Those clamouring for Federalism are indeed “walking in the footsteps of our founding fathers.” They are the real patriots imbued with the transformative power to build rather than break the blocks of a unity in diversity nation; they are the genuine foot soldiers content with rewriting on the blackboard of our fifty-five years of uneasy coexistence, the erased memories of a fractured dream. For whoever silences the voices of Federalism only ends up amplifying the whispers of Independence.

Mwalimu George Ngwane,

The Rambler newspaper, January 7th 2017

SDF: Between suffering masses and political correctness

By Ngoko Monyadowa

Prevailing circumstances in the political arena of the polity seem to lend credence to the fact that hindsight may have for once been accorded premium within the ranks of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, Cameroon’s erstwhile preeminent opposition party.This can be adduced from the party’s decision subsequent to its immediate past National Executive Council, NEC, meeting that has put paid to the brouhaha relating to eventual participation during upcoming elections in Cameroon. In terms that are not amenable to equivocation, the party has made clear its resolve not to partake in subsequent elections in Cameroon unless government reverses its current lukewarm attitude to the Anglophone crises and brings forth sturdy and permanent solution to bear on it.

 The issue here is not so much SDF’s concern for the contemptible, if not, fatal plight of their most reliable constituencies in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, but more significantly, it is the fact that for once, the party will spare its devotees and adherents the noxious experience of being seen as sheep shepherded by blind men. The war President Biya has declared on Southern Cameroonians and the concomitant pogrom may be as atrocious as it is, but the fate and esteem of the party enjoy pride of place in whatever reckoning that is being brought to bear on decision making. This is so because decisions emanating from SDF’s NEC sometimes emit putrefaction and elicit interrogation as to the sanity of its members. This is certainly not commendable augury for a party that had raised the hopes of many a Cameroonian as a veritable repository of men with integrity that would eventually bring about much sought after change.

With the supra decision, the party seems to have begun evoking strategic thinking as guiding principle to decision making. Perhaps it has begun dawning on its management that the race for power is a process and by extension, elicits strategy and not immediate and expendable tactics. Strategy comes to play when planning envisions a long-term project while tactic is for immediate implementation after which it is consigned to the dust bin. Strategy also deals with planning, execution, evaluation and implementation of corrective measures in cases of failure.

 However, this does not seem to apply in the case of the SDF. Their errors of omission and commission have had tremendous effect on the Cameroonian political landscape. A few examples will suffice to make the point here that foresight and hindsight have hardly been accorded their rightful places by the management of SDF.

In 1992, SDF stayed off parliamentary and municipal elections in an atmosphere where the euphoria from ‘stolen victory’ rented the air in the entire country. Not surprisingly, Bouba Bello Magairi’s UNDP that was not even known in Anglophone Cameroon carried the day with all the seats in the Southwest Province and parts of Northwest. Had the SDF consented to adding its weight at a time when its popularity that hinged more on the Union for Change than the much complimented charisma of Ni John Fru Ndi counted much, the opposition would have had a huge majority in parliament and the councils and by that token, paved the way for the sacking of the CPDM. Its non participation opened the floodgate for opportunists like Augustin Frederick Kodock and Dakole Dissala to come into the fray with one-man shows that attracted ministerial appointments for them to the chagrin of embattled Cameroonians. We are where we are today because of that error in judgment, the current regime’s excesses notwithstanding. This is so because Biya would have, ab initio, not been there today to indulge in such excesses.

Another instance of SDF’s lack of hindsight is its deification of Ni John Fru Ndi, its leader.  In spite of strident calls for the party to regenerate via infusion of younger cadres into its management, particularly, at its helm where the current Chairperson keeps alluding to Biya’s headship of the CPDM instead of seeing reason in stepping down and making way for greater vitality within the party, Fru Ndi, and his cohorts have made SDF to be stigmatized as a Moghamo party where a cabal has entrenched nepotism and tribalism. After taking three shots at the presidency with results showing that he is facing diminishing returns, a discerning person would have left the mantle to another candidate. Oh no! Illusion of grandeur could not have let this happen. Fru Ndi, is larger than life and by inference could not have stepped down for another candidate within the party.  The third attempt of course, brought in the worst result.

Perhaps the worst gaffe by the SDF is its participation during the last presidential election. A combination of factors, including an aura of inflated importance that surrounded the party and, its presidential candidate Joshua Osih, coupled with lack of foresight and hindsight in the fact that Bamileke presence in the SDF was the result of lack of a credible opposition leader among their kith than true adherence and initial underestimation of the Anglophone factor pushed the SDF into its worst disgrace since its creation in 1992. From the leading opposition party, a position it has occupied unchallenged since 1990, the SDF opened its flanks for hitherto unheard of names like Maurice Kamto, (a CPDM renegade) and Cabral Libih to beat it to fourth position. This ordinarily would have never been contemplated. Oh no, the SDF is the leading opposition party! Some try to console themselves with the fact that a presidential election does not really test grassroots strength of a political party. Agreed! But does it change the fact that the representative of the SDF came fourth; two places down from its usual second?

One thing is certain and it is that SDF is not running away from subsequent elections out of concern for the plight of the callous mishandling of the present crisis pitting Southern Cameroonian separatists against the Biya regime. It is merely interested in the votes that its erstwhile sympathisers would bring to bear on its overall performance. This assertion takes root from the fact that SDF and Joshua Osih ought to have known that their main constituents are domiciled in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.

 Prodded by such knowledge, they would have quietly stayed away from the immediate past presidential election.Their current detour is not out of sympathy for the plight of emasculated and suffocating Anglophones writhing in the pains of an avoidable pogrom but a political strategy driven by a quest to use the numbers of those who would survive to garnish their now dented and blemished image.

Unfortunately for them, their espousal of a ten state Federation made known for the first time after their last NEC meeting puts them on a head-on collision with majority of Anglophones who now see a return to two-state federation or separation as worst case scenario as best solution to the current crisis. Here again, they are swimming against the tide of hindsight as most Anglophones are distancing themselves from a party that was once the pole of attraction of its political class. Whether their decision is ascribable to coming to terms with the necessity to lean on hindsight or a political tactic to reinvent its attractiveness to Anglophones will remain a matter of conjecture but what is certain is that SDF has lost its erstwhile dynamism and requires urgent reengineering.

How witchcraft is contributing to the under-development of Africa

(Being the Cameroon component of a four-nation transnational investigation commissioned/financed by the European Union Journalism Fund)

By Chief Bisong Etahoben

Ask almost every Cameroonian man-in-the-street whether he/she has ever experienced the negative effects of witchcraft on his/her social development and the answer without hesitation would be positive.

“Witchcraft and corruption are the two most devastating aspects of Cameroonian national life. They contribute more than 80% to the current under-development of this country. Without these ruinous aspects of our society, Cameroon would not have to wait until 2035, as the government says, before becoming an emerging economy” declares Prof. Victor Julius Ngoh, a history professor and one-time Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea and the University of Bamenda.

Although witchcraft is a crime punishable under Section 251 of the 1967 penal code, the nefarious practice continues to thrive with reckless abandon. And its negative effects on national development are very glaring to see.

“Look at the state of development of the various regions where witchcraft is at its peak as compared to the other regions and you will easily perceive the damaging effects of witchcraft on national development as a whole”, Prof. Ngoh says.

The Eastern Region of Cameroon is generally accepted here as the cradle of witchcraft in the country and it is perhaps no coincidence that it is the most under-developed region in the country despite its richness in natural resource endowments.

According to the 2016 Report of the East Regional Follow-up Commission for Public Investment Projects, more than 40% of investment projects earmarked for the region were abandoned uncompleted. And this concerned only the projects that had been started. There are those which were completely blocked for one reason or the other and the general consensus amongst the populations of the areas where earmarked projects were not started at all or scrapped after being earmarked is that neighbouring communities which coveted similar projects used witchcraft in causing the scrapping of the projects.

A senior official in the East Regional Delegation of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development who did not wish to be identified for fear of being bewitched himself revealed that though officially the blame for the abandonment of the projects was placed on rogue contractors and corrupt officials, “quite some responsibility for the malfunctioning of the projects can squarely be placed on the evil machinations of witches and wizards”.

Cases abound in the Eastern Region where conclaves of wizards have worked to undermine the development of one village to the advantage of the other.

Court records in Bertoua and Abong Mbang in the region indicate that in one case, the Headmaster of a village school whose name was given as Mpoam was one night visited by a group of wizards led by one Medumba and another chief wizard whose name was given as Nkal. The group “spiritually tore open the chest and stomach of Mpoam and worked on his heart to force him into recommending that the village school he headed be relocated to a neighbouring village.

“Now, education is the road to development. If you deprive a village or a community of a school, you have deprived it of education and by extension its development”, says sociologist Eric Kombey who works at the Yaounde Central Hospital.

Other manifestations of the under-development of the Eastern Region because of its notorious position as the cradle of witchcraft in the nation is its under-population occasioned by the “agbati” witchcraft cult which thrives on making young females barren.

The “agbati” cult membership is restricted to male youths under the age of 35. One of its members confessed in court that he was an “agbati” cult member and because he could not easily get girls to fall in love with him, he uses his “agbati” powers to visit girls in the night and make love to them.

“Once I make love to a girl and ejaculate in her, she can never get pregnant”, the youth who gave his name as Appolinaire Marigoh told the court. He revealed that the “agbati” witch cult had a large following in the Eastern Region which accounts for the under-population of the region.

In fact, the Eastern Region of Cameroon, which is the largest in land mass with an area of 109,200 square kilometres has the lowest population density in the country with only 5 inhabitants per square kilometre as against 97 inhabitants per square kilometre in the Western Region of Cameroon with a land area of 13,892 square kilometres.

“More than 80% of all deaths in the Eastern Region are attributed rightly or wrongly to witchcraft and it is the general conviction among the various communities in the region that the depletion in the population or lack of peoples thereof is as a result of the nefarious activities of witches and wizards”, an official of the Regional Delegation of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development in Bertoua, who refuses to be identified for fear of being visited by the night people, opines.

The South Region which comes second in the witchcraft perception in the country also comes second as the region with the lowest population density with 8 inhabitants per square kilometre in its land area of 47,191 square kilometres. This, as against 24 inhabitants per square kilometre in the neighbouring Centre Region which has a population of 3,191,929 inhabitants.

“With its abundance of natural resources, which are currently being exploited by several foreign companies, one would have expected the Eastern Region to attract thousands of job seekers flooding there for employment. This does not seem to be the case because even those who go there and succeed in getting employment sooner or later abandon their jobs because of the prevalence of witchcraft. Even youth who are origins of the region would rather migrate to other regions in search of job opportunities which abound in their own region of origin”, reveals a labour inspector in Bertoua, the East Regional headquarter who opted for anonymity for fear of becoming the target of witches and wizards.

What frightens most people away from the East is the sudden, inexplicable and untimely deaths of the youths.

“Development is people; where there are no people to execute development projects or contribute towards the economic advancement of the people and area, there can be no development to talk about”, sociologist Kombey says.

Another area of Cameroon where witchcraft has chased away people and development is Obang in Manyu Division of the Southwest Region (where this writer comes from). Formerly made up of sixteen villages – Ekogati, Bakut, Osselle, Bajoh, Mgbegati, Abat, Bayib-Ossing, Okoroba, Ekpantang, Mbinda-Tabo, Bakogo, Akak, Ndebokem, Bayib-Arsibong, Etinkem and Bayenti – bubbling at the seams with a population made up mostly of youths in their prime, today, the Obang clan is a shadow of its former self with but fourteen of the sixteen villages maintaining some semblance of their former selves. One, Ekpantang has completely disappeared while Ndebokem which had completely been depleted due to deaths is beginning to look like returning to life with two former villagers who escaped trying to return to their former village.

Mami Oghem Agbor, today an old mother who lived in Ndebokem during its heydays but who was forced to escape from the village remembers with nostalgia the village as it used to be:

“It was one of the most vibrant Obang villages with all the natural endowments in both human and material resources. There was a thriving youth population and our traditional dances and jujus always carried the day in most cultural competitions. Our band was invited to all tribal celebrations in all Obang villages as we had the best flutters and drummers. And then the mysterious deaths started. Young men and women, boys and girls started dropping dead in their prime. We prayed to all our gods and did everything we knew to stem the deaths to no avail. Then the elephants started destroying our farms and after they finished with our farms they started advancing into the village tearing down houses and killing people in their sleep and even during the day. Finally, the few people who remained had to gather their belongings and children and some escaped to Bayib-Arsibong and some to Akak. I was one of the young girls who escaped”,  Mami Agbor reveals.

Mami Agbor could not tell me with certainty what brought about the situation, but she hesitantly says a land dispute between Akak and Bayib-Arsibong was generally believed to have been behind the demise of Ndebokem.

“The two villages which hemmed in Ndebokem were each eyeing its fertile land and so decided to decimate the population, destroy their livelihoods and subsequently take possession of their land. That is exactly what eventually happened”, she revealed.

Today, two descendants of the original villagers have dared to come back and claim their ancestral land.

One, Batey-Offigi, who is as tall as a giant says his mother took him and fled to Bakogo and got married to a famous traditional doctor and juju man.

“Everybody in the entire villages of Obang knows who my adoptive father Pah Tiku-Okphong alias ‘Cameroon’ was. They know he groomed me to take over from him both physically and spiritually. But I was not completely accepted in Bakogo so I finally decided to return to my ancestral home. I traced my father’s land here and built this house. Let them come again and try me. Knowing my background, nobody dared to challenge me when I came and started putting up this house, though this land was claimed by someone from Akak. The man could not dare utter a word to claim this land. And here I am now”, Batey-Offigi told me.

The other man who dared come back is Pah John Agbor-Mbog. He was taken away as a kid by his parents as they fled from Ndebokem “when witches and wizards invaded our village, killing, maiming and transforming into elephants to destroy our farms and houses”, he recounts.

Pah Agbor-Mbog who could not receive an education eventually became a cook and worked as a houseboy for the Senior Divisional Officer for Meme Division in Kumba.

“I could no longer continue to bear the stigma of being someone without an ancestral home to go back to so I braved it and returned here to claim what I knew rightly belonged to me. If I had listened to all the frightening stories people told, I should not have had the courage to come back here. But some of those witches and wizards who still hang around here know I lived among the Bakundu people who are reputed to habour the most powerful witches and wizards. The mere fact that I came and started building this house made them conclude that were I not an initiated, I would not have had the guts to return and so they have since left me alone”, Pah Agbor-Mbog revealed to me.

Development workers from both United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations in various African countries including Cameroon have reported in many cases that witchcraft accusations have resulted in mass movements of communities to neighbouring communities or even across borders contributing to the under-development of otherwise buoyant village communities.

This is the case with Ekpantang in Obang where the entire villagers either died of inexplicable causes or completely deserted the village to other villages.

According to one of the villagers now living in Mbinda-Tabo, “Even away from our ancestral village of Ekpantang, the witches/wizards who forced our parents to take us away from our village have followed us into exile. Most of our kinsmen have died and there are less than five of us who were brought here as infants still alive today. Our offspring too have not been spared, so we would rather not even waste our time in having children. When the remaining few of us alive today die, our village and its offspring shall have completely been wiped out, except perhaps in the history books”.

Within the 63,000 Nigerian community of refugees now cantoned in the Minawa refugee camp in the Far North Region of Cameroon, it is common knowledge that not all of them abandoned their villages because of the Boko Haram threat. Some ran away because of the fear of witchcraft.

“The number of mysterious deaths and disappearances in our village continued to mount by the day and though officialdom continued to attribute this to Boko Haram operatives, it was generally believed by a majority of us villagers that there was something beneath more than just Boko Haram terrorist activities”, one female refugee told this writer.

“You want me to give you my full names, of course you know I cannot because those people listen to everything we say though they are very far away from us now”, the woman said as she refused to be identified. The fear of witchcraft and its practitioners is all pervasive. Even thousands of miles away from home and their nocturnal persecutors, most of the refugees still believe their utterances are listened to wherever they are.

When whole communities abandon their villages to other regions or neighbouring countries, it goes without saying that development cannot occur in abandoned communities. Such communities are taken aback by decades in the area of development if they ever succeed in returning and regrouping again into the same villages.

A recent and current experience that would set back the two English-speaking Northwest and Southwest Regions several decades in deficit of human resource is playing out in the ongoing civil war between the Cameroon military and separatists.

At the beginning of hostilities between the two sides, separatists in Manyu Division which shares a common border with Nigeria started inflicting heavy casualties on the Cameroonian military. Surprisingly, many of the separatist fighters were proving invincible. Some soldiers who confronted the separatists in this front discovered a frightening phenomenon by which separatist fighters fired upon using heavy military weapons were seeming to be brushing away the bullets and advancing as if nothing had happened to them.

This phenomenon was eventually explained away by what is called “odeyshi”.

“Once you have been ‘cooked’ in the ‘odeyshi’ pot and gone through the entire initiation rites, no bullet can penetrate your body. And most of those separatist fighters in Manyu Division and elsewhere had been to Nigeria and gone through the initiation rites”, an Egbekaw resident with knowledge of the phenomenon told this Reporter.

Dr. Francois Bingono Bingono, is a retired journalist and former Sub Director at the national tv channel CRTV. He currently teaches African Communication at the Advanced School of Journalism and Mass Communication of the University of Yaounde I. He also teaches in the Department of Anthropology of the University of Yaounde (I) as well as the National Higher Teachers’ Training College. He also lectures in the Department of Literature and Cameroonian Culture as well as at the National Institute of Youth and Sports and the CRTV Audiovisual Training Centre.He holds a PhD in Anthropology.

Dr. Bingono Bingono is perhaps the only Cameroonian wizard who has come out publicly to profess his craft and is even intending to open a school where witchcraft would be taught. Dr. Bingono Bingono told this writer in an interview that the odeyshi phenomenon cost the Cameroonian military several casualties until they – witches and wizards – were consulted by government to do something about it.

“We (the witches and wizards) had to do something about it and we devised a means to add extra power to the weapons of our military that can now spit out bullets that can penetrate separatist fighters who have gone through the odeyshi grooming”, Dr. Bingono Bingono revealed.

“If this war continues for any time longer, we would for many years be faced with many development problems in the two English-speaking regions because there would be a big shortage of manpower to execute development projects. Already, many building and road infrastructure projects have been interrupted partly because of the war and most especially because of the shortage of manpower”, a Regional Development Officer who does not want to be identified because he is not authorized to talk on behalf of his ministry told me.

Dr. Bingono Bingono revealed that witches and wizards are not only mystic but they can also be heroic and can contribute positively to the development of national communities. He posited that witchcraft should not continue to be treated as a secret thing but rather, it should be talked about openly so as to sensitize national communities about its practice.

“Witchcraft can never be completely abolished as long as humanity exists. Even the Inquisition which resulted in the burning of witches and wizards on the stake during Elizabethan Europe only reduced the practice of witchcraft but could not wipe it out”, Dr. BingonoBingono said.

Citing cases where witchcraft has impeded development, Dr. BingonoBingono revealed that in “most of our rural communities, there are several cases where constructed bridges have collapsed, once, twice or even thrice and in some cases even six times” which he attributed to witchcraft.

“There are also cases where a road is successfully constructed only to discover afterwards that the road had become impassable because the trajectory suddenly turned into mashland. These are recurrent cases in our country. Cases such as brand new vehicles bought to serve the community and are presented with fanfare to the community only for the new vehicles to be unable to function for a single day. Cases of road construction equipment rendered unusable by witchcraft thus preventing the construction of roads to enhance development”, the confessed wizard said.

(To be continued)

“There have been cases where even contractors brought in from the white man’s land to construct roads have ended up realizing the effectiveness of witchcraft in blocking the advancement of their work and had to plead with recommended anti-wizards to help them undo the evil done by witches/wizards”, Dr. Bingono Bingono revealed.

Asked whether one village can block the development of a neighbouring village community Dr. Bingono Bingono replied: “We are living in a competitive world. We have seen development projects seized from villages and communities for which they were intended by government and moved to other villages. There are many of such cases. When we talk, some people may think we are recounting anecdotes but these are facts. These are things which happen in most parts of Africa”.

As to whether he could cite a particular case(s) where witchcraft was used to sabotage a project(s) Dr. Bingono Bingono replied: “We live in a world where people are daily looking for ways to make money out of others. I don’t want to get involved in a situation where I would be sued by somebody or conclave of witches/wizards to show proof that a particular project was sabotaged by he/she/them. However, you may remember the case of the seven storey building that collapsed in Mvog-Ada some years back. Well I am told there was a dispute over the land as some family was not satisfied about the way the land was appropriated. I hear they used their ancestral powers to sabotage that construction because they were cheated out of their land. But don’t quote me. There are several of such cases I know but count me out if you want names and periods”.

The University Don cited the case where President Paul Biya called on village communities in Far the North Region where, Boko Haram has been wrecking havoc on the populations and under-developed the region by several decades,to use their knowledge of witchcraft and super natural powers in fighting the evil forces of Boko Haram.

“If the Boko Haram menace is subsiding right now, it is because some initiated took the initiative to use their supernatural powers in sowing seeds of confusion within the ranks of the Boko Haram terrorists. Don’t you see how they have been bungling their operations and many of their suicide bombers are being detected and arrested before they detonate their devices? You think that is for nothing?” Dr. BingonoBingono asked.

“If witches/wizards are sincerely approached to release their extraordinary powers to fight a just cause, they would certainly do so. The most immediate remedy is always to use those specialized in anti-witchcraft who most times can succeed in undoing what witches/wizards have done”, Dr. Bingono Bingono said.

Witchcraft is a criminal offence and punishable under Section 251 of the Cameroon penal code; how come you openly declare that you are an initiated wizard yet you have never been prosecuted? Can you tell us more about your initiation and activities as a wizard? I asked Dr. Bingono Bingono.

His answer: “It is true that witchcraft is punishable by law in Cameroon. But the truth is that the law only comes in when someone has used his powers to commit a crime. I have never committed any crime so there is no reason to arrest or prosecute me. If I were to discuss about my initiation with you then I would be initiating you too so let us leave things at that. Truth be told, I have had people who know me or have been told about me coming to me asking for advice where there is the suspicion that witchcraft was involved in certain situations within communities. And wherever possible, I give the necessary advice in order to avert unfortunate situations. Don’t ask me to elaborate on this because I will not”.

On several accidents that result in hundreds of deaths when it is getting to the end of the year and which are most times attributed to witches and wizards Dr. Bingono Bingono declares: “It must be retained that the soil feeds on blood and each time when we are getting to the end of the year, it has a hunger to gulp this liquid. We can say that the end of the year is prone to deadly accidents than other periods of the year simply because we go towards a period when nature has a need for revival through blood. There is nothing alarming about that”.

The University Don called on pastors and priests to stop protecting bad witches and wizards and also stop denouncing the good ones who once denounced may turn into bad witches/wizards.

“Even in traditional/village communities, witches/wizards should be seen as possible agents of development. Society should make them understand they can use their powers to advance development. They who see the world beyond can help develop society and as such, government should have confidence in them and bring them into the mainstream of national development because they live in the past, present and future”, Dr. Bingono Bingono declares.

“I suggest that there should be a multidisciplinary platform made up of philosophers, intellectuals of western modernity, the elite, but above all not forgetting traditional servants, be created to search for solutions to the various problems affecting our communities today. Purification rites, incantations, exorcism which should include strategic patrimonial initiation and those who incarnate these traditional values should not be forgotten when searching for solutions to problems of national development”, the confessed wizard advises.

Though witchcraft became a punishable offence in Cameroon five years after independence under Section 251 of the 1967 penal code, arrests and prosecutions have not been easy coming. Those found guilty of witchcraft can be sentenced to from 2 to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 to 100,000 CFA francs.The Eastern Region alone, which is considered the cradle of witchcraft in Cameroon carries the highest number of prosecutions in the courts, with the overall number of cases handled in the region alone higher than the total number in all the other nine regions put together.

A representative of the Minister of Justice who elected for anonymity because he was not authorized to talk on behalf of his ministry recently told participants at a seminar on witchcraft that there are between ten and twenty cases of witchcraft handled by courts in the Eastern Region alone per month.

According to a senior judicial official in Bertoua, the East Regional chief town, “just about ten percent of all the criminal cases handled in the region involve witchcraft. And prosecution is difficult because of the reluctance of witnesses to testify against accused witches/wizards for fear of being visited by the accused persons during unholy hours of the day”, the official who refused to be identified for fear of being bewitched revealed.

During a seminar on witchcraft held at the Catholic University of Central Africa in Yaounde in March 2005, many participants agreed that “the majority of legal decisions based on the penal code are unacceptable”.

Mounyol Mboussi, author of the book “Sorcellerie en Justice au Cameroun” explained that Cameroonian legislation does not define ‘witchcraft’ clearly enough, which complicates the judges’ task. Mounyol who was at the time President of the Vina Court of First Instance suggested an overhaul of Cameroonian legislation dealing with witchcraft as such legislation does not currently exist from a legal standpoint.

“During the whole of my time in Mamfe, Southwest Region as a magistrate, I handled just one case of witchcraft. And since I became an Appeal Court judge, I have not handled a single case involving witchcraft”, Justice Mbeng Ako of the Buea Appeal Court told me.

“I guess not up to 1% of the cases brought to the courts in the Southwest Region involve witchcraft”, the Appeal Court judge revealed.

As to what he would advise the government to do in curbing the practice of witchcraft and thus ridding society of its negative effects on development, Justice Mbeng says government has already taken action by criminalizing witchcraft under Section 251 of the penal code.

However, he says, “proving that someone is a witch and has committed an offence through witchcraft is difficult and the decision as to guilt is left to the judge’s discretion which, without evidence, is often times based on the statements made in court, which, of course, can lead to many errors”.

“I think the society would only have to live with the witchcraft phenomenon as it is today in the hope that as society develops and becomes more enlightened, future generations would discover that witchcraft may just be some imaginary thing that does not actually exist”, Justice Mbeng opines.

Meanwhile, distinguishing between the responsibility of witchcraft for abandoned projects and the corruption of government officials and contractors is a very herculean task. While most community leaders are quick to blame rogue officials and contractors for abandoned projects, the hush-hush talk within most communities hosting these abandoned projects is that witchcraft has a hand if not completely responsible for the unexecuted works.

Getting even villagers in the villages where the abandoned projects are cited and who would otherwise have benefitted from the services of the abandoned projects to talk is not easy as most of them have a hand in the abandonment of the projects due to their nocturnal activities.

“They know those responsible for chasing away the contractors and in most cases, some of them are involved in the witchcraft activities behind the abandonment of the projects. But they would dare not open their mouths to talk for fear of being bewitched or exposing themselves”, a noble in Efok told this Reporter.

Rev. Dr. Dieudonne Massi Gams, Chairman of Cameroon’s National Anti-Corruption Commission popularly known by its French acronym CONAC has called on communities where projects have been abandoned to conquer fear in order to galvanize themselves against threats and intimidation from corrupt officials and apostles of the night.

“The fight against corruption and supernatural powers is a fight against evil and the struggle of light against darkness”, the clergyman told this Reporter.

Fighting against the negative forces of witchcraft that have contributed in undercutting the development efforts of government is not and would not be an easy task even in the near or far future. For one thing, the fear of the unknown remains one of the most debilitating aspects in the fight against the forces of the night. This fear is so pervasive that even highly-placed government officials who would otherwise be at the forefront of the fight are so frightened to make any declarations concerning what they are doing to combat witchcraft.

“What can one actually do to fight something you are not seeing? It is like fighting against the breeze. These people see us but we don’t see them. What we may think we know is often just based on assumptions or the denunciations of individuals who may in actual fact be enemies of the people they accuse and may be doing so as some sort of revenge for perceived or real wrongs against them.

“You talk of data as if you are a stranger to this country. We have been involved in sensitization campaigns to educate our field staff on the importance of gathering data on our investment projects in various parts of the country. Even in this regard, we are finding it difficult to get them to gather and send us the data. Now you talk of data on witchcraft and its effects on our projects? First we have in the past found out that the little data that trickles in from the regions is most times not grounded on provable facts. Then you ask about data on witchcraft? Field staff who live within the communities are so imbued in the fear of witches and wizards that even when they have information on the activities of these evil forces, they are afraid to mention it in their reports to us. They say witches and wizards have eyes and ears everywhere. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that even in the next decade or two, we would not be in a position to gather any data about the nefarious activities of witches and wizards”, a very senior official in the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development who opted for anonymity because of fear of the unknown declared.

According to sociologist Eric Kombey, fighting something you are not seeing as the official mentioned above says, can be done by way of educating and sensitizing the various communities and the practitioners of the craft on the evils of witchcraft and how they can use it positively.

“A good number of development projects such as road and bridge construction in some communities have been slowed down or abandoned because of the activities of witches and wizards. Even activities such as agriculture, lumbering, fishing and mining including business development, industrialization and human relations have been greatly affected in some communities for fear of the wrath of witches and wizards.

“One way of curbing these negative forces is to engage the local communities hosting such development projects in advance and educate them on the necessity to cooperate with project executors to ensure the success of the said projects since the projects are for their own benefit”, Mr. Kombey advises.

Though witchcraft can be said to be evolving because of the involvement of educated and modern practitioners such as Dr. Bingono Bingono, the core practitioners who hold the core secrets of the craft can be found mostly within the very old and transitory age group ranging from over seventy years and above. These individuals are mostly found in rural communities far away from modern civilization. And most of them are very angry people who believe society cut them raw deals and so are determined to wreck havoc on the communities that they consider treated them badly.

“Positive actions? What positive actions? Can you see anything positive about me here? Just look at me. Do I look like a normal human being? I live in this hole with no children or grandchildren to take care of me and you tell me of contributing positively to the development of this community? What positive thing has the community done for me? There is the saying among our people that children are the walking stick of the old. Now I have no children who could have borne me grandchildren to take care of me. Do you think I did not want to have my own children? Why did I not have my own children? What did I do that I was refused the joy of child birth? This community is responsible for my situation and they have to pay as long as I have any breathe of life left in me”, one old lady who said she does not know how old she is but gave her name only as Mama Baboke told me through an interpreter in Abong-Mbang in the Eastern Region.

“At my age what do I stand to benefit from any development that may come here in future? I shall be dead and gone by then. So don’t talk to me about development. Let us talk about what I am now and what I am going through. I hate everything around here and I hate the portion life reserved for me. I got married to four wives and bore eleven children. None is alive today. All my wives are dead as well as my eleven children. They were all ‘eaten’ by these people you see going up and down here. They are ‘people’ in the day and ‘monsters’ at night. They ruined my life and I am going to spend the rest of my life fighting for revenge. If you care, go and report me to the police that I said so. I will even be glad for them to come and kill me, after all what am I living for right now?”, one very old man who gave his name as Pah Zok told me through an interpreter in Yokadouma in the Eastern Region.

Between the resolve of old witches and wizards (who strongly feel they are being cut raw deals by their various communities) to continue with their nefarious activities and the doubts expressed by a legal practitioner as to the possibility of exorcising witchcraft in the immediate future, there seems only a single middle ground for now: educating the various communities and witchcraft practitioners on the necessity for them to cooperate wherever/whenever development projects that would benefit all members of the society are earmarked, as sociologist Kombey suggests.

This is the city of excellence!

When he served as Mayor of the municipality, Mbella Moki Charles named it “The town of legendary hospitality.” It was Mbella who contracted the French waste disposal company, ‘HYSACAM,” to handle Buea’s public hygiene imperatives. Local council labourers that hitherto carried out these chores were either redeployed to other duties or remained underemployed.

During Mbella’s tenure at the Town Hall, there was no raging war like is the case today. The social atmosphere in the municipality was generally convivial and depicted the mayor’s legendary hospitality approach to running a town hall. It is no longer the case now. Years back, a shooting war was declared, political animosity between the sitting mayor, Ekema Patrick Esunge and his predecessor heightened. Systemic and deliberate steps to obliterate the Mbella legacy were reportedly engaged, including sacking council staff suspected of having any links to their former boss.

This culminated in the abrupt change of the legendary hospitality nomenclature to “City of Excellence.” Excellence in this case would logically denote a drastic facelift of the municipality in every sphere of socio-political life. It would mean that the town now towers over mere hospitality to something like nobility and perfection. But that is not quite the case.

Buea has been overtaken by mountains of stinking garbage in every street corner. Little or nothing is being done, even as an emergency measure to halt this towering vector of an imminent epidemic. Ironically, the mayor’s priority is fighting the ghost towns syndrome to a standstill. So, despite the established fact that a cholera outbreak is most likely to kill more denizens, and do so faster than ghost towns, the mayor is preoccupied with intimidating and hacking open business premises that didn’t open for business on ghost town days.

And so, huge mounds of refuse litter Buea and environs, threatening to block the main streets in some cases. As earlier indicated, the phenomenon constitutes an imminent health hazard with the possibility of the spread of disease pretty high. Certain individual households have resorted to burning their waste with the help of kerosene or petrol. But with the coming of the rains, even this crude, desperate method of waste “cremation” is proving inadequate. And either way, the high levels of toxicity emanating from such burnt waste is said to be very disturbing to preventive health authorities who, in any case are helpless. The resulting gasses from the burnt refuse, experts say become is very dangerous to both human and animal health.

 Also, assorted burnt refuse is said to produce toxic matter, often deposited on plants like vegetables which are harvested and sometimes consumed raw.

Areas like Molyko, Sandpit are practically chocking with breathing difficulties as we write. If Buea is being overtaken by “excellent dirt” and official brutality and destruction, the Bamenda City Council is very silently having new mountains rapidly rising and in certain cases replacing what used to be food markets. The town stinks to the nose. Potholes on the few dirt roads in this city are more or less open graves, that daily swallow automobiles and drives the economy on snail shells if you will.

The ‘HYSCAM’ garbage collection contract boycott is mainly blamed on the current level of insecurity induced by the ongoing war in the English speaking Regions of the country. ‘HYSACAM’ workers are said to be afraid of getting into the neighbourhoods for fear of being attacked by separatist militias and marauding bandits. It is alleged that a good number of their utility trucks were burnt at the Musaka junction refuse dump in the outskirts of Buea. Reason they no longer collect refuse in the Buea municipality for many months now.

Ironically, the council readily affords enough labour and strong military protection each time the mayor goes about sealing business premises, forcing them open or bursting the tyres of taxicabs whose drivers either feared to do business on ghost town days or had them parked in garages for repairs.

Mission to Kodengui

Sunday, 19th May 2019, the Yaounde caucus of ‘Hut 2’ paid a visit to the Kondengui Principal Prison to visit the incarcerated members of the Southern Cameroons’ (Ambazonia’s) leadership. On arriving there, well before mid-day, we learned that we had undertaken an impossible mission because, since the previous week, there had been strict instructions from the Presidency that no one be allowed to visit the detainees. The strict instructions had been issued following the visit of Eric Chinje to the prison. The ‘Presidency’ is said to have been highly embarrassed by a video Eric promptly released in the world media following his visit to Kondengui.

However, since “le Cameroun c’est le Cameroun” we did not immediately give up our mission and return home. One of us knew very well some of the warders who advised that we should buy something like pallets of bottled water and, on getting there, say that we had come to see Reverend Father Andrew. Father Andrew is one of the Ambazonians who had already been sentenced (to eleven years with hard labour, I think). As a prisoner, as distinguished from a detainee, he has a right to receive visitors.  The little conspiratorial plan was that, once we were let in on account of the priest, we would then use the opportunity to see Sisiku and co. We proceeded accordingly, little knowing that our little secret was known to all the warders along the whole path. The one at the first gate, who took and registered our ID cards insisted that it was not Father Andrew we were going to see, that he knew who we were going to see and we should tell him. Whereupon I said that I wanted to see Father Andrew whom I had not seen since he was imprisoned and also a family member of ours, Shufai  Berinyuy, whom I had visited before. In fact, Shufai’s younger sister was with us and had narrated what difficulties she had encountered in recent times coming to see him.

In LRC all procedural problems with government regulations can be solved by putting your hand in the pocket; a veritable racket as everyone concerned gets to get his/her due share of the booty. So we were able to get in to the second waiting room. There was absolutely no going beyond this point but our co-conspirators had gone in to fulfill their part of the bargain and informed Sisiku and Shufai, who at the time were at some religious service, that we were there to see them. They shortly emerged, looking healthy, fit and in good spirits.

We had to discuss there in the waiting space in the presence of all the warders and other waiting visitors within the very short discretional time allowed, scarcely 10 minutes, all told. We rapidly told them about Hut 2 and our main mission, emphasizing the fact that one of our admission criteria insists that members must have no direct ambitions of a political or economic nature in the emergent Ambaland, so as to enhance objectivity and fair-mindedness.  That the group had sent us to sound them regarding the recent releases of the President on the IG. That the said releases had shaken the grassroots on GZ and, on balance, from the point of view of perception, had been generally highly unfavourably received. That the Hut wanted to contribute towards managing the situation. That they at Kondengui are certainly the face of the Revolution and that nearly everyone conceded that but, could the President, please, stay calm and keep a low profile while the challenges elicited by his releases are handled, in view of the fact that the Revolution  seems to be inexorably approaching the finishing line?

Our President, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, responded more or less as follows. He is very happy that we come. That the recent actions he has taken were long overdue, but there is no time to tell us the whole story. That in prison, they are very well informed, more informed than most people outside and, with scarcely any distractions, they are focused on the revolution full time. They have been communicating constantly with many people including the diplomatic community some of whom have come several times to commune with them in prison. That they had a lot to do with the recent moves and actions of the European Union, USA and the UK. That the Revolution had come dangerously close to total collapse owing to the incompetence and corruption of the IG. That it is highly impossible for them to betray the revolution; that in fact each of them is so committed to our getting to Buea that, if an offer were made to kill one of them so that we get to Buea, there would be a scramble among them for who should bear that supreme sacrifice. He understands what we are saying about perception but that, because he is so sure of the rightness of his actions on behalf of the Revolution, he is holding on to them even in the face of receiving 90 percent blame or condemnation. That appearance is very different from reality and when we do get to Buea and lay the facts before everyone, some of us will thankfully fall at the feet of some of the people who are roundly being condemned today and look askance at some of those receiving high praise. That the Hut should please just give him the benefit of the 10 percent margin of doubt that remains in our mind.

Many questions remained to be asked but we had to go. Shufai, however, took our telephone contacts and it appears they are able to make calls from in there.  

Gobata (for the Yaounde Hut 2 Caucus)

‘Greener pasture’ politicians, patriots

For three years now and counting, life in the English parts of Cameroon in particular and the rest of the country in general has been hellish. Recently, thousands of Diaspora Cameroonians have been taking to foreign streets. They have been washing the country’s repugnant dross in public. Structures of Cameroon’s diplomatic missions in European capitals have been vandalized. They would eventually cost starveling taxpayers, billions to repair or replace.

Back in the country, the cabal of ‘greener pasture’ politicians and so called patriots are undaunted, unwilling to cede a genuine inch to suffering protesters. Routine Epicurean-type feasting, even as tens of thousands of compatriots live, procreate, and die in the bushes continues and is still beamed live on television channels. Every single protest is shot down with AK-47s.They are hailing the tired benevolent, nay, stubborn cow, almost milking it to death, artificially watering the pastures, hoping to maintain the status quo from which they have been greedilyreaping over the years.

The greedy tick sucking its host to death is most likely to die with the cow. Pundits are piqued by the hustling for power, wealth and fame.Weeks back, the mayor of Buea engaged thugs to hack open the doors of business premises whose owners were suspected of respecting separatists’ calls for ‘ghost town.’ It was daylight official banditry by any other name, carried out with the protection of heavily armed government troops. A few days afterwards, an electronics shop was burnt to ashes apparently by separatist militias. Its proprietor might have breached “ghost town injunctions.”

Elsewhere in Bamenda, capital of the Northwest Region, adherents of the ruling party who appeared on the ceremonial grounds for the May 20 feast couldn’t show their faces. They either feared subsequent reprisals from separatist thugs or they were starvelings, targeting the pittances that would eventually be doled out to those who dared the “terrorists” to at least, constitute a motley crowd of celebrants. Shameful!

But come to think of it. Cameroon is at war with its citizens today because of entangling alliances of ‘greener pasture’overlords that are lined up against what is largely seen as the bigger interest.In other words, it is the “chopping” few versus the protesting masses. Be that as it may, this is a problem that could have been treated as a mere spat. But the war option was gleefully chosen. War, like any other government project and maybe more so, is an expensive project that can easily go wrong. In our own case, it has gone thoroughly wrong, no matter how much anyone tries to hurriedly bury the staggering casualties to hide the gruesome realities.The ongoing war in the Northwest and Southwest Regions has, to say the very least degenerated. It is dirty and wasteful in every sense of the word. It becomes even more foolhardy when leaders are seen to be rather casually enthusiastic about engaging it or eager for a fight, even if they pride themselves on winning, when they do get into that fight.

In Cameroon, very simple, straightforward things are mostly achieved by way of cajoling, bullying, organizing political pressure and eventually engaging external lobbies at dizzying costs to the taxpayer. Those at the helm of affairs hardly pause to think of the cost effectiveness and benefits of their acts. Money, bullying and brute force are simply thrown in and policed.

Two men stand out in the epitomizing of this tomfoolery. They are Paul Atanga Nji and Ekema Patrick. The duo seems to have agreed that people get governmentally recognized and compensated when they make lots of bloody noise and so, have joined the fray. They understand what from every indication, is a simple game of political winners and silent or cheated political losers. Sustainable or better still business decisions for the likes of Ekema and Atanga Nji are just after thoughts. The master’s will, must be done.

But we have seen how such ‘horsewhip-like’ governance has destroyed the economy and created embarrassing misery, especially in the English speaking Regions of the country.We have seen how it has felled towering giants like the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC and PAMOL Plantations. We have seen how it has decimated hundreds of villages and townships. We can see clearly that it has yielded more cost than benefits; more hatred for the regime and dissidents alike; more lives destroyed than saved with wasteful new institutions and procedures created with proliferating executive signatures.

Honestly, the most mavericks like Ekema and Atanga Nji can achieve from their quixotic acts of bravado would be political appointments for the political scavenging they are carrying out. The electorate, aka political customers aren’t going to stick with the Ekemas except by way of outright rigging or crass dictatorship. Under normal circumstances, Ekema’s ruling party members are expected to vote with their feet in droves because he has harmed them emotionally and economically. In any case, dead businessmen and customers aren’t going to recommend the likes of Atanga Nji, Ekema and the collectivity of Diaspora warmongers to their voting friends because their assigns raped and killed them and their businesses.

Ignoring the demands being made by teeming masses of Cameroonians and instead reeling out one decree after the other in the blind hope that government can change the laws of physics or change the laws of economics is tantamount to arguing with the faithful mirror that throws back the warts on your face at you. It has become fashionable for ‘greener pasture’ politicians and other Man Fridays to quote, praise and hail Mr. Biya, even at children’s birthday parties.It may sound warm and fuzzy and positive because free chop and “mimbo” are lavishly served, with rented women programmed toululate at every twist.

Yet, providing occasional chop, choice wines and freebies at lavish parties don’t last. What lasts is more businesslike approach to running the government while listening to the general public instead of the noise from rented motley crowds as supplied by ‘greener pasture’ politicians.  The best form of populism is its orientation against fawning, parasitic elites and in favour of the overwhelming majority of the population, even as specific policies come and go.

Last but not least, the current spate of protests by Cameroonians in European capitals, plus the ongoing mass protests in Sudan even after a Methuselah dictator’s butt has been rudely kicked should serve as a pointer to his ilk that the power of fools, especially when they are in multitudes should never be undermined.

‘All AFCON’ without work makes us dull citizens

By Charlie Ndi Chia

See what they have done to Mr. President! He was upbeat. He kept insisting that Cameroon will be ready to host the 2019 edition of African Football Cup of Nations, AFCON. He swore without any prompting in practically every policy speech he made that every piece of relevant infrastructure would be in place as and when due for the hosting of this foremost continental jamboree.

But the last time we checked, ‘AFCON Cameroon 2019’ was an opium dream. Cameroon had been ignominiously stripped of the hosting rights for very obvious embarrassing reasons we wouldn’t want to bore you with for now. As we write, the chances of the Indomitable Lions partaking at this year’s AFCON due to take off in less than three weeks, are hanging in the balance. The Comoros Islands insists that Cameroon lost the legal right to partake, and have gone to equity with hands that may be cleaner than Yaounde would want to accept.

Egypt was readier at very short notice, much more so than Cameroon that had several years to prepare for the event. Media reports claimed that while Mr. President bleated about how he would personally ensure that the event holds in Cameroon as and when due, he never [even for once] [personally] visited a single AFCON project site during the entire period of his sweet pep speech making. Looting from the AFCON project budget reportedly went “nuclear,” with certain vote holders and some other individuals concerned with the realization of the project, grabbing and eating until they were regularly vomiting on their shoes. Justice is yet to hold those responsible for scuttling Cameroon’s right to host the biggest continental sporting event. Certain purportedly corrupt individuals identified and fingered instead got promoted shortly after the Confederation of African Football, CAF’s, disqualification bombshell.

Cameroon must have juggled and demonstrated ‘diplomatic contrition,’ because instead of punishing her outright for desecrating the continent’s ‘football tabernacle,’ the Ivory Coast was foxed out of their 2021 hosting rights to give football legend Samuel Etoo’s country another quick opportunity to make amends. Whether this chance would be taken is left to be seen.

Some Six months after Cameroon was shut out of the hosting, the country is busy carrying out a bloody war against Boko Haram and separatists. No doubt, the war project is costing the nation billions monthly, plus international credibility. About a month ago, work was said to have grounded at the ‘Paul Biya’ Stadium, in Olembe near Yaounde. Protesting workers complained that they had not been paid for many months. So did the foreign contractors handling the project. Elsewhere, the road infrastructure linking the hosting venues are either dilapidated or whatever work being carried out here is at snail speed.

Roads, power supply, hotel and health infrastructures, all prerequisites for hosting are inadequate by FIFA and CAF requirements. They just might not be there come 2021. And even as Mr. President has been bleating in his speeches about the nation’s already harnessed electric power potentials, what is visible on the ground is a nation virtually groping in darkness. Last week Yaounde was facing a serious water crisis and the excuse the water board gave for the embarrassment was that there was lack of electrical power supply to gravitate water in the pipes from an Akonolinga catchment.

In most parts of the Northwest and Southwest Regions, including Bamenda and Buea, a running tap is practically celebrated with wine and beer. Certain parts of the two Regions, including major cities like Kumba and Bamenda celebrate a shining bulb. Mamfe is lighted by the national grid for about four or five days in a month. The list goes on and on and applies to many other parts of the Republic, including those that were supposed to have been hosting AFCON in less than three weeks from now. The speeches keep being sweetened. They continue to reassure, and implore us not to believe the evidence of our own eyes as it were.

And we ask ourselves, is it prudent or possible for a nation to prosecute a raging war, moot an elusive dialogue, host a continental soccer jamboree, handle multiple elections, purport to fight poverty to a standstill and strive to remain one and indivisible in just a matter of months? Is it possible for Cameroon to host AFCON without working to curb inertia, ineptitude, corruption and warmongering and still claim not to be dull citizens? The answer is blowing in the wind.