Archive | September, 2012

Paranoia and despair rule Cameroon

26 Sep

President Paul Biya is slinging accusations of murderous conspiracies and imprisoning officials accused of embezzlement.

Paul Biya, who has been president of Cameroon for 29 years, has jailed many of his former deputies [Reuters]

“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!
 – Oliver Cromwell to the “Rump Parliament” of 1653

Paris, France – It is not an everyday thing to read an address to the Rump parliament by Oliver Cromwell, the most famous signatory to the death sentence of King Charles I. It is less common to read it in a public letter written by a minister of a Central African state. Marafa Hamidou Yaya, formerly a senior official in Cameroon, recently deliveredthis warning to President Paul Biya, who has ruled the country for 29 years.

Cameroon has been in turmoil for the past two months. On April 16, Yaya and Chief Ephraim Inoni, a former prime minister and head of government under Biya, were placed under pre-trial detention in Kondengui prison in Yaounde, the nation’s capital. The two were arrested on suspicions of embezzling public funds in order to purchase an aircraftfor Biya – the jet has come to be referred to as “The Albatross” – in a country often criticised for corruption.

The arrests followed those of Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara, former secretary-general of the office of the president and minister of state, and Jerome Mendouga, Cameroon’s former ambassador to the US. A popular joke ironically suggests that a parallel government could be formed in Kondengui prison, with all the top-level politicians currently held within it. Indeed, three of the country’s four most recent secretaries-general have been placed in detention over the past 12 years. In Cameroon, the secretary-general plays an important position, in charge of relationships between the government and the president.

Among these famous prisoners, Yaya has been waging an unprecedented battle against Biya in the court of public opinion. In four different letters addressed to Biya, the president’s former favourite son delivers the secrets of Cameroon’s Mount Olympus. Some believe that Yaya, fearing that he would be arrested, wrote these letters before being jailed.

Worse, Yaya has dared expose to the world his political ambitions: to one day don the costume of President of Cameroon. A 2007 WikiLeaks cable revealed that the man was favoured by the United States, France, and other Western diplomats in the country. In other times, this would have probably been enough to get him to the sacred throne. But times have changed, and it will take Yaya more than international backing and four letters published in the press convince Cameroonians of his ability to rule.

The Albatross affair: A political plot?

A study of the Albatross affair is necessary to understand the arrest of Yaya and the consequences for Cameroonian politics. In 2001, according to another WikiLeaks cable, written in June 2008, Biya announced that he wanted a new plane for his personal and official trips. He informed his close entourage, including Yaya, who as secretary-general of the presidency was the second man of Cameroon at the time, and they decided on a Boeing Business Jet. Unfortunately, at that time, Cameroon was trying to reduce its debt under a World Bank and IMF programme, due to its status as a highly indebted poor country. The decision was then reportedly made to set up a financial package and buy the plane through what was then the national airline company, Camair, ostensibly in order to avoid suspicion from financial institutions on the purchase of such a luxury item.

According to the 2008 WikiLeaks cable, the money came from the account of the National Hydrocarbons Corporation, which transferred by wire the $31m needed for the purchase to US-based company GIA, which reportedly acted as an intermediary for Camair. Negotiations with Boeing were said to be handled by a US law firm specialising in aircraft transactions, airworthiness and registration, Zuckert Scoutt & Rasenberger, in the name of the Cameroonian state.

But the jet was never delivered to Cameroon. Instead, it was agreed that a pre-owned Boeing 767-216 – the Albatross – would be leased to Cameroon by the US aircraft company. But, during its inaugural flight to Geneva on April 24, 2004, in which the president was with his wife and children, the Albatross had to return to Douala after the pilot noticed aflap failure on the wings of the machine. Many believed that the plane’s near-failure was an attempt on Biya’s life, the leaked US diplomatic cable states. This episode, along with the fact that the $31m used to buy the plane appears to have disappeared, explains why the politicians in the president’s entourage were arrested.

The Albatross affair raises many questions. If Cameroonian citizens are eager to know where the $31m went, another preoccupation may concern the head of state: who might have attempted to cause his death?

Biya’s plane was reportedly issued a certificate of airworthiness by the US Federal Aviation Administration – yet it appeared to be affected by a mechanical problem that nearly cost the lives of the president and his entire family during its “inaugural flight”. Could there have been foul play at work after the aircraft was given officials’ permission to fly?

These images and details provided by amateur aviation enthusiasts purport to demonstrate that the plane was at least 15 years old before it was even delivered to the Cameroonians, and allege that it has since flown for several other companies, and is currently leased to the Government of Djibouti. Could an aging plane have been selected for Biya by nefarious agents with a wishful desire for a calamitous failure?

The vanishing of the $31m might have convinced Biya that the money had been used to prepare a criminal coup against him and his family. Indeed, the amount was paid to Oregon-based GIA, which later filed for bankruptcy after being sued by Indian Airlines for alleged fraud – and, according the the 2008 cable mentioned above, Boeing said it had returned whatever funds it had received to GIA.

These possible US financial implications pushed embassy officials to suggest that an investigation be conducted by US law enforcement officers. But despite this suggestion, neither the technical aspect of the incident nor the diversion of the $31m appear to have been examined. Yet this is the biggest political and financial scandal in Cameroon today, and may be having an effect on local politics: after the flight incident, the president decided to change the constitution and stay in power, and now has much of his cabinet and many of his senior ministers from the time in prison.

Oil in exchange for power?

It is an open secret now: each time an African politician who has his eyes on the presidency is backed by a foreign power, first make sure of what might have been dealt in exchange for the support. What has Yaya possibly done to deserve such glowing words from Niels Marquardt, former US ambassador to Cameroon?

“A dynamic, personable and energetic man, Marafa Hamidou Yaya has an excellent relationship with the U.S. Embassy – as well as the French, Japanese, British, and others. Like PM Inoni, Marafa’s intelligence and effectiveness have raised his national profile and make him a possible presidential candidate – perhaps even the front-runner… He is also the likely preference of every Western Ambassador in town, including this one.”

To get a possible answer, one should go back to 2002, when the International Court of Justice ruled in a territorial dispute that the Peninsula of Bakassi was part of Cameroon. Believed to be rich in oil, even though no formal commercial discovery had yet been made, the peninsula represented a hope for the Cameroonian government to increase its oil production. According to this cable from the US embassy in Yaounde, the Hydrocarbons National Company (SNH) boosted its exploration in the region with the precious help of foreign private companies, most of them US-based. Between 2006 and 2007, investment in exploration doubled, reaching $246.75m.

In that same period, Yaya chaired the SNH board, a company where he started his career as a petroleum engineer and as chief of the exploration and production department. Needless to say, Yaya is one of the few people who knows exactly how many barrels of oil leave the Cameroonian coast everyday, and the oil production capacity of the country. A battle is currently raging between Western and Chinese companies for exploration and exploitation contracts. It is well known that in the past few years Biya tended to favour his Chinese counterparts to those of France, Cameroon’s historic economic partner. This has displeased the United States. Yaya, however, graduated from a US university and has always gotten along well with western parties.

Beyond his international supporters, what has Yaya actually done for the Cameroonian people during his 20 years in the Biya government? Did he renegotiate the unfair oil contracts that tie Cameroon to France? What did he do in October 2011, when his former boss won the presidential election under suspicion of fraud? As the minister of the territorial administration and decentralisation, he supervised the work of the “independent” electoral commission and presided over the adoption of the electoral code.

Finally, this affair is a sad reminder of something we have long known. Whether or not one sees conspiracy or simply corruption behind the Albatross incident, one thing is certain: African people, and Cameroonians in particular, continue to suffer both from other countries’ opportunism and the disinterest and corruption of their own leaders.

Julie Owono is a Cameroonian freelance journalist and international relations consultant based in Paris. Find original article here.

Follow her on Twitter: @JulieOwono


African Beauty and Culture, Threatened By Western Civilization

19 Sep

However, the advent of western civilization: corporate controlled hip-hop music, R&B, and indecent dressing portrayed by fashion, has recently cast a dark shadow over the pride of the African beauty. African women of today, both young and old can shamelessly walk the streets virtually naked in the name of fashion. Some even go to places of worship improperly attired: breasts exposed, transparent dresses, mini skirts and all manner of extreme body exposure.

They watch western movies where such lifestyles are considered to be “hot” and “sexy”. Therefore the African woman thinks that it is alright to expose her precious assets for the world to behold even if it means risking her dignity. Little or no attention whatsoever is paid to human conscience. After all, being “sexy” is all that matters.

The Cost of Africa’s Inferiority Complex

According to one estimate, African girls of today spend more money on fashion than what they spend on books and food combined. From pedicure to manicure, skin bleaching cosmetics, hair relaxers, wigs, weaves, eyelashes, nails, among others. Many women in the universities even go to the extreme: they blow part of their school fees on items that will make them look sexy.

Take Nigeria for example, it is estimated that Nigeria has a population of about 155million with about 56% between the ages of 16-54 years old. Out of these age group women are more than 40million. The details are as follows:
Male = 44,296,228 Female = 42,534,542

Therefore with over 40 million women in Nigeria, if each one of them spends at least $1 a week on any of the above items, how much will that be? At least that is $40million dollars per week; making it about $150/month. Mind you this figure just applies to Nigeria only. What about the women across all the 54 African countries combined?

Every day, Korean and Brazilian families thank black women for giving their countries $16.4 million dollars each. The low self-esteem of African women is making them very rich and they’re happy about that.

Throughout Africa, women spend billions of dollars every week, to import Brazilian hair, Peruvian hair, Korean hair, Asian hair, European wigs, weaves, eyelashes, artificial nails and many other stuff, all because the African woman does not appreciate her God-given natural beauty anymore. She bleaches her skin and spends so much on her hair because she wants to look Asian or European. She believes that is sexy! The result: cancer and other numerous untold consequences. This is so because the African woman has been brainwashed to look down upon her identity and to boycott her natural beauty for someone else’s. Our women have disposed their natural beauty and are rather paying so much for Asian and Western fashion. In fact, it costs African women hundreds of billions of dollars every year to keep their artificial make ups, their artificial hairs, the nails, and all the fashion they have blindly copied from other societies at the expense of their God-given beauty.

At the same time, the African fashion has been thrown to the dogs. Africa therefore spends all these money to create jobs for Asia, Europe and the Americas, whilst unemployment and poverty is becoming the destiny of the African people. Most African relationships are unstable because African women of today would demand all that their partners may not be able to afford. Africa needs mental revolution.

Bob Marley warned Africans to emancipate themselves from mental slavery, yet Africans wouldn’t listen. If African women are throwing their pride, natural beauty and their culture to the dogs, whom do we expect, to cherish and to promote the natural beauty of the African woman?


What About The Young Men?

Lil Wayne photo

Sagging pants, popular among rappers

The problem of indecent exposure, is not only limited to the ladies. A very common practice with boys of today is ‘Pant sagging’. It first became known in Ghanaian parlance, as “Otto Pfister”.
‘Otto Pfister’ is a kind of dressing in which the youth, especially boys, deliberately pull their trousers/shorts down below the waistline to the extent of almost dropping off and exposing part of their buttocks or their boxer shorts.

In West Africa, “Otto Pfister” became popular in 1991 after the Black Starlets, Ghana’s Under-17 soccer team, won that year’s trophy in Italy. The then German Coach, Otto Pfister, who led the team to success, was fond of dressing that way.

It is believed that “pant sagging” actually originated from prisons in the United States, as a way to display homosexuality. Therefore the male inmates had little or no difficulty in identifying the homosexuals in their midst ‘if the need be’.

The practice is very common with hip-hop artistes on stage performance as well. Africa’s young men of today have allowed their minds to be poisoned by hip-hop stars and gangster movies. This is a dangerous development.


The Role of The Entertainment Industry

Western style music such as R&B, Hip Hop, and others are gradually having negative influence on African youth. Of course the music and the movie industries have offered opportunities to many Africans. It has created jobs for many and in some cases projected African countries on the positive spotlights. South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, the Congo are a few examples.

However, the danger is that most of the artistes involved are blindly promoting the indecent lifestyle in a manner that sharply contradicts the African norms and values. The entertainment industry in Africa therefore has a huge responsibility to promote African values, especially the dress code which showcases the pride of the African beauty. The movie and the music industry must join forces together to fight the moral decadence in the youth of today. For instance, fighting corruption cannot be a mere political exercise. The movie industry could showcase scenarios in movies where a few responsible politicians are able to stand firm and resist acts of corruption and demonstrate their obedience to the law as well as promoting acts of patriotism.

There is no doubt that many public officials are corrupt in Africa. However, there are also many others who have been able to stand up for what is right and resisted all forms of corruption. The music industry should also check and ensure that their video clips are not dominated by acts of violence and unnecessary sexual scenes. Such platforms should rather serve as opportunity for the artistes to promote African values. We cannot allow the scenes on our screens to be dominated by acts of violence, corruption and unnecessary indecent exposure. Something seriously needs to be done about this before African beauty disappears from the system in the near future.

Appeal To The Youth

Black afro photo

Stay natural!

Dear sisters and women of Africa. Most of you have collectively already spent so much trillions of dollars to keep the business environment in Asia, Europe and Latin America alive. At the same time, the African industries that produce the fashion that suits our culture are gradually collapsing. I believe such money could do a good job here in Africa and create job opportunities if only you could cherish your African beauty and patronize African fashion. Your African beauty, if well nurtured could attract women from all other backgrounds to celebrate you and make you proud someday.

Martin Luther: Black is beautiful

Therefore the “Black is beautiful” cultural movement which encouraged Blacks to love themselves and have pride in their natural beauty. The movement is responsible for the popularity of the “Afro” hair style. It gave a generation of Africans born in America, the courage to feel good about who they are and how they look.

African women please cherish your African pride. Do not bleach your skins. Keep your complexion because black is beautiful. Sometimes you could keep your Afro as well because it is beautiful.

You only need a change of mind-set and the world will celebrate your beauty and accord you the pride that is rightfully yours. Do not expose yourselves unnecessarily. You are unique and your natural beauty is beyond what you can imagine. Never allow a few musicians elsewhere to brainwash you.

For all you know, they probably have no idea what it means to be an African. Finally, to the men I say be disciplined. Show some dignity for African values in your dressing. Let us cherish our values because that is the only pride we have as a people.

Long live Africa,
Long live the African diaspora.


By; Honourable Saka

The author is a regular writer and a political analyst on African affairs, and a well-known social commentator in Africa. He is the editor of “The Doctor’s Report”, your most reliable source of critical analysis on African affairs. He is a strong Pan-Africanist, a youth activist and the founder of the “Leaders of Tomorrow”, a transformational and inspirational group of possible future leaders. Please visit his blog and reach him by Email