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    This weblog is based on DIBUSSI TANDE's personal views on people, places, issues and events in Cameroon, Africa and the world!


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« Government of Cameroon on PR Offensive in the United States | Main | Summit Magazine - A Conversation with Chinua Achebe »

July 25, 2008


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In the previous posting on cameroon's lobbying efforts in Cameroon, dibussi wrote that:

"...serious investors and policy makers in the US do not base investment or foreign policy decisions on infomercials. They rely on credible and vetted information from US government agencies or from international donor agencies and political and economic think tanks which publish peer-reviewed country-by-country surveys and rankings on key political and economic indicators each year. These annual surveys/rankings include the Corruption Perceptions Index (Transparency International), Doing Business (World Bank)..."

Now, the US representative is telling the world that: "If you look at the World Bank report on Doing Business, you will realise that Cameroon is backwards and much still needs to be done."

The US ambassador is therefore validating Dibussi's analysis using essentially the same analytical sources. Hopefully, our friends from the Cameroon government who used to write on this space will keep their masters informed about the futility of trying to use infomercials to influence US policy. BTW, where is our good friend Elame from the Prime Minister's office??? he's been silent for months now...


"The Terminal" or a rough entry into Cameroon [A tourist's nightmare story]

Today was not the pleasant kind of African adventure. We were up at around 4:30 and checked out and ready to go at 5:30. It was still the African night as we left, cool, humid and full of mystery. We drove through the thin traffic of outer Abidjan to the airport where we arrived as dawn was barely beginning to color the sky. We checked in quickly with Kenya Airways. I have a frequent flyer card with their group: Flying Blue (which can be construed several ways), so after check-in we would all sit in the business class lounge and have a coffee. Actually Daniel and Cindy had to share. I offered to pay for an extra coffee, but the waiter said we couldn't pay - we could only use the voucher I had been given for two drinks only....

The 737 left on time and the flight to Douala lasted about 2 ½ hours. About 20 people disembarked in Douala, the rest were going on to Nairobi. I had been told and had called to verify before leaving that entry visas were now available for Americans at the Douala Airport. Just back from the Middle East, I hadn't had enough time anyway to get a visa from Washington before my departure from the States, so we had to work things out on the ground. We showed our Yellow Fever vaccination cards and then informed the immigration agent that we needed to buy visas. She cheerfully had us wait until everyone else had been processed and then took the four of us back to the visa office. The bureaucracy/inefficiency/corruption tour began. We were shifted from one office to another where I explained that we needed tourist visas, until finally in one muggy office the top person present announced perfunctorily: "allowing Americans in on tourist visas like this to just tour around - I'm afraid of what might happen to me - send them away immediately!" The visa office official scolded me "you came from Abidjan, we have an office in Abidjan, you should have gotten your visa there!" I explained that we had only transited through Abidjan, and hadn't had enough time to get a visa from there (it takes a least 2-3 days to get one). She didn't want to hear that.

One of the underlings wished to show zeal, and barked at us "you will follow me" and started off at a very fast walk through the labyrinth of rooms and corridors back out to the gate where we had just deplaned from the Kenya Airways flight. At first I kept pace with him to explain a few things: the plane was going to Nairobi, not back to Abidjan (which is where they should deport us if they're going to do so), we didn't have tickets for Nairobi, or onward tickets from there. They should at least give us a transit visa so we could stay until the Air France flight tonight (we have Air France tickets from Douala to Paris). Nothing doing; he kept scolding us to walk faster.

I told him we couldn't be put back on the plane without our luggage, which was now in the terminal on the luggage carrousel. "You will get it back at the plane" he said, which I knew very well wasn't true. Nobody else at the airport knew were being deported, certainly not the baggage handlers. We ended up at the gate where the underling began telling the Kenya Airways crew that they had to take us back on board. The ground staff chief said he preferred to wait until the evening flight back to Abidjan.

I explained to them that we had onward tickets to Paris and that Air France flew out at night too, so if they were going to wait, we could just fly to Paris. The underling got on his cell phone and got approval for the plan. So we were marched unceremoniously back to the holding area, the no-man's-land of people without status in the country. It was windowless and not air-conditioned, so very muggy. I called Mr. Mabout on his cell phone so he could come and see if something could be done. He came in and made the rounds with various officials explaining our situation. Two other church men who were at the airport to meet us also came and sat with us. We were scolded again by several officials who wouldn't accept anything we said: we had been assured we could get visas here, we came from Togo where there is not Cameroon representation from which we could get a visa. By this time the big boss had been informed of our situation and once one has appealed to Caesar there is not bringing the issue down to a lower level.

So we had to wait on the big man, who, I was informed was new to the job, so no one could predict how he might rule. By this time I don't think any of us really wanted to stay in Cameroon, but we didn't want the young people and church brethren to be disappointed either, so I think we were just praying "thy will be done." We were allowed to go and get our luggage from the carrousel area.

We sat at waited for 5 ½ hours, with one break for lunch in the airport restaurant on the next level up. Thankfully they didn't put us in the holding pen for Africans being detained; it was a sort of cage in a particularly dark and dirty corner. There were several unfortunate fellows in there trying to talk there way out and being yelled at from time to time. We were allowed to sit on some metal chairs in a slightly larger area as we waited.

Finally at 4:30 pm, the big man was reached on his cell phone and instructed that we be given a laisser passer scribbled on the back of an arrival card, and that our passports be processed over night. That sounded positive, but we won't be totally easy until we have them back in hand with visas in them.

We loaded the luggage into two cars and drove to the hotel where we checked in and dropped our luggage before heading immediately out to the church hall about 10 miles (17 kms) and one hour's drive away. This was a true introduction to chaos to Bernard, Daniel and Cindy. The traffic confusion, honking of horns, yelling and jockeying for position reaches a new order of magnitude here.


che Sunday

We do not have an embassy in Washington D.C. We have a zoo. Our policies and procedures are so out-dated that one wonders where the administrators there were educated. If these are graduates of the so tauted ENAM, then I will be very wary sending my kid there. Take for instance, one could go unto the website of the Cameroon embassy in England and down load visa forms to apply for permit to enter Cameroon. In Washington D.C, one has to apply and forward a self-addressed stamped envelop before they could be remitted. These were Ahidjo's procedures and are still en vogue long after his death. If getting into the country is made this difficult, think of the hell you have to go through to make an investment. See the ordeal Nigerian businessmen and women are going through just to buy the police for resident permits (Post on Line, August 26).Will our insatiable appetite for bribery differentiate Americans from other nationalities? Come to think of it, there is poetic justice in this. Americans are living and rubbing shoulders with the same government they supported in the post presidential elections in Cameroon by claiming that the elections were free and fair. A government rated year in and out as being among the top five most corrupt governments in the world. Now, the American watch tower in Yaounde is complaining. What do they think the Cameroonian people have been doing over the years?

WebMaestro Blaze

The comment that could be dub "Nightmare On terminal 237" is nice, but I feel, less representative of the actual hell most Africans and Cameroonians faced daily at that airport. On http://CamerooniansAbroad.Com one could get a heart attack reading similar experiences posted by fellow travelers on transit or exiting the country.
I don't think the Americans should be complaining as they know what others goes through just to enter the country. If they want to do something about it, they know what to do.


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