Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cameroon: “ASDECA does not fight the government and will never fight it! “

         -Francisca Biaka, Southwest Regional President, ASDECA

Recently, hundreds of youths assembled at the Buea Independence Square
at the request of ASDECA and the National Youth Council under the theme “Active Citizenship: The Way Forward.” After the forum, Mrs.Francisca Biakia,one of the converners,granted an exclusive interview to The Recorder, in which she clears the doubts of critics about ASDECA and its mission. Read on:

Mrs. Biaka Francisca, you are the SW Regional President of ASDECA.What is ASDECA?

Mrs.Francisca Biaka:advocate of democracy and empowerment

ASDECA stands for the Association for the Support of Democracy in Cameroon. Created in 2008 in Yaounde, it is a civil society organization; it’s non-governmental, non-political, non-sectarian and non-profit making.
ASDECA’s mission is to empower and build capacity of citizens; it also has the responsibility to see that society’s interests are given by decision-makers; that policies and decisions made are truly representative of the needs of the people.
The democracy that we talk about in ASDECA is the socio-economic democracy.

How did the creation of the Southwest bureau come about?

When I was in Yaounde one day in an office and I was going through a newsletter, I came across the activities of ASDECA in the South Region. I saw a website and accessed it, which is I then read the objectives of organization which have to do with capacity-building and the empowerment of citizens with the culture of civic engagements necessary to create positive change. Noticing that ASDEC targets mostly youth and women(and since I am advocate for women, active citizenship and the enhancement of the lives of youth and women),I sought the approval of the national president of ASDECA ,to start the Southwest branch.

One of ASDECA’s most recent and conspicuous activities was the assembly of hundreds –some say thousands of Youths at the independence Square to drum support for the government and its policies? What necessitated that youth forum?

The purpose of the youth forum was to press for active citizenship. It held under theme “ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP: THE WAY FORWARD.
 We all know very well what is going on .Many youth aren’t aware of their rights, their citizenship and their responsibilities.

So we convened that forum to create awareness; to let them know what is expected of them and also to encourage them to be peace ambassadors and promoters of social cohesion. If there was no peace I don’t think you and I would sit here, talking. Peace is a precondition for development. You are aware of what is happening in the Arab world now: mass protests and rebellion against governments. Without peace, I don’t think anybody can function well. So we have to start making people especially the Youth develop love for peace promotion.

During the Buea Youth Forum, youth leaders from various localities jointly handed a memo to the Secretary-General of the Southwest Region, Quetong Handerson, who sat in for Governor Koumpa Issa, intended for the Head of State, Paul Biya. As one of the conveners of the forum, do you have an idea about the contents of the document?

As you rightly said, it was addressed to the head of State, not to me. But what I can say is that these young Cameroonians understand the Head of State is trying to take care of their needs -offering 25000 jobs and youth service. I suggest they were thanking the President but like Oliver Twist, saying we still have some concerns for your attention. I think they outlined their concerns in the memo, which was handed to the Governor’s envoy for on-ward transmission.
I should let you know that meetings were held by youth leaders and presidents all over to come up with the memo, which they all signed.

Would you describe that forum you organized as a success? Were your goals attained?

I must say it was a huge success. I was personally baffled by the massive mobilization and turn out. Let me remind you that the rally was organized in partnership with the National Youth Council. In the Southwest, there is a president of the National Youth Council, of which all youth are de facto members. We, as a civil society organization also mobilized youth associations and school leavers to attend it.

But your critics say you kind of used your connections with local authorities, to force students to turn up for the rally .How would you react to this?

My critics got it all wrong. All youth are de facto members of the youth council. So the Youth Council did that wonderful mobilization. I think it’s unfair for critics to point accusing fingers when youth decide to come out for peace, social cohesion and active citizenship.

Some of your critics were angry because it was a working day and students were supposed to be in class learning instead of  demonstrating in public in support of the government. Don’t you see reason in that?

I don’t find anything wrong with day that was programmed for the forum.  If they assembled any day people would still condemn it. If it were a Sartuday, detractors would have said,” Oh this is a day when youths have to help their parents in the market or this is a Sunday when they have to go to church. So that Friday was good enough for the rally. That is why it registered a massive turn out.

Apart from the recent Youth Forum, what are some of your achievements since your assumed leadership of ASDECA in the southwest?

ASDECA southwest has supported the Delegation of Women and the Empowerment of the Family-We have assisted in training women and even on World Women’s day donated some tools; we have supported talented youths and the elderly in one way or the other.

Do you have some activities in the pipeline?
We are looking into projects written by some of our members. If these projects are feasible we will start seeking for funds. We plan to have a large entrepreneurship forum that will bring together the big players in the private and public sectors, in order to enhance the activities of women and youth.

 Would you be comfortable to hear claims that ASDECA is a disguised organ of the CPDM?
 I would not; because ASDECA has its mission clearly defined.ASDECA is open to Cameroonians of all walks of life, all denominations, and all political parties. So, it cannot be described as a disguised organ of   the CPDM.Detractors can call it whichever name, but the ASDEC is out to serve all Cameroonians.

 You are advocating socio-economic democracy. But we know that one important element of democracy is election. Later this year, there will be presidential election. But there is voter apathy, which is a serious problem. How can ASDECA be of help in the direction?

The help that ASDEC can give is that when we organize meetings/rallies ELECAM can take advantage to come there to get people registered. This happened during our last forum at Buea independence Square.ASDECA also sensitizes the public on the rights and duties of a citizen.

 You are leader of an organization that is for democracy. Is Cameroon to you a genuine democracy?

Yes, to an extent. There is no country in the world that is 100% democratic. Cameroon is trying to strengthen its democratic structures and practices. So far, it has recorded some successes. We have a free economy. Those of us in the business sector are free to do whatever business, provided it is legally acceptable. We have a free press- journalists write what they observe and criticize even the head of state, with little or no fear. Citizens democratically elect their leaders such as mayors and MP’s.There is human rights promotion. The judiciary is independent-judges are guided in their decisions by the law and their conscience. The list is long, I can’t name all here. But I think Cameroon is a democratic state.

You are described as a successful business woman. But the country has a growing number of unemployed youth and young graduates. What piece of advice do you have for them?

As a business person and mother I would tell Cameroonian you that, first of all, when your parents send you to school it is a blessing. It is also a contract between parents and children. The parents pay the fees and students have to study. When parents struggle and do their part of the contract, the children must respect their own commitment to study and be successful.
 Once students graduate with certificates, they must believe in themselves that, they have been equipped to perform.
Go first for voluntary service in your field of specialization. While you are in there, perfom well.Once, you are performing there is no way that the employer is going to employ someone from outside other than you. So for a start, graduates should learn to volunteer to gain working experience. It is a springboard to employment.

Many would like to start a business but they lack the seed capital. What do they do?

Youths are a reservoir of talents. To secure funds is, no doubt, difficult. But good business plans can attract finances. Young graduates should learn how to conceive and design good projects and sell the ideas to sponsors. It is difficult but with a lot of efforts success is at the corner.

Before I leave you, is there anything you may want to add about ASDECA?
This is what I would like the public to know about ASDECA: I have not pretended that ASDECA is an association that goes about fighting the government.ASDECA does not fight the government and will never fight the government. ASDECA instead would partner with the government, because the Government has what belongs to the citizens. And ASDECA knows which door to knock, when to knock it. It is like a lobbyist organization. So, we cannot afford to go against the government. But that does not mean we cannot draw the government’s attention to something that is wrong for adjustment. I want the public especially ASDECA members to know that, if they have any problem especially with public offices, they should come to us and ASDECA will

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