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.

Advertisements

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

Death of Cameroonian Journalist: Local Unit of Commonwealth Journalists Reacts

Death of Germain “Bibi” Ngota.  CACOJ Statement

  The Cameroon Association of Commonwealth Journalists (CACOJ) hereby condemns in very strong terms the diversion and manipulation that Communications Minister Issa Bakery Tchiroma has been carrying out following the death in detention of Journalist Germain “Bibi” Ngota.

Despite the creation of a commission of inquiry to examine the cause of his death, Minister Issa Tchiroma disregarded all medical ethics and released suspicious results of an autopsy carried out on the body of the late journalist.

This CACOJ considers, is a total disregard of the rules of decency and the well established respect of the death that is a hallmark in African culture. By releasing Bibi Ngota’s suspicious medical records, Minister Issa Tchiroma showed how insensitive he and the government he represents are and what lengths he will go to defend a regime that will hang onto power at any cost.

A family has just lost a husband, father, son, uncle and brother in the most atrocious circumstances and instead of giving them some solace, Minister Tchiroma goes ahead to rub salt into injury by releasing his medical results without consulting his family. CACOJ considers this a violation of the rights of Bibi Ngota’s basic human rights and that of his family.

CACOJ is now calling on Communications Minister Issa Bakary Tchiroma to use the same medium he earlier used to apologize to the family of the late journalist. The minister should also apologize to the press family in Cameroon for being so insensitive and provocative. The Minister should be reminded he does not need to be this impolite to prove Bibi Ngota died from natural causes in detention. The simple truth is he died in preventive detention without getting a fair trial and there is evidence he was tortured in detention. A high profile member of the government Laurent Esso, Secretary General at the presidency of the Republic ordered  their arrests and the commission of inquiry should also examine if the allegations against him were true.

CACOJ hereby calls on the Minister to desist from further provocative and manipulative statements concerning the death of Bibi Ngota and to wait like all like minded Cameroonians for the Commission of inquiry to release its findings.

CACOJ also calls on the government to release the two other journalist who were arrested in connection with the case

CACOJ supports the call for a demonstration by journalists and all like minded Cameroonians in front of the Prime Ministers office

CACOJ finally appeals that the government takes its responsibility and pays compensation to the family of the bereaved journalist

Our hearts and prayers are with the bereaved family at this difficult time. We extend our heartfelt condolences to them

3rd May 2010

Francis Ngwa Niba

For and on behalf of CACOJ.

Flashback: Election Fraud in Cameroon Washington Times

Biya’s Democracy, or an Exercise in Fraud? 

Some criticize the ’04 Cameroon vote. Several on a regime-funded U.S. team call it free and fair. 

By Ken Silverstein 

February 14, 2005 

President Paul Biya of Cameroon

 

WASHINGTON — When the strongman who has ruled the West African country of Cameroon for more than 20 years swept to another election victory last fall, a number of observers quickly questioned the process. 

International monitors led by a former Canadian prime minister said they had no confidence in the voter registration lists. Roman Catholic Cardinal Christian Tumi of Cameroon said the election, like all others in his country, was “surrounded by fraud.” 

But former members of the U.S. Congress on the scene were more upbeat about President Paul Biya’s 71% landslide. “In general, the process was free,” Ronnie Shows, one of six observers from the Washington-based U.S. Assn. of Former Members of Congress, told reporters in Cameroon. “This is what democracy is about.” 

The American mission was different in another way: It had been organized by an association member who also was a lobbyist for Biya’s government. The lobbyist served as the mission’s chief staffer and billed Cameroon for his work. 

Biya’s government also picked up the $80,000 tab for the Americans’ visit. And a month after the group left, one of the six observers signed his own lobbying contract with Cameroon, promising to show that the country was making great strides in human rights and democracy, according to federal lobby disclosure records. 

Association Executive Director Peter Weichlein defended the mission, saying it met all ethical standards and that a written report a week after the election included serious criticisms of the process. Five of the observers said in interviews that they had no problem with the lobbyist, former Rep. Greg Laughlin, playing such a key role in the mission. 

But three experienced election monitoring groups contacted by The Times said their standards would bar a variety of the association’s procedures in Cameroon. 

David Carroll, director of democracy programs at the Carter Center, which has monitored dozens of foreign elections, said his group did not accept funding from the government of a country where it was observing an election. 

“That’s a clear conflict of interest,” he said. “So is the involvement of anyone on the delegation who has a clear financial or political interest at stake.” 

A spokesman at Cameroon’s embassy in Washington said he was surprised that former members of Congress had allowed his government to pay for their trip. “It’s not normal practice,” said Richard Nyamboli. “I would think they would want to be autonomous.” 

The association of former lawmakers was chartered by Congress in 1970 to educate the public on “the crucial importance of representative democracy” at home and abroad. Its budget last year was about $750,000, mainly from dues paid by nearly 600 members, grants and an annual fundraiser. Of the association’s 24 board members, at least 18 work or have worked as lobbyists, four of them for foreign countries. 

In addition to its educational programs, the association’s activities include advising parliaments in Eastern European countries such as Poland and Ukraine. 

Last year it delved into election monitoring, sending a mission to Ukraine that was funded by the Washington-based U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, an organization co-founded by the wife of newly elected President Viktor Yushchenko. 

Four delegations sent July through October reported that the election process favored then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, Yushchenko’s presidential opponent. Yanukovich claimed victory in a November runoff election, but after protests in Kiev, the capital, the runoff was repeated, and Yushchenko won. 

(A different group of retired members of Congress also monitored the Ukrainian election and reported that the first round in October was essentially free and fair. That group, which was not affiliated with the association, was organized and funded by three businessmen close to Yanukovich.) 

In July, the Washington law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs inked a $400,000 deal to help improve ties between the U.S. and Cameroon, including on “issues relating” to the October election, federal disclosure forms show. Three Patton Boggs lobbyists, including Laughlin, traveled to Cameroon in August. Laughlin said in an interview that government officials told him they wanted Americans to monitor the vote so they could see how much progress Cameroon had made in building a democracy. 

Laughlin contacted Weichlein about sending an observer mission. Weichlein told The Times that the Biya government agreed to cover expenses and that the delegation members donated their time. Association officials also met with Laughlin to discuss their concerns about a possible conflict of interest, Weichlein said. 

“We sat down with him and said the mission had to be independent,” Weichlein said. “He said that was fine, the government felt it had made great strides and wanted the international community to be aware of that.” 

Cameroon was formed by a 1961 merger between two former territories controlled by France and Britain, but the country didn’t legalize opposition parties until three decades later. Biya, who took power in 1982, won multiparty presidential elections in 1992 and 1997. Those votes were “marred by severe irregularities,” according to a U.S. State Department report issued this year. 

And a separate State Department report, an annual human rights survey, says that the country’s security forces “committed numerous unlawful killings and were responsible for torture, beatings and other abuses,” and that the government “continued to arrest and detain arbitrarily various opposition politicians, local human rights monitors and other citizens.” 

In the current annual survey on corruption by Berlin-based Transparency International, Cameroon is tied for 129th place out of 146 countries. 

Yet for a number of years, the U.S. has maintained friendly ties with Cameroon and other energy-rich West African countries, which have become a growing source of oil imports. The U.S. bought more than $225 million in goods from Cameroon last year, mostly oil, and is one of the country’s major trading partners. 

Cameroon has held one of the rotating seats on the United Nations Security Council since 2002, and it backed Washington’s attempt to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. Biya made his first visit to the White House on March 20, 2003, the day of the U.S.-led invasion against Saddam Hussein. 

The official observer team of the former lawmakers association arrived in Cameroon on Oct. 8, three days before the vote. In addition to Shows (D-Miss.), it consisted of former Reps. Michael Forbes (D-N.Y.), Webb Franklin (R-Miss.), Andrew Maguire (D-N.J.), Richard Schulze (R-Pa.) and Joe Wyatt Jr. (D-Texas). 

Laughlin, a Texas Democrat who lost his 1996 reelection bid after switching to the Republican Party, and fellow association staffer Rebecca Zylberman arrived two days earlier. 

Laughlin arranged the group’s hotels and transportation and set up interviews with government officials and a briefing at the U.S. Embassy. 

“We relied on Greg 100% to put the trip together,” Weichlein said. 

The observers split into three groups and visited the country’s two biggest cities, Douala and Yaounde, as well as a few towns. They also met with representatives of opposition parties, interviewed election officials and visited polling stations. Laughlin did not go with the delegates to observe the actual vote. 

On Oct. 12, as votes were being counted, association members spoke to the media. Even though Laughlin was not an official member of the delegation, he was identified in Cameroonian and foreign news accounts as its leader. He praised the transparency of the vote, with media accounts quoting him as saying, “The elections were conducted fairly.” 

A postelection statement issued by U.S. Ambassador R. Niels Marquardt said the balloting marked “a positive step forward for this country’s evolving democracy.” 

Cameroon’s pro-government media outlets gave the U.S. delegation prominent coverage. 

“Voting Conduct Impresses American Observers,” the headline in the state-owned Cameroon Tribune said. According to the article, the Americans had “exalted” Cameroon’s democratic process. It quoted an unidentified team member as saying, “Cameroon is well on its way in the democratic process.” 

The British Broadcasting Corp. and the Agence France-Presse news agency reported that government denials of election fraud had been backed up by former members of Congress. 

The association issued a report a week after the vote that was more critical than the comments the delegation members had made in Cameroon. It includes complaints from opposition parties and reports a “significant number of irregularities,” including the media’s pro-government slant. It says that “many potential voters” had been unable to register because of their “assumed political sympathies.” 

The report also says that the irregularities were not enough for the association to “disapprove of the balloting process itself.” It calls for the strengthening of the new National Elections Observatory, and says its involvement in the vote marked “an important degree of progress against the background of past elections that were not well-supervised nor widely accepted as open, free and fair.” 

The report, which disclosed the Cameroon government’s funding of the monitoring mission but did not mention Laughlin’s role, acknowledged that government staffers had accompanied two of the three groups of delegates on election day. Although the officials did not limit the observers’ activities, they “did have a large role in outlining the agenda for the day,” it said. 

For one team, the government staffers helped determine which polling stations would be visited. That team, in which Franklin said he was paired with Schulze, reported “no instances of complaints from individuals regarding the denial of voting rights.” 

Weichlein and Laughlin both said that Laughlin had no input into the report. 

“When you get funding from one side, the other side is always going to accuse you of bias, but our report was not a whitewash,” Weichlein said. 

Schulze said he considered the final report too critical of Cameroon. “It now has freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and a good measure of toleration,” he said in an e-mail to The Times. “There was no violence and no coercion.” 

A group of observers from Commonwealth countries, led by former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark, began arriving in Cameroon about six weeks before the election. They deployed 24 monitors on the day of the vote and visited 263 polling stations across all of Cameroon’s provinces. 

In contrast to the association members’ remarks to the media, the Commonwealth group released a statement when it left Cameroon that said that “in a number of key areas, the electoral process lacked the necessary credibility.” 

It issued a 50-page report that also covered Cameroon’s poor human rights record and the government’s history of political violence against the opposition, topics not addressed in the 11-page American report. 

In its report, the Commonwealth group said that the registration process might have “missed a considerable portion of the voting-age population of Cameroon” and that the group had no confidence in the list of those who did register. Its teams encountered complaints from people who said they had registered but whose names did not appear on the lists. Some teams reported that the complaints were “numerous and vociferous.” 

“We ran into swarms of people who had been declared ineligible to vote,” Clark said. 

The report added that the National Elections Observatory lacked credibility and suffered from a “lack of financial resources, staff and enforcement powers.” 

Carroll said the Carter Center did not accept government help with logistics, agenda or escort. 

“A prerequisite for us to accept an invitation is to have unimpeded access,” he said. “The whole idea is to be independent and your movements unknown. If officials know where you are going, they have more ability to manipulate the process.” 

Clark, a member of the Assn. of Former Parliamentarians of Canada, said he had discussed the American mission with his board so “we can take steps to ensure that we don’t slip into the same type of practices” on election missions. 

In November, just more than a month after the election, delegation member Schulze — a member of the association’s board and a lobbyist at Valis Associates — signed up a new client: the Biya government. In exchange for an initial retainer of $149,972, he and two other company lobbyists are to help “maximize the impact of Cameroon’s political and economic reforms on agencies and departments of the U.S. government,” according to disclosure forms. 

Schulze said that after returning to the United States, he contacted some of the people he had met in Cameroon. It “was these discussions, along with our firm’s background and experience, which led to our being placed on retainer,” he said. 

That same month, former Rep. Maguire wrote a sharply critical opinion piece in the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger calling the Cameroon election an example of how “dictators masquerade as democrats.” In a subsequent interview with The Times, he defended the association’s observer mission but said that he thought it was impossible to have a free election in Cameroon. 

Two other delegation members, Wyatt and Franklin, swiftly reacted to Maguire’s column. Franklin said they had worked with lobbyists Laughlin and Schulze to craft a letter to the editor that declared the election “free, fair and transparent.” 

Weichlein said the association hoped to expand its election observer program in the years ahead. 

“We have a unique pool of experienced legislators,” he said. “If asked, we can lend our knowledge and be extremely helpful to emerging democracies.” 

Times Staff Writer

Changing the System or the Incarnator

Changing the System or the Incarnator

By Ntemfac Ofege

In reply to Ateba Eyene and the Taliban of Communications aka Comical Ali.

Comical Ali

Several things: Point one. The fact about the matter is that Bibi Ngota hails from Mr. Biya’s Bulu-South province, Laurent Esso is from Deido- Douala…hence, per Ateba Eyene, the Bulus would want the Duala-Deido to account. This is preposterous! It shades the trees from the forest. I find Abeba Eyene subtle tendency to methodically tribalize, if not localize+regionalize: and hence trivialize, political issues parochial, suspect in very bad taste.

Now a certain cynicism would even demand most folks (like me) abstain from taking sides in this matter…after all, a CPDM Minster-Secretary General by decree has (mis)used the much decried instruments of torture and repression inherent in every quasi failed state cum dictatorship to murder a member of the ‘Pays organisateur’ in Ateba Eyenespeak. Dog eat dog. After all, Mr Biya’s tribesmen (even journalists from the South Region especially those at Cameroon Tribune and CRTV) and their political accomplices from the Centre and the East have always formed a bulwark whenever Camerounians have shouted from the rooftop that the system is wrong. Members of Bibi Ngota’s home region are not only supporters but the systematically vote for; they defend their frère de président and the monstrous system he incarnates. These often parochial cum ego-centric folks have often confused the ardent desire to modernize and democratize Cameroon with the case of changing Mr. Biya for foibles more real than imagined.

The problem, dear excellent colleague, is about terminating a dictatorial, clientelist, gulag created by one man for the benefit of one patron and his clients. This is a system wherein so-called top civil servants invented by clientelist presidential decrees no longer perceive themselves as ordinary. They are now omnipotent yet the lack omniscience or basic wisdom. These persons now confuse respect for constituted authority with fear of constituted authority. In this system government is not defined as the provision of services but the display of power and authority. M’as tu vu? This is unfortunate.

Were I to use your own imagery, Mr. Ateba Eyene, I would have said that we are in a restaurant and the time has come to pay the bill. You are also now paying for what you consumed and knowing what other Cameroonians have known before. After savaging and murdering Cameroonians of other strains and ideals, the ‘revolution’ is now turning its own homicidal rage on its own supporters of yore with equally murderous vengeance.

But no! No, my dear excellent young colleague, Ateba Eyene! The furore within other Camerounians about the Germain Cyrille Ngota Ngota murder is not motivated by ethno- regional (hence tribal and trivial) considerations. In fact, Bibi Ngota’s origin is irrelevant. The fact about the matter is that like many others in the far–off and recent past, the murderous system in Cameroun has claimed yet another victim – one too many perhaps. That other journalists, members of the Beti Supremacists who hold sway in the government-controlled media (crtv and Cameroun tribune), have even voted with their feet and are keeping mum in the wake of the inane and cold blooded murder of one of theirs is not a deterrent. It will not deter us simply because tyranny anywhere is tyranny everywhere.

Point two. Like Mathias Owona Nguini, I also openly denounce Ateba Eyene’s sophistry and hypocrisy. This young man, who has tribal affinity to Mr. Biya’s home province and allegiance to Mr. Biya himself – an unmistakable supporter – systematically vomits the hackneyed ‘Biya has nothing to do with it’ ad infinitum ad nauseam. Per Atebe Eyene, everybody and everything else is wrong while Mr Biya is right. Rubbish ! Mr Biya is the problem…he created the contemptible system and he incarnates the system, he sustains the system and he defends the system. What was Mr. Biya’s take on the fact that his Secretary General was directly involved in the murder of a Camerounian? The president’s stand was that Bibi Ngota was not arrested for a press crime or delit the presse. In other words this young man was a common criminal, arrested, tried, sentenced and murdered for an ordinary crime like theft, forgery etc. Lord have mercy! Defending the system, right? Obstructing justice, right? Whereas on March 2, 2010, the local press reported that Mr. Biya had suspended Mr Esso’s signature on official documents. 

Who will receive the copy of the so-called Commission of Inquiry instituted by Mr. Biya to look into the murder of Ngota Ngota? Who will read its findings for his boss? Laurent Esso, the very one indicted by popular verdict for murder most vile. Mr Biya must think we are all fools! And, in every political system, Commissions of Inquiry were invented to sweep scandals under the carpet. Ask the Americans and the British.

Mr Ateba Eyene’s tendency to denounce all around Mr Biya while proclaiming that the president is a saint is illogical and suspect. This is the prototypal vintage Area Eyene – His Master’s Voice and a notorious two-timer.  At best, this is base native and tribal all over again. Mr. Biya is either the greatest thing that ever happened to Cameroun is he is the most unfortunate thing to have happened to Cameroun. Take your pick Mr. Ateba Eyene.

The Ngota Ngota Murder in Kinescope

Let’s survey the facts and the issues again.   

  • Mr Biya’s Secretary General, as Board Chairman of the National Hydrocarbons Corporation, SNH is involved in a dyadic network of Jacob Zuma style kickbacks and graft following the purchase of a luxury ‘Hotel-ship’ for SNH. Whatsoever SNH wanted a ‘hotel-ship’ for is irrelevant but since the taxpayers are paying for the stuff who cares.  Mr Biya himself attempted to siphon SNH money to a dubious Camair account (far away from the eyes of the World Bank+IMF) to wards the purchase of an airplane – the Albatross. That this other nebulous deal was mismanaged and Cameroun lost anything between circa 31 and 71 million dollars is neither here nor there. Atangana Mebara etc are sitting smug in jail over this other heist.
  • Word about this unorthodox transaction, plus a list of beneficiaries of the cuts and takes, was leaked to a collective of Yaounde publishers with Germain Cyrille Ngota Ngota among them. Serge Sabouang (La Nation) and Robert Mintsa (Le Devoir) also had the documents. Whosoever leaked this document is also immaterial. As Mr Biya’s reign ir-recoverably grinds towards the inevitable end, and as rumours of another cabinet shake-up looms, the crocodiles are eating the dogs. That too is understandable in all dictatorships.
  • Like any good journalist Ngota Ngota tabled a questionnaire to the omnipotent Secretary General in the presidency Laurent Esso, who is also Board Chairman of SNH. Crime de lese majeste! How dare a mere journalist question the Sec Gen in the presidency about anything let alone rackets and kickbacks! The Secretary General owes his allegiance and accountability to one man, you see. The one who appointed him, period! What Ngota Ngota forgot was that while the Sec. Gen may have no direct control over the police and the gendarmes, this man is a super magistrate (magistrate hors hierarchie) who has titular control over the DGRE…direction general de la recherché exterieur – the country’s counter terrorism+espionage outfit. In an obtuse case of abuse and misuse of power and authority, Laurent Esso caused the Directorate-General of External Intelligence (DGRE), to arrest Ngota Ngota, Harrys Robert Mintya of Le Devoir and Serge Sabouang of La Nation.
  • It has now filtered that Ngota Ngota did not even have the 100.000FCFA demanded by the source to acquire the indicted document!
  • During their February 5-12 detention at the DGRE, the journalists “were submitted to a number of barbarous acts of torture.’ And indicated by Cameroon’s Syndicate of Journalists. They were tied up and beaten nightly with metal bars, deprived of sleep and food and held naked in icy cells.
  • Ngota, a sickling (asthma+hypertension+hernia) was thus savaged tortured…not because of the authenticity of the document, but to state his source! By law, a journalist can only release his source in chambers before a judge. If this was a common law crime, like Mr. Biya says, why was this poor boy not arrested by the police or the gendarmes? Why the DGRE? Was Ngota a dangerous terrorist or a spy?
  • Having discovered his error of mis-using the DGRE to arrest and torture Ngota the first time, Laurent Esso now causes the Judicial police at Elig-Essono to re-arrest Ngota and prepare a case file against him based on statements and documents tortured out of Ngota.
  • Ngota Ngota’s wife, Mrs Colette Angèle Ngota told a local Radio station, TBC on the programme ‘’ Dans la ligne de mire’’ that she was one and a half months pregnant when the DGRE came for her husband. She says that she was punched in the stomach occasioning a miscarriage some days later. She says the she was bleeding profusely when the judicial police came to arrest her husband who was also on treatment.
  • Under duress, magistrates of the Mfoundi Court now expedite the trial of Ngota Ngota and the boy was despatched to the Yaoundé Kondengui gulag and thrown into a hellion unit called Kosovo.
  • Per Ngota’s wife, her husband was subjected to several tests before being thrown into jail by a certain Dr. Ndi. The HV test was among them. Ngota’s wife, who says she actually saw the medical record, says Ngota was positively diagnosed for hypertension and hernia but he was not HIV positive.
  • Issa Tchroma, Cameroon’s Minister of Communications; a man whose pronouncements border on the fringes of lunacy, a man who has a Taliban’s views to free speech, governance and government communications, a man who in his more mercurial moments is spokesman for the regime, says the DGRE intervened because by attacking the Secretary General in the presidency, the journalists wanted to bring down the government and the  state! Tchiroma says it was not Laurent Esso who was being questioned but a major institution of the state called the President’s General Secretariat – PGS!
  • In violation of every decency know to all cultures, especially the African culture of respect for the dead, no matter the circumstances, Tchiroma now goes public to say Ngota died of AIDS. Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Mixing grapes and oranges. Let’s just reason with this revolting persona. What if Bibi Ngota was actually HIV positive .Was he arrested for being HIV positive? Was he tortured occasioning death for being HIV positive? Is Tchiroma now saying that government policy is to torture HIV infected persons to death? This is what the government of Cameroon now has as spokesman! Comical Ali!
  • After a brief release by the DGRE following which Ngota checked into the Yaounde Biyemassi Hospital for treatment Laurent Esso caused Ngota to be pulled off a sick bed on February 25. He was dragged to court and accused of forgery and using forged documents. Mr Esso’s accomplices and compradors in the magistracy unleashed expedite and thus jungle justice on the boy. He was despatched to Kondengui – speedily! I defy anyone to prove that Ngota actually forged these documents. Remember that the boy did not even have the 100.000FCFA needed to acquire the documents when they were leaked!
  • In Kondengui, Ngota was heaved into the section for common criminals amid the filth and the stench.
  • Ngota’s ailing (hypertensive) poor mother, Ngoulou née Edima Geogette, did bribe an official of the Kondengui prison (30.000FCFA) to get the boy move to better quarters. The official received the money but refused to move the boy.
  • Mrs Ngoulou Edima Geogette pleaded with the prison registrar for her son to be hospitalised. For fear of incurring the wrath of the man above, the registrar refused.
  • Mrs Edima managed to get 150.000FCFA for the boy to be hospitalised an operated upon. That failed and Ngota died April 22, 2010. This boy’s body would not even be given decent treatment after death. Issa Tchiroma, the Taliban, Minister of Communications told some lies, Tchiroma caused journalists to attend a fake autopsy, etc etc.
  • The press has just leaked a segment of a letter written by Bibi Ngota to Laurent Esso stating clearly that he never forged nor did he use the document… « (…) En toute franchise, je n’ai ni fabriqué, ni exploité le document, Je mets quiconque au défit de me prouver le contraire (…)»Mr Ngota wrote before his death. 
  • Consequent upon the death of Ngota Ngota, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the Cameroonian Syndicate of Journalists, the French Foreign Ministry, etc etc, roundly denounced the Biya regime….and note, Ateba Eyene, not Laurent Esso. If Mr Esso was such a liability why has he not been fired! Birds of a feather…
  • On April 25, 2010, the Committee to protect journalists sent this missive to Mr Biya. Your Excellency, we hold the government of Cameroon responsible for the well-being of the three newspaper editors currently held in state detention facilities, namely Mintya, Sabouang and Lewis Medjo of the defunct weekly La Détente Libre. Imprisoned since September 2008 at New Bell prison in the commercial city of Douala, Medjo’s health has deteriorated while in custody. He lost hearing in his right ear as a result of a severe ear infection while serving a three-year sentence over his coverage of a presidential decree, his brother Michée Medjo Gatheu told CPJ.

But this is my grouse with Ateba Eyene. The Camerounian problem is not a quarrel with individuals. It is a quarrel over political systems, their structures and functions. Any undemocratic, clientelist, dictatorial system with entrenched patron-client structures, networks and one based on the personalization of power, one man rule, etc., would show all the tractions, transgressions and contradictions that led to the death of Ngota Ngota.  

See the system (1) A Biya decree invented the-full-of-it Laurent Esso, an ordinary man and a dubious magistrate. Because of that decree Mr Esso now sees himself as omnipotent. He Who Not Only Cannot Be Questioned By The Press But He Who Must Be Obeyed. (2) To add insult to injury, Mr Biya made Esso Board Chairman of SNH…when all the country’s money or most of it emanates (3) the Sec Gen controls the DGRE (4) public contracts within this system are never transparent; the SNH is runned like a Ngumbah house one in with zero transparency (5) the courts and magistrates are avenues for clientelist networks and the magistrates can be influenced by the executive. The magistrates not only recognise know their own and one of there is Sec Gen in the presidency and this position is the president’s ears. This Sec Gen holds the key to upward mobility in the profession (6) these journalists were kidnapped and tortured and these practise remain a given in Cameroon especially for those suspected of attacking politicians (7) Cameroun’s magistrates still use evidence obtained via torture as evidence (8) Cameroon’s prisons are hell on earth. (9) the system operates on fear from above hence the prison authorities are zombies (10) the system does not have a Freedom of Information Act or an Official Secrets (11) Every idiot created by decree is accountable to none save the president. (12) Only the system would do itself the kind of disservice of appointing an Issa Tchiroma into government as spokesman. (13) etc. etc.

All of that as Mr Biya presides. Ateba Eyene’s suggestion for journalists to jump-start a massive inquiry into the management of their petroleum and its spill-overs is a non-starter. Without revisiting the inane pronouncement of a Biyarite, the late Jean Assoumou Avebe, that petroleum matters are too sophisticated for the common man to understand, democratic systems with even a modicum of transparency operate under the FREEDOM of Information Acts and Charters. Such systems volunteer information to the press and by inference the public. In such systems, journalists are not killed because the send interview protocols to the president’s secretariat. What makes Ateba Eyene think that as a matter of causality – the same causes producing the same effects – and given the stakes, another journalist would not be killed for proceeding with this kind of investigation?

One thing is clear. Camerounians of every creed, tribe and colour wish for their country to become a modern, democratic, transparent country, with checks and balances, free and unfettered press, etc. Mr Biya and his regime have neither the will, nor the savvy or even the ability to change their ways, their system and reach for these ideals. In fact, Mr Biya and his regime are in the way of a modern Cameroun. At best, Mr Biya owes Camerounians one favour – clean the Augean stable he created before he leaves – a Herculean and exalting and interesting task.

Consequently, Mr Ateba Eyene, dear young and excellent colleague, you cannot eat your cake and have it. We cannot have any more deaths. So, between changing the system and/or the incarnator, the choice is not Hobsonian. The choice is clear.

 

Committee to Protect Journalists Write to Mr. Biya

April 25, 2010

H.E. Paul Biya
President of the Republic of Cameroon
Yaoundé , Cameroon

Via facsimile: (237) 22 20 33 06

Dear President Biya,

Following Thursday’s death of newspaper editor Germain S. Ngota Ngota, whose health deteriorated while he was incarcerated in Kondengui Prison in the capital, Yaoundé, the Committee to Protect Journalists calls on you to launch a public, thorough, and transparent inquiry into the circumstances of his death. We urge you to provide guarantees for the well-being of three other journalists held in Cameroonian prisons and address ongoing abuses—including allegations of state torture—against independent journalists who raise questions about the administration’s performance.

Ngota, editor of the private bimonthly Cameroon Express, died from “abandonment, improper care” and “failure to render assistance,” according to a prison death certificate that his family shared with journalists. Ngota, known by his nickname Bibi, suffered from high blood pressure and a hernia. Daily Le Jour quoted Ngota’s father as saying that his son’s medical conditions were diagnosed by a prison doctor identified as Dr. Ndi.

Ngota was arrested on February 25, along with editors Harrys Robert Mintya of Le Devoir and Serge Sabouang of La Nation, in connection with a criminal complaint from top presidential aide Laurent Esso in response to their investigation of corruption allegations involving Esso and the state oil company, National Hydrocarbons Company (SNH). The journalists were transferred to Kondengui prison in March under terms of pre-trial detention—which can lasts up to six months and can be extended twice, lawyer Jean-Marie Nouga told CPJ.

Three weeks before his arrest by police, Ngota was picked up by agents of the Cameroon intelligence agency (DGRE) while being treated for high blood pressure at Biyem-Assi district hospital in Yaoundé, Ngota’s father told Le Jour. He was held incommunicado without charge with Mintya, Sabouang and reporter Simon Hervé Nko’o of Bebela. The government has not publicly addressed Nko’o’s claims that security agents used psychological and physical torture to force the journalists to reveal their source for a document on which the allegations were based. Nko’o has since fled into hiding.

Your Excellency, we hold the government of Cameroon responsible for the well-being of the three newspaper editors currently held in state detention facilities, namely Mintya, Sabouang and Lewis Medjo of the defunct weekly La Détente Libre. Imprisoned since September 2008 at New Bell prison in the commercial city of Douala , Medjo’s health has deteriorated while in custody. He lost hearing in his right ear as a result of a severe ear infection while serving a three-year sentence over his coverage of a presidential decree, his brother Michée Medjo Gatheu told CPJ.

Accordingly, we exhort you to urgently take all the necessary steps to ensure that transparent investigations into Ngota’s death and allegations of torture against Nko’o are conducted, and that the results be made public. We ask you to hold to account all officials involved in abuses against their critics in the press and we urge you to initiate media reforms, particularly the decriminalization of press offenses, so that the press is able to raise questions about the management of public finances and cover the news without fear of reprisals.

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

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

CC:

H.E. Bienvenue Joseph Charles Foe Atangana, Ambassador of Cameroon to the United States

Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Hon. Jean-Jacques Ekindi, Member of National Assembly of Cameroon
Sen. Russ Feingold, Ranking Majority Member, Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs

Sen. Richard Durbin, Assistant Majority Leader , United States Senate

Benoît Sossou, UNESCO Representative in Cameroon

Ekue G. Kpodar, International Monetary Fund Representative in Cameroon
Mary Barton Dock, World Bank Cameroon Director of Operations
Faith Pansy Tlakula , African Commission Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

Manfred Nowak, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment
United Nations Committee against Torture

International Federation for Human Rights

H.E. Janet Garvey, Ambassador of the United States to Cameroon
Michelle Gavin, Africa Director, U.S. National Security Council

Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor , U.S. Department of State

H.E. Bruno Gain, Ambassador of France to Cameroon

H.E. Raul Mateus Paula, Head of the European Union Delegation to Cameroon

International Federation of Journalists
Freedom of Expression and Democracy Unit, UNESCO
Freedom House

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

The Pied Piper of Exotic Southern Cameroons upon Ambas. Translation by Ntemfac Ofege

Southern Cameroons upon Ambas,
Below the soaring Fako Mountain;
The Atlantic Ocean, deep and wide,
Washes its wall on the southern side;
A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But, when begins my ditty,
Forty years and nine  this day,
To see the people suffer so
From vermin, was a pity.

Frogs!

They swarmed the land by daylight,

And sneaked in by moonlight,

Conned Old Man Foncha with sweet talks of unification,

And took over the government,

And spread their nature of infamy, fraud and corruption,

Split up the land into provinces, divisions and districts,

And became the occupier,

Named vile tyrants or pro-consults in charge.

Brought in gendarmes by the truckloads,

To spread terror and mayhem,

Murdered the trusting citizens at Santa and Ebubu,

Slaughtered the country’s strong democratic culture and institutions,

Fired Augustine Ngom Jua who protested,

And named two-face Solomon Tandeng Muna in his stead

Corrupted the entire civil service with paper money,

And savaged the territory’s once buoyant economy,

They took over CDC and killed POWERCAM.

Buried the thriving Victoria Seaport underwater,

And tossed the Tiko Wharf into the Muck,

Erased the Bali, Tiko, Besonabang airports.

And turned our towns into ghost towns, when not war zones,

They stole the oil by the tanker-loads,

And lapped up minerals from the mines at lowly Bafaka,

And ate of the proceeds until they dripped with fats,

They placed a bomb within agreeable Lake Nyos

Causing horrendous deaths in the thousands.
Wasted a nation’s education organization,

And roared in mirth as the children to foreign lands escaped.

Gave the themselves choice spots in the administration,

Turned the good natives into beggars,

And called then fools or enemies in the fold when they protested,

And even spoiled the people’s open chats,
By drowning their speaking
With Merde! and croaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.

At last the people in a body
To the Mount Mary Maternity came flocking:

Led thereto by Munzu, Elad and Anyangwe,
“‘Tis clear,” cried they, “our leaders are noddies;

Yawning when not snoring!
And as for the stooge of a Prime Minister —shocking
To think we make regular complaints,
To dolts that can’t or won’t determine
What’s best to rid us of frogs!
You hope, because you’re old and rheumatic,
To find in your cricket coats ease?
Rouse up, Sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we’re lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we’ll send you packing!”
At this the leaders of the people,

Pa Foncha and Solomon Tandeng Muna twain,
Quaked with a mighty consternation.

At having been found out.

Three days they sat in council,
At length, Pa Foncha broke silence:
“For the old British Southern Cameroons crown I’d my robe of office sell;

Grand Chancellor availeth me naught.

These people do have short memories,

They forget so soon,

That I was from my lofty positions as Vice President dumped,

Er yes, and as perpetual Vice Chairman of the Party too,

These people are like elephants,

They do not see my mighty efforts.
I wish I were a mile hence!
It’s easy to bid one rack one’s brain— 
I’m sure my poor old head aches again
I’ve scratched it so, and all in vain.
Oh for some guns, some guns, some guns!”
Just as he said this, what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
“Bless us,” cried Pa Foncha and Muna in unism, “what’s that?”
(With the Council as he sat,
Looking old and as skinny as a lath;
Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister
Than a too-long-opened oyster,
Save when at noon his appetite grew mutinous
For a plate of achu and goat-meat)
“Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a frog gendarme
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!”

“Come in!”—Old Foncha cried, looking bigger:

Ay yes, and taller too!
And in did come the strangest figure!
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of Human and half of Peoples Rights;
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in— 
There was no guessing his kith and kin!

But like a dispenser of justice he looked!
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire:
Quoth one: “It’s as Old Abendong!
Starting up at the Ntamulung grave
Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!”

To wreak justice upon they that murdered him.

 

To be Continued…

A translation can stir all of the senses, and the subject matter of a translation can range from being funny to being sad. We hope that you liked this translation and the sentiments in the words of The Pied Piper Of  Exotic Southern Cameroons Upon Ambas by Ntemfac Ofege you will find other works by the translator on google.