Rotting poles tumble, gadgets, businesses crash

Inefficiency, lack of checks, renovation and innovation, poor maintenance and sustainability, and already dilapidating poles of the company in charge of electricity supply have greatly hampered the businesses of Buea denizens after a night of tempest which recently swept across the Southwest Region, during which old, rotten poles of the company crashing to the ground.
As a consequence, the town experienced a total blackout for close to 48 hours. Businesses suffered, many of them incurring huge loses. Refrigerators in many homesteads and other apparatuses that function on electric power supply were destroyed.
The Rambler sampled the feelings of business operators in the town and many of who grieved about what colossal loses that particular blackout and others before then occasioned.
In a renowned baker noted: “It is very natural for people not to buy especially from bakeries when there is no light and when they don’t come, we don’t make money. We could not use the fridge or the microwave when customers wish to have something warm. So many cakes, bread and hamburgers got bad as a result of the power seizure. We have really incurred loses just for the days of no power supply. Our fridge was even destroyed in the course of it and has just been repaired, but what is funny is the fact that no apologies have been received from the company in charge of electricity of which they were supposed to.
“Poles fell down from Mile 17 to Molyko because they were all old and already dilapidating, it is their fault because they ought to have changed them. When it has happens like this, they should be able to tenderly apologize for the damages caused.”
At a documentation centre at Clerk’s Quarters the cry was the same. Business was at a standstill. Photocopying, printing of pictures and other documents had to wait. It is only when people come to photocopy that they discover and purchase some other items on display, someone hinted.
“We have lost more than 80 percent in the absence of lights,” a lady stated, adding that despite the loss, they have not heard of any apologies from the light supply company.
The same story went for those selling electronics. They complained of timid sales during the almost two days of the blackout. This was due partly to the inability to test an electronic item that had to be bought.
“Compared to other normal days, we discovered a drastic drop in sales just because of electrical failure,” a trader complained.
Mobile money operators faced similar issues. They complained of low transactions since most customers had flat batteries and were unable to confirm from their phones in order to withdraw money even if they needed the money for an emergency. Commissions accruing from this line of business dipped.
“I did not receive any apologies from ENEO, but that is the nature of the country. When people are in top positions, they tend to be impolite and don’t deem it necessary to apologize to their subordinates without knowing that without our consumption, they are losing as well as us, because we need to work hand in glove in order to succeed in our different businesses.”
At a cold store, refrigerators stocked with fish emitted a pungent odour. The proprietor was visibly worried by the imminent loss of iced fish and patronage if electric power wasn’t restored in a matter of minutes.
Those without standby generating sets were contemplating acquiring fuel wood to smoke their fish before the situation got completely out of hand.
But it wasn’t gloom and doom all the way. Repairers of television sets were into brisk business, following the blackout. So too were repairers of fridges and similar gadgets. Their shops were full of these broken down gadgets. Yet, they worried about the fact that many affected persons could not afford down payment for their repair works.
In all, the bills are known to dip, whether effective supply was carried out or not. This holds same for an absolutely poor water supply service in the communities.
By Relindise Ebune

Cameroon is in a pathetic comma – Former Bar President

Jr. Eta Besong is an erudite, steadfast legal practitioner. He rose to the pinnacle of his profession as Bar Council President. His antecedents as politician within the Social Democratic Front, SDF, and football administrator with Prisons Social Club of Buea ascribed the sobriquet of Mister Integrity, to his persona.
Some teasers or anecdotes that correlate with the integrity insignia in instance include an article he wrote as a Form Five student of the oldest secondary school in Cameroon, Saint Joseph’s College Sasse, challenging the college administration for overturning a laid down tradition of making eggs and sardines part of Sunday meals. For this he was almost dismissed Only the intervention of his aunt transmuted the punishment to a week of grass cutting.
At the Bar Council, his open-mindedness was a source of concern to those who felt that presence at that institution was for self aggrandizement instead of altruistic service.
In an exclusive interview with The Rambler, he fielded questions on many issues including the opprobrium that some misguided SOBANS attempted to inflict on the prestigious institution, the role of the Bar Council in seeking redress to the current political upheavals which he agrees, has been mismanaged by a clique that makes no distinction between power and purpose and the inadvertence of the head of state and international organizations in seeking solutions to the problem between Southern Cameroonians against the Biya regime.
He paints a somber picture of the “Anglophone Spring” and by his reckoning, “this country is in a pathetic comma and until some stimulus is put to wake this body called Cameroon out of its pathetic comma, it might continue to be regrettable.”
He foresees worse disaster than what afflicted Rwanda in the event that the current business as usual attitude of the Head of State who, by the constitution is vested with powers to stop the current turmoil through a meaningful and comprehensive dialogue persists. As usual it is vintage The Rambler sizzling cocktail of alluring prose and fiery declarations.
St. Joseph’s College Sasse is trending in the news, unfortunately, for rather negative reasons. As a SOBAN, are you disturbed by this?
Honestly, I would say, without mincing words that you can’t be an ex-student of a prestigious institution like Sasse College and not feel disturbed by the present trend. So my answer is ‘yes,’ I am disturbed.

Never before has this oldest secondary school in Cameroon been embroiled in negative controversy like now, with contentious factions splitting loyalty to the institution. It took the courts to somehow halt the sinking image of the ‘enigmatic’ Sasse.
Yeah, you are right there. The truth about it is that this happens to be a novelty. I entered Sasse in 1965 and that is a good time now and I have never known of Sasse College getting into this type of muddy waters that it has found itself of recent and I think that if it is not checked, we might get into muddier waters. But as you say, it has taken the courts to halt this; I would say it hasn’t yet taken the courts to halt this; the courts have provided some speed breaks because some people think that the speed breaks are not high enough, so they can continue with the speed they are driving at, or which they began some few months ago. It has not ended yet, but it has been brought to a check somehow.

Why this seeming parochial interest of those you refer to as ‘some people?’ Why would they “brew” problems in a calm, venerated place like Sasse? Could their interest pecuniary by any means?
I don’t think that it is pecuniary…

Is it lust for power?
You know that when you are a member of an institution or group which, outwardly, is looked upon as prestigious and you think that you are in the shadows, sometimes you might want to come out of the woods to be recognized as being part of the prestige of the institution of which you are a member. But I think it is not pecuniary because I don’t see the pecuniary interest in wanting to cause trouble in SOBA. But you know some people believe that if they hold positions in SOBA, they could be taken from grass to grace.

In which side of the divide do you belong? Are you one of those striving to emerge; to be in the limelight, furtively using the Sasse platform to realize a clandestine project?
I must be frank about this and proud that I am SOBAN. And that is how far my pride goes. I am a SOBAN who went to the oldest institution in this part of the country and trying to be in the limelight has never really been my interest not… even in the lowest ranks; that is Chapter level. I have never really wanted to… I am interested in seeing Sasse go ahead as a prestigious institution; my male grandchildren have all been sent to Sasse. But you see, you can’t help when you see what you pride yourself as being a member of being dragged in the mud. So, my position is that I am Counsel to one of the sides to restore the dignity and legality of the constitution of Sasse College.

How “sober” are you or have you remained as a SOBAN in this infighting? More still, since by your own admission you are Counsel, if “Party A” and not “Party B” had approached you for legal expertise, would you have still taken their brief on the simple account of being a non partisan counsel?
No, no, I wouldn’t go in because I am Counsel to support just anything. So, if any of the sides had come to me as Counsel, that is not as SOBAN, and wanted me to take a brief, the first thing I would do and which my profession requires me to do is to find out what is the constitution of SOBA and if I look at the constitution of SOBA and I find out that the brief the party who has consulted me wants me to do runs contrary to the constitution of SOBA, honesty requires that I should turn down the brief. So, I would have turned down the brief if the other side had come to me.

Are you, by any means, guided by morality in law, considered by certain legal scholars to be an integral part of analytical jurisprudence…? By that same token are you telling us that you are a “sombre” SOBAN and that the side you have taken is that to be trusted, persecuted as it were by street wise miscreants?
Let me say this: whether I am “sombre,” is something for somebody else to judge. You know SOBA as an association is registered. It has a constitution. It has operative organs that run it. Now, the people who started all these ‘wahalah’ do not appear and this is where it is regrettable because you will find very senior SOBANS; SOBANS whom I have respected over the years; you find them even on that side…

On the side of mischief, of moral sleaze?
Well, call it mischief, but on the side of ignorance; that is what I will want to call it because, having left Sasse, having been even registered in Sasse for one year…

Blissful or culpable ignorance?
I think it is both, because you see, a constitution of an association is like the law of an association and there is a general principle that is international; namely, that ignorance of the law is no excuse. So, if you are ignorant of the law of your own association, it is both culpable and non-culpable. But to me, it is in the main culpable. You cannot pretend to be in an association and you don’t know the constitution of the association.

It may depend on why one is in it; it may depend on one’s target or even manifest interest.
Well, if you are there only because you want to be called a SOBAN, it’s regrettable…

Or perhaps as a stepping stone to the marble corridors of power…
Yes, but you cannot have power outside the constitution of SOBA. You must look at the constitution of SOBA for you to have the power you are vying to have. Now, if you want to have power outside the constitution of SOBA, then I think a psychiatrist should visit you. That is the way I look at it because you see, the organs of SOBA are so clear; there are four. The people who took this matter to court initially by what we called an ‘ex parte’ application, that is to say they didn’t notify the current executive. They wanted an order behind the back of the current executive which they did not make honest disclosures. They might have had a good purpose but once your disclosures are half-baked, surreptitious, you see that it is mischievous and this is exactly what happened. Secondly, they called a meeting because they said that the current executive had not called a meeting within three years or four years or whatever, whereas they knew a meeting had been called to hold in Douala which they failed to disclose. But they wanted a meeting called in a particular place because they wanted to come in sneakily or otherwise but they thought that was going to be a convenient forum for them where they could come in to achieve their mischievous aims. It is sad, but let me come to the main thing; they held what they called a revival general assembly meeting…

Can you get specific here and name some names? Would you want to name some names because when you say they, they…
As a professional, I would refrain from doing that but they know themselves; those who attended the so called revival general assembly meeting of Sasse Old Boys Association, they know themselves. There were senior SOBANs and junior SOBANs; when I talk about senior, I am talking about senior to me and junior to me. But the unfortunate thing is that those senior SOBANs whom I said before are people whom I had respect for apparently were led by their noses, by their juniors who thought these guys were so old enough that they had forgotten exactly the content of the constitution of Sasse…

Maybe by streetwise juniors…
Maybe. Let me give you an example; you hold a general assembly which you call a revival general assembly; the Sasse Constitution provides for a revival general assembly where the executive has not acted within a given time. The principal of Sasse College can call a revival meeting or a number of branches of Sasse Old Boys Association can call. But that very Constitution says once you call a revival general assembly meeting, that assembly appoints a new national executive; it doesn’t appoint a caretaker committee. So for you to have SOBANs of 50 years standing in a meeting like that and they say that they have appointed a caretaker committee brings to question what they learned in Sasse and what they retained after Sasse.

From hindsight, do you see an element of sour grapes in play here? Some SOBAN who failed to do due diligence and was democratically floored in an election might still not have come to terms with this fact…
There are so many. There are sour grapes; I don’t want to even say there is just one sour grape. I think there are many sour grapes and it is unfortunate that Sasse should produce sour grapes. We weren’t brought up in Sasse to imbibe a sour grapes culture. The education we had in Sasse was holistic; we weren’t brought up in Sasse to covet ourselves… because I have not seen a Sasse that coveted anybody but we have coveted ourselves into sour grapes and it is unfortunate.

By the way, have the courts taken any firm decision on which SOBA faction is the legitimate one?
Yes, the court has. When they had the first motion which was without notice to the existing executive, the executive through its national president consulted our chambers to file in to set aside the initial orders; we did that and the court did set aside its orders.

Temporarily or permanently?
No, permanently. The court set aside its orders permanently and the court said that, the status quo ante; that is, the position before the litigation, remains. So, you see now that by saying that the status quo ante remains, it is recognition of the SOBA executive that those mischievous individuals were trying to put aside.

Who qualifies to banish someone from their Alma Mater? Is it the authorities of the institutions, ex-student associations, the courts or any of the above?
Well, a SOBAN can be expelled from SOBA either by the Chapter or the national executive.

Let me complete my question; what procedure should be adopted to arrive at such a sanction or banishment if you will?
You see, the point is that a Chapter can expel a member if the one does not comply with the constitution of SOBA or if he is of such character that his presence might jeopardize the smooth running or the integrity of SOBA of that Chapter. It is the same thing with the national executive but generally, the person to be expelled would be notified and would be told that an investigation is ongoing. But there are interim decisions which are taken; any institution has a right to take interim decisions. Now, let me give you an example, I am an owner of a school, like the proprietor of Sasse College is the Bishop of the Buea Diocese. So, Sasse and all the Catholic institutions within that Diocese are considered his property.

You just brought in this element of proprietorship… His Lordship the Bishop of Buea Diocese and Proprietor of Sasse must be pretty embarrassed by the fact that SOBANs are like washing their dirty dross in the public.
The Bishop in my opinion, should be embarrassed because the truth about the matter is that, those the Bishop has declared as persona non grata, are people who went to the Bishop; they cannot deny that they went to see the Bishop but they fed the Bishop with lies and he turned around and realize what their real motive was, the Bishop now, declared them persona non grata, and that is correct. The Bishop has the right to say ‘look, Sasse College is my home, I built it, it is my property and I don’t want you here.’ I mean, if I don’t want you in my home, what’s your problem? I don’t want you in my home. You might have been my best friend, you have even been my best student but, I say I don’t want you anymore in my home.

But one thing or the other could [legitimately] propel one to visit a home where he is “unwanted.” In such a case, might the courts not intervene and say ‘ok Bishop, even though this is your home, but because this man has this to take from your home legitimately, let him have access,’ don’t you think?
You might be right there. If, for example, a tenant has left some of his property in the house of his landlord, he might seek redress for entry to take them, but until he gets the order of the court to say you can enter to retrieve what you forgot in your landlord’s house, you don’t have the right; the landlord stops you from entering.

Has the current SOBA executive been so far ineffective, or how did things degenerate to the level whereby, hairs are being split right and left?
I wouldn’t talk for the SOBA executive because as I told you from the onset, I am neither in the Chapter executive nor the SOBA national executive or any of the four organs of SOBA but I think that from my own personal knowledge, the SOBA executive has done a lot. There can’t be all Saints in any society and there can’t be all demons. But the point is, let us have the humility to say; here is somebody who has done something good or this is an executive that has done something good, irrespective of our vicious and personal motives.

You are known to have in the days of yore when you were you, brash and radical declared (I found that out) in Sasse when things were not going well between the student community and the school authorities that ‘Things are falling apart.’ Did you do that and what effect did it have?
I am very happy that you got that because truly, you must have done a lot of research because that is what happened in 1969 and that is nearly 50 years ago, in fact, 49 years ago and I don’t know how you did that and that is exactly what true journalism is all about. I must commend you for that. You know, this is what we must call research before you publish. I want to admit that I did what you said. Before 1969, Sasse was run by Reverend Fathers who in the main were Mill Hill Fathers in the likes of Mulligan, Cunningham, and Flynn. It was in vogue for students in the college to have eggs, chicken and all those niceties which we thought were special on Sundays… I mean we went to the refectory on Sundays expecting something better than Monday to Saturday; unfortunately, in 1969, things changed. Let me first of all state how I got to doing what I did. You know, while I was in Sasse College, I was given a Notice Board to publish articles that I used to write. I used to write articles and my “tabloid” was known as “Sasse Spotlight.” I used to run commentaries on football, write about Sasse College teams and so on. When the first black principal was appointed, the College asked me to carry out an investigation about that person and to put up a write-up.

The college authorities, the proprietor of the college asked you to write or the…
No, the principal who was leaving, the master of discipline and the others; they asked me to write an article about the incoming principal and I spent a long time trying to research because you know, he was a SOBAN. I spent a long time trying to dig into his past and I wrote an article which I headlined “No longer at ease,” no, “No longer at ease” was the second because when I wrote the first article, and put his profile and what I had gathered about him, when he read it, he invited me to his office and congratulated me for the research I had done. When things started going sour, I wrote “No longer at ease” and it brought a lot of trouble in that I was again called in a general assembly meeting of students and asked if cocks lay eggs. We were told that we had eaten all the hens so, we could not expect to have eggs anymore, but that was not true. For that I was asked to go and call for my parents because I was at the verge of being expelled. I told the principal that my father was an auditor with the CDC at the time and was moving from plantation to plantation, so I wasn’t sure he was at home. But unfortunately, the Master of Discipline at the time knew members of my family and knew that I had an aunt in Buea; Lawyer Elad’s mother and asked that I should come to Buea and bring my aunt which I did. She was taken to the Notice Board to read “No longer at ease” and they told my aunt that they were going to expel me. Note that I was in Form Five at the time and my aunt said well, they should give me another opportunity so, I was made to cut grass for one week in the orchard. It was a terrible thing but I was writing what was truthful but it didn’t sound palatable to those who had taken the helm of running Sasse College. That is exactly what happened then.

Were “cocks not laying eggs” a euphemism for the new administration that couldn’t tolerate the eating of eggs by students or students had truly eaten up every hen on campus?
No, all the hens had not practically been eaten. I think that it was just a joker they used in the absence of any other card to throw in so, it wasn’t true. It was just a means to say we are going to curtail the provision of eggs to students. We used to have sardines given us on Sundays but all of those things suddenly stopped because maybe they found out that they were too luxurious for students to enjoy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t shut up my mouth.

This little diversion if you don’t mind. The business of leadership revolves on communication; communicating how you are dealing with the issue, not how you dealt with it, or what decisions you took or what decrees you signed and imposed. How would you put this in the present day context, that is, the Anglophone imbroglio; who has been communicating, who has not? Why all the avoidable intransigence and why not, bufoonery?
The truth is, it is a topic I generally would not want to talk about because I have talked about it so many times. I was the President of the All Anglophone Common Law Lawyers Conference, and then in the conference, I was elected unanimously as the President of the Council. Now, there was the conference and there was the council. The council was like the executive but there were people who were in the council, one or two, I would say one, who thought that my method wasn’t good enough or maybe they should have been there and they were going to be more radical than I was. But we communicated with the Government; we held meetings with the Government, we talked with the Government but unfortunately, some people in that Government thought that their positions were threatened and that if what we were asking for came to fruition, maybe they would be put out in the cold. That is my opinion and I hold that opinion and I would hold it until tomorrow. I was happy, I must say this, I was happy when to meet the lawyer, to deal with the lawyers, the Prime Minister appointed the Minister Delegate in the Ministry of Justice; a level headed fellow to talk with us. You know all what has changed after our meetings are things which he promised he was not going to change. We got that, but that is not the end of the road.
This is where now it is painful; where we are now in Cameroon should have been avoided. It was avoidable but some people have given communication or dialogue a pseudo connotation. It is this pseudo connotation that… it is not by you talking with me that you will say we are dialoguing. You must look at the parties involved in a matter and meet the parties and their representatives and talk to. You don’t go on a frolic of your own and then you call it a dialogue. You don’t go to talk about bicycles and then you say you have dialogued about cars. These are the type of things we don’t agree with and I had said it before that what is happening in Cameroon now might be just the tip of the iceberg. We have seen countries where the things that happen are not half the things that are happening in Cameroon now or they are not as fundamental as what is happening in Cameroon now. My biggest problem is the silence of the person who has the constitutional powers to bring this nonsense to an end.

Let me take you on “the silence of the person with the constitutional power…” to add that apparently, the leaders of Cameroon have traded power for purpose and when power dominates purpose, performance suffers…
You are right there, I agree with you. That is exactly what has been done and there again, I say it is regrettable. Once you have constitutional powers to ensure respect of the constitution that is a super power that you must execute. All other things are subordinate. But you know I want to be truthful even to this individual who has the constitutional powers that he has allowed himself to be misled.

Now, when one’s ‘constitutional powers’ are transformed to a banana peel; when one is flattered to step on the banana peel after having transformed to a tin god, that constitution becomes a malleable, stretchable or bendable sheet of political metal; the constitution becomes subordinate to a little more than a tipsy power monger and broker, and dangerous for the polity, do you think?
It is not just dangerous for the polity. It is mortal. I think it is killing the polity because now in Cameroon, what we find is that some people have become so powerful that they are above the state. It is unfortunate. There are some people in this country who think that they are the untouchable; that they are the people who decide whether Cameroon goes forwards or backwards. It is unfortunate. We should respect the constitution… But coming back to your question on the Anglophone issue, as I said, initially they were Anglophones who were parading the corridors of power who said there were no Anglophone problems but, I have been so surprised that even when the man who has the constitutional powers to rule Cameroon said yes, there are problems, those people have been …

They have not been flushed down the political sewer, or drain pipe.
No, they have not been shown the way out and they have themselves sealed their lips. It is regrettable. Let us be honest; once you have made a mistake, we are all human beings, let those Anglophones who are in the corridors of power come out to the people they misrepresented and tell the people ‘we are sorry and now we are ready to tell the President the true situation of this country.’ Until they do that, they are still living in the woods and don’t want to come out and the president has a responsibility… If they don’t want to come out voluntarily, take them out by force.

Talking about being sorry, what propitiation or oblation would ultimately atone for the sacrilege that was visited upon lawyers by goons, khaki boys? You would recall how they were beaten up, dragged in the mud; their gowns and wigs desecrated and seized…
This is a very touchy issue. But you see, Cameroon is a hybrid. This mixture of the Anglo-Saxon and the civil system has created a hybrid and this hybrid is a dangerous one. So, who will atone for this? Only God knows who will atone for this but it is a dangerous hybrid; we could create a hybrid where we will take the good from each side and make something that will be better. I am not saying that we take it and swallow hook, line and sinker, but we should take the good from this side, the good from the other side and construct what is ours. But once people think that the good can come only from one side that is a fallacy. I mean it is a country wherein I regret to say, I practice a profession which is respected in the whole world but mine. I go out of this country and people see my passport. I am a barrister, I am an advocate. They give me a lot of respect which I don’t have in my country. It is touchy, and well, maybe that is one of the things that make me respect the Bible because the Bible says a prophet is never accepted in his home.
The lawyers are not given their place in Cameroon and I think that it is the reason why the Anglophone lawyers must rethink their steps. The Anglophone lawyers have thought that going to the Bar Council is just for the fancy of being there, no, I would tell you that the Bar Council is the administrative, executive of the Bar. It needs people who can stand up and talk and can be respected and be heard, but for now, whether that is the case, I don’t know.

Are you saying that your Anglophone colleagues of the Bar Council now are mere jokers or puppets?
No, they are not jokers or puppets but you know, first, they are few; we’ve even lost some of them to death but when you have to look across that table, and you see who you are talking to, sometimes you…

Maybe sometimes just to filibusters?
Sometimes the opposite party must doff their hat to you because they respect you, they know what you are talking, they are sensible; the one knows you have been there before him. But decisions at the Bar Council are taken by elections and so long as the Anglophones will remain in the minority, they can only grumble and stay.

One last question except maybe after this you may want to drop in a word or two more. We are living as Shakespeare would put it in “frighted peace,” especially in this part of the country. Do you see this time bomb or the ongoing carnage in Anglophone Cameroon coming to a happy end? That is, will the guns stop coughing? Will somebody somewhere see reason and start talking to and not screaming at those complaining?
Yes, this is another sad part of my living that I don’t see it. Not in the immediate future because what I see in the immediate future is stubbornness, self-preservation, people wanting to protect themselves and keep quiet. I wouldn’t keep quiet; I don’t care whether I would be the sacrificial lamb. I will give you an example. Just before the recent session of the senate, we had a working session or seminar with lawyers of Anglophone extraction. Christopher Tambe Tiku and myself were resource persons and fortunately or unfortunately, I had to talk about elections to the senate, the holding of the position of senate, parliament and national assembly, presidency and all of that. I talked about the incompatibilities in those positions. In that seminar, there were three senators elect and I asked them to go to that session and bring Cameroon back to the respect for the rule of law. And I am happy that Kemende did it. Kemende was one of those at the seminar and I said that it was wrong for one person to handle so many posts. There are many of them in Cameroon; nobody is more Cameroonian than the other. You see, I fear this protectionism continuing that the solution to the current problem seems to be too remote. I have a problem not only with the authorities of this country; I have a problem with the international community. Why is the international community turning a blind eye? Why are they looking somewhere else? Have they forgotten Rwanda, South Sudan and all the places where genocide and retribution have caused bloodshed? Why isn’t it time for them to say Cameroon, call these people to order and stop this bloody nonsense?

Let me put it this way again, leadership as far as I know is the ability to serve, not crass obduracy. You just talked here about self-preservation. Now you have an obdurate regime on the one hand and you have others who think that they must preserve their identity, themselves and enjoy a particular modus Vivendi. How do you think that all of these forces conflicting with one another will not as you just quoted a while ago, not end up in a Rwandan type situation?
It will be regrettable if it ends up there. But you see, we can avoid it if we want to avoid it.

Who?
Who?

But somebody has to take the initiative…
Yes, the leaders have to take…

But the leadership is obdurate, stone hearted, to say the very least.
Look, let me tell you very frankly, Anglophone leadership if you are talking about the…

No, I am talking about the ‘supreme leader.’
Well, the supreme leader does not think there is a problem yet.
Is he then sleeping the sweet sleep of a baby?
Oh yes, sometimes when you are a leader, you might not even be sleeping but maybe you are in a comma but you need a medical officer to come and get you out of your comma.

Some mental saturation or mental menopause may be at play here…
I would like to say that not being in the medical field, I wouldn’t know whether that is the situation but I think that Cameroon is in a comma. This country is in a pathetic comma and until some stimulus is put to wake this body called Cameroon out of its pathetic comma, it might continue to be regrettable.

Could that stimulus well be the ongoing Anglophone debacle?
The stimulus might be multifaceted, that is why part of my blame goes to the United Nations and to the international community.

Is there any international community with moral scruples? Why don’t we christen it ‘parochial interest community?’
I agree with you because where their interests are, even the wrongs are not considered as wrongs; they are considered as rights. But the international community is governed by charters, rules. If they decide to violate the rules and come at the 11th hour; they should have the humility to say they are part of the causes of the present problems.

Don’t you think that they do sometimes conveniently violate those rules; I mean surreptitiously breed, arm and sustain bloodletting cartels?
They do because, as they close their eyes to the wrongs of those from whom you know they can dig their gold, they can pillage, once they…

And sell their arms, their AK 47s for sure…
Yes, all of those factors. I mean they are numerous and it becomes their interest. There are too many interests involved here but I am taking the international community to task; the British, the French, United Nations, the Human Rights Commission, the Amnesty International, why are they not talking? This country was German from origin, it was partitioned. Why are these people not talking anymore? They are not talking because…

Maybe because they are growing their wealth, making it ready for harvest…
Of course, in fact, they are not making ready, they are harvesting and so, you know we say in all the vernaculars that a mouth that is filled with food does not open to talk or don’t speak.

One very last, quick one, does it take some obdurate power monger and power broker to decide that a country is ‘one and indivisible’ and that the constitutional architecture of the country could only be redesigned when it comes to the personal interest of that person; maybe abolishing office terms, or it should be a matter for the collectivity of “We the People” to decide by way of a referendum?
I am happy you’ve come to that; it is exactly where I was going to land. The constitution provides for a referendum. You remember that in 1972, we had a referendum to change the name of this country. We had it but thereafter, people thought and hand clappers clapped, thinking that because a bill had come from the supreme office, it was good. Why didn’t we say ok, this name was changed by a referendum, let us go back to a referendum. Why don’t we think that way? Why have we distorted our thinking in such a way that when a man coughs, we say he laughs, when a man laughs, we say he coughs, why? And why are the people who are there, the people who say they are representing us… I will ask you a question; how many times have you heard a meeting called by a senator, parliamentarian or people in the national assembly or senate come back to their constituencies to tell them what is happening there?
You are a representative that means you go to talk what the people want you to talk. The bills that come to parliament should be given to the national assembly and to senate before they are even summoned to appear so that they discuss this with their constituents. Is this what we do? They go to Yaounde, they sit there, after four days then they begin to find out what they are going to discuss. Is that how a democracy is run?

No. definitely no, and then again one is shocked that the head of a supposedly independent arm of Government – the Senate, gets up and the first thing he remembers is to kowtow to the head of state; almost like thanking him for the very air that he breathes. Don’t you think that for many, going to the senate or national assembly in Cameroon is a job for opportunists in dire need of food stamps, meal tickets?
No, I don’t believe that going to senate or to the national assembly should be a job for people who want to earn money.

But that is what many of them do there.

That is it, but I am saying I don’t believe that is what should be. It should be a job for people who can move their nation forward. What have other politicians said about things? They have said they would like to leave a country… even President Paul Biya said he would like to be remembered as somebody who brought democracy. Well, whether he has brought it or not, it is for people to judge, it’s not for him to judge. I think it is for the population to judge but I think that those we have in the senate and parliament are just going there because those posts have been created. They are not performing; a few are, but you know, in a country where no private member bill has ever passed, it makes one wonder.

I mean no opposition bill…

Even the Government, you can’t, anyway. For you to be in the CPDM and propose a private member bill should be like you want to commit suicide and I think that parliamentarians; those at the national assembly and those in senate should start asking themselves why they are there and who they represent. The truth about it, none of them represents me because they have never ever called a meeting of those in their constituencies and I have people who are in my constituency who are supposed to be representing me but who have never sought my ideas on issues. So, how can you say you are representing me or speaking on my behalf? You are an attorney, I have sent you there, yet, you go there and you take the decisions without consulting me?

But they have converted you to believe in, and hail the tin god.

They might have converted some people, they haven’t converted me yet. I wouldn’t get converted into nonsense. I think that Cameroonians, whether they want to get to parliament; to national assembly or senate should start thinking again and it is the highest time that people… some people think this is an Anglophone crisis; some people think this is a sectorial crisis, no! It is not…

It rains on every roof

Every roof, the only thing is, let the people speak and once the people speak, you will see that this is not an Anglophone crisis. It is a national problem which is aching every national bone and which is making people unhappy.
Interviewed by Nester Asonganyi & Charlie Ndi Chia

Political upheaval may compromise 1,178 jobs at CDC

The pangs of the simmering crisis pitting Government against aggrieved Southern Cameroonians has eaten deep into the flesh of the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, to the point that its management has confessed to the possibility of laying off no fewer than 1,718 workers in the nearest future in the event that the current circumstance persists.
The corporation’s management was speaking recently in Limbe while awarding labour medals to some 1,000 meritorious workers of the corporation in the presence of the Minister of Labour and Social Security, Gregoire Owona.
“Dialogue should be considered an important tool in resolving the socio-political crisis in the Southwest and Northwest Regions of Cameroon because the CDC has already suffered and continues to suffer countless casualties,” Staff representative, Hon. Efite Andrew stated.
He said as a result of the crisis, CDC has lost two staff; Puh Emelda of the Manyu Project who died from a stray bullet in Mamfe and Ewodu Ndjobo of the Tombel Rubber Estate, who was brutally killed by unidentified gunmen. Efite, continued that CDC in the recent past has suffered untold losses as a result of an attack on the payment crew including the Illoani Estate Manager and the Industrial Unit Manager, leading to a loss of close to FCFA 30,000,000 cash. As he explained, “two corporation vehicles (a pick-up and an ambulance carrying drugs for workers) and a CDC caterpillar were burnt down to ashes at Mondongo leading to a material loss worth FCFA 500,000 000. Also, Illoani Mill pick-up was seized and burnt by unidentified men at Bomana.”
According to the corporation staff representative, there have been persistent attacks on the following Estates: Illoani Palm Estate, Boa Palms Project, Illoani Mill, Mbonge Rubber Estate and Tombel Rubber Estate. He said the Manager of Illoani Palm Estate is currently under house arrest as gunmen have sent messages that they don’t want to see him out of his house else, he will be murdered.
“Should this socio-political crisis continue, it is evident that CDC may cease operation in the above mentioned areas, and may suspend contracts of all the workers concerned, viz; 406 workers of Boa Project, 354 of Illoani Estate, 92 workers of Illoani Mill, 390 of Mbonge Rubber Estate and 476 workers of Tombel Rubber Estate, making a total of 1,718 workers who risk losing their jobs,” Efite explained.
He said this does not only put the economic position of CDC at stake but, the unanswered question is what will happen to these workers and their dependents should these Estates close down?
On behalf of the entire staff, Efite appealed to the Government to call for an inclusive dialogue so that together, a solution could be reached and CDC safeguarded.
To the General Manager, Franklin Ngoni Njie, the environment in which they operate is increasingly becoming challenging and their operations are being adversely affected by the socio-political crisis prevailing in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. He said this has not only resulted to destruction of property, slowdown of their production related operations in certain areas of the corporation but, also to loss of human lives.
“The crisis is posing a real threat to our business. While we thank the administrative authorities for the support we have been receiving to be able to manage through this far, we want to reiterate that the corporation is seriously threatened,” Njie lamented.
Promising workers management’s commitment to maintain healthy social dialogue in the corporation, the GM reminded them that the ceremony was in fulfillment of a legal, moral and social duty. He said it was also an opportunity for the corporation to honour and motivate its labour force, especially as CDC last witnessed such a ceremony some 14 years ago.
After listening to the worries of CDC, Minister Owona of Labour and Social Security promised them that Government under the leadership of President Paul Biya, is aware of the social tensions and unrest in the Northwest and Southwest Regions and is leaving nothing to chance in order to restore peace and order in this part of the country. He assured, “Through social dialogue, the Government will not relent until a serene and peaceful social climate is restored.”
Owona appreciated the entire staff and General Manager of the CDC for the performance of the enterprise and its permanent contribution to promoting development and economic growth in the country. He said the excellent and serene social climate in CDC is proof of the existence of constant social dialogue between workers and management of the enterprise.
“The glaring results of CDC could not be attained without the assiduity, devotedness, loyalty, respect of hierarchy, patriotism, and sense of responsibility and the spirit of enterprise of these workers. Better days lie ahead for social cohesion at the CDC,” the Minister assured.
In all, 504 recipients and a total of 1,298 medals were awarded; 320 of them in gold, 480 in silver gilt and 498 in bronze. While some of the recipients are still in active service, others have retired and a few have succumbed to death.
By Nester Asonganyi

Gov’t asked to tighten media ownership procedure

The Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists, CAMASEJ, Yaounde Chapter has requested the Government to tighten conditions for opening a media outfit, pass a law on easy access to information and decriminalize slander and libel, while losing its grip a little more on the media, believed to be the Fourth Estate of the realm. The appeal was made as they joined journalists the world over to commemorate the 2018 edition of the World Press Freedom Day, Thursday May 3, 2018.
On a tour from Oxford High School to the English High School Yaounde, they streamed in their numbers, encouraging would be journalists grouped in Journalism Clubs of the various institutions. The exercise according to the CAMASEJ Yaounde President, Jude Viban, aimed to
“Inspire, motivate and counsel aspiring journalists already under a canopy of journalism/writing clubs in the schools we visited through an exchange of thoughts with them. We also offered past editions of newspapers to the clubs and promised to come from time to time and mentor them.
“We picked senior colleagues with at least 15 years in the practice to talk with the students. Our lots also fell on Commy Musa, an award winning journalist with 10 years in the profession. Her story was uplifting to the students, especially girls. The enthusiasm and attentiveness of the students gave us the impression that we succeeded.”
According to Viban, the choice of commemorative activities was to break out of the routine of seminars and workshops to mark the WPFD. “Although the Yaoundé chapter of CAMASEJ had gone into hibernation mode in the last five years or so, we thought it convenient and just to refresh it with an activity that stands out. The feedback is positive,” he remarked.
It was equally an opportunity for the seasoned journalists to take questions from the students, clarifying them on what it takes to excel in Journalism in Cameroon and the world. The team promised mentorship opportunities, old newspaper copies among other consignments of media products to the students who were thrilled to meet their radio and television stars in person.
As CAMASEJ Yaounde members joined in commemorating the 25th edition of WPFD under the theme: “keeping power in check: media, justice and the rule of law,” debates are still on, as to whether or not the Cameroonian press is free.
It should be noted that the Non-Governmental Organisation, Reporters Without Borders, ranked Cameroon 129th out of 180 countries on the situation of press freedom worldwide.
The ranking has been quaking debates on the media though some people think the figures are too good to be true.
By Claudia Nsono

Foolish war ripping Cameroon apart!

It started with a handful of “the nation’s leaders” declaring that it is anathema to as much as dream of changing the constitutional architecture of Cameroon. Bogus reasons were advanced. “Founding fathers’” wishes were exhumed and spread out as reason why even at the risk of being killed by selfish parochial interests, Cameroon must remain “one and invisible.”
Greedy Spin doctors were invited from friendly diplomatic quarters to join in the refrain of condemning “the evil of thinking about sitting like one big family to restructure Cameroon, such that every corporate interest counts.” Jail accommodation was augmented and the proverbial Big Brother went to work overtime, watching; pointing out and having real and imaginary dissidents deftly isolated and unwillingly accommodated in Kondengui and other fetid jails.
The “dialogue” refrain was intoned. Political scavengers settled for it and sang their voices hoarse, even as the vicious guns of power belched and coughed regularly… on command, leaving hundreds of protesters sprawling in their own blood. The operators of the killer machines were hailed in insipid speeches as patriots, fighting to contain extremists, terrorist prophets of doom. Poor soldiers are also dying, avoidably.
Cameroonians living in the English speaking Regions are being routinely subjected to “litanies of curfews.” Thousands of businesses have so far been destroyed in this part of the country. The economy this way now resides in the extensive care unit, to say the very least. Bullets, hunger and general poverty are felling the weak and innocent. Daily. For once, Cameroonians have become refugees in foreign climes.
Others yet, have taken to the forests either because their ancestral homesteads have been burnt to ashes or direly resorting to pristine ways of living to stay alive. Very few schools are functional. Educational standards in those that dare to hold are by and large, shoddy. Kids are taking to the bushes in droves, patronizing the drug industry. They are, out of sheer frustration and radicalization, joining militias, some of them dangerously murderous.
Governors and other Government ranking brass now don bullet proof jackets, with caskets to compliment. Denizens of the two Regions under review are living like rat moles, ever ready to pop out from invisible but handy corners and flee to safety. Kidnapping, which was absolutely alien to Cameroonians in past decades has become a regular thing. No one is safe. Not even those who are, by their actions indicating that dialogue could be a euphemism for “decreeing peace”, barking out orders and not listening; being guarded round the clock by soldiers who, by no means are not the solution to a problem they did not start.
The so called international community and “world bodies” are making brisk business from hawking their ‘AK47s’ and pellets. They are protecting their neo-colonial interests and minding those they have decided should protect their overseas interests, provided they don’t holler like the talkative Zimbabwean Bob whom they love to hate… They may well be waiting and watching, in no haste to show any obedient servant the door. Not just yet.
But one thing is clear. Cameroonians are dying in droves, unnecessarily. Thousands are joining the radical militia. A dear, lovely nation is being taken back to childhood, before our very eyes! A foolish, avoidable war is ripping Cameroon apart. And the leaders have decided that they are not our servants, but overlords! Apalling!

Cab drivers, passengers hurt selves over bad roads

The Bakweri Town stretch of road in Great Soppo, Buea, which has gained notoriety over the past two years for its disgraceful and dilapidating nature, is fast becoming a point of conflict between cab driver and their passengers.
While some opportunist cab drivers have taken the opportunity to tax passengers who pave the road very high, other considerate taxi drivers have a tug of war, with other passengers who get furious when the driver takes the direction of this very poor stretch of road.
What caught the attention of the public some days back was a conflict between a taxi driver and a nagging woman, who missed a deadly blow, from the furious cab driver, after the woman considered the cab driver’s charge of FCFA 200 from Check Point, Molyko to Bakweri Town as abominable. Thanks to the bad nature of the road, even the cab driver was barely steadying himself as he made to hit the quarrelsome passenger.
Just as the road has rendered even the popular “emergency engineers” helpless, as it has gone beyond man power, many taxi drivers are also promising to abandon the road completely. One them, popularly known by drivers as “mayor Sammy” said “it has become risky using the road, especially now during the rainy season, which the gullies are fast axing all of the road.’’
While many passengers frown at the long traffic experienced on the road, inhabitants around the pot-holed road neighborhood are frowning both at the council and the taxi drivers. While a lady selling fruits hard by thinks it is normal for the council to abandon a busy road like that one, Makole Charles and inhabitant of Bakweri Town rather blames the drivers outright. He says, “taxi drivers have a union and they ought to come out in their numbers, especially on ‘Keep Buea Clean’ days and try to repair the road to their best, while waiting on the council.”
“Sometimes when I think of the Campaign Street road which was only repaired because of the coming of the president, I fear the Bakweri Town road will continue to be scraped off and abandoned for many more years.”
The accelerating decline in the usability of the road is a call for concern. It is not only replete with deep and extensive potholes, but the current situation is aggravated by threats of its degeneration into a gorge. The heavy downpours have not helped matters as accompanying erosions have left gullies running in the middle of the road while most amateur drivers end up in the gutters even in the day time.
By Atembeh Ngewung Lordfred (Student Journalist)

Delegate admits tardiness in attestations award

The Southwest Regional Delegate of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Buinda Godlove Nsakabo has conceded his Ministry’s tardiness in the award of attestations to participating youths two years after they participated in a training programme, blaming such insouciance on the unavailability of funds.
He made the declaration on Thursday, April 12, as some young tourism actors in the Region trained since 2016 on the security of tourists, reception techniques, hygiene and quality of service, especially for the last female AFCON received attestations at the Buea Council Chambers.
The attestations were given to trainees of 2016 batch under the auspices of the competitive value chain project. To him, the project is aimed at training some young Cameroonians in the domain of wood and tourism so that they can be competitively operational in the open market.
Questioned why the attestations took two years before being issued, Buinda blamed it on financial constraints. He added that the project falls under the ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development in synergy with the Ministry of Tourism and Forestry. He said that they train young Cameroonians in the domain of ecotourism, forestry and wood transformation because the state is moving from theoretical education to that which can be competitive in the world.
Acknowledging the lateness in handing over the attestations to the trainees, he noted: “Some of them had great opportunities, but because they never had the attestations at hand then, they had to miss such openings.”
Going by one of the participants, Enanga Lydia, the training in 2016 was enriching as they learned how to make a bed, place things at the restaurant, and attend to clients at the reception. They also learned basic culinary skills.
Bessiring Gilbert Bertrand, another trainee, has 18 years experience as a receptionist. He said say the training was one of the best he has had so far, because for five days they were groomed on both theory and practical hotel management.
By Relindise Ebune

Reinstated Soppo market resurrects old risks

When Senator Charles Mbella Moki, the immediate past Mayor of Buea conceived the idea of moving the Great Soppo Market to a more convenient location in Bokwai, the explanation was that its previous location around Cameroon Opportunity Industrialization Centre, OIC, was a drag to free flow of traffic in the city of legendary hospitality. However, a new phenomenon that is materializing in an even more promising market has been inching its way into the physiognomy of the town directly opposite where the transferred market was located.
Soppo market was posing a lot of challenges like traffic congestion, risking the lives of market goers and pedestrians alike,as buying and selling in the market advanced almost to the centre of the main road. It was therefore in the spirit of curbing these threats that the market was transferred to a safer place dubbed the “Buea Central Market.” But today, despite the motive for that decision, another market opposite COIC, has been established with the same threatening features.
The market which started just with locally cultivated crops has now turned into a complete market or super market with many Buea inhabitants flooding in and out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The Rambler took interest in this worrisome phenomenon and decided to seek reasons why the current circumstance came into being.
According to Desmond Mua, a trader at the newly established market, it is related to land grabbing and not just congestion.
He added that many people prefer the current market in Soppo because it is in the centre of the town. Going by him, those from Buea Town and Molyko can easily access or visit the market, which is less costly and less stressfully but, that the present Buea Central Market is at the outskirts of the town. Here, he said, many face challenges just getting there to purchase one thing or the other.
Mua like his counterparts applauded the initiative of establishing another market that could replace the old Soppo market. He advised, “The market is even getting smaller and with time if nothing is done, some traders would place their business items at the centre of the main road just to sell. Already, we are experiencing little fights here and there on each market day just because of space to sell goods. I would advise the Buea Council that, if it is possible to demolish some private homes or residents around the market to create space, it would be better and would go a long way to solving the issue of space we now face.”
Though the market is gradually but surely posing a challenge of general chaos, traffic congestion besides being the ultimate death trap to denizens, it seems authorities have decided to be blinded over this issue. All attempts to talk to competent municipal authorities pertaining to this issue were futile.
By Relindise Ebune

Rwandan President on why Africa must stop begging, pay bills

Detractors claim that he is a dictator. But Paul Kagame, Rwanda head of state, is often spotted, strolling with his wife along Kigali streets, without bodyguards.
His idea of democracy is practical, flexible and is reaping miracles for the landlocked densely populated East African nation. With booming infrastructural growth, Rwanda is arguably Africa’s fastest growing economy. The capital, Kigali is rated Africa’s cleanest city and third in the world.
But how was all of this achieved, barely after 24 years of a pogrom in which some 800,000 civilians were slaughtered like chickens? Perhaps it is partly because Kagame doesn’t berate his country’s opposition. He doesn’t brand certain Rwandans as extremists. His Governors don’t refer to those they disagree with as ‘dogs and rats.’
Every point of view is taken into account, examined and sometimes factored into the governance process. Consensus is approached and encouraged. Riot acts are not read and military crackdowns ordered at every twist to emphasize a governor’s might.
Wongibe Emmanuel, Deputy General Manager of Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV, recently moderated a press conference in Kigali, at which Kagame fielded questions on his country, democracy and governance in Africa and how the continent could harness its own resources, graduate from beggarliness and star dictating world diplomacy.
Participants at the press conference, included big names in world media circles from Botswana, Senegal, Ghana, Algeria, Morocco, Tanzania, Ivory Coast and the European Broadcasting Corporation.
The interview brings out the best in humility, participatory governance, and zero tolerance for corruption and the idiotic fanfare that characterizes power in other climes.
We have published excerpts of the intriguing interview in our inner pages. As a document, the interview will, especially, fascinate historians, political scientists and researchers. It is simply mind blowing! Read it!

On behalf of all the staff of the union, I want to thank you for accepting to give us time for this conversation.
Mr. President, under your leadership there are many reforms that are being taken by the African Union. One of them attracting lots of attention is the introduction of a levy to be able to finance this union, hampered for many decades by lack of adequate funding. Can you give us an idea of your assessment of the commitment that African leaders have brought to this particular reform and are you confident this will go through.

Thank you. I am happy to be here with you and thanks for the invitation for us to have this conversation. The African Union, AU, has been there for quite some time now as you are aware, and before that there was an organization. It is about how Africa can come together and do what they put through. Some of the things you’ve mentioned, for example the desire by the AU and therefore, by extension we mean African countries and people coming together, working together and being able to do many things for themselves as the desire has been going on for quite some time. This time around, we need to pay our bills ourselves; if you want somebody to pay your bills, then you actually end up paying even more than you actually would have paid; because the one who pays for you in the end owns you or makes you do what they want you to do and not what you want. Some of these initiatives that are on the way are not new. That’s another fact. Remember the recent one where the levy was 0.2 percent eligible imports that came up. It has been argued, it has been defended, it is very clear as one of the best ways to go, to be able to pay for our activities. The AU came at a time when there had been another suggestion and different efforts have been underway. Former President of Nigeria, Obasanjo had brought up a suggestion. Even before that there had been another one, but it all came to nothing. We can’t blame anybody. It is we, African leaders; we would share views but never move… Maybe with time, we will realize we are wasting our own opportunities; we have to get going, to do something for ourselves. So the African countries, leaders now think it is the time we should be able to do what has been waiting for us.

You have taken us through the many attempts at resolving this problem, and you have come to the conclusion that many of them did not bear fruits. Is there any reason to think this will be any different?
Yes, I think every time has its own circumstances to consider, and you assume that maybe once you have failed in the past, maybe you learn from the failure as well. But there is also the kind of problems you have to deal with. We have past failures we should learn from, but we have the present pressures of the day that we have to deal with. We have to think of how to deal with them and maybe go back to these failures, learn from and apply the lessons. But there are also new people maybe… new people had come on the stage, new actors that will always want to do something. There are different faces coming up maybe every five or 10 years, people who come with some freshness of mind, energy. They may end up doing something. I am hopeful that we can do something because the need is there before us; time wasted has been too long; maybe that in itself would force us to do something.

If you permit Mr. President, let’s bring the discussion back home, here in Rwanda your own country. One of the challenges as you have indicated is not just one of financing our operations; it is about how we manage our activities, how we manage our political life (democracy). From a distance, and I must apologize, I don’t have a mastery of the details of the model. But we see in your country a power-sharing model where a ruling party emerges out of highly but fairly contested elections, wins, but brings members of the opposition into Government. It is unusual, it is different. You may know that many people criticize it as being a tool for literally stifling the opposition, but others hail it as being a mechanism for stability. Can you lead us through an understanding of this concept and maybe tell us how you think African countries particularly with the prevalence of confrontations and violence after elections can learn from this model?

That is a very good question but I will simply say that if I look back at places around the world, beyond Africa, I wonder whether anybody has found one single model that is perfect, that will work for all of us. I have never heard or seen that. Even those who pretend to be there to give us suggestions about what we should do, you know very well that currently they are struggling. I think you have seen how the whole world is trying to figure out what should be working for them; or what had been working for them has turned out to be a problem for them. So, for us in Rwanda having learned a lot of lessons, many of them the hard way, we have emerged as very realistic about our situation, about ourselves, even about global issues that in any way affect us. But the most important lesson that came out of that is to be able to understand that we need to think for ourselves and act, based on what is good for us or what is possible for us and what works.
The model we have is simple. As Rwandans, we want peace and security. Every Rwandan needs to feel secured in all aspects of security if you will. We need prosperity; we need to live with each other in harmony and again lack of that in the past taught us total lessons. If we have that understanding, then the other understanding is everybody needs to participate, everybody needs to benefit, and so, they must be at work. That is how we manage to do away with the ‘winner-takes-all’situation; if you are a winner and make the others feel they are losers, even when you have won, you will spend most of your time fighting the person who feels they are losers. Then, you will never begin addressing the problems of the country. That is the objective that provides security, and prosperity which everyone wants. We find no contradiction in exercising democratic rights whereby we do it and at the end of that process, we want to feel that nobody has lost or that after all, there will be another chance to try again. But during that course of time, we need to be building together; those who literally won and others who should not be made to feel that they have lost. Working together is what will give a chance for everyone to connect with those opportunities that are there for the people of this country.
That is what we have tried to do and that is how we came out with an idea of consensus. In fact, we look at the so-called opposition as somebody or a group of people having a different way of thinking. So, what does opposition mean? Destroying what you don’t like? Does it mean fighting with those you don’t like? Opposition means people with different views in terms of delivering what the country and people want. For example, I talked about security, I talked about prosperity. I talked about democratic rights. People have different ways of thinking as to how they can deliver, it is a different view, and it is not that there is an opposition that wants to actually stop people from achieving prosperity or achieving security. When it comes to that, then it is a different opposition, so you confront it differently.

Mr. President as I admitted when we started, I must say that I have been educated about the model but let me just revisit a key concept that you have developed which is the winner takes all. But your model says; you have lost in elections but at the end of the day, we are all winners. What would you say to people who feel winners can lead us to a comfort that is complacent, a comfort that is stifling of new ideas?
First of all, take the comfort; all of us want to be comfortable. Once you have achieved being comfortable, confront what might take it away from you and that means you start thinking exactly about complacence. Now that we are there together, we are moving forward, we are doing what our people want, what is it that might worry me, when down the road, something can come and take it away and then you discover that one of the things might be feeling too comfortable or complacent like you have said. Then you have to start doing things about that so that complacence doesn’t step in, or being too comfortable doesn’t come in, or that going to a point where you may start stifling different ideas, then you still have to confront that. There is no way you are going to escape that responsibility because in the end if that develops in the mind what you say you plan to achieve… But as we said, there is no perfect model, there is no perfect singular process you can apply to these things as we see everywhere in this world. Even if therefore you apply these other models that we talked about and they are working for us, maybe they worked for them but won’t work for us. But if allowed opposition… maybe too much opposition it might also start destroying what you are trying to build or you are not even delivering some of the promises you already made. Again, that is why we are saying it is not a single particular module that people will put out there and say this is the best everybody must apply. It depends on the context, the circumstances and… once you have applied it, what has it given you?
Here in Rwanda, after the tragic situation we had to deal with, these things have been working year-in-year-out for us. So, can we therefore start worrying that these things are working too much for us, we need to switch to something else that works less? If that is coming ahead, maybe when I get there, then I will have to deal with it, but for now, I am happy with what I am seeing. The country is happy for what we are having, what we are doing, what we see happening and we are seeing ahead that there are many opportunities for us to go places.

Mr. President, thanks for those thought provoking ideas.
The African Union of Broadcasters is a family of four linguistic groups; Arabic, English French, Portuguese. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for you to ask your questions to the President. Remember your questions are not only addressed to the President of Rwanda. You also have an opportunity to address the chairman of African Union.
Mr. President, the shocking pictures of young Africans dying in hundreds as they struggle to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe have brought shame to the entire continent and indignation from the rest of the world. What do you, as Chairman of the AU think can be done to tackle this issue?
We have to do two things. One is to deal with it as it is or as it is happening. We have to figure out how do we confront this situation that is occurring by saying how do we get these people, how do we take them to where they came from; find some other way to manage it.
The second is for African countries to individually and collectively find and understand why are these young people in the first place are going wherever, to die in the process. We have to deal with them of course. African countries have got to know why our young people are running away from us at a rate they have to risk dying or sold as slaves or drowning in the seas. It has to do with our own governance, our own socio-economic development. We should be giving opportunities to these people, employing and retaining and making these young people feel that they have their own country they can be proud to stay in, eat, work and when they go outside, it is should be their choice to do so. This is what we have to do; there is no magic bullet to deal with that. We have to deal with it as it is now, we have to think about it as African leaders through the different structures and organs that exist and deal with it as it is. We need to understand them. We need to find something to do and prevent that.
Africa’s population is estimated at some 1,250 billion people with the greater percentage being youth below 25 years. How do you Mr. President appreciate African politics which is…?
Again, the facts I think are very clear. The public policies that are there, however good you may think they are, if they are still producing people to leave countries in search of better living, then we have got to go back and revisit them and fine-tune them and see what is it that is not working. It is very clear; it is a question of whether we are seeing improvement in these tragedies, and then if we are not seeing any improvement, then there is something we need to work on. It is clear, there is no other formula you have to apply, and it is just seeing things for what they are. You can say my country has the best policies but if your country is just producing young people who are just running away from their country, it means the good policies are just on paper, they are not having effect on the ground; that is an indicator that nothing is working, so you’ve got to make it work. If you have good policies that are not being applied, they are for your good too; implement them or they are bad policies outright, so you need to change them. It is what you have; it’s what it gives you. If what you have and are proud of doesn’t give you what you want, then you need to do something different or do it differently but, something has to change.
For sure I am a football fan, particularly I’m an Arsenal fan and I have other teams that I like as well. I was also told indeed that it is difficult, for our broadcasters obtaining rights to broadcast football or other sport due to how that industry is structured.
It is a problem we need to confront, but it is not just football. There are many other areas where African countries will have to depend on others and many other factors as if they are beyond our control. We have to be driven even to an extent our interest is managed and driven by others other than ourselves. So, working around that principle… like we said earlier, we want an African Union that can deliver some of the things for itself. We have to look at ways to deal with it, because it is an embarrassment. I was also told our rights, our citizens’ rights to watch Africans playing football in Africa is also managed by people from outside. This is scandalous of course; there is nothing to be proud of in that. How can we keep like this and for how long? You may find some Africans that are happy about it and that’s the biggest problem; some Africans don’t find anything wrong with that because those rights are given by people who have made them think that they failed, even about ourselves. But we can deal with that as we have dealt with other problems. Why can’t Africa work together like other countries? Sometimes it comes down to money; we are told it is very expensive, you have to pay this and that… But if in the end we pay but very expensively, it actually means money is not our problem. So why don’t we use this money to do what is right and that will actually even reduce the cost. You see what I mean?
Money isn’t so much Africa’s problem as such. We just need to come together. Each country for example should contribute… I remember that several years ago, an African used to be the head of International Telecommunication Union, ITU, from Mali, called Amadou Toure. I had the opportunity; I used to serve on… and the UN and will co-chair that with somebody from Mexico, his private secretary. Probably 10 years ago, he brought up this idea and they came to me and we tried to work on it and we said we should mobilize people to create something whether you call it ‘Aljazeera of Africa’ or ‘CNN of Africa’ whatever the name you may wish, but we want something that can work for Africa in that way and in many other ways as it can. In the end, the idea sort of lost steam but it is still going on and this former Secretary General of ITU had wanted to help but wanted to bring in the private sector to be the ones to do it; bring in so many contributing portions to realize that amount it needed to work; then get in few individuals who have the money and who can pay to do that.
It is an idea we can go back to and emphasize the importance of this, and then bring private sector together with the public sector. We can do something, even if it is so many millions of dollars. I think these African countries are really rich but poor in a different sense. We can afford the money to get those rights where they belong and not only cover football but even politics.
Mr. President, do you have the sentiment or feel that Africa is discouraged in its efforts or I should say even worse, is getting somehow discouraged about its own future?
Yeah, there is this absence; there is this vacuum we have created about ourselves that we need to fill. We don’t have to wait until someone else fills it. I think the vacuum has been waiting for far too long. We need to occupy our space. If we don’t occupy our space, someone else will always occupy it and these are the side effects we are talking about. People from elsewhere, from outside our continent have occupied our space for far too long. Some say they are proud of speaking this language. You said there were three languages here or something, but there are more than that. We find we are looking at each other just from which language you speak which is foreign to us. It becomes another divide and Africans keep running around happy to fight one another because they speak another language. That is one way of wasting our time. I don’t know who in Africa doesn’t know the problems we have; the young, the old, even those you call the ordinary people. Forget about the elite; the elite will tell you more than you want to hear from them about our problems, but they will not tell you about what they are doing about it so, we need to do something. We just can’t keep lamenting, begging, crying about our problems. Heavens know a whole long list of things we are capable of doing for ourselves except greed.
Mr. President, following from your discourse, there are many vacuums on this continent being filled because they have been waiting for too long, particularly the broadcast sector. Let us move our discussion forward by listening to broadcasters who have put a lot of time during this past three days talking about the content, interact with you, share with you their concerns and their ideas about where we move in trying to fill those vacuums you rightly indicated.
We spent the last couple of days discussing the challenges of making local content; that is, Africans telling the African story themselves. I am glad you started talking about the idea of creating a channel. For Africans to tell the African story we need a medium. We cannot allow others owning that medium to produce the content to go on that medium, we need our own; our own not just to speak to Africa but to the whole world. As the Chair of the AU and President of the Republic of Rwanda, how do you think we, Africans, can tell this story to the rest of the world through our own medium?
I think it is understood by everybody, some better than me what we need to do. But like in many other cases I keep going back to this. There is something we need to break away from. I don’t know whether it is an issue of mentality or whatever it is, this question you have raised. I have heard about it hundreds of times over so many years; everybody is raising that question, everybody is talking about that. But why should we fail to move a step forward and answer that question? Let me put it this simple; to speak for yourself you need your own mouth. You can’t just be there and then you give somebody a signal that let them speak for you. It doesn’t make sense. And we have you; we have many others in this room and outside who know what you are talking about very well. We need our own content; we need our own way of transmitting that not only to the people of Africa but to the outside world. What we have had for far too long here is outsiders owning our mouths that should be telling our story and they end up telling our story the way they want and not the way it is. It is as simple as that.
You have these people working in the industry here in the room, and where else… we can have more, we can train more. They need to develop, create their content that actually tells the good story or the right story for that matter about our continent. But how do they transmit it to other Africans? You can’t take it for granted even on African matters.The general public needs to be informed, needs to understand, needs to know what is happening in their own countries, in their own continent. Who tells them this? You can’t have people outside our continent telling the general public of our continent of Africa the story about them. What they do though to say they have a good argument is that they coopt a few of us who also are happy to tell the African story the way those outsiders want. They do that, to be frank with ourselves; they coopt good African people to tell the story of Africa the way those outsiders see it. And then, they are happy to carry out that service. We need to change that and the way to change it is very clear. Following the question itself you get the answer.
Mr. President, you use very good imagery when talking about using your own mouth to speak and we are reminded with the similar image that you put your mouth where your money is. We are here, public service broadcasters in Africa; the reality is, do we own the resources? Similarly, do we want to speak with our own mouths, putting our own money where it should be so that we could speak…? I am drawing from the substance of what we have been discussing and to prolong our discussion so that we could move to another participant who wants to ask another question.
Before you do that, from what you’ve just said it is important; we need countries, maybe Rwanda or any other, to actually put money with our broadcasters. Then, what is even going to work better is if we now bring all these together in the interest of our continent. We can find a way of reaching out to each other once different countries have put in their money with their broadcasters, then they can forge something now that works for the continent. We can move like that and I think it is possible. But we have to have the political will; we have to change some of our thinking.
Mr. President, next week, leaders of the African Union will be meeting; among issues on the table would be how to implement the free trade area agreement. My understanding is that this is an area where there have been fears in the past and these fears are actually reflected in practices such as trade areas, protectionism. Do you see benefits of free trade areas outweighing fears? Secondly, what is the assessment of the level of commitment among leaders on the continent to implement this?
Well, to begin with, I will say that the fears are false or if you will, the lost opportunity of not having a free trade area is much bigger than the fears. If you want to apply a sort of business mindset to this very kind of logic, it might work well. So, the cost is in the benefit. If you look at all the arguments, what we lose by not trading among ourselves, by not allowing freedom of movement of people, goods and services across Africa, the cost is huge and we lose a lot.
Now, I haven’t even understood very well what the fears are. You know, when in Rwanda, we removed the travel visas for people especially the Africans; every African comes here, of course we were told we were going to run into problems for ourselves when we have… I mean a lot of criminals, all kinds of people in here, destroying what we are building. The good news is that, that has not happened for the years we have removed the visa requirement. I think this was imaginary fear. Maybe in some other cases the fear is real; they may take it even from a worst case scenario but is there no way of dealing with this fear that may be preventing you from having something much bigger than you are getting by applying this fear? People make simple calculations and work on that basis. You can find ways around. So, continental free trade area, if it happens that it is applied, it would be the best thing that has happened to Africa. We should go ahead with it because there are no arguments against it. There is no debate about it.
What I am seeing therefore on the second part of the question is that Africans really want it and they have seen that the benefits they have, outweigh the fears. They have seen that the benefits are enormous and we are forging ahead. I think that’s what we would be emphasizing during this extraordinary summit that would be happening here in Kigali.
Even as broadcasters and others, this is what I was saying; we need to be out there to explain even in simple terms, so that our citizens really understand. I think our citizens are not the ones blocking any way for it to happen. It is our leaders; leaders I don’t mean heads of state and Governments. I mean at every levels. If they don’t understand the sense of urgency to have this free trade area, and for it to be implemented, then we lose. But by explaining every day, every time; making the wider populations of our continent to understand; if we did that then even the leaders would treat it as urgent, and then we move on.
Mr. President, as we listen to this discourse, we feel a sense of urgency in what you say. Leapfrogging is maybe the best way Africa has to go. We will not come back to do things the way they have been done in the past. Our discussions at this General Assembly… the forum that preceded this was all about digital switchover, which we believe is also one way of leapfrogging and trying to answer the urgency that you are talking about in handling many African issues.
Again, there might be some fear about this switchover but it’s imaginary. I don’t know whether it is just because people fear new things to try them out, but already, they are trying other things that are digital in different parts of our continent that they also associate with some benefits. Why don’t we do it even in the area of broadcasting? We have something that has been created called ‘Smart Africa’ a number of countries on our continent are doing different good things and lots of innovations in their own countries. If they are looking at what is happening and how economies are being transformed, why would you leave this switchover from digital to analogue in system of broadcasting? It brings along similar benefits. I really cannot understand why the slowness or worries that people may have; they don’t want to move along or they move slowly but we can keep talking about it and raising our voices and stressing the need to do that, especially associating the need to do that with the benefits that are going to be there.
Again as we talked about earlier, some of the things in our own country which we have done; I hope we can reassure our brothers and sisters from across the continent that if it can happen in Rwanda and there is no harm or there is just benefit, that can happen anywhere else; and can happen much better than it has happened here. We talked about removing the visa restriction, we talked about different things we have tried to do from a very complicated history back here in our country. We try to do that so that we improve our own situation. We didn’t do that to impress anybody but that can also constitute a lesson for somebody looking from the outside; who sees that well, if this did this and resolved the problem they had, and they are making good progress, maybe if I apply the same thing in our situation, the same might happen. The switchover we are all going to encourage others who haven’t done it, much as the deadlines have been set, that is not enough. People can’t just be driven by deadlines; they can only be driven by their understanding of what they have to benefit by doing something. But we ourselves can help each other in understanding that this switchover is necessary, it’s beneficial, it’s doable. You can keep arguing for it until you convince the others to try to do it as well.
Mr. President, we are gradually drawing to the end of this very engaging conversation. Without abusing your availability, would you give an opportunity for one last question?
Sure, of course, one or two, no problem.
I have two questions. The first one is; the idea of ‘Smart Africa’ is very interesting, but why is ‘Smart Africa’ not taking the lead in this process because your idea was to improve all the benefits of telecommunication in the African dimension. I think that convergence is the key element and what ‘Smart Africa’ is doing now, the broadcasting is being neglected and I think that this is something that could be used in integrating the entire sub region.
The second; the relationship between the African and the European Union is very important but, every time I talk with my friend at the European Commission in Brussels and I ask them; why you don’t do more in the field of the media, in the field of culture? And they tell us but you know, whenever we raise these issues with our counterparts they say no, this is not a priority; the priorities are others so, we invest money in the other fields. The Ambassador of the European Union came to us yesterday night and said that there are many in the move in the country even if you don’t ask us. But I think that if you ask, if you say that it is relevant for you as you have told us, this could be more important, it could bring more benefits to both sides.
First of all, the ‘Smart Africa’ initiative is young, it is not very old. So I am glad that it would take care of that app if we need to work together this migration problem… we have delayed but we have not forgotten to do that, I am sure we can do that and I am happy to wish for that since I am again the chair of AU, I will do it.
For the European Union and partnership with Africa, and what we can do together, I am sure there might be people who thought that putting money in this area is not important. But I tell you, in the next three months, I will do something about it. I am going to raise my voice very loud and clear about what we can do in the partnership between Europe and Africa and that is very important.
Are there reflections on developing…?
When I was saying something about reforms, the fact that African leaders found it necessary to carry out these reforms was a recognition that something needs to be done; something different or something needs to be done differently. So it is recognition that something is not working for us the way we want and the way it should. Therefore, the fact that there is need for reforms and people recognizing, they are speaking to that fact which you have raised. In the reform process, we need to identify the number of things; what is it that is actually going to work and then you fix it. I think I’ll go back to the idea which somebody from Asia raised that; we need to have the advisory mechanism. He talked about it is to help us identify what and how. We can apply it in many other cases that require change that we are not realizing up to this point. So we try to realize what is it that is lacking in place, what is it that is in place but it is not giving us the expected results and why? So we keep fixing that. It is a long process. It is a complex one but we need to do something about it.

Mr. President, we are gradually coming to the close of our conversation but, if you permit ladies and gentlemen, two very important points that we take home today; the President’s invitation to fill the many African vacuums that are waiting and for us broadcasters to know what our own values are; secondly, the President’s call for action now and not too much talk. Mr. President we want to thank you on behalf of all the members of the union, for having engaged us in this discussion about broadcasting and the development of our continent. Thank you very much!

Signing AfCFTA, giant stride forward for Africa’s development ECA’s – Vera Songwe

“With the signature of the Kigali Declaration for the Launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Africa makes a giant stride forward in continental integration, in the pan-African vision, and in the development of our continent,” said Vera Songwe, the Executive Secretary of the ECA.
Speaking during the official signing ceremony last week in Kigali, Ms. Songwe noted that this historical moment shows the resolve of African leaders to bring the continent’s diversity together and make the flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063 a reality. She thanked all UN agencies for their support and said that the ECA was “honoured to be associated with this great and historic moment.”

During the recent 18th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Summit held in Kigali, 44 African countries signed the AfCFTA, while a total of 50 signed either the agreement or the Kigali declaration, underscoring their commitment to the agreement, which aims at doubling intra-African trade by removing non-tariff and tariff barriers on goods and services. Moreover, 27 countries also signed the separate African Union Protocol on Free Movement of People, which complements the AfCFTA by providing for visa-free travel, the right of residency and the right of business or professional establishment, for citizens between signatory countries.
During his keynote address, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Chairperson of the African Union, said, “the AfCFTA [was] the culmination of a vision set forth nearly 40 years ago in the Lagos plan of action adopted in 1980,” for a continent-wide market. He also recognized the preeminent role of the regional economic communities in fostering African integration.

Also speaking during the historical ceremony attended by 19 heads of state, and more prime ministers and foreign ministers, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, thanked the ECA for its support during the more than two years of negotiations. He went on to say “Africa is a sleeping giant that can’t wake up if the continent is divided. It’s time to accelerate the pace of integration, as international competition leaves no room for the weak”, and he called upon African Member States to also sign the Protocol on the free movement of persons, enabling the creation of an African passport.

The ECA Executive Secretary also urged Member States to promptly ratify the AfCFTA, recalling that the agreement will only enter into force once a sufficient number of countries have ratified the agreement.

Likewise, the ECA Chief said the signing of the AfCFTA only marks the end of the first phase of the AfCFTA negotiations, insisting on the need for effective implementation. The AfCFTA Country Business Index launched by the ECA during the Summit will be one of the tools to keep track of implementation, through periodic surveys of business opinions on the real impact of the agreement on trade.

Ms. Songwe also reaffirmed the necessity to leave no one behind, as defined in the Sustainable Development Goals, by making sure everyone benefits from the new opportunities created by the AfCFTA.

According to the ECA, among the key beneficiaries will be small and medium sized enterprises, accounting for 80 per cent of the region’s businesses; women, who represent 70 percent of the informal cross-border traders; and the youth, who will be able to find new employment opportunities.

ECA estimates that AfCFTA has the potential both to boost intra-African trade by 52.3 percent by eliminating import duties, and to double this trade if non-tariff barriers are also reduced.
Abel Akara Ticha
(Communication Officer, Sub-regional Office for Central Africa, UN Economic Commission for Africa, ECA,)