Momo ACCOUNTS: Keeping your money closer to you or scammers?

*By Ewange Njenge Brenda, Enongene Lerise Mbulle, Tabe Clemantine and Narenga Lizzette

Besides life, money is arguably the next thing most treasured by mankind. Money is practically imprisoned in vaults and strong houses not because it has been found guilty and is serving a term but because it must be kept safe from thieves and other “predators.” The world over, individuals and nations are mostly respected on account of how rich or poor they are in monetary terms. They are valued mostly on how much they have “imprisoned” in the safety of bank accounts.

Cases of bank breaks abound more than those of penitentiary breaks at which prisoners are set free. In short, money as the common saying goes, opens every door. The rich West dictates to the poor Third World countries, including who should rule them and for how long. With their monetary wealth, the West easily decides who should have or be deprived of money. Sanctions, which are often obnoxious and mean are imposed on already poor countries that hesitate to open up their flanks for further exploitation. The case of Zimbabwe easily comes to mind.

It is also commonly said that money is the root of all evil. Little wonder, otherwise lazy school dropouts are adept at scamming themselves into fabulous monetary wealth; otherwise decent people succumb to the lure of money by carrying out unprintable businesses. Money is grown the same way cash crops are grown. Whereas cash and food crops are planted in the soil, money is planted in ideas, vaults, savings accounts and tontines, to name but these.

When armed robbers attack, it is most often because they are targeting one’s monetary wealth. Money buys cars, mansions, reputations, dignity, fame, women and more. Over the years, money economists decided that the cashless economy whereby purchases could be safely effected without the use of fiscal cash should be the order of the day. Yet, scammers and other people of doubtful credibility have turned out to be always a step ahead of the most intelligent and innovative monetary economists of the world.

Banks have been in existence for centuries. Business here is, under normal circumstances, characterized with first opening and running a savings or current account. At banks, customers are basically subjected to the acceptable tedium of queuing up in long lines if they must deposit or withdraw cash. Even if such cash was just a pittance, the depositor or withdrawer would be expected in certain cases to hang on patiently for hours on end. Advances have been made over time to beat this manner of time wasting at formal banks including the introduction of ATM machines and the like. Very recently, banking transactions were rendered even easier, brought to practically every fingertip by way of Mobile Money accounts, aka MoMo. It functions by way of the mobile telephone.

Mobile money appeared in the limelight in Cameroon in 2010. MTN mobile money first came, then a year later Orange Money was also launched. As at the last check there is a record 6,8 million MoMo subscribers with close to 1,5million being active users in Cameroon. The record kept on increasing year after year. Discerning Cameroonians have so far been enjoying this system of banking transactions, as everyone with a mobile phone could have an account, without undergoing the tedium of complicated paperwork often required in the conventional banking sector.

MoMo has saved the teeming Cameroonian population lots of headaches and a certain degree of privacy. It has also redistributed wealth, created lots of new jobs with thousands of mobile money agents were placed all over the country, doing brisk monetary transactions on roadside kiosks. The long waiting lines characteristic at formal banks with sometimes attendant rude clerks have dwindled.

Mobile money permits pretty easy business transactions. For example, if you go to a shop to buy goods and with money in your mobile wallet you could, with a few punches on your mobile phone pay for the goods through MoMo. Even university institutions enjoy this system. As for parents who send their children to school, instead of encountering the stress of physically going to school to pay their fees, they can sit back comfortably at home and send your money and register their children. Even more, you can be your very own callbox as you can buy credit from your memo account. Indeed mobile money has been a blessing to Cameroonians and beyond, we all enjoy the system.

Yet even though mobile money brought joy, it also came with its ugly aspects as scammers easily learnt how to hack individuals’ accounts without much ado, scamming them of all their money. Plus, the charges began increasing outrageously. Firstly let’s discuss about the knowhow of hacking a MoMo account. According to some persons we interviewed, individuals say to hack into an account is by knowing one’s password and it is shocking on how easy one’s hard earned millions could be thieved just like that.

Some of those we interviewed advised that different means of security should be put in place to better enjoy the mobile money system (MoMo). Now why will people hack accounts, under this topic several causes are included but all based under one motive and that is to unlawfully increase the hacking individual’s standard of living.

 Then concerning the withdrawal tariffs, was previously free but started increasing as now the principal telephony companies started cashing in on demand and charging between FCFA 50 and 500 based on the amount (FCFA 100 to one million) and even though till date MTN mobile money deposits are still said to be free the population can’t get off the shock of the outrageous increase in the withdrawal tariff.

But could these tariffs be reduced or cancelled outright? Zuumpay is a global mobile payment and financial service, and according to its founder a young Cameroonian named Ndamo Israel, this new system unlike mobile money doesn’t take or require charges to either deposit or withdraw.

Asked if a zuumpay system can be hacked his reply was: “The zuumpay system is built with state of the art security protocols securing from the system software, users account and every transaction. We are using from the required banking security system, applying compliance security protocols to ensure both software and system security. That is to say, no zuumpay account can be hacked.”                                                                                                                                                                                      *(UB Journalism students on internship)              

Licensed to drive, receive bribe or kill?

By Buma Bronhilda Wasa*

The road network is generally very poor. License issuing officials are largely money minded and hardly bother about who is licensed to drive on these death traps called Cameroonian roads. Other officials of the Transport Ministry charged with checking driving habits alongside gendarmes are to say the very least morally bankrupt.

What one sees daily on these roads is a bazaar being acted out without recourse to humanity. Men in uniform, including army generals could be safely said to be more interested on how many times television cameras are beamed on them. It is a show when it comes to being seen on television purportedly checking ills like excessive speeding or the poor state of vehicles. But away from the lenses of the television camera, the focus is very often on collecting fines or even converting crimes into fines. And pocketing them…

Drivers and commuters alike are stressed. Booby traps are set for drivers on the highways; frivolous claims and accusations are made when television cameras are absent and routine bribes collected. They give the impression that they are clean and straightforward but that is hardly true. Many people are duped into paying those filthy bribes. You would be told that you over-sped or overtook at the wrong point or dangerously even if you were actually crawling. All sorts of thieving schemes are invented to browbeat gullible motorists into submission. Your car and/or personal documents are then confiscated until you either bribe or pay the prescribed fine against a receipt.

Road signs are either completely nonexistent or covered by thick bush very often. What passes for toll gates are a huge disgrace and embarrassment to the country’s tourism and public relations. Pot holes and gullies gape all the way to most destinations. Every now and again a minister turns up at exorbitant cost to the poor tax payer, with television cameras in tow to give the impression that he is overseeing road construction and repairs. Then the minister suspends one agency or the other that has been involved in a fatal accident.

At the so called check points and other irritating roadblocks, routine checks are carried out on who possesses a national identity card or not. Those who don’t have are made to undergo unprintable indignities, before being ordered to pay bribe money. Smooth tyres are hardly checked, let alone the roadworthiness of the automobile and the comfort of its passengers. What is also routinely checked are the right banknotes gendarmes and police collect as bribe money. A commercial driver could have some passengers travelling in the boot of his car or bonnet. He could have them on the carriage. He is asked no questions as to their safety and even the illegality of his act.

Alcohol tests are almost never conducted on drivers. When schools are about to resume, huge amounts are thrown into this scam of road safety. It goes same for the Yuletide period. There is hardly ever any case of reckless driving brought as overnights to the law courts. Licenses of erring drivers are never withdrawn. Gendarmes and police are a court onto themselves. They accuse, try and fine. For their deep pockets. It is a crying shame. We are not even talking yet of the staggering billions that are extorted from vehicle owners on the dirt paths that pass for roads monthly. Yet hardly are new roads constructed or repaired with what from all indications is systemic loot. Where are all these billions from toll gates kept?

And so as days go by, road accidents have become more common in or country notwithstanding the growth in technology, developments and civilization. Licensed drivers have now become licensed killers. People now fear travelling especially by night because of the terrible scenes they have witnessed or heard of. Road accidents occur for a variety of reasons. Although the drivers are to be blamed for the causes of some of these accidents, we cannot entirely blame them. Bad roads, inadequate signs on the road and faults for the head offices of transportation could also be blamed for the accidents.

I have witnessed an accident whereby, luggage from the top of a bus got loosed and fell on a bike with two passengers on the highway causing them to have serious injuries. That is a case of overloading vehicles, criminal negligence, if you will.

Another situation is issuing driving license to people who can hardly differentiate between an accelerator and a brakes pedal’ or who the issuing official has never even set eyes on. That is how much damage bribing does to the conscience and by extension to precious human lives and property. That is the nadir to which the “man know man” syndrome has sunk Cameroon.

 Let’s return to the bad roads. Accidents happen in many because of the bad roads in every area of the country. In some areas you may even find signs on the roads indicating a bend or stop and also you might not see any indicating that there is a speed brake or bump.

There is no more excitement in travelling because of the fear of being involved in very avoidable accidents. In other cases, you will find a driver driving and taking a call, texting a message and also trying to eat, drink or smoke. These are distractions that often cause horrible preventable accidents. Sometimes they reach the point of “whatsapping” and flipping through images on “facebook” while driving.

 Also, drivers spend a long time driving and as a result of that they get tired and with the tiredness, they can commit errors leading to accidents. All this, added to the gendarme and police induced stress that they encounter at multiple roadblocks on the highway.

Also heavy rains can account to a cause of accidents. When the rains are heavy, the roads become too wet cars can lose their grip on the road and slide across which could cause an accident.

In our parks we see driving who drink in the bars strategically functioning at the park while waiting for passengers and when the vehicle is loaded, they just take off… We also have the case of reckless driving. Some drivers are very reckless while driving they go on high speed, changing lanes quickly and quarreling with other drivers on the road. Driving at night is also a remote cause of road accidents. At night, you might not be able to see the road clearly which might lead to an accident.

These are some ways which we could prevent road accidents.

Firstly, get as much supervised practice in driving as possible. Before you get a license make sure you go through proper training before you take the exams for a license to be issued.

Also, make it a habit of always wearing your safety belt while in the vehicle whether as a driver or as a passenger.

Limit driving at night because of the low visibility and also when it is rainy. At night you might not be able to see the road clearly. In Cameroon, most sides and signs on the road have been covered by grass and shrubs so driving at night might lead you to an accident. When it is rainy, the roads become slippery. Driving when the roads are slippery may cause the car not to have a total grip on the ground and can slide and lead to an accident. If you must drive when it’s raining, drive slowly, with extra care.

Cell phones should be used only for emergency on the road. Talking or texting with a cell phone while driving will make you distracted while driving and can lead to an accident.

Learn to always drive the vehicle that is in total good condition. Always try to check your car on a weekly basis. When buying a vehicle, also take into consideration the high safety rating the car has.

Avoid drinking or smoking before driving. Even if you have consumed just a bottle or smoked just a stick of whatever, there is a chemical that gets into your brain which can influence your attitude and judgement on the road.

         Sometimes these are the obvious things that have the largest impact. So follow every training you are given for road safety religiously in order to avoid accidents. 

Yet another promise to build Limbe deep seaport

By Francis Tim Mbom

 The General Manager of the National Ports Authority, Mr Josue Youmba, has for the umpteenth time given assurance that the construction of the Limbe Deep-sea port will soon be a reality.

Mr Youmba made this latest promise of a deep seaport on behalf of the Government in Limbe on Tuesday, October 29, while installing into office the pioneer Branch Manager of the Limbe Ports, Mr. Ojongeno Oben Eta.

“Mr Branch Manager, as pioneer in this port environment that will in the nearest future welcome a deep seaport… the Port community expects from you… the (effective) monitoring of this important project that will soon become a reality.”

The Government Delegate to the Limbe City Council, Andrew Monjimba Motanga, had earlier, in his welcome address stated that there have been countless pleas to the Government in the past calling for the construction of the Limbe Deep Seaport.

The most recent of these pleas, he said, was tabled during the just ended National Dialogue in Yaounde and he went on to add that he was happy because the construction of this long “cried-for” project was one of the recommendations arrived at.

“You will then understand why the opening of this regional branch of the National Ports Authority in Limbe gives us a lot of hope that there are better days around the corner,” Motanga noted.

The GM also indicated that the new Branch Manager was appointed on September 12, 2019, following a decision of the Board of Directors of the Ports. He said the Board’s decision came following an earlier decision that was taken in 2015, yet by the Board, to reorganize the Ports services in Cameroon.

And following the 2015 decision and in line with subsequent ones, the GM said, the Douala, Kribi and Limbe ports have been upgraded as branches of the National Ports Authority of Cameroon.

“Overall, the purpose is to anchor the National Ports Authority around its main regulatory mission: competitiveness of Cameroon Ports, reinforcement of security of port facilities and fair distribution of ports development,” the GM said.

The GM went on to state that this was all aimed to ensure more robustness in the functioning of the ports and an increase in the economic growth of Cameroon as a whole.

Meantime the new Branch Manager, Mr. Ojongeno pledged his readiness to live up to the expectation of his hierarchy and the Limbe public.

Motanga, still in his address, reiterated the fact that Limbe has the potentials to become not only the heartbeat of economic development in the Southwest but across Cameroon as a whole if the Limbe Deep seaport is developed.

“In fact, the prosperity and economic growth of our city depend on the harmonious, mastered and concerted development of port activities; as it is a fact that the City of Limbe holds a central position in the economic development, not only of the Southwest region, but the nation as a whole,” Motanga stated.

Born on April 7, 1981, the pioneer Branch Manager of the Limbe Ports, Mr, Ojongeno, the GM said, holds a Master’s Degree in Economics and joined the National Ports Authority in September, 2017. He shall, he added, be the one to oversee the construction project of the Limbe Deep seaport whenever it shall be launched.

It is worth noting that just as there have been countless pleas for the construction of the Limbe deep seaport by Anglophones, so too, there have been countless promises made in the past by the same Government that the said port will soon be constructed or that work will soon start. And shall the Ports Authority GM, Josue Youmba’s latest promise of Tuesday, October 29, be the last? This is the question on many an Anglophone lip.

Why the gamble to leave Cameroon is growing

*By Akateh Prudencia, Nana Marinette, Ewange Njenge Brenda, Sone Nelly, Ashu Pertra,  Akoh Maxsmile, Oteh Chantal, Tambia Roline and Che Vanisa

Millions of Cameroonians, leaders included, are ready to run away for one reason or the other. They are seeking comfort, safety and economic security abroad. Recently, safety in every sense of the word has been elusive, giving vent to speculations that everyone else is on their marks, frantically getting set to flee the fatherland. Pundits argue that fleeing failed nations to the relative safety of Europe and North America has become the hallmark of both leaders and those they lead.

Top African government brass are most likely to head to foreign countries for relaxation, to spend what loot they have stolen from the public treasury. Others head to Europe and elsewhere on medical tourism to benefit from facilities which they have failed to install in their home countries. The head of state himself spends far more time visiting foreign countries and patronizing their hotels and cuisines. He is most likely to spend many months in a year in well developed European cities than visiting just a single Cameroonian town for one day in many years.

Whereas government big necks have big money to splash abroad, millions of ordinary Cameroonians toil and moil to leave the country for foreign sanctuaries. Parents borrow, they save for years and decades, they sell land and gamble, just to have their children and wards leave for greener pastures and in more recent times for safer shores. Whereas money mongers spend looted cash just to relax abroad, the commoner is most likely to cut corners outright or gamble. Many of them are known to have died attempting to trek through vast deserts or drowned in the Mediterranean attempting to make Europe. In the local lingo, it is “falling bush.” And this is where the now famous American Lottery easily comes into play. Cameroonians, especially those of youthful age are investing heavily in financial and spiritual terms for this yearly gamble.  

With the dire times especially in the two English speaking regions, thousands are prepared to do whatever it takes to go abroad and the DV Lottery is one big option.  The American DV Lottery is a US government programme for receiving a United States Permanent residence card. The Immigration act of 1990 established the current and permanent diversity visa (DV) programme. The lottery is administered by the Department of State and conducted under the Immigration and Nationality Act, INA. The DV lottery for 2019-2020 has been modified, unlike in the past when no specific qualifications were required. The recent modifications made are; a valid passport, an Advanced level certificate and two years working experience. Tens of thousands of Cameroonians are scrambling for the relatively few places afforded by the lottery.

The raging war ongoing in the two English speaking regions aside, many still think that they can only make it abroad. As already hinted above, the massive rush to leave the country is traceable to acute lack of jobs, low capital income, poor educational and healthcare delivery systems, insecurity, unemployment, and brazen corruption.

Based on random samplings carried out, Cameroonians blame the current insecurity for the big urge to leave the country. They quote the wanton destruction of life and property and soaring unemployment. Other social reasons like seeing their peers sending back money to their families and erecting beautiful mansions propel them to also “fall bush.”

Yet, many more are simply disgusted with the poor governance manifested in marginalization, graft and inept leadership. At least one respondent was of the opinion that the Ambazonia separatist leaders living abroad must have been pushed to extremes by these ugly entrenched factors.    

The American DV lottery is a US government programme for receiving a United States Permanent residence card. The Immigration act of 1990 established the current and permanent Diversity Visa, DV, programme. The lottery is administered by the Department of States and conducted under the Immigration and Nationality Act, INA. The DV lottery 2019-2020 has been modified unlike in the past where no qualifications were needed. The recent modifications made are; a valid passport, an Advanced level certificate, and a two years working experience.

*UB students on internship

Market women head for graveyard in protest

*Anu Alice & Yemele Sarah

Most of the downturn in business is blamed on the current Anglophone crisis. Business has slowed down considerably, especially in the two affected regions. Both sellers and buyers are hard hit. They are crying, protesting in some cases.

 People visit the market to buy in bulk only if there are rumours of an impending lockdown. This is what a “buyam sellam” said of it:

 “Business is not moving at all. If I tell you that business is okay then I lie. Look at my onions; before I would have sold all this, but now look at it standing here. I have even sold a bit today because of the news of the lockdown, so people are forced to buy and stock and even as they buy, some keep it and it will still get bad because the lockdown can be cancelled within the process.

“Before the crisis erupted, I could sell 50 bags of groundnuts in one week. But now, I am most likely to sell the same amount for more than a month because those who use to buy 1/4 basin of groundnuts and come back after one week to buy another now come only after one month. This has also affected those I buy from in Douala because they also complain of bad market. But I thank God for the one I have sold today.”

Not only is the unfortunate issue of “bad market” disturbing the people, that of breaking sheds in the name of building stores without considering those who cannot afford to build them. Some market women show their grievances like Mama Queen Njobui Pauline who said that many people have applied to build. And she wonders what will happen to the traders who are selling on spots that have been sold off.

 “Like me, where I am here, I know is that they have sold it out to people who have money. They are the ones who bought it. Like I who was here, I had my shed here they have removed me and I’m outside and if they want to talk about those who started this market… We had to fight that they should let us sell here. But we have lost out, because those who have money have bought the place. And those who now own the place have asked us to leave; I don’t know what to do now.”

 “Does that mean you will not sell again,” we asked her?

“We could go and sell in front of the market but the council keeps sending us away. But I can say we are the ones who started this market just the few of us who started this market, just a few of us will march to the DOs office, to the chief because mothers were crying that they do not have money because if you have your FCFA 600 to walk and go to the central market it is expensive because they have moved the market to central market so this bakweri women cry to no avail. “We first got angry and went to the graveyard at Buea town. We also went to Likoko to the burial ground then we said no! And they saw it as we sat at the burial ground, crying out our hearts. Our business elsewhere had started functioning; then they brought us here that we should be selling inside the OIC market and we started growing in business. They came again and shared places for us to be selling on. We paid money and they gave us receipts. After that as those who have money saw that the market is functioning well, they have come now that they want to build the whole market and that is what they are saying.

“They have scattered all this line round and they have given us notice to leave this place and we are just sitting here because we do not have any other place to be selling in the market.” Asked why she doesn’t show her receipt to them as proof that they have the right to operate from that spot, she said, “all of us have receipts that they gave us to sell here. We had sheds here. See, I have scattered my shed here like five times. Today they will say leave, tomorrow they will say build. All of us here we have scattered and built this shed and we are tired.

“But we are saying that now that they have given this line out, they should look for a place and give us to ‘manage’ but they have said nothing. The thing is if they fight and occupy all the market with all these houses, people selling foodstuffs will run away from the market; they won’t have a place to sell and they will run away from the market. This is exactly what happened in Buea town market. Buea town market was booming, houses were not there but now that they have occupied it with stores, people ran away from the market.

“Even those who have the shops also suffered because people are no longer entering the market. As they are building here, people will also run away from this market. If it gets worse here, I will park out and I won’t sell here again because we have cried that they should give us another place since they have removed us from here and they have said nothing. ”

Other than this, others also express some remorse for the action of the council. Like certain Sarah says: “the council keeps sending us away from here and some days they will let us sell here like today. But they are confusing us like they will also ask us not to sell here but if they see us selling, they will give us tickets and later on they will send us away. As they want to build the market I will stop selling here. I will go and sell in front of my house. I will not pay a ticket and at times they will come and scatter my tomatoes and I face the loss.”

The OIC market in Buea has become a scene of confusion. Because it practically encroaches into the main boulevard of the town, overcrowding here on market days poses a serious social problem. Avoidable accidents during which lives have been lost especially from recklessly driven army personnel carriers are recorded on a regular basis. With no parking lot for taxis and other automobiles, “buyam sellams” suffer to get their goods into the market or car park. A certain “buyam sellam” by name Stephan noted:

 “We can’t enter the market with a car because everywhere is choked up. Others selling have refused and if you have something to put in the market with a car, you either come early in the morning or in the evening when the market has closed. What type of thing is this! But we pay tickets every market day. The other day the council seized my wheelbarrow of mesh for displaying by the road because I don’t have a place to put it in the market.”

Visitors to this market are very victims of municipal police who routinely block their cars against a FCFA official fine or a lesser amount as bribe. With no clear cut demarcation or indication of where one is free to park, the council policy is seen by many as a deliberate trap to attract revenue for it or bribes for its lurking corrupt officials.

UB JOURNALISM STUDENT ON INTERNSHIP

Killing fields expand, economy goes into summersault

Slightly more than a month ago talks of Swiss authorities opting to mediate between the government of Cameroon and separatists seeking an independent nation of Ambazonia made news headlines. Teeming victims of the war were more than expectant. The hope was that the shooting war that has been on for three years could possibly end. That hope has practically faded away even as we write, with new tensions rising. More blood continues to be spilled, while properties and villages are razed to the ground.

There is bickering in the camp of the Diaspora separatist propagators. Bandits have infiltrated the ranks of separatist fighters and are wreaking quite some havoc. As reported elsewhere in this edition, gendarmes and soldiers are dropping their weapons and fleeing. According to Barrister Eta Besong Jr, former President of the Cameroon Bar Association, many soldiers are currently being prosecuted in military tribunals for “dropping their weapons and running away in time of peace…” Other information posted online is to the effect that soldiers from a particular ethnic group are grumbling and threatening because they are singled out and sent to the war front to face ubiquitous deadly militias.

But all of this notwithstanding, the economy has clearly gone under, with erstwhile thriving businessmen practically melting under its scotching heat. In short, they are said to be between the hammer and the anvil, the hammer being government authorities and the anvil separatist interests. On the one hand, government is suspicious of some entrepreneurs of English speaking expression funding the separatist venture and on the other, separatists are coercing, even blackmailing them to fund the “liberation war” or face ugly consequences. The story is told of a certain “Commander Ebube” who scammed millions of francs from a Director of one of the bilingual pilot centres dotted in all 10 regions of the country. It did not stop there. Not only was such monies extorted from the man who was at the time lying sick in a hospital bed. But he was also compelled to supply the militia with a motorcycle as “your own contribution to the struggle.” Today, the impoverished man who recently retired from the public service is cursing, while publishing one open letter after the other to the faceless “Commander Ebube.”

The man who has since disappeared from public view is now writing from exile. He is said to have run into trouble with creditors who raised the cash for his ransom. But if separatists blackmail and collect cash from those they consider as affluent, government has as a silent policy to “nip the Anglophone dissent in its teenage bud.” Quoting a top security official, a Buea based lawyer told this newspaper that the regime is not very concerned with elderly dissidents as they would soon peter out. Rather they are very disturbed by vibrant youth who have a potential to upset the political applecart. “The top security operative told me that the strategy is to subdue by all means, fair and foul, all those still bubbling with youthfulness and exuberance; that they are the potential boat rockers and our brief is to deal with them summarily…”

However, Anglophone entrepreneurs, whether young or old, are systematically frustrated out of business. Most of them who do carry out direct government contracts have been systematically asphyxiated, economically speaking. Their bills are either not paid up or they are denied new contracts outright. Alternatively, they are penciled down and physically eliminated.

The story is still being told of a certain Felix Ngang who was murdered at his home early in 2018 in the dead of night. Ngang, like many of his friends was a prosperous businessman, having made his wealth mostly from government contracts. There are many versions of why and who murdered him. One such version states that Ngang’s friend and fellow businessman, Martin Ndenge Che reportedly got a hint from a top security contact in Yaounde advising that he and Ngang should immediately go into hiding because their names were on the regime’s hit list. Che passed on the tip to his friend and advised that they go underground. But that apparently protective of his sprawling business empire and banking on his connections with people in the corridors of power Ngang didn’t take heed and was slaughtered like chicken on the night following.

Yet another version has it that hit men were hired by some of Ngang’s disgruntled relations to do him in. This particular version was even posted on social media by one of Ngang’s daughters studying abroad. She points a direct accusing finger at the late dad’s one time female acquaintance who would have taken advantage of the politico-social chaos in the country to take her dad’s life and unduly benefit from his massive estates.

Whatever the case, Ndenge Che on the other hand let go his own business empire which like many others in Anglophone Cameroon is today lying in ruins. We are told that while at least one of Che’s children, by name Lum Ndenge Che is marooned abroad, unable to continue with her education on account of her benefactor parents’ awful plight, she at least, still has hopes of one day returning to reunite with those parents. Not so for Ngang who lost his life, whose kids are languishing abroad, unable to pay for tuition and whose business empire crumbled following his assassination. By the way, Ngang, Ndenge and others were highly suspected of using what was perceived as their business might to fund the current Ambazonia insurrection. Those who rule the roost, it was bandied about would not be invariably sponsoring traitors. “those who use what we offer them almost for free to backstab us.”

In a separate case, a multi-billionaire who made his wealth from selling imported frozen fish also recently made big headlines in the local media after strong regime interests openly tagged him with carrying out illicit business transactions, evading taxes and funding terrorist activities. This man from the Western region took the bull by the horns, threatened to sue certain individuals and the government to court. But even though the issue seems to have died a natural death, the tycoon’s fortunes have, from the look if things dwindled and he is said to be treading very carefully, just in case familiar unorthodox methods are applied to contain him.

Meanwhile security goons have adopted a subtle, nay, disturbing and clearly illegal methods of getting at regime opponents. They simply abduct close relations of dissidents, hold them in distressful conditions and incommunicado. Such is the case with the 80 year old mother and junior sister of Anu Chris, the US based Secretary of Communications of the “Republic of Ambazonia.” Chris’s family reportedly moved the mother and sister from the insecurity of their village in Anglophone Cameroon to the relative safety of Yaounde. But about a month ago, they were picked up and as we write, they are said to be still the unwilling guests of security operatives.

All in all, hundreds of thousands on both sides of the political divide have been forced into the army of the unemployed. It is worse off in English speaking Cameroon who have seen thousands of her youths either summarily killed or thrown into jail, in most cases without charge. Of course, there are also those thousands whose kiosks and sheds that used to serve as work places have been destroyed in the name of fighting dissidence.      

War In Northwest/Southwest: Soldiers as ‘friendly enemies’

*By Ngam Kellikaina, Carine Enanga, Agnes Tarh, Mariegolder Metuge, Colette Ebwe & Samantha Erica

They are in two distinct camps currently operating in the Northwest and Southwest regions; those whose constitutional duty is to defend the territorial integrity of the state and the ragtag separatist fighters claiming that they have as mission to restore the Ambazonian statehood. Both classes also lay claim to “fighting in the interest of the ordinary citizen.” But what one sees on the ground are unpredictable people in arms, whose actions change like the colours of a chameleon.

This moment they are cuddling a baby and assuring women in distress for television cameras. And the next moment they are either burning down villages or killing unarmed citizens including women and babies. The separatist fighters on the other hand would come out from the shrubs to avenge the burning of villages and other chattels by regular soldiers. But then, at the blink of an eye, the same freedom fighters would have kidnapped hapless citizens for ransom or chopped off the fingers of a CDC worker out to earn his keep.

In such scenarios, those that the both camps purport to protect suffer like the proverbial grass after two elephants would have used it as a fighting arena. Such scenarios have become pretty regular and are better captured when regular soldiers go on the rampage, burning villages and shooting at anything that moves.

Some of them disclosed when interviewed that they often do this out of sheer frustration; frustration at what they say is the populations’ lack of assistance in wiping out the amba boys for peace to be restored. One who spoke on condition of anonymity said most civilian populations in Northwest and Southwest habitats know the amba boys and effectively host and protect them from being apprehended or neutralized, but that they are reluctant to vouchsafe useful information to soldiers, giving the impression that all Anglophones are cast in the separatist mould.

Still, another said they shoot, killing at random because at one minute a soldier could be living, smoking a cigarette and chatting and at the very next minute he would be dead meat in a body bag, having been taken out by a ubiquitous amba prowler. So, he said, “to preserve ourselves and also stay alive to eventually raise families, we shoot at random and in anger, because you never can tell who the enemy is or which civilian will betray you to amba boys…”

“It is either we kill or be killed, so we opt for killing,” he told us. Asked why they very often spray bullets at residential areas in pitch darkness his reply was: “…we have to stay safe; we have to frighten off the prowling ambas whom I must confess understand the local terrain more than we do and catch some sleep as well. After all, we are also human beings before being soldiers. Soldiers too need sleep.” He noted that when they have to exhibit the humanitarian part of the soldier in them, they are quick to do so, if only to solicit the cooperation of local populations.

Despite the accusations of human rights violations often rained on regular soldiers by separatist interests, their own fighters are not better. Several times they have killed government soldiers and had them beheaded. They are known to kidnap men and women alike. They are known to rape the women that they kidnap and put ransoms on the males including clergymen.

They hamper movement of goods and property; they impose ghost towns, thereby crippling the economy and destroying social life. They have so far made life pretty unlivable even for those they purport to be rescuing from the pangs of neocolonialism when they block vehicular traffic on highways and set automobiles ablaze, including those carrying relief materials to needy IDPs. Yet, on the positive side the amba militias have been basically protecting desperate civilian populations from the angst and brutality of military men some of who sometimes look down on Anglophone populations as sub human and expendable.

A lady told us of how amba boys kept them in their safety between Kumba and Mutengene for three days at no charge. She said the military were out to exterminate them and do away with their merchandise but for the timely intervention of the amba boys who ferried them to the safety of their camp in the bush. Another also talked of how amba boys often help in preventing the military form looting; how they would help them evacuate military killing zones in Ekona and effectively head carry their household property away to safety.

Certain denizens of Buea complain that soldiers in mufti have been on and about, spying on people, searching their mobile phones and generally denying them the right to free speech and thought. They often mingle in bars and off licenses, provoke touchy discussions and end up arresting people against big bribes or detention and torture.

Local administrators, some of them elected by the people are also known to use the military to intimidate and torture people of their constituents. This is typical of Buea, where the army participates in either sealing private business enterprises or breaking them open at the instance of a ghost town fighting mayor. Again, in some circumstances, educational facilities have been commandeered and converted to military camps where hideous human rights violations are carried out. It is also an open secret that school premises are highly militarized at the instance of overzealous administrators, giving vent to possible crossfire incidents between the said military and amba boys.

It has been noted by many that the idea of pupils and students studying under heavy militarized conditions is most likely to be counterproductive. A parent who asked not to be equated what he called studying under guns to muslims being basically enrolled and taught at Christian institutions, compelled to attend daily church services. Such pupils or students, he noted, are most likely to be converted into a faith against their wish, he noted.

Another Kumba based educationist thought there was a “negative likelihood” of children invariably enrolling in the army just by sharing most of their time with prowling soldiers. One who said his son was badly influenced by military men guarding Sacred Heart College Bamenda noted that the child has since adopted a violent approach to addressing issues, “because he saw too much of the military on campus and adopted their harsh manner of approaching problems.”

      Going down the lane, statistics now show that the citizens are now scared whenever they hear of the military around. Others say they hate them. “I hate the presence of the military because they almost killed me when I went out with some friends to play at Bakweri town field,” says a worker at a car wash in Buea. They are not here to protect us but rather to scare us away, even kill us.”

Another source said she sometimes forced to give them money, “even when I have all my identification papers on me and have committed no offence.” A man who owns a “parifoot” machine talked of how his customers are scared immediately they spot the military from a distance or around his business place, and how this has brought about a big fall in his business.

         Also, the crisis affecting everyone has made it worse as this military men now break into private homes where they steal and harass people, despite the fact  they have Identity  cards as a proof of their nationality as honest Cameroonians, a Buea based lady told The Rambler. We have several instances with that of taxi drivers as they share their experiences concerning them and the military. A taxi driver gave his experience on how he had to “settle several controls” on the way even when he was yet to earn anything for the day. Another incident occurred on Sunday, July 28, 2019, wherein a taxi driver was struggling to dodge a military control post and in the process one of the soldiers shot at the taxi, the bullet hitting one of his female passengers.

       A good number of military personnel sent to restore peace in the restive English speaking regions have been spotted buying condoms meant for unusual “shooting assignments.” Others yet, rape women and young girls outright.

Commercial Bikers Victims of patriotism, hunger & militia interests

The ticking clock does not wait for any one making minutes gone to be irretrievable. This can be seen in the speed with which one year has elapsed since a municipal edict pushed bike riders within the Buea Municipality into confusion. Relying on the excuse that these youths were or could become accomplices to crimes perpetrated by separatist militias, the maverick head of the municipality sometime in September 2018, banned the movement of commercial motorcycles within his jurisdiction.

The effect of the otherwise salutary decision on the bikers and the population at large has been variegated. There is the beneficiary population that has been induced into avoidable drudgery on the one hand and the bikers themselves on the other. This, in any case does not preclude the municipality itself that was beneficiary to council taxes paid by these bikers, most of whom were strugglers. Nevertheless, no matter the angle from which it is viewed, one thing is certain. And this is the fact that many of these disenfranchised riders have swelled the ranks of gangsters and bandits that now pass off for separatist militias.

Bike riding despite its negative impact like accidents and endangering denizens’ lives and road users, equally serves as a plus to the economy of Cameroon, rendering help and going a long way to solve many problems. Small wonder, President Paul Biya in one of his end of year speeches singled out commercial bikers for praise. He told them they were contributing wonderfully to the economy of the nation and gave them his thumbs up. But these commercial bikes are no longer seen plying some designated streets of Buea.

This decision is a result of the socio-political crisis which started since 2016 with no shadows of solutions looming over it. Many supported this act by the local administration but today, tears are inevitable in the eyes of such denizens.

While scores of biking youth are roaming all over, providing the proverbial workshop for idle minds, denizens are invariably feeling the bitter pinch of the ban. With no operational, let alone functional mass transit system on Cameroonian roads in general and Buea in particular; with the dirt roads that criss-cross Cameroonian municipalities, making it practically impossible for taxicabs to access neighboughoods, commuters have been the worse hit. With the sheer lack of access roads in Buea, women are forced to convey their market shopping by head load, drenched often by heavy rains or sweat induced by scotching heat.

Neighboughoods like Sand Pit, Small Soppo, Tole, Bomaka, Muea, to name but these had hundreds of bikers eking out a living and facilitating transportation in the process. Today, it is no longer the case, with these teeming youths either fooling around or giving meaning to the militias which the commercial biking ban sought to avoid in the first place.  

That aside, quite a good number of these bike riders, who hitherto solely relied on this line of commerce to cater for their daily needs and those of their dependents, are presently experiencing pretty devastating effects like the inability to pay health, other utility bills and handling sundry challenges. It has been a sharp fall in fortunes according to many of the victims. Plus, tontines (njangis) which used to go a long way to boost their investments have more or less been laid to rest.

An affected biker who would not want to be identified for obvious reasons, captured the precarious situation thus: “I can’t meet up with my house rents, electricity bills and the funding of my children’s bills and doing my manly duties in my house and because my only means of survival has been rooted off.”

Wisdom is a Buea based university student who depended on part time commercial biking for his fees and other academic requirements and needs. He told us: “I cannot meet up with my transportation, handouts   and a good phone to carry out my school work since my bills are on me.” He is just one, out of many other students that are self sponsored, that ride their way to university degrees and post varsity employment.

Come to think of it, the banning of commercial bike riding has not only affected bike riders, but has also plagued the activities of petty businesses (buyam- sellams) who are forced to trek long distances with their luggage, sometimes in very bad weather. The interdiction on commercial bike riding has also rendered most elderly people helpless, as they complain, they have to walk long distances through bad roads which is taunting to their health. That notwithstanding, cart pushers are in a sense, the direct beneficiaries of “disenfranchised” bikers. They may be fewer in number, cheaper and slower. Yet, the make up for part of the economic deficit left by the banned biking industry.

Despite the unbearable effects, hardships and slipping into criminal gangs by some banned commercial bike riders, it is worth noting that many of them managed to stay honest. They have resorted to menial jobs like cart pushing, hawking, “dog cooking business” tomato farming and, wait for this… grave digging! Grave digging by the way has come into the fray on account of the young men, women and children slaughtered indiscriminately on a daily basis by government soldiers drafted to fight an insurgency that has been going on for the past three years. Otherwise, a good number affected people including young girls whose bike riding parents have been put out of work now indulge in illegal activities such as prostitution and pick-pocketing. Many others have simply slipped into separatist fighters’ ranks.

Despite the hue and cry, in spite of the apparent boomerang effects of the ban, little or nothing has been done by the banning to assuage or at the very best provide a soothing alternative to the blanket ban. Wisdom adds, “the Buea council after banning our means of livelihood has not helped the situation but instead, they send the police to go after us when we try going out to work even in the neighbourhoods”

A varsity don, Professor Yenshu Emmanuel Vubo holds that commercial bike riders can still ply the streets if they are matriculated by the council for easy identification, plus, they should also show good faith.

“Although this action by the Buea authorities has its negative sides, it has equally resulted to some positive outcomes such as a reduction of the rate of road accidents and road traffics,” he noted.

According to him, many of them engage in this bike business because they do not pay taxes, but there are other businesses that they can engage in that are tax free, like tomato farming, coffee farming and others. “If the government says this activity should not take place it means they should look for other activities,” he stated.

However, some commercial bike riders we contacted have sworn to still ply the streets despite the deadly threats of being gunned down by ubiquitous security operatives now parading the town.

But then, being the corrupt prone society that Cameroon is, a handful of “privileged” commercial bikers are still seen plying Buea municipal streets unperturbed. These few have “spoken” the familiar language of bribery, understood even by those that have orders to shoot riding defaulters on sight.*

Dialogue prescribed as option to ghost towns, destroying business premises

By *Sengue Carine, Takie Esther,

Nicole Cecile, Ambia Lilian, Anu Alice

Pauline Enanga, Aderline Bokengo & Ekongwe Catherine

Denizens of Buea who are often caught in between amba boys threats and the mayor’s sledgehammer have been suggesting that the town’s chief magistrate should gun for dialogue and negotiation with warring parties instead of brute force. The consensus opinion is that this approach would serve every interest, including that of the state which is losing billions in prosecuting a war against separatists.

Most people The Rambler approached thought that the town’s economy in particular would be saved if the mayor adopts a talking as opposed to a breaking approach to ending ghost towns in Buea municipality.

Meanwhile, following the mayor’s current in sealing and breaking spree, certain business operators, despite the fear of the unknown sneak to their shops if only to forestall huge losses they would incur when their shops are sealed or broken by Mayor Ekema. These businessmen insist that there are several options or remedies that the mayor could adopt rather than sealing or breaking their business premises.

A shop owner we interviewed expressed his dissatisfaction with the whole trend, adding that “what the mayor is doing is for his parochial benefit and not for the shop owners.” He suggested that the mayor should meet the shop owners and the separatists for negotiations. He noted; “when a shop is being burnt and destroyed, it is the shop owner who suffers, since he will have to rebuild the landlord’s building.”

 The shop owner suggested prayers as a better remedy to these ghost towns and the Anglophone crisis. He said though the mayor wants the town and businesses to be functional and operational on Mondays, people most likely not to open their shops because there is a big problem in the country. “Added to that, shop owners pay a certain amount after the shops have been sealed,” he bemoaned.

Another interviewee made mention of the fact that, he at first felt bad about not working on Mondays, but noted that he is now used to “ghost towns” and has no problem with the phenomenon. He also mentioned that sealing of shops on Mondays and leaving it sealed for a month has no effect on him because, he has adapted to and now considers it as a continuation of the multiple lockdowns.  

This businessman said that he prefers his shop sealed because it will be open after a month than it being burnt by separatist fighters or broken by the mayor. The only time he would open on Mondays will be against an undertaking from the mayor stating that he (mayor) will be responsible if anything untoward happens to them.

According to a salesgirl at a restaurant, she works on Mondays due to instructions from her boss. Though not all workers and menus are available because food items cannot be purchased on Mondays since markets are not operational, they use the food stocks available to serve those few customers who come on Mondays. She suggested that, the authorities that be, should see into how they can ameliorate the situation by calling for a dialogue.

In a nutshell, these businessmen and women would want the authorities to drop all forms of hostilities and engage in a comprehensive dialogue.

*UB JOURNALISM STUDENTS ON INTERNSHIP

War rages on, famine looms in NW/SW regions

 The ominous signs of a famine in the Northwest and Southwest war prone regions are now there for all to see. Television propaganda by regime lackeys and other position seekers purporting to donate food to starving internally displaced people now constitutes the staple of the news. Elsewhere, truckloads of imported food items are routinely shared by government interests to IDPs against loud and vulgar propaganda. International organizations like the Red Cross and ‘Doctors Without Borders’ have already pitched their camps in the two regions and can be seen distributing relief material that includes imported food items.

The snag in all of this is that big time farmers in the two regions whose harvests practically fed the rest of the nation are today stretching begging bowls, soliciting food handouts. They too are collateral victims of a senseless war. In effect, many of them are homeless, their homesteads and villages having been razed to the ground by military goons out to deal with separatist fighters. They live in the bushes, and even if they still carry out farming activities there, transporting their harvest to the townships for sale is cumbersome, practically impossible. They are hemmed in between regular soldiers and ragtag militias called Amba boys, executing a separatist agenda.

As it stands, pundits are already predicting that if urgent steps are not taken to end the war, the famine that once befell countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria and Sierra Leone would be replicated in the Northwest and Southwest regions in particular and Cameroon in general.

Both parties in the war of attrition are intransigent. The government is hell bent on crushing what Mr. Biya describes as an end product of extremism, perpetrated by secessionists, while the separatists are angered by what they see as nearly 60 years of Anglophone subjugation. Both parties don’t appear to consider the human toll being taken by the intransigence, insisting only on fighting to the finish. Billions of tax payers’ money is injected into the war project by the regime even as the country bleeds economically. A giant agro-industry like the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, has gone under. So has PAMOL Plantations that employs about 30,000 Cameroonians between them. Yet, the regime is not blinking, as long as there is something still to be found in other accounts to nourish the costly war.

And so Cameroon being a predominantly agric economy is, to say the very least headed for ultimate doom as a corporate entity. The CDC rubber, banana and oil palm plantation sectors are comatose, losing billions of  francs CFA monthly. What with some 20,000 workers either unemployed or underemployed on account of the shooting war.

Thousands of both commercial and peasant farmers, who depend solely on food crops for home consumption and commercial purposes, have been caught in the crossfire. They are seriously complaining about the insecurity that looms all over the two territories and which prevents them carrying out their farming. The marauding Amba boys have commandeered farmlands in which they have set up camps. Livestock farming is not left out. While Amba boys are at it stealing from ranches, military goons are in the townships stealing livestock like pigs, goats and chickens. Not to talk of crops like plantains and yams. The more innovative of the affected farmers have resorted to other subsistent activities. But they find it difficult to adapt or the activities are simply non-productive and sometimes risky to carry out.

A peasant farmer who spoke to us anonymously noted: “I have been farming since 1997, and solely depend on vegetables cultivation for commercial purposes and home consumption. I have been facing some difficulties like; inadequate fertilizer, bad farm to market roads and climate change for 22years. But the outbreak of the crisis has created fear and brought starvation to my entire household.”

Another peasant farmer aged 52, who produces cassava, corn, cocoyams and plantains in Lysoka village said that, this activity has been a source of livelihood to her and her family. She was however sad that the crisis has reduced the rate of cultivation and harvest of more crops, although she still bears the risk of venturing to the farm. She noted that, whenever she encounters separatist fighters, she negotiates with them, in order to have access to her farm.

“In the course of harvesting and taking the products to Muea  market, it gets  rotten due to lack of vendors as many potential buyers  fear for their lives given the frequent crossfire between the separatists and the military,” she stated.

Apart from the farmers who experience this unveiling negative effects of the crisis, consumers are bitterly complaining of increase in food prices, inadequate foodstuff in the market and the spiraling effect on other goods and services.

It should be recalled that not only the agricultural sector has been hard hit by the needless war. The brewing industry that hitherto provided direct and indirect jobs for tens of thousands of English speaking Cameroonians has also been very negatively affected. Not only are restive separatists preventing the sale of products produced by some brewing industries which they have targeted. Cases have been recorded of the criminal targeting of trailers loaded with such products being sadistically set on fire. Not to talk of robbing millions of consumers the right to beverages of their choice.