Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Cameroon Separatist Clashes Shut Down Schools

FILE - A woman stands outside the damaged roof of a school's dormitory, after it was set on fire, in Bafut, in the northwest English-speaking region of Cameroon, Nov. 15, 2017.   

It is a bright Tuesday morning, with children hawking goods to drivers and passersby on the congested streets of Yaounde. The number of these sidewalk sellers is increasing with the ongoing conflict in Cameroon's English-speaking northwest and southwest regions, where fighting between armed separatists and government troops has shut down schools and sent thousands of children fleeing to safer ground.
     Among the sidewalk peddlers is 16-year-old Delphine Tabe. She says she has been a hawker for more than a year since she fled from her village in Lebialem, an administrative unit in the southwest.
   "I am selling boiled groundnuts to have money and help my mother who is in the hospital. She was beaten by Cameroon gendarmes after a military man was killed in our village. My mother almost died. Our school was burned and students were beaten. Since that day in May 2017, we escaped to Yaounde and we do not have money to go to school."
    Delphine says her chances of pursuing her dream - becoming a teacher - are gradually slipping away as she has no one to sponsor her education. Instead, she has to look for money to help her sick mother.
    In the kitchen at the house where Delphine lives in Yaounde, food is being prepared for 32 people. Emmanuel Nembo, a 52-year old government worker originally from Lebialem, says that a year ago, he had only five mouths to feed.
    The number exploded as people from the southwest fled their villages and pleaded for him to feed and shelter them.
 Emmanuel says he is praying for the crisis to stop because many have been coming and he can no longer offer help.
    "We are stretching an olive hand of peace. Those in the bush should give a chance. Come back home, to their homes so that they could meet their mothers, brothers and sisters," he says.
    Many schools have been closed in the northwest and southwest areas since November 2016, when lawyers and teachers began a strike to stop what they see as the overbearing use of French.
Separatists took over the movement, and began pushing for the regions to become independent.
  Since then, several dozen schools have been torched, and armed men have kidnapped or killed a number of teachers. Many students in the regions can no longer attend the few schools that are still open, for fear of the unknown.
The United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 people, a majority of them children of school age, have fled the violence in the English-speaking regions for safer locations. Tens of thousands have crossed over to Nigeria, and no one knows when any of them will ever return to school.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Cameroon Families Search for Repatriated Migrants

FILE - Cameroonian migrants receive registration forms upon their arrival after spending several months in Libya, at the Yaounde International Airport in Cameroon, Nov.r 22, 2017.

Families are in search of loved ones among the more than 2,000 Cameroonian migrants who were rescued in Libya and brought back to the central African state by the International Organization for Migration.
    More than 100 Cameroonians cheered and sang the central African country's national anthem upon arrival at the Yaounde-Nsimalen international airport from Libya this week as they were met by family members, curious onlookers and government authorities.
     Children were among the returnees, said social worker Prisca Ndemaya.
 "I have a case of two children, aged between six months and two years old. Their mothers were shot in Libya, and so these children were lucky to come back home safely. After all the preliminary health examinations done on the children, we are going to secure the children at the center for distress children," she said.
     Olive Mboze, a 32-year-old breastfeeding mother, also arrived in Yaounde. She says her husband stayed behind in Algeria, where they had flown from Cameroon with the hope of finding a way to Italy. She discovered she was one month pregnant when she got to the Libyan city of Bayda, so she worked as a housekeeper and reported herself to the police when the pregnancy reached seven months. She says she was charged with illegal immigration and taken to a prison in Bayda, where she delivered her child.
FILE - A Cameroonian nurse gives an injection to a girl arriving with her familly after spending several months in Libya, at the Yaounde International Airport in Cameroon, Nov. 22, 2017.
     Some women who delivered had neither sanitary papers for themselves nor napkins for their babies, Mboze said, and had to cut their dresses into pieces to clean themselves and their newborn babies.
      The migrants looked exhausted. They told stories of torture and murder, and said some people went missing and others were trapped in the desert or at sea.
The International Organization for Migration gives $150 to each of the migrants who return to buy food and gifts for their families.
       A year ago, brothers Henri and Pierre Bekolge returned from Libya and opened a poultry farm in Ahala, on the outskirts of Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, benefiting from $4,000 given to them by the Cameroon government to socially integrate returning migrants.

FILE - A Cameroonian police officer registers the arrival from Libya of a Cameroonian woman and her son at the Yaounde International Airport in Cameroon, Nov. 22, 2017.
     Pierre says his brother, Henri, sold the first chickens and a portion of land they inherited from their parents and left again for Europe through north Africa. Pierre says he is also determined to go to Europe, and is working hard to raise funds to leave Cameroon.
     He says he was unlucky when he arrived in Libya a year ago, and fell in the hands of people who duped him and took his money. Some of his friends, however, say they have found success in Europe and tell him their living conditions have improved. He says he has seen so many people who braved the difficulties, traveled to Europe are now investing back at home, unlike his friends who graduated from university, remained in Cameroon and now share rooms, food and clothing with their family members because they do not have jobs.
     Pierre refused to say when he would leave, but said it was imminent. He said he cannot remain in the poultry business because he is a law graduate from the University of Yaounde.
     Cameroon says families are in search of scores of relatives who have again left the country. Officials say they have been warning citizens about the dangers of irregular travel to Europe and are encouraging Cameroonians to obtain official travel documents and visas.
    Cameroon estimates 120,000 of its citizens are illegal migrants, with most trapped by trafficking rings, or held in Libyan prisons or Italian refugee camps.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Cameroon: In Defence of the American Ambassador

Rather than castigate the US Ambassador for advising Biya to step down after 36 years in power, Cameroonians should hail Ambassador Barlerin for speaking truth to power. It’s time for Biya to go.

By Ekinneh Agbaw-Ebai, Boston, USA
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, suit
US Ambassador, Peter Henry Barlerin
    If there ever was any doubt about the abysmal level to which governance or leadership in Cameroon has fallen and how small the minds are in very high places, the utterly reckless and bizarre response to the US Ambassador, Peter Henry Barlerin, for advising President Biya to think about his legacy; a move interpreted by Yaoundé as a call for Biya to step down, is a melodrama which speaks to the intemperate desperation of Cameroon’s vampire elite in their quest for Biya to remain in power, and provide cannon fodder for their bare-face corruption and pillage of the nation’s wealth.
   In a readout after an audience with President Biya at Unity Palace last May 17, the US envoy said: “…the President and I discussed upcoming elections. ‎I suggested to the President that he should be thinking about his legacy and how he wants to be remembered in the history books to be read by generations to come, and proposed that George Washington and Nelson Mandela‎ were excellent models.” While lamenting the absence of dialogue which has escalated the Anglophone crisis, Ambassador Barlerin indicted security forces for “targeted killings, detentions without access to legal support, family, or the Red Cross, and burning and looting of villages.” 
    Jolted by self-righteous indignation and a mundane craving to ingratiate themselves to the corridors of power, gaffing, goofing, dilatory goons, masquerading as intellectuals and opinion leaders; including fifth columnists and sundry regime apologists, took to the airwaves to castigate the Ambassador; casting banal, vituperative aspersions on his person and declaring him, persona non-grata. The bile and vitriol, including the obnoxious threat by one Banda Kani; who on live TV, said Ambassador Barlerin will return to America in a coffin, is a diplomatic sacrilege that does not edify Cameroon as a nation. Cameroon deserves better.
   The impropriety of inflaming primordial sentiments against a resident ambassador is simply mind-boggling and inexcusable. And never again should it happen! The attacks, like the sycophants behind them, are not only pathetic; they are cheap and only reinforce Cameroon’s image as a banana republic with highly dysfunctional institutions where bizarre things can happen. In the event, the civic callousness by self-seeking morons who plumbed the abyss of diplomatic rascality and drag the nation to a hitherto unprecedented low; did a great disservice to the nation. This is a shame and Cameroonians deserve full explanation for this embarrassment.
    On the face of it, there is nothing the Ambassador said that has not been in the domain of public discourse. Images of arrests, torture, executions and burning of Anglophone villages have gone viral on social media. It also does not require a rocket scientist to figure out that Biya is tired. At 85, Biya is far on the left side of the average age of African Presidents which is 63; that’s pension time, or nearing it, in most countries. Put in context, the European equivalent is 55; which is also the average age of American presidents at their inauguration. Since taking office in 1982, Biya has seen five French presidents - Francois Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Hollande and Emmanuel Macron. In the same period, Americans have elected six different presidents – Ronald Reagan, George H Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Biya is also Africa’s oldest president and the second longest- serving ruler; behind Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Nguema, in power for 38 years.
    The president’s frequent trips abroad for medical tourism continue to fuel speculations about his failing health. Keen observers can determine Biya is showing more wear and tear mostly in the wrinkles on his face; the deterioration in his husky voice; the alleged diapers, uncontrollable flatulence, protracted anal blasts and the declining swagger of his gait as witnessed during official outings when he can barely walk. Biya now cuts the picture of an isolated man, frail, distraught, distracted and completely out of touch. Honestly speaking, to vilify the US Ambassador for advising an 85-year-old president to step down, after 36 years, is a travesty that insults and diminishes even Biya’s own person.
    Beyond the specifics of avuncular admonition and verbal castigation, the assault on Barlerin is nothing more than self-seeking, ignominious, whimsical and disdainful diplomatic brigandage; more so as it transcends the fine line between free speech and hate speech. Those sycophants, who saw Barlerin’s statement as an attack on their power and unearned privileges, must be told in whatever language they understand that Biya, like every mortal, will eventually die but Cameroon will continue to exist! They should therefore critically examine the issue of presidential succession raised rather than waste time venting needless ad hominems in the public space.
      Of course, the reckless behavior of Cameroon’s ruling elite which caused the US envoy to speak truth to power as he did, are well known. A gang of tired old kleptocrats tottering on the borders of senile decay have captured and taken the nation hostage and are stealing the people blind. Cameroon is about the only country in the world where noble minds are ruled by ignoble characters; where thieves get national honors, public servants get paid to steal, and law enforcement officials are venerated for breaking the law. Despite its potential for greatness, Cameroon has aimlessly drifted to become a nation of unimaginable depravity: a forsaken nation ridden with corruption and institutionalized banditry, a people dehumanized by widespread poverty and decrepit infrastructure; and one bedeviled by tribalism, thriving opportunism and heightened insecurity. At the head of the crime syndicate called CPDM, is Paul Biya who cares not one whit about the future of the country; he only wants to be president. Biya has denigrated the presidency, transforming it into a clannish swindle and so far as one can tell, his only visible strategy is just power without a purpose.
 It will take a man and half to end the nation’s drift and Biya’s inability to lead illustrates a poor dimension of presidential stature and the amplification of the absence of leadership example, from a president who has nothing more to offer Cameroonians.
    The point must however be made with emphasis that every nation that respects international law has a duty as well, in its very own interest, to seek the socio-economic and political stability of its host nation. Unlike Franco-Cameroon relations with a parasitic reverse umbilical cord, in which the mother (France) feeds fat on the fetus (Cameroon), US assistance to Cameroon is a one-way traffic. The US is Cameroon’s leading investor, through the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline project. US food assistance since 2016 stands at over $80 million. From 2015 to present, US military aid to Cameroon is $192,417,258; (FCFA 110 bn), according to data from Security Assistance Monitor. Presently, there are over 300 American military personnel and civilian contractors in the Salak military base near Garoua helping the government fight Boko Haram. Through the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the US provides millions of dollars for free anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients. American Peace Corps volunteers leave the comfort of their home country to work in the most remote hinterlands, where even Cameroonians refuse to go and work. Cameroon also enjoys preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA); exporting goods, tariffs free to the US market. Certainly, antagonizing the USA is a strategic mistake that cannot be in the national interest.
    While some will dismiss the odious, desultory and even comical hubris from the president’s men, the deafening silence of the presidency in the face of the brazen callousness, audacity and debauchment of the US diplomat is an affront to the nation and all Cameroonians must hide their heads in shame, even as they wonder how their government can be so imprudent. 
      If Yaoundé saw anything wrong with the threats to kill the US ambassador, it has taken them too long to make this known! The animus and intemperate verbiage reeking of self-righteous indignation, directed at Ambassador Barlerin, who spoke the minds of a majority of Cameroonians is not the most ideal way to promote friendly relations, which is one of the functions of adroit diplomacy.
     It has also been reasonably argued that Barlerin should not have made public his private discussions with Biya, for doing so suggests bad faith and risked inciting the public against the regime. But even if Barlerin’s statement amounted to interference, contrary to Article 41(1) of the Vienna Convention, a more dignified and mature response would be to resolve the issues diplomatically through the Ministry of External Relations. That is statesmanship.
     If Biya had any sense of patriotism and respect for democracy; if Biya was not so bereft of integrity as to change the constitution to engender his life presidency; if Biya had not gone cap in hand begging for handouts from America and other nations; if Cameroon wasn’t embroiled in governance anomie, surely there would be no reason for foreigners to define terms on which Cameroon should be governed. The fact that Biya has reduced the Anglophone regions to killing fields challenges our common humanity and it would have been a dereliction of duty if Ambassador Barlerin had not called out the Biya regime for the genocide and crimes against humanity.
     Therefore, rather than waste time hurling insults at the US diplomat for speaking truth to power, all patriotic Cameroonians should hail Ambassador Barlerin for acting as a self-imposed moral ombudsman and conscience of a drifting nation. 
      However ill-conceived the Ambassador’s statement might be in content and delivery, it is once again another reminder that history is beckoning on Paul Biya and giving him a chance at winning the battle for both self-redemption and national rebirth. The choice is patently Biya’s to make.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Cameroon: How the Diaspora Fuels the Anglophone Crisis

By Mbemba Fritz                                           

Back in Cameroon, Anglophone activists live in fear, facing: harassment, detentions, persecution and prosecution; but those in the Diaspora freely and courageously advocate the restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons.
      With the help of social media, Anglophone rights campaigners have successfully sensitized the world on the plight of Anglophones in Cameroon, fuelling the crisis.  Pundits are agreed that, it is high time-and morally and legally right- to correct the “errors” of the past, with the United Nations assuming its full responsibility.
Anglophone Refugees in Nigeria /Ayah foundation
Some Anglophones while still in Cameroon discreetly  develop interest in the struggle for the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons for fear of repression, but once they travel out of the country they become frontline campaigners for self-determination. Consider this telling example: Carl Wolonge Nganje is an Anglophone born in April 1983 in the oil-rich Ndian Division of Cameroon. He was aware of growing complaints of marginalization of minority Anglophones by the dominant majority Francophone leadership; but he cautiously maintained sealed lips, instead of speaking out against the perceived injustices like others did.
     But Carl recently became a frontline SCNC activist having traveled to the USA.
 He enrolled as a Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) member in 2014 while in the USA, and having been sufficiently briefed on the true picture of the controversial union of Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun, a disappointed Carl told himself,” Enough is enough” and that is how he has since become very active in propagating the goal of SCNC, created in 1994 to speed up the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons. Carl is reported to have   even created a group known as Cameroon Solidarity Group in 2015 in Oklahoma, which runs a blog that exposes Human Rights abuses on Anglophones by the Cameroon government.
     But such reports on his blog have resulted in apologists of the Biya regime anonymously threatening his life against   returning to Cameroon.
 Reports say his family back home is also facing similar threats.
Carl, who had travelled to the US in 2011, got married there, divorced and remarried. But in January 2016 he was allegedly warned by the US Immigration about his possible deportation because of a job application irregularity concerning him.
      To play safe, Carl in February 2017 would be taken by one friend to Canada where he now resides and continues his scnc activism.
Now because of the escalating crisis in Cameroon, if you tell him to return to Cameroon he would liken you to his enemy who wants him dead.
     He not only fears for his life but for his relations, for sometimes, police molest relations of activists too.
    The SCNC, which since creation, has been putting pressure on the Cameroon government to grant the independence of Anglophones, was banned on January 17,2017 in the wake of  renewed protests by Anglophones  seeking self-rule.
      Signed by the then Minister of Territorial Administration, Rene Sadi, the Government’s banning order of the SCNC partly states: “The groups Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) and the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) are declared null and void for their purpose and activities, which are contrary to the Constitution and liable to jeopardize the security of the state, territorial integrity, national unity and national integration.”
    Following the ban, leaders of the Consortium such as Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho(President) and Dr.Fontem Neba(Secretary-General) were arrested. Even an outspoken judge on the Anglophone plight, Justice Ayah Paul, then Advocate-General at Cameroon Supreme Court, was also arrested and jailed.
Many other activists have been prosecuted and sent to prison.
     Armed clashes between government forces and separatists have this far had  negative effects, which include the burning of houses, killings, kidnappings, molestation of families, torture of suspects, arrests, detentions, growing number of refugees and internally displaced people .
      According to UNHCR, over 30 thousand Anglophones have fled to neighboring Nigeria as refugees; hundreds of others have fled to other countries for safety.
      Concerned about  the crisis,the US Ambassador to Cameroon, Peter Henry Barlerin, last may 18, in a press statement accused the Government of ”targeted killings, detentions without access to legal support, family or the Red Cross and burning and looting of villages
     Barlerin also blamed Separatists for “murders of gendarmes, kidnappings of government officials and burning of schools”
Ex-President of Pan-African Lawyers Unon, Lawyer Akere Muna in a letter dated May 14, 2018 and addressed to the UN Secretary-General titled” Urgent Humanitarian Crisis in Cameroon”, accused the Cameroon Government of Collective Punishment.
      “Collective punishment has been the government’s preferred solution to the crisis”, he wrote, noting that: “A high-ranking General of the Army admitted that the burnings of villages were by the army who had no mastery of the terrain and had difficulties locating the perpetrators of the killing of soldiers.”
      Muna cited the 4th Geneva Convention to which Cameroon is a state-party:” Collective punishment is a form of retaliation whereby a suspected perpetrator’s family members, friends, acquaintances, sect, neighbors or entire ethnic group is targeted”
      Sisiku Julius Tabe, president of Ambazonia and his cabinet members were recently arrested in Nigeria and are detained incommunicado without access to their lawyers and families in Cameroon, as the crisis worsens.

Cameroon Anglophone Crisis: Minister Tasong urges return to normalcy in Lebialem

By Christopher Ambe

The Minister-Delegate in the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Paul Tasong and first ever native of Lebialem to serve as Cabinet minister in President Paul Biya’s 36 -year old rulership, has pleaded with natives of the Division to ignore calls from instigators (an indirect reference to separatists fighting for the Independence of Southern Cameroons) for the division of Cameroon.
   Minister Tasong’s fervent appeal was made ,last Saturday at Buea Mountain Hotel ,during a conclave with Lebialem elites , to examine the current socio-political crisis (Anglophone Crisis)rocking the Southwest Region ,with emphasis on Lebialem.

Minister Paul Tasong speaking to the press
Lebialem is one of the most vocal localities for the restoration of the independence of Anglophones.  Persistent clashes between government’s forces and armed separatists in Lebialem have resulted in several deaths, the burning of houses including that of Minister Paul Tasong and the culturally-rich Azi Palace, as well as kidnappings of government officials.
   Minister Tasong told reporters after the meeting that they met to strategize on how to defuse the tension in the Division, provoked by self-determination rights activists.
    He expressed “our wish to continue to extend the olive branch to the actors of the other side (the separatists), to the youth of Lebialem who in their vulnerability have decided to join the forces of backwardness.
   “We are encouraging the people of our Division who still have faith in the institutions of the republic, who still trust in Republican values to continue in that line because this crisis, like any other, will come to and end. And where shall we be when that day comes?”
    The Minister disclosed that several other meetings will regularly be held, all in a bid to cause life return to normal in Lebialem in particular and Anglophone Cameroon as a whole.
    “We have agreed to carry out specific actions and we already have a roadmap which will guide our actions to look for lasting solutions to the crisis”, the minister said.
    The on-going Anglophone crisis, which now seems to be fast turning into armed conflicts, started in 2016, when Common law lawyers’ and Anglophone teachers’ trade unions were protesting against perceived marginalization and the “Frenchification” of the English way of life.
    What is today called the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon, used to be UN -British Southern Cameroons, which would gain  its independence on October 11961 by Joining  La Republique Du Cameroun, which had on January 1,1960  got its independence from France.
    The union of the states was supposed to function on the basis of equality of status.
 (This report also appears in The Horizon Newspaper,Cameroon,of June 12,2018)