Activists in the UK Force Cameroon High Commission to observe ‘Ghost Towns’

The Cameroon High Commission has announced it is shutting down for three days, beginning with Monday 28 January 2019 to Wednesday 30 January 2019 inclusive. This forceful observation of what is known in Cameroon as ‘Ghost towns’, – a mandatory situation where businesses and government institutions shut down as a non-violent response to the degenerating crisis in the North West and South West Regions.

In a communique signed by the High Commissioner and posted on the doors of the High Commission, they acknowledge that their closure is in response to “acts of aggression and malicious damage to property”. This aptly describes what the Regime has been doing in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon over the last two years, and recently in other parts of the country. It is therefore a great think that the High Commision of Cameroon in London has shut down its building to show solidarity.

It is however, to be noted that the said building situated in the prestigious Holland Park Road in London, but there is nothing prestigious about it. The Cameroon High Commission in London happens to be not only the dirtiest and most dilapidated building on the street, it is one that houses people who support criminals of all sorts – rapists, murderers, arsonists etc.

As activists from CODE, Brigade Anti-Sardinard, West Cameroon Movement for Change and the Southern Cameroons Community UK gathered on Saturday 26 January, 2019, there to protest in answer to the call for a worldwide demonstration by President-Elect of Cameroon, Professor Maurice Kamto, they were certain that a message had to be passed on to the High Commission.

Tempers were already frayed by the news arriving that protesters had been shot in Cameroon. A week ago, Combattant Emmanuel Kemta had told the Biya Regime that there will be a reaction from activists across the world, should they attack protesters in Cameroon.

It, therefore, came as no surprise that after rousing speeches from many of the person’s present, including from a 9-year-old girl, the protesters unanimously agreed that it was necessary to leave a message for the Biya Regime Via its High Commission.


On cue, protesters began plastering the walls of the High Commission with eggs, tomatoes and other substances such as ketchup. The Met Police who have made it a duty to constantly protect the building while protests are going on there, looked helplessly as the building was given a ‘face-lift’. A call for back-up saw the arrival of many other officers dressed in black. The new arrivals were unable to stop the havoc until the anger of the protesters subsided.

The message to the Biya Regime was simple – keep on attacking the people, and you might have to clean not only the outside of your embassies but also the inside. A sneak-peak of what lies in ahead was provided by the Brigade Anti-Sardinard of France, who took over the Embassy in Paris and burnt the effigy of Dictator Paul Biya. Similar messages were passed in Germany and Belgium where the embassies were also taken over, effigies of the dictator Biya taken down and in one case, urinated upon.

Cameroonians in the UK made it clear that the ‘gentle stride of a tiger is not a symbol of cowardice’ and that the Biya regime should either leave power peacefully or expect to be forced out.

Talking to Brice Nintcheu, the leader of BAS, UK, he confirmed that the general idea was to force the High Commission to shut its doors. He, however, expressed pleasant surprise at the wording of the High Commissioner, which aptly describes the actions of the Regime in Cameroon. It is therefore fair to conclude that the High Commission closed its doors, not only because activists threw eggs at its dirty building, but also in solidarity with all those in Cameroon who are suffering from ‘acts of aggression and malicious damage to property’ at the hands of the Biya Regime.

My Opposition To The Foley Hoag Law Firm Retainer By Innocent Chia

 

I have come across several questions regarding the lawsuit being brought by SCACUF against the Cameroon government. I sincerely pray and hope it is a success. However, several questions have been raised about its feasibility and the manner in which the firm was recruited, and the seemingly large fee that has to be paid.

While I have refrained from raising my personal concerns in public, coming across this piece from Innocent Chia has given me reason to think it is good if SCACUF can present a clarification or a rebuttal to this. It does not inspire confidence and the sooner open clarifications are made, the better for this struggle.

Please read with an open mind and make your own conclusions and if you have any rebuttals, feel free to present them.

When the dust settles on the retainer agreement that was signed yesterday – 5/7/14 between the Foley Hoag LLP Law Firm and SCACUF (Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium United Front), represented at the signing in Boston, MA by the Southern Cameroons Public Affairs Committee (SCAPAC), I hope to my God that there is nothing to write home about regarding my misgivings vis-à-vis the agreement and the manner in which it went down. It is important, nonetheless, that I speak my mind as a matter of public record because there is a cautionary tale to what many perceive as a giant landmark in our collective march towards the Restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons.

Lawyers For Eritrean Liberation Give Counsel

Sometime between November and December 2016, I started hearing rumors of a Law Firm that was interested in representing Southern Cameroons amidst the heightened, rampant and systematic torture, rape, killings, abductions, disappearances and other dehumanizing acts against our brothers, sisters, children and parents by the paramilitary forces of La Republique du Cameroun. It was not long thereafter that I was fortunate enough to talk with a concerned group that had been researching the option and stumbled upon a couple of the lawyers who represented Eritrea in its protracted fight against annexation by Ethiopia. What these lawyers for Eritrea shared is not only instructive for decisions and choices that have since been made, culminating in the retainer that was signed yesterday but also very instructive of the challenges that we face if we do not detach and rid ourselves of some emotionally charged decision-making processes and those who not only embody but promote the processes and decisions.When asked to take the case for Restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons Versus La Republique du Cameroun, the guys who litigated and won a similar case of Eritrea Versus Ethiopia, had responded that although a clearly WINNABLE case, they would not take it because they did not have the political connections in the current white house to go the distance.

Meaning: if you have to sign up with a law firm that will represent you in this matter, make sure they have the goodwill of this Whitehouse to show.
Translation: if Trump and his surrogates don’t have an African policy that favors intervention on the continent, it is a waste of time and your hard earned dollars because you need their backing in whatever court you drag La Republique to. You need their backing to make sure La Republique implement the verdict of whatever court, otherwise it will be another decision, just like that of the AU, that La Republique kicks like a can down the highway.

These same lawyers who won the case for Eritrea against Ethiopia further cautioned that whatever firm eventually offers to take up our case should not do so for the money. We need to be sure that they are doing it because they love the journey, they love and believe in the cause as much as we do and are passionate about the cause. A measure of that love, passion and believe means being willing to do it for free, they said.They then narrated how they had taken the case of Eritrea and worked on it pro bono (without pay) for a very long time. They had been burning with and fueled by the desire to right the injustice that had been perpetrated by Ethiopia on Eritrea. It is after they had done this free work for quite a while that the Eritrean community came together and insisted on compensating them in acknowledgment of all the hard work that the Firm had been doing on behalf of the people of Eritrea.

Meaning: Whoever is taking our WINNABLE case has to do it because of the love of justice, because they share in our affliction, and want to bring an end to our predicament.

As stated at the top, I can reliably state that when the idea of this lawsuit was but a rumor, many people who were in the know expressed varying concerns about it. There was consensus, even in the opposing voices, for those involved to continue looking for other firms or clinics that would provide competing quotes and then a decision be made. We cannot deny that it is in our blood as Ambazonians to look around for or “beat prices” for the best bargain. Is it not? We de beat even price for okrika shoes for market. We de beat price for store even when the price be marked on the item.

Manipulation, lack of Transparency or Due Diligence

So, why did we not talk with other law firms or put out a proposal for bids from other firms? We know that some small law firms, even some big ones, make their names by taking and championing causes like these. In fact, this is exactly what Ben Muna is doing in Cameroon with Agbor Balla, Neba Fontem, Mancho Bibixi and the other Southern Cameroonians who have been abducted, imprisoned and are getting judged in a foreign land by the colonial La Republique du Cameroun. His services, and those of the hundreds of lawyers that are working with him are free of charge. Was there no such firm, clinic, or school in the diaspora that could be interested in taking up what the lawyers that defended Eritrea against Ethiopia have called a “clear case”? I will tell you that those who have been pushing the idea of Foley Hoag as “the” only firm to represent us left no stone unturned in making sure that we had the outcome that materialized yesterday. Under the aegis of a certain Dr. Tata and Barrister George Awazi (one-time campaign manager for Muna to the Presidency of the Bar Association of Cameroon), each time the idea was rejected by one group, they took it with the next group and sold Foley Hoag LLP. Indeed, reliable sources allege that at one point they put in $5,000 of their own money into the SCAPAC account to sustain the effort. An investment?

Lurking around from one group to another, and with intensity in the struggle growing, the retainer fee grew from $20,000.00 to $25,000.00. By the time SCACUF and Wilfred Tassang came on board and endorsed it, the price tag had skyrocketed to a down payment of $35,000.00 and a minimum of $70,000 to be held in the account at any given time. You may recall that even when MoRISC endorsed SCACUF, it expressed reservations on two matters: The first was that it was not consenting in any way, shape or form, to any lawsuit representation by Foley Hoag, until it had been appropriately reviewed and approved by the MoRISC legal team. (The second reservation was that it would not endorse any group that preached or embraced violence as part of the struggle).
Be that as it may, the retainer terms of reference are open ended as to how much time or how many hours Foley Hoag LLP are projecting to bill for and what it will show as achievements along the way.

Retainer Fee or Vulture Fund

Remember, there’s no way of ever verifying how many hours a lawyer has actually spent “working” on your case. It is a very subjective process where they absolutely control every facet of the billing. They only tell you that they are billing for X number of hours. And that is where the rubber really hits the road in this matter as I see it. This is where I consider the 56th African nation-to-be as having been dealt the the short end of the stick in a 419 scam where we are already mortgaging the future of our unborn kids with an unnecessary and avoidable debt. Let us use numbers to examine how much of a raw deal we are into, and then we can determine whether we are into another “Hewitt is too late” situation or whether we can and should sever this umbilical cord before it chokes and kills the child. Here are the hourly rates for the average and above law firms:

Senior Partner – $1,000.00 per hour
Junior Partner – $750.00 per hour
Senior Associate – $500.00 per hour
Midlevel Associate – $400.00 per hour
Junior Associate – $250.00 per hour
Paralegal – $100.00 per hour

Each one of these legal professionals have very distinct roles to play in this process and journey – from research to secretariat functions, to cross checking of facts, to submitting the file where necessary, to making the case against La République du Cameroun. So what would happen if each one of them worked on this case only one (1) hour a week? Here is the math:

$1000 + $750 + $500 + $400 + $250 + $100 × 1hr = $3,000.00

What if they had to each work 3 hrs on the case? Well, we would simply multiply $3,000.00 × 3 hrs = $9,000.00 for each one of these professionals to work on our case for three hours on any given day. So, how long would it take for $35,000.00 to be depleted? Well, based on all six professionals working/billing for three 3 hours of work every day, here is the breakdown:

$1000 + $750 + $500 + $400 + $250 + $100 × 3 hrs × 4 days = $36,000.00

Yes, people, for 18 hours of work, less than half of a US working week, SCACUF / SCAPAC are committing Southern Cameroons to $36,000,000 (18,000,000.00 AMB money?) even before blinking their eyes. And there is no telling that even after a week of work this firm would have anything or be anywhere close to taking the case to any court of law. Yet, someone is on the hook to be replenishing that account so that there is a minimum of $70,000 in it at every given moment!

For the record, can we tell how much time it has taken SCACUF / SCAPAC to raise the $35,000.00 that it signed away yesterday to Foley Hoag? It wasn’t a week. It has taken more than two months to raise the said sum of money. Which begs the next set of questions.

If Southern Cameroonians are able to cough up this money day in and day out, is this the most judicious, the most efficient use of their hard earned money with a certain outcome of victory? Were there less expensive options with the same guaranteed outcome? If so, did we check them out and why did we not go with them? Finally, why are we stuck, or are we indeed stuck, with this particular law firm? It is an open secret that MoRISC opposed this deal all the way. Still, it reached out to SCACUF when it was confirmed that SCACUF was intractable in embracing the Law firm to represent the people’s case against La Republique du Cameroun. Among other things, MoRISC, even as recently as at the second conclave in Nigeria, proposed to have its US based legal team, go and review the retainer agreement before any decision was finally made. This was only after SCAPAC walked back on earlier statements that the agreement had already been signed and all that was left was the disbursement of the money for Foley Hoag to commence the process. When they walked back on that lie, SCAPAC loosely committed to the idea of having a team comprising of Professor Carlson Anyangwe and the renown Barrister Charles Taku review the documents. Almost two weeks after the second conclave, Wilfred Tassang revealed on air in an interview with SCTV that SCACUF was expediting Professor Carlson Anyangwe from South Africa to the United States to review and sign the retainer agreement. The suggestions of the MoRISC legal team, which had been considered only after serious stonewalling, to review the retainer draft agreement were tossed aside.

The team had complained, among other things, about the deliverables and the bottomless pit nature of an account. They had also pointed out the lack of SCACUF oversight of the SCAPAC account, absence of a clear distinction as to which of the two entities was in control. Who would manage the account, issue checks, countersign checks? Were checks to be t jointly signed by SCACUF and SCAPAC? How about the money that Southern Cameroonians were donating for other causes besides the lawsuit? How would they ascertain that the money was indeed being disbursed per the provisions of the retainer agreement? Equally of great interest, are the questions spiraling around Dr. Tata and Barrister George Awazi? Are they getting any kickbacks for pushing this law firm arrangement through as much as they have done? If they are getting kickbacks, how much are they making? Is there anything wrong with them making a quick buck at the expense of the martyrs and people of Southern Cameroons? Remember the $5000 that they allegedly put into the SCAPAC account? Was it to be repaid? How much interest are they making on it? Is it tax deductible?

We may not have time here to delve into matters regarding the jurisdiction where the human rights violations case might be brought against La Republique du Cameroun. But if it is filed in Cameroun, it most certainly will mean that Foley Hoag will be entering into a partnership agreement with a local firm. Given the ties between Barrister George Awazi and the Muna family, there is every indication that the Muna Law Secretariat will be tapped to handle “secretarial duties” given that Barrister Muna is already volunteering his pro bono services to the political prisoners of Southern Cameroons in La Republique du Cameroun. How much will that bill be? I can project that the light bill will be CFA 500,000; the water bill will be CFA 250,000; the salary for the secretary will be CFA 750,000…then miscellaneous will be a whopping CFA 2,000,000M frs. In the meantime, Wilfred Tassang, now enjoying an undisclosed salary in Nigeria as SCACUF Secretary General, is challenging the diaspora to pour money into a bottomless pit, allegedly controlled by his confidante, while his colleagues wallow in misery in Cameroon. The diaspora has to be steadfast and remain very vigilant or the worst of con men, some dressed in cloaks and getting called Prophets, others with PhDs, Professors, Lawyers…all wearing beautiful suits, dresses and handbags dash away into the night with our fight for the Restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons.

In Conclusion…

We have come too far to be conned by anyone that is not ready to answer serious questions and be held accountable. At the signing of the retainer yesterday in Boston, oddly on a Sabbath day, one could not escape the rookie mistake of the lady who issued the check – while the numerical value said $35,000.00, she wrote it out for “thirty-five 00/100” dollars. It certainly can be corrected, but it does not bode well for the quality of people that are representing us at SCACUF / SCAPAC. We have been blaming Foncha and Muna for dragging us into the doodoo, but it seems as if we could be regrettably poised for a repeat of the mistakes of the past by investing our emotions and not our brains into this fight.

It is one more reason why we need to fight against any forces that are stonewalling the logical step of an Interim Government in Exile that the roadmap, birthed by MoRISC and adopted by SCACUF, calls for. It is strange that SCACUF has recently pulled down the roadmap page from the website. It may be reasonable to wonder whether it is a clear indication of an intention to derail the restoration agenda. The reasons keep on piling why we need a qualified, visionary leader. We must continue to source for our Moses, possibly one who is voted into office by universal suffrage and with a clear mandate and resources to carry out the task at hand. This fight needs a leader, not charlatans or position fillers with some scars to show, that will understand the fierce urgency not now towards the countdown to the restoration of our independence

Activists Became Uninvited Guests at CommonWealth Day Celebrations in London: Hold Cameroon Diplomats Hostage

London: March 13, 2017; The CommonWealth Day Celebrations lost all the flair and pomp planned for it because of West Cameroon activists who stormed Westminster Abbey where the Queen and all representatives of CommonWealth Countries were present.

Carrying a coffin draped with the Cameroon flag, they chanted demands asking for the liberation of West Cameroon. They declared their willingness to die for the struggle if something was not done to address the situation.

The highlight of the afternoon was when the Cameroon representatives tried to leave the venue before others. Activists chased their car towards the House of Commons. By Divine providence, a red light stopped the Diplomatic car, giving activists the opportunity to catch up and rain more embarrassment on those inside. The London Met Police and the Secret Service could only watch as there was little do to stop the protesters.

Later that evening, as all Commonwealth dignitaries were hoping for an evening of champagne, they were dismayed to turn up at the CommonWealth Secretariat only to find activists waiting with messages for the Biya regime. The then notorious coffin had also taken its place at the CommonWealth Secretariat.

It is worth remembering that this is the third visit to the Commonwealth Secretariat. The first of which saw a petition handed to the Secretary General, Patricia Scotland QC, demanding a suspension of Cameroon and the second during which an official made a vague promise to do something to ameliorate the situation.

The shadow of the protest cast a gloom over the evening dinner as more police officers were called to assist with policing the evening.

The evening reached its peak when the Cameroon representatives could not leave the event while their counterparts were going.

Dispute pleas from the police, protesters insisted that unless they saw the car of the Cameroon Diplomats they were not going to leave the venue.

 

Late in the night, when it was ascertained that the Cameroon representatives had been smuggled out of the venue in the cars of other diplomats… the coffin left its post. BUT with a firm promise to back.

Many of the dignitaries showed interest in understanding the plight of the protesters with some asking for further information and sources from which to find out more.

 

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!

Boko Haram Edges Closer to ‘Home’ While Chibok Girls Gradually Become Invisible Children!

A hundred days following the abduction of over 270 young girls by the militant terrorist group, Boko Haram, came and passed a few days ago with very little mention by the major news outlets. After what seemed like an eternity, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan finally met the families of the abducted girls and some who had escaped.  The day itself was actually celebrated by Boko Haram by detonating two bombs in quick succession, killing over 75 people and narrowly missing the ex-military president and the country’s topmost opposition leader Mohammadu Buhari.

Boko Haram

Of course, as expected, this is the news that made the headlines as everything regarding the missing girls is gradually dwindling into oblivion. Skeptics like me who had already questioned the social media hype – comparing it to a similar situation in the quest to catch Joseph Kony – are not in the least surprised.

It happened that international media outlets were initially very slow in reporting the news of the kidnapping of the girls, which even led to some questioning the veracity of the scanty early reports that emerged. When social media took up the campaign, the tempo was upped but the objective seemed to be one thing only – portray Nigeria as incapable of handling the situation and ask foreign intervention. Under pressure, international help was enlisted.

According to State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki the US was “providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support“. Military and law-enforcement teams on the ground were “digging in on the search and co-ordinating closely with the Nigerian government as well as international partners and allies”. These allies were Britain, France and China, with Israel promising to join the team! Strangely, Boko Haram seemed to have become bolder and are hitting closer and closer to ‘home’ despite the massive international presence.

The recent targeting of prominent figures and the news that emerged today of the abduction of the wife of Cameroon’s Vice Prime Minister only makes the case harder to fathom. Does it mean that Boko Haram has over just a few years become so sophisticated that the ‘best’ intelligence agencies in the world cannot take them out? Or could it be that the efforts are just not significant to counter the threat?

ChibokGirls1
Have they been ‘sold’, forced into marriage? Their fate hangs on a balance as weeks have turned into months!!!

Worse, there is little news about what is happening on the ground in the search efforts to bring the girls home. Gradually, therefore, this case is becoming a cold one and the Chibok girls are gradually becoming like the child soldiers that the US charity Invisible Children sought to free from Joseph Kony. Each day that passes, the issue seems to be buried deeper and deeper under the radar but what will simply not disappear is that the world could not save over 270 young vibrant girls from ragtags such as Boko Haram.

Maybe hope should be rekindled now that some prominent people have become targets of bombings and kidnappings. Maybe the Cameroon elite force, (the Battalion D’Intervention Rapide, which is said to be well trained to counter insurgencies of this type,) will step up and prove that they are not only good at cracking down on civilians to keep Paul Biya in power!

Whatever the case, we pray that the girls can still be found! After over a hundred days, one is scared to imagine what the girls might have been subjected to!

 

 

“US Cannot Teach Nigeria How to Fight Rebels” – Retired Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Victor Malu Once Said!

I remember vividly the day the guest on an NTA programme was retired Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Victor Malu. Some of the things he said then have since stuck to my mind. Perhaps this is due to the fact he said some things relating to my country of origin – Cameroon – and how the US was playing the Machiavellian advocate in the conflict between both countries. However, with the recent events of the past few weeks, that whole programme came flashing to my mind.

During my days in Nigeria, I rarely watched the National Television, but there was one programme I never missed. That programme was called POINT BLANK. It was hosted by the then Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority Tony Iredia. Living to its name, this was a programme that was started during the Abacha era, during which guest were drilled POINT BLANK by the host without fear or favour. Something similar to BBC’s Hard Talk, guests had to answer well researched questions about the issues of the day affecting their departments, ministries or even personal life.

I have not been able to get the talk, but during a quick research, I have come across an interview Victor Malu granted the Sunday Sun on July, 31st, 2005, where he expressed almost carbon-copy sentiments. Below are excepts of this interview which sheds a lot of light in the current US quest to ‘help’ Nigeria find Boko Haram. 

Victor Malu

US Dubious Move

“I didn’t have disagreement with Obasanjo. I went first to the Minister of Defence to tell him the Americans are not coming to train us on peace keeping. The Nigeria Army should teach the Americans on peace keeping. Peace keeping is not nuclear, chemical or biological warfare. That’s the job for an infantry man who walks on his feet, carrying his ammunition, rifles, you maneuver to get to the point using fire. That is what Americans don’t do.
The Americans would first bomb the place before going in. If you survive, you survive but you can’t do peace keeping that way. 
“If you remember Ambassador Twaddel, he was the last but one U.S ambassador in Nigeria. He represented the American government at the Liberian crisis. At the end of that crisis, he wrote a report to the American government. I had come back, he had gone back to the U.S. He sent me two copies of the report. There were whole chapters that were on the Armed Forces of Nigeria after observing them in operation. 
“What they said in effect was that if in future, the American government wishes to support any regional grouping that has a peace-keeping outfit like ECOMOG in the case of ECOWAS, they should not talk about sending personnel. He said give the people the logistics. He found out that what the Nigerian Army did could not have been done by any American soldier. That man never knew he would ever come to Nigeria as ambassador.

“If you remember the five years of Abacha, we had completely severed from any other western country. All our officers who were in the various institutions abroad were sent back. We were not going on course. America was curious to know how from a third world country with all the sanctions, the Nigerian Army could achieve the feat we achieved in Liberia. And then, they came and found a willing person in the name of Obasanjo. They got everything they wanted. It was at that point I told him (Obasanjo), ‘Sir, we cannot have Americans come here to tell us they want to train us on peace keeping.’

“An interesting thing happened in Sokoto. The Americans insisted on staying in the barracks with our soldiers. I said over my dead body. I asked General Danjumah who was my GOC before he became a chief of army staff, ‘Would you, during your tenure have allowed this foreign troop to come and stay in the barracks with your soldiers?’ He said no, that he would need to discuss it with Obasanjo. 

“At a stage, we agreed that the Americans would give us some support in terms of equipment required for peacekeeping operations. We compiled a table of tools and equipment so that they would help us with them. That was the only time that we agreed that if they are giving out equipment, they should not give us what we already had in our ordinance. We agreed to allow them train us on that equipment for as long as they wanted. 

“We were waiting for them after we gave them the list to tell us what they were bringing and the quantity so that we could start arranging the training. We woke up one day and found many American instructors. Where is the equipment? No equipment. So what are you going to give us? They said they were to start training us on peace keeping.

“So, this kept going on but the dangerous part of it was that as at that time we were in Bakassi nose to nose with the Camerounians. The same Americans that were claiming to be training us for peace keeping were training and equipping the Camerounian army. I was the one that captured that place and I know what we suffered.”

Reading this again today, I now remember how I felt back then. I wonder if the US has drastically changed its strategy in Africa. If this is not the case, then this Boko Haram saga has just handed them an opportunity to completely distabilise the whole West and Central African region.

Lapiro De Mbanga – The Eclipse of A Hero’s Life

The Life and death of each one of us, writes a memorandum for others to follow. While some people disappear completely after death, there are some however, who are simply eclipsed because their light, though shaded, lives on in myriads of ways.

I bet many of you, if not Cameroonian, have never heard of the name Lapiro De Mbanga. I do not blame you if this is the case. Almost everything in Cameroon that remotely challenges the dangerous status-quo of Paul Biya and his cohorts is always under the radar. (For more on Lapiro De Mbanga, see FabAfriq’s story)

My single consolation is that great people like Karl Marx, died in obscurity, but their ideology outlived and outshone them. Upon Lapiro’s demise, the BBC in a very short report simple called him ‘a protest singer’. But was he just that? I think not.

Lapiro was an activist of the first order. All his music was designed to fight for Cameroonians of all works of life. From the ’80s when freedom of expression was anathema in Cameroon, Lapiro used a lingo that was understood by almost every Cameroonian.

In his music he questioned issues ranging from police corruption, Cameroon foreign debt, nepotism in the Cameroon political system, the one-man-show type of governance of Paul Biya, poor governance and lack of basic amenities, the lack of anything to show from the success of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, unemployment and the degradation of Cameroon education, and challenging the constitutional change that saw Biya become eligible for life presidency.

His imprisonment for speaking out, simply confirmed that Cameroon was one of the worse countries to be outspoken – mainly because most of the world at large do not know this is the case. Upon release from prison, Lapiro did not stop, he sang promising Biya more trouble. But like many like him who continually challenged Biya, life runs a short course.

Many journalists have suffered prison sentences and some like Germain S. Ngota Ngota even died in a Cameroon prison. The million pounds question remains: how long will Biya continue to suppress the the people of Cameroon? The protests of 2008 may have failed because of lack of international support, but I am sure this is not the end. There is a limit to how much people can endure.

With a higher GDP than Cote D’Ivoire and Senegal, Cameroon seriously lags behind the two in life expectancy. It is a worry that despite the wars and violent upheavals that the Ivory Coast has faced, people are more likely to live longer there than in Cameroon.

Lapiro may have died at the very young age of 57 but like he says in one of his songs: ALUTA CONTINUA

Paul Biya: Opium of the Cameroon Youth

One of the most oft quoted phrases by Karl Marx comes from the passage in which he derides and praises religion at the same time. While the title of this post already indicates that I intend to equate Biya’s role in the life of the Cameroon youth to what Marx considers the effect of religion on people, I will want to make it clear ab initio that every negative thing that Marx said about religion’s effect on human consciousness can hold true for Biya’s effect on the life of the Cameroon youth. However, there is none of the positives that Marx attributes to religion that could be attributed to Biya.  Marx calls religion  the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation.  I will look at these different attributes one after the other.

Unification Monument

The Sigh of the oppressed creature

Marx is of the opinion that religion’s purpose is to create illusory fantasies for the poor, while socio-economic realities prevent them from finding true happiness in this life,  and so religion tells them that this is fine because they will find true happiness in the next life. For over 32 years, this is exactly what Biya has been doing to Cameroonians, especially the younger generation. Every year on the 10th of February, he makes a speech in which he exhorts the youths to hope and strive for better things to come. Names such ‘grandes ambitions’ [greater ambition], ‘grandes realisations’ [greater achievements], and ‘grande chantier’ [vast construction site], are all too popular with Biya’s never realisable visions for Cameroon. February 11 happens to be the day the Plebcite was held in 1961 to decide to fate of Southern Cameroons and today it is being celebrated as Youth Day but the best description would be Le jour de grands discours non réalisés – [The day of great unrealisable speeches]. 

The logic of the celebration is still hazy but nevertheless Biya has so succeeded in making it a tradition in Cameroon whereby every young person thinks the apogee of success is to get a meagre job in the civil service. The list is endless, of young people who waste their lives working towards one goal only – entering the Cameroonian Civil service. But unfortunately, since the service is so poor that it cannot employ every Cameroonian, the result is a comatose economy where youth unemployment is on a steady rise.

The Spirit of the Spiritless Condition

Marx is of the view that religion is irrational. His argument is that religion is a delusion and a worship of appearances that avoids recognizing underlying reality. In one of my posts on Biya, I already showed how delusional he is. This would not have been a problem in itself but just as Marx says that religion negates all that is dignified in a human being by rendering them servile and more amenable to accepting the status quo so does Biya strive to achieve the same of young Cameroonians.

For example, in the 32 years that Biya has been president of Cameroon, Cameroonians, especially the younger generation have grown accustomed to his rather atypical pattern of governance that defies every convention. Biya announced on December 31, 2011 that the 50th anniversary of Cameroon’s re-unification would be celebrated in October 2012 in Buea, the Southwest Regional capital. The significance of this could have been because Buea is the former capital of Cameroon or perhaps because he simply wanted to get a reason to visit this part of the country that is almost forgotten by his administration. This notwithstanding, it is clear that there is no rationale for such a celebration because British Southern Cameroon and French North Cameroun got their Cameroon is Unitedindependence (which is still debated in certain quarters with regards to the case of the Southern Cameroons)  on 1st October 1961 which is exactly 52+ years afterwards. That Biya finally made his appearance, after several adhoc cancellations, on February 20 of 2014, and yet no one questioned the illogicality of the celebration is reason enough to weep for the future of Cameroonians.

I have just watched how people came out like sheep to celebrate the reunification monument erected during this visit, even when the question of there been a united Cameroon still remains unanswered. It is sad to see that few dared question if it was still a 50 year celebration when it was actually taking place after over two years later for unexplained reasons.It is even sadder to have noticed from the pictures that the streets of Buea were given a facelift and whitewashed just to give Biya an impression that all was going on well whereas it is not the case.

In all this, the only winner is Biya, because when a people have been so oppressed and depersonalised that they live in awe and fear of a leader who adds nothing but misery to their lives, an opportunity to go out and see him becomes a cause for celebration.

 The heart of a heartless world?

Although Marx feels religion is the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through himself, or has already lost himself again, he credits religion with being the heart of a heartless world.

However, Marx feels that the abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness and this perhaps may have inspired Biya’s decision to order the closure of nearly 100 Christian churches in key cities of Cameroon sometime in August 2013, claiming that the activities of pentecostal pastors was a threat to National security. How this is the case beats any sound imagination.

While it may be true that there are many unscrupulous ‘men of God’ and Churches which pose a threat to any people’s conscious efforts to fight for their betterment, the real question should be what makes people vulnerable to religious scams. It is not a secret that the most poor people and the most religious, hence, the proliferation of palliative doctrines can only have an effect where there is much hopelessness. The heartlessness of the religious world could be very true in some countries but Cameroon is really not one where religion as yet poses a security problem. Biya, rather than blaming the Churches should ask the right question: Why are people going to these churches if they pose a security threat?

The Real Threat

The real threat to Cameroon’s security is no other than Biya and his system of governance. Every year, he makes speeches in which he promises jobs. What he does not say is that these will be only in the public sector, through the recruitment of soldiers, professional school leavers such as teachers, warders,
nurses and magistrates who for the most part had stayed at home for years after their training. The fact that little is done in the private sector can account for the stagnation of the Cameroon economy. That is a threat to security.

There is no gainsaying the fact that if nothing is done to curb the downward trend in Cameroon, the country stands the risk of loosing its best and brightest young men and women to either foreign citizenships (for those lucky enough to obtain this) or to despondency and lack of vision (for those who are unfortunate to be caught in the web of Biya’s dirty politics). This is the biggest threat to the future of Cameroon.

African Union: We cannot ignore the plight of Berkshire any longer

The irony of it all, beats my imagination. I want to assume for a split second that this is all a big joke. There is no doubt that the people affected by the floods really need help. But when such help is coming from certain quarters, I cannot help but recall the famous words of Maya Angelou
“I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”

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

Roadss3

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.

Examining the Logic of the Obama ‘RED LINE’ and the Case for Military Intervention in Syria

Even if one were tempted to discard everything Plato wrote, his argument that in Hypocrisy or Diplomacy?the Ideal State, Reason should rule over Courage and Appetite, cannot be overlooked. This has been proven beyond measure over the past few days as the clouds of foreign invasion hangs over Syria, drowning the throes of the inglorious civil war that has engulfed the nation for over 2 years. Beating the drums and sounding the gongs of this war have been Western leaders, notably those of the United States, the United Kingdom and France. The high level of irrationality exhibited by some of the statements of these leaders, challenges the folly of the dark ages.

For example, how could David Cameron so boldly tell the world that there is evidence that the Syrian government has used Chemical weapons against its own people over 10 times already, presents a motion to be debated in parliament with the support of his Deputy, which claims of ‘at least 14 times’, yet fails to back this with any evidence other than what they call ‘highly sensitive intelligence’? How could Francoise Hollande make the rather strong and obviously naïve statement that France will ‘punish’ all those responsible for the attack, when he was in no way capable of telling who did it and the work of the UN Inspectors was yet to determine what substances were used and by whom and clearly oblivious of the fact that punitive action has no place in international law?

If anyone was to wonder who was playing the music to which these two stooges were dancing, then look no further than the United States of America. But the question that should be asked ab initio is: why all the flurry all of a sudden? Who is playing the music to which the USA itself is dancing?

Syrian women

At other times, it would be easy to point to Israel. This time, paradoxically, it is no other than what Paul Flynn says is a ‘foolishly drawn red line’ by

President Obama that needed to be crossed in Syria to become a catalyst for action. Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West goes on to argue that the real reason “…is not because of the horror of these weapons and the horror exists – but because the American president foolishly drew a red line and because of his position now, he’s going to attack or face humiliation. That’s why we’re being drawn into war”. Why then is this ‘Red Line’ statement a catalyst for invasion?

The Obama ‘RED LINE’

At the beginning of the Syrian conflict, there was only one message from the West which they claimed was the panacea to the crises… Assad had to leave power. In fact, during the last US presidential debate, President Obama firmly asserted that “Syrians are going to have to determine their own future” and Mitt Romney twice made the point that he did not ” want to have our military involved in Syria.” Both Candidates however agreed that the US needed to “make sure they [the Syrian opposition] have the arms necessary to defend themselves [though] We do need to make sure that they don’t have arms that get into the wrong hands” said Mr. Romney and President Obama concurred “For us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step, and we have to do so making absolutely certain that we know who we are helping; that we’re not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or allies in the region.”

So arming the rebels was not debatable hence it will  be anyone’s guess how the rebels have been able to sustain their offensive till date.

The point of the Obama ‘red line’ became an area of agreement between the Vice Presidential Candidates. When Raddatz asked Paul Ryan “What happens if Assad does not fall, Congressman Ryan? What happens to the region? What happens if he hangs on? What happens if he does?”
The response was ” Then Iran keeps their greatest ally in the region. He’s a sponsor of terrorism. He’ll probably continue slaughtering his people. We and the world community will lose our credibility on this.” And then again Raddatz quizzed “So what would Romney-Ryan do about that credibility?” And came the obvious answer “Well, we agree with the same RED LINE, actually, they do on chemical weapons, but not putting American troops in, other than to secure those chemical weapons. They’re right about that.”

From the onset therefore, it has never been about the Syrian people who would die because of a chemical weapons attack, but because it will be a blow to the image of the United States and a plus for Iran if Assad did not go in the end.

President Obama in his characteristic cautious nature when it comes to interventions, had therefore laid the precedence by making the infamous statement that the only time an intervention in Syria will be indubitable would be if ‘a red line was crossed’. While many at the time questioned what the red line could signify in real terms or how it could be measured, very few, if any, questioned the possibility that the line could be crossed by the rebels.

While Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria had already told Swiss TV that there was strong, though inconclusive evidence that the rebels rather than the Syrian government were using Sarin nerve gas, it was not surprising that no one felt a ‘red line’ had been crossed

Out of the blue that ‘red line’ has now been crossed because a few hundred people had joined the hundreds of thousand others who had met unprecedented death because of the civil war. Before UN inspectors had even begun their investigations, a conclusion had been drawn in Washington that it MUST have been the Syrian Regime.

While this may have come as a surprise to many, it would have been expected by those who have been following the Syrian conflict closely. 

The Syrian Conflict – How Far, So far?

One major outcome of the so-called Arab Spring, was the testing of the concept of humanitarian wars, enshrined in the notion of ‘responsibility to Protect’. Libya was the first laboratory, the rhetoric of ‘Gaddafi killing his own people’ was amplified and sold to the world. Everyone was tricked, including the United Nations which sat by and watched NATO use ‘all necessary means’ to ‘protect’ Libyans from Gaddafi. ‘All necessary means’ as ambiguous as it sounded, proved just that – equivocal at best, obscenely abstruse at worse. Libyans and their country was bombed indiscriminately, killed and maimed to ‘protect’ them from being killed by Gaddafi. After the murder of Gaddafi, Libyans were left at the mercy of armed rebels. America failed to protect her own diplomats in a Libya which had returned to the ‘state of nature’. There is no question then that they could not protect a singly Libyan. As irresponsible as the neglect of Libya was, it was not questioned by many. Emboldened by the Libyan experiment, Syria became the next in line.

The euphoria of erecting western-style democracies albeit through the use of mass revolution caught a few Syrians who were naïve enough to believe that democracy, rather than being a process, was something that could simply be uprooted and replanted. The seeds of a civil war had been planted. While Western countries quickly took to providing logistic support to rebel factions and arming them, Russia was busy fortifying the Syrian Regime. As the proxy wars were being fought, Syrians were dying in thousands and many more were becoming refugees.Syrian Children

As disunited as the rebels were, they soon made quick advance, capturing many cities including key ones like, Homs, Aleppo and Qusayr. As the rebels made rapid progress, all talk of using diplomatic means to end the conflict were quickly squashed. Many UN missions to Syria to negotiate peace ended in fiascos. As each successful mission was botched, the Syrian regime was blamed for refusing to negotiate.

By the second quarter of 2013 however, the tides began to change. The Syrian government began to gain an upper hand in the conflict, presumably with the help of Hezbollah. In the first week of June, the Syrian government gained control of Qusayr  and July, government forces had regained control of Aleppo and only the old City of Homs and a few other districts were held by the opposition.

It was becoming obvious that the government had greater chances of winning. As already discussed, An Assad victory would have serious implications:

  • First, it would be a slap to the face of the USA and a huge setback to its hegemony.
  • Secondly, It would mean another lost investment by Western powers and there will be no returns from all the arms and logistic support given to the rebels.
  • Thirdly, it would mean a major victory for Russia and China, and especially the former who would have made huge financial gains from supplying arms to the Syrian goverment
  • Fourthly, it would mean the emboldenment of Iran and the consolidation of their power in the region.

This therefore meant, Assad had to be stopped from winning at all costs. Helping the rebels had proven abortive, and another direct intervention would certainly be frowned at not only in the Middle East but also within Western countries where citizens have become war-weary.

The only remaining option was therefore for the Syrian regime to do that which they had been warned not to do – cross the red line. It therefore seemed only too convenient that Syrian forces, which were already having an upper hand in the civil war, should carry out an act which they knew would inevitably bring the biggest military in the world against them.

Simple logic would tell that the Syrian regime had no reason whatsoever to use chemical weapons, whereas, the rebels, desperate for Western intervention and banking on the Obama threat, had every motivation to use it.

English: US President Barack Obama and British...
US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron trade bottles of beer to settle a bet during a bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obama therefore, like Herod who made a promise to Herodias’ daughter and realized too late he could not back out, had to do something. Since he cannot act on his own, he needed to recruit heralds.  Remembering the gullibility of Tony Blair during the Iraqi invasion of 2003 and the role David Cameron and Nicholas Sarkozy played in Libya, Obama knew exactly who to recruit.

The British Connection and the Triumph of Reason

Obama... You deceived me!
Obama… You deceived me!

A 40-minute call to David Cameron did the trick. Mr. Cameron abandoned his holiday, rushed back and convened parliament, also cutting short their holidays. A motion was hurriedly put together, but like sweet palm wine, it was sweet to the mouth but void of substance. The British House of Commons came out on the 29th of August 2013 and showed the world that they were not only going to avoid being sucked into the folly of 2003, but that they had enough information to ask the questions that needed asking.

With a complete deconstruction of the government’s motion for a military intervention into Syria, Reason triumphed over Courage and Appetite. The historic defeat of the British government in parliament on an issue of foreign policy certainly marks a new dawn for imperialistic wars.

Conclusion

Whether the US will decide to go into Syria without the UK or not is left to be seen within the next few days. What this is going to mean for UK-US relations is still a matter of conjecture. These notwithstanding, it will go down in history that the world stood by and watched innocent children, women and men, being murdered in Syria while power-politics and proxy wars took centre stage. The UN Security Council will certainly not provide a solution as the divide that has existed over Syria will not dissolve into thin air. Of the 165 nations that signed the convention on Chemical weapons, Syria is not among (contrary to David Cameron’s postulations) meaning that the signatories of the convention do not even have the legitimacy to call Syria to order for the alleged use of chemical weapons.

While Libya has been the white elephant in the room throughout this debate, as clearly evidenced in the British Parliament where it was completely ignored and Iraq became the reference point, the failure of the Libyan intervention certainly writes a memorandum for us all.