark upon a dual carriage way.
It will be extremely expensive now, partly because of the costly compensation to pay for the hundreds of premises that will have to be shifted further backwards.
The funds would better be applied to other more urgent development projects. A modest widening, straightening and smoothing of the Nsimalen road are what are needed now.
Like the airport road, the road through Emana is a fairly recent road. The same question applies: why did the government not have the foresight at the planning stage?
The Douala-Yaounde road is prone to accidents essentially because of its narrowness. Given the intensity of the traffic on that road commonsense would at planning stage have suggested a dual carriageway. And, if that were not the case, a good nine-meter wide road would have been the reasonable thing than the human trap that the road has since become.

Ahmadou Ahidjo
Paul Biya will surely say the road was Ahmadou Ahidjo’s, but that wouldn’t still answer the question why a considerable expansion had since not been undertaken on the very important and busy road. These visible consequences of unilateral decision-making are surely matched by many more that will never be known to the public, which take a heavy toll on the public treasury. With Cameroon’s disastrous economic growth rate of 3.2% it is far from helpful if important development projects have to be done again only a few years after. That is evidence of loss of the sense of priority.
With due regards, Paul Biya must admit that his unilateral approach to decision making is extremely prejudicial to the government and the country as a whole. The errors are many, expensive and time wasting. Moreover it does not make sense at all to ignore the input of senior assistants whose function is to provide support from their combined intelligences and experiences. All presidents, from Washington through Paris to Moscow personally chair policy meetings once every week. They are all directly involved in the making of important policy decisions and debates can sometimes be lively.

Paul Biya should not deny himself a practice that only strengthens him and makes the government more effective. What happens everywhere confirms the fact that being a political leader and head of state does not render anyone more intelligent than others. Leadership is a role that also requires the resource support of one’s collaborators.
For Cameroon one way of getting the government move faster is to make the Prime Minister work independently in treating the daily affairs of the government in such a way that they do not again have to be sent to the presidency for vetting.
Granting the PM autonomy is stewardship delegation whereby the steward renders account of his stewardship periodically. But all delegation, and stewardship delegation of authority in particular, is very much depended on a high level of trust for the steward.
Centralisation, which involves direct control and supervision of the work of the subordinate, is rooted in distrust and doubt about competence. In the early years of independence in the 1960s and 1970s with so much political uncertainty and danger of sabotage, Ahmadou Ahidjo might have had some justification for creating a highly centralised administration. The word sabotage was commonly used in those days!

But several decades into the post-independence era with so much of the system defined, clarified, and in control, and given a much bigger and more complex administration than in those early days, all with corresponding demands by a much bigger public, Paul Biya cannot any more justify the defective centralisation still practiced in Cameroon today. It has failed and should not continue. We think it is high time to go for delegation and empower others to work more efficiently at their different levels. It is high time for administrative efficiency in order to meet the demands of a modern state and good governance.
And if the president is still reticent about this let him note what damage his practice of unilateral decision-making is causing Cameroon. By not associating others fully in the decision-making process the result is poor and unconvincing; it lacks foresight that the intelligence and experience of others would provide.
An admirer once asked Isaac Newton, the 17th century English scientist and mathematician why it was that he saw everything so much better than everyone else. He could see better, Newton said, because he had the advantage of having sat on the backs of others.
The Bible also has a lesson in this regard for Paul Biya: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Or doesn’t it matter to the president?
Source:The Herald

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Why Africa South of the Sahara has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world

Most of Africa South of the Sahara, for centuries was cut off from the industrial revolution that transformed most of the world. Due to this isolation, Christianity which influenced European culture and laws did not come to Africa early enough to influence African traditions, cultures and laws. Consequently, polygamy, fornication, and promiscuity were not considered SINS, by African laws, customs and traditions. Hence HIV/AIDS

By A.S. Ngwana,

To know why Africa South of the Sahara has the highest rate, about 76 percent of HIV/AIDS infections in the world, we must revert to history.
From about 100,000 to 10,000 years ago man survived mainly by hunting, fishing, scavenging and living a migratory type of life. But from about 10,000 years ago, man was able to domesticate plants and animals and to live a sedentary life. This agricultural revolution made possible a phenomenal growth of human population and set the stage for events in human history that led to civilisation and economic development.
Man wanted many children for economic reasons. The big man or the rich man was the man with many children who could cultivate big farms and grow richer. These men became chiefs, fons, emirs, or Kings with overwhelming importance and power. In this urge to get material influence and power, many people resorted to polygamy and large families. Sexual intercourse was mainly for procreation and pregnancies were no problem at all because children were considered a gift from God. Hence more children meant more blessings.
All governments throughout history actively encouraged their population growth. The motivations varied from economic, defence and social security. Consequently they treated abortion, murder, manslaughter, and euthanasia as serious criminal offences, punishable in some cases with the death penalty.

In 1873 the U.S. Congress enacted the “Comstock Law”, which regulated public access to birth control devices, medicines or information, for the next 60 years. It was illegal to distribute any device (condom), medicine or information designed to prevent conception, this was applicable even to physicians.
The most notorious policies to boost birth rates and population growths were deployed by totalitarian regimes of far left and right. In Ceausescu’s Romania, the Marxist dictator instituted monthly pregnancy test to see if women were performing their patriotic duty, and they provided more subsidized housing to larger families.
Fascist regimes even went further as Mussolini introduced a tax on bachelors above a certain age.
In Nazi Germany the pro-birth program was highly motivated and information about contraception was suppressed and unmarried adults faced tax penalties.
Across the communist block pro-birth policies were applied. Even in democracies like the France of the 1920s, laws were introduced to limit the sale of contraceptives and payments were allocated to women who stayed at home (giving birth).
Europe like the rest of the world adopted the culture of life for religious, economic and political reasons. European culture and traditions were greatly influenced by the Christian religion and laws and customs were based on the “sanctity of life”. Abortion, adultery, and homosexuality were an offence, and divorce, contraceptives, suicide, euthanasia, prostitution, bestiality, necrophilia, paedophilia, pornography and incest were forbidden by law.
Then secularism, materialism and realism crept in and things started falling apart.
The Industrial Revolution transformed Europe from an agrarian society into a predominantly manufacturing world. Industrialization, mechanisation, and science and technology rendered manual labour less demanding and almost irrelevant in some cases.

But most of Africa South of the Sahara, for centuries was isolated and cut off from the technological, intellectual progress and cultural revolutions that were taking place in the whole world. It was cut off from the civilizations of the Mediterranean and the Near East by the Sahara Desert. It was cut off by the Equatorial Nile. It was cut off by the oceans and it was cut off by the almost impenetrable tropical forest. In its isolation, Africa remained an AGRARIAN society and maintained the need for large families and many children. More so, many children died at infancy due to diseases and lack of medicine. Consequently, parents had many children on the assumption that some would survive to adulthood. Fertility was an important part of life and the gods were often consulted when this was lacking, for more children meant more blessings from God. Barrenness was considered a curse from God. Hence the African love for many children developed and with it our culture of POLYGAMY.

Christianity, which had influenced European culture and laws, did not come to Africa early enough to influence African traditions, cultures and laws. Consequently, polygamy, fornication, and promiscuity were not considered SINS, by African laws, customs and traditions.
HIV/AIDS is spread mainly by sexual intercourse. Polygamy and the African love for many children encourage promiscuity, and promiscuity encourages the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Hence Africa South of the Sahara has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the world. Therefore to control the spread of AIDS in Africa South of the Sahara, Africa must change or modify some of its cultures and traditions. Those African countries South of the Sahara, which have embraced the Christian religion, and practiced fidelity in monogamy and abstinence before marriage, as preached by the Christian religion, have experienced a great reduction in their rate of the HIV/AIDS infection.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Religious experience: Of what relevance is religion to Cameroon’s under-development problem?

Work resumes in Cameroon after a long Easter weekend of so much religious activities. The shocking thing is that after all that, the same civil servants now return to the same vices that have destroyed public life in Cameroon and set the country way behind on its development. Religion by itself doesn’t quite help; it is virtue that it does not teach that changes men and makes their leaders the responsible men they should be.

For Christians, Easter is easily the most intensely religious of all the feasts of the Christian calendar. The Easter weekend begins on Thursday with religious services that continue almost non-stop until Easter Sunday, the climax and grand finale.
The Catholics add to that the re-enactment of the ‘stations of the cross’ and all-night praying on Thursday. The intensity of the experience is often overwhelming, and people assume a piety that gives the impression of a new life. Until they return to their daily business. Then it is business as usual.
Public officials resume the habits of embezzlement, abuse of office, tribalism, and all the many endemic vices that have much undermined Cameroon’s public life.
Muslims are no different. They return from the month-long annual fast appearing chastened and resolved for a new life. Until they too settle down to daily routine; and behold it is business as usual.
Given the frequency of these religious events and the enthusiasm with which public officials (and the rest of the public) are attached to them one would have thought that a young country like Cameroon would since have enjoyed a major developmental leap forward, thanks to Christian leadership. But no, Cameroon has instead fallen much behind on its development.
The question to ask is if in reality the religious experience i.e. church going, ceremonies; liturgical rituals and practices, have any or as much transformational power as believed or presumed. Does church going or membership of a religious body in itself lead to character change?
Why is it that Cameroon’s leadership class, most of whom are practicing Christians and Muslims, are simply unable to lift the country and its people out of poverty? Why is there a conspicuous lack of commitment to development by Cameroon’s leaders? Why are they unable to be trusted with the welfare of the nation?
If Christianity and Islam fail to provide a successful leadership ethic, might it not be high time to question the real value of the religious experience. Is religion really worthwhile?
Is it not possible to believe in God and live a decent and dignified life in full respect of God’s Will, setting aside the doctrines and practices of the churches which have failed to lift humanity?
Looking down the history of human civilisation it is disturbing to observe that religion has been the cause of more wars and conflicts than any other single cause or disagreement among men!
There has been just as much conflict and wars between the different religions as there have been within the same religion. Catholics and Protestants have been in as much armed disagreement as Muslim Shiites and Sunnis.
Which school boy did not learn of the Crusades, a long series of religious military campaigns waged by much of Christian Europe, at first to take back land that was previously under Christendom from Muslims? There were also sweeping military campaigns in the Middle East and North Africa in the name of Islam.
In the 16th and 17th century and for a hundred years, Catholics and Protestants were engaged in a seemingly unending series of wars causing so much bloodshed. In our day Catholics and Protestants fought with each other in Northern Ireland for more than three decades.

In India, Hindus and Muslims fought each other until Muslims moved to settle in the province that became Pakistan in 1948. Buddhists and Hindus have been fighting in Sri Lanka. Central to the thorny problem of the creation of two states in the Middle East is religious intolerance between Judaism, practised by the Israelis, and Islam, practised by the Palestinians. If religion leads to so much misunderstanding and bloodshed among men then the case must be strong for the argument that at last religion by itself is not what man needs, but something else that religion and religious bodies have failed to teach.
Indeed there is a whole atheistic movement that declares inability to believe in God, or even in his existence. This is partly because the supposedly almighty, all-powerful, all good and all-wise God as portrayed in the various teachings of religious bodies, they find unacceptable.
Why would an All-powerful God, for example, allow so much evil and misery on earth? The German philosopher Leibniz, who believed in God resolved this question by simply accepting that even the existence of evil is evidence that this is ‘the best of all possible worlds.’
But the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, mathematician and probability theorist was more prudent in his atheism. Knowing many decent and respectable people who believed in God and in a life hereafter, Pascal took the unusual view that even if we do not know if God exists, let us play safe rather than risk being sorry, too late!
Still the question of the relevance of religion remains. Thomas Paine, one of America’s founding fathers addressed this question in a book he titled ‘The Age of Reason.’ Paine was a convinced deist but became uncompromisingly hostile to religion and the Bible.
He held the strong view that any alert human being could easily learn about God’s Will and Word from nature. For an 18th century America that was so deeply religious, Paine was hated for his views.
Ghandi, the Indian sage, probably held the same view when he condemned “religion without sacrifice,” as being a deadly sin, meaning paying attention to religious ceremonies and other external rites but avoiding the sacrifice of living by virtue and example.
The argument has been strongly made in some quarters that Jesus Christ himself did not found a religion, and did not need one. He brought the Truth from His Father above which he taught mankind. The word ‘church’ which he used is said merely to refer to the ‘community’ of those who had made sense of his word and wanted to live by it.
In fact, Christ was always impatient and hostile to the religious groups of the day. He strongly condemned the religious practices of his day as being lifeless and hypocritical, practices which could not advance them spiritually.
Judaism, the Jewish religion, up to this day is very formalistic. There was a whole list of dos and don’ts that adherents were expected to fulfill each day to be considered to be true believers. One study counted 127 dos and don’ts just to fulfill the Sabbath.
Jesus Christ systematically condemned that kind of prickly and lifeless religious practices of those days as being worthless. If your camel falls into a hole on the Sabbath, take it out, or if you must go to the farm to harvest food for your meal on the Sabbath day, do so without fear.
That way Christ deliberately and fearlessly changed focus from external deeds to the quality of man’s inner life, which he said matters. If you give your neighbour something, for example, do it in such a way that the left hand does not know what the right hand has given, for only the Father in Heaven who sees it will reward you.

Little by little Christ thus caused a revolution in the existing order of religion; hate plots began to develop around him to get rid of him because of his irksome teachings that sought to destroy religion.
It is also noteworthy that Jesus Christ did not teach any theology, nor did he at all create a priestly hierarchy as the churches later created it. In fact, the Catholics, not content with the Ten Commandments, also formulated the Seven Commandments of the Church!
The New Testament, and particularly the summary of Christ’s statement of Truth which he gave in The Sermon on the Mount provides no foundation for these later additions which have only rendered ‘living the Will of His Father’ more complicated and confusing for mankind.
In the end religion and its external and often lifeless practices which Christ castigated as not helpful to the life of the spirit were fully re-established by the disciples of Christ, regrettably, to the extent that it was the same prelates of the church who found its many practices totally in disagreement with the needs of the spirit.
That’s what gave rise to the protestation initiated and spearheaded by Martin Luther, German priest, theologian, and university professor. His ideas started the Protestant Reformation in 1517.
It is perhaps regrettable to say that the reformation only broke up the Catholic Church and gave way to many other religious bodies such as the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Baptists, and the Anglicans etc. But at last religion and religious bodies had come to stay; each with their different practices yet religious, as Christ certainly did not want it. For ‘it is not those who call me Lord, Lord who shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but those who do the Will of My Father’. It can therefore be asserted without doubt that what matters is striving to live by God’s Will rather than adherence to a religion, its practices and doctrines that offer little to the human spirit and even causes intolerance, setting man against man.
After this long and grim account of the unhappy place of religion in human society it would be fair here to point to the one memorable positive contribution by religion to the development of Europe.
Interestingly enough, the German sociologist Max Weber attributes the 17th century rise of capitalism in Europe to what he calls ‘the protestant ethic.’
The early industrialists of the Ruhr Valley were inspired by a version of the doctrine of predestination.
Only a certain fixed number of humans, went the doctrine, were predestined to be admitted into Paradise. The only way one could be sure that he was among the chosen was to demonstrate this while on earth through hard work and success, and at the same time to live a frugal life.
The result of this, Weber explains, was the accumulation of capital that was reinvested, further expanding productivity, on and on. No doubt Germany, to this day, is the economic and industrial powerhouse of Europe with a manpower productivity that outclasses that of other European countries.
The Protestant work ethic is therefore one of the very few brightest achievements of religion. It is also interesting to note that if religion has failed to uplift man it is because it pays little attention to teaching virtue that it nevertheless preaches.
It is universally recognized that only the unconditional practice of love of neighbour, which translates to respect for his person, name, reputation and property are absolutely necessary for peace and harmony in society. To successfully relate to other people humans need to learn to trust and give trust as well.

To face the daily problems of existence we all need a measure of courage and bravery, hope and foresight. How do we cope with adversity? Fight or flight? Psychologists observe either aggressive behaviour or withdrawal when people are faced with unpleasantness they cannot easily cope with. Neither is in the long run good, they say. How do men ride out the occasional storms of life?
As it works out, life is necessarily an interdependent reality; we must relate to others to do business, for instance. Surprisingly men need a considerable degree of independence and self-control, which is inner growth, to relate to others successfully. We can’t afford to cheat in business, for example, or even become unnecessarily nasty to people.
When religions begin to teach the virtues not only do they begin to raise virtuous and robustly mature humans, they will be surprised to notice how closely they are in agreement. Teaching love of neighbour to a Christian child will make him just as much of a decent human being as a Muslim who had the same quality of instruction.
St Augustine, one of the Fathers of the Catholic Church grew up a badly behaved and riotous young man. It took the disgust and determination of his mother, St Cecilia, to work hard over long years to correct the young man. Cecilia succeeded through applying a combination of discipline, tireless instruction and prayer. In the end the man took to the Church and became one of its shining lights.
Curiously, it was not the church that helped the man but his mother. The connection with the church is misleading. There is yet the case of Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers who worked on himself by himself. He grew up ill mannered and profoundly unhappy with the kind of personality that he had.
He bravely confronted all his bad habits and made up his mind that he would change every bit of his character. He identified all the character traits that he wanted to replace the ones with which he was dissatisfied.
As he recounts in his very readable autobiography, Franklin then worked out for himself a combination of practices that he would undertake each day to fix the new habit in his mind. Taking a month for each habit, Franklin gradually refashioned his character and became a greatly admired man of many abilities.
Franklin’s autobiography and the great statesman that he became have since influenced several generations of teachers of character formation and a flood of books to go with that. Many individual success stories continue to come out of these teachings.
It would appear that some religious bodies are beginning to shift attention from ceremony and externals, focusing more and more on the inculcation of virtue and the reformation of character. This we believe is the right direction.
It is out of a convinced sense of virtue and depth of character that political leadership in any country can fulfill its role with dignity and success. A political class of that ethic would respect the public good that they have the privilege to hold and manage in sacred trust.
Yet in the absence of such training for public officials, public institutions when well operated can also go a long way in disciplining people to respect public office. That also means punishing people whenever they break the rules of the conduct of office. But sorry, none of that is applicable in Cameroon. Religion has failed; training in virtue does not exist; and public officials break the law with utter impunity. No doubt, none of all the religious fervour and piety coming from the mills of religious rituals of the churches at Easter makes a difference.

Source: The Herald

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Cameroon: Economic growth has remained too low to reduce poverty – IMF

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission led by Mr. Mauro Mecagni visited Cameroon during March 26-April 9, 2009 to conduct the 2009 Article IV Consultation. The mission met with Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni, several Cabinet members, senior officials, Members of Parliament, the business community, donors, and representatives of labor unions and civil society organizations.

Below is the statement issued at the end of the Mission:
“The Article IV consultation discussions focused on assessing the state of the Cameroonian economy, the impact of the global economic crisis, and the policy challenges posed by the need to accelerate economic growth while preserving the macroeconomic stability achieved under the government program supported by the 2005-08 Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement.

“The global economic crisis is already affecting Cameroon through various channels. Lower oil prices are reducing exports and public revenues. Weaker external demand is noticeable in the timber, cotton, rubber and aluminum sectors, and has begun to spill over into the related transport sector. Tighter external financing conditions have caused delays in important investment projects, including in the mining sector. As a result, for 2009 the mission expects real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth to decelerate to about 2½ percent from 3.4 percent in 2008, in a context also of declining inflation. The overall fiscal and external balances are projected to turn to a deficit.

”The mission and the authorities agreed that the implementation of the 2009 budgetary spending plans, protecting in particular priority areas, is needed to avoid a public sector contraction in a year of declining economic growth. The resulting deficit can be financed by the prudent saving of past oil revenue windfalls, which was achieved during the recent PRGF-supported program. While not directly affected, the financial sector should be closely monitored, and plans to deepen financial intermediation accelerated to speed up the development of the domestic bond market as alternative financing channel. The mission recommends that the authorities remain vigilant against the possibility of downside risks, and continue their efforts to improve the efficiency of public spending while preserving transparency and provision of information on budgetary operations.

“Looking forward, Cameroon is at a crossroads. Although recent macroeconomic stability achievements provide a solid foundation, including in order withstanding the impact of the global crisis, The authorities are committed to maintain the stability achieved, and to tackle structural impediments to growth, although they realize that the global crisis will make this task more challenging. They are eager to address the constraints deriving from the insufficient supply of energy and the poor infrastructure–including for ports, roads and access to market of agricultural products—by refocusing capital spending while continuing their efforts to mobilize nonoil revenues. Decisive actions are also needed to improve governance, the weak business environment, and the still limited role of the financial sector in the development of the economy, and the agricultural sector in particular. The mission supports the authorities’ efforts and commitment to address these challenges through a medium-term economic program in the context of a new Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP) under preparation. The global economic slowdown and the unsettled conditions in international financial markets have increased the urgency of defining a coherent and resolute reform agenda.

The mission would like to thank the authorities for their warm hospitality, the productive and open discussions, and the excellent cooperation received during the mission. It is expected that the IMF’s Executive Board will discuss the 2009 Article IV Consultation with Cameroon in mid-June 2009.”
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter celebration: What is new in your life?

The Catholic Church makes a big deal over “light”. I wonder why that is? In most Catholic Churches, light is used to influence our imagination through stained glass windows. In almost every Catholic Church there is a place where one can light a candle before a statue and say a prayer.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

And last night, in every Catholic Church throughout the world without excerption, a big fire was lit and was blessed and a light from that fire was carried solemnly through the dark into the church building.
The Catholic Church for centuries has a long term love affair with “light”. And today we celebrate the reason why. We celebrate Jesus who is risen and not dead. He is the true light that brightens everything in our world. For too long the world existed in darkness, there was no true light. Everyone’s life was covered in the darkness of sin and despair. Then when Jesus came, the world knew for the very first time the true meaning of hope.
The Church makes a big deal about “light” because without it, there is no reason for us to live. Jesus is our light, our life and our hope.
He is among us today and He is risen and for that reason we celebrate today joyfully. Don’t forget to light a candle in church or at home. After all, there is no reason why you should live in darkness, now that Jesus is risen!
For your reflection:

What’s new in your life?

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Why didn’t ‘the man Jesus’ stay dead?

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciples whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken Jesus from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciples went out and came to the tomb. Jn 20:1-3
By Yemti Harry Ndienla

On the cross, there came a point when Jesus’ heart stopped beating and his lungs stopped breathing. Why is it that he didn’t stay dead?
Because he was God. Well, we know that God doesn’t die. But what about his humanity? Why didn’t Jesus, as a man, die once and for all? Because God – life flowed through his humanity too. When God became flesh, it was a permanent union between the “God” and the “human”. That’s why Jesus, even in his humanity, could not stay dead. God – life ran through and through his humanity.
What about us?
Same thing: we have been given the gift of God – life, which runs through and through our humanity… which means that, as a human being, with a transformed human body, I can live forever.
Happy Easter

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday: The ‘Longest’ Day

The Holy Saturday blessing of food for tomorrow’s Easter breakfast is especially popular among the Polish people. It is called “swieconka” (pronounced sh-ve-yen-sohn-ka) which means “holy food.”
Families prepare basket with the food they will eat on Easter morning – decorated eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, a loaf of bread with a cross cut into the crust, cheese, salt, horseradish, and butter carved into a lamb. The baskets are brought to the parish church on this day to be blessed by the priest.
Holy Saturday has been called “the longest of days” – the long Sabbath when the tomb of Jesus was sealed and still … when Jesus’ mother, peter, the other apostles, and Mary Magdalene waited helplessly in quite stillness, shocked wondering, worrying.
For them, trying to observe the Sabbath must have been like being in a straitjacket. You weren’t allowed to walk more than a few hundred steps – which meant that they couldn’t go to visit the tomb. All they could do was attend the Sabbath prayer service, and then sit around feeling numb.
But for us it is not an empty day. It is a day filed with expectation. We know something that the disciples of Jesus did not know on that long Saturday: Jesus has gone through death to risen life.
We are about to celebrate this great event, and because of the communion of saint, we celebrate it together with Mary, and peter, James, john, Mary Magdalene – all who have gone before us.
Take some time thinking about that … our “live” connection with those who are with the Lord … some of whom you knew personally on earth including my father, Ngwa Yemti Gabriel, Sophie Nganje, Imbolo I. Ngonje, Peter Njila, Mbome’a Veseke, and Lyombe Simon Naka.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

G-20 summit and Cameroon: All the many reasons why that success does not augur well for Biya regime!

The success of the G-20 summit in London last week more or less sounds the death-knell of the Biya regime. The rich countries that traditionally are reluctant to give poor countries enough development aid suddenly gave out so much of it. That is because the success of regenerating their economies needs the support of poor countries. But the new money also comes with good governance requirements that are absolutely necessary for its successful use. That means that Paul Biya will be obliged to yield to credible elections. Surely not a happy prospect for a regime that survives on flawed elections.

‘Surprise’ was repeatedly used to describe the successful outcome of last week’s G-20 summit that brought together leaders of the world’s richest economies, emerging powers and developing countries.
They came together in order to see how to cope with the current downturn of the global economy in which no country seems to be spared. Although it was generally accepted that a common solution was the right thing to do, yet there were important divergences that made the outcome of the summit far less than certain.
There was, for instance, a clear rift between the Franco-German approach that insisted on emphasis on tougher regulations for the banking and finance sectors, as well as a crackdown on tax havens, where money is hidden to escape taxes.
That was against the position spearheaded by the US and Britain which constituted in calling for the injection of more money to stimulate economies. Nicolas Sarkozy was so convinced about his thinking on the matter that he threatened even before the summit to walk out of it the discussions didn’t go the Franco-German way.
The developing countries, and particularly Africans, were unsure what would come out of the summit for them, given the great concern of the rich economies to fix their own situation.
There was thus doubt, if not pessimism, about the summit’s outcome. But, thanks to an overriding spirit of compromise, the summit turned out far more successful than the doubts had led even its key actors to believe.
There was surprise in more than one respect: the show of unity among world leaders; and the unusually substantive achievement for a one-day summit! But the biggest surprise was for developing countries (and Africa) that had hardly expected anything out of the summit.
The rich nations took a commitment to prop up the tottering economies of developing countries through the International Monetary Fund that will get the staggering sum of one trillion dollars for the purpose. The US, Japan and the EU are raising substantially their financial contributions to the IMF for development aid.
The International Monetary Fund is expected to use the huge infusion of credit to issue loans and grants to developing countries in order to help them pick up their economies, and particularly spur slumping global trade.
Commentators generally admitted that the two days of socialising and summitry had unified world leaders and woven bonds of friendship between them in a way that had been unsuspected. Group photographs showed the summiteers with hands wrapped round each other.
It was a welcome opportunity to broach bilateral issues and exchange visit invitations. Barack Obama, for instance, accepted invitations to visit Moscow and Beijing.
The question may be asked as to how the London summit’s outcome affects Cameroon.
The answer to this question seems clear. Given the availability of abundant funds the rich world is now far more disposed to granting development aid to poor developing countries than ever. It even appears from the look of things that poor countries might be ‘pushed’ to take development loans!
The logic of the sudden and pressing need to help developing and poor countries is that all the stimulus efforts to regenerate the rich economies will only succeed fully when developing and poor countries are also brought into the global trade chain again.

Although this turns out to be helpful to poorer economies, it is clear to see that the rich nations’ altruism is inspired in the first place by their self-interest. For, strapped for cash as they are, this was hardly the time to dish out with all that enthusiasm the $1.1 trillion that was pledged to the International Monetary Fund.
Barack Obama instantly tripled the US development aid! The EU and Japan also raised substantially their contributions to the IMF money! Things have never been so good for the IMF that reviews considered to be the greatest winner at the London summit! And all that is development aid!
Those who doubt this position must note that over many years the industrialised economies failed in their commitment to give aid to poor countries, particularly Africa. The promise by the G-8 at Gleneagles to give a $50 billion aid package to Africa was not respected.
The US, especially, has always been far, far below the recommended 0.7% GDP annual financial aid by rich countries to developing countries to help boost their struggle out of poverty.
Now comes a devastating global recession whose ultimate solution involves, or better still obliges, support for the poor countries. Then comes the cash, plenty of it, even at a time that it hurts to give! Rich countries know only too well the absolute need to stimulate world trade and resume globalisation. Aren’t they the major beneficiaries?
Then comes the catch for countries like Cameroon. The rich countries will necessarily be concerned about good governance in African countries much more than before. For that is the only way they can be sure that the aid they give will be appropriately used. Now more than before they want African economies to work well because that serves the interests of their own economies as well.
With greater commitment by Western countries to fund the IMF, it seems likely that bilateral aid to African countries will drop even further. It can also be predicted that both good governance performance and economic management of African countries will become the common concern of the entire group of the rich world.
Barack Obama already hinted at this on his arrival last Friday at Strasbourg for the NATO summit. He warned, in answer to a press conference question, that corruption in African countries would not be tolerated. That probably said it all. The new US president had already warned right on the day of his inauguration that leaders who use deceit to continue to stay in power ‘are on the wrong side of history.’
No doubt these developments on the international scene do not augur well for the 26-year regime of Yaounde. The unity of the international community, which was never as close as now and which is dictated by the recovery of the rich countries’ economies is a development that the Cameroonian president must learn to be wary of.
What is further noteworthy about these changes is that those who have decided them want them to work fast because they are about reversing the present recession.

Paul Biya should be motivated by the prospect of his coming meeting in July with Nicolas Sarkozy to begin reviewing many a policy. It will surely be a friendlier meeting if the Cameroonian president approaches it with some significant measures already adopted and made public in Cameroon.
What is sure is that Sarkozy will receive Paul Biya both as French president and representative of the new G-20 whose other members in any case will watch with interest the outcome of the meeting in Paris.
Last week’s local elections in Senegal that saw the government coalition badly beaten by the opposition is one more proof after Ghana’s recent presidential election that with the right will clear and clean elections can be organised in Cameroon too.
Moreover, the recent renunciation of term extension after two mandates by Mammadou Tandja of Niger, thanks to persuasion by Sarkozy himself, are matters that the French president will surely confront Biya with. Sarkozy himself has had to set a limit to the number of terms a French president can have.
How will Paul Biya justify his amendment of the constitution, his ambition to continue in office after 29 years of continuous rule? How will he explain that all elections organised in Cameroon since October 1992 were flawed and that he has made a change of government in Cameroon impossible?
How is he going to convince Sarkozy of his goodwill in all this? His economic record is nothing to talk about. Cameroonians live in abject poverty and unbearable unemployment but the government has not adopted any deliberate measures to stimulate economic growth. How will he explain to Sarkozy that he is unconcerned about the suffering of Cameroonians?
We suspect the meeting with the French president promises to be a very difficult one for Biya. Last week’s London summit revealed some aspect of the French president that has not been commonly observed. Sarkozy is severe.
When he put down his foot and threatened to walk out of the summit unless his position prevailed, that was a different Sarkozy from the commonly known easy-going man with an infectious smile. Doesn’t he have granite inside him?
Paul Biya must beware. Everything points to a very different tenant at the Elysee; not a duplicitous Mitterrand who backtracked on his hope-raising pro-democracy speech at La Baule in 1989; nor a wishy-washy Chirac who didn’t even believe in democracy for Africa! These failures hurt Africans more profoundly than French presidents, with a knack for paternalism, realise.
No doubt France has a bad image in Francophone Africa, almost without exception. In Cameroon every French ambassador has had to cope with general public dislike of the French and everything French. This is not a credit to France as a former colonial master.
This is an issue Sarkozy can settle by frontally tackling the issue of democracy in Cameroon and the long history of fake elections. He can only win, and Cameroonians will owe him a huge debt of gratitude for that.
In his relatively short time in office Nicolas Sarkozy cuts a different image. He wants to break free of the old counterproductive habits of his predecessors. One clear role he is assuming is to encourage good governance and democracy in Africa. His coming meeting with Paul Biya offers him a sure opportunity to nail the dictator and get Cameroon out of its political rut.
For Paul Biya, isn’t it commonsense to begin to adjust to the important changes on the horizon? Wouldn’t it be better not to wait for the obvious whereby he will have to act under obligation where he still has the choice of acting in grace?

Source: The Herald

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Varsity lodging crises: Lack of fair play in Fame Ndongo’s mediation

Landlords in the student residential quarters of Bonamoussadi, Yaounde feel victimised by the rents fixed by committees supported by the Higher Education minister

By Ewota Jemea, Yaounde (landlord of a hostel in Bonamoussadi)

A radio announcement on CRTV last Saturday 4 April that Higher Education minister Jacques Fame Ndongo was to visit the Bonamoussadi student residential area to follow-up on the implementation of homologated rents was welcome news to landlords.
Although it is neither ministers nor prefects who follow up on such matters, it was good news that he was being accompanied by the technical group (Brigade Spéciale) and the control group (Antenne Locale). The prefect of Mfoundi and the rector of the University of Yaounde 1 were also among.

Landlords who had turned out in the hope that the homologation exercise would be carried out on the field for once, had their hopes dashed. The minister’s announced “Brigade Spéciale” turned out to be six police officers and his “Antenne Locale” comprised four students dressed as municipal garbage collectors whose role was to guide the team to suspected defaulting landlords.
The episode at the premises of the “Chef de Bloc” was quite pathetic. The minister accused him of expelling tenants from his house. The prefect asked for his documents and confiscated his professional card with the threat of sending him a summons.

The minister’s choice of Saturday for his visit meant that the real members of the Brigade Spéciale and the Antenne Locale could not be present as they were enjoying their weekend.
It was hoped that the minister’s visit would be to restore confidence between tenants and landlords, re-establish legality and order by letting the constituted legal bodies viz the Brigade Spéciale and Antenne Locale carry out the ratification and correct the abuses which students’ homologation had caused to the disadvantage of house owners.

The wait and see attitude of the minister of Higher Education and his resort to the use of police and prefects is a bad omen for all the partners involved. Particularly, the lopsided decisions fixing rents in neglect of landlords is very unfair.
Enthusiasm for Fame Ndongo’s enterprise is eroding fast, so too are facilities and services to the tenants. Even if the Chinese or South Africans are going to be called in to construct modern hostels, let us be careful not to throw away the baby with the bath.
This situation of dog-eat-dog is untenable. The honourable minister should end his campaign of disinformation and usher in fair play and justice.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Nicolas Sarkozy urged to help Cameroonians settle acute problem of a proper and transparent change of power

Paul Biya’s back is on the wall after Mamadou Tandja of Niger backs out

By successfully dissuading Niger’s president to drop plans for a third term after only a few hours of talks last Friday, Nicolas Sarkozy demonstrates that he can effectively help the cause of democracy and good governance in Africa। That is a welcome departure from the complacency of previous French presidents who spoilt things for Africans. Cameroonians are encouraged not only by Sarkozy’s success in Niamey, but also for the tough, no-nonsense manner in which he relates to Paul Biya who seems determined to sit tight in office at the least opportunity. Given the enormous clout at his disposal we now believe that it is fully within the ability of Nicolas Sarkozy to help Cameroonians settle this thorny problem of a proper and transparent change of power in
Cameroon in 2011. Let him do us that favour.

It is not ordinary to accomplish as much as Nicolas Sarkozy did in his forty-eight hour flying visit to Africa last week. The French President was in Kinshasa, Brazzaville and Niamey on Thursday and Friday.
Sarkozy traveled with a planeload of businessmen who did business especially in Kishasa and Niamey. But it was the political outcome of the visit that is striking.
At all three stops, the French president met opposition leaders as well. He addressed parliament in Kinshasa and deplored the cavalier manner in which its president Vital Kamerhe had been forced out of office just the day before.
In Brazzaville where a presidential election in Congo is in preparation for next July, Sarkozy openly called on President Denis Sassou Nguessou to make sure it will be transparent.
It was in Niamey that Sarkozy had palpable success. He persuaded Mamadou Tandja, Niger’s president to drop plans to extend his mandate beyond his second term that ends in November.
The French president even got Tandja to make a public declaration to that effect at a joint press conference in his presence, which he did to the nation’s relief. “I want to tell the nation that I will respect the constitution which puts a limit to two presidential terms and leave office honourably. I have never asked, and will never ask any persons to change the constitution so that I can stand again for another term.”

Street demonstrations
For the last several months Tandja’s partisans (ministers and provincial governors included) had organized street demonstrations calling on the president to modify the constitution and stand again for office.
It was the first time the Niger president made himself clear on the issue. He had so far been silent, like Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian president who nursed a similar project until it collapsed.
That makes the role played by the French president quite instrumental. Not only did he make up his mind with the arrival of Sarkozy, Mamadou Tandja also went right ahead to make his decision public. That was important.
Cameroonians congratulate both the Niger and French presidents on this important step forward for democracy in Africa. At that rate Sarkozy will soon become Africa’s saviour. We urge him very much to help Cameroonians out of the clutches of the dictatorship of the Biya regime. He has the clout; he can do it.
One thing is now certain. The French president has deliberately avoided accepting Paul Biya’s invitation to Cameroon as a sign of his displeasure at the latter’s desire to continue in office beyond 2011 when he should quit, by the constitution.

Sarkozy tells African presidents that two terms of hard work at the helm of any country is more than enough for anybody. Soon after he himself became president, Sarkozy used a parliamentary bill to limit the French presidency to two terms of five years each. Isn’t that teaching by example?
It is certain that the French president sees Paul Biya as a truly pathetic case. Why would he want to continue in office after more than two and a half decades, and at age 79?

Paul Biya ignored two separate messages from him expressing reservation over his amendment of the constitution a year ago. Sarkozy appealed to him then both as president of the European Union, and as French president.
Paul Biya took the gamble, hoping that somewhere along the line things would work out, in spite of this initial opposition। The Cameroonian president has often gotten away taking big political risks.But this time it may not be so.
Paul Biya has so far remained unpunished by the Commonwealth whose conditions of membership he has arrogantly ignored, thirteen years into membership. Also the president has repeatedly escaped sanctions for his long history of abusive elections.
Much of this happened with the complacency of France in whose sphere of influence Cameroon thrives. But times are changing, and changing fast. Paul Biya himself weakened the historical bond with France in a flight of fancy with the US, using the opportunity offered by Iraq in 2003.
But keeping his relationship with Washington didn’t prove easy, conditioned as it was on institutional reforms that the Cameroonian president has a visceral dislike for. Rebuffed by Washington, Biya found it only logical to return to France. But time, circumstances and people since changed.

Sarkozy decided to end the relationship of complacency (reseau) by his predecessors with French African countries and their leaders in a new policy of rupture. He is also a more faithful ally of France’s western partners, unlike his immediate predecessor Jacques Chirac.
Sarkozy’s unusually active and highly successful presidency of the EU very much won the admiration of other Europeans. That raised the personal profile of the French president as a super European player. The global economic downturn has offered Sarkozy other opportunities to stamp himself as an inevitable European player, even after his EU presidency.

These strong factors, added to his young age at 55, and his not being an enarque, a graduate of France’s school of administration, where the bulk of its ruling elite comes from, combine to give the present tenant of the Elysee Palace a completely different outlook and scale of diplomatic values.
In Johannesburg last year, for instance, the French president called for the revision of military defence pacts made since the 1960s. That will mean a drastic cut in the number of French soldiers and military bases in Africa. The agreements also require France to fight with African countries that are attacked or go to war. Sarkozy sees that as completely archaic!
Such is the different sort of French president that Paul Biya, an old Indian who knows no change, is dealing with. Without compromising France’s traditional relations with Cameroon and its people, Sarkozy is nonetheless far from being a give-away to Biya. The French president is proving a hard nut for Yaounde to crack.

In refusing to accept Biya’s invitation to Yaounde and deliberately dropping Cameroon from his last week’s flying visit Sarkozy has let Biya understand that any real friendship with the Elysee would be based on Biya respecting principles of good governance, and respecting friends by listening to them.
It was a deliberate diplomatic affront for Paul Biya to have brushed off with the back of the hand, Sarkozy’s reservation on the constitutional amendment of last year.
In fact, Paul Biya received the French ambassador who came with Sarkozy’s letters. Throwing them in the dustbin, the president went ahead later in the afternoon to introduce the constitutional bill in parliament. Not even the most forgiving interpretation of Paul Biya’s behaviour would have considered that as kind.
No doubt Sarkozy is being tough with Biya.

Cameroonians urge him very much to straighten out their erring president. That would be a great service rendered to the 18 million Cameroonians that the faltering and greedy policies of the Yaounde regime have rendered poor, even when Cameroon is not a poor country in its resource potential.
The question for Biya is: If Mamadou Tandja who has been in power for only ten years will respect his country’s constitution and leave honourably in November why can’t Paul Biya who will be clocking twenty-nine years in office not understand that the way forward for Cameroon is to retire and let another succeed in a free and fair election?

Public decision
It is certain that when the two meet at the Elysee Palace in summer, at Sarkozy’s invitation, Paul Biya will pre-empt his host by telling him that in spite of the constitutional amendment to cancel term limits, he will not stand again for president in 2011. Deja-vu!
That is exactly how the president approached the Pope during the latter’s visit to Yaounde recently. The question is if Paul Biya will not stand for office again why does he not make the decision public like the Niger president?

Isn’t that a decision that belongs to the public domain which when taken ought to be made known to Cameroonians? Why does the Cameroonian president choose to make such an important decision a secret that he tells only favoured friends or partners? Isn’t it true that a public announcement commits the president; and until that happens he can always change his mind.
That is what he did after assuring George Bush and Tony Blair, unsolicited, on separate occasions. We urge Nicolas Sarkozy to understand that the immediate political destiny of Cameroon could be very much influenced if he is straight and tough with Paul Biya at their coming summer meeting in Paris.

Knowing that Biya does not keep his promises, Sarkozy will be of great help to Cameroonians if he could press Biya, in addition to a public statement not to stand for office again in 2011, to further promise and give the nation a transition plan towards 2011.
Topmost about this plan should be the creation of an independent electoral organ to begin preparing the 2011 presidential election that should be free and fair.
Sarkozy must not underestimate his role in pressing Paul Biya to do the right thing. Biya is presently isolated and without friends because of his untrustworthiness. Biya is practically on his knees begging to cultivate a personal relationship with the French president. That is Sarkozy’s leverage that he ought to wield powerfully.
For Paul Biya, let him understand that the international community is learning to speak with one voice, forced to do so by the nature of the solutions now on the table for discussion against the global economic downturn.
With funds shrinking for poor African countries, new rules for aid might become not only tighter but also supervised by a globally designed mechanism. Cameroon might be forced to comply in most unpleasant ways that are presently not imaginable. A little foresight could help Paul Biya anticipate the future with some grace.
Whatever is the case Cameroon in its present institutional structure cannot survive the test of the coming months, whether Paul Biya continues in office or not. And should he, by some misfortune for Cameroonians, continue in office in 2011 he would surely find the experience a very different and burdensome one.

But Nicolas Sarkozy stands in good stead to save Cameroonians that sad prospect. That is not a difficult task to fulfill for Cameroonians. Let him do it.

Source: The Herald

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