Friday, December 5, 2014

Cameroon:News Media, Journalists and the National Communication Council

By Tazoacha Asonganyi in Yaounde.
 When trouble broke out in the past between News Media/Journalists and the National Communication Council (NCC), I wrote two articles. One was titled “Joseph Befe Ateba: Journalist on the Other Side” in which I stated as follows: “The mission of outfits like the government-controlled NCC is to check the power of the press, and by implication, society’s freedoms, to cede space for government power…Some apologists may say that there are other journalists in NCC other than its Chairman. Of course, they are there, but most seem to at least cover-up by indulging in sophistry and casuistry. Whatever the case, it is Befe Ateba that is in the dock. After all, it is usually said that the buck can be passed on but it must end somewhere. For the NCC, the buck ends with Joseph Befe Ateba…”
     In a second article titled “Mocking The Rule Of Law By Lynching Figuratively And In Essence” I stated as follows: “The rule of law abhors interferences like the ‘fifteen-days-renewable’ of administrators, suspension of journalists and news outlets by the NCC, and many other niches carved out by government for appointed officials to wield discretionary power – a subversion of judicial authority by executive power! Indeed, such government appointees virtually always work actively or passively to diminish the rule of law….Those with thin skins should not leave the impression in the public mind that the press in Cameroon fought a gallant fight against censorship in the 1990s and censorship ended up having the last laugh….”
 Things have since changed – not for the better! Following his unfortunate demise, Joseph Befe Ateba’s role is being played by … a seasoned journalist! And so the buck now ends at the feet of the new strongman. That man that stands accused following the recent highhandedness of the NCC is called Peter Essoka.
    Since the ‘60s, we have been grappling with governance based on constitutionalism that is said to separate state power into three arms: the executive, the judiciary, and the legislature. If this form were to be respected, laws would be made by the legislative arm, interpretation of laws and adjudication would be the role of the judiciary, and execution of laws would be the role of the executive arm. Our ideological differences may separate us on substantive issues of governance, but at least, there did not have to be any quarrel on procedural issues related to this set up.
    Unfortunately, in Cameroon, the executive has always exercised overbearing power, dabbling in issues supposed to be reserved for the judiciary, and giving the right of interpretation of laws and adjudication to administrative officials (DOs, SDOs, Governors) and to outfits like the NCC. And so, since independence, we have lived in an environment made oppressive by blind, incompetent, self-serving elite constituted into a cabal that is stuck with old, long discarded paradigms, oiled by impunity and an obsession for corruption and theft of the common wealth.
       These people pretend to be oblivious of the reasons for which Africa and Africans are the laughingstock of the world. They pretend not to know that the oppressive environment they create clogs our minds, and does not leave room for our indulging in the work and life of the mind that give birth to the glittering material culture that is all around us in this fast evolving 21st century. They pretend not to know that if the African mind has to function at the level of the minds of those who create these glittering things that we indulge in to facilitate our lives on earth, our oppressive environment has to be lifted and replaced with the type of environment that those other minds live in. They pretend not to know that those freedoms we all sing about are the pillars of this environment in which the sovereign individual or the citizen as ‘the legal subject,’ is at the centre of law and judicial due process. The human genome project has since given its verdict: overall differences in performance of human communities are not due to nature (genes) but to nurture (environment). We should always remember what Kennedy said to the American people: our goal is not peace at the expense of freedom but both peace and freedom. Whatever we do, we should always remember that freedom is the key to unlocking the creative spirit of society in all domains. Our man who is promising emergence in 2035, and hurrying another obnoxious, so-called “anti-terrorism” bill to the national assembly to make our environment even more oppressive, should take note of this.
     It is interesting that these people of the NCC use what they call “dispassionate, fair, accurate and balanced” reporting to punish journalists. A prominent politician in Nigeria once declared that “if the next elections are rigged Nigeria will be made ungovernable.” Nigerian journalists were divided into two camps (and more!) with one saying that the politician was sounding a warning against vote-rigging, while the other was saying that the politician was threatening to cause confusion in the country if he didn’t win. The mind of an actor like the politician in question is a domain opaque to examination and difficult to assess. How one can measure “dispassionate, fair, accurate and balanced” here is difficult to say in real life, although they will tell you they are taught in journalism school how to do so.
        This is just a simple example of the type of information and news in society that must be dealt with by journalists. It is also to say that truthful or falsehood, whether an idea, principle, value or view is valid or not, depends on changing times and changing peoples of varied orientation, minds and motives. Journalists are usually condemned to deal most of the time with a part, not the totality of an experience. They usually are forced to deal with the way things appear, not the way they are or can become. What each journalist usually ends up with depends on the entreaties of their reason and passion, of logic and experience, of their scale of values, of their intelligence. This is why they rarely ever reach definitive judgment. In the heat of the robust debate that journalism entails, journalists usually enjoy even a democratic right of error.
        A person like Mendo Ze was general manager of CRTV from 1988 to 2005. Nine years after his leaving CRTV, he was recently arrested as a suspect of malpractices during his tenure in CRTV! After all those years, in spite of the audit report that had since made him a suspect! What would Peter Essoka and his NCC court say would be “dispassionate, fair, accurate and balanced” reporting about this former CRTV big-man while the executive labored with prosecuting him at its whim? Perhaps journalists should look the other way until the executive decides to act when they like, as if they are running a private estate! A truth is unchanged by the fact that it is not known or that it is known only by a few.
      We also hear that our high priests of the NCC say journalists are guilty of “insulting” an official of the presidency! It seems that they do not also count the misfortunes of Cameroon in Kondengui prison as we all do. If they did, they would know that those high places are home to a cabal with insatiable appetite, which has replaced the general interest with self-interest, and needs to be permanently watched by the press. When we battled for the creation of “independent” structures to regulate the activities of society, we were not bargaining for kangaroo courts like the NCC. We understood “independent” to mean what it has always meant: non-attachment to any branch of government or alignment to any political interest; non-promotion of the narrow interests of any political party, or sectional group. Who doubts who is paying the piper?
     With this sorry performance of the NCC, Paul Biya can now rub his hands in glee and ask us: you say I abuse the overwhelming power I have because I am a bad leader. See what they are doing with the little fraction of my power I gave to them.
   And what would be our response, apart from seeking the answer to Geoffrey Chaucer’s question in General Prologue to his Canterbury Tales: if gold rust, what then will iron do?
Well, let me borrow the signature of one of my friends to put my own question: Peter Essoka, are we together? If we are, then answer Chaucer!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Men accused of being homosexual in hiding

By Tanji Ntonifor
Homosexuality, which is legal in some developed countries, is a crime in Cameroon despite pressure from the West on African countries   to legalize the same-sex sexual orientation.   The publicity given same-sex orientation in the developed world appears to be encouraging young Cameroonians to embrace the act.

Lorenzo Eladnyuke Ewunkem
     Before, it was rarely a subject of public interest-it was largely considered a taboo subject; but now not only is it discussed, cases of this abominable act are reported here and there, in a country where more than 51 percent of the total population is made-up of women.

In the past, those found guilty of homosexuality or lesbianism were badly treated, such mistreatment reserved for witches and wizards .And in some villages they were even banished.

    According to Section 347 of Cameroon penal code, "Whoever has sexual relationship with a person of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to five years and a fine from 20.000Fcfa to 200.000 Fcfa"

    It is public knowledge that many young Cameroonians across towns of the country have been molested, accused, arrested, and detained or being prosecuted for allegedly being gay.

    Yet, many others are not deterred. Banking on the defense that it is their Human Rights to choose their sexual orientation, youth Cameroonians are bringing shame to their parents and communities, by attempting to practice or practice homosexuality. They argue that Cameroon is a member of the United Nations and has signed other conventions to respect and promote human rights and that sexual orientation is   human Right issue.

    Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned Cameroon for prosecuting persons perceived to be homosexual or lesbian, and called on the Government to repeal the law making same-sex sexual orientation a crime, but Cameroon is yet to do that. And there are no signs that Cameroon will legalize it.

    Reports say many young people are increasingly becoming gay for occultist reasons-to become very influential, wealthy and powerful in their localities.

Last November - a young man Lorenzo Eladnyuke Ewunkem, born on December 14, 1990, resident in Buea was almost lynched because he was accused of being a homosexual. It was thanks to the intervention of security agents that he survived.

Nyongapsen Gilbert Sema
    Lorenzo Eladnyuke Ewunkem was accused of engaging in the same-sex relations with an even older man,Nyongapsen Gilbert Sema ,born on November 25,1988. Gilbert was said to be his “wife”

   Although the two accused argued that they were not gay, they later disappeared as investigations were going on and some witnesses reportedly promised to disprove them in court

    It would be recalled that two young men, Jonas Kimie and Franky Ndome, perceived to be gay, had spent more than a year in prison following their arrest outside a nightclub in the capital Yaoundé in July 2011, but were later acquitted by the Appeals Court .It is true that same-sex relationship is in vogue in several Western countries, but opponents in Cameroon think it is not every thing that must be copied from First World countries.

How a smart activist earned his freedom from detention

                                      By Ntonifor Tanji
     A radical Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) activist, Tabe Ferdinand Tanyi, is still in hiding after he failed to honor a commitment he had made, which caused his release from detention.
     Mr.Tabe, born on May 18, 1976 in Mamfe is said to have negotiated his release with a pro-government agent to the effect that, he would publicly denounce the SCNC, which is fighting for the restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons.  
But upon his release Mr. Tabe did not fulfill his promise as he was expected to do and could not be found ,prompting a plan for his re-arrest.
     Mr. Tabe who has four children is husband to Belinda Tabe Ayamba,an adopted daughter of former SCNC National Chairman Chief Ayamba Otun,who died last June 14.
      Influenced by the philosophy of his father-in-law,Mr.Tabe started manifesting his open support for  the SCNC since 2007 when he reportedly persuaded and got many university students in  the Bonamousadi vicinity in Yaounde enrolled as members of the separatist movement.  Later same year, he went to his native Mamfe and converted more people especially unemployed youth to supporters of SCNC, considered by the Cameroon Government as a big threat to national unity.
     Seen as a security risk as he embarked on a massive enrollment of SCNC activists across villages of Manyu Division, Southwest of Cameroon, Mr.Tabe- who in 2008 was appointed as Propaganda and Recruitment Agent was severally arrested and detained, but his father-in-law Chief Ayamba would bail him out. 
     For trying to resist arrest by security agents, Mr. Tabe, nicknamed as SCNC Tabe was sometimes reportedly tortured to submission.
Mr.Tabe was not only persecuted by security forces but also by local chiefs who are auxiliaries of the Government and some overzealous members of the ruling CPDM
     When Chief Ayamba died on June 14, 2014, the SCNC announced they would give their deceased leader a “state burial”, an announcement that left the Government frightened and forced it to militarize Mamfe,where he was to be buried .The near state of emergency in Mamfe led to the arrest of several SCNC officials on the eve of Chief Ayamba’s  burial including Mr.Tabe.
     Mr. Tabe was only released early October 2014 from detention on condition that he would henceforth denounce the SCNC, according to reports.  But upon his release he did not publicly denounce the SCNC as he committed himself to do. That was considered as a betrayal of trust by the pro-government politician who negotiated his release.
     Hinted of a plan to re-arrest him Mr. Tabe is said to have gone into hiding last November and police in mufti are reportedly hunting for him.
    The SCNC, which was formed in 1994 as a protest to what is considered as gross marginalization of Anglophones, had as its pioneer National Chairman Barrister Sam Ekontang Elad.
     SCNC has as objective the “restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons” and as motto “The Force of Argument, Not the Argument of Force”.
    Many Anglophones who are supporters of the SCNC have been harassed, molested, tortured and prosecuted, a situation that has forced many others to flee abroad for safety.