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…

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

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?