UNDP to promote financial inclusion in Cameroon

By Beng Humphrey Fang

Unimpressed by the low level of participation by youths, women and the physically challenged people in most communities nationwide, the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, has signed a partnership agreement with three micro finance institutions in Cameroon. Signed at the Yaoundé Hilton Hotel on Wednesday, September 18, 2019, the agreement seeks to promote financial inclusion among the participating financial institutions that include The Savana Islamic S.A based in Ngaoundere, Credit du Sahel based in Maroua, Microfinance de Development.

The three financial intuitions involved in the agreement, according to the representative of the Minister of Finance, have exhibited a lot of actions in the domain of financial inclusion. Speaking to the press after the signing ceremony, the Minister of Finance’s representative explained that the objective of the convention between the UNDP and the three micro financial institutions in Cameroon is financial inclusion. He went forth, that by financial inclusion, “we refer to low level of banking culture in our sub region which is below twenty percent.”

The next issue concerning financial inclusion most specifically, he added, is about social groups and young people that are vulnerable like women, handicapped people who do not have access to financial services. Going by the minister’s representative, the UNDP is coming in to give the micro finance institutions support in the line of making credit for them to dish out loans to women and vulnerable people.

Speaking at the event, the resident representative of the UNDP in Cameroon, Jean Luc Stalon thanked the Cameroon government for organizing the signing occasion for the memorandum of understanding between the said financial enterprises and the UNDP which he hoped will help them provide facilities for financial inclusion of the vulnerable population. According to Stalon, the three financial institutions, as a result of the agreement have received some funds that will enable them have some guarantee to lend small loans to the vulnerable population. In Cameroon, the UNDP Resident said only 37 percent of the population has this opportunity and out of this  about 15 still have no access to financial inclusion, formal or informal.

“All in all, this is a pilot project to help the most vulnerable populations have access to small loans to improve their livelihoods and reduce poverty,” Jean luc Stalon, concluded.

PM TOLD: ‘Free Kamto, others, clean up electoral code or no dialogue’

By Beng Humphrey Fang

The stage was set by the Secretary General of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, CRM, Barrister Christopher Ndong, in a memo presented to the Prime Minister following President Biya’s decision for there to be a national dialogue in relation to the raging war being fought in Anglophone Cameroon.

While Ndong was hard, rather uncompromising about his party’s stance on Present day national issues, other party leaders like Garga Haman Adji, Serge Matomba and Libi Cabral were like ready to meet Biya’s CPDM on middle turf.

However, what stood out sharper than the rest of the preconditions for Biya’s announced dialogue to eventually see the light of day was CRM’s demand that Kamto and other political detainees be first released, unconditionally…(

“We met the prime minister with a memorandum in which we declared our position and we said we cannot go to dialogue when Maurice Kamto is still in prison. As we know he has to lead a delegation to the dialogue table and we don’t know why he is locked up. He has been locked up for no reason. They should release him before we can proceed to the dialogue.

“Also, we said the government should release all other political prisoners. That is, grant general amnesty to the political prisoners so that there can be meaningful dialogue.

That an international body or person of respectable standard should be a mediator in the dialogue because we cannot say the PM is mediator when he is part of the dialogue. So you cannot be a party and judge. In that dialogue we said we shall be talking about; the Anglophone crisis, bringing all the options on table, the political crisis after the presidential elections and then seeing into other national major issues/problems.

“We raised the issue on the electoral code which barely by nature is a bad code.  Those are the conditions we gave them without which we cannot take part in that dialogue because it will not be a dialogue but it will be a monologue because there are facial attempts to exclude the major actors. Then whom do they want to dialogue with if the separatist leaders are in prison. They have not been released. Who do they want to dialogue with? If Kamto is in prison with his party leaders and militants, who do they want to dialogue with? So, that is the memorandum we gave the PM and told him that dialogue will only be possible if those conditions are met. We are not saying that anything out of that will still fail. It can happen but we will not take part and it has far reaching consequences. You cannot be convening a dialogue and informing us that military people will be part of the dialogue. Where on earth have you ever seen a dialogue with military people part of it? It is the political institution represented by ministers that go and talk on behalf of the military. How can military people come and be part of the dialogue?

“And then if you look at the configuration, parliament is one sided. Senate is one sided and most of the people spearheading the dialogue process are all CPDMs for some. We have seen from all the compositions they have made from the president’s speech that it is a monologue. If Kamto and his coalition cannot be there, if the Ambazonians cannot be there, it should be noted that the conflict that lead to the dialogue are two. The Major conflict; Anglophone Crisis and if their leaders are not there or coming, how do we bring dialogue?

“Secondly, the post electoral crisis. If Kamto and his coalition have been locked because of that and a dialogue is organised in their absence, who are you dialoguing with? And we know that as a body, when you cut off the head, the body cannot work. If we are coming to dialogue without our head, how do you expect us to talk? So that is it. It is just but reasonable that they should release them through a “nolle-prosequi” and for the other Anglophone leaders, they should be granted general amnesty and then bring an international body for the dialogue to hold.

The CRM delegation was led by Madam Silvian Noa, second vice president, Barrister Emmanuel Sim 3rd Vice National President, Barrister Ndong Christopher Secreatary General, Okala Ebude assistant treasurer, Dr Sipot Sipot communication secretary, Niboun Nissack Kamto’s spokesperson and other party officials.

Cabral Libi of the PCRN party

“We salute the initiative taken by the head of state organising this Grand National dialogue. We have presented a document to the PM in preview of the Grand National Dialogue. We have made proposals on the form of the state; Regionalism and communal federalism. We also talked about electoral process, the reconstruction of conflict zones for the displaced persons and refugees to return. We are waiting if we will be united to the great debate. Equally we talked about national integration. Finally, we called on the government to release all people arrested and detained within the context of the Anglophone crisis because the dialogue to hold is to reconstruct.”

Garga Haman Hadji of the ADD party

“What we think should be the aim of the national dialogue is the resolution of a serious problem, the Anglophone crisis. This problem is serious because there is a part of our brothers and sisters that want to quit the country not geographically but to separate us. It is unacceptable / inadmissible sentimentally and constitutionally notably the president of the Republic who has as duty, to put it better, has as obligation to maintain the country united from colonial influences British or French.

“The constitution of 1986 put in place decentralisation. When someone says he wants federalism, it is a form of decentralisation. I maintain that the problem ass already solved and we are waiting for results. I indicated that in my report to the president who sent me earlier on to these two regions. So, the goal we have to reach is to convince our people, brothers and sisters who are in the bush. And we can do that because what they need is not to leave the country but to solve a certain number of problems and this is not a difficult matter. We need them to discuss with them and to give them our conditions to discuss what is possible.”

Interview with Serge Espoir Matomba PURS PARTY        

“We have brought some proposals concerning the crisis. First of all, we have started from what we have been since 2016. We have enumerated some of the solutions that will bring our country never to face this type of problem anymore. One of them is to see how we have been caught before, because what we believe is that we regained a colonial system and regions have just been divided without taking into account family institutions and anthropological or social decisions and considerations. So they have just divided the country.

“We believe that if we can start a good division of our country, many things will go well. The second proposal was the harmonisation of the educational system. Today we have two sub systems and I think we need to have one. Also we proposed the harmonisation of the judicial system.

       “Out of that, we have language problem. Today we are fighting over English Language or French Language. We believe in our party that when French speaking Cameroonians go to the French embassy that they are French, they will not be allowed to enter or go to France. They will not take you as French. You are Cameroonian. Same if English speaking Cameroonians go to the British/English embassy and say we want to reach London or England, they will not say you are from England. They will say you are a Cameroonian. So we have to question ourselves, who are we? What is our identity? So we have to resolve that in a language because what we need is Cultural Revolution.

“We need a language which we will speak anywhere in the public and private sector or in our everyday life. Also, we proposed as a solution, the right to land. You cannot say children who have been born in Yaounde and just because the father is from Bamenda means that they (children) are from Bamenda. He has been born in Yaounde, he has lived and grown in Yaounde and he is from Yaounde. These are some of the reforms we have to see into and implement so that our Country will not face this type of problem for the next 50 years.”

Afro-phobia blights South Africa

By *Akateh Prudencia, Nana Marinette, Nji Ruth, Akoh Maxsmile & Ngouanjio Rosita Asonganyi

Africa has been a continent plagued by several crisis rooted in misrule.This explains why the neocolonialism mantra seems to be increasingly losing traction as the days go by with incontrovertible evidence cropping up to indict the African’s inability to be the brothers’ keepers. From North, South, East and West, wars embedded in opaque governance have wasted lives and resources that would have made Africa particularly, Black Africa the envy of the entire world.

In the circumstance, politicians who would rather foist themselves on their compatriots even when prevailing trends point to the necessity for them to give way have always leaned on distractions like foreigners being responsible for their economic woes. Because of greed and glaring incompetence they mortgage their consciences and sell the collective wealth of their countries to foreigners or a few individuals who funnel the wealth meant to improve on the general welfare of their compatriots into private accounts.

This is exactly the case of the recent conflagration in South Africa that has been derisively referred to as xenophobia. Fortunately, there are a few good people like Honourable Julius Malema who can still delineate between circus shows emergent from political buffoonery and real issues militating against the developmental priorities of their country.

Xenophobia in simple understanding is the hate or prejudice of citizens in a country against foreigners. Xenophobia, or better still Afrophobia in South Africa started in the early 1990s, when immigrants from other countries faced discrimination and violence in the newly liberated South Africa. Between 2000 and March 2008 at least 67people died in what were identified as Xenophobic attacks. But most of the victims were fellow black Africans from other parts of the continent.

Today, African youths from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo and many others tend to migrate to South Africa in search for greener pastures. It has come to notice that most African youths move from their countries to other countries in search of better economic and social facilities which they consider to be limited in their home countries. It is however, illuminating to note that political factors play a great role too.

These may include war, insecurity, and tyranny by their respective governments, marginalization and inequality like is the case in Cameroon, causing the people to “vote with their feet” to where they imagine, respect for human dignity and good governance is better practised. A keen example is that of Cameroon’s biting socio-political crisis which has induced many Cameroonians to migrate to South Africa, Nigeria and other neighbouring countries for both economic and socio-political safety. Cameroonians, Nigerians and other Africans especially in recent years have tended to flee their countries due to poor leadership, corruption, bad governance, ineptitude, hardship and inertia which could be attributed to the absence of true democracy.

As a result of these, xenophobia/Afro-phobia returned to South African communities as they began feeling congested and discriminated against by the so called foreigners (immigrants). The feeling of being choked in their businesses, educational and financial sector has tended to intensity the hatred surprisingly by South Africans for foreigners/black Africans. This hatred has been manifested in various forms such as burning down of stores, beating, killing and kidnapping of immigrant populations as a means of expressing their anger or rage. Victims are forced to migrate back to their home countries. For instance about 400-640 Nigerians were recently evacuated out of South Africa to their home country as a result of mass looting, burning and destruction.

This has in turn pushed Nigerians and Zimbabwe for instance, to carry out reprisal acts by picketing South African state symbols like their High Commission in Abuja and business conglomerates like MTN, one of the biggest communication service providers in the country with South African majority share capital.

 All these play down on Africa because not only South Africans and Nigerians are affected but Africa as a whole. This gives the typically greedy whites more reasons to refer to Africaas the “Whiteman’s grave” since nothing good comes from war.

As remedy to prevent migration which provokes war African leaders should revisit their economic policies and political systems. They should be more understanding and less hostile. More job opportunities should be provided to reduce the unemployment rate and migration for greener pastures.

In the instant case, South Africa should reconsider current land tenure statutes that leave room for a very insignificant proportion of the country to own most of the arable land, as well as wealth that has been in the hands of a few cheating and racist whites that do not constitute even one percent of that country’s population. These are the issues requiring urgent corrective measures instead of brother against brother violence. The African Union too must be more aggressive in its drive towards political and economic integration to facilitate movement and residence of Africans in any country of their choice.

*UB Students on internship

Consultations For Dialogue: Saints and sinners go marching…

It took over three years, thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of refugees, depletion of private and state resources; it took national and international outcries, mediation and refrain for dialogue as a solution to an embarrassing carnage, for Mr. Paul Biya to budge and accept that Cameroonians should start talking to instead of shooting one another.

When he at last announced that dialogue could happen, he assigned Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute to organize and chair it. The latter swung to immediate action, consulting individuals and interest groups. They included hawks and doves, saints and sinners, hardliners and malleable people of every hue. Paradoxically, even regime zealots and others who had sworn that there was nothing like an Anglophone problem and that there will never be a dialogue, were the first to march to Dion Ngute purporting to proffer tips on how the Biya dialogue could or should best be handled.

As they consultation continues, incredible numbers of interest groups, sans the dyed in the wool separatists are marching in and out of the Star Building, soliciting, eager to be part of an imminent dialogue with well defined prescriptions, restrictions, do’s and don’ts. (Continued on Pg 2)   

When the Civil Cabinet of the Presidency of the republic announced that President Biya would address the nation at 8 pm on Tuesday, September 11, the nation immediately went into frenzy. This was not so much because his intervention had been long awaited as the thrust the speech was supposed to evoke. Of course, everybody but regime hardliners was in the know that he had been tardy in addressing the crisis rocking the two English speaking regions of the country. However, the content was not so much in issue as the form of whatever he had to tell the nation. What was nevertheless, certain was that the Anglophone crisis would be the fulcrum on which the speech would revolve and it turned out to be so.

Whatever character the speech conjured up, when President Biya eventually addressed the nation, opinions differed as to its poignancy regarding a definitive solution to the Anglophone crisis. While there is unanimity in the fact that he has, at last, come down from his high horse to decree a national dialogue on the Anglophone crisis, there seem to be apartheid in the perception of the rest of the speech particularly, in its rendition of the Anglophone problem in question. 

Judging by inflexions from a vox pop conducted on the issue, many Anglophones are of the opinion that the president has not acknowledged that there is an Anglophone problem. By derisively referring to Anglophone alienation as “purported”marginalization, the president is overtly siding with the likes of Atanga Nji who read wolf – crying when there is no wolf in the Anglophone quest for recognition as an equal partner in the union that brought together the former East and West Cameroon in 1961.

Furthermore, badmouthing is to the effect that the president is insensitive to Anglophone idiosyncrasies when he justified the absence of marginalization of Anglophones by the persistent appointment of Prime Ministers from the English speaking part of the country since the advent of political pluralism in 1992. Persons of this leaning peg their derision of the speech on the fact that when President Biya was Prime Minister, he was the second personality in terms of state protocol.

They continue that apart from being whittled down to insignificance and choking under the weight of four Francophone appointees, whose ascendancy regarding state protocol is not a moot point,  the Prime Minister is just a ceremonial position, given that de facto authority resides with the Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic. 

Another bone of contention is the fact that the president has arrogated to himself the prerogative to decide on the representatives to the announced dialogue. While admitting that his array of potential participants cuts across a broad spectrum of Cameroonians, some dissidents are wont to say that the approach Christian Cardinal Tumi and his All Anglophone Conference, AGF, were about to bring to bear on the circumstance would have produced participants who are true representatives of their people. After all, they say, the issue in instance is Anglophone alienation by Government and not a national conference. Moreover, they continue that those who now pass off as elected appointed officials had since lost authority to represent their people on account of their being seen as government hirelings.

Perhaps the most vexing issue highlighted by the president’s speech is his nonchalant attitude to the sensibilities of Anglophone separatists. The contention of some of those interviewed is that the president ought to have called for an immediate ceasefire with soldiers returning to their barracks while separatist militias are given a deadline of about three months to completely lay down their arms.

They are also miffed by the fact that their acclaimed leaders Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and his crew of abductees from Nigeria were sentenced to life imprisonment barely a few weeks to the convening of the dialogue. By their reckoning, conventional wisdom would have impelled the head of state to order that all those detained on account of the simmering crisis be released before the commencement of the dialogue.

Be that as it may, the thread that runs through the vox pop is that peace should be given a chance and for this reason let Cameroonians of all climes and skies gird their loins for the D-Day. While admitting that the regime has broken world records in disavowing resolutions reached at conferences to map out antidotes to opaque governance (Foumban, Tripartite, deletion of the prefix ‘United’ from the country’s name etc.), history will certainly judge us to have deliberately stayed away from a golden opportunity to right the wrongs plaguing this country once and for all.

On the other hand, should president Biya and his coterie of court jesters attempt to use this as another opportunity to ride roughshod on Cameroonians, the upshot will certainly be an all-out revolution whose incendiary impact will send Cameroon one hundred years behind.

X-raying Biya’s enigmatic dialogue speech

By Beng Humphrey Fang

Finally, the long awaited dialogue by Cameroonians and the international community as a way out of the armed conflict in the two English speaking regions of the country gets convened. Eyebrows are raised all over from within and without the country to see what the dialogue will give birth to end the war in the Anglophone regions. Reactions from all and sundry, including Anglophones who are the subject of the dialogue have been at variance.

There have been applauds as well as critical readings and interpretations from Cameroonian compatriots on the announced national dialogue due to hold at the end of this month to be presided over by  Prime Minister, Joseph Dion Ngute. Even those who refused the existence of an Anglophone problem feel “born again” by President Biya’s gesture of a national dialogue in his extraordinary speech to the nation on the Anglophone crisis.

Since the outbreak of the crisis, several measures have been taken by the government believed to be solutions or responses to the crying Anglophones in order to close the gap or line said to be tearing Anglophones apart from the government in various spheres of life. These measures were listed fully in the head of state’s speech which many have qualified as defensive of the government before the international community within the context of the crisis in the two English speaking regions of the country. It also, many contend, raises more dust on the issues than cementing the potholes of the road for the vehicle of dialogue to drive through easily.

Creating a common law section in the National School of Administration and Magistracy, ENAM for the training of Common Law magistrates, Common Law Bench at the Supreme Court, National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, are some of the actions Biya bragged in his speech to have been taken to address the Anglophone problem.

 Despite all these existing realities born out of the Anglophone problem, the president confusingly and paradoxically turns around to say Anglophones are or have not been marginalized in his regime. Proof according to Mr President, the post of Prime Minister has been a big bone for Anglophones. Though Biya is not conversant that an Anglophone problem which he apparently accepted before as real, does not exist, he again in another dimension of confusion convenes a national dialogue to discuss the Anglophone problem – marginalization which only creates more doubts over the meaningfulness of the dialogue. No doubt, there was delay in convening of an inclusive dialogue to solve the problem.

Rumours on social media that the speech by President Biya comes amid pressure suggest to the paradox if it is true. Meantime, the president’s speech has rather put heads in political confusion than hopefulness of positive outcome of the dialogue. Though contradictory, it will appear the criticism of the head of state’s speech corroborates the saying that man can never be satisfied. Finally, dialogue comes. The sincerity and meaningfulness of the yet to be held dialogue is the new talking point within the social and traditional media. It is dialogue announced but the conditions and vows made for the dialogue makes it more of a political monologue.

The separatist fighters who have been controversially extended a verbal invitation to come for the dialogue, from the left to the right of the president’s speech are more in the government’s trap than in the opportunity. Those fighters who have been fuelling the crisis from the diaspora, according to the president in his speech will be arrested and punished for their acts. It is not a question any longer on whether separatists in the diaspora who have been instrumental in the escalation of the crisis will be present in Yaounde, Cameroon when the sword of the rule of law and justice awaits them as disclosed by Biya who claims it is time for peace. The appeasement and stigmatization of the separatists by the president closes the debate on if the invitation of the separatists will be respected at the dialogue. The president’s mouthed belief in the rule of law and the urgent need to end the crisis peacefully though without a ceasefire buries his gestures in confusion and poses a threat  to the dialogue opportunity.

With who does the government dialogue, the most asked question by Biya supporters before and now, rhetorically featured shockingly in the president’s speech before subsequently announcing a ‘dialogue-monologue’. The question does not only demonstrate the state of confusion surrounding the president’s dialogue initiative which has been likened to an announced wedding without a groom or bride known. From every indication going by this question, who are the yet to wed couple? However, the question has been regarded as a sarcasm extended to the complaining Anglophone community who are seen as too minor to raise a problem that should be dialogued on. The political wedding is fast approaching but it is still early and sincere to ask who weds who? From another extended reading on the president’s rhetorical question on who do we dialogue with, it could be understood that an end to the armed conflict is not the immediate preoccupation of the government. Rather, the government is projecting to just wanting to perform the dialogue rites which a lot of people have been calling for. Dialogue has taken place, genuine or not, will be the next song of the regime supporters. It is still unclear if the army has been fighting ghosts or spirits in the two Anglophone regions. After stigmatizing and later on calling on separatist fighters to drop their arms and come to the dialogue table is like trying to say you can eat your cake and have it. Of course, it is argumentative.

While the president believes genuine dialogue can take place without the just sentenced to life Anglophone separatist leaders by the Yaounde Military court, it is a matter of wait and see as some people have been reacting. Whether they are useful in the dialogue process or not, the goal and expectation of every Cameroonian meantime is for peace to return to the two Anglophone regions.