January 2012 was a particularly hectic and nerve-wracking month for Cameroonian security and intelligence services, along with political, administrative and religious authorities in the “Grand Nord” as they frantically tried to put measures in place to hold back what they viewed as a potential, if not imminent, Boko Haram tidal wave across Northern Cameroon.
The evolution of Islam in Cameroon can be split into three major phases or generations; a the period of complete dominance by traditional Islam, followed by the era of the emergence of the “Arabized Intellectuals,” and finally, the period marked by the appearance of Islamic fundamentalism in the public sphere. Of course, this is not a linear trajectory since there is a certain amount of overlapping between these different periods.
The face of moderate traditional Islam in Cameroon:. Sultan Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya, Muslim ruler of the Bamoun, at the ordination of a Catholic Priest, Father Mbouapegnigni, in Foumban.
“Biya was concerned about the threat of Islamic extremism.… He was beginning to worry about Islamic extremists infiltrating Cameroon from Nigeria and making inroads through Cameroonian mosques.” Wikileaks
The wave of Christmas Day bombings in Nigeria carried out by Boko Haram, the extremist Islamist sect which has its base in northeastern Nigeria, has once again raised the specter of religious extremism gaining a foothold in Cameroon.
A new $1000 USD annual African journalism award, named after the late Cameroonian journalist Bibi Ngota, has been launched. Read the award’s rationale along with submission guidelines and deadlines below. Cameroonian Journalists Protesting the death of Bibi Ngota (c) AFP)
The Problem of Political Impunity in Africa ‘A deep, very serious problem is undermining Africa: political impunity’, writes Philippe Orou Sica. As a result, ‘Political life is sometimes asphyxiated and criminalized. As soon as a Head of State accedes to power, he feels that he is above all law. His political and ethnic groups are protected as a result. On the one hand, issues are suppressed, and on the other, one can kill, assassinate political opponents in total impunity, and wage war against the whole or a part of the population with a cynicism and peace of mind that is most peculiar. Nothing seems to dissuade this murderous form of ‘politics’.’
"Is the CFAZONE ready to stand on its own by severing the umbilical cord with the Operations Account? Can a country such as Cameroon go it alone? My answer to both questions is a definite NO."
How should the CFAZONE be reformed?
Against the background of crisis in the Eurozone and the possible (but unlikely) collapse of the Euro and the stable economic and monetary situation which currently exists in the CFAZONE, with extremely low inflation, the question is in what direction should the CFAZONE chart its future? Is the CFAZONE ready to stand on its own by severing the umbilical cord with the Operations Account? Can a country such as Cameroon go it alone? My answer to both questions is a definite NO.
The Maastricht Treaty of Economic and Monetary Union did not specifically address the relationship between France and the Franc Zone. It merely recognized the national budget of each member state of the EC as a sovereign domain, subject to deficits being limited to less than 5% of GNP, which is one of the convergence criteria that must be met in order to qualify for EMU. However, since the convertibility of the FCFA was guaranteed through the budget of the French Treasury, which manages the Operations Account, the maintenance of the Franc Zone in its present form was not deemed to be in direct conflict with the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty.
In a recent discussion on Facebook, spurred by recent rumors of a possible devaluation of the Franc CFA, the currency used by 14 Francophone African countries, I asked Dr. Nfor Susungi, a former senior official at the African Development Bank, the following question: "What do you make of the argument that governments in Francophone Africa are stubbornly clinging to the Franc CFA because of the (false) prestige factor (i.e., having a convertible currency), outright laziness, and risk aversion - too scared to go-it alone?" Here is the Part 1 of his three-part response.
The Epoch Times, an international newspaper printed in several cities across the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, has published a series of articles on Cameroon this year, the most recent being two post-election articles which appeared online and in the US and UK print editions of the newspaper. The first, which is partially based on a phone interview that I had with Epoch Times correspondent, Kremena Krumova, looks at prospects for political reform in Cameroon in spite of Biya's election victory. [Click here to download article from UK print edition]
A "powerful and highly poignant" play on the Rwandan Genocide.
The Road to Goma by Ba’bila Mutia (Cameroon) Directed by Tauriq Jenkins. With Tshamano Sebe, Sticks Mdidimba, Mbulelo Grootboom, Roysten Stoffels, Glen Arendse, Phillip Cowie, and Ukhona Mlandu-Letsika. Play Reading at Artscape, Cape Town, on October 29 at 2pm [Event Facebook Page] Refugees from Rwanda in Goma, DRC, after the genocide in 1994. Photograph: Jon Jones/Sygma/Corbis
Excerpt of a review by Suzzy Bell “The Road to Goma depicts the desolation of five characters who struggle to survive the havoc and atrocities of a people caught up in ethnic hatred and civil strife,” explains the Cameroonian playwright Babila Mutia, a sought after international storyteller who has performed his stories in Canada, Belgium, Germany, USA and South Africa. He currently lectures Creative Writing, African literature, and Research Methods in the English department at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, University of Yaoundé I in Cameroon.
Remarks by [US] Ambassador Robert P. Jackson at the Civil Society Post-Election Roundtable
"Democracy cannot exist in theory if it does not exist in practice. It cannot exist on paper if it does not exist on the streets. As I have said on several occasions, we cannot wait until the conditions for democracy are perfect before we start exercising our democratic rights. We must create conditions for democracy by exercising our democratic rights."
Digital Video Conference between Yaounde and Washington, D.C.
Ladies and gentlemen, Colleagues and friends,
Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to host this digital video conference and to provide a forum to forge stronger ties between U.S. and Cameroonian civil society organizations. I hope that through this event today, we can have a frank discussion about the October 9 presidential election -- with the understanding that the election will not be complete until Cameroon’s Supreme Court rules on requests for annulment and announces the results. Today, we should take a comprehensive look at what lessons we can learn from the process -- not simply examining what ELECAM did well and where it could improve, but what we did well and where we could improve in terms of promoting democracy. Ultimately, I hope that at the conclusion of today’s session, we will have a better sense of what role we can play in and between elections.
COMMONWEALTH EXPERT TEAM CAMEROON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, 9th October 2011
A peaceful election: some benchmarks for democratic elections have been met, although the playing field needs to be leveled to increase confidence in the electoral process.
PRESS RELEASE by Mr. Frederick A. Mitchell MP, Chair of the Commonwealth Expert Team
The Commonwealth was invited by the Ministry of External Relations to observe the 9th October Presidential Election, and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth constituted a six person Expert Team supported by a professional staff team from the Secretariat in London. I am honoured to have been invited to Chair the Team which has been present in the country since 3 October 2011. Mr. Mitchell with his team of Commonwealth Observers which he chairs from left to right: Ambassador Bariyu Adekunle Adeyemi ( Nigeria); Gabrielle Giroday (Canada); Mr. Mitchell (Bahamas; Dr. Tumelontle Thiba (South Africa); Irfan Abdool Rahman ( Mauritius); Samuel Tembenu ( Malawi)
This statement is our initial view of the election. It reflects largely our observations in the run up to the election, the polling day itself and the counting process.
Although there is a proliferation of online sources with news and commentary about the 2011 presidential election in Cameroon, unearthing and checking out all of these sources to have a broad and balanced view of the election is a Herculean task. Fortunately, there are a number of social media tools which allow users to curate or catalogue information from a vast array of online sources. One of these is Storyful, a social media news tool which allows the public to create interactive news timelines consisting of tweets, video, photos, links to websites, and other content.
The Cameroon 2011 Presidential Election page on Storyful, which is updated daily, is a one-stop shop for curated information about the election drawn from online newspapers, news and commentary on Twitter, videos onYouTube and other sources, images on Facebook, Flickr and elsewhere, blog posts, etc.
In this interview, Cameroon-born Achille Mbembe, research professor in history and politics at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa, talks to Slate Afrique about the Biya regime and the forthcoming elections in Cameroon. A Scribbles from the Den translation.
SlateAfrique: Cameroonians go to the polls on October 9. Can they hope for regime change?
Achille Mbembe: Under the current circumstance, regime change is not possible through the ballot box. Change in this country will come through an armed rebellion spearheaded or not by a political organization or by foreign forces (as was the case in Cote d’Ivoire); through the natural death or assassination of the autocrat; or even through a coup de force by dissident elements within the army. Beyond that, all paths to a peaceful change initiated by Cameroonians themselves are blocked. From this perspective, the forthcoming election is a non event.
During the second National Consultation Forum between ELECAM and stakeholders in the electoral process (i.e., legalized political parties, candidates for presidential election, civil society organizations, private and public media) ELECAM introduced a Code of Conduct for Election Stakeholders in Cameroon. According to ELECAM chairman, Fonkam Azu’u, the code of conduct is:
“a legal instrument the corpus of which should not be considered as a mere enumeration of principles for the organization of a good election but rather, and better still, as a set of rules which we have freely accepted and which we intend, first of all, to apply during the up-coming presidential elections and, later on, during other elections such as the twin legislative and council elections envisaged for 2012.”
The use of social media for political campaigns received a major boost in 2008 thanks the Obama presidential campaign which used social media platforms in a creative way to engage and mobilize voters. Since then, practically all candidates running for political office have tried to replicate the Obama social media strategy, with more or less success. Recent events in North America and the Middle East have also helped to highlight the power of social media as a tool for building a community of supporters or voters, engaging your audience, reaching out to supporters, converting skeptics, generating much needed media buzz, and raising funds.
Guy Berger (ed). MEDIA IN AFRICA: Twenty years after the Windhoek Declaration on press freedom. Media Institute of Southern Africa, 2011, 190 pages.
I am thrilled to be a contributor to one of the most comprehensive publications in the last decade on the state of the media in Africa, which was launched yesterday in Cape Town at the start of the Pan African Conference on Access to Information and the Highway Africa 15th conference.
What has been the state-of-play for African media in the 20 years since the historic Windhoek Declaration of 1991 which gave rise to World Press Freedom Day every 3 May? And what can be expected over the next decade? More than 70 commentators illuminate the trajectory in a range of contributions in this book - covering the issues of media freedom, pluralism, independence and access to information.
If the 6 opposition parties that took part in the 1997 presidential election had formed a coalition, they would still have been unable to unseat President Biya with a mere 7.43% of total votes cast.
If all of the 15 opposition parties that took part in the 2004 presidential election had formed a coalition, they would still have been unable to unseat Biya with a mere 29.8% of total votes cast.
In 1997 only 1 of the 10 presidential candidates had more than 3% of votes cast.
In 2004 only 2 of the 16 candidates obtained more than 5% of votes.
In 2004 12 of the 16 candidates scored less than 1% of votes.
Of the 51 prospective candidates for the 2011 presidential elections (their candidacy still has to be validated), not more than 5 can reasonably aspire to up to 5% of total votes cast.
In short, opposition coalitions are not as important in presidential elections as we tend to believe (1992 being the exception...). Having every political party go it alone may actually be better (in terms of clarifying the political landscape) than creating a coalition of disparate political parties, many of which are moles of the regime in power. Candidates for the 2004 Presidential Elections
On Wednesday August 31, 2011, the BBC World Service's Africa Have Your Say program organized a panel discussion on the viability of the forthcoming presidential election in Cameroon. Panelists included myself, Felix Bate of Reuters news agency, and Issa Tchiroma, Cameroon's minister of communications and government spokesperson, along with phone-ins from around the world, interviews conducted in Cameroon, and contributions from Twitter and Facebook.
I will be revisiting some of Issa Tchiroma's rather outlandish statements in a subsequent post. In the meantime, however, you can listen to the entire one-hour program by clicking on the player below.