Author Archives: Darlene Musoro

A Cameroon of Doom and Gloom

It’s been two years since Cameroon, especially the Anglophone regions ( North-West and South-West) have been witnessing serious unrest. The minority English speaking population say they are being marginalized by the majority French-speaking population. The current chaotic deadly situation in the Anglophone regions originated from a peaceful protest by lawyers and teachers demanding better recognition, respect, and use of the English language in schools and courts. The people of these regions later embraced and became part of the peaceful protest which they saw as an opportunity to break their long pregnant silence, putting an end to the façade many called ‘peace’ in the country. The population took to the streets with peace plants expressing their grievances against the government. They called for socio-economic change, equality, and an enabling environment within their region.

The protest turned deadly after peaceful civil protests were met by ruthless government crackdowns. Since then, separatist militants have sprung up from different parts of the two regions, fighting for an independent Anglophone Cameroon also known as Ambazonia. The gun battles between the Cameroonian military and the separatist militants have resulted in rising death toll and economic losses on both sides. The violence has resulted in the displacement of over two hundred thousand people, hundreds have been killed, maimed, arrested and many villages and towns burnt down and/or deserted.

In the midst of the misery in the two Anglophone regions, the Cameroonian government recently organized a controversial presidential election which named Paul Biya winner, thanks to the 2008 constitutional amendment that removed term limits, allowing Biya to run for his 7th term without restrictions. The country’s constitutional council on Monday, October 22, 2018, named 85- year- old President Paul Biya winner of the country’s presidential elections. Paul Biya has been president of Cameroon since 1982, making him one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. Cameroon has continuously experienced economic hardship, corruption, embezzlement, accrued debts etc, under the leadership of Paul Biya. One will wonder why Biya successfully remain president through all these years despite how poor and cruel his leadership has been. Unfortunately, elections in Cameroon are often marked by irregularities that usually go unattended to, due to the despotic and corrupt nature of president Paul Biya’s government.

Some opposition parties at this year’s presidential elections tabled petitions of electoral malpractices requesting a partial or complete annulment of this year’s elections. Unfortunately, but as expected, the country’s Constitutional Council rejected all 18 post-electoral petitions. The main opposition parties in this year’s elections, as well as a large portion of the country’s population, are of the opinion that the elections were highly fraudulent.

The president-elect Paul Biya won the presidential elections with an overwhelming 71.28% in a country marked by severe corruption and economic hardship. The president-elect Paul Biya also obtained massive victory in the two conflict-hit Anglophone regions (North West 81.74% and South West 77.69%) where the population boycotted the elections because of their grievances against the government and the security concerns in the region. National and international election observers were also absent due to security concerns. Their absence definitely facilitated the massive fraud witnessed at polling stations during the elections. Paul Biya’s massive victory, especially in regions with constant gun battles between the Anglophone restoration forces and Paul Biya’s military, has left many tongues wagging. The people have lost hope in the country and its institutions. Situations seem hopeless as individuals lament, painfully trying to figure out how they will survive another seven years under Paul Biya.

An obvious question will be; isn’t it possible to vote him out? Unfortunately, votes do not really count. The electoral system in the country is set up to favor the incumbent. It will take other methods than just the polls to oust the president. Firstly, Cameroon doesn’t have an independent Elections Commission. The constitutional council which has the responsibility to announce the results is also not an independent body. Influential employees in these institutions are directly or indirectly appointed by the president. Therefore, the ruling party/presidency, the elections organizing body  (Election Cameroon – ELECAM) and the Constitutionals Council all function as interdependent rather than independent institutions.

The people vote, ELECAM puts the votes together and forwards them to the national commission for vote counting. The figures are then sent to the constitutional council which declares the winner, accepts and handles post elections dispute.

Almost all those managing these election managing institutions are either directly or indirectly appointed by the president. Most of them are also members of Paul Biya’s Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM). It will be myopic to expect any form of transparency from these institutions.

Despite how gloomy the elections process in Cameroon is, many Cameroonians in the French Speaking regions courageously went to the polling stations to vote for their preferred candidates. Unfortunately, their optimism turn sour as they witnessed their hope for change crushed by the corrupt political system in Cameroon. The leading opposition leader at this year’s presidential elections, Maurice Kamto of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), has persistently stated that he was robbed of his victory as the winner of this year’s Presidential elections. Maurice Kamto emphatically stated that the figures published by the constitutional council placing him at the second position with a 14.23% are fraudulent.

Professor Maurice Kamto says he won the presidential elections with a percentage of 39.74% contrary to what has been published by the Constitutional Council. He has also presented his own copies of the election results which substantiates his claims. As confusion persists in Cameroon from several angles, the incumbent has already been receiving congratulatory messages from in and out of the African continent.

Cameroonians lament as Paul Biya is once again declared winner of the presidential elections. The people will have to continue in 7 more years of poverty, no running water, epileptic electricity supply, bad roads, poor health facilities, dictatorship, corruption, and embezzlement,  just to name a few.

Paul Biya will be 92 years old by the end of this 7th term, with 43 of these years as president of the Republic of Cameroon. At this rate, it will be wise to pray for the best while preparing for the worst. I will advise Cameroonians not to rule out the possibility of Paul Biya’s 8th term in office.

Less than 48 hours after the President of the Constitutional Council, Justice Clement Atangana proclaimed Biya Paul winner of the 2018 presidential election with an overwhelming 71.28%, the  country’s Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development (MINEPAT) has provided 272,659,992 FCFA for the construction of the residence of the President of the Constitutional Council in Yaounde. Many have interpreted this move as a compensation to the president of the constitutional council for betraying the Cameroonian people, democracy and the human conscience by falsely announcing Mr. Biya the winner of the October 2018 presidential elections.

As for the aftermath of the presidential elections on the ongoing Anglophone crisis, I will say it is early to predict. However, we are aware of the fact that, the current government promised to crush separatists if they are re-elected. Unfortunately, the ruthless regime has been ‘re-elected’. The days ahead seem quite gloomy for most Cameroonians, many of whom have resorted to trusting God for survival.

Hold on in there, hope dies last!.

 

Contrast Within The African Pie II-The Media

Global press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years in 2015 as political, criminal, and terrorist forces sought to co-opt or silence the media in their broader struggle for power (Freedom House, 2015). In Africa, the situation is even more frustrating. Journalists are highly susceptible to economic and political pressures. The tensions and pressures are even greater in situations where states and governments purport to pursue liberal democracy in principle, while in reality, they continue to be highhanded and repressive to their populations. When this happens, journalists are at risk of employing double-standards as well, by claiming one thing and doing the opposite, or by straddling various identity margins, without always being honest about it, especially if their very survival depends on it” ( Nyamnjoh, 2006, pp,7).

According to the Freedom House (2015), Ghana’s reputation as one of the ‘freest’ media environments in sub-Saharan Africa was tarnished in 2015. The media landscape witnessed a series of physical attacks against journalists, often by state officials, alongside legal and financial pressure on reporters and media outlets. Due to these recent political developments and constantly changing current events, Ghana’s press freedom status has been fluctuating since 2013 between Free and Partly Free. However, Ghana’s press freedom remains relatively impressive for an African nation. According to Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Ghana is the 26th out of 180 countries, in the world ranking in 2017.

Ghana’s status declined from Free to Partly Free in 2015 due to stepped-up attempts to limit coverage of news events. The confiscation of equipment, increase in violence directed at journalists by the police, the military, political party members, and ordinary citizens, and continues electricity outages that impaired media production and distribution create a challenging atmosphere for journalists to deliver professionally. In December 2015, the Ghanaian parliament adopted guidelines requiring the operators of public electronic communications or broadcasting services to submit content to a government media commission for approval before dissemination. The failure to do so can result in fines or a jail sentence of up to five years. While the constitution protects the state-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) from government interference, political parties attempt to influence coverage. Private media face editorial pressure from their owners, particularly those with political connections.  President Mahama during his time in office called for an increase in regulation of the media in order to avoid the spread of false information that could damage the country’s international reputation. Also, while citing increasing partisanship, Mahama also called for radio stations to invite fewer political party representatives to their talk shows (Freedom House, 2015).  The landscape is gradually witnessing positive changes under the current leadership.

According to the Freedom House (2015), Nigeria has one of the most vibrant media landscapes in Africa. The Nigerian 1999 constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the press. The print sector, in particular, is generally outspoken in its criticism of unpopular government policies. However, the media sometimes face politicised interference from public officials and regulators over their criticism of the government or coverage of sensitive issues, such as high-level corruption and national security. Nigeria’s press freedom status has, therefore, remained Partly Free for quite a while now. According to Reporters without Boarder press freedom index, Nigeria is the 122nd   out of 180 countries, in the world ranking in 2017

On a more positive note, within the short time that Nigeria has returned to civil democratic rule, the newspapers and magazines have begun to unearthed monumental scandals in the political arena but not without huge sacrifices. Nevertheless, self-censorship, physical assaults, and intimidation along with impunity for crimes against journalists remain major concerns in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the media environment in Cameroon is constrained by a restrictive legal regime. Journalists reporting on sensitive subjects risk police questioning, lawsuits, and extrajudicial detention. When violence increased in the Far North region due to the terrorist activities of Boko Haram, the government came up with several laws indirectly stifling freedom of expression (Freedom House 2015).

According to the Freedom House (2015), freedom of the press in Cameroon has remained Not Free due to the use of both laws and extralegal detention to harass journalists. The country’s 1996 constitution guarantees the freedoms of expression and the press, though libel and defamation are criminalised.  A number of independent newspapers report critically about the government. Several radio call-in shows and television debate programs often strongly criticise the government and individual officials. That notwithstanding, media outlets operate under constant threat of prosecution or regulatory sanctions, leading many journalists to self-censor. Reporters are often harassed or detained by security forces while attempting to cover sensitive stories. A new anti-terrorism law signed in December 2014, makes it easy for reporters to be sentenced to lengthy prison terms for “defending terrorism” by simply being expressive, thus further stifling press freedom in the country. According to Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Cameroon is the 130th out of 180 countries, in the world ranking in 2017.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that, with the ongoing anglophone crisis in Cameroon, minority English speaking journalists are seriously hunted by the government for their publications and participation in the crisis.  Throughout the ongoing Anglophone crisis masterminded by Cameroonians in the Diaspora, the internet/media has been a major tool for sensitization and mobilization. Activists in the diaspora use the internet to sensitize and encourage political debates. Anglophone journalists have equally become very vocal on the issue. The Cameroonian government has responded to this by monitoring activist and journalist both off and online. The government arrest, detain and tortures journalist. Many journalists have gone into hiding. The government interrupts internet at will in English Cameroon.

Cameroon is a very good example of a practically non-democratic country. The absence of democracy and freedom of expression makes Cameroon perfectly contrasting with Ghana and Nigeria who are regarded as good and somewhat good examples of democracy and press freedom in Africa.

P.S: This is a continuation of our contrast in the African Pie series. Please endeavor to read all parts of the series to have a full understanding of certain aspects.

 

Contrast within the African Pie -The Good, the bad and the ugly

Sub-Saharan Africa plays host to most of the world’s poor people, fuelling the decision of West Africa as the area of interest for this article. I chose three peculiar West African countries; Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon to show the contrast that exists within this region.

Ghana officially called the Republic of Ghana with Accra as its political capital city, is a sovereign multinational state with a unitary presidential constitutional democracy located along the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, in the sub-region of West Africa.

In 1957, it became the first African nation to declare independence from European colonization. It is for this reason that, Ghana is seen as the symbol of Black achievement. This helped to inspire other African nations to seek independence, having a major influence on Pan-Africanism and the Black Pride movements in the United States of America. Ghana’s current president is Nana Akufo-Addo, who won the 2016 presidential election against, John Dramani Mahama, by a margin of 9.45%. Akufo-Addo was sworn into office on 7 January 2017. John Dramani Mahama who was president since July 2012 faced serious criticism during his tenure. Mahama’s government is blamed for the economic hardship the country is currently facing with hopes kept alive for Akufo-Addo to make significant changes. Akufo-Addo has so far been praised within and out of Africa for his charisma, dynamism and exemplary leadership.

Ghana has a total land area of 238,533 sq km. According to the World Factbook (2016), the country has a population of 26,908,262 (July 2016 est.). She has a GDP of $114.7 billion (2015 est.) on PPP. Ghana has an unemployment rate of 5.2% (2013 est.) and the percentage of her population living below the poverty line stands at 24.2% (2013 est.). The literacy rate of those who are 15 years of age and above, who can read and write is 76.6% (2015 est.), with an internet penetration rate of 23.5%, (Freedom House 2015). With these statistics, Ghana qualifies as the good piece of the West African Pie.

Nigeria, officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its federal capital territory, Abuja. British influence and control over what eventually became Nigeria and Africa’s most populous country grew through the 19th century. A series of constitutions after World War II granted Nigeria greater autonomy and subsequently, independence came in 1960.

Elected in 2015, in what is widely referred to as Nigeria’s first ‘transparent’ elections, Muhammadu Buhari is currently Nigeria’s president. Unfortunately, his leadership has been a bittersweet experience. According to IMF’s World Economic Outlook for October 2016, though many top government officials have been jailed for corruption, Nigeria – “Giant of Africa”, is still fighting hard to keep her position as Africa’s biggest economy. The government continues to face the daunting task of reforming the petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement. Also, worth mentioning is the fact that, Nigeria continues to experience longstanding ethnic and religious tensions resulting to the creation and existence of groups like Boko Haram and the Niger Delta Avengers who are responsible for most of the societal insecurities in West Africa as a whole and Nigeria and Cameroon in particular.

According to the World Factbook, Nigeria has a population of 186,053,386 (July 2016 est.) with a GDP of $415.08 billion (IMF’s World Economic Outlook for October 2016).  Nigeria has an unemployment rate of 23.9% (2011 est.) and the percentage of people living below the poverty line is 70% (2010 est.).The literacy rate of those from 15 years and above who can read and write is 59.6% (2015 est.) (World Factbook, 2016). These statistics place Nigeria in the not so good/not so bad piece of the pie.

And then Cameroon. Cameroon, known as the Republic of Cameroon with Yaounde and Douala as her political and Economic capital cities respectively, is a country in the West Central Africa region. The country is often referred to as “Africa in miniature” because of its geological and cultural diversity. French and English are her official languages due to her political history.

French Cameroon became independent in 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon. The following year, the Southern portion of neighboring British Cameroon voted to merge with the new Republic of Cameroon to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. In 1972, a new constitution replaced the federation with a unitary state forming the United Republic of Cameroon. Until recently, the country had generally enjoyed stability, despite a very slow movement toward democratic reforms. Political power remains firmly in the hands of President Paul Biya who has been president since 1982. It will be useful to mention that since 2009, Cameroon has suffered several terrorist attacks masterminded by the Nigerian grown sect- Boko Haram. Cameroon today plays host to a huge number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and refugees, who are either victims/survivors of Boko Haram’s attacks or the current political unrest in the Central African Republic or Gabon.

In recent times, schools, courts and other businesses in the English-speaking region of Cameroon have remained closed as tensions between the Anglophone regions and the current government persist. As an act of civil disobedience, the English speaking regions through their lawyers and teachers, in November 2016 called on the government to implement certain reforms to ensure equality between the Francophone and Anglophone regions. The Anglophones say they are being politically and economically sidelined by the Francophone government. The government’s slow or adamant attitude towards handling the issue has resulted to a call for outright separation and independence of Anglophone Cameroon. Several people have been arrested thus far, some maimed, tortured and killed in the English speaking regions from November 2016 till date. French is spoken in eight of Cameroon’s 10 regions and English is spoken in the north-western and south-western regions.

The socio-economic dynamics of these three countries show the contrast that exists within Africa. It is, therefore, obvious that it will be unfair to use a single brush on all these three countries.

Africa’s Autonomy is Affordable

The setbacks in the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) relations because of disagreements over European Union (EU) payments to troops in the AU mission in Somalia, is another sickening show of dependency. It is good news collaboration between the two has improved, however, the deep-seated frustrations over financing and each other’s perceived deficiencies which persist is likely to last for as long as certain key issues are not addressed.
African officials want a sense of autonomy which is likely not to be attained if they remain dependent on handouts from the EU. African officials should not complain if the EU imposes its own programs and priorities on the AU and not to respect theirs. If the AU wants her voice heard, she should be financially independent. It is normal for the EU to want to be more than just a donor, to want a greater say in when, where and how its money is spent, to ensure its contributions are utilised effectively. If the AU wants to run her affairs with no interference, she should fund her affairs with no dependency. It is not out of place to require more transparency and accountability from the AU considering how corrupt and greedy many African leaders are.

Migration and security concerns which are a bother to both continents are rooted in financial mismanagements, exclusion/inequality and religion. Using colonialism as an excuse for dependency will not foster but hamper AU’s maturity and independence. With her enormous natural and human resources, Africa can take charge of her business and have a more powerful voice at negotiation tables. Unfortunately, with the level of embezzlement, corruption, lack of patriotism and greed among African leaders, the AU will keep ‘begging’ from the EU, and the cycle of frustration and distrust between the parties will continue. When these two elephants fight, the masses continue to suffer.
In an attempt to lessen the AU’s dependence on external donors, member states have committed, in principle, to significantly increase their funding for peace and security activities. This move will only be worth applauding when it is implemented. Until then, African leaders should work on being accountable and having good governance, and then she will be able to call her shots. If the AU and the EU have frustrations and distrusts dealing with each other, the solution is independence for respect.

BREXIT: Not Cameroon’s ‘fish to fry’.

13603639_1392302147453251_4463290072838215913_oKeeping all personal preferences aside for a bit, it is fair to say the Brits have a right to their choices despite the drama accompanying the current events in the EU. As dust reluctantly settles on the British vote to leave the EU, financial markets get to terms with the new reality, Brexit seeks new leadership and European governments grapple with the socio-political implications of the vote, the question on a lay man’s  mind at this juncture is; “What has this got to do with me?” Localizing or personalizing the fallout of this history-making decision by the United Kingdom might be an appropriate way to enhance understanding of this seemingly complex discourse in both local and international public spheres. Individuals may find it necessary to know and understand just the parts of this current event that affects them directly. Given that DCC is a Communication Consulting agency with very strong ties to Cameroon, we decided to have a brief chat with a Cameroonian-born German Financial Risk Manager, for an expert opinion on what (if any) effects Brexit will have on Cameroon. In other words, can Cameroon go to bed knowing she has more pressing ‘fish to fry’ like corruption and bad governance over Brexit ?

In his response, Dr. Azinwi Fet – a Manager at D-fine GmbH (an IT, Risk Management and Financial Consultancy with over 600 consultants across Europe) gave us the following explanations which I will say we can ‘take to the bank’ till UK or England gets a new leadership, talks between a new Brexit leadership and the EU is finalized, and the dust around current uncertainties actually settles.

In his words, “In order to aptly answer the question of how Brexit affects Cameroon, I think it is imperative for us to know what the European Union is and what an exit implies.

The European Union is a politico-economic union of 28 member states who have ratified a number of treaties providing guidelines for political and economic interaction between member states as well as their internal affairs. The choice to leave the EU will certainly affect Britain’s access to the single-market accorded by the EU to its member states which served to eliminate tariffs. A new EU/UK trade agreement may not overcome such tariffs and make access to the market difficult for both EU and UK exporters. The EU takes almost half of the UK’s exports and an unfavorable change in market conditions is bound to affect businesses as well as the UK economy. Beyond this, the UK also benefits from 53 trade deals negotiated by the EU. Meanwhile the UK may replicate these deals, setting them up will take time and definitely adversely impact UK businesses in the mean-time. Furthermore EU grants, employee mobility and a homogenous taxation regime (Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base – CCCTB) are things which British businesses will miss upon exiting the EU. This will translate to a sluggish economy and jobs will be lost.

Financial markets have already reacted to the expected change in market climate, which is reflected in the weakening of the British pound. This on the other hand strengthens the British exports but will weaken their imports. Trade partners will certainly feel the pinch of the squeeze in the British economy.

For most African nations (except for South Africa) Britain however is not a major trade partner, and a potential slump in the British economy would have a marginal impact on these economies. Take Cameroon for example; trade with Britain accounts for roughly 4% of Cameroon’s exports, which is less than 1% of the country’s GDP.  The major trade partners of the UK- USA, Germany, the EU will feel the effect of Brexit more. African countries should go through this relatively unscathed”.

I guess this tells Africa, especially Cameroon that, ‘ceteris paribus’, the country has more things to worry about than Brexit. However, given the global nature of current events of such magnitude from both socio-political and economic angles, head knowledge of the event might be worth having whether remotely or directly affected.

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#BIRLove: DCC Hats off Cameroon’s BIR

13235513_1357761807573952_2594087851490947861_oLet’s begin by requesting we all do an act of kindness to at least one member of the Cameroonian Rapid Intervention Battalion ( BIR). If you own a restaurant, offer a free plate of food. If you are a driver, offer a free ride. If you sell recharge cards, offer air time. If you have lots of money (whether hard earned or embezzled), use some to pay them a visit, taking along goody bags and the list is endless. DCC has chosen to put out a call to all Cameroonians both home and abroad to do a direct act of kindess to at least one member of the BIR with the hashtag #BIRLove, as an appreciation for their services .Yes, they are just doing their job but this time they seem to be getting their job description right.

While appreciating the Cameroonian Military for their efforts against Boko Haram, I think I should mention this is the first time I have seen Cameroonians so united in support of the military. Without intending to spoil the party, until the advent of Boko Haram, most Cameroonians didn’t like the army due to ideologies fed by either stereotypes or personal experiences. However, the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. Before now, the image most people had of the Cameroonian military was quite negative. They responded to all forms of resistance including sit-down strikes with methods that were out of place. They ensured that selfish decisions from a few persons in power were diligently implemented by hook or crook. They intimidated civilians for personal benefits, etcetera. In fact, all the strikes I witnessed in Cameroon made me hate the military to my veins but today, I stand to reconsider my opinion of the military to some extent, while hoping this positive image of the military is not short-lived. Whether their relentless efforts towards Boko Haram has more to it than meets the eye or not, at least we are grateful they are protecting, not intimidating or molesting the citizens. Until now, the million dollar question was, ‘who is actually protecting the civilians?’

Contrary to popular police slogans around the world like ‘the Police is your friend and helper’ and ‘the police is your friend’, for a long time the Cameroonian military was literarily enemies with the Cameroonian people. Sometimes loved ones wondered how and why their relatives or friends drastically changed once they became part of the military. After talking with friends in the Ghanaian, British and American Militaries, a vivid comparison brings me to a conclusion that the Cameroonian military has problems with its quality and quantity. From training, equipping, numbers and organization, much still has to be done yet young lives are risking the odds to save the nation.

I will not want to go as far as comparing the Cameroonian Military with that of the West since we might argue the terrains are different. Let’s take a look at a fellow West African country like Ghana; there are trained lawyers, statisticians, political analysts, etcetera in the military. This makes it difficult for the government to shove just anything down the military’s throat. In Cameroon we have a military comprised of mostly people who haven’t realized who they are, and why they are into what they do; Very young and susceptible as their ages and society has molded them to be, yet expected to protect what they don’t really know or clearly understand. Recruiting  people to do the job of protecting national interests and nationals, will benefit a nation more if these persons are themselves knowledgeable about their choices  and are not cajoled to contrary views. The change we seek in Cameroon begins with an over haul of the military without which, we might just have the military continue working for the benefits of a select few rather than the entire nation.

The requirements, procedures and operations management of the military in Cameroon need re-examination. Recruits should already have a good education, or access to same. Carrying a gun and following orders irrationally should not be the only thing you do as a soldier. Major undiluted civics and ethics should be taught in the army. And above all, national progress and unity should be the driving force for all decisions within the military. I know these points are quite ambitious and might not be realized in the nearest future but if you ask me, a faster way to change in Cameroon is a change in the military.

This brings me to why DCC is calling on everyone to take part in the #BIRLove kind act call. If those in power can’t make the military realize serving the people is always a priority, then maybe our acts of kindness will do that. In recent times, the military has relatively been what we want them to be and we wish it stays that way. Have you grown to appreciate the BIR lately and wish that they continue protecting civilians? Then encourage them by doing an act of kindness. You might help make them reconsider being manipulated at any point in time. Share your pictures of #BIRLove on social media and get as many people as you can involved.

Let’s begin. #BIRLove.

Sasse ‘Murder’: Yes or No to Boarding Schools?

Sasse. 1Many parents, foster parents and soon to be parents, are beginning to reconsider the choice of a boarding school for their children  following the death of a form four student – Marius Awuma, at  Saint Joseph’s College Sasse, Buea – Cameroon. While it is alleged that this student was beaten to death by a lower sixth student, a statement from the above mentioned institution says the student died in a hospital after he fainted during sports. Unfortunately, at this point I can’t tell which narrative is true, given that we don’t have Marius to tell us what actually happened. This unfortunate incident made me do some serious thinking and soul searching as I examined the breathless body of this student in a picture.

I spent seven years in a boarding school quite similar to Sasse except for the fact that my school was a mixed one (comprising both male and female students) while Sasse is an all-boys school. Looking back at the time I spent in a boarding school, my first two years could be likened to the Ulwaluko rituals done by the Xhosa people of South Africa. I was taken to a hill, far away from family, friends and fun, to a place with arid cold, strange people, and a well-disciplined routine. It was pretty much like some adventure in the middle of nowhere. As was the case with most students, the first days at school were usually not fun at all. As time went by, we had no choice but to make new friends, enjoy the food – usually different from home food both in quality and quantity – while remembering the end goal was to go home with a good average score. Honestly, by form three, I began loving school so much that a three-month holiday sometimes felt so long; I missed my boarding mother, sisters, brothers and friends. By form four, the feeling was a mixed one. While I still enjoyed school and all that came with it, form four  students in my school traditionally experienced an extra form of ‘discipline’ from the newly elected student leaders –‘prefects’- who were lower sixth  students in my case. Being in form four in most boarding schools at the time was quite dreadful. The prefects generally ‘disciplined’ form four students with an iron fist. Form four students were generally expected to do the most tedious chores. The prefects bullied, starved and occasionally beat up the form four students more than the others. I can’t really give an explanation for the choice of the form four class but we were made to know it was a tradition and that was meant to be respected and upheld. If there was ever a year I struggled to find a reason not to return to my boarding school, it was definitely form four. Don’t ask me if the school authorities permitted corporal punished by students on other students. I guess it’s obvious the theoretical answer is NO!! However, somewhere in my guts, I knew there was some unwritten permission for some students to dish out corporal punishment on other students. My conclusion was based on the fact that, some prefects repeatedly got away with whatever they did to junior students. From lashes, to ‘sore backs’ (a rhythmic hit on a subordinate’s back with the palm(s) of your hand(s), exerted with force from a distance in order to inflict pain) and acts of torture coined ‘punishment’. Once that stage was over and I made it to form five, school felt like home again.

In my opinion, my boarding school contributed a lot to the person I am today; disciplined, punctual, adaptive, resistant, independent, organized etc. This made me promise myself; if it was up to me to decide, I will always want my children to have at least 3years of boarding school experience- at least the type of experience I had.

With the recent occurrence at Sasse, (worth mentioning this is not the first time it is happening in that same institution) I have seriously began to rethink the decision of sending a child to a boarding school. What actually happened? Is it that my school was quite different from the likes of Sasse? Is it that the students and the systems in boarding schools are no longer the same? Or this particular institution and the supposed lower sixth student were just unfortunate? Unfortunately, the form four student is dead and we all mourn him and frown at every act of brutality in boarding schools. From one of the narratives provided, it is said that this student was sick and had just returned from the hospital when he was beaten by the lower sixth student. Very few students who made it through high school in a boarding school will boast of not being guilty of at least pulling the ears of a junior student. In fact, I disciplined students sometimes but the question remains; how much discipline is too much?

This unfortunate situation brought a vivid picture to my mind of how I narrowly escaped a similar situation. My last year in my boarding school was quite fun. Of course that is when you enjoy maximum freedom and you have the luxury of ‘disciplining’ junior students after years of being ‘disciplined’. I was a prefect who went by the rules and expected everyone to do same. I literally punished with my right hand and gave out candies with the left hand. I occasionally gave lashes too. Yes I did, but not like I was whipping animals. Maybe I should mention too that I received an award for the student with the best leadership qualities in my badge. Not that I was a perfect prefect but I tried to avoid brutality as much as I could, which I guess paid off.

I remember asking a lower sixth student to choose between cleaning tables at the dining hall and receiving ‘sore backs’ from me as punishment for two crimes he committed and he chose ‘sore backs’. Usually, students will prefer cleaning the tables over ‘sore backs’ as the later were usually painful and embarrassing. For reasons I can’t explain till date, this lower sixth student chose ‘sore backs’. Fortunately for me, I was not in the mood for ‘sore backs’ that day so I insisted he clean the tables instead. Sometime later, I discovered this lower sixth student was constantly being rushed to the sick bay (on-campus health facility) or home for medical care. I was later made to understand he suffered from some heart-related problems. Away from being  melodramatic, I thought to myself, if this boy knew he suffered from heart problems, why did he insist I give him ‘sore backs’ which was definitely very dangerous for him taking into consideration his health situation? Exerting that amount of force on his back might have affected his heart. Hmmm this is the part where we say “God forbid”. Since then, I have never been so proud of myself for applying restraint.

Maybe Marius just returned from hospital as one of the narratives state and was still a convalescent, needing much care and precaution. Asking him to go jogging or beating him up only jeopardizes his health. These are grey areas not carefully taken into consideration in boarding schools. Children are different and their levels of resistance equally vary. These are peculiarities which cannot be properly handled in boarding schools where every child is expected to be treated equally with the same uniforms, eating routines, activities etc. Parents know their kids better. This event should therefore make more parents think seriously before sending their children to boarding schools. Boarding schools may be good for some but not good for others. I loved my seven years in a boarding school but I am not sure all my mates will say the same.

Sometimes, I wondered if parents know what actually happens in a boarding school before they send their kids in there or they actually know and just think, things like that will prepare their children for the real world. Alternatively, do parents just bundle their children and send them to boarding houses for the fame and acknowledgement that comes with it at their ‘njangi’ meetings, work places etcetera? For my sanity, I will want to guess most decisions to send children off to boarding houses are heavily uninformed.  Thus, I will want to think this generation of parents should know better. Not that boarding schools are bad, but making an informed decision is better than making an uninformed one. While I still have more time to decide on whether a Yay or Nay for a boarding school, I will want to urge parents and stake holders of boarding schools to begin brainstorming on a way forward for boarding schools in order to avoid a recurrence of such events. Needless to mention that boarding houses may face a decline in enrolment if things like this do no get appropriate attention or are not resolved properly. The institution concerned in this case may say whatever they want in their defense especially as Marius is not here to give his own account, but one thing is certain; God sure knows exactly what happened and He knows how best to deal with anyone involve in the actual act or in its cover up. RIP Marius, my condolences to your family. A mother sends her son to school and later receives his corpse…goshhh!!! I will not wish this even for my enemy.

Samuel Awasum: The Cameroonian-born German Politician

AWASUMGiven the current refugee crisis in Europe with Germany being a major player in the terrain with several complexities, we can definitely not overlook the presence and efforts stake holders are putting in place to derive short term and long term solutions to the on-going crisis.  Of course the crisis has impacts on different sets of people, most especially the migrants, refugees, asylum seekers or whatever terminology you will prefer for these set of people. All parties often wish their opinions are represented at the decision making table as a step towards securing and attaining their interests. Having representatives is usually a quick step towards achieving this goal. Awasum Samuel Awasum is a 33year old Cameroonian-born award-winning German politician making strides in advocating for cultural, social, legal and political equality for migrants living in his city and region (Nordrhein-Westfalen) at large.

Born to a family of seven (including parents) in Bamenda of the  North West Region of Cameroon, Mr. Samuel Awasum studied at the Government Bilingual High School (G.B.H.S) in Mbengwi, Cameroon, where he obtained his Ordinary and Advance Level Certificates and subsequently relocated to Germany for further studies. While in Germany, he studied Business Information Systems and Communicating Engineering at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the University of Applied Sciences Cologne, respectively. Upon completion of his studies, he worked with Accenture – a multinational leading Management Consulting Company with focus on Technological Services and Outsourcing.

While making progress in his profession as a Consultant, it was only upon the birth of his first child (which equally doubled as the birth of his political career) that his life took a detour. In his words “…it still sounds funny in my ears to hear someone call me a politician because, honestly, it was never my goal while growing up.  Besides, there is no politician in my family who could have played the role model function to me in this area. The birth of my daughter made me see the need to actively propagate for change in the community into which my daughter has been born, and will have to grow up in. To make this happen, there was no option other than standing above the crowd and moving to the forefront where vital decisions are being made. With the objective of changing things for my daughter’s future as a springboard, this objective grew to a strong urge to represent and serve my people in my community in general”.

sa 1After taking several steps in the right direction in order to achieve his goal, Mr. Awasum is today politically active at
the regional, county, city and district levels. At the regional level, he is a member of the Regional Integration Council in Nordrhine Westphalia (NRW) – “Landesintegrationsrat NRW” Germany. At the county level, he is a member of the Coordination Integration Circle in the county of Mettmann – “Koordinierungskreis Integration Kreis Mettmann” Germany. At the city level, he is a member and president of the Integration Council Ratingen –“Integrationsrat Stadt Ratingen”, Germany. At the district level, he is an Integration Council envoy to the District Council in Ratingen-“Mitte – Bezirksausschuss Ratingen-Mitte”, Germany.

Besides his efforts in representing his people in Germany at several levels, Mr. Awasum has equally been actively involved in socio-cultural development activities with the aim of giving back to individuals, institutions and communities especially in the remote areas in Cameroon.

Mr Awasum is married and a father of two. Spending time with his family is to him the ‘choicest’ period of his life. Despite his busy schedule as a husband, father, politician and consultant, he equally squeezes time for some pleasurable activities every now and then. He uses music (especially African music) as an escape. Hanging out with ‘the boys’, watching sports on TV, and doing sports (Football, Gym )  are some things you will equally find Mr. Awasum doing if he is not caught up in his usual hectic schedule.

Does your heart bleed like mine to see Cameroonians doing well in diverse areas out of the country and not in their own country? Is it even possible for these Cameroonians to return and excel in like manner in their country taking into consideration the socio-economic and political situation of the country? Please do not ask me if Mr. Awasum is nursing plans of influencing the political landscape in Cameroon directly or indirectly. All that I know and applaud at this point is the fact that, migrants of different status in his region have someone to speak up for them and that person happens to be a Cameroonian # Team237.

Minister Tchiroma, Corruption is real and raw in Cameroon

tchiromaYes! Sadly but unavoidably, I am back from my trip to Cameroon where I was opportune to enjoy various aspects of a collective society. My trip was quite memorable with heavy documentation for a lifetime.  With grins, most people hugged me, examining me closely for any physical changes to ensure I was in good health – a sign of concern. I listened to endless stories from family, friends and acquaintances who tried to help me catch up with events I had missed out on. Most especially, I made it to Cameroon just in time for numerous events that usually characterize the festive season. I had plenty to eat and drink. Not just food but bio food. I had fruits, vegetables and red meat (soya) to last on my mind for some years. It took sheer determination and discipline to cut out some parties and invites usually punctuated with delicious food, and the company of cheerful people. It was still home; same old habits, scenarios, infrastructure and practices, which made it easy for me to fit in quite well under 72 hours.

As hinted earlier, much has not changed. Yes, not at all. The food still tasted so good, the people still felt quite warm, the bars still had clients drinking at their usual tempo. The churches are still present and even growing in numbers. Far from saying nothing new has happened, the number of “new breed” churches is steadily on a rise. The unappealing state of roads is much more of a normal thing now than before. Then yes!!!! The rate of corruption; There seems to be a linear relationship between the growth in “new breed” churches, bars, and the rate of corruption. Whether for the good or bad of the country, at least I noticed new things.

From the first week I spent in Cameroon, I witnessed instances of corruption almost on a daily basis. These ranged from being given fake payment receipts at public places, to being asked for ‘bottles of Heineken’ at the airport for carrying my laptop alongside my hand luggage. I easily noticed the struggle was real. Not that these things were new to me though; the practice was only now more intense, open and normal.

One sunny and busy afternoon, few hours after I was asked for a ‘bottle of 33’ in order to have a service(normally free of any such favors) rendered to me, I stumbled on an article saying Cameroon’s Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary had criticized the corruption placement given Cameroon by Transparency International in its 2015 report. According to Tchiroma, the corruption report placing Cameroon as one of the most corrupt nations in the world is erroneous since the country has, or is making strides towards fighting corruption. He also worries the report could tarnish Cameroon’s image on the international scene. His statements sounded quite humorous to me, and I wished he could have a peep into just two weeks of my experiences which I documented in audio/video recordings and pictures. If I felt this way in just 2weeks, I wondered how the others felt towards his unreliable claims. My unsolicited advice to Minister Tchiroma is to get his colleagues fight corruption rather than say facts from a survey of this magnitude are not true. Making such statements about an organization with international recognition, longevity and validity makes Mr. Tchiroma sound like a court jester rather than spokesperson of the state, which he currently is.

Minister Tchiroma, corruption is real and raw in Cameroon. I will want to be subtle to assume you do not live the realities of the common man, reason why you may not accept Transparency International’s study which places Cameroon second in Africa among the countries with the most bribes paid to obtain services in public offices. In the words of my former colleague Eugene Che, “How often do you consult at a Cameroonian hospital Mr. Minister? How often do you go to the police to bail out someone? How often do you travel by public transport? Do your kids go out looking for jobs as our parents’ kids do? Have you been to a ‘Lycée’ lately to seek admission for a youngster? How then won’t you sit back and say the corruption index is faulty? The ordinary Cameroonians are feeling the pinch. Monkey di work, baboon di chop. One day, wind go open mami fowl yi anus”. This is to say, Mr. Tchiroma, you do not speak for the people who live the reality on ground. I will join my voice to that of the President of the Cameroonian branch of Transparency International, Mr. Charles Nguini, in requesting that the government initiates a survey on corruption in Cameroon with help from other organizations, rather than try to nullify Transparency International’s report in an attempt to salvage the already tarnished image of the Country. By the way, what does Transparency International benefit from tarnishing an impoverished Cameroon’s reputation?

Cameroon claims to have anti-corruption regulatory bodies like National Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC) and the National Financial Investigation Agency (ANIF) which are far from what organizations of this magnitude should be. Neighboring Nigeria has anti-corruption bodies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) which function with more autonomy, coming across as more fruitful than what Cameroon has. Mr. Tchiroma, it is one thing to beat a talking drum at a village square and another to play a snare drum in an orchestra. A spokesman of your magnitude should find out what the differences are, and represent the people appropriately. Corruption is real and raw in Cameroon. What we citizens need, are talks in tones that foster the fight against corruption and not unfounded structured statements to cover the very bug eating up the country tax payers are trying to build.

NACORN; the Reality Facing Nascent Businesses in Cameroon

Darlene-MuyuSometime last year, I stumbled on some maize products labeled ‘NACORN’ on social media, produced and sold by a young Cameroonian. Impressed by the initiative and packaging coming from a youth, I planned to patronize this initiative by getting supplies of these products whenever I have a means of transportation, or even recommend these products to people travelling to Cameroon for holidays -“Bush Fallers”. A couple of weeks ago, having found a means of transportation, I decided to get in touch with this young entrepreneur to place an order for some of her products. With some reluctance and evidence of pain, she started up by saying, “I am sorry, business was not moving so I stopped”.  Our discussion that afternoon made me spend a couple of minutes soliloquizing in disappointment. She reminded me of the harsh realities young entrepreneurs in Cameroon face while setting up business ventures. From a place of empathy, I decided to find out what killed such a brilliant initiative even before it could go pass the toddler stage. The paragraphs below are a vivid transcription of our chat.

Question- Can you tell me a little about you?

“I am Nadege Ngala Muyu, Cameroonian by nationality and 24 years of age. I am presently doing a Masters in Agribusiness Management at the Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya. I also have a Masters in Agricultural Economics from the University of Dschang, Cameroon and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Buea, Cameroon”.

Question- Why did you start NACORN?

“I wanted to materialize what I had learnt from school by starting up an agribusiness enterprise which I called NACORN. Basically, it was the transformation of primarily maize products since maize is one of the most consumed food crop in Cameroon. Also, I had finished my Master’s degree and had no job. I applied for voluntary services, jobs and even attended interviews but none was successful. This spurred the zeal to start something on my own .I equally thought of coming up with products that could save time by making semi cooked products like corn for corn chaff and soy beans powder”.

Question- How did you start?

“After conceiving the idea, I shared it with so many people of whom only few actually saw potential in it. Others laughed at the idea but it didn’t stop me. After sometime, I finally decided to start with little or no franc. I begged a bucket of maize from my mom which I started up with. I also had some money … very insignificant amount, which I used in printing labels for branding and packaging -something which is not very common with maize products, at least in Cameroon. I made some sample products from this bucket of maize given to me by my mother. At the beginning sales were very slow but as time went on demand started rising gradually. It was also very difficult for me to produce, package and do the sales myself”.

Question- What were the products you produced and sold?

For maize products, I had; corn flour, peeled boiled corn ready for corn chaff and dry corn pap. For my Soybeans product, I had soy bean powder .At the time, I had just these products but with the intention of diversifying the products if need be.

Question- At what stage are you now with the business?

I can’t really say for real what I am up to regarding the business. Due to financial difficulties and the fact that I had no job that could sustain me, I had to put the business on hold. I used the little money I made from it to take care of my personal needs since I had no other source of finance.  My financial background isn’t that strong. I didn’t have an account or collateral which I could use to get funds on credit. With these ups and downs, I applied for a 6 months scholarship program in Kenya hoping that, the course can help me increase my agribusiness skills and equally expose me to other means of raising finances for the expansion of my business.  Before leaving for Kenya, I had no body I could entrust the business to, given that it had not yet made firm roots, and I had no capital for its sustenance. The business is on break for now.  I hope to take it up again when I get more finances. Before traveling I told my customers I will be back in February 2016 with NACORN in ‘grand style’.  People often say it’s good to start a business no matter how small. However, I will also want to say here that, from my experience, if you don’t have a reasonable sum it’s not really going to be sustainable”.

The Doing Business report (2015) ranks Cameroon 158 on 189 countries in terms of favorable business climate. Despite the general challenges which cut across developing countries such as poor infrastructure, high information asymmetry, insufficient power, high taxes, access to credit and bureaucracy amongst others, it seems to be much more complex to set up a business in Cameroon, than in most African nations. In a nutshell, when talking business in Cameroon, reputable business models may be far from feasible since what works for Peter’s  business may not work for Paul’s. The implementation of policies governing businesses vary from person to person depending on how ‘connected’ an individual is.

Looking at Nadage’s situation, two main questions came to my mind. Would she have gone back to school for a second Masters if her business was thriving? What does she really have to do differently to survive in business the second time? Not that it is the case with Nadege but the rate at which African youths keep acquiring one degree to the other without applying their knowledge to improve their living standards is quite pathetic. Most often than not, these youths can’t be blamed as their willingness alone is not sufficient to enable them realize their dreams. Simply put, several factors don’t favor youthful entrepreneurship in Cameroon.

DC Communications has as objective to connect human and financial resources in the diaspora back to the African continent. In this vain, while we wish NACORN an aggressive comeback, we beckon on any honest investors in or out of the continent to consider such moves.