Friday, September 25, 2015

“Carrefour Kingué,” The Epicenter of Prostitution in Kribi

Kribi, Cameroon—A famed sea resort town in the Ocean Division of the South Region of Cameroon, Kribi is fast becoming a giant economic hub. The hitherto ‘small tourism market’ town has witnessed a stupendous economic boom in the last decade; with the construction of an oil terminal linking Chad to Cameroon, which was inaugurated in 2003 and the Kribi Deep Sea Port, to be inaugurated any time soon.
The economic upturn Kribi has, and is continuously witnessing can be described as a mixture of blessings and bruises, to say the least. The infrastructural development has no doubt had a very positive impact not only on the Batangas (natives of the coastal town), but to other neighboring towns as well.
Be that as it may, these projects have also brought misfortune to the town with a massive inundation of foreign workers; most of whom are better paid and generally single; leading to the renaissance of depravity; pedophilia, prostitution and sex tourism amongst others.
The town also witnessed an influx of large numbers of girls from other regions of the country from 2001 to date. Most of the “business women,” we learnt, are commercial sex workers—call them prostitutes if you wish, offering sexual services to the work force of the giant projects and to tourists; nationals as well as aliens. 
On a discovery mission to Kribi recently, this reporter got interested in the “prostitution business” that has widened recently in that sea side ambiance-full town, let’s go!!

“Carrifour Kingué,” the epicenter

"Carrifour Kingué" at night
It is 8pm, Friday September 4, 2015; I leave the hotel room to the central town. About 1KM into the city centre on a bike, I am welcomed by deafening music, continuous animations, hustle and bustle, woo. I am told that it’s “Carrifour Kingué,” the ‘hottest’ place in town where animation prevails throughout the night.
I then settle outdoor, watching women roasting fish and ‘okadas’ zigzagging with chicks to and from nightclubs and hotels. Just in front of me is a troop of girls, most of them between 18-25 years old, dressed mostly in mini-skirts. As I approached them; “ma mami eeh,” each and everyone is asking me (in French), “on vas? on vas?”; meaning, should we go?, should we go?. And I was asking myself, go to where?
It took time for me to convince them of my mission. Realizing I am journalist, some simply said aah!, and left. I then began my conversation with Nina who told me prostitution is her only source of income. Unfortunately, Nina just got a client and ‘disappeared’ immediately.
“I am 23 and I live in a hostel,” Prisca, one of them said. She explained that she decided to leave their house because when she brought a man at home, her mother was forced to get up and open the door.
“And often, my lovers were making too much noise during sex. Now I work freely,” Prisca tells me as she whispers a potential client who was passing not too far away.
Prisca is happy to be financially autonomous, thanks to prostitution. “I can have 10,000 Frs per night after serving 5-7 men. One ‘coup’ at peak hours like before midnight is 2,000 and from about 2am, I can take 1,000 Frs.”
The behavior of most of the girls at the popular ‘prostitution spot’ leaves one with the impression that their hearts beat only to the rhythm of sex and nothing else, hmmm. But I am told only ‘cheap girls,’ are here. Lets then continue….

 ‘Débarcadeur’ for high class

Whereas with 2,000 Frs, you can satisfy your sexual desire at “Carrifour Kingué,” it is not the same scenario at ‘Débarcadeur;’ the beach. Girls here are ‘high class.’ No doubt, it is a place reserved for ‘high class’ men as well. Posh cars parked everywhere, low ‘old timers’ music playing, breeze from the ocean…..and I am told the cheapest roasted ‘bar frais’ (fresh bar fish) is 5,000 Frs.
After several attempts without any green light, I finally accost one of the ‘high class prostitutes’ who accepts to talk to me on grounds on anonymity. I will then refer to her here as Soulantine.
Soulantine said her prices vary from 10,000 to 20,000 Frs per ‘coup.’ And before she accompanies any client to the hotel, they must have sat at the beach for sometime (certainly eating and drinking). Our ‘high class’ prostitute however admits that sometimes they also have “bad market.”
“Such days we can be contented with roasted fish and some bottles of beer, anyone that offers, I can go with him even it means spending the night”
“Yaounde guys come here in big flashy cars, take you for a night and give you a visit card with a very big title. But when you call later, he will be answering around Fifinda [outskirts of the town], going back. When you just eve introduce yourself, he will just say, I am married ooh, and hang up the phone,” Soulantine said.
She explained that she has ‘connections’ with some hotel managers in town. When clients come and explain to the hotel managers, they can contact her depending on the terms.

Just one ‘coup’ is enough

While most girls in Kribi pursue prostitution as a source of income and livelihood, others simply indulge in the ‘trade’ for pleasure. Such is the case of Charlene who is about 22 years old.
With her well made hair and powdered face, she puts on her red gown and with a small hand bag. Then, she moves to the seashore (débarcadeur as the area is known in French) for ‘business.’ Yet, Charlene says she does it just for sexual pleasure as just “one coup” is enough for her per night.
And it is on that note that I returned to my hotel. I learnt the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the ambiance-full town is very high, though could not lay hands on any statistics at the time of this report.

By Ndi Eugene Ndi, just back from Kribi.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dialogue Across Cultures, HOFNA Cameroon’s Cure To The Boko Haram Malady

Bamenda, Cameroon—Over 200 youth and women leaders from Cameroon’s ten regions —most of them from the troubled Far North— have taken part in a two-day workshop on peace which sought steps to rein in the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram sect and cut back all forms of extremism in the country.
It was organized by the civil society organisation, Hope for the Needy Association (HOFNA) Cameroon in the North West capital Bamenda.
Workshop attendees pose for a group photo (credit, HOFNA/facebook)
Boko Haram, the extremist group that has waged an ongoing six-year insurgency in neighbouring Nigeria, stepped up cross border raids into Cameroon recently.
Authorities have blamed at least nine suicide bombings in the last three months in Northern Cameroon on the jihadist group.
 “The unfortunate insecurity situation often perpetrated by unidentified individuals calls for unity, determination, patriotism and collective efforts,” Christelle Bay Chongwain, director of HOFNA Cameroon said.
The workshop’s main thrust, according to Chongwain, was to tout the benefits of enhancing multicultural dialogue for peace and security in Cameroon.
Such an endeavour, she added, is the missing pearl needed to reinstate and instill valued peace needed for the growth of the country.
“Despite social, biological and religious differences, engaging in meaningful exchanges, Cameroon will become a better place void of insecurity.”
U.S together with Cameroon
The workshop was organized with support from the U.S Embassy in Cameroon.
NW governor, U.S Embassy rep., other officials and some leaders pose
“We are together in the fight to counter violence, terrorism and extremism in this country,” Matthieu Smith, Deputy Chief of Missions at the U.S Embassy in Cameroon said, adding that Boko Haram is nothing but a sombre cloud hovering over Cameroon which the United States of America is partnering with patriotic civil society organizations like HOFNA to dispel.
On behalf of the government of Cameroon, North West governor, Adolphe Lele L’Afrique, said the fight against the Nigerian jihadist group is a collective undertaking, both for government and civil society organizations.
“Youths are pivotal in ensuring peace and national security as they are exposed to the social media where the cultivation of unfounded rumours to stir radicalization are spread,” Lele L’Afrique said.
He called on the youth leaders to encourage their peers to denounce all suspects and share information with security officers.
Populace on permanent alert
Rabiatu Ahmadu, a lady in her early twenties from the Far North where Boko Haram has successively carried out onslaughts, said people in the region are permanently on the alert.
Youths with different cultures, religion...but one vision
“You don’t know when they [Boko Haram] will attack, what tool they will use and where they will strike.”
“We are scared to go to the market and socialize,” Ahmadu lamented.
The youths and youth leaders who attended the two-day workshop were educated on the need to fast track peace and be peace ambassadors in their respective regions and organizations.
Discussions centered on the current security threats in the face of the country after which measures required to enhance peace and security with youth and women as key actors were drafted and channeled to government.
At the close of the workshop, the director of HOFNA Cameroon, Christelle Bay Chongwain, announced that the association will organize a peace tour in the University of Maroua in the coming days.
The tour will feature three projections of animated films to portray the importance of peace, solidarity and security.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi, just back from Bamenda.

Monday, September 14, 2015

“Verdir” To Protect Human, Environmental Rights Defenders

Kribi, Cameroon—Environmental protection activists of the Congo Basin who have hitherto suffered harassment and human rights violation by the government or foreign multinational companies because of their advocacy will henceforth benefit legal assistance through some civil society and non-governmental organizations in their respective countries thanks to a European Union funded project dubbed “verdir.”
 The three-year project covering four countries of the Congo Basin; Cameroon, the Central Africa Republic, Congo and Gabon has been designed to protect the rights of communities and community leaders who practice environmental protection.
Through the project, the Center for Environment and Development, CED Cameroon, that is overseeing regional implementation in partnership with national civil society and non-governmental organizations, are seeking a solution whereby local communities and environmental protection leaders will no longer suffer harassment from private companies or the government because they oppose exploitation of natural resources with little or no benefits to such communities.
The project targets 70 civil society and non-governmental organizations, 30 local communities from natural resources exploiting zones and 30 journalists; specialists in human rights, natural resources management and rural development in the four countries concerned. 

Different countries, same threat

Speaking at a four-day information and training workshop that brought together journalists, environmental and human rights defenders in Kribi in the Ocean Division of the South region recently, the regional coordinator of “verdir,” Apollin Koagne Zouapet said most local communities who depend largely on their natural resources are most at times in conflict with either the government or companies over access to natural resources.
Activists pose with 'verdir' officials
“Some of these conflicts emanate from the non-sharing or unequal sharing of revenue between communities and exploiting companies,” Koagne said.
In addition to the conflicts, the “verdir” project coordinator said most developmental projects do not carry a social and environmental impact assessment. Thus, its implementation disfavors local communities who in most cases have to relocate to sites which they are not accustomed with. In both cases, when rights defenders step-in, they are harassed by either the companies or the government.
The secretary general of the Center for Environment and Development, CED Cameroon, Samuel Nguiffo confirmed that such cases abound.
“We want to point out the fact that such a phenomenon exist and that those environmental protectors need to be protected by the United Nations.”
According to Samuel Nguiffo, all the four countries in which the project is being implemented are facing the same threats.
“These four countries share the same characteristics; same type of natural resources, all attracting same type of foreign investors, same patterns of national and local elites trying to use their positions to have access to more natural resources and very often at the expense of the communities…”
 “We cannot claim that we are aiming at developing without having the appropriate safeguards that will protect communities of their rights, livelihood,” Samuel Nguiffo stated.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi in Kribi