Intimidation: Biya Deploys Troops to Buea

Ahead of a so-called facts-finding visit by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, ACHPR, to the Cameroons, the Biya regime today deployed regiments of its elite troops to Buea, the second town in the disputed Southern Cameroons.
The troops were mainly from the BIR or Brigade d’Intervention Rapide, a heavily equipped unit.
The troop deployment is amidst fears that Southern Cameroons
independentists would use Februaru 11, 2011, the former Empire Day, to declare the actualization of the independence and sovereignty of the Southern Cameroons as the Republique of Ambazonia.
The African Commission is visiting the Southern Cameroons post the June 2009 milestone ruling of the ACHPR, which ruling recognised Southern Cameroonians as a people with inalienable rights, one of those rights being self-determination.
The Biya regime has today annexted the UN Trust territory of the
Southern Cameroons and considers it part of its territory.
In 2009, the ACHPR gave the Biya regime 180 days to commence
“Constructive Dialogue” with the leaders of the Southern Cameroons.
After accepting the idea of “Constructive Dialogue” and even writing to the ACHPR to request a further 180 days to prepare for the ‘Constructive Dialogue” the Biya regime then reneged on its
commitment. It instead deployed troops to all towns and villages of the Southern Cameroons.

Fru Ndi’s New Mentor. By Prof. Tazoacha Asonganyi

Following his famous shaking of the hand of Paul Biya in Bamenda, Fru Ndi went out boasting that those who had left his party were rushing back into the party, probably because he had become the wiser after meeting with Paul Biya! His multiplication of the handshakes in Unity Palace, and probably soon in Ebolowa, seems therefore to be meant to multiply the returning effect! In a way, Paul Biya has suddenly become the mentor of Fru Ndi!

Since the main bone of contention between the SDF and the CPDM, or between Fru Ndi and Paul Biya has been the fraudulent manner in which elections are organized in Cameroon, Fru Ndi started off by giving the impression that since he handed his demands on ELECAM directly to Paul Biya in Bamenda, things would change since he probably has not been getting the resolutions and messages they have been sending to him through intermediaries. During his 31 December 2010 message to the nation, Paul Biya talked about the need for citizens to enter their names in electoral registers, the citizen’s right to vote, his trust in ELECAM, and the necessary support of the administration and political parties to ELECAM. He concluded by saying that he has “reason to believe that ELECAM will be able to put finishing touches to its mechanisms on the ground in the coming months;” and that “we will have the opportunity to revisit all these issues.” Then everybody jumped onto the commentary box, telling us that he meant that he would revisit ELECAM; such truncated commentaries were all meant to goad Fru Ndi! And he has continued to trudge on like the proverbial man that follows a ram around, hoping that the scrotum would fall off at any moment!

Fru Ndi seems to have engaged in his contacts with Paul Biya like a political virgin. If not, then he is fully aware of the political engagements other political leaders have had with Paul Biya, which ended only in their exhaustion and dumping; and the political engagements he took with the entire nation,  which he has failed to respect. He probably has forgotten about the “council of state” which he was supposed to move from house arrest to Chair in 1992, but which ended in nothing but internal conflicts in his party, and the eventual expulsion of the Secretary General, Siga Asanga. He most probably remembers well the Tripartite, the constitutional engagements that came out of it, and Paul Biya’s single-handed, and self-serving changes he has effected on the constitution. He also most probably still remembers his regular visits to the Prime Minister’s office to put his views on NEO and ELECAM, and what use the views served. He probably is carrying all these along with him in his mind as he follows his mentor around the country, probably hoping that he would be treated differently this time around.

Many people make sacrifice in the religious realm, with the hope of heavenly reward. For a long time now, many Cameroonians expected Fru Ndi, from his position of strength within the opposition, to make some sacrifice by ceding the position of presidential candidate to some other person,  in the expectation of the victory of the opposition, and his ultimate victory following a transition period during which “a level playing field” would be created. He refused to budge. Now he has accepted to make an even higher sacrifice: giving the impression that he has reneged on his lifelong struggle for change; that he has capitulated for personal interest, not for the general good.

Looking at the present state of the SDF, the compromise seems to be in resigned acknowledgement of defeat. Like the UPC pre-independence struggle against colonialism that ended in defeat and the institution of neo-colonialism in Cameroon, so too has the SDF struggle against neocolonialism ended in defeat!

While the silent majority racks their brains to think of what to do next, one can only speculate on what the defeated SDF is likely to do next.  Although nobody asked Fru Ndi not to go to parliament, he has always mourned over the fact that “the people he sent to parliament” go around with diplomatic passports and armed guards provided by the state, while he has none of these. Now that the constitution of the SDF prohibits the National Chairman of the party from being a government minister, he is likely not to be too warm to make other diplomatic passport carriers guarded by state security while he remains in his helpless state. He will most probably beg his new mentor to create the “leader of the opposition” outfit, which is no threat to his Chairmanship position, and affords him a diplomatic passport, armed guards, and financial gains too. Or maybe beg him to hurry up with elections to the Senate, where he might find a foothold, even if it is ELECAM to oversee them!

And the 2011 presidential election: to go or not to go? Judging by Fu Ndi’s propensity for proclaiming himself No.2 of the Republic because of his no. 2 position in presidential elections, he is likely to block the way to his succession as no.2 by any of the many candidates that are declaring their intentions to run. Or he may try some populist posturing to indicate that he has not yet completely sold out. He may decide to boycott the poll on the excuse that no good can be done by ELECAM in its present state, since Paul Biya is showing no signs of wanting to change it. Remember he had been telling everybody before he found his new mentor that “there will be no elections in Cameroon under the present dispensations of ELECAM.” Following the boycott, and the generalized low turnout that is expected, the politics of the nation would still be too timid to provide Paul Biya the grand exit following or during his last presidential term. This may set the stage for another round of the SDF/CPDM talks we witnessed following the 1997 boycott, and the final entry of the SDF in a “coalition” government, or a government of unanimity, provided Fru Ndi already has his own niche carved out for him, like being in the Senate, or the “official” leader of the opposition!

In politics, every action has its rationale. Some may be convincing, others may not. Fru Ndi could have chosen to remain in his previous position, and allowed Paul Biya to continue to stew in the juice of his political mess until the end of his reign. He did not: he chose to embrace him. From his posturing about his party coming alive following the embrace, it is possible that he knew he had descended so low that such an embrace could only provide him some energy for a rebound. But I think that Fru Ndi needs much more than the energy provided by the embrace to cause a rebound that has any significant effect on the disposition of the political chess board as it is presently laid out. Except, perhaps, he sees the future more clearly than I do.

 

Tazoacha Asonganyi

Yaounde

Committee to Protect Journalist Demands Untainted Investigation into the Ngota Ngota Affair

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 | Phone: (212) 465-1004 | Fax: (212) 465-9568 | Web: http://www.cpj.org

CPJ seeks untainted Cameroon investigation of Ngota death

May 6, 2010

H.E. Paul Biya

President of the Republic of Cameroon

Yaoundé, Cameroon

Via facsimile: (237) 22 20 33 06

Dear President Biya,

The Rio del Rey. the Boat for which Ngota Ngota died

We are alarmed by investigations that appear to be flawed and marred with political interference into the April 22 death in prison of journalist Germain Cyrille Ngota. We hold Cameroon’s government responsible for Ngota’s death and the well-being of three other journalists in the custody of the administration. We call on you to address these concerns, along with allegations of torture of journalists by a security agency accountable to your office.

Mr. President, we were heartened by an April 26 statement issued from your office stating that “with a concern of objectivity and impartiality, the President of the Republic has wanted to assign this case to a body independent of the Executive and its parties, namely the judicial power, in view of the establishment of the truth.”

However, the same statement asserted that Ngota’s case was “not a matter of restriction of freedom of the press but of submission of every citizen to the rule of law.” In fact, agents of the Cameroon intelligence agency DGRE first arrested Ngota—while he was receiving home medical care for high blood pressure—with three other journalists investigating a document that implicated presidential adviser Laurent Esso in corruption. The administration has not addressed allegations that DGRE agents used psychological and physical torture to force the journalists to reveal sources for the document. 

The president’s statement further asserted that Ngota died only of poor health and not because of poor medical care at Nkondengui prison. However, in an interview with weekly La Météo, Ngota’s mother, Georgette Edima Ngoulou, said her son had complained of being trampled while sleeping on the floor of his cell and of exposure to rainwater. She said the prison warden “categorically rejected” a written plea for his medical evacuation, which his mother said had been endorsed by the prison doctor.

We are troubled that on April 28, the minister publicly disclosed that Ngota had been tested positive for HIV and died from infections arising from this condition—a claim refuted by Ngota’s widow. Local anti-AIDS activists and Cameroon’s national medical association have condemned the public disclosure of Ngota’s HIV status, raising concerns of violation of privacy and medical confidentiality rights enshrined in Cameroonian laws and the U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS. The minister’s statement was based on an autopsy he said would be held “in the presence of independent personalities” and Ngota’s family, according to Agence France-Presse. However, Ngota’s younger brother, Bruno Ntede, and Félix Cyriaque Ebolé Bola, a local journalist who was invited by the minister to represent the independent press at the autopsy, said they were not present, according to press reports.

Mr. President, you tasked Cameroon’s judiciary with independently investigating this matter. Yet, we are troubled that the integrity of the probe may have already been compromised by a series of assertions from the administration that are at odds with claims made by family and friends of Ngota. In the interest of transparency and safeguarding the integrity of any judicial investigations, we call on your leadership to address these concerns, including allegations that DGRE intelligence agents used physical and psychological torture to force four journalists to reveal sources of the document at the basis of their arrests. We finally ask that you release all journalists held in Cameroonian prisons.

Thank for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon

Executive Director

URL > http://cpj.org/2010/05/cpj-seeks-untainted-cameroon-investigation-of-ngot.php

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.cpj.org.

Bibi Ngota: Sinking Ship, the Plot Thickens.

It has now filtered that Ngota Ngota and company did not get the first information about kickbacks in the purchase of a ‘Hotel-ship’ and huge sums – from a leaked conversation. The press got the the tip from the very authoritative Africa Confidential way back in 2009.

Article lu dans Le Confidentiel Africain — N° 105 — 1er octobre 2009

Scandale à la SNH

La puissante Société nationale des hydrocarbures (SNH) présentée comme la « caisse noire des recettes pétrolières » du régime du « renouveau » est en passe de faire exploser l’un des plus grands scandales financiers qu’ait jamais connu le Cameroun dans les tous prochains jours. Il s’agit de l’« affaire Rio Del Rey », le nom de baptême du bateau hôtel acheté à 17 milliards de F.CFA par la SNH que dirige un des rarissimes hommes de confiance du président Paul Biya, le très discret Adolphe Moudiki. Ce Sawa, ancien directeur adjoint du Cabinet civil, ancien ministre et actuellement administrateur directeur général de ladite société dont la gestion relève de l’exclusivité de la présidence.

En 2008, la SNH spécialisée dans le partenariat de recherche des puits pétroliers off-shore et on-shore, ainsi que des quotas de production et de transport du brut tchadien à travers le pipeline Doba-Kribi avait couronné une année faste en chiffre d’affaire par le versement de la somme record de 651,217 milliards de F.CFA au Trésor public. La bonne santé de la SNH en 2008 s’expliquait, selon nos sources, par trois découvertes et la signature de trois nouveaux contrats de partage de production avec le consortium Glencore/Afex et avec les sociétés Addax et EurOil, respectivement sur les blocs Matanda, Iroko et Etindé. Toutes choses qui avaient permis des versements des primes de rendement à son sélectif personnel, ainsi que les encouragements spéciaux de son PCA statutaire, le secrétaire général de la présidence, Laurent Esso, tant le ministre des Mines n’en assure qu’une transparente tutelle administrative. En 2008, la SNH avait confirmé la commande d’acquisition d’une barge hôtel d’une capacité de 132 lits : « Cette barge, dénommée Rio Del Rey, et qui a coûté 17 milliards de F.CFA environ représente le premier investissement de cet ordre jamais réalisé par la SNH, sur fonds propres », s’en était d’ailleurs félicité l’ADG auprès du président Biya à qui Adolphe Moudiki rend prioritairement et exclusivement compte du vrai tableau de bord des recettes pétrolières…

Le problème aujourd’hui repose essentiellement sur les mécanismes de cette transaction opaque ainsi que les caractéristiques futuristes de la barge Rio Del Rey (RDR) équipée d’un héliport et dont la SNH était peu disert sur le pays et l’usine de fabrication de ce « bateau hôtel flambant neuf ». On sait que le RDR a été fabriqué par « Aksoy Gelibolu Shipyard » en Turquie, dans le même chantier naval ayant monté la barge « Elisa ». Le RDR fabriqué et mis à l’eau le 28 septembre 2008 dans le port de Gelibolu (situé dans le détroit de Dardanelles à 250 bornes d’Istanbul) aurait dû être livré à la SNH au mois d’octobre 2008, via la firme suisse « ABC Maritime » que dirige Robert Rohrbach. Seulement la barge RDR n’est jamais arrivée au Cameroun, nonobstant le dernier versement du solde des 17 milliards le 26 novembre 2008. Les traces du RDR remontent plutôt au mois d’avril 2009 où la barge fut utilisée par Total Genève et une expédition aux larges de Dakar au Sénégal le 12 mai 2009. Depuis lors, le Cameroun attend sa barge achetée à pas moins de 17 milliards de F.CFA. Pis, la transaction pour l’acquisition du RDR aurait connu des intermédiaires occultes. Nos sources s’interrogent – entre autres – sur l’attribution d’une somme de 480 millions de F.CFA représentant 3 % des commissions sur les 17 milliards de F.CFA versés à Dooh Collins, directeur général de « Petroleum Advising Services » (PAS). Cet argent fait jaser les personnes proches dudit dossier. La presse camerounaise est en passe de se saisir de cette affaire…

Of Gramophones and the Talibanization of Government Communication. By Ntemfac Ofege.

Basic. The prime duty of government is to provide services. Whenever government fails to provide services, the citizenry resorts to all manner of ways including criticisms on radio and in newspapers, uprisings and coup d’états to abrogated predatory and failed governments.

Basic. The gramophone. Described as a willful artifact capable of producing sound of often dubious quality. A trademark of the gramophone: His Master’s voice. Whenever the pin of the gramophone got stuck, the instrument produced plenty of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The production of plenty of sound and fury is called noise. Cameroon’s current Minister of Communications, the esteemed Issa Tchiroma Bakary sounds like the final gramophone.

Basic. Talibanization should be defined as this extreme state wherein those who rule make believe that their point of view is the absolute. Talibans prescribe death to refuseniks who do not subscribe to their skewed rhetoric. Under the pretext that such deviants are perturbing public order. Off with their heads. Death to radio stations, for example.

Cameroun came very close to being a Taliban state when Ahmadou Ahidjo lorded it in these parts. Issa Babary Tchiroma, Cameroon’s new Minister of Communications is a pure product of the Ahmadou Ahidjo School of dictatorship, high-handedness and vile tyranny. Since he became Communications minister some months ago, Issa Bakary Tchiroma’s pronouncements lead many to dread the return of Ahmadou Ahidjo and the talibanization of communications in Cameroon. Proof, of that? The man has just shut down Sky One radio.

One of the conditionalities for creating a private radio and tv station in Cameroon is that ALL programmes of the radio and tv must be approved by the Ministry of Communications. Did the Ministry approve or did it fail to approve the Sky one programme, Le Tribunal? Who failed to provide vital services and who is today blaming the victims?

Accusing Sky one of not respecting professional norms and of defaming some Cameroonians is disingenuous – giving a dog a bad name. This is lynching. This is abuse of power. The Minister is not qualified to adjudicate on journalism. His Chief of Judicial Affairs is not qualified to adjudge on defamation. Only the courts can rule on defamation.

In pure democratic tradition, the Union of Journalists, UJC should have been consulted before the extreme closure of Sky one.  What if for the sake of solidarity all radio stations in Cameroon create programmes similar to Le Tribune du Peuple?

I have explored the format of the Sky one programme. This is another case of the people versus government. Had the Sky one journalists gone into investigating and interpreting the facts as brought to them by the public, the programme would have had more teeth. What is so wrong with having a Judge Judy format on radio?

Last June, a catholic cum French outfit published a document stating that Mr. Paul Biya may have swiped some 46 billion FCFA from the commonwealth.  Ever the Machiavellian, Mr. Biya moved fast to shuffle his cabinet, distract attention from the publication and make people like Issa Bakary Tchiroma minister.

Now Issa Tchiroma can be described as a political prostitute. He was UNDP yesterday, He was ANDP, then he was SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) and today he is the spokesman of the CPDM government! This minister hails from a culture not only associated with talibanism but also associated with griotism. That is why the man makes the perfect town-crier for Mr. Biya. It is Mr. Tchiroma’s legitimate right to go on all fours behind Mr. Biya, but it is also the right of Cameroonians to refuse that route. Only a Taliban would think differently.

Even time he has operated his routine electoral coup and has been sworn in as president, Mr. Biya has sworn to uphold the constitution. Article 66 of that constitution says, some public officials must declare their assets. Cameroon’s existing law on stealing public money prescribes LIFE JAIL for anyone who so much as swipe, misappropriate, or sidetrack only 500.000FCFA. Name one public official, from the District officer to the president, who has not distraire 500.000FCFA? Dixit Lapiro, they all belong to Kondengui, you see.

Had Mr. Biya declared his assets, we might not have reached the current wahala wherein political touts are parading up and down the country bleating Motions of Support like lost sheep. What has the president to say for himself? Did he take out 3.2 billion from the now dead SCB bank to build himself a country house with an attendant golf course? Did he dole out taxpayers money in the millions to his favourite Rose Croix sect? Did he, etc, etc? Sue CCFD, if you can!

One of Mr. Tchiroma’s dirges has been for Cameroonians to forget all these stolen funds and focus on creating wealth (la creation des richesses) so that itchy fingers can continue stealing.  This is ludicrous!

Government’s newest gramophone says that the solution to the kyrie of problems faced by the private media in Cameroon is to provide more government subsidies. This is truly asinine. Government subsidies are never timely nor enough. Moreover such bribes violate the SIGMA DELTA CHI Code of Journalism ethics as prescribed by UNESCO. And this money goes into the deep pockets of the owners while workers suffer. The private press in Cameroon has just reached a collective bargaining agreement with government.  To help the private press, government should respect its own engagements in the Convention Collective.

Government should also respect the treaty it signed with UNESCO as remove all taxes on media raw materials. And, government should begin respecting its own Law by handing out their due share of the AUDIO-VISUAL tax to private radio and television stations. The AUDIO-VISUAL tax was never intended for CRTV alone. Existing and future private radio and television stations ought to sue government.  And, ministers (Biyiti and Tchiroma) should desist from scaring away investors in the media with their misuse of a dubious concept called public order.

Mr. Issa Tchiroma hails from the North of Cameroon. He passes around for an eminence grise of the northern barons. Mr. Tchiroma’s action creates acute wariness of the return of the Northern merchants. Cameroonians can live with a gramophone in the Ministry of Communications, but surely not a Taliban.  Or is it a neo-Taliban?

The Scary Sums that led to the death of Ngota Ngota

YAOUNDE – 05 MAI 2010
© La Nouvelle
 4 Réactions
 
L’integralite de la lettre du DP de “Le Devoir” au DG de la SNH dans le cadre de l’affaire du bateau-hotel…
 
En date du 9 octobre 2009, le directeur de publication du journal Le Devoir, actuellement incarcéré à Kondengui adresse une correspondance à l’administrateur directeur général de la SNH, Adolphe Moudiki. Voici l’intégralité de cette lettre qui porte en objet “vérification de l’information“. Même comme on peut observer qu’il va dans tous les sens, le journaliste qu’il est, n’a-t-il pas voulu procéder à la critique des sources en adressant cette correspondance à l’Adg de la Snh ? Lisez plutôt.Monsieur,Je viens par la présente, vous tenir informé de ce qui suit: je suis journaliste depuis 25 ans, puis directeur de publication, j’ai le souci de donner à mes lecteurs, la bonne information, recoupée et vérifiée.

A cet effet, vous connaissant mieux pour vous avoir côtoyé depuis 1986, j’ai trouvé en vous, et sans flagornerie aucune, un homme très honnête. Cerise sur le gâteau, je viens de boucler une enquête; à l’issue de celle-ci, je vais vous faire part de mes préoccupations, bien avant la publication de ma prochaine édition. Et il y a quelques mois, si j’ai publié des informations concernant la Snh, sans recoupement et sans procéder à la critique des sources; c’est juste parce que j’ai été menacé par votre épouse Nathalie et votre chargée de la communication, Cécile Epondo Fouda. Et dans un morceau bien choisi de chez nous, on dit: le temps passé ne revient plus…

Monsieur l’Adg, voici mes préoccupations:

1.-/ Annoncé à grand tapage médiatique, la grosse affaire de la SNH à savoir l’achat du yard pétrolier baptisé (Rio Del Rey) sent du roussi. Pouvez-vous aujourd’hui dire aux Camerounais toute la vérité et rien que la vérité telle qu’à une époque révolue, vous avez eu à demander aux accusés d’en faire en levant la main droite ?

2.-/ Courant décembre 2008, vous avez selon des sources généralement bien informées, envoyé votre charmante épouse Nathalie Moudiki en Hollande pour l’inauguration et l’appréciation dudit navire qui, excusez du peu, aura coûté plus de 17 milliards de francs CFA. Question monsieur l’Adg: pourquoi elle et non quelqu’un d’autre ? Est-elle spécialiste en la matière ?

3.-/ La bonne affaire, (votre Rio Del Rey) selon les mêmes sources, n’a passé que 7 jours au Cameroun; alors l’opération Epervier qui sévit sur l’Albatros ne vous a pas encore suffisamment instruit, dans la mesure où celle-ci, négociée par le truchement de la société écran dénommée Gmbh, n’est rien d’autre qu’un gros détournement ?

4.-/ Par correspondance (confidentielle) de monsieur Laurent Esso ci-devant Pca de la Snh et Sg de la présidence du 20 juin 2008 sous le N°007/Prc/Sg/D-06 ayant pour objet je cite “dossier Rio Del Rey”; avez-vous au terme d’un entretien téléphonique d’environ 45 minutes, diligenté l’opération de paiement de la somme de 1 342 000 000 FCFA, en prenant soin d’écarter monsieur Mendimi qui est le directeur financier, préférant travailler (les besoins de la cause) avec un certain Menyu Paul Debauger et d’autres cadres de la maison dont une dame ? Alors monsieur l’Adg, combien d’opérations du genre avez-vous fait pour préparer votre retraite qui frappe déjà à la porte ?

5.-/ Dans cette affaire, vous êtes au nombre de cinq: à savoir Laurent Esso, Dooh Collins, Antoine Bikoro Alo’o et Dayas Mounoume. Ce bonus qui en guise de commission a été entièrement payé bien que cela se soit fait en deux tranches selon les ordres de virement. Honnêtement, Dooh Collins reconnaît avoir perçu 470 millions. Quant à vous, pouvez-vous nous dire ce que vous avez eu réellement ?

6.-/ Les mauvaises langues, si jamais elles le sont, disent que vous avez écarté des circuits, votre ancien complice de détournement des 1,342 milliards pendant les quelques jours de maladie qu’elle a passés à l’hôpital de la CNPS, au profit de Essama Ndi Naomie et autres Menyu Paul, monsieur l’Adg: jusqu’à quand allez-vous continuer à jouer ce jeu dangereux ?

7.-/ Les mêmes mauvaises langues déclarent que vous êtes déjà entrain de tout faire pour éliminer la jeune dame, parce que croyez-vous, c’est elle qui a vendu la mèche. Qu’en est-il exactement ?

Très haute consideration

 
 http://www1. voanews.com/ english/news/ africa/Cameroon- Investigation- into-Journalists -Death-is- Challenged- 92778184. html

Cameroon Media in the Loop. By Fon Achobang

In flames?World Press Freedom day celebrations are dedicated to reflections on what the role of the media should be in society. On the eve of the 2010 manifestations, the Cameroon media was bereaved as one of its members, Bibi Ngota, was allegedly tortured and abandoned to die in pretrial detention at the Kondengui Central Prison. Cameroon media was also shocked beyond rationale when the Minister of Communication, government regulator of the sector, Issa Tchiroma Bakary went out of his way to make a public statement that Bibi Ngota was HIV positive and died from opportunistic infections. Against this background, Cameroon media is in mourning and reflection on the challenges that face the sector.

Citizens cannot make sound decisions on issues put before them without the free flow of information and public opinion. This information and opinion helps them to make informed decisions during elections and on which projects to support. 2011 is a critical year in Cameroon and the media cannot allow itself to fail. They must create the atmosphere for debate and free flow of information to educate and sensitize voters.

Cameroonian voters should be given a limitless supply of information sources; newspapers, magazines, radio, television, books, mailed communications and pamphlets. Hundreds of newspapers are reported as registered in Cameroon, and according to government that is an alibi for press freedom. How does the Cameroonian press provide coverage of all important local, regional, national and international developments?

The Prime Minister of Cameroon, Yang Philemon just completed an economic and image charming trip in the United States of America. The Cameroonian people are left to consume only the coverage of Cameroon Radio Television and Cameroon Tribune, both government public media. A vast majority of the bourgeoning press was left out of the trip. Of course, government media concerns are limited and will fail to report the all important trip from all perspectives. By the end of the trip few Cameroonians will be informed of the necessity of such a trip and the its fallouts.

As a committed sector to impartial and unbiased reporting of facts, the mass media, as an ideal should enable voters to make intelligent decisions. As such the media should analyze the meaning of developments, and in clearly identified columns and broadcasts, express editorial opinions supporting or opposing the decisions of public officials. In the current dispensation, the Cameroon private media has been seen as weakening government action in acting for the public good. This is because the private media has been the one reporting the various allegations on Biya’s Ill-gotten Wealth and the suits against the Head of State in the diaspora.

As to the choice between the media and the government, let us remember what Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence in America said. In 1787 he declared:

The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

Over 200 years ago, that is what one of the founders of the American modern nation thought of the media. As a source of informed opinion, it should occupy the priority position. The Cameroon media should offer debates on public issues and interviews with persons who support or oppose specific actions. The Cameroon government has indicated, perhaps it has become its hallmark, that it is opposed to any opinion opposing its actions. In the 1980s when the economic crises started biting the country, lots of journalists of the English expression tried to debate issues in the country. They were whisked off the news programme, Cameroon Report and taken straight to the Kondengui Central Prison. The name of the programme had since been changed to Cameroon Calling but each time the spirit of Cameroon report reared its ugly head, the anchor was taken off. As such the Cameroon media lost some of its best practitioners in the English language.

Today, the Cameroon media is confronted with all sorts of problems caused by amateurs and people who barely have the tools for reporting. The 1990 communication regulations try to define what a journalist was. According to this profile, a journalist was somebody who went through a school of journalism; somebody with a postsecondary education and should have spent at least a year practicing in a media house; and thirdly if the practitioner does not have a postsecondary certificate, he should have spent at least four years in a media house. These criteria notwithstanding, there is no watchdog to screen those currently on the field.

Some government institutions and authorities have, therefore, taken advantage of this lack of regulation to impose their personal stamp on what they imagine to be against them in the media. It is in this light that the very powerful Minister of State, Secretary General at the Presidency, Laurent Esso used his position to bypass all judicial procedures to get Bibi Ngota detained. Recently, I was dragged to the Kumba High Court to answer charges proffered against me by the powerful Judge of the court. He felt defamed when I publicized one of the swindling sagas he is involved in. if I had been found within his jurisdiction, he would have detained me. My belonging to a different jurisdiction did not prevent him from crossing his judicial boundary to accost me with a summons, which I of course used as evidence of his abuse of power to petition the President of the Republic, Chair of the Higher Judicial Council.

Reporters are expected to know their rights and responsibilities and operate within the ambit of such rights. If I didn’t know my legal rights, and knew how to analyze the data collected from the Meme High Court, that legal jurisdiction would have messed me up like Bibi Ngota. Today, it is the judge running away from his shadow and resorting to arson to erase damaging evidence against him.

The treatment of information by those who gather such information leaves much to be desired. An uncle of the Cameroon media, Sam Nuvala Fonkem observed that there were lots of assumptions in the columns of our newspapers and broadcasts. His advice was never to assume, but to elucidate and clarify a news story as if the reader knows nothing at all about it. Here publishers and news editors fail to do justice to reports as they transform themselves into butchers, cutting chunks of valuable information indiscriminately. This might be an overstatement because the cutting of valuable information is premeditated.

Some publishers have personalities to protect. Every time such personalities are highlighted negatively, the story is either killed or edited in such a way that the news is killed. Sometime in 2009, a seminar on corruption held in Buea. The participant from the American embassy declared that he was ashamed to call the Honourable Rose Abunaw such because she was a disgrace. This was because she was behind the many visa scams for which Dr Fonkam Azu Simon was accused on the private media.  Even though there was enough evidence to pin down Rose Abunaw as the culprit, this newspaper publisher decided that the story be censored.  What about the publishers/editors who will call the culprits reported in an article to come and buy off the story?

Selling of stories to culprits might even be more profitable than selling papers on the streets. No Cameroonian paper sells 3,000 copies per edition. Cameroonians prefer to save their money for beer and other mundane concerns than buy a paper which does not articulate their anxieties and propose solutions. Government too has censored the papers by making them unaffordable to the common man. At FCFA 400 for 16 pages, most folks find it a waste of scarce resources buying a paper. Publishers, therefore, resort to unpalatable strategies to make money; smear campaigns, selling stories and blackmail.

Some news organs have simply transformed themselves into griots or praise singersfor some powerful elite. You cannot blame them as most are unable to put food on their tables nor keep their issues in school. You need to see how some news gatherers fight over food at conferences to which their news organs were never invited. such events provide them the unique opportunity to have a balance meal. They will heap food on their plates till you cannot see their faces from across the table. With many months of unpaid wages, it is enough to turn them in any direction with as little as FCFA 5,000.

Government can reverse this negative trend by throwing its weight behind the media and supporting them in every material way possible. This though runs the risk of transforming some publishers into band boys of the government dimabola chorus. In this election season, more seminars should be organized to drill reporters on reporting and the media laws. Government should be lobbied to support media house financially. This may help check some of the abuses noticed with private media corporations. The public services should also avail media houses of information. 

 
Fon Christopher Achobang
Department of Linguistics
Faculty of Arts
University of Buea
P.O. Box 63 Buea

(Senior Translator),
English-French- English
Expertise; International Business Translation; Literary Translation, Medical Translation; Editing; Proofreading.

(Senior Reporter)
P.O. Box 1095 Limbe
The Cameroons

Tel, 237 99365954