Cameroon President Paul Biya: Delusion Personified

The New Year seemed to have begun on a good footing, until I was unfortunate to come across Paul Biya’s New Year address to Cameroonians. Naturally, I would have gone by without paying attention, but my curiosity was piqued because this happens to be one of the few times he actually gets to spew garbage to Cameroonians. For the most part, Cameroonians who care to listen only get to hear him twice a year (February 10 and December, 31). Every year, the speeches seem to be the same with just some minor variations. But as it is often said that ‘half a loaf is better than none’, Cameroon, a nation that never sees their president give an ordinary press conference, cannot help but hope that something new (like perhaps a resignation) could be included in one of these traditional speeches. So against our best inclinations, we find our selves listening to these speeches every year, for the past 32 years. But what did he say new this time?

Paul_biya_dec2013

‘Cameroonians are satisfied with 2013…’

For a split moment I thought he was talking about a different country and not the Cameroon I knew. When he began by saying that 2013 gave Cameroonians reason to be satisfied, he got my undivided attention. Then as the speech progressed, he asked some ‘reasonable questions’

Would we be unable to do what some other countries comparable to ours have done or are doing? I do not think so. We have talented, resourceful, well-trained and enterprising men, women and youth, who are capable of meeting these challenges. We have abundant and diverse natural resources as well as modern and democratic institutions. Our country is peaceful and stable. What then do we lack?”

Since Biya apparently failed to properly answer these questions, I am apt to join Biya in asking – what does Cameroon lack –  so as to be able to suitably attempt an answer.

What Does Cameroon Lack?

Reversing the question to WHAT DOES CAMEROON HAVE may make certain things clearer? First I will agree with Biya that Caemroonians are talented, resourceful, well trained and Enterprising, but what he does not say is that a greater part of these resourceful, well trained and enterprising Cameroonians are either in Diaspora or looking for opportunities everyday to escape the entrapment of poverty that his government has visited on them. The few who do not think of leaving are using their talents to scavenge from the carcases of the nation or are very enterprising as scammers selling non-existent Yorkie puppies over the internet.

Roads in a Country Where Cameroon are said to be satisfied
Roads in a Country Where Cameroon are said to be satisfied

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Roads in a Country Where Cameroon are said to be satisfied
Roads in a Country Where Cameroon are said to be satisfied

It is a shame that Cameroon has been named African in Miniature because of the natural resources and diversity it inhabits, but what Biya does not mention is that the resources are fast depleting and there is nothing yet to show for it in terms of growth and infrastructural transformation in the country. The East Region of the country for example, with vast tracts of forests, is called ‘the forgotten province’ as it has no major highway linking it to any  other part of the country, while Limbe, the ‘town’ that hosts the country’s lone refinery is nothing more than a glorified village.

When Biya mentioned that Cameroon has modern and democratic institutions, it became obvious that he either did not understand what he was reading or he had plugs in his ears. He talked of the formation of a senate as an achievement, but anyone familiar with his kind of politics will rightly guess that of the 100 seats, only 70 are elected and 30 appointed by him (the president). I begin to wonder how modern and democratic this senate is was when the President of the Senate Marcel Niat Njifenji who happens to be the constitutionally designated successor to the President of the Republic in case of a vacancy in the latter office is now 79 years old. In Biya’s dictionary, gerontocracy has certainly become a modern and democratic form of governance. 

So far, from the things Biya mentioned, I am yet to see one thing that Cameroon has…. oh I almost forgot. Biya said Cameroon has peace and stability. Maybe that is one thing we can be proud of, or can we?

A Chimeric Peace

I am sure Biya and his speech writer would have thought differently if they had ever come across the Einstein quote that “Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order – in short, of government.” Understood in these terms, then we can all agree that Cameroon is one of the least peaceful countries in Africa. The illusory notion of Cameroonian peace and stability is best captured in this video.

I wish Biya had watched it before his charade of a speech. But maybe I am being unnecessary hard on Biya because he claims that in past decades, living conditions have improved and threatened only by tense politics, economic crisis and threats to peace… perhaps quickly forgetting that he has recently been attacked in public by Cameroonians in France who were asking to be liberated.

Uneven Democracy – The Biya Model

One itsy-bitsy of truth in Biya’s speech is the acknowledgement of the unevenness of what he calls ‘significant progress’. Not minding the fact that these ‘significant progress’ mentioned in the area of health only talks of yet-to-be referral hospitals and the help that international donors have been able to provide or have promised a country which he acknowledges earlier, lacks nothing.

Even if these projects had been realised, they only reinforce the fact that Biya thinks Cameroon is made up of not more than three Regions, given that seven are completely left out in almost everything. One might even be tempted to say that Biya is a president not of Cameroon but one who lives abroad and visits the capital of Cameroon. Shocking as it may sound, Biya’s visit to Bamenda (the 5th largest city in the country) in 2010, was the first time in about 25 years that he was visiting that part of the country. Little wonder that close to a year of preparations were put in place just to welcome him.For close to two years preparations have been ongoing in Buea, (the former capital of Cameroon) pending a visit from Biya. Businesses have suffered, the atmosphere has been tense, even the graduation ceremony of the University of Buea (held every December) was put off just because of a visit that never took place. The agony continues for the people because until that visit eventually takes place, the preparations must go on. Sadly, no one knows the date Biya will make his visit. Alas, his sycophants will continue to whitewash the tombs that are called towns and cities, till the day of his arrival.

Out of Touch with Reality

Perhaps in all fairness to him, he Biya really believes all he says in his speech and lives by the saying that ‘ignorance is bliss’. In this light, BIYA IS CLEARLY OUT OF TOUCH WITH A COUNTRY HE PURPORTS TO BE GOVERNING. To say that most tourists who visit Cameroon probably know more about Cameroon than Paul Biya who claims to be president would be a fair statement.

The Bible rightly says that ‘if the fool holds his tongue, he may pass for wise; if he seals his lips, he may pass for intelligent”(Prov. 17:28). If Biya just keeps quiet, Cameroonians may never get to know how shallow he really is. Making these traditional speeches only confirm that if one were to look up the word DELUSION in a dictionary on leadership, they will most certainly find the name PAUL BIYA written there as its synonym.

The United Kingdom In Immigration Gimmicks

January 1, 2014 is finally here and if one is to go by all the buzz and hype that has been going on in the British media, then the streets of the UK are undoubtedly going to be cluttered with an avalanche of Bulgarians and Romanians who are claimed will be stealing, begging and pick-pocketing. But as the charade has been going on, I have not ceased to wonder what immigration really means for the UK and the immigrant.

immigration

What it Means for the UK

There is no doubt that one of the most visible effects of globalisation has been the massive shift in the global demand for labour. The creation of new work opportunities in many richer economies in recent years, due to the shifts in type of industries could account for this. At the same time, lack of development and the absence of employment opportunities in poorer economies have created a labour force more eager, and able, to migrate to take advantage of these opportunities. The result of this has been a significant expansion of global mobility. The willingness of immigrant workers and their strong work ethic means that employers will be all too happy to have them work in the most demanding jobs, as was evident in the construction of the UK 2012 Olympic facilities.

It is argued that the movement of people from Europe to North America in the Nineteenth century did more to raise and equalise incomes than trade and capital flows and that in recent years, the Indian Diaspora in the United States for example, acted as an important catalyst to India’s breakthrough into the global market for e-services. This could only mean one thing, they were actively contributing to the economy of the United States. Looking at immigration from this perspective, it is therefore a positive sum game and as the Bulgarian President rightly pointed out, the UK also stands to benefit (if not more) from an influx of immigrants and will instead be at risk of isolation with tougher immigration policies.

If this were the case, then why is all this moaning in the UK about? While it is true that many people get to the UK because they consider it a place where they can tap into opportunities and better the lives of family members they left in their home countries, it is also true that anyone who strives to fulfil this objective will have to contribute massively to the British economy. Anything short of this will mean a backlash too terrible to describe.

The Existential Reality

The first impression given to the outside world is that in the UK, there are jobs simply waiting to be filled in.

Stats
Source: ONS

These statistics provided by the Office of National Statistics may show that there has been some improvements from previous years but this that not mean there has been a glut. For example, the ONS states that

  • The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 71.5%, down 0.1 percentage points from November 2012 to January 2013 but up 0.7 percentage points from a year earlier. There were 29.76 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 24,000 from November 2012 to January 2013 and up 432,000 from a year earlier.
  • The unemployment rate was 7.8% of the economically active population, unchanged from November 2012 to January 2013 but down 0.4 percentage points from a year earlier. There were 2.51 million unemployed people, down 5,000 from November 2012 to January 2013 and down 88,000 from a year earlier.
  • The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 22.4%, up 0.1 percentage points from November 2012 to January 2013 but down 0.5 from a year earlier. There were 8.99 million economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64, up 40,000 from November 2012 to January 2013 but down 199,000 from a year earlier.
  • Total pay rose by 1.3% compared with February to April 2012. Regular pay rose by 0.9% over the same period.

These statistics mean that there are millions of British citizens who are looking for jobs but cannot get them. And if this is so simply put, it may tend to justify the argument that immigrants are coming in to take the jobs of British people. But is this really the case? Of course not… For, how can a person take what does not exist? The fact is that before ever a job is given to an immigrant, it is certain that there are no British people to do them. In the first instance, even a cleaning job in the UK requires previous cleaning experience – which must have been gotten in the UK for a period of six months. How  then does an immigrant who has just entered the UK amass six months experience, that is the basic prerequisite for unskilled work? The paradox beats me.

I remember vividly how I had to pay for training to become a cleaner and caterer, which meant I had to spend close to six months searching for my first part-time job while studying. This makes me to ask the question: if with all the specialist experience I had prior to coming to the UK, I could not secure unskilled work for a long period (and this happens to have been the case with almost all of us who were studying then) how possible is it that claims can be made about jobs being taken by immigrants? It would be only fitting therefore, if the British politicians and policy makers could be generous to add, that there are some immigrants who have no recourse to public funds, and who spend a lot of money in the UK within their first few months without getting anything from the system. Shocking as it may sound, most often, the first few months spent by most migrants outside the EU who come to the UK tends to be a zero sum game – the sole beneficiary of course is the UK.

The Illogicality of the Benefits Argument

I know that most people who are now reading this will already be arguing that migrants from other parts of the EU come to the UK to enjoy the largesse of the welfare system. This thinking defies common logic because British citizens who are living on benefits have a standard of living not much different from those of ordinary working people from other parts of Europe. How then would a person exchange one form of shoddy living for another?  Would a person really travel hundreds or thousands of miles, with the objective of living a better life, choose to live on benefits in the UK? Lets face it, that simply does not make sense.

While there is no doubt that some EU citizens will take advantage of the British welfare system, this can only be for a short term, if they really hope to improve their lives and that of those they left behind in their countries of origin.

Why the Hullabaloo about Immigration

If my thinking is anything to go by, why the fuss about immigration? I can think of only two reasons – fear and publicity.

If Net Migration is actually falling, why the fuss?
If Net Migration is actually falling, why the fuss?

First, the history of the UK is rife with exploitation of other countries. The UK went across the world, grabbed from many countries and helped build their empire. Today, the thought of others coming in simply makes them think that it could be for the same reasons. No wonder there has been bold assertions that Romanians are coming to steal, beg and pickpocket from British people.

Another reason for the immigration fuss could be publicity. The more the British media and politicians talk about immigration, the more the message is sent out across the world that it is a highly-sought destination. This can only mean one thing, the UK needs immigrants more than they are willing to acknowledge. There is no gainsaying the fact that migrants constitute a solid part of UK higher education earnings. It will also be a fair statement to say that without immigrants certain parts of the British economy will slowly grind to a halt.

Leave

There is little wonder then that British policy makers and politicians are sounding ‘the horn on the borders’ to call the people to support the notion of cutting immigration only because they have an axe to grind.