Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Pangolin scales traffickers to appear at Bonanjo Court

Douala, Cameroon--The third hearing of the case against six traffickers arrested with over 700kg of pangolin scales, shall be heard at the Bonanjo Court of First Instance in Douala, on October 26. During the first two hearings, the case was adjourned because three of the six traffickers failed to attend the hearing following their arrest and release on bail in August 2018.
The suspects

Their failure to appear in court raised the possibility of their escape as two of the three main traffickers were from the Central African Republic where the majority of the pangolin scales were smuggled into Cameroon shortly before their seizure in Bonanpriso, Douala. One of the traffickers had boarded a plane from Bangui to Douala for the transaction before his arrest.   

Officials shall be finding out if the traffickers shall appear in court after failing to do so on two occasions with anger clearly rising in some quarters involved in the matter. It should be noted that during a crackdown operation, it took several hours for a full team of police officers from the judicial police and wildlife officers to track and arrest the 6 traffickers who belong to an international syndicate of pangolin scales trafficking.

The traffickers demonstrated elaborate planning to avoid arrest while some attempted to run away but were stopped by the team. These efforts may have been in vain, if suspicions are confirmed that the traffickers have slipped back to the Central African Republic. And it equally raises the question as to why some of the bail bonds are very soft and provide no deterrence that may force the accused to appear in court. Some wildlife law enforcement experts argue that  it is dangerous to grant bails in cases concerning flagrant delicto or persons caught red handed because they simply return to their trade, trafficking in wildlife species, whereas they should have been behind bars.
The seized Pangolin scales

Majority of the scales that were confiscated in Douala were from the giant pangolin which is an animal that is threatened with extinction, The operation that led to the confiscation, was technically assisted by LAGA,  a wildlife law enforcement support body that assists government in the application of the wildlife law. Prior investigations showed the traffickers were linked to rhino horn and lion trophies trafficking.

In January 2017, the Bonaberi Court of First Instance sentenced  two Chinese nationals who were arrested with over 5 tons of pangolin scales ready for illegal export to a jail term of 3 months. This decision was considered in many quarters as an extremely weak punishment for people who had been responsible for the killing of thousands of pangolins, destroying the country’s endangered wildlife in the process. These rulings and other decisions at the level of the judiciary is becoming a matter of concern for conservationists because the traffickers may simply return to running their illegal business, at the expense of the country’s endangered wildlife.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Stern security checks for persons leaving, coming into the North West region

Adolphe Lele Lafrique, Governor of the North West Region
The Governor of the North West Region Adolphe Lele Lafrique has said people leaving or getting into the region will be subjected to stern security checks in conformity with the 1990 law on the maintenance of law and order.

In a press release dated September 14, the North West chief executive announced that the stricter security checks follow instructions from the Head of State that more measures be employed by the government to guarantee the collective safety and security of persons in the region following growing acts of killing, kidnappings for ransom, looting of property, destruction of personal documents and generalized vandalism perpetrated against pupils, students, teachers, innocent civilians and the military.  

The governor’s release further stated that during regular search operations at the different check points recently, some persons were found in possession of short guns, cartridges, locally fabricated explosives, drugs and other compromising objects leaving government with the impression that activists are trying to increase violence in the region or extend beyond.

Administrative authorities, Security and Defense forces as well as managers of transport agencies have been charged with the responsibility to implement these measures.

Governor Lele Lafrique warned that private individuals, commercial vehicles or motor bikes caught in the act of transporting terrorists or compromising materials and / or facilitating such transactions shall be taken and treated as terrorists.

The release challenged parents, guardians and family members to convince their  brothers and sisters  enrolled by secessionists and misled to take up arms against the government to surrender their weapons to the nearest administrative, traditional, municipal or religious authority,  promising psychological and logistical support for their eventual reintegration into society.

Those based in the Diaspora were called upon to redirect their resources to socio-economic development and education which the governor said they themselves benefited from, instead of manipulating the population and sponsoring socio-economic hardship and illiteracy.

The Governor extended an invitation to them to join the government in Nation building as true and committed patriots. He reassured the population of their safety while asking civil servants to return to their work places, teachers and pupils to be in school and business people to go about their economic activities.

This press release comes a week after the governor signed a communiqué instituting a dusk-to-dawn curfew for the entire North West Region after some unidentified men dug the road at mile 8 Akum.

By Wanchia Cynthia in Bamenda

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2018 presidential election: Five candidates reject code of good conduct

During the 7th national consultation forum in Yaounde last Thursday September 6, 2018 between Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) and other stakeholders of the electoral process, some participants refused to endorse the revised code of good conduct used in 2011.
Although the majority of participants in the meeting adopted the 21-point binding rules to guarantee a smooth electoral process for the October 7 vote, there were some agitations particularly among representatives of some presidential candidates who argued that the document was yet another attempt by the Biya regime to muzzle opposition candidates and prevent them from challenging electoral fraud in the name of "peace".
Representatives of five of the nine candidates running for the October 7 election angrily left the meeting hall at the Yaounde conference centre on Thursday without endorsing the code.
Social Democratic Front (SDF) secretary general, Senator Jean Tsomelou who represented the leading opposition’s flag bearer at the consultation forum together with the representatives of Akere Muna, Maurice Kamto, Ndifor Afanwi Frankline (Prophet Frank) and Cabral Libii all rejected the document.
According to Lasha Kingsley, Prophet Frank's Communication and Press Manager, the presidential candidate’s representative at the forum could not endorse the document because ELECAM introduced the G20 which is a group of twenty opposition party leaders supporting CPDM presidential candidate, Paul Biya. Lasha said their representative like others who also brushed off the code saw that “there was something fishy with the document”.
But ELECAM chairman, Enow Abrams Egbe said the code of conduct is document meant to implemented in order to give the election
“We are not working particular political party. We are working for the electoral process of our country. The ambition of Elections Cameroon is to give credibility to our electoral process and we think that when we take an act, we try to see how it can accommodate all interests,” Enow Abrams said.
During the one day forum, members of the Electoral Board of ELECAM exchanged views with some 500 stakeholders including of the electoral process including legalized political parties, candidates for presidential election, civil society organizations, private and public media under the theme “The role of election stakeholders for a successful election”.
The holding of Consultations between ELECAM and other stakeholders of the electoral process is provided for by Section 11 (2) of Law No.2012/001 of 19 April 2012 relating to the Electoral Code.
According to ELECAM, the 7th National Consultation Forum had as main objective to appease the socio-political climate on the eve of the presidential election, by consolidating democratic principles and dialogue between stakeholders of the electoral process, while improving their competence and performance for a better appropriation and a harmonised comprehension of texts and practices, during and after the vote.
At press time, the final document which is a revised edition of the code of good conduct used during the 2011 presidential election was not yet accessible to the media. The communication unit of ELECAM promised to send us a once available.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Ntumfor Nico Halle eulogises Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General

No honest human being would gain say the unrivaled and unequaled legacy bequeathed by this peace and justice colossus who has passed away like a candle in the wind. I wished him more years.
Barrister Nico Halle

The entire world mourns Kofi Annan not for the wealth he amassed for himself but for the love and care he embraced for humanity. Emblematic indeed.

I sincerely admired the temerity and honest manner in which he brokered peace in the potentially explosive Bakassi conflict pitting Cameroon and Nigeria. It takes love, justice, wisdom and savvy to settle such a complex and very high profile crisis. This for me was a locus classicus to be emulated by other nations that have been shredded by senseless wars.

I had even prayed that he could show concern for the Anglophone crisis and apply the same wisdom and objectivity he did in the Bakassi palavar but this did not happen. Man proposes but god disposes.

The first African to occupy such a highly coverted office leaving behind an unmatched track record. The Nobel Peace Prize crowned his cogent attachment to peace and reconciliation.

This breed of human beings is in very short supply. Oh i wish more of Kofi Annan could be found in Africa and the world for god's people to live in peace.

Peace is what the world badly needs now. for peace to exist there must be genuine love, justice, equity, respect for the rule of law, transparency, accountability, equality, honesty, truth, respect for human rights and liberties, patriotism, tolerance, forgiveness and above all the fear of the lord which is the beginning of wisdom.

As a peace crusader in my small corner i am moved by what Kofi Annan gave to humanity to couch this short homage for an icon i quietly admired.

May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace for he lived an accomplished and fulfilled life here on earth. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob take his gentle soul. A dieu sir.

By Barrister Nico Halle

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Who killed Rev. Fr Alexander Sob?

Was the former Catholic Education Secretary felled by stray bullets or slain for his unflinching stance that schools should run unperturbed in the NW and SW?
Late Fr Alexander Nougi Sop

There has been wailing across the town of Buea and beyond following news of the brutal killing of the former Catholic Education Secretary of the Buea diocese, Reverend Father Alexander Sob Nougi.
The prelate was shot in Muyuka, Fako Division of the South West region on Friday July 20, 2018, reports say. Until his demise, Fr Sob was serving as Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Parish in Bomaka, Buea.
The Catholic Church confirmed the death of the charismatic priest Saturday but did not state the exact circumstances leading to his demise.  
Some reports have it that the prelate who was in Muyuka supposedly to visit his family met his doom from stray bullets following a gun exchange between security forces and Anglophone separatist fighters while other sources say he was eliminated following his stance that schools should run unperturbed in the crisis-hit North West and South West regions. NewsWatch could not however independently verify the actual cause of Fr. Sob’s gruesome killing.
A sister publication, The Guardian Post gathered reported that Rev Fr. Sob, who was due to defend his PhD thesis in weeks, had just left the University of Buea where he gave part- time lectures in the faculty of Education, before taking off for Muyuka, a locality where he lived a majority of his days on earth.
A gun exchange between security forces and Anglophone separatist fighters in the town of the Muyuka on that fateful Friday saw Fr Sob emerge as one of the biggest casualties. An account said the humble priest was shot twice on his chest while in his car, which was parked beside the main road in the town Muyuka.
Fr. Sob was however later confirmed dead by medics at a Muyuka hospital where he was rushed to. Father Sob’s death has been received with shock and consternation. Since Friday, there has been outrage on the social media with thousands pouring out glowing tributes to the late clergy, and cursing those who may have been involved in one way or the other in his brutish murder.
Rev Fr. Alexander Nougi Sob who served for years as Catholic Education secretary of the Buea diocese was from a humble background. His father, to note, was a catholic primary school teacher who served the church dedicatedly for more than 40 years but retired poor. Having grown in the household of a catholic primary school teacher and seeing how difficult it was to survive, Fr. Sob was of the conviction that the best gift to offer teachers is to enable them live a life of maximum standards. To this, he fought tooth and nail to better the salary situation of teachers serving in schools across the Buea Diocese during his days as education secretary.

The Man

Fr Sob began his journey to priest- hood in 1985 when he got admission into Bishop Rogan College, the oldest minor seminary. He graduated from Bishop Rogan in 1992 and then moved to the St Thomas Aquinas Major semi- nary in Bambui, North West region. He left the seminary in 2001 and taught English Language at St Joseph College, Sasse, before later being transferred to the Minor Seminary in Efok, near Obala in the Centre region. Between 2007 and 2011, Fr. Sob was principal of Regina Pacis College, REPACOL, Mutengene in the South West region. While at REPACOL, Fr Sob, who later defended a Master’s degree thesis in Educational Foundations and Administration at the University of Buea, registered the best commercial results for the college at both the ordinary and Advance level. He was then catapulted in 2012 to the position of Education secretary for the Diocese of Buea. Fr Sob has a unique story as a priest. He had his ordination delayed for five years but was finally ordained priest at Obala in 2005 while he served as Discipline Master at the Efok Minor Seminary.
It was Father Sob who fought day and night for the creation of a credit union by the catholic diocese of Buea where teachers could do their savings. Sob was often quoted as saying the credit union with a membership of over 1,000 back then in 2015, has as vision to create, empower, dignify and sustain communities where poverty is eradicated through sharing for common good.
The late Fr Sob, it should be said, was a real epitome of versatility. Until his demise last week, he co-anchored a programme on CRTV’s Mount Cameroon FM in Buea, where he endeared himself to millions of the radio station’s listeners as a result of fine voice and creative dexterity. Authorities of the Buea Diocese have said they will announce his funeral pro- gramme in the days ahead.
Adapted from The Guardian Post daily newspaper

Senegalese envoy dies in Cameroon

Late Vincent Badji

Yaounde, Cameroon - The outgoing Senegalese Ambassador to Cameroon, Mr Vincent Badji, is dead, state broadcaster CRTV reported.
CRTV said that Mr Badji died of heart attack while watching television at his Yaoundé residence on Sunday.
The diplomat who had come to the end of his three-year diplomatic mission to Cameroon, was due to leave Yaoundé for the Vatican as his country’s ambassador to the Holy See.

Diplomatic practice

Mr Badji had been granted farewell audiences by Cameroon state authorities in conformity with diplomatic practice.
House Speaker Cavaye Yeguie Djibril on June 18 received the diplomat while the president of the Senate, Mr Marcel Niat Njifenji, also held talks with him on July 4.
The envoy's last public outing was when he was received by Prime Minister Philemon Yang on July 5.

The agreements

Talking to the press after the meeting with the Prime Minister, the ambassador described the ties between Cameroon and Senegal as excellent.
He said some of the high points of the cooperation were the agreements that were ready for signing; one of which is the exemption of visas for holders of official passports, decentralised cooperation and higher education.
Yaoundé, Mr Badji said, was expected to host the Cameroon-Senegal Joint Commission this year and he remained optimistic that officials of the two countries would sign the agreements during the session.
Courtesy The East African

Minister's claim that Cameroon has no jailed journalists is completely wrong

By Amindeh Blaise Atabong*

Yaounde, Cameroon - Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Minister of Communication, has once more maintained that no journalist is detained in Cameroon or has been arrested for their work, even as there is a plethora of impeccable evidence to prove the contrary. Tchiroma, who assumes the responsibility of government spokesman, has repeatedly claimed Cameroon is among the freest countries on the continent in terms of press freedom, and that journalists go about their job freely, without government reprisal. People wouldn't even believe him if he said the truth, at least in the last two years.
A mountain of evidence points to two facts: Journalists have been arrested and detained for months for regular journalism practice and Cameroon has been ranked very low by different press freedom perception indexes.
Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Minster of Communication in one of his press outings.

On May 2, 2017, Minister Tchiroma declared over the state broadcaster CRTV that no journalist was held in Cameroon for their work. Much earlier on February 15, 2017, he told the Committee to Protect Journalists that government was completely transparent and people could easily speak up their minds. Tchiroma was categorical that no journalist was in prison in Cameroon and that journalist should not “pretend to be arrested for their work.” He had made same claims to reporters during a press conference in the nation’s capital Yaounde, prior to the subsequent declarations.
The government minister may have gotten his fact wrong for one reason – most journalists who are arrested and detained are usually not formally charged over long periods. This is in gross violation of portions of Section 119 of Cameroon’s Criminal Procedure Code which stipulate that the time allowed for remand in custody shall not exceed 48 hours, renewable
But by the time Tchiroma was making his claim, Radio France Internationale's Hausa service reporter, Ahmed Abba had been held incommunicado for close to three years after being arrested in Maroua for covering the activities of the terrorist group Boko Haram. He was later charged of “non-denunciation of terrorism” and “laundering of the proceeds of terrorist acts,” and sentenced to 10 years in prison on terrorism charges. Only an appeal saw his release in late 2017.

Arrests of journalists and confirmations

On February 9, 2017, three journalists were arrested in Buea: Amos Fofung Nkonchoh, South West/Littoral bureau chief of The Guardian Post daily newspaper; Atia Tilarious Azohnwi, political desk editor of The Sun weekly newspaper; and Mofor Ndong, publisher of Voice of the Voiceless newspaper. They were first detained at the Molyko and Buea Town police stations in Buea, before being transferred to the judicial police headquarters in Yaounde. The journalists were subsequently transferred to the Yaounde central prison in Kondengui.
Authorisation issued by Yaounde Military Tribunal to visit journalist detained in prison
After the journalists were arrested and detained, Minister Tchiroma still claimed no journalists was in detention for their work. Yet, by February 20, 2017, an official government body - the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms (NCHRF) - had declared that at least five journalists were under arrest.
When this reporter approached authorities to ascertain the whereabouts of the journalists, the military prosecutor of the Yaounde Military Tribunal issued him an authorisation on July 13, 2017, to visit one of the journalists, Atia Tilarious Azohnwi, in prison. This attested to the effective detention of the journalist. Upon visiting the detention facility, this reporter realised at least four other journalists to include Thomas Awah Junior of Aghem Messenger magazine, Hans Achumba of Jakiri Community Radio and Tim Finnian of Life Time newspaper were also under detention. 
Discharge order of journalist issued by prison administrators
This reporter visited the detained journalists on at least three occasions when they were held. On one occasion, journalist Amos Fofung told this reporter he was really never ‘arrested’ in the first place. “I was invited to give a statement and return home but when I got there, the police commissioner told me it was late and I could only return the next day. But it never happened until months passed by,” Amos narrated. He disclosed that it is difficult to disassociate his arrest from his work.
Since the arrest and detention of the journalists, this reporter has addressed two correspondences to the minister of communication to find out if he still stood by his claims. But the minister would not respond to any. Before the close of the year 2017, some of the detained journalists were released on separate occasions, after having spent over six months in prison ‘awaiting’ trial which never came. While others stayed back, this reporter obtained release orders issued by penitentiary authorities for some of the freed journalists.
After some of the journalists were released, Minister Tchiroma still had time to tweet on September 20, 2017: “In Cameroon, there's no risk in practising journalism or voicing one's political views.” Tchiroma’s statement is not factual as there are so many pressures and constraints on journalists and most are too intimidated to voice out threats to their practice. The minister also basks on the multiplicity of fragile media organs to mean press freedom.
One of two correspondences addressed to the Minister of Communication still awaiting response

Cameroon ranks low

Minister Tchiroma may be among the isolated number of Cameroonians who hold that there is press freedom in the country. Cameroon finds itself at the bottom position of different press freedom rankings. On Reporters Without Borders’ 2018 World Press Freedom index, Cameroon is ranked 129 out of 180 with a score of 40.92. Don’t think the situation was any better the previous years.
Freedom of journalists in Cameroon is also under threat. Freedom House rates Cameroon as ‘Not Free’ in terms of press freedom. In Cameroon, journalists’ best effort can often be thwarted by government repression, unlike the ungrounded claims made by the government spokesman.
This story was first published in the print edition of NewsWatch newspaper on Monday July 23, 2018.
*Amindeh Blaise Atabong is an investigative journalist based in Yaounde, Cameroon. He has reported extensively on cross-border conflicts, civil unrest, elections, governance and other topics from Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and Nigeria.