Chaining the ghost of power abuse

In a country with scant regard for separation of powers, clearly delineating the extents to which the executive, legislature and judiciary can encroach into each other’s sphere of influence without occasioning turmoil in the polity, cacophony becomes very obvious in any attempt to establish a conversation between justice and equity on the one hand and justice as per the highest bidder on the other. This seems to be the case with Cameroon where disregard for the principle of judicial sanctity has overridden the much acclaimed credo of “equal rights and justice” for all a la Robert Nester Marley, aka Bob Marley.

In the circumstance, some unscrupulous government functionaries have immersed themselves deep into illegalities that make mincemeat of the rule of law or due process, evoking in their wake an atomistic society perpetually at war with itself. Breakdown in law and order has become customary, with the executive arm of government pocketing a legislature complicit in relegating the judiciary to a pun on the chessboard of a towering oligarchy. Local administrators instead of sworn men of law call the shots on purely legal issues.

Matters that are supposed to be heard in originating and appellate courts are surreptitiously transferred to military tribunals. In the event, sentences that have no basis in law are sometimes passed on innocent citizens with little or no prospect of appeal. Such capricious indulgence has its root in obnoxious ego pampering, intended to attract the attention of a deified individual who, ironically, is the head of the judiciary.

As if the situation had not aroused enough drudgery for the ordinary Cameroonian, the now ubiquitous crisis pitting separatist militias against the Biya regime has intensified the situation by the agency of a free-for-all that has attracted disingenuous approaches to pandering to the whims of the maestro of the classical orchestra called Cameroon. Apart from being an all comers affair, it has elicited commentaries of variegated leanings depending on which side of the contending factions they emanate.

Such is the case with a municipality that seems to have been atrophied by the shenanigans of its incidentally upturned Mayor, Ekema Patrick Esunge. Leaning on the vagaries of the crisis, the Mayor has gone into overdrive, oppressing the very denizens whose wellbeing is supposed to be his primordial concern. With pistols reminiscent of American Wild West he struts the streets of Buea accompanied by heavily armed goons, ready to crush any opposition. Boutiques and other business premises are vandalized all in the name of fighting ghost towns.

The legality of his actions remains a moot point as only a court order can authorize the closure of business premises according to current legislation. However, in a system that doesn’t clearly lay claim to respect for the rule of law or due process, Ekema deludes himself in pyrrhic victories, forgetting that the crisis like any other incident on planet earth is amenable to the law of mutability that should end sooner or later.

To edify readers on the ramifications of such apparent deviousness as represented in the malfeasance of the careworn mayor, Barrister Eta Besong Junior, a legal luminary and onetime President of the Cameroon Bar Association consented to an exclusive interview. The inflections of legal implications raised by the legal chieftain leave no one in doubt as to the lawlessness that the Mayor’s actions evoke and the unpalatable consequences that ought to accompany such gung-ho approach to managing public affairs particularly for someone who was elected to protect the very persons he is now hurting.

As always, it is a reader’s delight from The Rambler stable to be savoured with relish.

Read on:

What is your opinion on the legitimacy or otherwise of persistent recourse by the Mayor of Buea to sealing shops within this municipality?

Firstly, the mayor sealing people’s business premises even for a day, one hour, one minute, one year or any length of time is illegal. Every businessman has the right to carry out his business unperturbed, so long as it complies with the regulations to carry out the business. For a mayor to seal stores in the guise of fighting the socio-political unrest reveals a poor appreciation of his role as guarantor of the welfare of citizens within his jurisdiction.

Why is it illegal?

 It is illegal in the sense that, in Cameroon there are laws which govern things like that and penalties for infringement of the law must be applied. You don’t provide a penalty which the law has not itself provided. It is not for anybody… not even the Governor, President of the Republic has the right to provide a sanction which is not provided by law. So the law does not give the mayor the right to do what he is doing.  We have what is called principal penalties, accessory penalties or preventive measures. It is clear they must be provided by law. Once they are not provided by law, you cannot carry them out and even questions of seizure, confiscations are issues which must be determined by a court of law. That is to say there must be a court decision ordering a closure of an establishment, the sealing of an establishment, the confistication of any material in any establishment; it must come by way of a court decision. So, if there is no court decision, nobody has the right to do that type of stuff.  Sometimes they might say the mayor is acting as a municipal authority, but the council is not the mayor. The mayor is one of the executive members of the council but he is not the council, and the municipal decisions and orders are taken by the council in session. The council must sit and take a decision. If that decision is for execution by the mayor, he can only execute it, but when a council decision interferes with public rights, it must have the visa of the supervisory authority.  Now the supervisory authority is the Ministry of Decentralization. If the council takes the decision, it must have the visa if it affects the general public interest for it to have a force of execution.  But there is no council decision to the best of my knowledge which empowers the Mayor under which he can pretend to go around sealing business premises and destroying people’s properties.

Can the mayor be sued since as you put it, what he is doing is illegal? Better still, can he be criminality charged for his actions?

Yes he can. The answer is that every illegal act can be prosecuted in court criminally because if you look at Section 1 of our penal code, the 2016 law which says all persons are equal before the law and are subject to criminal law. Not only in the Cameroon criminal law courts but also subjected to international treaties and conventions wherein Cameroon has ratified. So he can be sued. If you look at the Penal Code Section 34 which talks about closure of an establishment or business places.  The closure of a business is an accessory penalty but which must come after a court decision. If the court has not decided, you cannot execute what is not allowed by law; so if he goes and does that, he can be prosecuted because for one thing he has abused his functions. In law, we say he is acting ultra-vires; that is acting outside the powers the law gives him. Any act that is outside and in contravention of private interest can be prosecuted.

In this case, who can or should initiate criminal prosecution?

In this case the persons whose rights have been infringed can initiate criminal proceedings. It can be initiated by making a complaint to the police or the Gendarmes with a declaration that you are going to claim damages.  The authorities are supposed to take a statement from you as a complainant. Then they are supposed to get witnesses who were present during the infringement; they will now get statements from the person you are complaining against. The Mayor in this case, is called the suspect so they will get a statement from the suspect; he will have to come and explain his actions. They will tell him what the complaint is about, the possible criminal charges against him in accordance with the penal code and ask him to make a statement.

But how would the aggrieved be required or expected to complain to the same police, gendarmes or soldiers with whom the mayor goes around breaking and destroying?

You see, the unfortunate thing for these policemen and gendarmes who are accompanying the mayor is that they are ignorant of the law. The position of the law on this is that, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. So since they are   committing criminal offences, both the mayor and his council workers, the policemen, gendarmes, soldiers who are accompanying him are co-offenders or assessors. So, all of them can be prosecuted. You would sue them in their personal names but you see, they requisition these military people or these forces of law and order and they follow him blindly in executing an illegality.

The law provides for that, if you look at sections 95, 96, and 97 of the penal code, they are assessors, they are co-offenders and they can be charged for conspiracy.

These people who go about perpetrating this with the Mayor often commit assault and battery in the process of arresting people who supposedly broke seals or who simply failed to open their business premises. Sometimes they are arrested and detained until they pay up. Where does such money go to?

First of all, let us look at what they have done, whether it is legal or illegal. The sealing of a man’s business place is illegal and therefore, that businessman has the legitimate right to break the seal. This is what the common man does not know. You have a right to forestall illegality. Self-help is a remedy, so the law says the sealing must be in conformity with legal orders. So if there are no legal orders, the sealing must be lawful. If the sealing is unlawful, you have the right to destroy it. He had sealed this office once, and I destroyed it and I wrote to him, the Procureur General, and since he came with the military I wrote to the military and police to tell them that they were committing an illegality. The business owner has the right to break the seal because the seal is put there unlawfully.

 How about in the case when they commit assault and battery?

It is illegal to assault, even to arrest. If you look at section 291 of the penal code it talks about false arrest. In fact, they are very lucky. It is just that they carry guns and the common man hasn’t got weapons. The common man has a right… if they physically attack you, you have a right to retaliate. There you will be acting on what we call lawful defense. The law provides for lawful defense. Section 34 of the penal code talks about lawful defense and if they come and they are carrying out all those their illegal acts, the person who is now reacting, the businessman, has been provoked so he has another defense of provocation. But the only thing in provocation is that your reaction must be proportionate to the offense, such as, if you are given a blow, don’t kill the man. You know, it must be proportionate. But the one of lawful defense… you have no criminal responsibility if you are acting under lawful defense.

Then what happens to the money that is paid before the seal is removed?

The money is paid illegally. The people are not supposed to pay. I have said that you don’t pay. You cannot promote illegality by falling into illegality. They are paying it from ignorance. The remedy for the person is to break the seal. He puts a piece of paper which he calls a seal and then writes that any breakage is contrary to “section this, this of the penal code…”

Does he conform?

No, that is a vain threat because he cannot prosecute you under that section. The law will not prosecute you.  The law will first of all want to find out whether that seal was lawfully carried out and since there is illegality you cannot be prosecuted for going contrary to an illegality.

What about more apparently serious cases in which he breaks business premises because they did not open especially on the so- called ghost town days?

That is destruction. Section 316 of the penal code talks about destruction. So, if he breaks a man’s place, and has destroyed the door, that’s an offence. All these offences are called disturbance of quiet enjoyment and intruding into privacy. His interference with the man’s business even is illegal and under the law… if you look at Section 89 of the penal code… Being a public servant who he is, doesn’t mean he must work in the civil service.  He is a public servant distinguishable from a civil servant, and according to Section 89 of the penal code there is aggravated circumstance. His act as a public servant, doing what he is doing is aggravating. The quality of his public service aggravates his offense.

Can claims be made?

Yes of course, I mean anyone who suffers an infringement of his right has the right to claim against the offender; that is the person who has infringed his right. That is why under the criminal procedure codes in Cameroon now the criminal case can go along side, if you look at section 61 of the procedure code.  The criminal case can go alongside the civil case. That is once the criminal claim is over it can be put to run on currently.  The legal department might be hesitant to introduce the criminal case. That is another problem which the common man might face but the law permits any individual to carry out what is called private prosecution. If you feel that the legal department will not, you can carry out private prosecution. If you feel that the legal department would not, you draft your charges, passing through extra judicial means. That is to say you get a lawyer or a bailiff to draft it for you and you file it in court. 

Can someone else do that on behalf of another party?

No, you cannot do that. That only person who can act for that party is a lawyer. 

If for instance, the mayor criminally breaks and enters, and as a concerned citizen who shops where he has sealed… Does this not indirectly infringe on one’s right to purchase from a preferred place at a particular time, price and convenience and in a particular manner? If I am concerned that by kicking down the door the mayor has exposed my choice shop to thieves why won’t I sue?

You see, the point is that the real victim of that offense is the owner of the business place because as a purchaser, you have other places you can go and purchase.

What if it is a monopoly?

If it is a monopoly, you are bound to suffer because your rights have been interfered, you have the right to sue. But the question now is, is it a criminal offence? No, there is no criminal offence in your regard. With regard to the person who has the business, there is a criminal offence of the destruction but for you, you can bring a civil action but you will plead that this was a monopoly,  so that was the place you were supposed to purchase from and it has affected.

For instance if he seals a pharmacy for not opening…

But there is not just a single pharmacy in Buea. There are several.

Yes but not all pharmacies stock every drug. If he seals a single pharmacy which stocks a particular drug which is useful to me and my health, and I think it would affect my health or even lead to precipitated death. And even if every other pharmacy is open and I see that I was going to buy a particular drug which is only found there at a cost affordable to me…

That is what I am saying. In case you have a particular place which has that drug. But you know, he might mitigate it to have a defence by saying, “I know that this drug is sold but didn’t go there.” So that is it Hmmm! As I said, any use of force on a person is an offence and that person has the right to sue you if he uses force and interferes with the man’s property.

For example, if the man was ill in the house and couldn’t open on that day or had traveled and not necessarily because he or she was respecting “ghost town?”

Now the problem is this, the man whose business premises has been broken into or has been sealed does not need to justify to Ekema why he didn’t open. A business is a private enterprise and the man has the freedom to open or not. He is not working under any regulation which says you must open. There is no compulsion on a private business man to open. So if you come and say that the man did not open because he was respecting ghost town, the onus is on you to establish that. You the man alleging because in the law he who alleges must prove. And in that case Ekema will be bringing that as a defence. If he is prosecuted and he says the guy did not respect ghost town, that is why I sealed his place, he must have established  first all that there is a rule or some law or regulation authorizing him to seal for not respecting ghost town. Secondly, he must come and show just cause for doing and did you find out why the guy did not open his place? All of those will be for him, it will not be for the man to justify. So this thing of people running to him, explaining to him ‘I locked my place because I went to Douala to buy goods…’ A private businessman is free and has the latitude to open when he has to or not. If he or she is using premises which are regulated.Take for example; beer parlors, off licenses have regulation as to when to open and to close. A man who owns a private business, selling in his store hasn’t got those regulations. There is nothing which says that the man operating a provision store must open at 8:00am or should close at 10:00pm, or a radio station. There is no regulation as to that. You cannot come and say the man was respecting ghost town that’s why he did not open. You see, that will be completely illegal and it is a sort of torture out of illegality as a matter of common sense. What should Ekema do if he must achieve his goal for stalling ghost town? He has nothing to do vis-a-vis the business people.

Sometimes they claim to be taking orders from above. Would you want to imagine that because of the prevailing lawlessness accruing from a collapse of governance, Ekema could just be a pliant tool in the hands of a hidden parochial interest? As such would he not be immune to the laws of the land on which you seem to place so much premium?

You see, it is good that people should know certain things like that. If you stand in court and you say that you acted because you were complying with authority, that is not enough. You must show that the orders of that authority were lawful orders. If the orders are unlawful, your obedience to those orders give room for your prosecution. You are not supposed to obey unlawful orders. So all those who will come and say well, that is why I said his workers, the police, the gendarmes and the soldiers accompanying him can together be prosecuted as co-offenders, assessors or whatever. You are accessory to the whole thing. So they can be prosecuted because what orders he has given them are unlawful.

We are asking this against a backlog of a situation we have in Cameroon today, whereby an old woman and the daughter have been arrested on a simple ground that she gave birth to a certain Chris Anu who is considered as an enemy of the state? 

That is an illegal infringement on her liberty. I agree but who is going to prosecute that woman?

She may be held in custody for a very long while…

Fine, now let me tell you she has a right to bring an action for illegal arrest and imprisonment.  That is false imprisonment.

Against who now?

She goes to the court.

But the system has seemingly buckled under, crashed under a chief magistrate?

The system has crashed in Cameroon but the point is that, Cameroon has ratified many treaties and conventions. The unfortunate thing is that you cannot in most cases go to the international tribunals when you have not exhausted domestic avenues. So you exhaust the domestic avenues knowing that, the domestic avenues will not give the remedies you require but once you have exhausted them, now you seize the international tribunals against Cameroon.

Like the case of Albert Mukong?

Like Mukong did. You seize the international tribunals and there you would have a remedy against Cameroon and Cameroon cannot appeal.

Are sovereign states bound by the decisions of these international tribunals?

Yes Cameroon is bound by their decisions.

Are their decisions not as nonbinding as those of the Hague?

Well, but I think that Cameroon would respect it; they respected it in the case of Albert Mukong.

But they did not respect it in the case of Hamidou Yaya Marafa…

Well, the point is, had Marafa exhausted all the local avenues? I don’t know. I have not seen that judgment so I can’t give a value appraisal of it. But once you have exhausted local avenues and now you seize the international tribunal and you have a judgment, it will be executed. You don’t need to execute it only in Cameroon.  It can be executed anywhere that the state of Cameroon has property. Anywhere that Cameroon has properties; it can be executed because that one is an international jurisdiction. Execution is not limited to the national territory.

We interviewed someone who said the only way that the mayor can get him work on a Monday would be signing an undertaking that if anything should happen to him or that in the event of his shop being attacked, he (mayor) would pay for the eventual damages?

That one is talking like someone who does not know the law. Because first of all Ekema cannot. That type of talk I heard it before that Ekema can’t guarantee the unforeseeable, you cannot guarantee that. At least Ekema is not an insurance company to insure risks; he can’t. His action amounts to torture and torture doesn’t necessarily have to be physical; it can even be mental or emotional. Those are all criminal matters. It is covered by section 132 of our penal code. Any public servant who acts like that creates torture to an individual physically, mentally, physiologically, all of that. It is against section 132 of our penal code.  “Any public servant who uses force to any person shall be punished.” You should look at section 140 which deals with oppression of the penal code. I am talking about the penal code.

Is it morally and logically acceptable what the regime is doing with tax payers’ money? As we talk, assignees of the regime are going around, carrying out propaganda with large chunks of cash and man hours for schools to resume in the heat of the raging war?  

Hmm! let me make this one clear…

Not necessarily legally…

But it must be legal. As of now if you go to the military tribunal, you know that some military personnel have absconded, run away from their posts, gone into hiding and things like that. Some of them are being prosecuted in the military tribunal. But go and see the charges. They are prosecuting them for absconding in times of peace. I am not saying it is time of war. I have brought this because you see, the government does not look at this socio political crisis in the Northwest and Southwest as a time of war. No, they are looking it as unrest, a civil unrest created by some people but not as war. Even though they are all out in war with these people but they look at it as …..

Is it for them to define convenient nomenclature, and act on it or for one to effectively see and believe the evidence one’s own eyes?

No, it is the evidence of your eyes, yes. But times of war or times of peace are defined by statutes. So now, they are saying it is a time of peace. You know it is also good that we know certain things. Has a parent the right to stop a child from going to school? The right to education is a universally declared human right okay! So a child has a right to education.

Just as a child has the right to life?

Yes, just like that…

Just as the right to self preservation

Exactly!

So between life and school, which do you choose in this case? And should you choose school, would that be simply because it is enshrined in legal statutes?

No, if a man put himself in a position of risk. If you voluntarily exposed yourself to a known risk… In law we say that you are “volent” (volenti non fit injuria.) That is the Latin expression. If you expose yourself to a risk, you can’t complain of it. It is not an actionable thing when you expose yourself to a risk, provided what happened is within the law. That is why I brought the case of not going to school. Can the government prosecute every parent who refuses to allow their child to go to school? The penal code provides that any parent who has the means and does not send the child to school commits a criminal offence, which means that if the parent hasn’t got the means the parent does not commit a criminal offence. It also means that since the parent has a right to protect the child against physical harm, if the parent prevents the child because he sees the danger, threat, you have the right not only to protect yourself against threats from somebody to your person; you have a right to protect somebody else against physical threat.

You have the responsibility and a duty as well?

Yes, you have. So if they are going to prosecute you, you will have a defense, that you were preventing a greater risk. Going to school and facing death which is a greater risk? It is facing death. So you are helping to prevent the guy from that eminent danger; you have a defense.

Which is easier to achieve, peace or war? In this case you have thousands of Cameroonians, homo sapiens in the bushes running from state coercion, soldiers, who are killing them, who have burnt their houses and schools in some cases and the same government is asking and has undertaken propaganda for children to be sent to school without as much as providing a foolproof wherewithal for them. Where are they going to go to school? Even if they come back out of the bushes, where do they stay and school? Under trees?

Yes, that is a very tricky question because the first thing is that you will have to know the government will never accept that they burnt houses, burnt schools or killed anybody. You know what happened in the prisons recently; of course people died. Even here in Buea, but the government is saying that nobody died. The government is saying that the military acted professionally. What do they call professional? Because even this penal code punishes the use of live ammunition in cases like that to quell a riot like that where the other people do not have ammunition. You can use it if the other people are armed but if they are not armed the code penalizes everybody who uses it. You can use batons, teargas, but not live ammunition. Even using it and shooting into the air is an infringement of the law. But do you think this country or the government can accept? The government cannot. Since you are the one going to allege that the government through its agents like the military burnt your house, burnt the school, shot people, you will now have the onus to prove and you can’t prove that.

It is not like one is preaching against the back to school propaganda. Far from that. But if you say go to school, I say yes but where is the school? Show us the virtual school?

If there is no school then you cannot be compelled to go to school. You cannot go to a place which does not exist. You cannot ask a man to give you what he hasn’t got or you cannot ask a man to go and seek what is nonexistent. That’s why I wanted to answer your question which is easier to achieve, peace or war? The achievement of peace is a subsequent act.

This is what it is, it is derivative. It is subsequent because it is derived from your act. You do an initial act and derive peace. It is a derivative or a subsequent act. It is difficult to ask for a subsequent factor like that because peace is supposed to be antecedent. Peace should be a sine qua non, existing at all times. So if the state wants to achieve peace then the state is in other words saying that peace does not exist. If you want to achieve war then you are saying peace is what is reigning now and war is a subsequent commodity.

So is the state trying to be smart or it is in a ‘Catch 22’ situation?

Talking about trying to achieve peace is to say there’s no peace as of now. If there is peace, you would not want to achieve peace because it is already within you. You don’t achieve what you already have.

But they say, albeit inadvertently, from time to time that they want and are working for a return to peace?

The catch phrase is “return to.” A “return to peace” means peace had existed, it no more exists and you want to get it again.

And what is the direct opposite of peace? It could be trouble or war, don’t you think?

Yes but now it is multifaceted. It is not just war. The absence of peace is not just war. It might be unrest, “peacelessness” and war.

But war is relative?

That’s what I’m saying. So if they want peace they would they would not…. for you to say that they want peace because there is war is to limit absence of –peace to war, which is a very tricky issue…

But when there is an open confrontation during which one side is shooting and the other is shooting back with resultant heavy casualties, what do you call that? Just a game played with Christmas toys?

The point is that these are factual issues which are definitely difficult to prove. Because by the time you are going to court, you are saying that ‘they shot.’ The question the state counsel or the defense lawyer will ask is ‘who shot who or who shot?’ You know that you don’t see the names of the soldiers by the time they are shooting. If they came here to shoot us, they will not shoot and leave anybody to go and testify. They will kill everybody who is a possible witness.

But sometimes they inadvertently leave traces?

Yes but you know inadvertently. This inadvertence does not tell you who was the perpetrator of the shooting. So you’ll just go and say soldiers were shooting. You have alleged, so you prove; can you give the names of the people, can you describe them, can you show them?

If a shooter got in here, opened fire and wrongly assumed that I had died, whereas I did recognize the soldier and I can identify him subsequently. If, for example, there were CCTV cameras without the knowledge of the shooters…

It is the CCTV camera and your knowledge of the man. The CCTV cameras will do what the law will call corroboration. It corroborates your evidence and that man can never escape criminal procedure; because your evidence is corroborated by the CCTV camera. So there is no doubt. But if it is just your word against the man’s word, there’s doubt. At first in Cameroon, they said the accused will be discharged and acquitted if there was reasonable doubt. But the law in Cameroon now has taken away the word reasonable doubt. Now even if the doubt is just an iota of doubt, there is doubt. In this case it should be acquitted.

Beyond CCTV cameras, there could be forensics. For instance shooters sometimes can leave incriminating traces behind them, especially drugged, callous executors?

But you know for sure forensic evidence in Cameroon is wanting. We used to have in West Cameroon where they used to send policemen to go to London; to go and do forensic investigation. So they can come here and just by touching this book, you think that you are gone and nothing is there but they would have gotten your finger prints. That even the finger prints must have finger print indexes. We have it in the law but which is not applied. Otherwise nobody should have two, three, four ID cards. But you see, we copy laws, but to put them in application, there is a vacuum. Just cobwebs

Interviewed by  Charlie Ndi Chia, *Takie Esther Ajougho,

Sengue Carine Koke, Pauline Enanga Etonge, Anu Alice Azemchap (UB journalism students on internship)

ORBITUARY Mr. Justice Frederick Alobwede Ebong

The Ebong, Alobwede, Ntoko and Nzegge families announce with profound regret, the death of their Father, Brother, Uncle and Pillar, Retired Justice Frederick Alobwede Ebong on Friday, the 24th of May, at Medstar Georgetown Hospital, Washington DC at 1:45 pm after a brief illness.

Justice Ebong was born in Small Soppo Buea on the 8th of September 1945 to Adolf Alobwede Ebong, and Regina Ebane Ebong. He was married to Mrs. Julie Ebude Ebong nee Ntoko Ebong of Blessed Memory. They both had four children. Ebong Emmanuel Enongene, Emmanuella Emade, Princewill-Albert, Ebong Christy Ebane and Ebong Sylvia Mesame, with five grandchildren and a host of family, friends, and political affiliates to mourn him.

He attended RCM School Small Soppo Buea, from 1953 to 1961, and Ibibio State College, Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria, from 1961-1965. He later left Cameroon to attend University Preparatory School in Moscow State University from 1965-1966 and progressed into Russian Kiev State University Faculty of Law where he obtained a Degree of Law from 1966-1970.

He served the government of Judicial Ministry of Cameroon for 29 years where he progressed to the highest rank as justice of the High Court.

After obtaining a Law Degree from Kiev State University, in 1970, he was employed by the West Cameroon Public Service in Buea as an Executive Officer on April 28th 1971, and worked with the Secretary of State for Urban Development-Victoria. In June 1971 he became the First Assistant Divisional Officer in Mundemba. He was later posted to Mezam Divisional Office as Assistant Divisional Officer in March 1972, where he worked until November 1973.

He gained admission into the Cameroon School of Magistracy,Yaoundé (ENAM) where he studied Magistracy up to August 1975 and was posted as Legal Officer in the Procureur General’s Chambers. In July 1976 he was integrated as a Magistrate of Cameroon. In August 1976 he was posted to Kumba as presiding Magistrate to work with Justice Anyangwe of Blessed Memory.  In August 1977 he was posted to Ndian Division as presiding Magistrate where he worked for a year until August 1978.

After working as an Attaché in the Procureur General’s office in Bamenda Northwest Province in 1980, he was posted as First Resident Magistrate in Menchum Division. In July 1982 he was promoted as Grade 2 Magistrate and in October 1983 he was posted as Presiding Magistrate in Bamenda Central.

In August 1985 he was posted to Nso, Bui Division, as a Crown Counsel also known as known as Procureur de la Republique, and in August 1988 he was promoted as Grade 3 Presiding Magistrate in Limbe where he worked until November 1991. He was posted to Mbengwi as a Justice of the High Court and Magistrate’s Court after being promoted as Grade 4 Magistrate. In July 1995 he was posted as one of the Vice Presidents of the Court of Appeal in Buea and in 1998 he was posted as a Sub-Director of Judicial Co-operation in the Ministry of Justice in Yaoundé.

He was very active in the Southern Cameroons Movement for Independence and declared the Restoration of the Independence of the Southern Cameroons with other members of the SCNC at midnight on December 31st 1999, breaking the year 2000. The love for equality, freedom and justice for all triggered his commitment in the Southern Cameroons Movement for Independence and drove him towards this declaration.

In 2000, he retired from the public service in Cameroon and left Cameroon for Nigeria, seeking refuge with his entire family. In 2006, he was resettled by the UNHCR to the United States with his family. He became a citizen of the United States of American in 2011 and lived in Washington DC until his death. 

He was a loving husband and dad, a gentle soul inside out.

He will be greatly missed by his children, grandchildren, relatives and friends.

Funeral arrangements for his Home coming.

Friday, July 12th 2019 – Viewing, Wake and Celebration of life in Washington DC

Saturday, July 13th Funeral Mass and Burial and Repast in Washington DC

Sunday, July 14th Thanksgiving Service and Celebration of life by Family in Washington DC

More details of the program will soon be made public.

                                                                                                                 June 6th, 2019

Condolence Message for Ma

Bernice Westerman

Following the peaceful passing in Kansas, U.S.A. of Miss Bernice Westerman, pioneer principal of Saker Baptist College, Limbe on Tuesday, 21st May 2019, the ladies of the Sakerettes Transglobal Alliance (STA) wish to express their solidarity and heartfelt condolences to the entire community of Sakerettes, past and present, those of the Baptist Boys Secondary School in Buea as well as the  former Baptist Teacher Training Colleges in Soppo, and Ndu and to those all over Cameroon, particularly in Mbingo,Mbem, Belo and Kumba, whose lives she so meaningfully touched in the course of her long and devoted labour of love for the development of the young people of this Country, (Cameroon).

As a delegation of the Sakerettes Transglobal Alliance gets ready to give her the most befitting tribute at her funeral in Sioux Falls, South Dakota this weekend, we join everyone who is touched by her passing on, in praying to our Lord, Jesus Christ to grant her soul eternal rest and peace.

2033 West McDermott Drive Suite 320-150, Allen, Texas 75013

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.

Cursing, bullying, shooting to kill our problems

By Charlie Ndi Chia

My baby sister, Jane-Frances was precocious. As a toddler she would often make our educated parents look kind of stupid. This was in Victoria, aka Limbe and the “trending” madmen in town were called “Mr. Peter Mr. Mbosowa” and “Commando” respectively. Each time she cried unnecessarily or simply got naughty, I, or any of her older siblings would be asked to play one or the other of the dreadful madmen. Then she would behave herself.

But one day, Jane-Frances decided that she had had enough of the bullying, scaring and cajolery. When no one least expected, Jane-Frances said: “oh oh! Everybody in this house takes me for a fool. Each time I cry, or refuse to eat, Charles, Adolf or Cyril is sent to that window to talk like “Commando. I have known all of those tricks all along, but simply played along…” Jane-Frances was barely two at the time. She’s a grown up woman today with kids and like other Cameroonians, she’s also a bully victim of the ruling class.

She, like teeming numbers of other ‘former’ Cameroonian youths has her interests subsumed by parochial interests. Like many of us before her, she was told, decades ago by the ruling cabal that she is a leader of the Cameroon of tomorrow. I do not know if Uncle Bob routinely reminded his starving compatriots that they were the leaders of tomorrow’s Zimbabwe. I doubt also if the likes of Gnasinbge Eyadema and Omar Bongo spun similar long yarns in Togo and Gabon. What I know for sure is that Omar El Bachir was this big bully who ruled and ruined Sudan and Sudanese. I know that at a point, parochial Western interests noticed that he had wasted too much of Sudan and Sudanese and decided that he should be sentenced by the International Court of Justice. I know too that Sudanese didn’t wait for the Yankees to yank Bachir off the Sudanese state house. They actually kicked his butt while he was still threatening, bullying and jailing opponents. Need we talk of Algeria’s Bouteflika who had crawled back to childhood after many decades in the state house? Or the HIV/AIDS treating Yaya Jammeh, who was practically “Kamtoed” from the Gambian state house.

 Though they live in palaces, assured of being buried in gold plaited coffins, these so called leaders presume that they are secured. But they are surrounded by wretched people, living in squalor, lacking water, electricity, good roads and primary healthcare. Bandits, militias, kidnappers, unruly soldiers, emergency pastors and traditional healers are bred here and let loose to roam the place with intent. They get bullied by overlords who almost always forget that community interest is what easily guarantees their individual parochial interest.

But for sadists, hypocrites and other flimflam men, there is hardly any Cameroonian who is happy with the present state of affairs especially as obtains in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. What with hapless refugees crowding homes and scarce facilities on the flip side of the Mungo? It is trite knowledge that all the killings, cursing and tough talking hasn’t had any positive impact on Cameroonians. Not even the choreographed “living together” platitudes. What is pompously referred to as achievements is the tip of the iceberg.

True, if the polity was working and the people are genuinely happy, there would be no need for the current shooting war. Instead, the war budget would be spent on roads, water, electricity and affordable healthcare across the board. But what do we have? Massive corruption, the anti-corruption CONAC notwithstanding simply multiplying, huge infrastructural deficits typified in power outages and lack of potable water worsening. Most of Buea and Bamenda, to name but these two towns still depend on springs and other doubtful sources for drinking water. But official speeches supply millions of gallons of water across the entire nation daily.

Need we talk of unemployment, mass poverty and despair ravaging the populace. Is someone seeing how the CDC is dying off with no one really caring! Is someone taking note of the insecurity that has taken a dangerous dimension with local administrators, including governors regularly dressing like war front generals?

Agreed, the state has as responsibility to apprehend and prosecute criminals as demanded by natural justice and the law. But what do we have here? Regular soldiers and militias are arresting, killing almost at random, with some victims facing various kinds of torture and ransoms before being set free. Elsewhere, amnesty has been granted in the course of, or after minor or major conflicts to end wars, resolve a domestic social problem… Amnesty has been adopted by governments when they believe that having true peace and bringing deviants into compliance with reasonable laws are more beneficial than punishment to end a conflict or facilitate reconciliation after a conflict.

Last line…

I go back to my little sister. Jane-Frances is a euphemism for those who fear but understand that madness may mean behaving stupidly or dangerously, but that the sane are, every now and again obliged to reason with the mad if they must cross certain bridges. That when the appropriate time comes, madmen must submit themselves to the psychiatrist or be consigned to a mental asylum…

Cheers, and let’s keep suffering and smiling!   

Royal handshake, burnt Kumbo, Shisong ‘Cardiac arrest’

 On May 29, 1971, former President Ahmadou Ahidjo was in Kumbo, capital of Bui Division of the Northwest Region.  In the course of the visit, and in total submission to royalty and the traditions of the Bui people, the then head of state approached HRH Sehm Mbinglo almost with the sacerdotal humility of someone about to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Ahidjo prostrated for the seated fon’s reluctant handshake. In a manner of speaking, the mountain had gone to Mohammed.

Bui Division in general and Kumbo in particular are in the news again, 48 years later, for gory acts of human rights violation.  Unconfirmed accounts indicate that some 750 houses have been razed to the ground, allegedly by regular soldiers fighting Ambazonia militias.  Scores of infrastructures are also said to have been torched very close to the Cardiac Centre in Shisong, next door to Kumbo. People in Shisong in particular and the proprietors and other stakeholders of the FCFA 4 billion centre are living in trepidation. They fear that whatever befell other structures might eventually consume the mega health project. Eyewitness accounts indicate that in some cases of blatant arson, people, especially the old and feeble have been burnt alive in their homes.

88 year old widow, Regina Dulase we are told, would have been history when the burning and looting initially started in November of 2018, but for a kind soldier who prevailed on his colleague to spare the old woman’s life. One of the soldiers had asked his superior in French: “Je mets le feu?” His superior asked him in return: “Tu n’a pas vu la vielle mere?” Translated: (Should I set the house on fire?” Haven’t you seen the old mother?”) However, her ancestral home wasn’t spared because the soldiers still proceeded to burn, loot and kill. Ma Regina saw her abode of over half a century set ablaze by baby soldiers whose parents were not even born when she started living in it.

She now lives with one of her children in Bamenda, having been traumatized to the extent of almost losing her mind. One of her grandchildren, Kinyuy Randolph was not so lucky. Bongaba as she fondly calls him was taken before her eyes along with other youths to God knows where. Ma Regina is still to be convinced that Bongama is still alive. She insists to everyone that visits her on palpable proof else she’ll approach any soldier in the streets and ask that Bongaba be brought back. All assurances that when the dust settles it would be safe for the arrested kids to either be released or voluntarily return from wherever they are, have so far failed to soothe the old woman.

As already hinted, Ma Regina’s ordeal may just be the tip of the iceberg. Scores of Bui families have reportedly been felled by soldiers’ bullets, some have joined the Amba separatist militias, others, still, have been arrested and incarcerated incommunicado or have been kidnapped and wiped out by bandits in “Amba” garb.

The burnings, killings, and kidnappings are definitely in the past. However, a very big worry still lingers, giving many people sleepless nights. It is the first ever cardio-surgical centre in Central and West Africa, built in Shisong near Kumbo. The centre came about, thanks to an Italian charity organization, “Associazione bambini cardiopatici nel mondo” known in English as Cardiac Children of the World. It was integrated into the Saint Elizabeth Catholic General Hospital, Shisong and was doing wonderfully well in terms of catering to certain specific health needs of patients in and out of Cameroon before the war reared its ugly head.

In a telephone conversation with the Director of the centre, Rev. Sister Mary Aldrine told The Rambler how they (managers of the facility and other stakeholders) are on their knees daily, praying that something bad shouldn’t befall the hospital. Her fears are apparently reinforced by the fact that a general hospital was burnt to ashes in Kumba, in the Southwest Region just a few months ago.

“Our old, retired Sisters who don’t have much to do spend most of their day in the Chapel, praying for God’s grace,” she said. According to Sr. Mary, access by needy patients to the centre has been greatly hindered by the ongoing war.  Only in very desperate cases do patients and their caregivers risk it to the centre. She added that occasionally when the road blocks are taken off, patients take advantage and swiftly make it to the centre for medical attention.

Meanwhile, the goals of “Cardiac Children of the World” include creating autonomous centres and providing treatment in target countries. The Cameroon project was celebrated in 2001 in collaboration with the Tertiary Franciscan Sisters and the charity organization of Cuore Fretello. The project aim is to develop capacities for the diagnosis and treatment of congenital and acquired heart diseases in Cameroon. Doctors, nurses and technicians have been trained in Italy as part of the project’s human capacity development plan.

The Shisong Cardiac Centre is said to have significantly reduced the need to evacuate cardiac patients from Cameroon to Italy since 2003. It is the only cardio-surgical centre in Central and West Africa equipped with ultra-modern technologies and prepared to offer a wide range of cardiology services including diagnoses and congenital heart defects, coronary artery disease, valvula heart disease and electrophysiology. Open heart surgeries are also performed at this centre which cost $800 million or FCFA 4 billion to set up.

The centre symbolically operated the first two patients on November 20, 2009. The operation was carried out by Dr. Giamberti and Dr. Charles Mvondo, a Cameroonian.

The Director of St Elizabeth Catholic General Hospital, Shisong Rev Sr. Mary Aldrine, told The Rambler with a measure of pride that when it comes to attending to patients at the facility, everybody is treated equally, without recourse to whether the one is a government soldier, an Ambazonian militia, a Cameroonian or foreigner. But she regrets that many patients that used to turn up with cardiac and other related issues from countries like Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea have greatly diminished, no thanks to the ongoing war.

The Rambler also found out that almost all the experts at the centre are Francophone Cameroonians from the Centre and South Regions. The Director said the war notwithstanding, many of them have stayed on to serve, adding that even those who opted to run to safety are still serving the centre in other parts of Cameroon.

Given the prayers, the negotiation, the physical output, goodwill  and finances that apparently went into the setting up of the Shisong Cardiac Centre, having it destroyed in the ongoing war might be tantamount to the only cardiac centre in the sub region having suffered from a cardiac arrest as it were…     

Anglophone journalists mistaken, branded as spies

Journalists in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of the country greatly hit by the ongoing Anglophone crisis, say it is gradually becoming almost impossible for them to do their job effectively and efficiently. They revealed their ordeals to this reporter on Thursday, January 24 in Buea.

They say they are facing trials from many fronts; administration, police and the general public. “It is very difficult now to gather news because access to information has been stiffened more than ever before; even if you get to a source to enquire newsy information that is not even connected to the Anglophone crisis, they are not willing to talk. Everyone is just linking everything to the Anglophone crisis even if it is not connected,” Isidore Abah, journalist and Desk Editor of ‘The Post Newspaper’ Buea lamented.

According to him, most people don’t want to talk at all to the press even on issues that concern them hence, making it very difficult for a journalist now to have quotable quotes. Abah added that even the few who accept to talk, will do so on conditions of anonymity, but he said the challenge is that when one over uses anonymity, the readers tend to doubt one’s credibility as they think the stories are being cooked up in the newsroom by the reporter. He continued, “Also, the police are not helping; when they see a journalist they think he is a spy. In fact, they are always mistaking journalists for spies and it makes it very difficult for information gathering. There’s intimidation too even from officials. They tell you, ‘we don’t want to talk, if we talk you will misquote us and you know what this dispensation means.’ And if somebody requests anonymity, you have to grant their request because it is their right. We must also do so in order to keep the newspaper going given that, alternative sources are not even there we just have to keep digging until we have the information,” he stated.

“I think that journalists are not out to destroy the country, so the military should see journalists as partners in the construction of the republic. It is our right as journalists to bring the societal challenges to the fore. If we don’t say it, people will not understand. It is by doing what we do that Government can step in to better the situation. I am also hoping that journalists don’t give up, but stay positively aggressive.”

The Editor furthered that, it is not easy but they have to keep doing the job because being aware of the fact that it has ever been difficult gaining access to information, his appeal to the Government or the parliament is for them to come up with a bill proposing an information act granting journalists access to information. A bill, he said, he is certain will go a long way to help journalists nationwide.

On her part, Relindise Ebune of ‘The Rambler Newspaper’ Buea recounted how the news gathering process is getting more difficult by the day. She said even the news events that used to happen have drastically reduced as she has discovered that people are now scared of organizing any news-making event in a place like Buea due to insecurity. “Remember that it is sometimes from these news events that one gets other news ideas but, that is no longer the case. There is news drought and if one tends to rely on public events, then there will be no news.

  “An official during a recent public event which recorded a very low attendance whereas it was a meeting which ought to have brought together participants nationwide told us that, participants from Yaounde had even proposed that the meeting be hosted in Douala because to them, Buea is a war zone but, they insisted and hosted it in Buea and the turnout was really discouraging. If it was taken out of Buea, it means, the journalists in Buea would have had no news to cover,” Ebune noted, proposing that the many obstacles preventing journalists West of the Mungo from effectively executing their duties can only be surmountedif a solution to the socio-political crisis plaguing this part of the country is found soonest.

By Nester Asonganyi

How war victims are adapting to bush life

“Life is gradually becoming very normal for those who fled into the bush especially in Munyenge, in the Southwest Region due to unrest and insecurity that has highly hit their area,” says a Cameroonian youth. For almost a year now living in the bush, Oforka Rebecca a 24 year old lady recounts how they fled into the bush and how life has been for eight months now.

“Military people have settled in our area and there are constant shootouts between warring parties, endangering the lives of natives, so we ran into the bush. One Sunday morning we were home and suddenly heard as people were heading to our village. We were not even aware of their mission or motive but we just ran into the bush. After that they came and were burning houses because they wanted to make their camp in Munyenge. Documents of people were burnt, houses as many were rendered homeless even at the moment,” she narrated.

Oforka added: “They were shooting to scare off people so that they could establish. Their reason, according to what we heard was that they got information that our land is a training ground for ‘Amba boys’ but which is not true. Even though the boys are actually in Munyenge, the truth is, they live far away in the bush and only come out when they want to operate.  Most of us don’t even know where they live particularly because they don’t even permit people to go close to them except if one is a member of their group.

“Bullets were flying over our heads while we were even scampering for safety into bushes.”

How life was during the first month in the bush

“It really wasn’t easy for the first one to two months living in the bush. During that period, life was just so tough, as many fell ill and died since our bodies were still to adapt to that of regular animals in the bush; no good source of drinking water, mosquito bites but gradually life became very normal.

Life at present in the bush

“Life in the bush at the moment is even better than our houses to the extent that even if we are asked to go home, we would even prefer the bush.All activities that took place normally in the village also take place in the bush. People do their businesses only in the bushes. They buy from Muyuka and sell in the scrubland, and others do their traditional marriage there, birthday celebrations just to name but these.

“We also have mosquito nets that were provided by the Government before the crisis, so we took them to the bush and built our small huts since we cultivate mostly cocoa. We put our mattresses on ovens designed to dry cocoa and sleep.

“We also have cocoa buyers who stay with us and buy cocoa then transport to Douala. There are tailors, shoe menders, we go to church and do everything as in the village.

How marriages are done in the wild

Questioned on how marriages are carried out in the bush, she stated that if a man and woman wish to get married, the two families meet, if they approve the union, they then organize a small area still in the bush where people will meet, eat and drink and life moves on normally. The only difference from home according to Oforka is potable drinking water because we just have but small streams which farmers used to use to spray their cocoa but we now use it as a source of drinking water. So most us do suffer from malaria and typhoid which is being caused by our surroundings and poor hygienic methods.”

Health units in the bush

“We also have small health units. The nurses and doctors who were with us before the war also ran into the bush and have built small health centers were people visit when sick or for child birth, except when the cases are bad that they are referred to the hospitals in the towns. The hospital bill is also very expensive and the absence of a medical laboratory to run tests makes life difficult because for complex situations which require that a test be done, they are referred to hospitals in town.”

Number of deaths and unfriendly surrounding

“We have recorded cases of snake bites because of the surrounding and the lack of electricity since we use but bush lamps at night. Snakebites are very common and almost inevitable in our area. We have been in the bush now for about eight months and about 20 people have died while in the bush. A majority of them died and there was no means taking them to the village so most of them were buried in the bush but when it is possible for burial to take place in the village, we go bury the corpse then do the entertainment in the bush.”

Natives caught in the web of military and Amba

“Apart from the military we also face challenges with the ‘Amba Boys.’ They are noted for suppressing farmers. They demand huge sums of money from poor farmers. They demand high amounts from those they think have money, for others who have their bush guns, they forcefully take their guns, but we are gradually coping with them.

“We are caught up in the web of the military and ‘Amba.’ Most often we bewail that it would have been better that we remain and suffer the way we had been before the crisis than running from all fronts, both the military and ‘Amba.’

“Most people are even scared of going back to the village because the military can arrive at any moment and no one knows his or her fate in such situation. There have been times when people ran back and homes were searched, people taken out and killed. That is why most people are scared of going back to the village.

Even though we are being suppressed by ‘Amba,’ if opportunity is given for us to choose between the ‘Amba’ and the military we would choose the ‘Amba’ because they don’t shoot us with guns but the military does and very casually.”

Respect of imposed ‘ghost town’ in the bush

“While in the bush we still do respect ‘ghost town.’ There are days that they will inform us of a three day ghost town dubbed “mami water ghost town” and on such days, we just wake up make our food and eat, then sit in our huts but when it is evening, we can open our market centres.”

On how a common market centre was created in the bush, she stated that it started by the help of a pharmacist who one day displayed drugs on a land belonging to no one and as people saw him; they started building their market sheds which has now become a big market centre. The 24 year old girl added that for those who don’t have land in the bush, they have built their own houses by the market side while others stayed back home alerting those in the farm by phone or ringing of bells whenever the military is around.”

Councilors created to dissolve disputes

She revealed that in the bush, councilors have been created who settle disputes amongst settlers in the bush and that like in towns; they have names of different localities in the bush. Some areas she said have been dubbed Dubai and the market named ‘number one water.’

“We really want the crisis to come to an end because I as an example, my education has stopped for the moment. I pray the Government makes things better for people to live peacefully. Even if we were asked to go back to the village, I don’t even know where we would live because our houses have been burnt down,” Oforka lamented.

By Relindise Ebune

Wide shut window of dialogue

For more than two years now, young Cameroonians, in and out of uniform are being set up to kill one another. In the Northwest and Southwest Regions, a raging war has sent hundreds to early graves. Hundreds of thousands are starving outright; they are out of school or fleeing to the bushes. Soldiers have invariably turned them into objects of target practice.

Those fighting to liberate Ambazonia are kidnapping for ransom, mutilating the limbs of the innocent and looking out for soldiers to kill. Their drum beaters are ruling the social media from the safety of the Diaspora with intimidating edicts and primitive bravado. The regime is tottering, trading power for purpose. The power that it wields is dominating purpose, with performance the worse for it. Billions are daily spent, ironically protecting regime barons against hapless citizens.

A mayor, purportedly voted to office by the people is being guarded by a cluster of heavily armed, trigger-happy soldiers. Years back, Tanzanian head of state and African Union, AU, Chairperson, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete attended a function in Down Town Dar-Es-Salaam, escorted by two outboard riders and a few policemen in a Land Rover jeep. No streets were shut down because Kikwete was leaving the state house.

Unfortunately for us in Cameroon, the rule of one man has triumphed over the rule of law. He is deified, even infallible to the extent that a pandering varsity don insisted on a prime time television programme that the head of state works at his own pace and according to his own plans and not at the pace prescribed for him by Cameroonians. The professorial popinjay sees nothing wrong with that. So even as Cameroonians insist on dialogue as opposed to a shooting war, and the president at one point insisted: “…dialogue has always been and will always remain the best means of resolving problems,” hardly anything has been done to engage it. And the don’s selective amnesia means dialoguing with the deaf if you will.

As it now stands, we are doomed with a “wide shut” window. Dialogue issues in every speech. It is recited millions of times daily. But the reality is that those whistling this dialogue are play acting, with their dialogue effectively played out with coughing guns and vile propaganda. The same chaps parading the marble corridors of power and are quick to blab about Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, being the biggest employer of labour after the Government are the same ones stocking the embers of hatred, of war. Elsewhere, their minions pity the beautiful feathers but ignore that dying bird which CDC epitomizes.

Appointed officials that mount roof tops to thank the almighty, are clearly preaching corporate, communal hate; they are playing the ethnic card for ministerial positions. Ironically, when it comes to looting the public treasury, they connive with the same “ethnic enemy.” They are the ones propagating all the sweet pep talk. But when in suits their ego-bloated fancy, they call fellow human beings and compatriots dogs and go Scot free. They are the ones personalizing and invariably turning the security forces against those they purport to be leading … “in the name of the head of state.” But hey!  If one fifth of the Cameroonian population decides that enough is enough, and start resisting obnoxious governance, not even the entire army will restrain them.

The dignity of every player in the Cameroonian equation is certainly very important to the legitimacy of the entire system that a few carpetbaggers have high-jacked. That is the beauty of true democracy; not periodical elections by a clearly manipulated and programmed “selectorate.” Cameroon is in dire need of an intellectual rigour to scrutinize and sanitize the ding dong system. Democracy cannot be limited to a periodical transaction in which an individual is retained, sworn in and appointments made. Democracy is said to have taken place when it is painfully acknowledged that certain things or some specific thing is fundamentally and structurally wrong.

And that is when someone with the mental understanding of what it takes to manage, to fix things steps in auspiciously. Put bluntly, the head of state must have a third ear and re-sharpen his intellectual curiosity. They regime can buy all the sophisticated weaponry but it will not be enough to win a war, especially one that was rather tactlessly declared. Cameroonians need to sit down, talk and plan together, not like the crooning professor professes on television shows for parochial interest. We need to have our windows, all of them, wide open, not “wide shut,” for the fresh air of democratic governance to blow in.

But should the head of state elect to have Trump’s impregnable wall of concrete around him, then, he would have been limited to just one window through which he peeps. The time to cultivate intellectual reflexes, not just banking on the theatrics of the likes of Issa Tchiroma when he arrogated to himself the role of the regime’s songbird for a small fee is now. It is trite knowledge that only when you marry, do you realize that a boyfriend isn’t a husband or that a wedding ceremony doesn’t in any way constitute a marriage.

The mystic of power in today’s world has diminished on account of mutating knowledge and technology. Consequently, we can’t any longer spin concepts and slogans, then have talking crickets like Tchiroma transform them into slogans and weapons and expect 20th Century Cameroonians to stupidly swallow the yarn “scoop, line and sinker.”

And now this…

Conversation must happen. It will happen, no matter how long hawks delay it. Restructuring for the general, as opposed to selective good, is tantamount to the intellectual reconstruction of the Cameroonian mind. The rational part of our brain has been switched off by manipulators, who are naturally hoping hoping for the war in Anglophone Cameroon to continue because they are reaping pecuniary benefits from it.

Mr. Biya, invest emotionally in this Anglophone problem and solve it without skirting around.

Cheers and let’s keep suffering and smiling!

By Charlie Ndi Chia

Forgive VISION 4’s ‘press passes’

It wasn’t a secret. The late Jean Forchive, was the Government’s hangman. He was mourned on dry cheeks because of how he dealt ruthlessly and summarily with regime dissidents. I was his unwilling guest on a couple of occasions. He told me in Pidgin English: “I fit finish with you.” It was a frightful, chilling experience!

 My crime was to have asked Mr. Biya how the very gendarmes that voted 99 percent for him could turn their guns on him barely two weeks after election results were proclaimed.

The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, was three years old at the time. CPJ fought for my release. CPJ has been consistent on its fight for free media worldwide and defending the rights of journalists to report news without fear of reprisal. Unfortunately, CPJ has so far been rather conveniently hesitant to draw a line between impostors, “Journalists Iscariot” and professional journalists imbued with high ethical and deontological standards.

On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, I was at the New York headquarters of the CPJ where we debated issues of freedom of expression and media regulation. It was stormy, with yours truly challenging the CPJ for advertently defending criminals purporting to be journalists. I suggested to my New York hosts that CPJ practically prays for any mindless scribbler to run into trouble so that the committee has work to do.

This brings me to a certain scandal house of communication, aka ‘VISION 4’ and the dreadful tripe and treacle it has been spewing, often with the blessing of nebulous judicial artifice. Note that the latest sleaze ‘VISION 4’ broadcast was the purported death of Gabonese President, Ali Bongo. ‘VISION 4’ Invited to tell their own side of the story, ‘VISION 4’ snubbed the National Communication Council, NCC, invitation. They were served a relatively mild sanction, hardly commensurate with its diffusion of fake news and disregarding constituted authority. As usual, the “bawdy house,” including hirelings on its payroll ranted like ants while heaping invectives on the NCC.  Even when it was proven beyond all reasonable doubts that Bongo was alive, ‘VISION 4’ neither retracted nor apologized.

Besides ‘VISION 4’s’ latest brainlessness, the TV station is noted for systematically devoting hours of hate speech, with muckrakers referring to some Cameroonians as cockroaches and rats good to be fumigated. This media outfit is noted for cheap rant and cant, including broadcasting pictures of a nude professor in the name of journalism. Their warped idea of press freedom is shared by quite a good number of busybodies and wannabes.

As far as this class of people goes, journalists are above the law. Journalists can publish seditious libel and go Scot free. Journalists are free to destroy the good name of any institution or individual, unchecked by any social legislation or laws. In short, journalism in their view is the art of criticizing, even denigrating everyone else without recourse to legality. That is why ‘VISION 4’ expects to be hailed when the outfit broadcasts pictures of nude or calls individuals unprintable names on air. That is why when some other television station screens gory pictures of decapitated human bodies and is sanctioned, cringing inconsequential lobbyists must turn up, draw the attention of Western vested interests and decry press censorship. For people of their ilk, it is either their way or the highway.

Certain other points that I raised at the New York meeting with officials of the CPJ included why it was that after the bombing of the Twin Towers next door to the headquarters, not a single one of the thousands of dead people was shown on an American television Channel. I asked why it was that even at the level of the “permissive” social media, Americans were wary of posting gory pictures or even using insulting language on presumed opponents or enemies. And why was the CPJ always so quick to defend proven gangsters, especially in African countries that were pretending to be journalists?

The good thing was that we agreed that all journalistic freedoms have limits; that limitations on free speech have to be legitimate and proportional. No doubt, Cameroon’s National Communication Council has all along been operating within this context. Understandably, norms are created within individual countries. How laws are interpreted would be up to peculiar jurisprudential options. Sometimes they are poorly or deliberately wrongly interpreted, depending on the tastes, preferences, idiosyncrasies or gullibility of the presiding judge. I suspect this to have happened when ‘VISION 4’ celebrated with idiotic fanfare the fact that Peter Essoka, NCC President was jailed after the media outfit was duly sanctioned.

Lest we forget, relative freedom of speech or media came to Cameroon like a spurt. Journalists and ordinary citizens alike were shocked to the reality of what is meant to discuss and publish issues freely and so preyed on the freedom like locusts on a maize farm, ravishing it. To the extent cocktail journalists like we have at ‘VISION 4’ thought they could justifiably glorify hate speech and insurrection on the pages of newspapers or on airwaves.

Last Line…

Imagine family members of the senator/varsity don zapping to ‘VISION 4’ only to see their husband and dad being paraded stark naked. Imagine Bongo’s family members getting the announcement on ‘VISION 4’ that the president of Gabon had died. Imagine a bona-fide Cameroonian citizen being labeled on television as a cockroach and rat. And Tchiroma, minister of Communication as he then was, turns up at the very station to congratulate the local version of ‘Radio Mille Colline’ for “doing a great job…” Then I ask you, ‘who then, is responsible for ensuring that the media is honest and is telling the truth? Whose responsibility it is to ensure that the legal bar to establish inciting violence is absolutely high?

‘VISION 4’ may be flamboyant in their buffoonery, but we could still forgive them their press passes.

By CHARLIE NDI CHIA