Cameroon’s President Paul Biya exhibited a lot of confidence in the build-up to the October 7, 2018, Presidential elections. He did not engage in any campaigning until a week to the elections when he made a single appearance in the Northern Region of the Country. This confidence could be as a result of the fact that Biya has been president for over 36 years and has been within the corridors of power for over 50 years.
Paul Biya Unhappy with his Henchmen
Atanga Nji – At risk of being axed should Biya not succeed in rigging
Issa Tchiroma – Unable to spin the current situation
However, as results from the elections began to filter through, indicating a victory for Maurice Kamto, the presidential candidate for the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), Biya’s Communication Minister and Minister for Territorial Administration, quickly warned against anyone causing problems by declaring victory.
Within the presidency, information reaching us is that Mr. Biya has been in shock over the turn of events and this has worsened following Kamto’s declaration. This is not surprising given that a few weeks ago, Biya was in Geneva Switzerland receiving medical attention. Also taking into consideration that Biya is 85 years old, such news would have been bad for his ailing health.
A source from within Biya’s ruling CPDM party has highlighted that the President has not been able to leave the country for medical attention as this would be considered a concession of defeat and an attempt to abscond. However, it is reported that medical staff from the Geneva University Hospital, who have been taking care of Biya, have been flown into Yaounde, to be on standby as his health is expected to deteriorate. The Geneva University Hospital is renowned its Stem Cells Collection and Cord Blood Banking, among other specialisations.
There is tension within the corridors of power in Yaounde as Biya is said to be highly disappointed with how his henchmen, Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary and Minister for Territorial Administration, Atanga Nji Paul, have handled the situation.
Speaking to some political analysts, we learned that Biya’s decision to declare war on the English-speaking regions and his refusal to resolve the Anglophone crisis, was a tactical one, as he was well aware of the challenges he would face in securing votes in these regions. Hence, by making sure that over 200.000 persons were either internally displaced on in Nigeria as refugees, and ensuring a high military presence, Biya guaranteed that there will be minimal or no voting within those Regions.
It, therefore, has come as a nasty surprise to him and his team, that without the participation of the two English-speaking Regions, the rest of the country was already tired of his 36 years of baren rule. Should Biya overcome this shock and regain his health, it is expected that he will fire Atanga and Tchiroma in his next cabinet reshuffle, for the failures. That is, if he succeeds if getting ELECAM and the Constitutional Council to rig the elections and declare him the winner, instead of Kamto the obvious choice of the people.
Some have argued that the videos had already been taken and stored in an archive, where they are being released. Some argue they were taken recently. It is difficult to tell from the videos exactly when they were taken. Some have even argued that the videos are taken at the same spot, which seems to be the execution area for the Cameroon military.
What is not difficult to see is the barbarism that takes place within these videos. As the war rages on in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, many commentators are worried that similar atrocities are being committed and might be released on a later date.
This video might not evoke the same feelings as it did in the last one involving women and children, but it seems to take the barbarism up a notch. The video shows a single man, sitting, blindfolded and hands tied to his back. He is about to be summarily executed, but one soldier thinks that death from gunshots will not inflict as much pain as he would love. So he goes on to use a machete to cut one of the man’s feet. Other, speaking in French, say ‘he will be taken by surprise’, meaning probably that the man will not be expecting the cut as he knows he is about to be shot. The man’s reaction is slower than one would expect from such sharp pain, maybe a bit disappointing for his torturers, who would have expected more. Probably, because he had already been tortured to the extent that he is numb to pain.
Mercifully, for the man, before he could begin to experience the excruciating pain inflicted on him by the cut, the order is given and many automatic weapons ring out. Listening to it, one would think that the army is attacking another battalion. But no! All those bullets are for one man, helplessly tied to the ground already bleeding and dying. He does not stand a chance.
It makes one wonder. Why are the Cameroon military exhibiting so much anger? Could it be because they are involved in wars against citizens of their own country, something they are not trained to do? If that were the case, then why do they not take out the anger on the one person, who is responsible for the dilapidation of the country?
The man in the video is accused of being a Boko Haram ‘terrorist’ but what one sees from the military, the reverse seems to be the case. They seem to be the ones carrying out the acts of terrorism that will forever haunt all who watch their gruesome videos.
The regme of Paul Biya has been known for corruption, winning the Global Gold medal for it twice. The same regime has been known for different strategies of rigging elections among which has been the use of dead persons on electoral registers. Biya has been found on a number of occasions to have appointed dead persons to public positions.
Tchiroma has in the characteristic manner of the Biya regime released a dubious Communique indicating that the regime has now arrested some of the perpetrators of the heinous crimes.
This would have been welcome news, but for the fact that it has been uncovered that the very first name on the list of soldiers arrested belongs to a man who died in 2017. Fobassou Ettienne apparently died in 2017 but Tchiroma’s communique dated 10 August 2018 lists him as one of those arrested for crimes committed a few weeks ago.
While there is the possibility that more than one person can have the name Fobassou Ettienne, the Yaounde Regime’s history of making such gaffes in appointments, makes it plausible that they could do the same in such a situation.
Social media across the world has been outraged by a video of Cameroon miliary extrajudicially killing women and children in what appears to be the North of the Country.
As activists took to social media to denounce the acts that left some people traumatised, one would have expected that the Cameroon government would, for once, do the right thing. This, unfortunately, was not to be.
Instead of opening an investigation into the killings, Cameroon’s Minister of Communications – Issa Tchiroma Bakary – went on State television to proclaim the video ‘fake news’. There have been subsequent reports that an investigation will be opened. How far this will go is left to conjecture.
A release by Amnesty International, after careful analysis of the video, has presented credible evidence that the act was actually carried in Cameroon and by members of the Cameroon military, who can easily be identified. This is corroborated by A non-governmental organisation, the Network of Defenders of Human Rights in Central Africa, known by its French acronym REDHAC, which released a report stating that they had cross-checked details in the video and could attest to its authenticity.
This would not be the first time that such acts have been carried out in Cameroon. Since the beginning of the current crisis in the English-Speaking Regions, there have been several reports of similar extrajudicial killings and burning of villages by members of the Cameroon army. All such reports were challenged by Tchiroma, in the same manner, as he did with the current video.
Cameroon tethers on the brink of a civil war as Restoration forces of the proclaimed Federal Republic of Ambazonia have been engaged in violent confrontations with Cameroon’s security forces, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides.
In the midst of all these, Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya who has been in power since 1982, has not directly addressed the situation but has rather announced presidential elections slated to take place on October 7th, 2018.
This current situation exposes the monstrosity of the Cameroonian regime which has time and again, shown very little regard for civilian lives and would do anything to maintain its grip on power.
Is the system of corruption and dictatorship that has held Cameroon to ransom for about three decades about to self-destruct? Could it be that the time has come when history in its ever-sure nature has run its course and what was denied Cameroonians since the 1990s is being given on a platter of Gold? Or on a more sombre note, could it be that Cameroon is becoming a stage where global powers will play-out some of their dirty politics as has been the case with several African countries?
I recently uploaded a cover picture on my Facebook which reads: ‘AFRICA IS THE FUTURE’ but each time I look at it, I find myself assailed by conflicting emotions. I have not stopped wondering how it can happen. A casual glance at the continent reveals a rich continent beset by widespread corruption and poverty; the thriving of dictatorship and the crowning of sit-tight attitude of leaders. It could be a given that the inability of the continent to get out from the pit of underdevelopment and the prevalence of armed conflicts can only be addressed effectively if the horrors of corruption, lack of solid institutions, genocides, wars and other forms of violence are effectively dealt with within the systems in which the evils were perpetrated. When the International Criminal Court for example fails to try Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Taylor in Ivory Coast and Liberia respectively, but allows Saddam to be tried and executed in war-torn Iraq and is currently showing laxity in taking Saif Gaddafi away from war-torn Libya, the indication of double standards, which many are bound to decry becomes obvious. Looking at South Africa and Sierra Leone however, one sees situations in which Truth and Reconciliation Commissions – systems of public truth-telling – were effective in healing the nations of the scourges of apartheid and civil war respectively. Sober reflection then on whether the Sovereign National Conference that has been the wish of many Cameroonians could be the panacea to the nation’s scourge.
This article thinks that could be the case – given the recent revelations by the erstwhile Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, who was hauled to prison without trial. By the end of it, your conclusions will be as good as mine but no matter what they are – it will not be long before we are proven right or wrong.
At the dawn of the 90s, when the bloody launching of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) set off the democratization process in Cameroon, a National Conference was viewed as the panacea for a new direction for the country. The clamour for the National Conference was backed by the all powerful National Coordination of opposition parties, it was backed by the civil society, and the private media buoyed by exciting political developments amply articulated the case made by proponents of this forum. The response from President was “sans objet”, a National Conference will serve no purpose is a loose translation of his laconic response.
His response could be understood because in the Republic of Benin, where the first National Conference took place in the continent, President Kerekou sat helpless and watched as he was stripped of all the dictatorial powers he had. The experience in Zaire now the DR.Congo had not gone well at all for President Mobutu. In lieu of the National Conference, President Biya organized the Tripartite Talks which did little to address the concerns of change thirsty Cameroonians. Over two decades later, there is every indication that Cameroon needs that National Conference more than ever before. Infact the urgency becomes fiercer considering the subtle viciousness of the raging succession battle within the ruling establishment which is overheating the polity. A lot of ink has flowed since the arrest of former Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni and former Territorial Administration Minister and Politburo member of the CPDM Marafa Hamidou Yaya. In a couple of letters Marafa by fate or by design may have finally jump started the National Conference.
Whereas the other high profile detainees have largely remained silent, Marafa has put the regime in panic mood with embarrassing revelations contained in letters that have left the country only yearning for more .As the country watches in awe, as the CPDM is pinned to the wall unable to defend their Party Chairman cum Head of State, as the SDF joins the fray providing a high profile team of legal advisers to defend Marafa, and with the CPDM dominated parliament reportedly backing a demand for a commission of enquiry into kickbacks paid to former Minister of Transport and now Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma as revealed in one of Marafa’s letters, the former Secretary General at the Presidency and Minister of Territorial Administration may have launched that National Conference.
There may be no reason to believe everything Marafa says , but if the Government and the ruling party are running helter skelter, then there should be elements of truth. That the ruling establishment is unable to articulate a coherent response can only add up to guilt. Rather than answer the charges , the regime thinks casting doubts on Marafa’s character and vaulting ambition will sweep the issues under the rug. But what about the facts he has used in making his arguments? Why has the regime not provided facts to the contrary? Issues raised by Marafa have bordered on his doubts on the ability of ELECAM to organize free elections, advise to Biya to step down, instances of corruption brought to the attention of the head of state, his opposition to violent crackdowns in Douala et al. Most of these issues would probably never have occured had the National Conference taken place to lay a strong foundation for a country serious on meeting 21st century challenges.
A National Conference will possibly have vouch for separation of powers with checks and balances. It may have made it possible to have strong institutions instead of a strong man in power. It would likely have come up with the kind of electoral reforms that will make Cameroon the envy of other countries. The CPDM backed Biya in rejecting in. It possibly would have come up with reforms that would have quelled the institutionalization of corruption. Today there is a whole government in jail for crimes not clearly spelt out, with facts that are hazy though no one doubts the magnitude of corruption within the regime. It never took place and the result is a faulty constitution whose provisions have never been fully implemented since 1996. It never took place and since 1990, Cameroon has not known a single election that is free and fair election.
The National conference may have addressed concerns of Southern Cameroonians who have since continued to be humiliated and stretched and now want nothing but a restoration of their statehood.
Hard to make an exhaustive list of what a National Conference will have addressed but it is right to say the issues have been multiplied many fold. Even President Biya and his CPDM who “saw no merit” may rethink their stance if the clock could be turned backwards. While his collaborators in jail must have tasted the poison they helped serve Cameroonians, the President cuts a pathetic figure. In power for circa thirty years is Mr Biya proud of his legacy as it stands today?
For the National Conference, dialogue or whatever it is called to be successful, people must speak their minds, people must unburden secrets, people must be ready to listen and as hard as it might be forgive. Marafa has fingered Issa Tchiroma, Fame Ndongo and even the President himself. In the absence of a formal gathering, his letters serve a purpose. Cameroonians may love to know about election rigging and its techniques, there will love to know how proceeds from oil were managed when he was Chair of the National Hydrocarbons Company. How about shedding light on the operational command in Douala? What if someone tells us what really happened to money contributed by Cameroonians during the Coup de Coeur for the upkeep of the embattled lions ate the 1992? How about Minister Fame Ndongo answer the charge from Marafa on his role in siphoning funds for some bogus satellite program at CRTV? Already former CPDM Central Committee Member Chief Milla Assoute is adding flesh to the corruption charge levied against Issa Tchiroma for on a contract for the maintenance of Cameroon Airline planes in the mid nineties.
While it is laudable that the SDF is pushing for a Commission of Enquiry on the compensation of victims of the 1995 plane crash, one must ask why the MPs of the leading opposition party did not ask for one on the Albatross, or for one to review the modus operandi of Sparrow Hawk. Hopefully Marafa’s barbs can fire up others within the ruling party, the opposition, civil society, the progressive forces in the Diaspora et al to step up the fight for change. The country needs that National Conference or some genuine form of National dialogue. On it may depend whether the country makes or mars. On it depends genuine reconciliation because beyond the façade of peace lies a badly fragmented polity. Genuine reconciliation starts with dialogue, shedding light on issues not to reopen old wounds but to better understand each other and chart a better way forward. From the 1984 coup, the repatriation of the remains of former President Ahidjo, national recognition of heroes of the independence struggle like Roland Moumie, Ernest Ouandie, etc. South Africa had its truth and reconciliation with sordid tales that hurt but helped to heal the wounds of apartheid. Nigeria after Abacha tried the something similar. Cameroon needs its own and Marafa’s missives though inadvertently may be leading the country towards this ultimate eventuality.