Ceasefire

Somebody, please, help us to cry out loud, “Cease fire!!!” Arson is a cowardly tool, unworthy of noble causes and of dignified people such as West Cameroonians consider themselves to be. The gutting of public and private buildings and other property is little more than a primitive statement of our lack of restraint in the face of provocation.

It inflicts pain and loss on the object of our fury, but it does not redress its cause, does it? And it makes even less sense if it’s public (meaning our own) property such as schools or roads that we destroy. It is counter-productive to vent our anger against some bloke in Yaounde by burning schools in Limbe or Bamenda.

For one thing that bugger in Yaounde may appear to fume about it – for the cameras – whereas, deep down he really does not give a hoot, as long as it is not a school in Essos. He may, indeed, be smirking at how dumb we are proving to be, given that we are helping to aggravate the same damage we are complaining against, i.e. the systematic degradation of the our infrastructure which Yaounde started decades ago.

So you can reasonably expect Yaounde or its agents to ramp up actions and rhetoric that will fire you to destroy more of your own infrastructure, while they sit back and chuckle at your “anglofoolness”.

There are two phases to the degradation of our infrastructure. The first, which started with Cameroon Bank, the National Produce Marketing Board, the Tiko Airport, the Victoria wharf, to name but these, was pre-emptive, in that it was meant to render the prospect of eventual separation most unattractive. And the fly on the wall in high places seems to hint that there is further and more comprehensive degradation in the works. This second phase, says the fly, is part of Yaounde’s scorched-earth reaction if separation were to become inevitable.

To further demonstrate the counter-productiveness of the burning, it contradicts the non-violent rhetoric which is the hallmark of the West Cameroon struggle to get justice, and the disarming legacy of the Consortium that set the ongoing protests in motion.

The burning, therefore, risks sending the wrong message to the world – that Anglophones are an a cephalous rabble without a compass. Such a message would attract more laughter than compassion or respect.

Now, we must recognize that the sporadic burning of schools is the had-enough reaction of irate youths whom provocation has pushed beyond self-restraint. That is the smaller of two fires consuming this country. In fact it is nothing but the smoke from a bigger fire that has been consuming, not cars, not buildings, but the very fabric of which this country is made, and that for over half a century. The small fires are the occasional,  involuntary work of youths who are angry because hungry- hungry for        understanding, hungry for daily bread, hungry for assurances of a secure  future, hungry for a sense of belonging and, above all, hungry for justice. To bring these fires under control all it takes is a few words of reassurance from Government with positive actions to match.

The bigger fire, which smoulders unreported, is the work of arsonists beyond all suspicion. Like careless smokers who enjoy flipping away their burning cigarette stubs, not caring if they start a fire that could raze farmlands and entire villages, those who run the affairs of this country take great delight in servicing their inordinate appetites, not caring if they tread on the toes of the citizen, and hence imperil the integrity of the state. They do this by mindless corruption and graft, tribalism, patronage and all forms of injustice and human rights abuses – all of which are pushing citizens to the wall. The Anglophone problem in particular is a fire that has been smouldering since 1961 and instead of continuing to stoke its embers with insensitivity and bad faith, and instead of clamouring about the smaller fires which are more an effect than a cause Etoudi must reign in the arsonists in its own house, and deploy genuine fire fighters now. Without genuine dialogue, things could only get worse.

 

Kumba-Mamfe:Tarred highway to robbery and accidents?

After many decades of neglect, lying, fake promises and ruthless advocacy genuine construction work on the Kumba-Mamfe
road saw the light of day. About three years ago, work effectively took off on it. This stretch should be ready for commissioning
by the end of the year. Before now, travelers from say Fako or even Kumba to Mamfe were compelled to crisscross at least, two Regions and many other towns before reaching this chief town of Manyu Division in the Southwest Region.

At a particular point in time, it was considered both economically prudent, physically and mentally safe for one to get first to Bamenda before starting out afresh on the Mamfe segment of the trip from Ndian, Meme, Fako in the Southwest including
most other parts of the Littoral. But with the catastrophic stretch between Babadjou in the West Region and Bamenda in the Northwest, people bound for Bamenda prefer making it first to Buea and eventually using the Kumba-Mamfe road still under construction to get to Bamenda. Ninety percent of the tarring is complete. But many hazards and other hitches seem to have been just waiting in the wings for the project to reach completion for them to set in. Vehicular traffic on this road has, in the past few months more than tripled. In the past few weeks countless accidents have occurred, especially between Kumba and Buea. The Buea-Kumba stretch, commissioned slightly over half a decade ago is deteriorating at a rather alarming rate. Logging interests have taken advantage of the relatively good road network and embarked on what is by all means imprudent timber exploitation in the Region. So also are unprecedented highway robberies beginning to be perpetrated, especially between Mamfe in Manyu Division and Batibo in Momo Division of the Northwest
Region.

Security imperatives misdirected?

With the regime overly concerned mostly with puncturing a civil disobedience campaign kick-started in the English-speaking Regions of the nation some eight months ago, security priorities and imperatives appear to have been redesigned, reconsidered and targeted at political goals like forcing parents to send their kids back to school. Huge logistics have, as a consequence, been deployed to see to this, with many basic life protection concerns left unattended.

Highwaymen and other hoodlums have been quick to cash in on the apparent lapse, resorting to waylaying unsuspecting,
helpless and hapless travelers; holding commuters and other road users at gun point and relieving them of their valuables. Such was the case some two weeks back between Mamfe and Batibo, when armed robbers harassed, manhandled and subjected
passengers of travel agencies to intense stress in the dead of night.

Hundreds of them lost valuables that included cash amounting to hue millions. Many others victims of the hold-up involving more than 10 70-seater public transport buses were manhandled by the marauders, for many hours. The bandits had opted for a point far away from any village, and knowing that help couldn’t easily be got. They reportedly took all the time in the world to ransack individual luggage and handbags for cash and trinkets. Security forces, we are told, are yet to identify, let alone bring the thieves to justice. The immediate concern of the regime is dousing the Anglophone anger and ensuring that it comes to naught. Special protection for influential timber interests and corrupt Government officials.

A latest phenomenon taking place on the road currently being tarred from Mamfe to Kumba and beyond is the scores of heavy duty articulated trucks competing for space with earth moving equipment, graders, passenger vehicles and other automobile.

These trucks transport timber of all sizes and quality from Manyu Division through Meme and Fako Divisions to Douala where they are shipped overseas. Behind this highly lucrative and often shady business we learnt, are Chinese, Lebanese and French interests. Persistent claims have been established as to how most of these logging companies flout laid down forest exploitation legislation. Their harvesting habits are said to be largely callous, destructive, haphazard with wildlife turning out the worst for it.

While the locals barely exist; while only a few of them effectively eke out a living, these foreign Shylock interests make and casually get away with tens of billions monthly, often with the connivance of overly corrupt top Government brass. Their harvesting methods are haphazard, with reforestation completely nonexistent. Only natural reforestation accounts for what any hopes of any regeneration of Cameroon’s timber, which is ripped by the hundreds of thousands of hectares yearly.

The normal instinct that readily tickles one’s mind when they see such quantum of forest products emanating from their communities is the economic benefits of the logs to the nation’s economy, particularly, the municipal administration of the affected community. However, it is ironical to be faced with the fact that very little or no benefits at all accrue to the people of Manyu Division as the case ought to be.

The Rambler investigated this timber exploitation process and unmasked the evil behind the seemly economic booster. In fact, its nefarious consequences to the population of the Southwest Region out-weigh its benefits to the exploiter and the state. The exploiters and a few cheats in big Government offices reap from what is, in short, an official racket.

Is the Southwest in Sangmelima?

To begin with, strong rumours persist that those logs of timber are all stamped to give the impression that they are harvested from a forest in Sangmelima, in the South Region. This, therefore, implies that any benefit accruing from the exploitation would be directed to the Sangmelima municipality rather than the suffering farmers of Upper Bayang and Eyomujock, whose cocoa farmlands suffer in the process of felling and transporting of the timber. Maybe, just for the sake of this exercise, there is now a short cut that links Sangmelima to Kumba then to Douala? However, The Rambler couldn’t independently ascertain this claim. Someone gave to believe that what looks like Sangmelima that is stamped on the logs is actually the name of the exploiting company. The dicey issue here now is, why would the name of an exploitation company be conveniently stamped on timber logs?

To worsen it all, the articulated heavy duty trucks conveying the timber are always heavily escorted by either police or gendarmes, ostensibly to prevent them from being routinely checked at different check points and secondly to prevent the truck drivers from attacks by disgruntled villages who feel cheated. These are security operatives paid monthly by tax payers money to safeguard the lives of Cameroonians; but they are seen more to be protecting the pecuniary interests of private moneybags colluding with local Government brass. A victim of the holdup along Mamfe-Bamenda road wondered if it wasn’t more prudent for security details to be accompanying and protecting ordinary Cameroonians exposed to highwaymen at night instead of big necks that do nothing but thieve timber, ruin forests, destroy the ozone layer and bring about untold hardship to locals.

Climate change challenges

F u r t h e r m o r e , Cameroon has in recent years joined the international community to fight against climate change which of course, is gradually becoming a global crisis. One of the causes of climate change we are told by scholars is deforestation. That is exactly what the Manyu Division is experiencing. Timber trees which take approximately 200 years to grow to full maturity, are mercilessly harvested, pulling down at least 100 other smaller trees each time one of them is felled. In the process, no programmed concomitant replanting exercise as prescribed by legislation is effected. Reforestation suffers and precious timbers are exposed to extinction.

Crushing punishment, accidents on new road Also, given the heavy nature of the trucks and the timbers combined, road engineers have been arguing that the lifespan of the new Kumba-Mamfe is most likely to be very short. The consequence is that while local inhabitants will very quickly resort to suffering the effects of bad roads, the exploiters and their henchmen would be most likely enjoying in highbrow neighbourhoods in either the economic or political capital. As if that is not bad enough, the truckers hardly even respect the recent law restricting heavy duty automobile to circulating only at night. These truck drivers have repeatedly caused accidents and frequent congestion experienced on major highways elsewhere in the country. The phenomenon of recent, has been drifting to the Kumba road, ostensibly because of the high presence and recklessness of these timber truckers.

In fact apart of money paid to the Government by these timber exploiters probably another economic gain which one can advance from the activities of the truck drivers is that they get into sexual markets with prostitutes, which of course is a double edged sword as the result of such activity is unwanted pregnancies and spread of diseases and all that goes with it.They thus, endangering the lives of those living along the road corridors.

Marching on May 20 to avoid sack

National Day commemoration in the Northwest regional capital Bamenda was marked at the Commercial Avenue Grandstand and chaired
by Northwest Governor Adolph Lele L’afrique Tchoffo Deben. The event was highly attended by staff from public service regional delegations who, acting on a secret warning of lay off for failure to honour the event, marched under various delegations in full pomp and colour. The massive turn out of these Government affiliates was also a direct heed to a circular received from the Governor, who beckoned all to march as a responsibility and way of demonstrating patriotism to the fatherland.

May 20th unfolded in an atmosphere of “ghost towns” that though unannounced, was consciously respected. The occasion was heavily boycotted by opposition parties, cultural groups, vocational and private institutions owing to the socio-political worries gripping the Region.  Marching and medal awards became the order of the day. Governor Lele L’afrique and the SDO for Mezam, Nsonga Pierre Rene on behalf of President Paul Biya decorated some 42 persons deemed to have distinguished themselves in various services. The 42 received medals of honour in three categories; five were decorated with National Order of Valour, 16 received medals of the Cameroon National Order of Merit and 21 were honoured with medals of Merit of Public Force.

March pass was staged within roughly 30 minutes. In addition to the usual impressive military arsenal display, the show was stolen by Regional delegations and the ruling CPDM party where stalwarts from Mezam One A, B and C Sections danced past in party uniforms plus three other political parties being the UBC, The Patriots and UDP.

For the education family, only  Government schools marched with a slim population. Those involved were three Francophone primary schools, six secondary schools and two Government higher institutions of learning namely, the University of Bamenda and Higher Technical Teachers Training College, HTTTC. A handful of onlookers flanked the grandstand to view for themselves the event; meanwhile on the grandstand was a scant number of traditional, religious and administrative spectators.

Facing the press, the national President of UBC Party Olivien Benoit Essomba, explained why his party marched in spite of the stalemate in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. “I came all the way from Yaounde to march in Bamenda because the UBC is a national party. I am here to show the people who think they can hold children back at home that Cameroon is one and indivisible,” he noted. Cameroon’s National Day, commemorated annually on May 20, replays the history of May 20, 1972, when a referendum, purportedly favoured by more than a 90 percent vote, brought a change in the country’s status from a Federal to a unitary system of Government; thus  Cameroon was baptized with the name United Republic of Cameroon under late President Ahmadou Ahidjo. Since 1984, the state commemorates the event of

Cameroon’s National Day, commemorated annually on May 20, replays the history of May 20, 1972, when a referendum, purportedly favoured by more than a 90 percent vote, brought a change in the country’s status from a Federal to a unitary system of Government; thus  Cameroon was baptized with the name United Republic of Cameroon under late President Ahmadou Ahidjo. Since 1984, the state commemorates the event of unitary system under the name ‘Republic of Cameroon,’ following a presidential decree issued by Paul Biya on February 4, 1984, that changed the name from United Republic of Cameroon to simply Republic ofCameroon.

This year’s occasion of Cameroon’s National Day is the 45th anniversary. The watchwords chosen for the event by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education is “The Army and the Nation in Full Synergy for a Cameroon United in Diversity and Devoted to the Ideals of Peace, Stability and Prosperity.”

Mayor neutralizes Minister, SDO’s powers

The workers claim that they have tried to meet with their mayor with a view to establishing why their re-muneration has been stopped but have met with a brick wall; that they have sought the intervention of the Senior Divisional Officer, SDO, Governor, Territorial Administration and Decentralization, MINATD, Minister and Labour authorities to no avail. Consequently,  Monono Hans Manga and three others have opted for unorthodox means of getting their employer to settle what amounts to several years of salaries accruing to them.

The threesome announced a hunger strike that was supposed to have kicked off on Thursday, May 18. Monono approached The Rambler with a story that is pathetic, yet, symptomatic of abuse of office, witch-hunting and insubordination. Hear Monono: “He (Rene Emmanuel Sadi) assigned my file to the ministry. Barrister Tambe Tiku, the Human Rights watch dog also wrote to the Mayor. I discovered that, in the process, certain things had happened. In the Council, there is a special fund to fight antagonists; so some money was given to a director and our files were diverted. Barrister Tambe Tiku is a witness. So the instructions from the ministry to the SDO were diverted along the line…”

Meanwhile, as at Monday afternoon, Monono was nowhere near where he swore they would be holding their “hunger strike sit ins.” Rather we trailed him all over town, including Clerks Quarters where he spent quite some time hobnobbing with friends.

Parents fear for kids’ security as examination is written

Another hitch to the smooth functioning of the school calendar for 2017 reared its ugly head on Tuesday, May 16, as pupils all over the country engaged in writing the Common Entrance examination that permits those in class six to gain admission into secondary schools.

“I will not dare leave this vicinity until the examinations come to an end” affirmed Mrs Cecilia Mbong, parent to one of the candidates.”

Government Primary School Likoko Membea, Bokwaongo, one of the Common Entrance examination centres was full of nervous parents on standby waiting for the exercise to come to an end, even though the school was heavily guarded by security goons. It was a rowdy atmosphere for an examination centre as these parents nervously waited for hours on end, outside the classrooms for their children to complete writing the exam. According to Mama Cecilia Mbong, her child has been away from school for over six months and she had just one week to prepare her daughter for the Common Entrance examination. With a corny smile on
her face she said, “I really doubt what my child would be writing now because she was not even mentally prepared for it.”

Mrs. Mbong stressed that she, like many other parents would not dare leave the centre until the exams were over. She said this on grounds that, due to recent burning of schools and kidnapping of students by unknown people, to unknown destinations, she is very scared to leave her child alone on campus even with top security guards, who are, themselves, not reliable as they have even molested students in the past.

The Rambler noticed from observation of manyCentres that, the turnout of these young leaders of tomorrow for the examination was below expectations. This became more explainable when many class six pupils were seen on the streets hawking and hovering from one place to the other on the day of the examinations. This Reporter met with one of these hawkers on the examination day who is a class six student, who said “I have not been to
school for a very long time and I don’t even know if the Common Entrance would hold because nobody, not even my parents have told me anything about it. I have not learnt anything as well.”

The examination bodies in the Anglophone Regions have been scared and tormented by the ghost of intransigence, burning down schools, persistent “ghost towns.” This year’s Common Entrance Examination like the General Certificate of Education, GCE has been marred by persistent wrangling between Government and Anglophone parents who, in solidarity with teachers and lawyers who had called for a strike have kept their children away from school in the last seven months.

The irony is that children who have stayed away from school for seven out of the nine months of annual school calendar are being pushed by Government pressure to write the Common Entrance into secondary schools. These half-baked pupils will certainly be of nuisance quality to the various secondary schools they move into and will be no match to those who studied in Anglophone schools located in Francophone Regions.

Citizen Journalists as active democrats

This was the perceived recurring message that ACTEE sought to put across recently when the organization met in Douala on May 18, 2017. Determined to portray the
importance of the participation of all citizens in a society, the Action Citoyenne Pour La Transparence ETL’equite Electorale au Cameroun, ACTEE, has been emphasizing its “Development of man, for man and by man” mantra.

ACTEE is an initiative developed toward transparency in elections, reinforcement of democracy of every society, Cameroon in particular and massive participation of citizens during elections. “Transparency of elections is considered the number one criteria of democracy and cannot be reinforced without the participation of citizens”,
says Philippe Nanga, one of the educators on human rights as well as the animator and coordinator of popular education. Citizens in this case will refer to all, but special note on youths from 30-40 years because they are the leaders of tomorrow, political parties, ELECAM, civil society activists and most importantly, media which is the watchdog ofevery society.

“Citizenship is the ability to participate actively in the democratic life of a nation, the right to take part in the construction of the society and its living standards, the right to participate in a sovereign power while contributing in making laws and putting in place institutions that will allow you to apply those laws,” added Nanga. In order to achieve this, the media, one of the main arms of the Government must favour the intervention of citizens on issues that concern them. They should work hand in glove by producing programmes and reporting issues that will bring a positive effect on society rather than reporting on large enterprises and Government personnel because they give them bribes and advertisements.  Journalists were reminded of some of the reportorial principles such as objectivity, impartiality, integrity, and respect for fundamental rights. “You are a citizen when you actively participate in the things that concern the society,”

Nanga stressed. So it is the journalist’s place to create platforms, not forgetting its basic principles, tuesday, May 23, 2017 that will give citizens the opportunity to express themselves critically and together they can produce positive effects in a society. Distinguishing human beings in terms of their age, sex, occupation, status, or cultures are the things journalists were warned against in their reports and programmes. These are aspects that if not carefully handled, could marginalize citizens. But rather they should
create an arena were things are looked into critically, permitting  citizens to exchange their experiences and views. The first preoccupation of a citizen media is that the effect of his production must be seen on society.

Monique Ngo Mayaj shared her experience on a story on child labour featuring children who carry things on their heads and sell. She met a 10 year old boy who hawks to
pay his schools fees. The boy said he would like to be an accountant in future. When she published the article, an anonymous person called and insisted she looks for the
boy. At the end of the day, in collaboration with the parents and Monique, this anonymous person opted to pay fees for this child; even
though she did not follow up to
know how far the man went.
Another experience from Augus-
tine Wendung of Radio Veritas
tells of how justice prevailed in
kumbo during the 2011 elections.
In the course of his stay, he invited
a prostitute in his room. In the
middle of the night, this prostitute
revealed to him how there are
many of them in the hotel brought
by ministers for the night. She fur-
ther explained that, those cars
packed outside were filled with
electoral cards and that the hotel
was also filled with anonymous
voters brought in from other parts
of the country to vote in this Re-
gion. He immediately made the
right calls and the military re-
sponded and took away the cards
as well as those who came in to
vote arbitrarily. He kept the girl’s
identity a secret and CPDM lost
the elections in that area.
Claudia Nsonon of Hi TV equally
shared an experience of a woman
running an orphanage in her home.
It comprised of children of about 13
to 18 years, some of them siblings.
What happened was that she used
some of these children for prostitu-
tion. Worst of it all, the children
were also having sex amongst
themselves as far as incest was
being practiced. “We covered the
story and the orphanage was shut
down and damages paid.”