Monday, May 6, 2013

“We need to hold our government accountable for governance within the mining sector”- Richard Tantoh

Ndi Richard Tantoh
The Director of the Ecumenical Service for Peace (SeP), Member of the Mining Best Practices Consortium says Cameroonians need to hold government accountable for governance in the mining sector. The Yaounde based Peace and Governance Consultant spoke to NewsWatch’s Editor-in-Chief, Ndi Eugene Ndi, excerpts.
NewsWatch:MrNdi RichardTantoh you are the focal person of a consortium that deals with best practices in the mining sector, can you tell us more about this consortium?
Richard: The consortium Mining Best Practices, Cameroon was formed in June 2012 by ten organizations most of which are members of the EITI committee. This core group intends to get the idea of focusing on mining to other civil society actors so that we can build a strong advocacy around mining in the country considering that we know the importance our government attaches to mining with regards to the 2035 vision.
NewsWatch: We learn you will be organizing a reflexion workshop on the extractive industry sector in Cameroon. Can you brief us more about the workshop in view?
Richard: Our intension is to bring stakeholders together to reflect on the mining strategy and to see whether it is feasible and can contribute to vision 2035. You know the mining sector is for now contributing only 1% and government is paying a lot of attention to it as can be seen through the organization of two Mining Forums. The mining code, the gas code, petroleum code are all very attractive codes to boast investment in the mining sector. We are thinking that since this sector is going to contribute largely to vision 2035, there is need for the civil society to monitor government commitment in the sector and make informed contribution so that the mining sector contributes to improving livelihoods in Cameroon. At a time when the government is talking about fighting corruption, it is regrettable to note that highly politicized projects like Memvele and LomPangar topped the corruption chart in CONAC’s most recent report. If close follow up is not done, we might as well miss meeting the 2035 vision as we missed meeting the 2015 MDGs.
NewsWatch: When you talk one is left with the impression that there is no difference between the Consortium and EITI, what is the difference?
Richard: EITI is an International Norm for transparency in the extractive industries. It has a tripartite composition of Government, companies and civil society. The consortium is focusing on mining because we know Cameroon is very rich in solid mines, so our focus is on mines and you know that our government is basing vision 2035 on mining. We are civil society organization concerned about making our resources have an impact on our development. We want to get involved, get our contributions across so that we make resources that we have in abundance relevant to the development of the Cameroonian people. This is because when you look at the past, you realize that we have petroleum resources, yet the government of Cameroon subsidizes the prices of petrol. So the question is, how can we have petrol and the prices of petroleum products are being subsidized. We need to ask these questions and see whether there is nothing wrong with the way we are managing our resources. As Cameroonians we need to hold our government accountable for governance within the mining sector so that we attain vision 2035. So we think that as civil society we have a contribution and as a consortium we want to put all the civil society actors together to reflect and bring up advocacy strategies that would touch those in decision making positions so that they can make for the needed change that will move Cameroon to the 2035 vision.
NewsWatch: Are you saying only the ten members of the consortium will take this decision?
Richard: The issues we are debating have been debated amongst the ten of us. But we want to take it out to the civil society and the public. That is why we want to invite major stakeholders in the sector like the Ministries of Mines, Finance, the World Bank and many other structures that are in mining in Cameroon. We also see the media as a partner in this effort to make our leaders accountable.
NewsWatch: What are you expecting to change in the mining sector after the workshop to be organized?
Richard: We are thinking that when we come up with informed proposals, we would move towards decision makers in the sector and discuss with them on the proposals that we are making as civil society. You know civil society is seen like the voice of the voiceless. In the past, civil society missed out on opportunities to engage government actors and bring onboard its contribution.  This time around, we want that these ideas which are put together by the civil society are taken onboard. We are critical no doubt about the strategies government is using. But we think that we are critical and we do make suggestions on how to improve on government action. That is the kind of engagement we need to make with government.

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