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The University Of Buea Crisis: The Unspoken Truth And The Way Forward I & II

15 May

By Prof. Michael A Yanou

originally published on Monday, February 18, 2013

The University of Buea has had a turbulent history which has claimed student lives in the past and only recently resulted in the dishonourable act of taking the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Nalova Lyonga, hostage for about five hours.


The events in UB have unfortunately continued to evolve negatively with the recent incident being the teleguided declaration by Fako Chiefs that threatened to use unorthodox methods to eliminate students and lecturers from other regions whom they suspect are forming the crisis to remove the current VC, a daughter of the soil.

The Region may not have been mentioned, nor those who teleguided them disclosed, but everyone knows what is actually happening! It is perhaps necessary as someone who has been teaching at UB since 1996 and spent the last five years as the President of the lecturers’ union (SYNES) to use this opportunity to disclose certain hidden truths to the Cameroonian public about the root causes of the crisis in UB.

I do this because of the fear of God and the need to ensure that for once we chart a new path towards sustainable peace at the University. At the root of the student crisis is the structure the student union government, otherwise called UBSU, should take. For students, it should ideally have a strong executive and a council (legislature). Their mantra is that the executive be elected in a popular vote by all students.

They argue that this is what the students who were killed during one of the strikes fought for and to abandon that will be the ultimate betrayal. Successive UB administrations and VCs alternatively believe in a weak student union government constituted by an executive which is voted by faculty presidents and not the student body. Between these two positions, both parties have never been able to find a middle ground.

To resolve this tension, UB administration has used two methods; they divide students and bribe some of them to support their preferred model and at other times try to force down the new model using selected students without involving the entire student body. The misfortune of this approach lies in the fact that these students who are selected and bribed are sometimes given the mandate by top UB officials to violently undermine their opponents leading to pitch battles on campus.

The various camps have regrettably been also used by certain top management to cause strikes and disturbances on campus using money as the major incentive. Closely connected to this dichotomy is the very sinister reality that students in these camps have been recruited and paid to cause violent strikes (including the hostage incident) to create a situation where a sitting VC is dropped to make room for a rival deputy.

Prof. Njeuma fell from power because students supported by some of her close collaborators made the university ungovernable. The last but one VC had his ultimate demise because one camp of students were actively involved in making the campus ungovernable with the view that he be dropped for those controlling these students to step into power.

When the current VC was taken hostage, I was solicited and succeeded to talk the students into releasing her not however without strong resistance from one of the camps of the students. Their resistance was partly because they did not want me to take credit for causing her release because it will undermine the agenda of their master who organised the hostage taking.

The idea is to once more demonize an existing VC as a failure who should give room to a rival deputy this all the more so since according to them is an aberration for an Associate Professor to be appointed in preference to them. In always trying to accede to power through using students to disrupt normal university life, top management feed their friends in the security with misinformation. Such misinformation will always include pointing fingers at the lecturers union, tribalisation of the events at UB, etc.
To understand the student crisis is to ask and answer the question who is the obvious beneficiary in the situation where a sitting VC is dropped? Only the blind and the hypocritical will identify SYNES and/or its President or UBSU and/its leadership as the beneficiary.
There is a lecturers’ angle to this crisis as well.

The vaulting ambition to be appointed to positions of responsibility (Heads of Department and Deans) is a major weakness in the UB system. Some lecturers will even sell their mothers if that is what it will take to be appointed. Such lecturers are vulnerable potential recruits for ambitious deputies in top management who use them to coordinate camps of students in the hope of achieving their ultimate prize.

Some of them are members of SYNES and are prepared to destroy the union for its insistence on respect for Articles 26, 54 and 74(c) of Decree No 93/034 of 1993, the law creating UB. This law states categorically that the VC, Deans and Heads of Department should be elected by academic staff before the Minister of Higher Education and President of the Republic signs the decree appointing them to their positions.

Although the demand for such elections is a legitimate aspiration, the union has never used underhand methods to achieve this goal. No SYNES official, past or present, has ever benefited directly from the dropping of a VC or Dean due to a strike. To point a finger at SYNES as the author of strikes on campus is to say the least the height of hypocrisy.

 

The Way Forward

UB administration should engage with the student body to determine by consensus in a give and take manner the method and extent of reforming the union if that is the true objective. Banning UBSU, starving them of funds or using one group of students to hoist a “reformed” student union on campus is an unattainable objective.

Recruiting and cultivating student groups through financial inducements by top UB administrators should be discouraged. One way of doing so is to ensure that academic staff be involved in the selection process of officials to post of responsibility in the university. Government policy of picking a Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) to replace a dropped VC is the bane of the crisis in UB.

As President of SYNES UB, let it be known that some DVCs have made subtle offers to me to use the union to foment trouble in the past without success. Guess their objective! Consider the issue of allowing students form prayer groups that pray regularly on campus in the same way as music and cultural groups operate freely. The blood of Jesus can bring permanent peace at UB!

The University of Buea Crisis: The Unspoken Truth and the way forward (II)

The crisis in the University of Buea (UB) in particular and the Cameroonian university system in general has lasted for too long. At UB, apart from claiming the lives of two students there is the strong suspicion that the series of deaths of top officials at the helm of the institution in quick succession that happened in the not too distant past was also attributed to the crisis. This, surely, compels a further look at the problem from the spiritual dimension as well regardless of the threats by some officials to eliminate me. Before delving into the spiritual, let me for and on behalf of the silent majority of staff and students who are too scared to speak exhaust the practical aspects of the UB crisis in the hope that some well meaning person in authority will step in and deal with the problem of university governance in UB in particular and in all other state universities in general from the roots!

Article 54(a) of Law No 93/034/1993 which sets up UB states that “The faculty board shall in a prescribed manner, from time to time, elect one of the professors to be dean. In the absence of a professor, an associate professor shall be elected in like manner. The person so elected shall upon approval by senate and confirmation by decree hold office for three years renewable once…..” Article 26 and 76(c) of this decree which is perfectly consistent with our constitution makes the “appointment” of the VC and head of department subject to the recommendation of lecturers as well. This law which was well thought out has never been implemented. The problems in UB including violent strikes, hostage takings and kidnappings all have their roots in its non-implementation, simple. Top university officials who use students or the ethnic card to foment trouble to unseat a sitting dean, VC or head of department will certainly stop this practice if they know that the only way of grabbing the position is by election or the recommendation of their colleagues in the respective boards and senate!

I make bold to say that its implementation which the UB lecturers union (SYNES) that I head has repeatedly called for will also improve governance as well as increase accountability in the university. Talking about the sordid things happening in UB lets note that the vice president of UBSU who had been kidnapped for four days one Minang was found (as I was writing this article) left to die bound hands, leg and mouth deep in a banana plantation in the outskirts of Buea. Who is responsible for this evil act to this young Cameroonian? The youngman will speak for himself when he leaves hospital but is holding to a post or fighting to be appointed into one so priced as to justify the killing of children left in our care at UB? May I also humbly ask you my fellow country men this question: would an academic staff known by his colleagues to be engaged in sexual harassments of female students (Married women inclusive) or the selling of marks be elected or recommended by his colleagues lecturers to a post of responsibility under the governance system set up by the law creating UB? Would such lecturers dare to present themselves for such positions?

The next university reforms should begin with not just the implementation of this beautiful law but also include its extension to all state universities in the country. UB officials claim that the current crisis is the result of opposition by a few students sponsored by the lecturers union SYNES and or some lecturers from an identified region whatever this means. Yet in another breadth they argue that those who have lost businesses on campus are manipulating the students behind the scene. Could this be an honest and rational explanation? In a wider Cameroonian context where ELECAM is being reformed to ensure that the vote of every single Cameroonian counts UB is “restructuring” the student union government to ensure that only a hundred students out of about 16 thousand students in UB vote for the student union executive UBSU….what an irony! A strong UBSU deriving its mandate from the entire students can only be a danger to a governance system that lacks negotiation and dialogue as an element of management. Admittedly, there is no way students can become the administrators of the university but is there anyway UBSU can be wished away?

What about the spiritual angle? The University of Buea at some point in time built a shrine on campus. This shrine is strategically located at the main approach to the school and can be seen by anyone who cares to visit the school even today! The question we must ask as Africans who are familiar with the dynamics at play in the spirit realm of our space are: how were the god(s) of this shrine to be maintained….by human or animal sacrifices? What are the consequences of any failure to maintain the spirits in this shrine? Is it not possible that the upheavals in UB that always take these violent turns and claiming lives at time have their root in issues relating to this shrine? Is this not time for the official priest/priestess of the shrine to clear the air? Lets be frank; spiritual protection cannot come from a shrine in a 21st century. Since we all claim to be believers in Jesus Christ, the answer is to turn to the God of heaven and earth and find genuine men of God in Cameroon to neutralize the forces at play emanating from this shrine.

A former VC had placed a ban on prayer meetings on campus by staff and students who adhere to the Pentecostal (born-again) form of Christian worship. The ban is still in place till date while student cultural and dance groups freely dance sometime half naked in the amphi-theatres most evenings on campus! Why should this be so in our Cameroon with clear constitutional provisions allowing for freedom of religion for all? Who is afraid of prayers that plead the blood of Jesus for peace and justice to reign in UB and why? I can understand the concern of a thieving UB official who uses his/her pseudo company to supply a memory flash stick worth 5000 frs to the university for 50,000frs about prayers on campus…but can we not all see the havoc caused by our collective silence? The way forward is to immediately lift this ban and see the peace and justice that the students themselves will use the power in the blood of Jesus to achieve at UB. For those who are planning my elimination as the solution, I fear not because the blood of Jesus is my protection!

Prof. Michael A Yanou 

LLB (Cal. Nigeria), LLM (Cal. Nigeria), PhD (Rhodes, SA)
Associate Professor of Law
University of Buea, Cameroon

Links to Sources: 

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CamNYC/message/1488

http://lebs295.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/the-university-of-buea-crisis-the-unspoken-truth-and-the-way-forward-prof-michael-a-yanou/

Cameroon: Professors Without Publications

9 Apr

According to the 2013 University Web Ranking  for the top 100 best Universities in Africa, none from Cameroon or in the Central  African sub-region features on this ranking! Seriously!!?? 

Apart from public secondary schools in Cameroon that charge small tuition fees, primary and university education is free for Cameroonian nationals. The only fees expected are annual admission/ enrollment or registration fees. However it is one thing  to have free university and another thing to have a financially independent and self sustaining university. Most universities in Cameroon are state created-funded-administered institutions, the lack of independence makes university bureaucracy an exhibition of the country’s  actual  political and social configuration.

 The University of Yaounde in its milk and honey days was a center of academic reference and excellence in Francophone Africa, noted for its bilingual profile. This put it on firm ground with other celebrated universities as Makerere in Uganda and Ibadan in Nigeria. Following the university crisis of the late 1980’s, the government decided to de-congest and decentralized this university  to found five other state universities in the regions with the 1993 university reform law. However, this offspring universities soon began experiencing the same problems the mother university had laboured with. Even the newly created University of Bamenda, has had difficulties starting up and running because of the over politicized issues of ethnicity over its geographic location and staffing. Even as Chancellors of the Bamenda University are being  installed into office, let us ask where is the University campus? By manipulating around with E.N.S BAMBILI doesn’t equal to constructing a University in Bamenda. 

Government had simply spread the problem through the creation of other universities, but had not solved the origin causes of the university crises with yearly strikes by staff members over the non-payment of their arrears and other delayed allowances. Most lecturers are there on the job because it rewards a salary, not because it’s a place to conceive and deliver ideas that can better society! Since 2005 till present, strikes and riots have become sporadic and with characteristic violence from student demonstrators and law enforcement officers.

In the same light of disbelief and sheer condescending, one is prompted to ask how could Somalia which is struggling to recover from more than two decades of civil war and plunder, or Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Mauritania, all of whom Cameroon supersedes in terms of human development index and per capita income earn a place on that list while we with far more higher institution numbers have none on that list!? This means Cameroon universities wouldn’t even appear in the first top 1000 of the world! There is no bias at all in that ranking as English, Arabic, French and Portuguese speaking universities are represented. Breaking them down by African regional blocs, once would notice that there is no university from any of the ten central African regional group of countries on the list. Interesting isn’t it?

It is equally disgraceful and shameful that most alumni cannot proudly refer their global network of friends in other countries  to their alma maters websites, as the latter only shows how frail, irrelevant and neglected the internet as a tool for research and networking is to the national higher educational system. It’s still an awe striking sight when one sees 21st century university students copying down pre-prepared and dictated notes during lectures from their lecturers. Handouts and pamphlets while initially intended as special readings recommended by lecturers to fill the vacuum created by under-stocked university libraries and lack of access to online journal databases have tended to promote student dependency and underdevelopment of extra reading and researching skills for new information and sources. With its cramped up classes from converted secondary schools into university amphitheaters, with few functioning image projectors and sound equipment, small computer labs with 100 computers running on a very low internet speed  to serve more than 10,000 students on campus, that pretty much paints the portrait of a typical university campus in Cameroon.

Moreover, Cameroon universities suffer from identity crisis. It’s hard to tell if they are actually switching their model over to the Bologna Process on higher education or are they still caught up in their hybridization of the French and Anglo-Saxon systems? Courses and exams in some state and private universities are offered in one of the official languages: English or French and students reserve the discretion to answer in whichever of these two languages. Every discipline has a subject language and philosophy in it so personally, I find this form of promoting bilingualism unproductive and disadvantageous to the students, particularly when one national language becomes dominant for a particular course for which the student is not a primary speaker. Hence the object shifts from seeking the epistemology in the course to being bent on ‘validating’ the course with a pass mark.  This has spawn an informal parasitic institution which specializes in offering  “translated notes, translated classes, and preparatory classes for exams” most often by former university graduates or ‘brighter’ peers, all at the students cost.

Despite the particular  exemption of many academics from this generalization, I find it very appalling that despite the plethora of  ‘university professors and doctors’ that Cameroon hosts, a Google search with the names of some of them as keywords yields little no results of publications or research breakthroughs to their credit when compared to their peers elsewhere. It appears as though once  made a ‘Prof.’ or ‘Dr.’ most forget about research. Some are clearly elevated to this grades to become political elites and power brokers,  not academics within the university community. Most will be quick to blame the small or limited research grants offered by the state for research or are quick to accuse censorship, I still find it not plausible that with the real limitations faced from few peer reviewed or full fledged journals in Cameroon, there are however many more journals and databases hosted within and out of the African continent where most could publish.

The choice of the University of Yaounde II to host the sub-regional faculty of Governance Humanities and Social Sciences of the Pan African University created by African Union is evidence of the recognized potentials the country has in higher education. Clearly the government and private stakeholders need to do more about university infrastructure and furnishing, research and cooperation, telecommunications, grants and scholarship funding, student and central administration governance, academic curriculum, lecture and teaching patterns for quality assurance, accreditation, mobility, recognition of degrees, classification professionals masters/research masters, doctorates and PhD.

The questions now are thus;

– Are our degrees and graduates at par with their colleagues in academia or are our public and private universities simply degree mills and places to pre-occupy the youths? – Now do you agree that we need another university reform, since the 1993 reform and the 2007 LMD reform (Bologna adherence)?

By Nwanatifu Nwaco

Women in Leadership: The African Union’s first ever ‘Chairwoman’

16 Jul

Addis Ababa 15 July 2012  – Home Affairs Minister Home Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected on Sunday to become the first female head of the African Union Commission, ending a bruising leadership battle that had threatened to divide the organisation. A closely fought vote to become the head of the African Union Commission, replacing Jean Ping of Gabon, AU officials said Sunday.

Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s home affairs minister and an ex-wife of President   Jacob Zuma, defeated incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon, who had been at the helm of the Commission, the AU’s steering body, since 2008.

Dlamini-Zuma, a 63-year-old who has previously served as minister of health and foreign affairs, had to undergo three voting rounds before Ping, 69, was finally eliminated.

A final confidence vote of 37 in favour gave her the 60 % majority she needed to be elected.

“She got 37 (votes), three points more than the (required) majority,” a top AU official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding she had won on the fourth round of voting. South African officials confirmed the result.

Dlamini-Zuma’s win follows her challenge six months ago to unseat Ping, the former commission chairman, which ended in deadlock after neither won the required two-thirds of the vote, which left Ping in the post.

The contest to head the Commission of the 54-member AU had been deadlocked since last year. It pitted French-speaking states, largely backing Ping, against mostly English-speaking countries, especially in southern Africa, which gave their support to Dlamini-Zuma.

The feverish impasse over the candidates had persisted through a summit of AU heads of state held in Addis Ababa at the weekend. It prompted the AU’s rotating chairperson, Benin President Boni Yayi, to warn that failure by the continental body to resolve the leadership deadlock would divide it and undermine its credibility in the world.

Jakkie Cilliers of the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies told AFP how Dlamini-Zuma’s score had crept up from one round of voting to the next.

“She got ahead in the first round and after that the momentum kicked in,” said Cilliers. “The heads of state wanted a decision.”

Dlamini-Zuma’s win had brought “clarity as to who’s in charge” at the AU, after six months of deadlock over the leadership issue, he added.

But some analysts say South African has violated an unwritten tradition that continental powerhouses do not run candidates for the post, instead leaving smaller nations to take the job — and that this had sparked bad feeling.

Before the vote however, Dlamini-Zuma played down concerns that the vote could divide the AU.

“I don’t think the continent will be polarised,” she said.

The winner would “make sure they work with everybody, irrespective of where and who they voted for,” she added.

Critics say the AU showed itself hesitant and slow-moving in its response to the conflicts last year in Libya and Ivory Coast, allowing Western governments to take lead roles.

Sources: http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/Dlamini-Zuma-names-AU-commission-chair-20120715 and http://www.modernghana.com/news/406184/1/s-africas-dlamini-zuma-becomes-first-woman-to-head.html