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.

 

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?