How war victims are adapting to bush life

“Life is gradually becoming very normal for those who fled into the bush especially in Munyenge, in the Southwest Region due to unrest and insecurity that has highly hit their area,” says a Cameroonian youth. For almost a year now living in the bush, Oforka Rebecca a 24 year old lady recounts how they fled into the bush and how life has been for eight months now.

“Military people have settled in our area and there are constant shootouts between warring parties, endangering the lives of natives, so we ran into the bush. One Sunday morning we were home and suddenly heard as people were heading to our village. We were not even aware of their mission or motive but we just ran into the bush. After that they came and were burning houses because they wanted to make their camp in Munyenge. Documents of people were burnt, houses as many were rendered homeless even at the moment,” she narrated.

Oforka added: “They were shooting to scare off people so that they could establish. Their reason, according to what we heard was that they got information that our land is a training ground for ‘Amba boys’ but which is not true. Even though the boys are actually in Munyenge, the truth is, they live far away in the bush and only come out when they want to operate.  Most of us don’t even know where they live particularly because they don’t even permit people to go close to them except if one is a member of their group.

“Bullets were flying over our heads while we were even scampering for safety into bushes.”

How life was during the first month in the bush

“It really wasn’t easy for the first one to two months living in the bush. During that period, life was just so tough, as many fell ill and died since our bodies were still to adapt to that of regular animals in the bush; no good source of drinking water, mosquito bites but gradually life became very normal.

Life at present in the bush

“Life in the bush at the moment is even better than our houses to the extent that even if we are asked to go home, we would even prefer the bush.All activities that took place normally in the village also take place in the bush. People do their businesses only in the bushes. They buy from Muyuka and sell in the scrubland, and others do their traditional marriage there, birthday celebrations just to name but these.

“We also have mosquito nets that were provided by the Government before the crisis, so we took them to the bush and built our small huts since we cultivate mostly cocoa. We put our mattresses on ovens designed to dry cocoa and sleep.

“We also have cocoa buyers who stay with us and buy cocoa then transport to Douala. There are tailors, shoe menders, we go to church and do everything as in the village.

How marriages are done in the wild

Questioned on how marriages are carried out in the bush, she stated that if a man and woman wish to get married, the two families meet, if they approve the union, they then organize a small area still in the bush where people will meet, eat and drink and life moves on normally. The only difference from home according to Oforka is potable drinking water because we just have but small streams which farmers used to use to spray their cocoa but we now use it as a source of drinking water. So most us do suffer from malaria and typhoid which is being caused by our surroundings and poor hygienic methods.”

Health units in the bush

“We also have small health units. The nurses and doctors who were with us before the war also ran into the bush and have built small health centers were people visit when sick or for child birth, except when the cases are bad that they are referred to the hospitals in the towns. The hospital bill is also very expensive and the absence of a medical laboratory to run tests makes life difficult because for complex situations which require that a test be done, they are referred to hospitals in town.”

Number of deaths and unfriendly surrounding

“We have recorded cases of snake bites because of the surrounding and the lack of electricity since we use but bush lamps at night. Snakebites are very common and almost inevitable in our area. We have been in the bush now for about eight months and about 20 people have died while in the bush. A majority of them died and there was no means taking them to the village so most of them were buried in the bush but when it is possible for burial to take place in the village, we go bury the corpse then do the entertainment in the bush.”

Natives caught in the web of military and Amba

“Apart from the military we also face challenges with the ‘Amba Boys.’ They are noted for suppressing farmers. They demand huge sums of money from poor farmers. They demand high amounts from those they think have money, for others who have their bush guns, they forcefully take their guns, but we are gradually coping with them.

“We are caught up in the web of the military and ‘Amba.’ Most often we bewail that it would have been better that we remain and suffer the way we had been before the crisis than running from all fronts, both the military and ‘Amba.’

“Most people are even scared of going back to the village because the military can arrive at any moment and no one knows his or her fate in such situation. There have been times when people ran back and homes were searched, people taken out and killed. That is why most people are scared of going back to the village.

Even though we are being suppressed by ‘Amba,’ if opportunity is given for us to choose between the ‘Amba’ and the military we would choose the ‘Amba’ because they don’t shoot us with guns but the military does and very casually.”

Respect of imposed ‘ghost town’ in the bush

“While in the bush we still do respect ‘ghost town.’ There are days that they will inform us of a three day ghost town dubbed “mami water ghost town” and on such days, we just wake up make our food and eat, then sit in our huts but when it is evening, we can open our market centres.”

On how a common market centre was created in the bush, she stated that it started by the help of a pharmacist who one day displayed drugs on a land belonging to no one and as people saw him; they started building their market sheds which has now become a big market centre. The 24 year old girl added that for those who don’t have land in the bush, they have built their own houses by the market side while others stayed back home alerting those in the farm by phone or ringing of bells whenever the military is around.”

Councilors created to dissolve disputes

She revealed that in the bush, councilors have been created who settle disputes amongst settlers in the bush and that like in towns; they have names of different localities in the bush. Some areas she said have been dubbed Dubai and the market named ‘number one water.’

“We really want the crisis to come to an end because I as an example, my education has stopped for the moment. I pray the Government makes things better for people to live peacefully. Even if we were asked to go back to the village, I don’t even know where we would live because our houses have been burnt down,” Oforka lamented.

By Relindise Ebune

Where is the food?

By Winston Lebga

The Bohemian has been tagged a rambler par excellence by some well-meaning gentlemen who are proudly declaring in the market square that their time has come. They say the sign of their long awaited moment was given on Friday, January 4.

Well, the Bohemian proudly bears the tag of a man talking in a confused way, with the same air of confidence like those who affix the little toys on their breast pockets for the so-called meritorious services to the state.

Truth is, there are two people seemingly in charge of our dear Northwest Region. One incarnates the Republic of Cameroon, the other represents the insurgents. Life is unbearable. Gunshots can be heard every now and then. There are summary arrests and summary killings, vandalism spiced with threats carried out through tracts, phone calls and text messages.

People live in fear. There are all sorts of prohibitions. Even our national pass time, beer drinking has been affected. We hear a certain brewery is not allowed to supply drinks in this land of warring factions and tribal hatreds.

This is the tough month of January, with its ice cold mornings, scorching hot afternoons and freezing evenings, plus its seasonal diseases coupled with economic hardship. Many drinking spots and pubs have raised the price of beer by one hundred francs; some have increased theirs by up to two hundred francs. People in some quarters hide to drink beer from the “prohibited” brewery. They put the allowed ones on the table and place their choice drinks beneath.

It is a measure to stay out of trouble. They do not want to be surprised by a gun wielding tot, screaming; “na who di drink dat ting?”

The Bohemian repeats, there are people shouting like dementia cases that their time has come since the fourth day of this New Year. This dinner table is small, there are just a few plates and there is a multiple of hungry mouths, wondering what it takes to occupy the choice places at the table. Disgruntled ones have taken up guns and catapults seemingly following Bob Marley’s suggestion that total destruction is the only solution. Others in high places are chopping off huge chunks from the national cow. It is not the Ghanaian writer AYI Kwei Armah who said, you chop, me too I chop contrey broke? Well, brethren, I tell you it’s not easy to be a righteous man in Babylon.

So, 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: let’s conquer all this pain with a little thing called love. I ask that we make love, not war. The Rolling Stone whom I consider a God, may the Almighty have mercy on me, said the Bohemian requested that we break bread, but did not ask that we eat. Now, the Bohemian is asking, where is the food?  Just wait until your cousin is also appointed to high office. Wait for your time to come.

Stakeholders dump mobile money school fee deal

Parents, bursars, students, and even mobile money operators have said the initiative introduced this academic year by the Minister of Secondary Education wherein, school fees would be paid through the mobile money component of some telecommunication companies and financial institutions in the country, is not working. They complained recently to this reporter in Buea when she set out to know how this method of school fees payment dubbed as advanced is working.

The innovation was meant to reduce the rate of bribery, corruption and fraud to its barest minimum in colleges nationwide. While the deal seems to be working to a considerable extent in some parts of the country, schools in the Southwest Region are yet to fully understand, accept and utilize the system effectively.

Going by the bursar of one of the Government Technical High Schools in Fako Division, who refused to be named, the challenges are enormous and they have resorted to the old method of fees payment whereby, parents and students pay money handy. She said the system is not only complicated but strenuous for parents, especially those that are not literate as they have to look for someone to help them follow the procedure using their mobile phones. She said the fact that Parents Teachers Associations, PTAs, is paid to the school through bursars and the rest through mobile money is enough discomfort for the payers, which many of them have said they cannot support.

She added that the process is not just tedious but risked thievery as she explained. “A few months back, some two girls and a boy came to our school and introduced themselves as agents of one of the telecommunication companies. They said they were being sent by their manager to establish a base in our campus so that parents would not have to be moving up and down just to pay fees.

 “We said it was good, but asked that they present an authorization from the manager authenticating their mission. As we speak, those three left and till date we never saw them again. You see that they wanted to dupe us.”

The bursar regretted the fact that the announcement of mobile money mode of school fees payment rendered the school coffers empty for a long period of time. She said it was because they had no budget from the ministry nor were they allowed to collect fees. She stated, “…there was a time when there was no chalk. The school administrative staff had to provide, a alongside other teaching and learning necessities.”  The Bursar however appealed that, the Ministry should help them elaborate on how the whole process works for efficiency because, ever since it was announced, beside mobile phones that were given them to ease their job; no accompanying text has been provided.

 John Mbua, a parent, does not understand anything about the procedure because nobody has drilled them on how to go about it. “I have paid my children’s school fees the same way I used to do before. I didn’t even waste my time going to pay through any mobile money because I have no knowledge on how the thing works. When the Government is serious about the mobile money method, it will educate us on how it works and we will use it,” he averred.

Anu Justice, a student in GHS Bokwoango, says he knows little or nothing about the mobile money method of payment. He said he just went straight to the bursar’s office and paid his fees without any complications.

Mobile money operators on their part have said the process has not boosted their business as they thought it would since parents are not making use of their services in paying school fees as expected. The people have therefore proposed that for the innovation to be accepted and used in this part of the country, there should be enough sensitization, especially in rural areas where most parents and guardians are not very literate.

By Nester Asonganyi

Wide shut window of dialogue

For more than two years now, young Cameroonians, in and out of uniform are being set up to kill one another. In the Northwest and Southwest Regions, a raging war has sent hundreds to early graves. Hundreds of thousands are starving outright; they are out of school or fleeing to the bushes. Soldiers have invariably turned them into objects of target practice.

Those fighting to liberate Ambazonia are kidnapping for ransom, mutilating the limbs of the innocent and looking out for soldiers to kill. Their drum beaters are ruling the social media from the safety of the Diaspora with intimidating edicts and primitive bravado. The regime is tottering, trading power for purpose. The power that it wields is dominating purpose, with performance the worse for it. Billions are daily spent, ironically protecting regime barons against hapless citizens.

A mayor, purportedly voted to office by the people is being guarded by a cluster of heavily armed, trigger-happy soldiers. Years back, Tanzanian head of state and African Union, AU, Chairperson, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete attended a function in Down Town Dar-Es-Salaam, escorted by two outboard riders and a few policemen in a Land Rover jeep. No streets were shut down because Kikwete was leaving the state house.

Unfortunately for us in Cameroon, the rule of one man has triumphed over the rule of law. He is deified, even infallible to the extent that a pandering varsity don insisted on a prime time television programme that the head of state works at his own pace and according to his own plans and not at the pace prescribed for him by Cameroonians. The professorial popinjay sees nothing wrong with that. So even as Cameroonians insist on dialogue as opposed to a shooting war, and the president at one point insisted: “…dialogue has always been and will always remain the best means of resolving problems,” hardly anything has been done to engage it. And the don’s selective amnesia means dialoguing with the deaf if you will.

As it now stands, we are doomed with a “wide shut” window. Dialogue issues in every speech. It is recited millions of times daily. But the reality is that those whistling this dialogue are play acting, with their dialogue effectively played out with coughing guns and vile propaganda. The same chaps parading the marble corridors of power and are quick to blab about Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, being the biggest employer of labour after the Government are the same ones stocking the embers of hatred, of war. Elsewhere, their minions pity the beautiful feathers but ignore that dying bird which CDC epitomizes.

Appointed officials that mount roof tops to thank the almighty, are clearly preaching corporate, communal hate; they are playing the ethnic card for ministerial positions. Ironically, when it comes to looting the public treasury, they connive with the same “ethnic enemy.” They are the ones propagating all the sweet pep talk. But when in suits their ego-bloated fancy, they call fellow human beings and compatriots dogs and go Scot free. They are the ones personalizing and invariably turning the security forces against those they purport to be leading … “in the name of the head of state.” But hey!  If one fifth of the Cameroonian population decides that enough is enough, and start resisting obnoxious governance, not even the entire army will restrain them.

The dignity of every player in the Cameroonian equation is certainly very important to the legitimacy of the entire system that a few carpetbaggers have high-jacked. That is the beauty of true democracy; not periodical elections by a clearly manipulated and programmed “selectorate.” Cameroon is in dire need of an intellectual rigour to scrutinize and sanitize the ding dong system. Democracy cannot be limited to a periodical transaction in which an individual is retained, sworn in and appointments made. Democracy is said to have taken place when it is painfully acknowledged that certain things or some specific thing is fundamentally and structurally wrong.

And that is when someone with the mental understanding of what it takes to manage, to fix things steps in auspiciously. Put bluntly, the head of state must have a third ear and re-sharpen his intellectual curiosity. They regime can buy all the sophisticated weaponry but it will not be enough to win a war, especially one that was rather tactlessly declared. Cameroonians need to sit down, talk and plan together, not like the crooning professor professes on television shows for parochial interest. We need to have our windows, all of them, wide open, not “wide shut,” for the fresh air of democratic governance to blow in.

But should the head of state elect to have Trump’s impregnable wall of concrete around him, then, he would have been limited to just one window through which he peeps. The time to cultivate intellectual reflexes, not just banking on the theatrics of the likes of Issa Tchiroma when he arrogated to himself the role of the regime’s songbird for a small fee is now. It is trite knowledge that only when you marry, do you realize that a boyfriend isn’t a husband or that a wedding ceremony doesn’t in any way constitute a marriage.

The mystic of power in today’s world has diminished on account of mutating knowledge and technology. Consequently, we can’t any longer spin concepts and slogans, then have talking crickets like Tchiroma transform them into slogans and weapons and expect 20th Century Cameroonians to stupidly swallow the yarn “scoop, line and sinker.”

And now this…

Conversation must happen. It will happen, no matter how long hawks delay it. Restructuring for the general, as opposed to selective good, is tantamount to the intellectual reconstruction of the Cameroonian mind. The rational part of our brain has been switched off by manipulators, who are naturally hoping hoping for the war in Anglophone Cameroon to continue because they are reaping pecuniary benefits from it.

Mr. Biya, invest emotionally in this Anglophone problem and solve it without skirting around.

Cheers and let’s keep suffering and smiling!

By Charlie Ndi Chia

War induced insecurity may sink CDC

Franklin Ngoni Njie, Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, General Manager, waxed historical and philosophical while interacting with the media on Friday, January 18. He emphasized how reporters are best placed to depict the corporation’s awful plight in the face of the Anglophone crisis.

CDC and Cameroon are historically bound together, he noted. Similarly, he recalled, CDC has a very special place and affection with Cameroonians, especially those of English speaking expression, who constitute 93 percent of its work force. Thousands of parents, grandparents and others were directly educated by the CDC or thanks to the corporation. He would later wonder why a battle, which is a product of a political problem, is being fought in a plantation like the CDC.

He proceeded to present staggering statistics of problems, loses and bungled prospects accruing mostly from the ongoing war in the English speaking Regions. Out of seven oil palm estates, only Bota and Debunscha are partly operational. Collaborative efforts with the military to attempt harvesting crops in areas that were considered as not very dangerous have not been totally successful. Militia have run riot in most of the corporation’s estates, resulting in non CDC workers now illegally occupying its houses and looting its crops and other facilities.

Quoting the jaw dropping billions that it would take to rescue the corporation from the imminent brink of total collapse, the GM was quick to add that no matter the amount of cash infused into the project, there was likely not going to be any headway without concomitant viable security imperatives carefully thought out and speedily implemented.  Majority of the corporation’s plantations have been abandoned for security reasons, the GM noted.  Personnel have been attacked and in certain cased mutilated or killed. Soldiers too have not been spared, with at least one of them beheaded. “Abandoned plantations require rehabilitation. Oil palm plantations at very conservative estimates are put at FCFA 7, 78 billion. Out of 11rubber estates only four located in the Littoral Region are still operational. The Tiko rubber facility is working, but cannot be fed because of the lack of products. The rubber sector rehab is estimated to cost FCFA 7,8 billion. Banana rehab is estimated at FCFA 14,5 billion…”

Njie said workers are being owed salary arrears amounting to seven months. So also are contractors and suppliers being owed. But the GM, was quick to add that to rehabilitate the workers and re-establish their confidence and get them back to work would require motivation beyond financial. He had the amputation of CDC workers’ limbs by criminal militia gangs to show for his concerns.

“The negative trend manifested on January 2, 2019, just when we were nursing hopes of getting back to work. Workers were attacked in Tiko at 11pm right at their residences. Three of them had their fingers chopped off. Their attackers were asking: ‘why are you still planning to go to work despite the fact that you are not being paid?’

“Before now, we had carried out our studies and presented them in their most undiluted form to the owners of the CDC. The Prime Minister created a technical committee for the restructuring of the CDC, including institutional and financial considerations. But with the accompanying realities and complications, things are not just working out as they ought to.

“Oil mills are old. Mondoni and Boa should at the very best be considered as museums now. Idenau may be relatively old, but should, under normal circumstances also get the status of a museum. Before the crisis we had planted 600 ha of banana…high cash demand…”

The GM said before the crisis came on in full, they had still been nursing and operating in hope, until last year (2018) when the CDC was hit directly. A vehicle conveying workers’ salaries was hit another conveying drugs intercepted and destroyed. Cash and drugs stolen by the militia amounted to about FCFA 30 million. “This marked a turning point with the attacks increasing in frequency and magnitude…”

The GM pointed out and appreciated what he referred to as the godfather role which Government and institutions like the IMF, World Bank and the French Development Agency have been playing all along, traditionally stepping in to bail the corporation when the times were dire. He, however, noted that that this time around it is more peculiar as the problem is basically one of insecurity.

“Before the eruption of the Anglophone crisis, CDC was going through a different form of crisis. In 2012, rubber prices dipped from boom to gloom. This crisis reduced our earnings from over FCFA 40 billion to below FCFA 15 billion.

“We were not operating sustainably… we diagnosed over aged plantations.  Wind damage and other negative factors were impinging rubber tappers’ work. Banana presented an even bigger catastrophe…

“Banana plantations before the crisis had over aged. A typical business person notified CDC of their intention to withdraw. A business inclined GM would have closed the plantations, putting 7,000 workers off…”

Part of the GM’s rather informal media brief handled the evolution of the agro-industrial company. Branding a map of the locations where the CDC was operational, he recalled how the corporation was created alongside others that have long since drowned over the years. But that the CDC has stubbornly weathered the corporate storm. He traced CDC’s corporate resilience and survival to the fact that the population and the CDC have an unwritten contract, which is basically to ensure the survival of the agro-industrial giant, the odds notwithstanding.

Franklin Njie implored the media which he said are the ears and eyes of the population on the one hand and mouthpiece of the same population on the other, to act such that every stakeholder understands and contributes their quota to the continuous existence of the corporation as a going concern.          

Anglophone crisis hampers PIB execution rate

The on-going crisis in the nation has not only helped to cripple the already crippled economy but as well heavily hampered the execution rate of the Public Investment Budget, PIB.

Statistics prove that, out of the FCFA eighteen billion allocated for the Southwest, the execution rate of the PIB stands at 64 percent. This drop in execution has been blamed on the precarious and unsecured environment plagued by the crisis. To this extent, Governor Bernard Okalia Bilai has urged economic operators to shun the phenomenon of ‘ghost towns’ and to pay state taxes so as to get a much higher execution rate of the public investment budget, PIB.

He made the call Thursday, January 10, in Buea during the launching of the 2019 state budget for the Southwest Region.

Going by Okalia, there is a need for more decentralization which can only work by paying taxes. While calling on the SDOs, Divisional delegates, service heads, mayors and other stakeholders to be more professional, he stated that the population of the Region should expect from their elected officials and their various government delegates to provide them with social amenities like potable water, farm-to-market roads and some basic health facilities.” He, however, called on municipal authorities to submit their financial reports to the Divisional finance controllers for a better follow up.

Until economic activities will be functioning like was the case some three years back, Okalia believed, the state budget will not be executed conveniently. “You cannot execute the state budget when economic operators are closing their businesses everyday to observe “ghost town” and projects too cannot take off,” he held.

The administrators, the Governor added, should choose the best partners when it comes to choosing contractors, to move around, collect taxes and to avoid corruption.

Buinda Godlove however supposed that the low execution rate is understood by everyone, knowing the current precarious environment.  “We are living in a situation where insecurity is a major issue and that is why we had to launch projects severally, because bidders were not available to go to areas where it was so difficult,” he explained.

“In fact even Fako which we thought would have a 100 percent execution rate had challenges in areas like Muyuka. So that is why we had a low execution rate due to insecurity,” Buinda added. 

Patrice Limumba Mboh, DAG, MINFI, on his part explained that while those for investment have dropped, that for functioning has increased which to him is because of the Anglophone crisis. Statistics last year going by him, showed that the investment budget was not executed at a satisfactory rate and which to him has been taken in to consideration.

“Our mission is to accompany the various stakeholders so that we can look forward to a better execution rate this year” he added. 

According to the financial document for this year, the Region has been allocated FCFA 14 billion, one hundred and two million, seven hundred and eighty one thousand, eight hundred and seventy eight 14, 102, 781, 878, representing a decrease in the PIB from 2018  and an increase in recurrent budget.

BY EBUNE RELINDISE

Dion Ngute rises politically from the ashes of his burnt palace

It is a new phenomenon in Cameroon. It started off with the burning of schools by members of dissident groups claiming an independent state of ‘Ambazonia.’ Regular soldiers took the relay baton and reduced whole villages to ashes. High profile victims of arson include Professor Paul Nchoji Nkwi, member of the Constitutional Council of Cameroon. His village home in Njinikom in Boyo Division of the Northwest Region was burnt down by soldiers, barely months after his appointment to that council. Another is Doh Jerome, Secretary of State in charge of Penitentiary Administration in the Ministry of Justice. His home in his native Bali in Mezam Division was burnt by suspected Amba boys. We are told that Fon Chafah, a Senator and traditional ruler of Bangolan in the Northwest Region also lost his palace to separatist fighters.

On January 3, it was the turn of Chief Dr. Dion Joseph Ngute of Bongongo Barombi 1 near Lobe in Ndian Division of the Southwest Region. Some 24 hours after arsonists suspected to be ‘Amba boys’ torched his palace, a presidential decree appointed him Prime Minister and Head of Government.

The modern structure, constructed  in his native Bongongo 1 village,  in Ekondo-Titi subdivision of Ndian Division in the Southwest Region which also  serves as his palace alongside some trucks used in his palm plantation are were reduced to ashes.

Pictures which circulated on social media showed a building whose windows and some house hold equipment have been reduced by flames. Like the proverbial phoenix, Ngute rose from the ashes of misfortune or better still of his burnt palace to be named Prime Minister and Head of Government, taking over from Philemon Yang who had served in that capacity for slightly over nine years.

The incident also came barely two days after President Paul Biya addressed the nation vowing to restore peace in no distant time in the restive Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon. Biya had went the extra step to state how he was going to order the army to annihilate militants who failed to surrender to the newly created commission for Disarmament and Rehabilitation. But as if to dare the head of state and show their defiance for the commission, suspected separatists set the house of the one he was about to name as Prime Minister on fire.

  Dion Ngute is a long-serving time Cabinet Minister in the Biya Government. He served for over a decade and a half as Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relations in charge of the Commonwealth. His last “Ministerial port of call” was Minister of Special Duties at the Presidency of the Republic. 

Meanwhile other Ministers whose village homes have been torched during the ongoing war in the two Anglophone Regions include Victor Arrey Mengot of Manyu and Paul Tasong of Lebialem.

One of the most daunting tasks facing the new occupant of the Star Building would be seeking a permanent end to the raging war that has destroyed both precious lives and countess property in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon.

BY NGENDE ESTHER

‘Sealing’ Mayor resumes shuttering business places

It is becoming something of a circus show, with rented clowns performing to entertain a bored audience by any means possible. Practically everyone who lives in Buea is unaware of how dangerous it has become in the past one year to venture out of their homes, let alone open business places. Soldiers and “Amba boys” alike are an impediment. They are feared. The army may not have set any business premises or homes ablaze in Buea, but the “Amba boys” have.

No denizen yet, has lost their fingers or other limbs for “disrespecting ghost town edicts.” But it has happened in neighbouring towns. Very unlike the mayor of Buea, who is heavily protected by armed to the teeth soldiers, other teeming masses of residents of the town are condemned to ensure their own security in an environment where human life is taken like that of chickens. Legal experts have so far proven the criminality of shuttering private business premises because their owners did not open. One of them is the former Bar Council president, Eta Besong Jr.

Yet the Buea mayor, protected by dozens of well armed troops and municipal police still takes delight in going about on ‘ghost town’ days, sealing business premises with idiotic glee and subjecting their owners to subsequent colossal losses. He was at it again on the first Monday of the year just beginning.

After Ekema Patrick Esunge, rallied stakeholders and economic operators in the Buea municipality on January 04, 2019, who came swearing and promising to cast out the Monday “ghost towns,” which has understandably brought the nation to its economic knees, three days later, the Mayor went on rampage again, sealing shops and other business premises that bowed respected the traditional Monday “ghost towns.” It should be recalled that over 99 percent of all business premises in Buea did not and often don’t open their doors on such days. The few that attempted it at the level of the commercial hub of the town in Mile 17 were burnt to ashes and no one compensated their “patriotic” owners.

During his latest outing on Monday January 7, the mayor sealed about 20 shops. As usual, he went about it, protected by a platoon of military men. Despite all measures, foul and fair, put in place by the council to put an end to the traditional ‘ghost towns,’ denizens have preferred to save their heads than money, as Mondays in recent times have proven to be the deadliest and most unsecured days in Buea, as many shops and even vehicles have been burnt down by unidentified men for operating on Mondays. The town was totally paralyzed just like most other towns in the Southwest Region.

With the intensity of the “ghost town” observed on Monday, January 7, the council may have felt betrayed as the decision taken by the mayor and other economic operators was not heeded. It should be noted that, most shops in Bongo Square and Buea Town are owned by the Buea Council. Consequently, it would want to do everything possible to be able to open its own doors in the face of adversity, even as business operators occupying those shops, argue that the pay all their rents on time and any other bills, and so have the right to operate the way they want. Besides, they argue that operational periods or times were never part of the contract they signed with council authorities. Others say they are being violated, while majority admit the fact that, their lives are in danger if they operate on Mondays and wouldn’t want to die.

This is not the first time the Municipal authorities are sealing shops and business premises in Buea for respect of “ghost towns.” Last year the Mayor of Buea crippled many businesses after he sealed hundreds of shops in the Buea Municipality for more than a week. Motorbikes were also banned from circulating in Buea. Insecurity still lingers around Buea, while denizens live in fear and panic.

BY ATEMBEH NGEWUNG LORDFRED

‘LET’S BREAK BREAD’

The Bohemian has listened to experts about peace, conflict resolution, dialogue and the need for unity, integration and the recurring theme in many news reports; living together. Where are the people who have humungous certificates decorating the walls of their houses, certifying that they successfully completed higher courses in peace studies, conflict resolution and human resources? I tell you, you can castrate an elephant but how do you open the legs?

Well, many highly opinionated self-proclaimed experts have been bickering with each other on TV and radio shows about dialogue, discussing history and politics with what some describe as distorted facts. People are confused with tons and tons of confusion because of the notoriously verbose explanations. If you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough. Bob Marley said the truth is that everyone is going to hurt you: you just got to find the ones worth suffering for.

The Northwest region of Cameroon enjoys many nicknames, with this one being the favourite among the bohemian’s cousins, who have their placentas buried in places east of the Mungo bridge: the Region of the gentlemen.

Where are the gentlemen nowadays? Gun wielding masqueraders are running riot with laws that carry the warning of death to anyone who dares to defy these lawmakers and their kangaroo courts. Security operatives and their armour plated vehicles survey the area, on red alert, ready to pounce on any suspicious looking person.

Only two Sub-Divisions enjoy the semblance of what is generally understood to be normalcy in the Northwest, where there are gunshots, brutal killings and overbearing calls for ‘ghost town’ operations that have impoverished the populace. The Bohemian has heard that this volcano is yet to erupt. There is fear and panic stricken parents look upon their kids, especially the toddlers and wonder what future is reserved for the little people growing in this land of warring factions and tribal hatreds.

School authorities, administrators, instructors, pupils, parents and guardians are under siege with regards to the quest for education.  The New Year has come, carrying along the old fears as well as time honoured cries of caution and shouts of discomfort from the citizenry. Revolutionaries don the garb of oppression, those identified as oppressors adopt the language and diction of saints. The wolves and the sheep have different dance patterns but they are dancing to the same tune. The more you look at the sheep, the more you think you are looking at the wolves and vice versa.

So, after considering the issues, I, the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month, in the land of the proud people by the shores of the Atlantic, this day declare; we have been living together for as long as we have been together, the question is, and do we eat together?  We seem to remember our linguistic, cultural, tribal, political and religious differences when food is set on the table. We are men and people, not animals. When there is ‘food,’ why is it so difficult to share? I believe the New Year 2019, should usher in a new wave. Brethren, set the table and call out, let’s break bread.

By WINSTON LEBGA

The negotiation PM – Can he fix the damage?

The appointment of Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute as PM is strategic and circumstantial, perhaps with little weight placed on his achievements in his previous role at the Presidency and more on his negotiation skills and network as the longest serving Minister Delegate in charge of the Commonwealth and his role in the allocation judgment of the contested Region of Bakassi Peninsular by the European Court of Justice in favour of Cameroon. Like it or not, Cameroon, once considered as one of the safest countries in Central Africa is at a very delicate point at home and beyond, and there is a desperate need for a ‘Negotiation Prime Minister’ with international legal experience to be the ‘Handy-Manny’ of a shattered country increasingly surrounded by national and international enemies and a few friends of self rather than collective national interest. The President and indeed, the government needed a ‘new’ face and reliable personality with experience of the root causes, culture and people of the two English speaking Northwest and Southwest Regions.

It appears H.E Dion Ngute maintains a long standing network with the UN and other potential stakeholders who would be key in any final negotiation settlement to rescue the country or at least repair SOME of the big damages that Cameroon is struggling to cope with, including the ongoing dirty war between government forces and Ambazonia armed separatist fighters and the shocking withdrawal of the 2019 CAN hosting rights.

The deteriorating ‘Anglophone Conflict’ requires a meaningful and effective peaceful negotiation before active fighting spills over to other Regions hosting Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs. All sides must now realize that this horizontal war cannot be won by either side using military tactics even if sustained for decades. Innocent citizens and ordinary Cameroonians are paying the ultimate blood price as both sides refuse to unilaterally lay down their arms or withdraw government forces from the affected Regions. The Ambazonia war is taking a different shape, unfavourable to all sides involved. Ambazonia armed fighters initially supported by local and Diaspora communities are controlling huge territory and gradually creating ungovernable spaces in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. Local infighting between Ambazonia armed groups, inexperienced fighters and Diaspora leadership splits is resulting in a disorganized ground fighting, human rights violations, kidnappings for ransom , extortions, beheadings and other dangerous terror related activities that is reversing gained sympathy and support from the local population and the international community. The PM will have to balance these factors carefully when the government decides to engage the key stakeholders of the conflict in a neutral environment.

A meaningful negotiation should commence, one that addresses the real ‘Anglophone problems’ that have kept the country disunited for more than four decades, rather than exclusively addressing the resulting effects in the hope that causation factors will disappear under the carpet. A genuine process will require the participation of carefully selected credible national and Diaspora stakeholders, especially those with ´big dogs in the fight.’

Negative international image

The negative international image hanging over Cameroon, the pressure on the national economy and social life is mounting at high speed and any effective solution requires a head of government with plenty of solution orientation skills. But in the complex circumstances, someone who can distance himself from the immediate scene of the damage and say, ‘it was not me in charge when things hit the fan but I am here to fix the situation, give me a chance.’

This is a strategic Presidential appointment at a time when the key leadership of various Ambazonia armed separatist groups, viz;  Ambazonia Defence Forces, ADF, of Dr Cho Ayaba ; Southern Cameroons Défense Force, SOCADEF, of Dr Ebenezer Akwanga and the Ambazonia Security Council, ASC, of the Interim Government, IG, under Dr Samuel Sako are split over leadership control – rendering a negotiation process even more complex with the potential for spoilers should key stakeholders be left in the cold. The current negotiation dynamics should involve a support pre-negotiation mechanism to unite the ´Ambazonia’ leadership without freezing out either moderate voices or those who prefer armed struggle as the only viable solution.

This is perhaps the last PM under the current centralized structure and his role is the most critical in deciding the future of Cameroon, one that should be embraced with celebrations of business as usual.’

The President, the newly appointed PM, the people of Cameroon at home and abroad and the international community will not rest peacefully until the current conflict is buried below and not above their heads once and for all. It is down to H.E. Dion Ngute to play his best and most challenging role in the history of Cameroon as the ´Negotiation Prime Minister.’