AMBAZONIA ACTIVISTS TELL JUDGE: ‘You can’t stop us talking’

By Beng Humphrey Fang

“I am facing a death sentence here. You cannot stop us from talking even if you want to charge us for contempt and sentence us. We have the right to talk. It is not a favour given us to talk. I insist that it is not a favour as you are saying there…”

This was Barrister Eyambe, one of those standing trial alongside Sisiku Ayuk-Tabe Julius in a Yaounde military court. It was during their last but one appearance in court and he blurted out to the trial Judge who ordered the accused to keep quiet, stating that the opportunity the accused persons had been given to speak was but a favour accorded them.

But an undaunted Eyambe screamed further: “I cannot be standing a deadly trial and a witness testifies against me in the absence of my lawyers.” The trial of the Ambazonia leaders had taken a dramatic turn after lawyers defending the accused persons staged a walkout of the court hall and which the presiding magistrate described as ‘voluntary and unjustifiable.’

 Having decided to walk out without justification and not reconstituting themselves, said the judge, could not stop the trial from proceeding. But the accused resisted, beckoning on the court to come to knowledge on the fact that they cannot be tried on felonious crimes in the absence of their lawyers and still have a chance to reconcile with their counsel to come back or not.

Citing humanitarian reasons, the accused persons had requested for an adjournment. Che Fidelis, one of the 10 accused persons and two others were said to be sick and could not withstand the rigours of the trial. The situation of Che Fidelis was said to have gotten more serious in the restart of session after the first suspension.  The accused persons earlier on before their counsel’s walkout had through one of them, Professor Augustine Awasum told the court that they were on hunger strike in protest against the ‘abduction’ of over ‘195 Ambazonians’ from the Yaoundé, Kondengui Central prison riot and had suffered protracted illnesses.

“It is just a matter of respect that we came to this court today,” Prof. Awasum told the tribunal. But the government commissioner reacting, rubbished the hunger strike staged by the accused, adding that it was a delay tactic by the accused on the proceedings. Medical problems, as they accused claimed are affecting some of them, are proven in papers or medical reports or documents and not by verbal pronouncements. The accused persons in court had rejected a medical offer by the colonel who is also l medical doctor, brought to testify against them to one theirs, Che Fidelis, arguing that someone testifying against them on dead penalty charges cannot be brought to attend one of theirs.

The court’s call for witnesses against the accused persons to testify sparked a row as the defendants took to their feet insisting that it cannot happen in the absence of their lawyers and one of them who lied sick in court. Barrister Shufai Blaise Berinyuy was overheard while addressing the court saying that the move by the court was clear injustice and questioning how it was possible for the new counsel to cross examine the witness’ testimony presented in their absence.

“I am facing a death sentence here. You cannot stop us from talking, even if you want to charge us for contempt and sentence us. We have the right to talk. It’s not a favour given us to talk. I insist it is not a favour as you are saying there” Barrister Eyambe exploded.

“I cannot be standing a deadly trial and a witness testifies against me in the absence of my lawyers” he added.

 “Why can you not just judge and sentence us in our absence as you want to try us in the absence of our lawyers? Will our brother who is lying sick here get up and know what was testified against him by the witness?” accused persons ferociously questioned calling on the court  to take them back to prison and continue with the case.

“We are pleading that we should be taken back to prison and let the hearing continue. This case cannot continue unless we are taken out and you people continue,” the defendants could be heard shouting out and overshadowing the witness ordered to ride on with the testimony.

The prosecution in their submission after the defense had walked out said the action by the lawyers to walk out was in disrespect of the law and out of ego, warning that “those who want the respect of the law should first of all respect it.” The prosecution had regretted that their clients never had the opportunity which the defendants have to have been tried before being killed but said they are much ready for the prosecution to start while insisting that no interlocutory ruling had ever been passed in the court as the defense claim.

According to the defense on the walk out, their appeals at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court against the court’s interlocutory rulings are still pending examination. Citing the law, they said the military court which is of the first instance is supposed to suspend proceedings on the matter. But the judge had told the court that the appeal does not or cannot suspend proceedings on the matter on grounds that the issues said to have been appealed are not substantive.

After the second suspension the of session for the day at 6:11pm as a result of the accused’s resistance against the attempted trial in their lawyers’ absence, the presiding magistrate noted that the tribunal took into consideration the health situation of the accused and for humanitarian reasons, adjourned the matter to yesterday, Monday, August 19.

As we went to press, nothing substantial had yet filtered from the proceedings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barrister Nso’s recusal, ‘ping-pong’ with defence colleagues

By Beng Humphrey Fang

The festering power show among various climes of Anglophone separatists has assumed a very treacherous and potentially fatal twist as each faction opposed to a united Cameroon jostles for visibility and hegemony.From Cameroon to Switzerland and the United States of America, the rhythm is one of cacophony in strategy and ‘ground zero’ tactics.

In the light of the above, the sacking of Barrister Fru John Nsoh by mainstream defence counsel for Sissiku Ayuk Tabe and nine others is seen as a recent derivative of avoidable squabbling at a time when synergy of forces against tyranny and misrule is of essence.Subsequent to this untoward development and haggard from the deleterious stigma of incompetence and lack of professional consciousness affixed to his person in a recent press conference in Yaoundé wherein he was also recused as lead defence counsel, Barrister Nso has in retribution taken a swipe at his erstwhile comrades in arms.

Speaking on Cameroon’s Douala-based Equinox television channel on phone, the lawyer said nobody has the right to remove him as lead counsel of the college of lawyers. He, however, regretted that instead of the lawyers to sympathize with him for making such outings, they instead want to remove him as lead counsel.

Commenting on what is alleged to have triggered the move by the lawyers to take such an action against him, the outspoken lawyer, Barrister Fru in the phone call enunciated loud and clear, his earlier allegation that Sissiku Ayuk Tabe has been compromised by the Cameroon government. Going further, he alleged that the results of his investigation hold that the detained separatist leader has been having meetings in prison with the presidency of the Republic of Cameroon through its Secretary General, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh to the extent they have been signing documents. Meantime, Barrister Fru’s investigation as he claimed, is yet to reveal the content of the meeting or documents alleged to have been signed between the Southern Cameroons beleaguered leader and the presidency. An outing by the disavowed lawyer is highly awaited as soon as he returns to the Cameroon as he said his reaction to the disclaimer against him by the lawyers will be uncovered when he returns to Cameroon from the U.S.

Going by the joint statement presented by the assistant lead counsel Barrister Paddy Yong on behalf of the college of lawyers defending the Ambazonia leadership in detention, the lawyers said Fru John Nso had recused himself as lead lawyer of the team by virtue of his outing, emphatically stating that they, lawyers are just legal and not political advisers to the detainees. The lawyers equally clarified that the man of law has just been stripped of his position as lead lawyer but remains a member of the team. “Fru remains part of the team, but we cannot look up to him as lead counsel,” they stated. Stemming from there, they added that any outing or utterance henceforth by the said lawyer is personal and not on behalf of the defense. Without mincing words, “we distance ourselves from Barrister Fru’s outings in the USA and other foreign media organs,” the team declared.

Worthy of note is the fact that the legal ping-pong being played by the Sisiku Ayuk defence lawyers is just a microcosm of the rotten potato that advocates of Southern Cameroons separation from La Republique du Cameroun now project. From fragile breakaway factions to discordant communiqués on the same subject with impeachments and counter impeachments in tow, the struggle for Anglophone emancipation is certainly far from denouement. Perhaps the issue that is ordinarily amenable to reexamination requires more evenhandedness than the current pigheadedness.

Mission to Kodengui

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gobata (for the Yaounde Hut 2 Caucus)

Government by horsewhip, for rough riders and opportunists

They call us dogs. But they prevent us from lying down when we fall asleep. They decreed that we are dogs, but opted to ride us like the proverbial willing horse to… They, the overlords loathe barking dogs, even though we bark because we are hungry, angry. Our riders pull and push us from both ends, they scream and lash out. Amba militias and those we purportedly voted into office expect us to run with the hare and hunt with the dogs, our administratively designated cousins.

Amba militants have decreed that we keep every Monday “holy.” They burn our shops; they trim our fingers and occasionally behead us especially when we venture to also obey those they love to hate. Amba opponents seize our cars, they seal our shops and other business premises when we perceive that venturing out of our homes could mean having our automobiles burnt to ashes or our fingers sadistically chopped off by psychotic militias.

We, the People have become the grass upon which two bullish elephants are clumsily fighting for political space and advantage. Whereas Amba chieftains have commandeered the social media through which their “commanders” and “generals” reel out Sharia-like edicts, their “elected” opponents swear at us via the insipid speeches and obnoxious propaganda they routinely force-feed us with. When they are not disconnecting the internet to return us to technological childhood so we become social cannon fodder, they are tacitly employing circus animals to chase us around for their evening television entertainment.

As we write, the buffoonery is playing out in Buea, chief town of the Southwest Region. “The army is here to protect us,” by way of providing rock solid cover for drugged street urchins, hired by the local council to seal the hundreds of business places that failed to open their doors on “holy” or “Amba” Monday if you will. Many shop attendants (mostly young girls) have been arrested and held in detention because they dared to reopen their shops; such shops as were illegally and criminally sealed in the first place. A select few have been left open either because their owners are “connected” or because a small bribe was paid to a member of the mayor’s prowling gang.

Like was the case in the American Wild West many years back, a Quixotic mayor, guarded by fully armed military personnel regularly parades the streets, barking out orders and threatening whosoever fails to fling open the doors of their business places. Even if one traveled out of town; even if one took ill and couldn’t open on a Monday, one’s shop was sealed. Television cameras follow the mayor for effect. Hundreds of taxicabs are commandeered and taken to the Town Hall. They are only released against an undertaking that their owners would be out on Mondays, daring the ubiquitous rag-tag militias.

As it stands, we, the People have become playthings on the chessboard of Amba militias and the very “infallible” state authority.  We get tossed about and along like a bad coin in the market. Occasionally, we are slaughtered like chickens by both state and separatist fighters.

The prevailing socio-political climate in the Anglophone Regions particularly gives room for much trepidation. In Buea like elsewhere, morally bankrupt state authorities are making hay, feeding fat from what is clearly a bloody, sordid situation.  Despite the dire times, residents of the so called town of excellence are chipping in money to fix their own roads and provide their own water. The hundreds of commercial bikers chased off the streets late last year have either been “baptized” into the Amba confraternity or at the very worst breaking and entering at night. The only visible sign of municipal action in Buea is seen in the clusters of boutiques practically taking over every side walk and green space and said to be realized on a “Build, Operate and Transfer, BOT, agreement. Otherwise what also constitutes development here is the television appearances of gallery eye servants spoiling to rule the roost.

The incidence of unemployed youth, miserable looking internally displaced individuals in addition to the dehumanizing poverty has more than obliterated what is left of human dignity. We are virtually in an era where deviance across the societal board is fast becoming normal, with law and order irretrievably headed for the brink with each passing day. Those charged with local leadership, including a quixotic mayor have virtually turned themselves to devouring monsters and parasites who feed on the misery of the mass populace.

The typical selective amnesia notwithstanding, those we call our leaders are invariably courting a national crisis of unimaginable proportions. The highest authority in the land is quoted millions of times daily, his name conveniently dropped by quislings eager to conceal their repugnant dross. And they do this with a creeping determinism. Despite the tough talk including a rather ostrich approach to solving the raging crisis, separatist agitations, virulent criminality and extreme insecurity persist. Summary executions by both the regular army and Amba boys are carried out with a devil-may-care abandon.

There is a progressive collapse of the organizing principles of society, loss of fraternity, empathy and confidence. And political scavengers and other cringing cattle egrets are hovering around the dung of misfortune, expecting to feed from crap at the expense of the common good.

Last line…

The pyramidal heap of corpses, especially of innocent, harmless English speaking Cameroonians keeps piling. Starvation and poverty in capital letters is clearly etched on the average English Cameroonian’s forehead.

Speech makers keep swearing fire and brimstone. Soldiers and other gun toting operatives are transforming their guns and other weapons of coercion into meal tickets. “Dog whistlers” are ironically lashing out at their beasts of burden with sadistic relish while convincing the tin god that horses are meant to be ridden roughshod until they qualify for the knackers.

Selective amnesia prescribes that they forget about what hit the good old Bob of Zimbabwe.

Cheers, and let’s keep suffering and smiling!

By Charlie Ndi Chia

The February 11 challenge

While Government is battling to bring to a halt the imposed ‘ghost town’ days in the two English speaking Regions, the Youth Day celebration which is fast approaching imposes a double challenge for them to combat with as it falls on Monday; a day observed as ‘ghost town.’

Unlike the previous years when taxis could ply the road on such a day, this 2019 comes with an increase in the momentousness of respecting an imposed ghost town due to the upsurge of threats, occasional torture and even execution of some innocent Cameroonians who dared going against such a restriction.

With the severity with which ghost towns have been respected recently by the vulnerable population in these Regions, the Youth Day Celebrations on February 11 comes with much uncertainty in as far as the turnout of youths to give the day the grandeur it deserves is concerned. Though at the level of preparations by officials, it was revealed recently that Buea will host just one marching centre and that nursery pupils won’t take part in the march past this year adding to other amendments, the safety of the children who will turn out on that day as of now is still a concern to most parents.

Regarding the high rate at which students are being abducted, with some having their fingers chopped off, some parents which The Rambler spoke with noted that they are not certain if their children would be taking part in this year’s Youth Day manifestation. Ejang Celestin, a Buea based parent said it would be better for his child to eventually serve any punishment that may come up as a result of it not participating in the Youth Day march past than to participate and end up sustaining injuries, abducted or even killed outright.

Others like Ejang wondered about the security of their children. “Getting first to the marching ground is already an issue since taxis don’t circulate on Mondays in Buea and even if transportation is made available for children participating, what of the security of that child away from the ceremonial grounds? We know these boys are always civilian wears, hence it would be difficult to identify them” Ashu Brenda, a mother worriedly stated.

Though many are not in support of the imposed ‘ghost towns’ which have very seriously impoverished the Regions, making life hellish and unbearable to its occupants, respecting embargo they stated, is mainly for the fear of the unknown. Hopes are however high especially on the part of the organizers and Government top brass that the Youth Day celebration would be a success with the expected population.

By Relindise Ebune

Dion Ngute rises politically from the ashes of his burnt palace

It is a new phenomenon in Cameroon. It started off with the burning of schools by members of dissident groups claiming an independent state of ‘Ambazonia.’ Regular soldiers took the relay baton and reduced whole villages to ashes. High profile victims of arson include Professor Paul Nchoji Nkwi, member of the Constitutional Council of Cameroon. His village home in Njinikom in Boyo Division of the Northwest Region was burnt down by soldiers, barely months after his appointment to that council. Another is Doh Jerome, Secretary of State in charge of Penitentiary Administration in the Ministry of Justice. His home in his native Bali in Mezam Division was burnt by suspected Amba boys. We are told that Fon Chafah, a Senator and traditional ruler of Bangolan in the Northwest Region also lost his palace to separatist fighters.

On January 3, it was the turn of Chief Dr. Dion Joseph Ngute of Bongongo Barombi 1 near Lobe in Ndian Division of the Southwest Region. Some 24 hours after arsonists suspected to be ‘Amba boys’ torched his palace, a presidential decree appointed him Prime Minister and Head of Government.

The modern structure, constructed  in his native Bongongo 1 village,  in Ekondo-Titi subdivision of Ndian Division in the Southwest Region which also  serves as his palace alongside some trucks used in his palm plantation are were reduced to ashes.

Pictures which circulated on social media showed a building whose windows and some house hold equipment have been reduced by flames. Like the proverbial phoenix, Ngute rose from the ashes of misfortune or better still of his burnt palace to be named Prime Minister and Head of Government, taking over from Philemon Yang who had served in that capacity for slightly over nine years.

The incident also came barely two days after President Paul Biya addressed the nation vowing to restore peace in no distant time in the restive Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon. Biya had went the extra step to state how he was going to order the army to annihilate militants who failed to surrender to the newly created commission for Disarmament and Rehabilitation. But as if to dare the head of state and show their defiance for the commission, suspected separatists set the house of the one he was about to name as Prime Minister on fire.

  Dion Ngute is a long-serving time Cabinet Minister in the Biya Government. He served for over a decade and a half as Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relations in charge of the Commonwealth. His last “Ministerial port of call” was Minister of Special Duties at the Presidency of the Republic. 

Meanwhile other Ministers whose village homes have been torched during the ongoing war in the two Anglophone Regions include Victor Arrey Mengot of Manyu and Paul Tasong of Lebialem.

One of the most daunting tasks facing the new occupant of the Star Building would be seeking a permanent end to the raging war that has destroyed both precious lives and countess property in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon.

BY NGENDE ESTHER

The negotiation PM – Can he fix the damage?

The appointment of Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute as PM is strategic and circumstantial, perhaps with little weight placed on his achievements in his previous role at the Presidency and more on his negotiation skills and network as the longest serving Minister Delegate in charge of the Commonwealth and his role in the allocation judgment of the contested Region of Bakassi Peninsular by the European Court of Justice in favour of Cameroon. Like it or not, Cameroon, once considered as one of the safest countries in Central Africa is at a very delicate point at home and beyond, and there is a desperate need for a ‘Negotiation Prime Minister’ with international legal experience to be the ‘Handy-Manny’ of a shattered country increasingly surrounded by national and international enemies and a few friends of self rather than collective national interest. The President and indeed, the government needed a ‘new’ face and reliable personality with experience of the root causes, culture and people of the two English speaking Northwest and Southwest Regions.

It appears H.E Dion Ngute maintains a long standing network with the UN and other potential stakeholders who would be key in any final negotiation settlement to rescue the country or at least repair SOME of the big damages that Cameroon is struggling to cope with, including the ongoing dirty war between government forces and Ambazonia armed separatist fighters and the shocking withdrawal of the 2019 CAN hosting rights.

The deteriorating ‘Anglophone Conflict’ requires a meaningful and effective peaceful negotiation before active fighting spills over to other Regions hosting Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs. All sides must now realize that this horizontal war cannot be won by either side using military tactics even if sustained for decades. Innocent citizens and ordinary Cameroonians are paying the ultimate blood price as both sides refuse to unilaterally lay down their arms or withdraw government forces from the affected Regions. The Ambazonia war is taking a different shape, unfavourable to all sides involved. Ambazonia armed fighters initially supported by local and Diaspora communities are controlling huge territory and gradually creating ungovernable spaces in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. Local infighting between Ambazonia armed groups, inexperienced fighters and Diaspora leadership splits is resulting in a disorganized ground fighting, human rights violations, kidnappings for ransom , extortions, beheadings and other dangerous terror related activities that is reversing gained sympathy and support from the local population and the international community. The PM will have to balance these factors carefully when the government decides to engage the key stakeholders of the conflict in a neutral environment.

A meaningful negotiation should commence, one that addresses the real ‘Anglophone problems’ that have kept the country disunited for more than four decades, rather than exclusively addressing the resulting effects in the hope that causation factors will disappear under the carpet. A genuine process will require the participation of carefully selected credible national and Diaspora stakeholders, especially those with ´big dogs in the fight.’

Negative international image

The negative international image hanging over Cameroon, the pressure on the national economy and social life is mounting at high speed and any effective solution requires a head of government with plenty of solution orientation skills. But in the complex circumstances, someone who can distance himself from the immediate scene of the damage and say, ‘it was not me in charge when things hit the fan but I am here to fix the situation, give me a chance.’

This is a strategic Presidential appointment at a time when the key leadership of various Ambazonia armed separatist groups, viz;  Ambazonia Defence Forces, ADF, of Dr Cho Ayaba ; Southern Cameroons Défense Force, SOCADEF, of Dr Ebenezer Akwanga and the Ambazonia Security Council, ASC, of the Interim Government, IG, under Dr Samuel Sako are split over leadership control – rendering a negotiation process even more complex with the potential for spoilers should key stakeholders be left in the cold. The current negotiation dynamics should involve a support pre-negotiation mechanism to unite the ´Ambazonia’ leadership without freezing out either moderate voices or those who prefer armed struggle as the only viable solution.

This is perhaps the last PM under the current centralized structure and his role is the most critical in deciding the future of Cameroon, one that should be embraced with celebrations of business as usual.’

The President, the newly appointed PM, the people of Cameroon at home and abroad and the international community will not rest peacefully until the current conflict is buried below and not above their heads once and for all. It is down to H.E. Dion Ngute to play his best and most challenging role in the history of Cameroon as the ´Negotiation Prime Minister.’

ELECAM Board Chair prescribes courage, optimism against insecurity

Last week’s outing by Enow Abrams Egbe, ELECAM Board Chair and Erik Essousse, Director General of Elections to the Southwest turned out to be a crusade by avowed optimists and Pastors’ sons to overturn the impossibility of holding elections under ambient insecurity in the Region. In the opinion of the Board Chair, he is an impenitent optimist and, propelled by such mindset, he sees no reason why elections should not hold in the Region.
Enow Abrams was reacting to a welcome address presented by Mewanu Divine Mokoto, newly appointed Interim Regional Delegate for the Southwest wherein he had catalogued a plethora of adversities that had been plaguing the smooth functioning of the elections management body here.
In this connection, he had euphemistically concluded that “with the current scenario of mutual animosity between separatist forces and the regular army that has induced massive exodus from the rural areas where fighting is most endemic, only a spectacular turn-round of circumstances shall permit ELECAM to organize, manage and supervise any of the scheduled elections this year in the Southwest Region.”
But, the Board Chair seems to have been viewing matters from a different perspective, underpinned by an entrenched desire to ensure that no circumstance; not even the prevalent insecurity in the Region shall prevent elections from holding on scheduled dates.
As encouragement, he counseled staff in the Region to be optimistic and collaborate fully with the administration in their various Council and Divisional Branches. He assured that strategies to be revealed at the appropriate moment have been conceived to circumvent some of the hurdles engendered by the current political upheaval in the English speaking Regions.
As reassurance to staff who had already been de-motivated by the opaque management of his predecessor, Abdoulaye Babale, the Director General announced a series of palliative measures intended to induce renaissance in the morally sapped working force of the Region. The goodies from the Essousse generosity consignment include realignment with the National Social Insurance Fund, NSIF, from which workers had not been benefitting from family allowance and maternity allocations for more than three years even as their contributions were regularly deducted on a monthly basis. Worse, even is the fact that those proceeding on retirement were to have found payment of their pension imperiled. Workers were assured of immediate regularization of the situation. Other allowances and gratifications also, came under review, including issuance of irrevocable salary transfer attestations to banks to facilitate loans suspended under dubious circumstances for more than three years and bonuses for registration and successful conduct of elections. These, the Director General of Elections assured, are not promises but measures already activated.
As part of the catalogue of impediments to hitch-free organization, management and supervision of elections in the Region, the Interim Southwest Regional Delegate posited that activities have been completely shut down in some localities. To concretise his assertion, he revealed that Konye and Mbonge Council Branches in Meme Division, Alou, Menji and Wabane in Lebialem Division, Tinto, Eyumojock and Akwaya in Manyu Division, Nguti in Kupe-Muanenguba Division, Muyuka in Fako Division and Toko and Dikome Balue Coucil Branches in Ndain Division have been deserted by their staff due to unbearable persistent insecurity caused by marauding militia in these areas. As a result, there has been a drastic drop in registration and card distribution figures, restriction of movements to hinterlands due to far flung distances between villages and polling stations and also, interferences by assailants who see the forests separating villages as convenient hideouts.
“Other factors that impede efficient and effective acquittal of our bounden duty include hostility towards ELECAM staff that have materialized in the kidnap of staff of Tinto Council Branch, and arson attempt on Kupe-Muanenguba Divisional Branch, Nguti Council Branch and Limbe II Council Branch and restrain from open sensitization and registration exercises. Your working visit nationwide will definitely reinstate confidence amongst the personnel,” he stated.
The delegate regretted the fact that there has been complete rejection of and heightened apathy against ELECAM by communities in distress, just like civil disobedience epitomized in the boycott of major national events like Youth Day, Women’s Day, Labour Day, National Day by the population hence, stalling their targeted massive registration given the difficulty in movement of staff and electoral materials owing to administrative edicts barring movements in most parts of the Region.
“Given our current situation of lined-up elections this year, the current rolling stock (vehicles and motorcycles) cannot meet up with the magnitude of tasks.
On behalf of the Southwest ELECAM family, he hoped the resolve of the Chairperson of the Electoral Board, Enow Abrams Egbe and the Director General, Dr. Essousse Erik to embark on a joint working visit on the heels of his recent appointment underpins exceptional stewardship and a crusading determination to curb some of the deficiencies that had been robbing ELECAM of the natural shine that it was supposed to radiate. Mokoto added that their “current action evokes palpable zeal, strengthened by concern for your immediate collaborators, the entire ELECAM family and our beloved nation Cameroon; all the glory of God through servitude, competence, transparency and reliability that will certainly result in total satisfaction for all.”
By Nester Asonganyi

Election deferral bill smuggled into parliament after statutory deadline

The draft bill to initiate postponement of House of Assembly and Municipal elections statutorily due this year has finally reached the House of Assembly after it fuelled speculations and debates among Cameroonians and on the social media. Tabled to the National Assembly for deliberation and eventual enactment into law five days behind statutory deadline, the bill takes root from an earlier presidential edict to the Speakers of the Senate and House of Assembly and President of the Constitutional Council intimating them of his intention to postpone elections into the concerned bodies by one year, effective from October 29, 2018.
The decision to postpone the elections although justifiable at face value judging by the ambient insecurity in the Grand North, Northwest and Southwest Region, which has provision in the constitution, appears to be linked more to a national treasury afflicted by chronic and acute impecuniosity.
The president’s edict relies on the closeness of the three elections that evokes probable skewedness in handling them and the possibility of disenfranchising many eligible voters as well as triggering disenchantment among those who might feel slighted by a poorly handled national assignment of sovereign dimension.
Cameroon’s constitution has provision for the president of the republic to postpone elections in the country for up to 18 months in the case of elections into national assembly and municipal councils. For this to happen, he must consult the presidents of the constitutional Council, National Assembly and the Senate. This is precisely what Mr Biya has done, even as his action is ultra vires, having exceeded the deadline of Thursday, June 21 by five days. According to the constitution, this was supposed to be within 40 days of the expiry of the mandate of the beneficiaries.
However, many wary observers have begun gainsaying the president’s current posturing, predicating their assertion on the fact that the prevailing circumstances in the country also affect election into the office of the President of the republic. Why then would the president choose to postpone elections that have to do with the welfare of grassroots Cameroonians and those who would have been mandated to represent them at the national level? They read in the president’s decision, a ploy to perpetrate his unenviable regime that has brought sorrow, tears and blood to Cameroonians in the last 36 years.
The bill shall be defended by Amadou Ali, Vice Minister in charge of Relations with the Assembly, whose passage will just be a formality given the cavalier approach to the examination of bills at the CPDM dominated National Assembly.
Interestingly, there is a complicit silence being maintained by opposition parties, including those that have candidates vying for the upcoming presidential elections.The contention from the public is that those currently aspiring to be president of the republic have adjudged themselves unfit to unseat Biya and have resigned to fate, barely waiting for the elections to be done with so that they can get their campaign money. They give teeth to their assertion by evoking the fact that it is more than two weeks since Mr Biya sent the memo to concerned parties but, there has been no reaction from political parties.
However, another school of thought leans on the fact that the bill was yet to reach the Assembly where its passage into law is a fait accompli. In furtherance of this opinion is the claim that political parties ought to be given the benefit of doubt, pending when the bill shall have been passed into law for them to react.
Be that as it may, one thing is certain and it is the incontrovertible fact that Mr. Biya is out to perpetuate his stay in power and intends to die in office. At over 85, he still gets his kick from being cajoled by court jesters who deceive him that he is “infallible and invincible,” thereby imbuing him with an aura of inflated importance that makes him feel he has been elevated to deity.
By Sampson Esimala