MINHDU in search of prudent urbanization strategies

The fast developing rate of the Southwest Region and attendant problems that the phenomenon is likely to pose subsequently, is what prompted the Southwest Regional Delegation of Housing and Urban Development to organize a one day Regional consultations for the elaboration of the national urban policy for Cameroon aimed. It was aimed at carrying out a diagnostic report that should formulate the fundamental streamlines and instruments of national urban policy.
Speaking in Buea Monday, June 4, Diang Jude Abungwo of 2e and Partners Consultancy firm charged with the responsibility of coming forth with an urban national policy for Cameroon revealed that as of now there is no existing national urban policy for Cameroon. He said even though some Regions do have certain development urban plans, there isn’t any that is national urban. It was their responsibility at the level of the consultancy firm, he said, to bring in their technical knowhow and expertise to be able to come forth with it.
He said that the national urban policy is going to contain the methodology which they are to use at various levels with various stakeholders in a bid to see how the Region can become urbanized.
Asked why some buildings in Buea are erected on marshy terrain, Diang stated that it is at the level of non respect of rules and regulations. He said denizens are the first to be blamed. He said the issue of slums is a terrible one plaguing the country as they are seen almost everywhere with some neighbourhoods emanating from it.
He added that Cameroonian cities are extending vastly and that under normal circumstances, such cities are supposed to extend vertically and not horizontally. Consequently, to be control is required if only to avert bigger problems in the future. He said that urbanization in 2010 stood at 52 percent and wondered what would happen if it jumps to 80 percent. Cameroon, he advised, must be able to control that in order to become emergent in 2035, since prudent urbanization is such a key aspect which cannot be circumvented.
Emile-Moise Endene Kotto, Southwest Regional Delegate of Housing and Urban Development, noted that urbanization is speedily growing in the Southwest Region. The Region’s demographic landscape has changed, due to the high urban growth rate with which towns are expanding alongside drastic change of social, cultural and economic structures.
Endene Kotto pointed out that urbanization in the Region is still to bring inclusive growth which in turn has resulted in proliferation of slums, urban poverty, rising inequality and insecurity. Hence, consultation is a step in a long process, enabling both the Government of Cameroon and UN-HABITAT to come out with a consensual diagnosis on urban issues, and which process is expected to take them to an adequate and reliable urban policy.
Bernard Okalia Bilai, Southwest Governor, said Cameroon, like many other developing countries experiences rampant urbanization with a demography explosion. According to him, since 2008, more than half of the world’s population lives in camps. In 2050 about 70 percent of the world’s population would be living in urban areas, he revealed. Narrowing down to Cameroon, he stated that according to the National Institute of Statistics, urbanization rate was at 52 percent in 2010 while demographic growth stood at 2.5 percent in 2014.
“Many challenges remain to be faced in the country, reason why Mr. Biya, through various stakeholders has embarked on mastering the development of towns to transforming them into production and consumption centres necessary to boost industries, promote the development of intermediary or secondary camps, while endeavouring to structure economic activities in urban areas and contribute to the development of surrounding rural areas.
By Relindise Ebune

More ‘Anglophone terrorists’ to face military tribunal today

Just over a week after the Yaounde military court slammed heavy jail terms on seven Anglophone suspects, another batch of them is expected in court today.
Five of them are being charged with secession, actions of terrorism, illegal possession of firearms, revolution and insurrection, amongst others.
Abeng Gerald Ndam, Tamina Terence , Ignatius MbendeWenda, Braidnard Fongoh alias Fiango and Chungong Kelly Stecy Ngwe were all arrested in Bamenda at the start of the year and ferried to Yaounde where they will be appearing before the court for the second time since their detention.
Each of the five was arrested under different circumstances but that of Chungong Kelly Stecy Ngwe has left many wondering.
The lady in her late 20s, married and a mother of one, was reportedly arrested in Bamenda as she was visiting her sister’s fiancé, Tamina Terence who had been arrested for illegal possession of arms, one of the defence counsel, Barrister Honoratus Ndi Shey said.
Sources say she was caught filming the detainee she was visiting before being bundled into the cell and later accused of complicity in acts of terrorism.
After spending over a month at the judicial police in Bamenda, she and the other four were moved to various cells in Yaounde where she will be later assaulted at the Judicial Police at Elig-Essono, a family friend told The Rambler.
Though her lawyer claims not to be aware of any assaults carried out on his client, he has vowed to thoroughly investigate the matter and prosecute the perpetrators if the allegations are proven.
Kelly and the four others will be appearing in court for the second time after their case was adjourned on May 8, by the judge for a proper constitution of the file by the State prosecutor.
On June 6, it will be the turn of the trio of Ade Kenneth Chi, Anyangwei Lelly Anyangwei and Fonyuy Terence who will be appearing before the Yaounde military court for the eighteenth time as the court is yet to establish any clear charge against them.
For the moment, the military court has taken just under two years to sentence about a dozen Anglophone activists arrested within the ongoing crisis with over two hundred detained at the Kondengui maximum security prison.
By Francis Ajumane

Not how long but how well (Farewell to Geofrey Elah)

All eyes grew wide with curiosity when, during the funeral service for Geoffrey Mbongale Elah in the Limbe Regional Hospital chapel on Friday, June 1, the Master of Ceremony mentioned a Senator and Member of Parliament among the huge crowd of mourners. It appeared incredible that in his short 33 years of life, this unassuming young man had made all these connections and that in death he was pulling such a widely diverse crowd.
But come the eulogies, you heard stone-melting accounts of how this soft-spoken, ever-smiling son of David Elahnzeh touched all these lives. All week long from midnight on Thursday, May 24, when his death was announced, the chorus was on the lip of every journalist in Limbe. So too was the refusal to believe it was a mere bike accident that took his life, though nobody could articulate an alternative cause of death. And that unspoken suspicion rang through the eulogies, all of which eventually settled for leaving it at the foot of the Cross of Christ.
It was barely mentioned that Geoffrey held a first degree in Law from the University of Dschang. Stealing the show over his academic achievement was a career in journalism which I unwittingly pulled him into. The Sun newspaper was born in my NGO office in Limbe, where Geoffrey was doing a stint as Programme Officer. He had just acquired basic computer skills and I encouraged him to pay attention to how the paper was being laid out. “You never know”, I said. And indeed, when Cyprian the layout person from Buea was no longer available, Geoffrey slid into his shoe, serving not only The Sun but many other newspapers and magazines as well. His creativity was only matched by his curiosity, and that is what predisposed him to making the connection from layout to writing and editing. He was very self-effacing and unobtrusive, yet impossible not to notice by his gentle winning ways. That’s how come, over trained journalists, he got elected Secretary of CAMASEJ Limbe branch. And only at a CAMASEJ elective General Assembly did I last see so many journalists per square meter. You rarely see youth of the fourth estate let themselves go in such crescendos of wailing. How did you do it, Geoffrey?
The lady whose biker son did the damage was inconsolable. Her son had closed and parked his bike for the evening, she said, but a friend came entreating him to accompany him to the Alpha club neighbourhood. By purported eyewitness accounts, the bike was hurtling without headlight when it rammed blindly into Geoffrey who did not notice him approaching.
Such interplays of cause and effect are often wont to fuel metaphysical interpretations, but where does it all lead? An English poet says the child is father of the man, and David Elah, together with the entire Ngale family, is missing a father in a son. That family now has Geoffrey’s two little girls to mother. So do all whose outpouring of love and grief has kindled so much hope in the immortality of his memory.
By Victor Epie’Ngome

Prayer, appeal for return of peace in Cameroon

I come reverently before God and before all men and women of Cameroon on this day by means of this prayer and appeal for the return of peace in our cherished nation – prototype of heaven on earth.
I come on bended knees before the Most High God, with my heart and mind submitted to the Blessed Father of the Cameroonian family who is also the God of peace who did not originate the current tumult and confusion we see in the Northwest, Southwest and Northern Regions – for only men could have done this.
I come appealing to the entire Cameroonian family who are made in the image of this merciful and peace-loving God, to all the brave fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters of all walks of life, and to all stakeholders, to our leaders in their different capacities, especially the Head of State, his Excellency President Paul Biya and his entire Government, all of whom I commit to the guidance of the Most High God.
Like all Cameroonians, I observe with consternation that 20 months have gone by since the outbreak of the crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions which we have called the Anglophone crisis; a crisis which has left me, like all sensitive Cameroonians, in shock, deep pain, grief, heaviness, and restlessness in my spirit. A crisis which has caused civilian and military casualties and destroyed property. We cannot afford to continue to lose loved ones in a senseless fratricide. I am equally gravely concerned by the unending war in the Northern Regions of our country, fought against the nebulous Boko Haram which has stolen the lives of many Cameroonians.
As we observe the situation on the ground in the Northwest and Southwest, we all seem to be helpless and overwhelmed by the crisis which continues to escalate and become even more complicated and complex than when it first started back in October 2016.
In the face of this worrying situation, I appeal to all Cameroonians, friends and allies at home and abroad to pray fervently, more than ever before, to our heavenly Father, for a return to normalcy, being confident that God has promised faithfully in His Holy Word that He will never abandon nor forsake us.
As a peace crusader, I am deeply disturbed by the level of killings, violence and destruction. Every time I hear that a civilian, a soldier, a gendarme, or police has been shot down, I weep very bitterly and fast for the loss of a Cameroonian brother or sister, knowing that they have died in vain because of a crisis that was avoidable.
As one who is constantly on the ground, paying keen attention to the development of the crisis and seeking a return to the way of peace, I have observed that this crisis is national – because when one member of the body suffers, all members suffer with it. The crisis should therefore be of national concern and its peaceful resolution of top national priority.
Moreover, I have observed that this crisis is not just national; it is also institutional and constitutional. Although efforts made so far are laudable, they have yielded little or no results at all. On the contrary, recent events have left all of us shattered and broken-hearted. I am therefore one of those who say that it is high time we utilize the
obvious humane means of dialogue to return to normalcy, for this is the wish of all well-meaning Cameroonians.
I am, therefore, obliged once more, to go on my knees and sound the clarion call to the entire nation in general and to state powers in particular, especially to the Head of State, to urgently address his fellow Cameroonians with tenderness and love and by so doing to utilize his constitutional prerogatives in this period of major crisis that has paralyzed two Regions of our nation, to move for a grant of amnesty to all Cameroonians involved in one way or the other in the ongoing crisis, whether on the run, abroad or detained.
It is evident that such measures will tone down the heightening tension in the Northwest and Southwest Regions and create an enabling environment for an inclusive, objective and frank dialogue for the return of peace in our nation.
It is regrettable to note that some ruthless people among us have viciously recuperated this crisis for financial and political gains. Be that as it may, the majority of Cameroonians are reputed to be peace-loving, law-abiding and God-fearing and are able to resolve this crisis all by themselves. But for Cameroonians to be able to resolve this crisis on their own, it is desirable that the Head of State should use his constitutional prerogatives to create a suitable platform to resolve the crisis. This may entail, as I have recommended from the inception of this crisis and have reiterated several times since, the creation of an inclusive, credible, legitimate and independent Justice, Truth and Reconciliation Commission to steer the most needed dialogue that will usher the nation out of this horrifying crisis.
The setting up of the above Commission is an urgent measure and the Commission should put on the table and discuss all options for the good of our beautiful nation which does not deserve to be shredded by a senseless war.
I want to take this opportunity to appeal to the consciences of Cameroonians and implore all and sundry to shun hypocrisy, falsehood, lies-telling, manipulation, gimmicks, cover-up, bad governance, marginalization, backstabbing, witch-hunting and all other malignant vices which have created and exacerbated this crisis.
Though I have made peace my watchword, I want to say that peace does not exist in a vacuum. Peace emanates from core moral values namely: love, truth, justice, equity, respect for the rule of law, patriotism, accountability, transparency, respect for human rights, integrity, nobility, credibility and honour. Our living together hangs on these core moral values.
As one who has been peace-crusading for close to three decades, I once again pledge my allegiance to peace and exhort all Cameroonians to continue to be committed and devoted to truth and to a peaceful resolution of this crisis, as we all diligently work at different levels for the return of peace in Cameroon. There is hope and I am optimistic that a solution shall be found to resolve this crisis – provided there is the requisite good faith and corresponding political will.
I want to close this special appeal to the Cameroonian people and to state authorities by invoking the Holy Scriptures which affirm that, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14). Amen!
By Barrister Nico Halle

We are all refugees

There were muted protests in a local church recently, when a guest worshipper was introduced as a refugee. A resident of one of the over 60 communities which Government troops have razed to the ground, she had fled through the bushes and is sheltering with relatives in Limbe. For many in the congregation, designating her as a refugee was hard to accept.
Now, there is a paradox to this kind of reaction. On the one hand, a people for whom human solidarity is more than a religion can only find it repugnant that anybody be called a refugee, meaning homeless, as long as others have homes, or be said to starve while there is food in any house. That is why many can’t believe the insensitivity of their churches which have reduced solidarity with victims of this crisis to mere symbolism.
In some, distant dates have been set to raise a solidarity basket, whereas the need for food, clothing and medicines is dire, immediate and continuous. In the meantime the churches raise their usual collections for church building and support to the far less needy. Now, who will worship in those big churches if people are left to die in the bushes? Is the church about people or buildings?
This growing insensitivity, even in the most unexpected places, is a testament to how far the mores with which English speaking Cameroonians were raised have been polluted by contact with a culture of egocentrism and a very fuzzy sense of community – a culture where the notion of res publica is dead and buried, and individuals can loot billions from the public purse without a single compunction.
It is, perhaps, this pollution that explains the other side of the paradox; that in a city like Limbe with huge business and cultural influence from across the Mungo, many have not yet lost a wink of sleep since this crisis erupted – except when phone calls from their home villages announce new shootings and burnings.
For most inhabitants of some of these sleepy towns the whole thing feels like a distant dream. When Assad went mad and started butchering Syrians it sounded like a distant horror movie. After watching the harrowing images on TV, we could zap channels, flip the page and get on with our own lies. Today it is happening in real life and close to home. It is our own children who are being summarily executed, our old grandparents who are being burnt alive in their homes while their families take shelter in the bushes. Let’s face it – these people are refugees, be they in Nigeria, in the forests near their villages or in neighbouring towns. And wherever you live, as long as the lunatics remain on the rampage, you are a potential refugee.
Now there is a third category of actual refugees living not only in English speaking Cameroon but even in the seemingly safe and peaceful cities and countries. To be fair, this category includes Francophone Cameroonians who are revolted by what the regime is doing to their English speaking counterparts, purportedly in their name. To this category belong all those decent human beings who no longer feel at home in a world where sensible countries and the world’s most powerful institutions can afford to look the other way while lunatics are butchering people.
These are people who wonder daily where to take their children to, so that they don’t grow up with this sense of hopelessness that pervades our world. Our children are all potential refugees in a world where human life is constantly devalued by monsters in the name of leaders. No wonder they would rather perish on the high seas trying to flee a hopeless existence in what we have been trying to teach them to call home.
And do you still wonder what Boko Haram or other terrorist groups offer young people to turn them into suicide bombers? They don’t need to offer them anything. The dejection generated by the madness we call governance is more than enough to radicalise them ten times over. In the case of English speaking Cameroonians, they have been wrestling on a daily basis with demonstrations of hate from the very pit of hell.
For one thing, if you cohabit with a man-eating monster, you very soon cross the threshold of fear, because you expect to be eaten anytime. Many English speaking Cameroonians are crossing that threshold daily. Many have accepted their potential refugee status and will not be surprised anymore when it comes. Many are carrying their own coffins in their minds. They have constituted themselves as refugees in the land of the living dead.
Finally it may not be far-fetched to describe even Biya’s as a refugee regime taking refuge in power and other crude acts of terror, in the hope they could escape the spectre of retribution for the atrocities they have already visited on the people. They know that once they are stripped of the trappings of power, Karma will come knocking, and there may be no place to hide.
That may explain the jitters over the few statements the US ambassador made recently. The frenzied, unguarded, undignified and unstately ejaculations of the Minister of External Relations could be seen as a normal reaction to the sighting of a spook – the spook in this case being the prospect of their refugee cover being blown.
You can’t think of the refugee syndrome in Cameroon without recalling the massacre of the innocent in the Bible; First Pharaoh’s decision to stop the increase in the population of the Israelites by ordering the killing of all their male children. We recall that that is why baby Moses became a refugee in a basket among the bulrushes where he was found and adopted by the Pharaoh’s own daughter. Then we recall that soon after birth baby Jesus became a refugee in Egypt because Herod had ordered the killing of all boys of two years and less in Bethlehem.
They may think they have what it takes to decimate a whole generation of Cameroonians, but they must think of where they in turn will find refuge when the seeds of hate they are now sowing will sprout and bear fruit.

MP donates to refugees

Impelled by the plight of displaced persons that have flooded Kumba, Meme Divisional headquarters in the wake of the fratricidal war pitting Government against Southern Cameroonian separatists, Honorable Atinda Martin Mboni, sitting Parliamentarian for Meme West constituency has donated a consignment of food stuff comprising of bags of rice, family Maggi cube packets and some cash.
He did this recently at his Barombi Kang residence to close to thirty families who were present at the occasion.
To him, it is a show of solidarity and concerns for his people. He told them that though his donation cannot solve all their needs it will nevertheless go a long way to help them in one way or the other. He equally called on them to be calm and stay away from any negative activities during this period.
Just a few months behind Hon Atinda donated some farm inputs like ‘gamalin,’ and other tools to some farmers. He promised that in the days ahead he would be extending his generosity to some other families within the Division.
Note should be taken of the fact that Kumba, has become home to more than 50,000 internally displaced persons, IDPs, who have been pushed into destitution by the ongoing attacks and counter attacks on villages and persons by both Government and separatist forces.
Their plight of the IDPs has been aggravated by persistent burning of villages in retaliatory expeditions by Government forces that have left desolation in their wake on many villages that have now sought solace in bushes of Kumba and other urban areas of the Division.

Malingo Street man electrocuted

The cobweb of cables criss-crossing the average Buea neighbourhood took toll on at least one unfortunate resident last weekend. The victim, popularly known simply as Pa Collins, was electrocuted after he came into contact with a live high tension cable. An aluminum ladder which he was struggling to bring down from a story building at the popular Malingo Street caused the electrocution.
Eyewitnesses reported that the deceased couldn’t differentiate ordinary domestic cables which are normally insulated from the domestic ones directly supplying power to homesteads. Hence, his electrocution.
Pa Collins was reportedly with his son, carrying out some work at the uncompleted building. According to eyewitnesses, who claimed to have been drinking hard by when tragedy struck bar, they said, they saw the late man and his son were struggling to bring down a ladder which appeared to be too large and long to pass through a narrow door. They said the deceased decided to push the ladder away from the building in order to have ample space, for it to go through the door. But little did they know that the said ladder was leading him to death as the high tension cable, came into contact with it and killed him instantly.
In an attempt to save his dying dad Pa Collin’s son also received a heavy shock. He fortunately survived, but is now battling for his life in hospital. The military arrived with weapons some few minute’s later, which was of no use for the liberation of the victim, while ENEO arrived almost an hour later, to liberate the already dead man.
According to Paul Ndze who identified himself as a Malingo landlord certain people opt to construct their homes with scant regards for safety. According to him, buildings are supposed to be built at least six meters away from high tension lines. But this isn’t the case in a town like Buea where both residents and the electric power supply company are corrupt and careless, hardly respecting building regulations.
By Atembeh Ngewung Lordfred

GCE begins hitch free in Kumba

Contrary to expectations of a showdown emanating from widely spread rumours evoking imminent sporadic attacks on examination centres by Southern Cameroon separatists, students sitting for the General Certificate of Education, GCE Ordinary and Advanced level certificates in Kumba began writing their first subjects in various centers Monday, May 28 with no incidents recorded.
As early as 7 am on Monday, students could be spotted on the streets in uniforms and casual wears for external candidates, all making ways to their centres.
In order to ensure a smooth kickoff and evaluation commencement of examinations in the chief town of the division, the Senior Divisional Officer Chamberlain Ntou’ou Ndong, alongside the Meme Divisional Delegate for Secondary Education Abunaw Ahgim Obase Junior and other stakeholders were on the field to personally ascertain the reality.
The civil and educational administrators visited the Cameroon College of Arts and Sciences, CCAS Kumba which is one of the biggest centres in the division. The school is playing host to both external and internal candidates. It is, also, accommodating other centres, merged for security reasons.
Apart from CCAS Kumba, they also visited Government High School Nkamlikum. This centre, according to the Chief of Centre has close to a 1000 students. It was equally revealed that centres of GHS Kake, Small Ekombe, Bai Manya , Mbonge Marumba among others had to me merged to Nkamalikum due to insecurity in their localities.
At the various centres, the examiners were told to allow students from any village with conflict to write with accompanying reports to that effect. Apart from few absences and some cases of late coming, examiners say it was a peaceful day one of exams in Kumba.
It is worthy of note that widespread rumours of imminent attack by Southern Cameroonian separatists on examination centres had triggered panic across the entire Meme Division. The separatist are gainsaying the continuous encouragement of students to pursue an education that holds no future for them, judging by its Francophone curricula.

2018 exam catches GCE Board pants down

Queuing up with its already deleterious low registration and looming insecurity, this year’s 2018 General Certificate of Examination, GCE, examinations have also conveyed other tight spots which impeach the preparedness of its management team.
To that end, the normal OMR forms used in answering multiple choice questions, introduced some years back and,which had been serving all registered candidates from start to finish, turned out insufficient just after Day One of the examination.
In effect, students were asked to put down or identify the answers to the various questions on the question papers. Thinking that this would be done just for a day while the Board continues to make provision for the answer forms, students taking part in this year’s examination, especially in the Southwest in general and Buea in particular have been sitting in for Paper One of various subjects without the provision of the OMR form.
While candidates were still battling and bitterly complaining about the lack of the forms, on Thursday May 31 Ordinary Level physics candidates experienced an unpleasant ordeal. After passing a night of no sleep and with anxiousness to sit in for the next paper, the students were only told in the morning when they were about to write the physics ‘Paper One’ that the subject had been postponed because the papers had not yet arrived.
“What a flimsy excuse,” most of them lamented in disappointment, wondering if the GCE Board was actually ready to organize this year’s exam or it was a grope in the dark. Candidates The Rambler spoke with said that besides the socio-political tense environment against which they barely summoned courage to sit in for the exams, the GCE Board has worsened the circumstance by killing their morale about the exams. Insufficient OMR forms, late delivery of papers, and postponing the writing of certain papers to different days, greatly disturbed them and negatively affected their level of confidence on the exams.
Going by the students, in just four days of the exams, so much has already transpired as blunders from the board as they wonder how or what the rest of the days of writing will look like.
The ‘Catch 22’ here is that it is difficult to apportion blame, given that the new team took over from the Professor Abety Alange led Board only a few months back. Logistics for the examination some have opined, was supposed to have been in place months ahead, instead of the ad hoc operations that have now landed the otherwise credible institution in muddy waters.
By Relindise Ebune

Fire guts minister’s Mamfe home

The house of Cameroon’s Minister of special duties at the Presidency of the Republic, Victor Arrey Mengot has been visited and ravaged by fire.
The incident that occurred during the early hours of Saturday, June 2 in Mamfe has left the Minister now houseless in his native Mbinjong, Upper Bayang Sub-Division, Manyu Division in the Southwest Region. Meantime the source of the wild fire is yet to be identified.
This is happening after thousands in the Region, especially in Divisions like Meme, Lebialem have also lost their homes to arson perpetrated by the military. The only difference is, while these other fires were humanly masterminded, the origin of that which consumed the Minister’s house is yet to be traced.
However, some pundits have been quick to attribute the incident to the ongoing Anglophone Crisis plaguing the Region and the country as a whole. While some are of the opinion that the fire could have been initiated by those commonly referred to as ‘Ambazonia fighters’, others say, his political opponents and ‘witch hunters’ could also be involved. To some persons, the forces of law and order should not be left out of the investigation because, as they put it, they have been noted for committing such acts, especially in this part (Southwest Region) of the country.
An observer noted that even though this could just be a coincidence for such an incident to occur at a time when everything in the country is being blamed on A or B, the people (military or civilian) must both understand that by perpetrating such tragedies, it is the entire society that suffers. He said in terms of development, the country is being taken years back. With the persistence of such disasters especially in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, it is feared that emergence ‘Vision of 2035’ might just be a bogus dream like many others before it.
In which case, analysts have cautioned that by committing such acts, pain is being inflicted not just on the individual but on the entire community and by extension, the country.
By Nester Asonganyi