Month: May 2014

CAMEROON MARKS 42ND NATIONAL DAY

President Biya and First Lady, Chantal Biya

President Biya and First Lady, Chantal Biya

May 20, 2014, marks exactly 42 years since May 20, 1972, the day when Cameron became a unitary state. Cameroonians the nation over today celebrate the 42nd edition of their national unity. Celebrated under the theme “the army and the nation, in synergy for the preservation of peace and security, purveyor of integration, stability and economic development”, the grand event, presided over by the Head of State, President Paul Barthelemy Biya Bi Mvondo, was marked by a grand match past at the May 20 Boulevard in Yaounde. Special guests this year, as is tradition, was a contingent of the Ivory Coast army, led by Commandant Charles Yake.

Commemorative activities

Activities had been launched in Kye-Ossi in the South region, Kumba in the South West region, and Manoka in the Littoral region by the minister of Youth Affairs and Civic Education, Ismael Bidoung Mkpatt.

On Saturday May 17, 2014, a unity march took place all over the nation, in the ten regional capitals. However, Yaounde’s was spectacular with ten starting points, symbolic of the ten regions of Cameroon, all converging in four meeting points, symbolic of the four ethnicities of Cameroon: the Sawa, the Beti-Fang, the Grassfield and the Northern wings of the country. Animated by a mass choir, a mixture of Christian, Muslim and otherwise religious leaders implored the hand of God upon the unity of Cameroon.

On Sunday May 18, 2014, it was a colourful display of the Cameroon air force that graced the esplanade of the air force base in Yaounde. The parachutists, including three females, were applauded by a host of government officials, in the presence of Martin Mbarga Nguele, director general for national security.

A beauty pageant to determine Miss Unity 2014 was carried out involving ten contestants drawn form the ten regions of Cameroon. The young contestants had to elaborate on the theme of the year’s celebration, and showcase the beauty of their region, whilst bringing out the unity in diversity of the nation. At the end of the contest, Clementine Pita Rabbit was elected Miss Unity 2014.

At the May 20 Boulevard in Yaounde, a grand match past, presided over by President Biya, was attended by a host of top government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and a crowd of local on-lookers amongst others. The military match past; civilian match past comprising over 30 political parties as well as schools featured as highlights.

In the evening, a gala will take place at the unity palace to celebrate national unity and integration, attended by a host of national and international invitees.

Revisiting history: May 20, 1972

After the British Southern Cameroons decided to gain independence by joining the already independent ‘La Republique Du Cameroun’ following the 11 February 1961 plebiscite, the move was officialised on October 1, 1961, and the Federal Republic of Cameroon was thus born.

Despite debated reasons, a new vision was sought by then president, Ahmadou Ahidjo, to remove barriers to national unity and integration. This, according to President Ahidjo, was to be fulfilled with the elimination of the two federated states of West and East Cameroon, and the birth of a united Cameroon. And so it was, that on May 20, 1972, Cameroonians on both sides of the Moungo took part in a referendum where they decided to be a unitary state.

The country thus gained the appellation “United Republic of Cameroon” and subsequently, “Republic of Cameroon”. Since then, May 20 was chosen as a national day for the Cameroonian people, and much reverence thenceforth bestowed upon it.

 The national anthem

The first words of the national anthem are said to have been originally written in 1928 by Rene Djam Ajame and a student group. However, due to Cameroon’s bilingual nature, the French words as we know them today were written by Moise Nyatte Nko’o and the English version by Bernard Nsosika Fonlon. The music was composed by Nyatte and Samuel Miniko Bamba, and it was finally adopted when Cameroon became an official or autonomous region.

Lyrics – English version

O Cameroon thou cradle of our fathers,

Holy shrine where in our midst they now repose,

Their tears and blood, and sweat thy soil did water,

On thy hills and valleys once their tillage rose.

Dear fatherland, thy worth no tongue can tell!

How can we ever pay thy due?

Thy welfare we will win in toil and love and peace,

Will be to thy name ever true!

Chorus

Land of promise, land of glory!

Thou of life and joy our only store!

Thine be honour, thine devotion,

And deep endearment for ever more!

Verse 2

From Shari, from where the Moungo meanders,

From along the banks of lowly Boumba stream,

Muster thy sons in union close around thee,

Mighty as the Buea Mountain be their team.

Instil in them the love of gentle ways,

Regret for errors of the past,

Foster for mother Africa a loyalty,

That true shall remain to the last.

Chorus

Land of promise, land of glory!

Thou of life and joy our only store!

Thine be honour, thine devotion,

And deep endearment for ever more!

 

The grand debate: national unity, myth or reality

Even though the country celebrates its national day, there is growing debate on whether integration and national unity is possible or plausible, legal or illegal, or if it is a myth or a reality.

Clamours are rife with the popularized “Anglophone problem” where Cameroonians of the English speaking side decry alleged discrimination in official appointments, little or no development and unfulfilled promises amongst others. One that stands out in this light is the construction of the much clamoured-for Kumba-Mamfe stretch of road. After long promises, the road is yet to be tarred. The latest of such promises ensued during the celebrations marking Cameroon’s fiftieth anniversaries of independence and reunification in Buea, last February, where those present were reassured that construction works on the road will debut on May 5, 2014. However, this has still gone down the anal of unfulfilled promises.

Whether the unity celebration as that displayed today is a farce or not, whether the national integration of Cameroon be a myth or reality, truth remains that a single nation is now recognised in Cameron; the people governed as one and the present vision aimed at preserving Cameroon united, one and indivisible, till proven otherwise.

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KONDENGUI INMATES: FREEDOM VIA THE GRAVE?

Ever since the sparrow-hawk operation took root in Cameroon, some detainees of the Kondengui Maximum security prison in Yaounde have passed via the inescapable route of death to gain freedom. Even for those who were seemingly set free, death has still dragged them unto its path of freedom.

engoulou realVery recently, it was the turn of the former minister delegate to the then ministry of economy and finance, Henri Engoulou. He died in pre-trial detention following his alleged involvement in the embezzlement of public funds, while serving in the capacity of minister delegate in charge of budget. Engoulou fell sick while awaiting trial at the Kondengui maximum security prison in Yaounde, and was transferred to the Yaounde central hospital where he died on May 8, 2014.

engoulouAnother example is the case of the former board president of credit foncier du Cameroon (CFC), Charles Booto A Ngon, who was slammed a 40-year jail term. Detained in July 2008 for siphoning public funds worth 3.5 billion FCFA in accomplice with Joseph Edou, former general manager of the CFC, he had since November 2008 suffered form a throat and back cancer, and was admitted at the Yaounde general hospital. All requests to fly him out for proper medical treatment fell on government deaf ears and on February 12, 2009, he equally was released from his ailing health and physical detention unto the cold embrace of death.

catherineA more recent case presents itself in the death of Catherine Abena, who died last March 19, 2014. The former secretary of state at the ministry of secondary education was arrested on January 8, 2010 and transferred to the Kondengui prison. On January 15, Catherine Abena went on hunger strike, and was thenceforth transferred to serve her term on a hospital bed in the Yaounde central hospital, where once more, death pulled her onto its definition of freedom.

The glaring examples set aside, it is however not news that since May 2, 2014 the former secretary general at the presidency, Jean Marie Atangana Mebara has been hospitalised,mebara after a malaise at the Kondengui central prison. Mebara has been in intensive care since then at the Yaounde general hospital. His frail health, according to his lawyer, Assira, accounts for his absence in court on May 8. Assira also revealed that Mebara suffers a pancreatic deficiency. On trial with the former ambassador of Cameroon to the United States of America, co-accused Jerome Mendouga over the embezzlement of over 2.5 billion FCFA in the albatross affair, the case was adjourned to June 2, hoping he gains his physical strength.

Likewise, the former minister of then ministry of the economy and finance, Polycarpe polycarpeAbah Abah, has been a constant visitor to the hospital due to his ailing health. Revisiting memory, he suffered a heart attack in April 2008 and was welcome for treatment at the central hospital in Yaounde. Since then, the former minister of the economy and finance has been a regular visitor to the hospital for check-ups.

On his part, the former secretary general at the presidency and former minister of marafaterritorial administration and decentralisation, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, detained at the basement of the state secretariat is equally in a state of not-too-good health. Coupled to protesting the deplorable detention conditions, he visited the national social insurance fund (CNPS) hospital last January 31, 2013 where he consulted an ophthalmologist. Marafa was said to be having eye problems, and reports are rife that his healthiness is also failing him.

Yves Michel Fotso, also detained at the basement of the state secretariat for defence yves michelequally has frail health. Reports gathered from close sources say the former general manager of the Cameroon Airlines Corporation (CAMAIRCO), in detention over the botched presidential plane equally endures the weight of fragile health.

CAMEROON RANKS 131st IN 2014 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX

The Reporters Without Borders 2014 world press freedom index has placed Cameroon at the 131st position, a drop from last year’s, which stood at 120.

Free the press

Free the press

According to Journalists Without Borders, which released the world press freedom index, press freedom in Africa is in a decline. Reporters Without Borders explains that “the climate for the media is getting tougher in Cameroon”. In its report, it reveals that “Security grounds are used when needed to defend increased control over the media or the repressive status quo”. The disclosure is exampled in that the “National Communication Council is trying to penalize coverage of the government’s cooperation with Nigeria in combating Boko Haram”.
However, like most countries in Central Africa, defamation laws are promulgated to keep media liberty at bay, and “corruption under wraps”.
Apart from central Africa where the index shows a decline, West Africa presents a much more worse and hostile atmosphere for the press. JWB holds that wars and terrorist threats have weakened the media in West Africa, with media control seen as a “strategic goal in conflicts”. In the Horn of Africa, poverty levels and authoritarianism make of civil liberties, the media inclusive, collateral victims.
Glaring examples abound in Somalia, with the Islamist militia Al-Shabaab which has “always targeted journalists as unwanted witnesses of its terrorist methods. With seven journalists killed in 2013, Somalia is Africa’s deadliest country for media personnel.” JWB further explains that “in November, Al-Shabaab deprived an entire region of television by seizing satellite dishes on the grounds they carried images that did not respect Islam. Information is seen as threat”.
Reporters Without Borders further elucidates that “this persecution is nonetheless also indicative of the immense power that journalists still wield as watchdogs. They make it possible for the population to see and hear, and they make sense out of scraps of information, fashioning it into something intelligible to all and thereby maintaining their importance, all the more so in time of war.