Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lawyers, Teachers’ Strike To Continue Following Deadlocked Dialogue With Gov’t

Yaoundé—Representatives of striking Cameroon Anglophone lawyers stormed out of a government summoned ah-hoc committee dialogue to examine and proffer solutions to their grievances in the capital Yaounde saying the government side had refused to grant the preliminary issues demanded of them as the talks entered day two on Wednesday December 28.
Barrister Agbor Balla (middle) leading a lawyers' protest

Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla one of the representatives of the striking lawyers said they had demanded amongst others that some young protesters ‘arbitrarily arrested’ during the strike in the two English speaking regions of the country and taken to Yaounde be ‘unconditionally released’ and also that a government ban on some three lawyers’ associations in the regions be lifted before they can proceed with the dialogue. But the government could not immediately yield to these demands.

“We therefore had no reason to pursue the meeting and accordingly staged a walk,” said Barrister Agbor Balla who is also chair of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC).

The about 1000-member Cameroon Common Law Lawyers Association said the striking men and women in wigs and black robes who have deserted courts in the country since October will continue their work boycott until government succumbs to their demands.

The minister delegate in the Cameroon Ministry of Justice, Mr Jean Pierre Fogui who headed the government delegation to the dialogue could not be reached for comments at the time of this report.

Teachers too will not be able to suspend the strike!

The striking lawyers walk out came a day after striking teachers in the two English speaking regions of the Central African nation also stormed out of a similar meeting in the Northwestern town of Bamenda saying the ad-hoc committee appointed to conduct the negotiations was ‘not balanced.’

 “We noted that our brothers of the Southwest region have been left out of that ad-hoc committee giving the impression that it was a Northwest affair and creating conflict between the two regions,” said Mr Tassang Wilfred, national executive secretary of Cameroon Teachers Trade Union (CATTU) and one of the leaders of the strike.
He said the teachers representatives submitted a list of representatives from the Southwest; one of the two English speaking regions of the country who must be included in the committee before they can take part in the dialogue.
Mr Tassang (Middle) and colleagues leaving Bamenda dialogue

Like the lawyers, Mr Tassang Wilfred said they have also asked that government should release some youths who were arrested during the protest in Bamenda before the unionist can take part in the talks.

They vowed to continue with the strike that has paralysed school operations in the two English speaking regions of the Northwest and Southwest since November 21. Schools in the country are expected to resume next week after two weeks of Christmas and New Year recess.

“If government does not react, then schools will not resume because we will not be able to suspend the strike,” Mr Tassang Wilfred said.

The Bamenda dialogue that was chaired by Prof Paul Ghogomu Mingo, director of cabinet at the Prime Minister’s office took place in the presence of the Ministers of Basic, Secondary and Higher education as well as invited representatives of confessional private education and private higher education.

In a statement issued at the end of the talks, Prof Ghogomu said the teachers’ representatives displayed bad faith, describing them as ‘extremist trade unionists.’

 “With regard to extremist trade unionists who publicly refused to be part of this working session for reasons that have nothing to do with the education of young Cameroonians, Government will take its responsibility,” the statement by the government appointed chair of the Bamenda dialogue said.

Thousands of teachers and lawyers in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon have resorted to work boycott, accusing the government of imposing the French language on their schools and courts.

Both the lawyers and the teachers have also been calling for a return to the federal system as obtained in the country before 1972; a demand that has attracted much sympathy from other groups and political parties in the regions.

By Ndi Eugene Ndi

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Conflict Diamonds From CAR Reaching International Markets Via Cameroon

Yaoundé—Cameroon has been allowing conflict diamonds from the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) to cross over its borders and into the legal supply chain due to poor controls, smuggling and corruption, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) said in a recent report.

The report, From Conflict to Illicit: Mapping the Diamond Trade from Central African Republic to Cameroon, investigates the failure of Cameroon's implementation of the Kimberley Process—the international diamond certification scheme meant to stop the trade of conflict diamonds.

In 2003, the United Nations General Assembly set up the Kimberley Process—a multinational organization comprising of diamond-producing states, traders and civil society groups to prevent “blood diamonds” sales from being introduced into the mainstream market and proceeds used in financing wars or insurgencies.

The body imposed a ban on the commercialization of CAR’s stones in 2013 when it was found to be funding armed groups in an inter-religious conflict until earlier this year when the embargo was partially lifted on zones it deemed compliant and conflict-free.

Yet, PAC which investigates and reports on the lack of accountability, poor governance, and human rights violations associated with conflict minerals said it found that illicit trade of conflict diamonds was still ongoing.

"While international outcry about 'blood diamonds' financing war in the Central African Republic sparked action to stop the trade, the same spotlight has not been turned on CAR's neighbours, said Joanne Lebert, Partnership Africa Canada's Executive Director. “Our investigation shows the reality on the ground and how conflict diamonds from CAR still have entry points to international markets through Cameroon."

A Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) review mission arrived Cameroon on Monday 05 December to evaluate the country's implementation of internal controls that govern diamond production and trade.

"It [KP review mission] must take action immediately and demonstrate to companies, retailers—and most importantly to consumers—that it is able to stop the flow of conflict diamonds," said Offah Obale, Researcher for Partnership Africa Canada, and the report's author.

The government of Cameroon had yet civil society activists in the country were of the opinion that such smuggling could be possible because of the 900km long porous border and the relationship border communities of the two countries share.

 “I think there has been a lot of goodwill by the National Permanent Secretariat of the Kimberley Process to monitor the diamond production and export chain in Cameroon, but you cannot overall the challenges that exist,” said Mr Jaff Napoleon Bamenjo coordinator of the Network for the Fight Against Hunger (RELUFA), a civil society organization that promotes improved natural resource governance in Cameroon.

The author of “The Kimberley Process: Responding to challenges and Policy gaps in Cameroon” however predicted more diamond smuggling from Cameroon through the Central African Republic which has a low diamond export tax of 12% as opposed to Cameroon with 24.5%.

“If you want to sell diamond and make more profits, I think it is more important to sell through the Central African Republic than to pass through Cameroon,” the RELUFA coordinator said.

By Ndi Eugene Ndi