Arrest of top class looters criticized

Some Cameroonians have expressed serious discontent with the arrest of ex-Government officials for purported mismanagement of public funds and embezzlement, without recuperation of the loot. They say such “senseless” moves are a waste of time and scarce resources if the supposed stolen wealth is not recuperated.
The commentators spoke to The Rambler during a survey of public opinion following the arrest of erstwhile Minister of Water and Energy, Basil Atangana Kouna who was caught in Nigeria and forcefully brought back to Cameroon, Thursday March 22.
They are angry that corruption has continued on a steady rise even with the launch of the much parroted anti-corruption campaign, ‘Operation Sparrow Hawk,’ which has sent many top brass former regime loyalists to the dreaded Kondengui Central Prison.
“Have you asked yourself why almost all the people the President appoints to assist in his ‘Grand Ambitions’ always end up behind bars for so-called misappropriation? Do you think he did not know they were embezzlers before appointing them? “This whole issue of arrests here and there is mere drama. They want to show the world that they are taking the fight against corruption to another level. It is a clean network your age will not permit you to understand,” concluded an economic expert who opted for anonymity.
The former Minister who enjoyed a spot at the Special Police Branch Office in Yaounde has joined his peers, former Ministers, as newest tenant at the Kondengui, after appearing at the Special Criminal Court, on Friday. The Central Prison in Yaounde has become a haven, safe or not, for certain Government officials accused of having swindled public funds entrusted to them during their short or long stays in office as the case may be.
Critics have joked that the emeritus Water and Energy minister, who they say deprived them of water and energy supply will have a firsthand taste of his pudding.
Though it is still unclear what charges he would be facing, speculations abound that he may have to answer to charges of the embezzlement of FCFA 100 billion alongside some coconspirators.
Sources say he bribed his way through the country’s radars, smuggling himself to neighbouring Nigeria dressed like a woman.
The ex-Water and Energy minister was arrested coincidentally on ‘World Water Day.’ The day was observed in Cameroon amidst gnashing of teeth in some communities which had gone for several months without access to even a drop of potable water. The epileptic power supply equally made its presence felt in parts of the country during Atangana Kouna’s unceremonious homecoming.
“Don Basilio” as he is fondly called by close associates has been taken into custody for speculated embezzlement of state funds. What the common man found worrying when The Rambler sampled opinion in Yaounde, is whether the funds he has purportedly “chopped” will be refunded and if any of the lump sum money would by any chance trickle down to them.
By Claudia Nsono

Hustlers!

Some people never learn their lessons.
You notice their cocky attitude, as they treat people as if life were simply a try at coconut shy. How many would have imagined that five years would pass by as if nothing had happened?
I hear some councillors were alternating between periods of optimism and a sense of emptiness. It is now time out for those whose eloquence is convincing, but have nothing to show for all the sweet pep talk. Every aspirant declared to have the magic wand needed to save the ship of state from sinking, others made pronouncements about their panacea which can make the “Anglophone crisis”, a thing of the past, with a wave of the hand. It is interesting to watch these “politricksians,” some of whom think their past unfulfilled promises now should be seen as water under the bridge.
This has been said for so long that it can be a new sing song. People are tormented by the past, tremulous about the future and very much disturbed by the present. Several men and women in the Northwest Region have for long felt that they were being nourished by a generation of broken promises. Some became bitter, quarrelsome and slightly pathetic; all these born out of the frustration of not seeing their elected officials taking interest in their troubles.
The ballot box is the proper instrument for the citizenry to sanction the actions of the ruling elite. Yes, there are complaints that there is a sophisticated rigging machine that is so effective that no one can beat it. But why fear such things? Truth is, no matter what “politricksians” might say, the virtues of honesty, candour, frugality and patriotism have withered and died. What is left, is a people whom neither the vices of their rulers nor the increasingly bold attacks of foreign and local enemies could shake out their apathy. You have dreams and you struggle to attain them, then you find they were a mirage in the desert. The struggle is the fun. The dream is the motivating force. Nothing more!
I, the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month, by the shores of the Atlantic, in the land of the proud people, this day declare; cheats, especially during an election are like a fake brand name garment or wrist watch that looks genuine but eventually disappoints. Wealth and vanity are at the expense of the weak and helpless. My friend Otto is a councilor. He says money is the name of the game, and many have been wielding money bags ready to oil the lips of the councilors who see the senatorial elections as the opportunity to get their own share of the Upper house gumbo. Otto says, “better take your own now and run. Who knows whether we will still be councilors …” My conclusion is that we are all hustlers.
By Winston Lebga

SDF picks Northwest senatorial ticket

The Social Democratic Front, SDF, has beaten the ruling CPDM party by a thin margin of 21 votes to win the senatorial elections in the Northwest Region.
According to exit polls, out of the registered 1,039 municipal councilors, 1037 effectively voted with two absences, scoring a percentage rate of 99,81. SDF had 517 councilors voting for their list while CPDM had 496 giving the SDF an edge of 21 votes. UDP had 16 and UNDP just two votes.
While there is still ongoing debate as to whether the victory of the SDF shall be complete or shared, many SDF party adherents in Bamenda have swung into celebration, describing it as a good checker of ghost senators and impostors who could not show proof of their mandate to electors. According to Tefu Emmanuel, Second Deputy Mayor for Belo, it was a real sanction vote. “We did it as we all planned. It is time to see the real people in action and such a venture and prosperous mission can only come from the SDF. We saw our first senators who could only donate a motorcycle each, to the various councils in the Region. What a shame. I believe it is our time now to show the difference and that’s the tradition of the SDF.
Barrister Ajuoh Ngam Honore, candidate on the SDF list had described the mandate of the senators whose mandate is currently fading out as one which has fallen short of accountability, zero presence within the constituency, total silence on the Anglophone crisis by the senators of the Northwest and the Southwest Regions. He said that his candidature and several others and the SDF list is a new breed that shall usher in a change within the ranks of the senate and time for business to start if the SDF list wins in the Region. “It is time to promote and give a chance to youth vitality, accountability in governance and time to push forward a community driven agenda and forge the federalism which remains the only political solution to the Anglophone crisis which is a political issue,” said Honore.
There has been widespread rumours that some CPDM councillors also voted in frustration in Menchum, Boyo and Ngoketunjia to facilitate the victory of the SDF. Despite tension throughout the Northwest, the senatorial elections went through for Momo Division wherein a video camera was discovered planted right inside the voting room. A situation that halted voting for some time and the Governor and the SDF chairman had to visit the scene. At press time, the security forces were still caring out investigation as both contesting parties have continued to point accusation fingers at each other.
By Jean Marie Ngong Song

CPDM out-votes SDF in Kumba senatorial

Social Democratic Front, SDF, was reportedly lost to the CPDM in the March 25 senatorial elections in Meme Division despite having a majority of councilors here.
A host of SDF councilors and monitors are said to have appeared looking drunk at the Government Practicing Primary School, PS Kumba Mbeng.
Preliminary results at the close of polls Sunday night indicated that, the CPDM was set for a plus one vote over the SDF.
Trends showed that while the CPDM had 71 votes, the SDF was on spot Number Two with 70 votes. The ANDP of Ahmadou Moustapha had one vote while Bello Bouba’s NUDP had zero votes. If the official results favour the CPDM then it will mean that some SDF councillors voted against the party’s list.

Senator Otte celebrates
With the trends favouring the CPDM incumbent senator Andrew Otte Mofa and his supporters staged a celebration party in Kumba. Otte said he was proud to have defeated the opposition in what is considered its fief.
The Senator said the victory is that of the people and his party. He said he was not under pressure, given that he has been in touch with his people during the mandate under review.
Candidates beg for food
In the heat of the voting exercise, a senatorial candidate of the NUDP party was spotted begging for free food.
The candidate who appeared worn out rather gave up hopes of good tidings from the ballot box even before votes could be counted.
Bikes out of circulation
Throughout Voting Day, the Kumba dual carriageway was a no go zone for commercial bikers. Security forces erected barricades on the road to control traffic.
It resulted in empty streets and business premises until after 6PM. Commutters returning from Church and other social functions within voting hours were forced to trek.
Security at the polling station remained heightened all through the day.
Mukete grants audience to councilors
Prior to voting day, Senator Nfon V.E. Mukete, paramount ruler of the bafaws held a closed door meeting with CPDM councilors at his palace.
The Rambler gathered that, the elder statesman stepped in to the councilors against casting any “sanction votes.”
By NGENDE ESTHER

SWELA urges Les Brasseries to employ more Anglophones

The deputy secretary for the Southwest Elites Association, SWELA, in charge of Meme Division has urged the authorities of Cameroon’s leading brewing company Les Brasseries du Cameroun in Kumba, to employ more Anglophones in the enterprise, so as to make them feel the presence of the economic giant in their midst.
Prince Daniel Nasako made the call on Friday, March 23, 2018, during a handing over awards ceremony in recognition of the support the company has been contributing towards the promotion of culture, peace, education, sports and humanitarian work.
He acknowledged that the company has proven its worth in the support of education and other activities, especially to the youths but regretted that Anglophones working in the company could be counted within seconds.
“We of SWELA acknowledge that much work has been done, but urge you to recruit more Anglophones to break the imbalance that exists and also in a way resolve the vexation of youths who often complain that companies in their Region recruit more of Francophones.”
In response, the laureate Ms. Nchinda Evelyn Ngwe Tita, Chief of Commercial Services, Kumba, while thanking the association for recognizing their efforts especially in the promotion of education and humanity, said the worry of employing more Anglophones is already being taken care of by management.
“I am so overwhelmed by such recognition. This award is coming to Meme, which means it is coming to us here. It is very symbolic to us because it is not easy to give your all and see people who come back to say thank you. With regards to their plea, it is is already in line with the strategy of the company. The General Manager himself acknowledges the fact that more Anglophones are needed for a balance. It will obviously come but in a gradual process.”
She, however used the opportunity to advised youths to drop their applications at the company website so that when need arises they could be called up to be employed.
By NGENDE ESTHER

Proposal paper on the short and long term peace strategies: “Anglophone” crisis (II)

By Maxwell N. Achu, Diplomat,
(Peace Advocate, Conflict Transformation Researcher,
Academia, MA. International Relations) 2
This paper calls for inclusive peace strategies to enable the implementation of proper measures for the effective avoidance of the “conflict trap” as well as the consequences that come with violence and conflicts.
THE PROBLEM
For purposes of brevity, this paper will not narrate the historical roots of the conflict, as it does not seek to feed on the conflict formation process. Rather it will analyze the status quo to paint the picture as it is, as well as propose solutions to redressing and amending these impairments to peace.
Like in Mali where the Tuaregs decry marginalization from the central Government against the northern part of the country, so too are the “Anglophones” claiming the same infringements on their participation in the state of affairs in Cameroon. The “Anglophones” decry extensive social exclusion, social and economic injustice and a structurally divided society which underpin discrimination. According to the “Anglophones”, the abandonment and outright neglect of some parts of the country, pushes disgruntled and frustrated citizens to dominate the local context without proper regulations, which leads to violence. This could be substantiated in the peripheral Regions of Colombia before the turn of the 21st century4 or the present day Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, this paper follows a crosscutting and holistic research to understand and report the technical problem, by going deeper in the deep rooted structural and cultural violence within the Cameroon society. It does not limit to the physical or direct violence exacerbated by the recent “Anglophone” uprising.
Technical problems?
1) Absence of peace culture:

Cameroon lacks the entrenched culture of peace to strengthen its resilience to such civil shocks. The society is making no efforts in bringing subconsciously, peace cultures to the forefront. A society, which is wired adequately with a peace culture, like in Botswana and Ghana, will ensure that equality must be the preferred mode of interaction, as opposed to the Cameroon “Francophone” mainstream dominance. One of the major instruments of implanting a peace culture is through “massive peace education”. Cameroon cannot boast of any form of intensive peace education in the context of peace building to promote a peace culture. Education is the most efficient medium to uproot the subconscious violent-culture and implant the necessary peace culture. The United Nations with several resolutions has buttressed the vitality of this medium to enhance peace-building skills through peace learning. The UN supports this claim in various resolutions:
UN General Assembly: In its resolution 53/243 of 13 September 1999 adopted by the UN General Assembly on the Declaration of a Culture of Peace, Solemnly proclaims the present Declaration on a Culture of Peace to the end that Governments, international organizations, and civil society may be guided in their activity by its provision to promote and strengthen a culture of peace…6
• As per Art 1(a) of this Declaration, the UN defined ‘a Culture of Peace (as) a set of values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behaviors and ways of life based on: respect for Life, Ending violence and promotion of practice of non-violence through EDUCATION…
• The Art 1(e) stresses Efforts to meet the developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations (Cameroon students and peace-workers).
• As per Art 4, EDUCATION is one of the principal means to build a culture of peace, and Art 7 highlights the educative and informative role, which contributes to the promotion of a culture of peace. Art 8 mentions the key role in the promotion of a culture of peace belonging to teachers, intellectuals’, health and humanitarian workers as well as non-governmental organizations.
• Urges member states to support, as appropriate, quality EDUCATION FOR PEACE that equips youth with the ability to engage constructively in civic structures and inclusive political processes,
• Encourages investments in building young people’s capabilities and skills to meet demands through EDUCATION opportunities designed in a manner, which promotes a culture of peace.

In the same context, resolution 60/3 on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the world commends the relevance for the promotion of peace culture through EDUCATION and encourage activities related to specific areas identified in the Programme of Action on a Culture of peace.
Security Council, SC,: One of the most vital resolutions on the enhancement of peace culture is the Security Council resolution 2250 adopted at its 7573rd meeting, on 9 December 2015. The resolution: 7 Furthermore, recalling the UNESCO’s constitution that states that ‘since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed’. Any attempt to disrupt youth’s access to education to peace-building skills and abilities has a dramatic and tremendous impact on durable peace and reconciliation.
In fact, the environment in Cameroon does not reflect a relax conviviality for peace by peaceful means.
2) The presence of deep-rooted structural violence

Violent deep structures are situations where the forms of relations between the segments/divisions of society are dysfunctional – between the old and the young, men and women, between races and ethnicities, between powerful and powerless, along every social cleavage. Cameroon deep violent structure is characterized by asymmetry, irregularity and lopsidedness of power between the different segments of her society. This automatically leads to violations of the basic needs of others.
Cameroon does not have a well-outlined infrastructure, which promotes equity and reciprocity across the social cleavage that could facilitate the transformation of the “Anglophone” crisis, and prevent civilian killings. This discourages peaceful approach as widespread means of conflict resolution. This is accounted as failure of the political responsibility, to have mobilized the knowledge of nonviolence. The “Anglophones” claim that in such in-egalitarian structure, the time for parity has come. This leads us to one of the reasons why NGOs in Cameroon are fragmented because NGO representatives can better negotiate in egalitarian setting as opposed to diplomats from an in-egalitarian state system.
Cameroon structural violent scenario can be analyzed from two dimensions; Development and Freedom. Concerning the dimension of Development, structural violence in Cameroon is epitomized in loss of citizens’ lives from hunger, preventable diseases and other related sufferings caused by unjust structures of the society coupled with weak economic power. Effects of such structurally violent societies often seek humanitarian aid, food aid, alleviation of poverty and other related misery programmes. Meanwhile, concerning Freedom, the structural violence in the Cameroon environment or context, legitimizes itself through excessive deprivation from freedom of choice, and from participation in decisions, that affect people – in this case – Cameroonian lives. This dimension of violence brings other effects such as oppression, occupation or some form of dictatorship, prevalent in mostly authoritarian and hybrid Government types.
It is our objective that this peace plan will set the stage for complete eradication of structural violence, as well as build life-sustaining economy at the local and national level in Cameroon while ensuring that everyone’s basic needs are met. The long-term prospects of this peace agenda will further spur good governance; encourage effective citizenry participation and self-determination in decisions affecting their own lives. It is for this reason that the long-term peace project seeks to create institutions that promote cooperation, reconciliation, openness, equality and the culture of peaceful actions in collective situations. This will strengthen democratic institutions to be consensual, inclusive, transparent as well as accountable.
(To be continued)

Very Important Prisoners, VIP

The brighter the light, the darker the shadow it casts. A political parvenu purportedly lit a light in 1982. He started spinning this long yarn of a deal which he insisted was new.
As young and naïve as we then were, we took to the streets, railing at the “ancien regime,” and hailing the chief proponent of rigour and moralization. Reporters swallowed the yarn, “scoop, line and sinker.” Before we could say ‘Ring Road, Deep Sea Port and egalitarianism,’ the ‘lion man’ had ‘rigorously demoralized’ us. His choice of ‘Ali Babas’ resorted to dry-cleaning the treasury as if Ahidjo’s cash had rendered it dirty. The dry-cleaning task was executed before we could blink our eyes. So, instead of beseeching us to fasten our seatbelts to collectively take-off to socio-economic and political prosperity, we were advised to tighten our belts against a looming economic crisis.
We obliged. We fell for the new deal talismanic influence on us and as a consequence descended to a base level of suffering and idiocy. Man Fridays and other quislings were conscripted from our very fold to sing the sustainable new deal song of six pence, a bucket full of rice, as it were. They titillated our senses with palliatives and lullabies.
Whilst dealing us deadly blows, the new dealer bellowed like a little Turk. He yelped about a certain light at the end of the tunnel. We were given the sackcloth of the people’s drinking movement, convinced to don it, because it was the only valid meal ticket; the only passport to civil service jobs and appointments. We grew leaner than the biblical Pharaoh’s lean cows by the day. Even so, we still groveled and deified the dealer to the point whereby, he conveniently adopted Godhead.
Today, the choice is for one to either sing or sink. But not the man, whose assigned mission was to ensure that we were dealt with, rigorously of course! Much unlike Franklin Delano Roosevelt from whom he borrowed the deal, our own dealer wasn’t and isn’t still prepared to play by the rules. Whereas Roosevelt’s New Deal failed; whereas this American president acknowledged such failure and launched a second New Deal (that worked) Saul is persistently stating that his own deal must sail on coercion and blood to the end.
Prime beneficiaries of a corrupt status quo have now become veritable ‘Vagabonds In Power,’ VIPs. Seeing as it were, that the piercing sirens that often accompanied them to and from thieving expeditions have lost their potency, they now prefer for the state to convey them in chartered flights. These flights, of course, gulp colossal amounts of tax payer’s money because even after paying for them, per diems and out station allowances must be spent for the repatriation of the likes of Basile Atangana Kouna from Nigeria.
Man hours must also be frittered by way of blocking Yaounde streets to enable free escort of a treasury looter that was in retreat. This, of course, is better than being initially vigilant to prevent the likes of Kouna from beating Tchiroma’s idea of eagle eyed, valiant security operatives.
Now, you see that instead of minting fiscal policies, our dealers, as new as they come, are opting for physical policies? I used to believe that the brains God gave us were to be used in improving the lot of others. But the dealer has proved me wrong, by taking selfish interest, by raking up every grain of power, even if it means airlifting Very Important Prisoners, VIPs, just so that the Vagabonds In Power, VIPs, can loot and rape the common till, until the dealer’s will is achieved by…
Last Line…
Our dealer has resorted to appointing educated sadists and streetwise comedians to see through his dream of hitting 2035. Do not say I told you!

Gov’t forces tackle ‘odeshi’ in Belo

Native doctors in Belo, Boyo Division have deserted the Sub-Division as well as the population following an undeclared war on them by security forces. This follows persistent rumours to the effect that some of them have been providing mystical bullet proof protection aka odeshi to ‘Ambazonian fighters.’
Reports say some time last week, security operatives stormed the Anyajua neighbourhood overnight and shot a native doctor popularly known as ‘TB Joshua’ because of the perceived instant response of his herbs to maladies. “TB Joshua” was conveyed to the Mbingo hospital, amidst allegations that other native doctors across Belo have been earmarked to be shot as well.
But the alleged Ambazonia fighters are not going down without a fight. Unidentified gunmen said to represent their interest at the dawn of the next day closed up on two men whom they suspected to have sold out to the security operatives and shot them dead.
In January two gendarmes where slaughtered and the military “retaliated” by beheading a man popularly called Sam Soya and his friend. Thereafter, they looted shops in the Sub-Division, molested denizens and seized their cash.
Gossip holds that aggrieved shop owners hired several native doctors especially from Anyajua and Anjin who performed rituals in their looted shops and that the rampaging men in uniform have not been at ease ever since then. According to Claudia Tosah, it’s just time for pay back.
“The fact that they have now launched an offensive on the native doctors, shows that they were the ones who broke into our shops and looted our money and other items. It’s very foolish of them. Kill all of them and you will not be cured of the ailments incurred already,” she boasted.
Another shop owner, Joseph Maleh says that it was a well planned act to deprive them of their homes. “How can they be the ones to set up this again? The last time we spent three weeks in the bushes, now we are in the bushes again. What becomes of our businesses?”
Belo Sub-Division has since become a hot spot following the outbreak of the Anglophone crisis. It is here that the service car of the Senior Divisional Officer, SDO, for Boyo was set ablaze.
Njinikom has also been in the limelight of recent. On Thursday, March 22, a group of unidentified gunmen visited the Do’s residence in Njinikom and reports say after several knocks at the door at 7am, the DO smelled danger and called in reinforcement from Fundong. After exchange the unidentified gunmen were chased off.
By JEAN MARIE NGONG SONG

Ambazonia threats drown CPDM anniversary celebrations

It was a low-key celebration at an almost empty party house in Kumba on Saturday as a handful of CPDM supporters mustered courage to set foot for their party’s 33 anniversary.
Heavily guarded by security forces, the party hall experienced one of the most bizarre CPDM anniversary celebrations in its history.
Orders from the party’s hierarchy for celebrations to hold only in Divisional headquarters could still not pull crowds from the Meme I, II, and III subsections that had to all converge on the party’s hall in Kumba.
Vigilant and alert, party supporters sneaked into the hall, some with their uniforms on while others could only dress up in party attire once they were sure of being in the comfort of the four walls of the party house. But why all the panic?
Numerous threats from ‘Ambazonia fighters’ in Kumba have forced several militants in the area from top to bottom to deny themselves in a bid to save their heads.
CPDM Councillors of the various Sub-Divisions in Meme (Mbonge, Konye…etc) were nowhere to be found as most have taken cover in Kumba for fear of reprisals from ‘Ambazonian forces’ who are said to be “monitoring” them.
A situation that got the Central Committee delegation head Benjamin Itoe fuming at the handful of adherents present to assume responsibility of the choice made to support the party in these “trying and difficult moments.”
He called on the party’s supporters to brave the odds, put on their uniforms and be ready to put their body on the line for the party.
However, his call seemed to have unsettled many a party adherent who were disgruntled immediately the ceremony came to its close.
“How can he ask us to risk our lives for the party when he is not leading by example?” a furious adherent asked, as he watched Benjamin Itoe drive past in his jeep heavily guarded by armed men policemen.
“He doesn’t put his uniform on, he can afford maximum security yet he wants us who have none of his privileges to come and risk our lives,” another one blasted.
In a twinkle of an eye, the party house had been deserted as all the “big men” had been driven off under high escort by the security forces present, leaving the ordinary party faithful with no option but to take to their heels for fear of the unknown.
However, it can never be a CPDM-styled occasion without a motion of support for their Chairman and “natural candidate” Paul Biya to stand for re-election at the Presidential later this year.
By Francis Ajumane

Rwandan President on why Africa must stop begging, pay bills

Detractors claim that he is a dictator. But Paul Kagame, Rwanda head of state, is often spotted, strolling with his wife along Kigali streets, without bodyguards.
His idea of democracy is practical, flexible and is reaping miracles for the landlocked densely populated East African nation. With booming infrastructural growth, Rwanda is arguably Africa’s fastest growing economy. The capital, Kigali is rated Africa’s cleanest city and third in the world.
But how was all of this achieved, barely after 24 years of a pogrom in which some 800,000 civilians were slaughtered like chickens? Perhaps it is partly because Kagame doesn’t berate his country’s opposition. He doesn’t brand certain Rwandans as extremists. His Governors don’t refer to those they disagree with as ‘dogs and rats.’
Every point of view is taken into account, examined and sometimes factored into the governance process. Consensus is approached and encouraged. Riot acts are not read and military crackdowns ordered at every twist to emphasize a governor’s might.
Wongibe Emmanuel, Deputy General Manager of Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV, recently moderated a press conference in Kigali, at which Kagame fielded questions on his country, democracy and governance in Africa and how the continent could harness its own resources, graduate from beggarliness and star dictating world diplomacy.
Participants at the press conference, included big names in world media circles from Botswana, Senegal, Ghana, Algeria, Morocco, Tanzania, Ivory Coast and the European Broadcasting Corporation.
The interview brings out the best in humility, participatory governance, and zero tolerance for corruption and the idiotic fanfare that characterizes power in other climes.
We have published excerpts of the intriguing interview in our inner pages. As a document, the interview will, especially, fascinate historians, political scientists and researchers. It is simply mind blowing! Read it!

On behalf of all the staff of the union, I want to thank you for accepting to give us time for this conversation.
Mr. President, under your leadership there are many reforms that are being taken by the African Union. One of them attracting lots of attention is the introduction of a levy to be able to finance this union, hampered for many decades by lack of adequate funding. Can you give us an idea of your assessment of the commitment that African leaders have brought to this particular reform and are you confident this will go through.

Thank you. I am happy to be here with you and thanks for the invitation for us to have this conversation. The African Union, AU, has been there for quite some time now as you are aware, and before that there was an organization. It is about how Africa can come together and do what they put through. Some of the things you’ve mentioned, for example the desire by the AU and therefore, by extension we mean African countries and people coming together, working together and being able to do many things for themselves as the desire has been going on for quite some time. This time around, we need to pay our bills ourselves; if you want somebody to pay your bills, then you actually end up paying even more than you actually would have paid; because the one who pays for you in the end owns you or makes you do what they want you to do and not what you want. Some of these initiatives that are on the way are not new. That’s another fact. Remember the recent one where the levy was 0.2 percent eligible imports that came up. It has been argued, it has been defended, it is very clear as one of the best ways to go, to be able to pay for our activities. The AU came at a time when there had been another suggestion and different efforts have been underway. Former President of Nigeria, Obasanjo had brought up a suggestion. Even before that there had been another one, but it all came to nothing. We can’t blame anybody. It is we, African leaders; we would share views but never move… Maybe with time, we will realize we are wasting our own opportunities; we have to get going, to do something for ourselves. So the African countries, leaders now think it is the time we should be able to do what has been waiting for us.

You have taken us through the many attempts at resolving this problem, and you have come to the conclusion that many of them did not bear fruits. Is there any reason to think this will be any different?
Yes, I think every time has its own circumstances to consider, and you assume that maybe once you have failed in the past, maybe you learn from the failure as well. But there is also the kind of problems you have to deal with. We have past failures we should learn from, but we have the present pressures of the day that we have to deal with. We have to think of how to deal with them and maybe go back to these failures, learn from and apply the lessons. But there are also new people maybe… new people had come on the stage, new actors that will always want to do something. There are different faces coming up maybe every five or 10 years, people who come with some freshness of mind, energy. They may end up doing something. I am hopeful that we can do something because the need is there before us; time wasted has been too long; maybe that in itself would force us to do something.

If you permit Mr. President, let’s bring the discussion back home, here in Rwanda your own country. One of the challenges as you have indicated is not just one of financing our operations; it is about how we manage our activities, how we manage our political life (democracy). From a distance, and I must apologize, I don’t have a mastery of the details of the model. But we see in your country a power-sharing model where a ruling party emerges out of highly but fairly contested elections, wins, but brings members of the opposition into Government. It is unusual, it is different. You may know that many people criticize it as being a tool for literally stifling the opposition, but others hail it as being a mechanism for stability. Can you lead us through an understanding of this concept and maybe tell us how you think African countries particularly with the prevalence of confrontations and violence after elections can learn from this model?

That is a very good question but I will simply say that if I look back at places around the world, beyond Africa, I wonder whether anybody has found one single model that is perfect, that will work for all of us. I have never heard or seen that. Even those who pretend to be there to give us suggestions about what we should do, you know very well that currently they are struggling. I think you have seen how the whole world is trying to figure out what should be working for them; or what had been working for them has turned out to be a problem for them. So, for us in Rwanda having learned a lot of lessons, many of them the hard way, we have emerged as very realistic about our situation, about ourselves, even about global issues that in any way affect us. But the most important lesson that came out of that is to be able to understand that we need to think for ourselves and act, based on what is good for us or what is possible for us and what works.
The model we have is simple. As Rwandans, we want peace and security. Every Rwandan needs to feel secured in all aspects of security if you will. We need prosperity; we need to live with each other in harmony and again lack of that in the past taught us total lessons. If we have that understanding, then the other understanding is everybody needs to participate, everybody needs to benefit, and so, they must be at work. That is how we manage to do away with the ‘winner-takes-all’situation; if you are a winner and make the others feel they are losers, even when you have won, you will spend most of your time fighting the person who feels they are losers. Then, you will never begin addressing the problems of the country. That is the objective that provides security, and prosperity which everyone wants. We find no contradiction in exercising democratic rights whereby we do it and at the end of that process, we want to feel that nobody has lost or that after all, there will be another chance to try again. But during that course of time, we need to be building together; those who literally won and others who should not be made to feel that they have lost. Working together is what will give a chance for everyone to connect with those opportunities that are there for the people of this country.
That is what we have tried to do and that is how we came out with an idea of consensus. In fact, we look at the so-called opposition as somebody or a group of people having a different way of thinking. So, what does opposition mean? Destroying what you don’t like? Does it mean fighting with those you don’t like? Opposition means people with different views in terms of delivering what the country and people want. For example, I talked about security, I talked about prosperity. I talked about democratic rights. People have different ways of thinking as to how they can deliver, it is a different view, and it is not that there is an opposition that wants to actually stop people from achieving prosperity or achieving security. When it comes to that, then it is a different opposition, so you confront it differently.

Mr. President as I admitted when we started, I must say that I have been educated about the model but let me just revisit a key concept that you have developed which is the winner takes all. But your model says; you have lost in elections but at the end of the day, we are all winners. What would you say to people who feel winners can lead us to a comfort that is complacent, a comfort that is stifling of new ideas?
First of all, take the comfort; all of us want to be comfortable. Once you have achieved being comfortable, confront what might take it away from you and that means you start thinking exactly about complacence. Now that we are there together, we are moving forward, we are doing what our people want, what is it that might worry me, when down the road, something can come and take it away and then you discover that one of the things might be feeling too comfortable or complacent like you have said. Then you have to start doing things about that so that complacence doesn’t step in, or being too comfortable doesn’t come in, or that going to a point where you may start stifling different ideas, then you still have to confront that. There is no way you are going to escape that responsibility because in the end if that develops in the mind what you say you plan to achieve… But as we said, there is no perfect model, there is no perfect singular process you can apply to these things as we see everywhere in this world. Even if therefore you apply these other models that we talked about and they are working for us, maybe they worked for them but won’t work for us. But if allowed opposition… maybe too much opposition it might also start destroying what you are trying to build or you are not even delivering some of the promises you already made. Again, that is why we are saying it is not a single particular module that people will put out there and say this is the best everybody must apply. It depends on the context, the circumstances and… once you have applied it, what has it given you?
Here in Rwanda, after the tragic situation we had to deal with, these things have been working year-in-year-out for us. So, can we therefore start worrying that these things are working too much for us, we need to switch to something else that works less? If that is coming ahead, maybe when I get there, then I will have to deal with it, but for now, I am happy with what I am seeing. The country is happy for what we are having, what we are doing, what we see happening and we are seeing ahead that there are many opportunities for us to go places.

Mr. President, thanks for those thought provoking ideas.
The African Union of Broadcasters is a family of four linguistic groups; Arabic, English French, Portuguese. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for you to ask your questions to the President. Remember your questions are not only addressed to the President of Rwanda. You also have an opportunity to address the chairman of African Union.
Mr. President, the shocking pictures of young Africans dying in hundreds as they struggle to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe have brought shame to the entire continent and indignation from the rest of the world. What do you, as Chairman of the AU think can be done to tackle this issue?
We have to do two things. One is to deal with it as it is or as it is happening. We have to figure out how do we confront this situation that is occurring by saying how do we get these people, how do we take them to where they came from; find some other way to manage it.
The second is for African countries to individually and collectively find and understand why are these young people in the first place are going wherever, to die in the process. We have to deal with them of course. African countries have got to know why our young people are running away from us at a rate they have to risk dying or sold as slaves or drowning in the seas. It has to do with our own governance, our own socio-economic development. We should be giving opportunities to these people, employing and retaining and making these young people feel that they have their own country they can be proud to stay in, eat, work and when they go outside, it is should be their choice to do so. This is what we have to do; there is no magic bullet to deal with that. We have to deal with it as it is now, we have to think about it as African leaders through the different structures and organs that exist and deal with it as it is. We need to understand them. We need to find something to do and prevent that.
Africa’s population is estimated at some 1,250 billion people with the greater percentage being youth below 25 years. How do you Mr. President appreciate African politics which is…?
Again, the facts I think are very clear. The public policies that are there, however good you may think they are, if they are still producing people to leave countries in search of better living, then we have got to go back and revisit them and fine-tune them and see what is it that is not working. It is very clear; it is a question of whether we are seeing improvement in these tragedies, and then if we are not seeing any improvement, then there is something we need to work on. It is clear, there is no other formula you have to apply, and it is just seeing things for what they are. You can say my country has the best policies but if your country is just producing young people who are just running away from their country, it means the good policies are just on paper, they are not having effect on the ground; that is an indicator that nothing is working, so you’ve got to make it work. If you have good policies that are not being applied, they are for your good too; implement them or they are bad policies outright, so you need to change them. It is what you have; it’s what it gives you. If what you have and are proud of doesn’t give you what you want, then you need to do something different or do it differently but, something has to change.
For sure I am a football fan, particularly I’m an Arsenal fan and I have other teams that I like as well. I was also told indeed that it is difficult, for our broadcasters obtaining rights to broadcast football or other sport due to how that industry is structured.
It is a problem we need to confront, but it is not just football. There are many other areas where African countries will have to depend on others and many other factors as if they are beyond our control. We have to be driven even to an extent our interest is managed and driven by others other than ourselves. So, working around that principle… like we said earlier, we want an African Union that can deliver some of the things for itself. We have to look at ways to deal with it, because it is an embarrassment. I was also told our rights, our citizens’ rights to watch Africans playing football in Africa is also managed by people from outside. This is scandalous of course; there is nothing to be proud of in that. How can we keep like this and for how long? You may find some Africans that are happy about it and that’s the biggest problem; some Africans don’t find anything wrong with that because those rights are given by people who have made them think that they failed, even about ourselves. But we can deal with that as we have dealt with other problems. Why can’t Africa work together like other countries? Sometimes it comes down to money; we are told it is very expensive, you have to pay this and that… But if in the end we pay but very expensively, it actually means money is not our problem. So why don’t we use this money to do what is right and that will actually even reduce the cost. You see what I mean?
Money isn’t so much Africa’s problem as such. We just need to come together. Each country for example should contribute… I remember that several years ago, an African used to be the head of International Telecommunication Union, ITU, from Mali, called Amadou Toure. I had the opportunity; I used to serve on… and the UN and will co-chair that with somebody from Mexico, his private secretary. Probably 10 years ago, he brought up this idea and they came to me and we tried to work on it and we said we should mobilize people to create something whether you call it ‘Aljazeera of Africa’ or ‘CNN of Africa’ whatever the name you may wish, but we want something that can work for Africa in that way and in many other ways as it can. In the end, the idea sort of lost steam but it is still going on and this former Secretary General of ITU had wanted to help but wanted to bring in the private sector to be the ones to do it; bring in so many contributing portions to realize that amount it needed to work; then get in few individuals who have the money and who can pay to do that.
It is an idea we can go back to and emphasize the importance of this, and then bring private sector together with the public sector. We can do something, even if it is so many millions of dollars. I think these African countries are really rich but poor in a different sense. We can afford the money to get those rights where they belong and not only cover football but even politics.
Mr. President, do you have the sentiment or feel that Africa is discouraged in its efforts or I should say even worse, is getting somehow discouraged about its own future?
Yeah, there is this absence; there is this vacuum we have created about ourselves that we need to fill. We don’t have to wait until someone else fills it. I think the vacuum has been waiting for far too long. We need to occupy our space. If we don’t occupy our space, someone else will always occupy it and these are the side effects we are talking about. People from elsewhere, from outside our continent have occupied our space for far too long. Some say they are proud of speaking this language. You said there were three languages here or something, but there are more than that. We find we are looking at each other just from which language you speak which is foreign to us. It becomes another divide and Africans keep running around happy to fight one another because they speak another language. That is one way of wasting our time. I don’t know who in Africa doesn’t know the problems we have; the young, the old, even those you call the ordinary people. Forget about the elite; the elite will tell you more than you want to hear from them about our problems, but they will not tell you about what they are doing about it so, we need to do something. We just can’t keep lamenting, begging, crying about our problems. Heavens know a whole long list of things we are capable of doing for ourselves except greed.
Mr. President, following from your discourse, there are many vacuums on this continent being filled because they have been waiting for too long, particularly the broadcast sector. Let us move our discussion forward by listening to broadcasters who have put a lot of time during this past three days talking about the content, interact with you, share with you their concerns and their ideas about where we move in trying to fill those vacuums you rightly indicated.
We spent the last couple of days discussing the challenges of making local content; that is, Africans telling the African story themselves. I am glad you started talking about the idea of creating a channel. For Africans to tell the African story we need a medium. We cannot allow others owning that medium to produce the content to go on that medium, we need our own; our own not just to speak to Africa but to the whole world. As the Chair of the AU and President of the Republic of Rwanda, how do you think we, Africans, can tell this story to the rest of the world through our own medium?
I think it is understood by everybody, some better than me what we need to do. But like in many other cases I keep going back to this. There is something we need to break away from. I don’t know whether it is an issue of mentality or whatever it is, this question you have raised. I have heard about it hundreds of times over so many years; everybody is raising that question, everybody is talking about that. But why should we fail to move a step forward and answer that question? Let me put it this simple; to speak for yourself you need your own mouth. You can’t just be there and then you give somebody a signal that let them speak for you. It doesn’t make sense. And we have you; we have many others in this room and outside who know what you are talking about very well. We need our own content; we need our own way of transmitting that not only to the people of Africa but to the outside world. What we have had for far too long here is outsiders owning our mouths that should be telling our story and they end up telling our story the way they want and not the way it is. It is as simple as that.
You have these people working in the industry here in the room, and where else… we can have more, we can train more. They need to develop, create their content that actually tells the good story or the right story for that matter about our continent. But how do they transmit it to other Africans? You can’t take it for granted even on African matters.The general public needs to be informed, needs to understand, needs to know what is happening in their own countries, in their own continent. Who tells them this? You can’t have people outside our continent telling the general public of our continent of Africa the story about them. What they do though to say they have a good argument is that they coopt a few of us who also are happy to tell the African story the way those outsiders want. They do that, to be frank with ourselves; they coopt good African people to tell the story of Africa the way those outsiders see it. And then, they are happy to carry out that service. We need to change that and the way to change it is very clear. Following the question itself you get the answer.
Mr. President, you use very good imagery when talking about using your own mouth to speak and we are reminded with the similar image that you put your mouth where your money is. We are here, public service broadcasters in Africa; the reality is, do we own the resources? Similarly, do we want to speak with our own mouths, putting our own money where it should be so that we could speak…? I am drawing from the substance of what we have been discussing and to prolong our discussion so that we could move to another participant who wants to ask another question.
Before you do that, from what you’ve just said it is important; we need countries, maybe Rwanda or any other, to actually put money with our broadcasters. Then, what is even going to work better is if we now bring all these together in the interest of our continent. We can find a way of reaching out to each other once different countries have put in their money with their broadcasters, then they can forge something now that works for the continent. We can move like that and I think it is possible. But we have to have the political will; we have to change some of our thinking.
Mr. President, next week, leaders of the African Union will be meeting; among issues on the table would be how to implement the free trade area agreement. My understanding is that this is an area where there have been fears in the past and these fears are actually reflected in practices such as trade areas, protectionism. Do you see benefits of free trade areas outweighing fears? Secondly, what is the assessment of the level of commitment among leaders on the continent to implement this?
Well, to begin with, I will say that the fears are false or if you will, the lost opportunity of not having a free trade area is much bigger than the fears. If you want to apply a sort of business mindset to this very kind of logic, it might work well. So, the cost is in the benefit. If you look at all the arguments, what we lose by not trading among ourselves, by not allowing freedom of movement of people, goods and services across Africa, the cost is huge and we lose a lot.
Now, I haven’t even understood very well what the fears are. You know, when in Rwanda, we removed the travel visas for people especially the Africans; every African comes here, of course we were told we were going to run into problems for ourselves when we have… I mean a lot of criminals, all kinds of people in here, destroying what we are building. The good news is that, that has not happened for the years we have removed the visa requirement. I think this was imaginary fear. Maybe in some other cases the fear is real; they may take it even from a worst case scenario but is there no way of dealing with this fear that may be preventing you from having something much bigger than you are getting by applying this fear? People make simple calculations and work on that basis. You can find ways around. So, continental free trade area, if it happens that it is applied, it would be the best thing that has happened to Africa. We should go ahead with it because there are no arguments against it. There is no debate about it.
What I am seeing therefore on the second part of the question is that Africans really want it and they have seen that the benefits they have, outweigh the fears. They have seen that the benefits are enormous and we are forging ahead. I think that’s what we would be emphasizing during this extraordinary summit that would be happening here in Kigali.
Even as broadcasters and others, this is what I was saying; we need to be out there to explain even in simple terms, so that our citizens really understand. I think our citizens are not the ones blocking any way for it to happen. It is our leaders; leaders I don’t mean heads of state and Governments. I mean at every levels. If they don’t understand the sense of urgency to have this free trade area, and for it to be implemented, then we lose. But by explaining every day, every time; making the wider populations of our continent to understand; if we did that then even the leaders would treat it as urgent, and then we move on.
Mr. President, as we listen to this discourse, we feel a sense of urgency in what you say. Leapfrogging is maybe the best way Africa has to go. We will not come back to do things the way they have been done in the past. Our discussions at this General Assembly… the forum that preceded this was all about digital switchover, which we believe is also one way of leapfrogging and trying to answer the urgency that you are talking about in handling many African issues.
Again, there might be some fear about this switchover but it’s imaginary. I don’t know whether it is just because people fear new things to try them out, but already, they are trying other things that are digital in different parts of our continent that they also associate with some benefits. Why don’t we do it even in the area of broadcasting? We have something that has been created called ‘Smart Africa’ a number of countries on our continent are doing different good things and lots of innovations in their own countries. If they are looking at what is happening and how economies are being transformed, why would you leave this switchover from digital to analogue in system of broadcasting? It brings along similar benefits. I really cannot understand why the slowness or worries that people may have; they don’t want to move along or they move slowly but we can keep talking about it and raising our voices and stressing the need to do that, especially associating the need to do that with the benefits that are going to be there.
Again as we talked about earlier, some of the things in our own country which we have done; I hope we can reassure our brothers and sisters from across the continent that if it can happen in Rwanda and there is no harm or there is just benefit, that can happen anywhere else; and can happen much better than it has happened here. We talked about removing the visa restriction, we talked about different things we have tried to do from a very complicated history back here in our country. We try to do that so that we improve our own situation. We didn’t do that to impress anybody but that can also constitute a lesson for somebody looking from the outside; who sees that well, if this did this and resolved the problem they had, and they are making good progress, maybe if I apply the same thing in our situation, the same might happen. The switchover we are all going to encourage others who haven’t done it, much as the deadlines have been set, that is not enough. People can’t just be driven by deadlines; they can only be driven by their understanding of what they have to benefit by doing something. But we ourselves can help each other in understanding that this switchover is necessary, it’s beneficial, it’s doable. You can keep arguing for it until you convince the others to try to do it as well.
Mr. President, we are gradually drawing to the end of this very engaging conversation. Without abusing your availability, would you give an opportunity for one last question?
Sure, of course, one or two, no problem.
I have two questions. The first one is; the idea of ‘Smart Africa’ is very interesting, but why is ‘Smart Africa’ not taking the lead in this process because your idea was to improve all the benefits of telecommunication in the African dimension. I think that convergence is the key element and what ‘Smart Africa’ is doing now, the broadcasting is being neglected and I think that this is something that could be used in integrating the entire sub region.
The second; the relationship between the African and the European Union is very important but, every time I talk with my friend at the European Commission in Brussels and I ask them; why you don’t do more in the field of the media, in the field of culture? And they tell us but you know, whenever we raise these issues with our counterparts they say no, this is not a priority; the priorities are others so, we invest money in the other fields. The Ambassador of the European Union came to us yesterday night and said that there are many in the move in the country even if you don’t ask us. But I think that if you ask, if you say that it is relevant for you as you have told us, this could be more important, it could bring more benefits to both sides.
First of all, the ‘Smart Africa’ initiative is young, it is not very old. So I am glad that it would take care of that app if we need to work together this migration problem… we have delayed but we have not forgotten to do that, I am sure we can do that and I am happy to wish for that since I am again the chair of AU, I will do it.
For the European Union and partnership with Africa, and what we can do together, I am sure there might be people who thought that putting money in this area is not important. But I tell you, in the next three months, I will do something about it. I am going to raise my voice very loud and clear about what we can do in the partnership between Europe and Africa and that is very important.
Are there reflections on developing…?
When I was saying something about reforms, the fact that African leaders found it necessary to carry out these reforms was a recognition that something needs to be done; something different or something needs to be done differently. So it is recognition that something is not working for us the way we want and the way it should. Therefore, the fact that there is need for reforms and people recognizing, they are speaking to that fact which you have raised. In the reform process, we need to identify the number of things; what is it that is actually going to work and then you fix it. I think I’ll go back to the idea which somebody from Asia raised that; we need to have the advisory mechanism. He talked about it is to help us identify what and how. We can apply it in many other cases that require change that we are not realizing up to this point. So we try to realize what is it that is lacking in place, what is it that is in place but it is not giving us the expected results and why? So we keep fixing that. It is a long process. It is a complex one but we need to do something about it.

Mr. President, we are gradually coming to the close of our conversation but, if you permit ladies and gentlemen, two very important points that we take home today; the President’s invitation to fill the many African vacuums that are waiting and for us broadcasters to know what our own values are; secondly, the President’s call for action now and not too much talk. Mr. President we want to thank you on behalf of all the members of the union, for having engaged us in this discussion about broadcasting and the development of our continent. Thank you very much!