Thursday, October 23, 2014

Night Attack on Cameroon’s 2011 presidential candidate: Was it an attempt to eliminate Hon Ayah Paul?

By Christopher Ambe
Hon. Ayah Paul
Hon.Ayah Paul Abine ,who  ran for Cameroon’s 2011 presidential election under the platform of People’s Action Party(PAP) and emerged in the sixth position  last October 22, between 2 and  3 AM  had his fenced residence  in Buea attacked by hoodlums.
    The hoodlums who were trying to break into the residence through the main gate only escaped in their vehicle when they heard the sound of another vehicle, carrying PAP members whom Hon.Ayah had alerted about the attack, fast approaching the scene. Also alerted, armed policemen in two police vehicles, The Recorder gathered, also arrived 30 minutes after the escape of the attackers.
     It is not clear whether it was a gang of assassins or burglars especially as Hon Ayah had before complained about anonymous threats on his life.
      But critical observers of Cameroon’s political scene have quickly dismissed the claim that the attackers  came for money, arguing that it is public knowledge (both nationally and internationally) that Hon.Ayah has gone past one year without monthly salary even as he is yet to go on retirement in two years time. A few Months ago the media widely reported the plight of Hon Ayah without payment.
Hon.Ayah, a former Member of Cameroon’s National Assembly for ten years, is currently the Secretary-General of People’s Action Party (PAP) and an iconic critic of the Biya Regime.
     This career magistrate of exceptional class despite returning to the Ministry of Justice from Parliament has had his salary withheld without explanation from the Cameroon Government. He only survives now thanks to support from his family.
Following is Hon Ayah’s write-up about  the attack on his residence:

    Hon ayah went to bed unusually early at 1.30 AM on the morning of October 22, 2014, when internet had failed. He most likely fell asleep half an hour later at 2 AM. His wife nudged him about 2.30 and Ayah awoke to loud strikes against the main gate to the compound. He immediately put on the security lights as the dog was racing round and barking fiercely. Ayah went on to call a number of people, reporting that his family was under attack.
   Calls began to flow in from far and near, including the Northwest Region. Within the half hour, several members of ayah’s political party – PAP – were at the compound together with three armed policemen in uniform from the Central Police station of Buea. After hearing sideAyah out, the policemen left, promising to keep some of their elements around. PAP members and some neighbours stayed on till after 4 AM.
     Some neighbours recounted this morning that the attackers first came in a car which they parked some distance at the upper end of ayah’s compound. They moved on to the compound on foot and split into two groups of two men each. The group attacking the compound comprised one huge man and another of average size. The other group took cover at Musole valley, waiting for the gate to be ripped open … When the security lights were turned on, the two groups sped off in different directions …
     The morning has been rife with speculations as to the object of the attack. Thieves never attack until they have had dependable information about the availability and quantum of some possible booty. As a parliamentarian for eleven years, Ayah had kept 8 million francs a year for some period for micro projects. And CRTV sang songs about the payment of the money weeks before and weeks after payment. At no one time was Ayah attacked by thieves. How would thieves attack Ayah after the widely circulated publications that ayah is in the 13th month today without a salary?
    Another puzzle is that Ayah’s son’s residence was burgled in Yaounde in broad daylight on October 2, 2014, with the thieves taking and carrying away everything, including his children’s school equipment, cooking pots and cutlery. What rare coincidence would it be that some three weeks later thieves would come to burgle Ayah’s residence in Buea? That thieves have suddenly awaken to the existence and richness of the Ayahs?
Only a question! Glory to God on high!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Governor Okalia Bilai: Epitome of jungle justice in Cameroon

By Asonganyi Tazoacha 
Southwest Governor Bernard Okalia Bilai/Recorder Cmr
At least, over in Yaounde, our God-send, Grande-camarade-bis, goes around noisily, with drones of excited security agents always present to keep the rest of us at bay. The impunity that usually reigns within the ranks of the excited security charges is indescribable.  Power is centred around one point in Cameroon - around one man; it is not like neighbouring Nigeria where power is effectively decentralized, and each centre of power at the state, the local council or even the village level – Governor, Council Chairman, Chief – goes around noisily with their own escorts, and convoys.
    If it were so in Cameroon, Dieudonne Meh, a truck driver in Buea, would not have suffered the humiliation he is said to have suffered in the hands of Okalia Bilai – Governor of the South West Region – because he would have seen, heard, and known that the big-man was coming, and given way as is usually done in Yaounde.
       No doubt, as a driver in Yaounde, I usually feel that if I had the “power,” I would descend from my car and cane some drivers before I arrogantly climb back into my car and drive off. But those are just feelings which are supposed to be impotent – contained and constrained – under the rule of law, whatever “power” I have. The humiliation of Dieudonne Meh by Okalia Bilai is a metaphor for how the rule of law is daily mocked and diminished on a daily basis in Cameroon, debasing us all to a jungle where the unconstrained raw feelings of the powerful take over from the rule of law.
      Ask Michel Djotodia about the undisciplined forces he took into Bangui; he may be honest to tell you that his “boys” took the law into their own hands and carried out self-serving “justice.” It resulted in a reaction that led to the collapse of the state, and the whole nation – in broad daylight! Ask Dominique Strauss Khan about what is meant by the law being the religion of America; if he is honest, he will tell you what befell him when he tried to act like a big-man there! Our own souls are still troubled by the disquieting news about Guérandi Mbara – news that further saps the credibility of our justice system; and here comes Okalia Bilai who is supposed to enforce the rule of law, adding insult to injury. All because of our Orwellian “liberty laws” – the ‘fifteen-days-renewable’ of administrators; Dieudonne Meh must be a “bandit” – like it or not!
       We ordinary people need more respect than administrators usually show us in Cameroon. Some human beings – administrators and some of us - are usually vain, trotting around with bloated egos; others are usually fallible, weak-willed, and lack competence. In spite of these, societies usually live in harmony because the law corrects these weaknesses and compensates for the indecency of morality. The omnipotence of the judiciary gives it an authority that surpasses all other levels of power – even in some banana republics.
       This is why the legal system, through lawsuits, is usually used to bring about social change. Every law has a purpose and a mischief it is intended to address. It is usually the interaction of the law with society that brings about effective civil liberties. What is usually described as plural and democratic society is founded on the rights of the individual.  These rights can only be realized by all individuals in society together. The judicial system cannot do its job of promoting social justice well without the initiatives of a population habituated to freedom. The common disposition of the men and women in a society, and what lies in their hearts that guides the behavior of people like Okalia Bilai, or the response of society to such behavior, defines freedom in a society.
      True, the adversarial process and the rules and rituals in courtrooms may usually obscure reality. The enclosed world of the courtroom where judges wear black robes, lawyers wear Whigs, and witnesses are sworn to tell the truth, may indeed make it difficult to discern reality. After all, the rules of evidence in court are different from the rules of science, since doubt or uncertainty is treated differently in the two worlds. In spite of this, it is mainly the settlement of disputes that maintains the sanity and solidarity of society.
      The absence of rights and freedoms is still our lot in Cameroon. The much hope that was generated by what was announced as the civil procedure code has since been betrayed, and things have settled down to what they have always been. In the end, what counts is not the rules and procedures on paper; it is the thousands of small and big deeds by people like Okalia Bilai that go unnoticed or unaddressed that count for much of the backwardness of our society. The sanity and solidarity of each society is the handiwork of people – their daily acts of commission and omission, small and big.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cameoon:Guérandi Mbara and 1984

By Tazoacha Asonganyi in Yaounde
      It is not difficult to design a thought experiment, pondering what would happen if 1984 in Cameroon were today, not 30 years ago. Hindsight has a way of clarifying the past, and would make the result of such an experiment edifying.
      Guérandi Mbara was a principal actor in a key event in 1984. If one were to go by the rumour about his capture and elimination, and the cold blooded, casual reaction of the Biya regime, it would be irrefutable proof that the regime seems to glorify its past, pride in its present, and look forward to an unchangeable future! This would be a tragic scenario for Cameroon, to say the least.
     A classic Cameroonian understatement is, “not bad.” This is offered in response to casual social enquiries like, how are you, and many others. Yet, for a long time, we are aware that it is not good! Since the tragic events of 1984, there has been a deep feeling of a great divide in the country’s conscience, caused by the action of one national group that had just left the helm of the state, and the overreaction of another that had just ascended to the helm. There has always been an overwhelming feeling that for the good of the country’s future, we need forgiveness and reconciliation. And we all knew who and what to forgive, which made the task relatively easy. If Guérandi’s alleged capture and execution is true, it would confirm the saying that forgiveness is usually harder to summon than the desire to settle old scores.
    Of course, society as a whole shares responsibility for the leadership, culture, and environment it has.  How the policeman does his work, how the teacher performs in the classroom, what laws come from the elected legislator, how much the rule of law holds sway, and much more, all have influence over our lives and that of the future of our society. We may all have individual guilt, citizen guilt, moral guilt, or metaphysical guilt; in the end, national solidarity renders each of us co-responsible for all the wrongs and all the injustices in the country, especially for crimes which took place in our presence or of which we are aware. This is why the casual response of the regime to the “rumour” about Guérandi is abhorrent.
     For sure, artists see the world differently. So too do journalists. So too do politicians. So too do many others. After all, even the Judeo-Christian Bible, and the Quaran are open to different interpretations, but most of the time, this leads to peaceful co-existence, even if we are today exposed to the banality of evil that individual human beings can come to represent. In spite of that, politics requires that we enter into negotiation with such evil men - and we do - for the sake of national solidarity, national security, and national prestige. Politics is the art of confronting difficult choices, and of reaching legitimate compromises; it is not charity or the expression of compassion, but the exhibition of solidarity.
    Corruption has always been the oil that greases the wheels of longevity in power, laxity, impunity and all the evils that are daily wrought on us ordinary citizens. If the Guérandi script is correct, it worked perfectly against him. Guérandi may come to be a symbol of how the post cold war world can still be cruel and unforgiving. Like for Moumié that suffered virtually a similar fate abroad, it brings home forcefully to us the reminder that the fight for freedom can usually be a lonely one because freedom’s enemies are usually brutal and determined, while freedom’s friends are often unreliable. Luckily, freedom has always had the last word because it is the inextinguishable desire of liberty in the human heart.
   Our Orwellian “advanced democracy,” and other very Cameroonian sound bites that make “democracy” and corruption coexist in perfect harmony in our society, can only serve power vanity; they cannot land any legacy.
    At this stage of our history, we need acts that bind national wounds, not inflict more wounds on the national psyche.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cameroon: though heavily indebted, Sonara aims for new headquarters in Limbe

(Business in Cameroon) - In a release on September 22, 2014, the Managing Director of Société nationale de raffinage (Sonara), Ibrahim Talba Malla, announced that Cameroon’s only oil refinery is to set-up a new headquarters in Limbé, in the South-West region.
Although the investment’s amount has not been revealed, Sonara’s managing director’s announcement has sparked a lot of questions in economic circles, both in terms of opportunity and feasibility. By the admission of Cameroonian public authorities and Sonara heads themselves, the public company is almost in suspension of payments due to lack of earnings between 2008 and July 2014 due to Cameroon’s oil product subsidies.
Indeed, when the Cameroonian government decided to reduce the oil product subsidies by adjusting the price at the pump starting in August 2014, Sonara accumulated 300 billion FCFA in unpaid income yet to be settled by the State.
Mr. Tchiroma had revealed that the refinery has so far accrued 550 billion in outstanding payments to its providers. This does not take into account its loans with local banks that financed Sonara’s infrastructural expansion and modernisation project which led the IMF to fear, last May, a notable impact on the Cameroonian banking sector’s stability in light of the financial difficulties the company, currently struggling with productivity decline, has been facing.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cameroon: Boko Haram hostages freed in north

State radio says the freed captives include 10 Chinese and the wife of a vice prime minister.

Boko Haram never claimed responsibility for the kidnappings [Al Jazeera]
Cameroon's government announced that 27 hostages presumed to have been kidnapped by Boko Haram, including 10 Chinese construction workers and the wife of a vice prime minister, have been freed.
   The hostages were returned early on Saturday morning and "are safe and sound,'' according to a statement from President Paul Biya's office read on state radio, the Associated Press news agency reported. 
    The Chinese road construction workers were kidnapped in May from their base in Waza, in Cameroon's Far North region.
      Francoise Agnes Moukouri, wife of vice prime minister Amadou Ali, was among a group of 17 people kidnapped in a July attack targeting their residence in the border town of Kolofata. Officials said at the time that 200 fighters stormed the residence, though Ali himself was away.
     As the fighters retreated with their hostages, they set fire to the residence, stole safes and vehicles and killed at least five people, a military spokesman said at the time.
A local religious leader was also abducted in the July attack and released Saturday, according to the Cameroon government statement.
     Boko Haram never claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, but both incidents raised concerns that the Nigeria-based rebels were expanding their operations in Cameroon as the government became increasingly involved in regional efforts to contain them.
Cameroon says it does not pay ransoms in kidnapping cases, and Saturday's brief statement provided no details on the conditions of the hostages' release.
    Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said he could provide no details. On Friday he claimed to have no knowledge of ongoing negotiations.
     On Wednesday, however, witnesses said Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, the secretary-general of Cameroon's presidency, arrived in Maroua, the capital of the Far North region, fueling speculation that negotiations were reaching a conclusion.
    Ngoh Ngoh was credited with sealing the release of other high-profile hostages, including a French priest kidnapped last November and freed the following month.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

My Sasse, Our Sasse: 30 September 1964 to 30 September 2014 – 50 Years Already!

By Asonganyi Tazoacha
   Not all that is countable counts. Since its advent in 1939, St. Joseph’s College Sasse, Buea, has witnessed many entrances and exits. One of the remarkable entrances that counts, occurred on 30 September 1964 when dozens of “foxes” or “plebs” (from plebian!) appeared in the clouded, chilly campus for roll call late in the afternoon. Those of them that have survived the travails of life have matured into senior citizens, and call themselves today “The September 1964 Transitions Class.”   
       As is usually the case in our cultures, some names are pregnant with meaning – so is the name of the class! As history would have it, it is in 1964 that the school system was modified and a seven year strand was introduced with instruction being given to “class” no longer “standard.”  In other words, our promotion that was in Standard Six in 1964 was the last. This is how we got into Saint Joseph’s College, Sasse in September 1964. Since we were the transition from the “Standard” system (of 8 years) whose school year started in January to the “Class” system (of 7 years) that started in September, we gave ourselves the “Transition” name.

      Initially we wanted to be called “The Transition Class” but as history would also have it, the class that came just behind us in 1965 came with around 6 girls – the first in the history of Sasse! The experiment quickly fizzled out because the half-dozen-some girls looked miserable and not very comfortable in the midst of some 300 jostling young lads! It is with great pride that SOBANS mingle and carry out their activities with these SOGANS who have all grown up with blissful memories of Sasse too! Incidentally, to the class we exercised our bullying skills on, the girls-experience constituted a “Transitions” too! As is usually the case in Sasse, when you are faced with the Class you bullied – because it came immediately behind you - they do not easily give up, so the standoff resulted in adding “September 1964” to our “Transition” name…There was really no quarrel because SOBANS hardly ever quarrel among themselves; each ignored the other, so we were forced to budge.

      Our class left Sasse on 21 June 1969 after spending five years that left a great – I would say an indelible – mark on us. We had “Houses” in the college: St. Christopher’s, St. Paul’s, St. Aquinas’s, and St. Augustine’s. In each House, there were several dormitories with some 20 students in a dormitory. Our daily interactions in these dormitories and houses shaped our emotional and social intelligence, and developed our ability to empathize with each other – sharing emotions, thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Sasse marked the rest of our lives – in High School, in the University, in society… Sasse provided us the filter through which we see the world; through which we evaluate, judge and deal with life.. This was the result of the heroic efforts of our teachers to get us to understand the several subjects we learned; the discipline they imposed on our youthful spirits; the religious inspiration and enlightenment we got from the daily Church services and the compulsory study of the scriptures which we always took for granted, but which contributed in marking our lives indelibly; the models our instructors represented for us; the attitudes and behaviors of our teachers and senior students that helped to shape ours. Sasse did not just train us to pass the London GCE; it seemed to focus on the entire person and personality of the students, and made sure that we left the college as little Catholic Christians that had dozens of little voices in us that ordered us around throughout our lives: whispering to us how to act, dictating to us what to do and not to do…

    The principal who admitted us into Sasse was Rev. Fr. George Cunningham. He was followed by Fr. JW Stumpel, and then by Fr. Lawrence Flinn who graduated us from the College. Each of us left with a “Testimonial” that was a testimony for our academic ability, sense of responsibility, attitude to rules, attitude to manual work, attitude to sports, and so on. Interestingly, the “harmonization” of the education systems rendered “Testimonials” useless, so to say, since no one ever asked for such things in Cameroon! However, we have always known in our hearts that the “Testimonial” was one of the most important documents we had in our keeping, which we show to our children from time to time to tell them about our “good old days.” I think our not having presented it to anybody since we left Sasse is indicative of how much weight our society places on the type of holistic education we had in Sasse; the result is the corrupt society we are living in today.

     Sasse knew that a full education includes opportunities outside the classroom, including sport. The vast expanse of land in the college was exploited to build three football fields, a basket ball court, table tennis tables and other sporting arenas. There was also Buea Mountain climbing by the students from time to time. Sports contributed to our emotional, social and physical health; it helped to improve our mood and focus, it reduced our stress and increased our confidence. Sports taught us how to communicate and work together, to master specific techniques that instilled discipline and persistence. It helped us to develop as team players, healthy persons, innovators, and community members. Indeed, sports forced us to conform to the team concept, and to become familiar with pain, and deal with the limits of our own endurance; it helped us to learn to play within rules, and to face the disappointment of failure and the sweetness of success. Unfortunately, one of the glaring signs of the absence of the spirit of holistic education today is the hundred, thousands of colleges that exist today in Cameroon without sporting facilities!

      St. Joseph’s College Sasse stands near the Buea Mountain, high above the sea. It was the first College in Cameroon, and today, remains the first among equals. We who entered Sasse 50 years ago may have learned the hard way about the meaning of hard work, discipline and spirituality. The good thing is that we have since lived the joy and fulfillment that come from learning early how to make your own way in the world. In this, St. Joseph has always been near to guide us! We look forward to going back to Sasse over the weekend with our glamorous wives – our SOBANESE(S) – to see what time has done to the place.

*Asonganyi Tazoacha is a seasoned professor,teaching at Faculty of Biomedical Sciences,University of Yaounde 1