Accused of conspiracy against Cameroon, Human rights group Redhac announces a judicial complaint against Paul Atanga Nji
"We can't prevent ourselves from bringing Minister Atanga Nji to court." These were the words of Alice Nkom, founding president of human rights group Redhac, during an interview on ABK Radio on March 11, 2020.
"Out of respect for Cameroonians, we will allow him to prove that Redhac has received XAF5 billion. We are going to take him to court," the lawyer at the Cameroonian bar said.
A day earlier, Maximilienne Ngo Mbé, the executive director of this NGO, held a press conference to describe the statements of the Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Atanga Nji, as "false, slanderous and outrageous."
Indeed, on March 9, 2020, Paul Atanga Nji, during a press briefing in Yaounde, said that “NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Crisis Group, OCHA, Redhac, and many others are engaged in a conspiracy against Cameroon and the defence and security forces.”
During the briefing, the official assured he had evidence that these NGOs received more than XAF5 billion from occult networks both inside and outside the country to "destabilize the institutions, demonstrate that Cameroon could not manage the internally displaced and show that the army is taking action against civilians in the Crisis areas."
He also ordered the said NGOs to present, within 60 days, activity reports for the fiscal years 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.
Before Paul Atanga Nji, such accusations against NGOs were already made by the Minister of Communications, René Emmanuel Sadi, in a press release. On March 10, 2020, Côme Awoumou, Cameroon's representative at the general debate on item 04 of the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, also made such accusations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Cameroon-Nigeria : Trade exchanges fell by 81% in 2015-2019 due to the anglophone crisis and war against Boko Haram
Between 2015 and 2019, the value of trade exchanges between Cameroon and Nigeria dropped by 81%, from XAF15.6 billion to 2.9 billion. The figures were revealed by Paul Tasong, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Economy, on November 23, 2021, while presenting the presidential plan for the reconstruction of the anglophone regions before the national assembly.
For the official, both exports (-68.9%) and imports (-85%) contributed to the huge drop. During the said period, the nature of the commercial exchanges between the two countries also changed.
“In 2016, imports were dominated by cars, spare parts and accessories, household appliances, and various items. In 2019, there has been a significant decline in the contribution of those products to commercial exchanges between the two countries but new products emerged. They are notably malt beer, beauty products, and sanitary napkins and tampons," he indicated.
The reason for those significant drops is that the over 1500-km long border Western Cameroon shares with Nigeria is close to the North-West and South-West affected by the anglophone crisis as well as the Far-North plagued by the war against Boko Haram. Due to those crises, most goods coming from or to Nigeria transit through the North and Adamaoua regions, or by sea.
The Anglophone crisis caused a cumulated XAF412 bln loss in GDP for Cameroon in 2017-2020, Minister Paul Tasong estimates
The anglophone crisis dragged growth down by 0.8 and 0.3 points of GDP respectively in 2019 and 2020 in Cameroon. This represents a cumulated loss in GDP estimated at XAF421.3 billion between 2017 and 2020.
The figures were presented on November 23, 2021, by Paul Tasong, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Economy Planning and Regional Development, while presenting the presidential plan for the reconstruction of the anglophone regions.
For Paul Tasong, the poor performance was due to decline in business in several sectors, the most affected being the agricultural sector.
For instance, the paddy rice segment recorded an average of 14.5% drop in activities yearly between 2017 and 2019 before rising by about 10% in 2020. Meanwhile, crude palm oil production dropped by about 90% over the period, going from 37,400 tons in 2016 to about 4 300 tons in 2019. “In 2020, however, there was a reverse in the downtrend with a 131% rise in the production of palm oil to reach 9 900 tons,” Paul Tasong explained.
Regarding the banana sector, production dropped from 125,019 tons in 2016 to 16,897 tons in 2019 in the South West because state firm Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) stopped operations in 2018.
"However, production recovered in 2020 to 21,132 tons. In the first half of 2021, the company produced nearly 16,272 tons of bananas," the delegated Minister added.
As far as consumer products are concerned, fish supplies dipped significantly in the regions in 2019 before stabilizing in 2020 that saw a 14.6% rise in the Northwest and 25.3% in the Southwest, we learn.
The poor performance of manufacturing industries in the anglophone regions caused a decline in medium-voltage energy consumption in the order of 19.5%, 6%, and 25%, respectively in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The resumption in activities recorded in the manufacturing industries 2020 resulted in a 7% rise in the consumption of that type of energy, Paul Tasong continued.
He further explained that the cocoa and tourism sectors were impacted as well. Also, due to the crisis, a significant number of public projects worth XAF16.4 billion were not executed during the 2017-2019 period despite the increase in budgets allocated. In that context, the public investment budget implementation rate remained relatively low in the North-West and South-West regions (the estimated average is 64.4% and 68.2 respectively) between 2017 and 2019. In 2020, that rate improved notably to 83.7% in the North-west and 89.9% in the South-west.
According to the GICAM, the largest employers’ grouping in Cameroon, from 2016 to date, companies have lost an estimated XAF800 billion.
Employees of the mobile phone company Nexttel (Cameroonian subsidiary of Vietnamese Viettel) went on strike, on June 11, in several agencies in the country, notably in the Littoral, South-West, North-West, and South.
Faced with these strikes, the top management ended its silence by publishing an official statement responding to each of the dissenters’ demands.
Talking about the 50% salary reduction, Nexttel replies: "this statement is false. The strikers are asked to prove this accusation by presenting their payslips which will attest to their allegations. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that misinformation has been published on social networks and certain media to this effect. All these have been formally denied by the top management of Viettel Cameroon."
Concerning the non-organization of the election of the staff representative, the company declares that it will be held as soon as possible. Speaking of harassment in the workplace, the company states that it has more than 1000 employees and if there is harassment, it is up to employees to notify the management through formal communication channels. For example, they can notify the human resources manager or the general manager.
For the thirteenth-month salary, Nexttel explains that it is a bonus paid when the company has a profitable business year. According to the top management, it is a form of dividend redistribution and, as it is in deficit, it cannot afford to pay the thirteenth month when operating costs are not covered.
Talking about wage discrimination, the top management replies: "the salary at Viettel Cameroon is negotiated by mutual agreement between the employer and the employee when signing the contract. The alleged claims are not justified. Also, the freedom of contract would mean that if you do not agree to the terms, you would not accept the proposed offer."
Finally, for paid holidays, Viettel Cameroon indicates that because of work pressure, they can be postponed. However, they are made up when circumstances allow.
These responses radicalized the strikers. The latter promise to continue with an unlimited strike, from today June 12, throughout the country until their demands are taken into account. The strikers believe that "the general manager is in denial and is arrogant." They reveal that, as a result of their participation in the June 11 strike, they no longer have access to their offices and that their letters of dismissal are being prepared by the Human Resources departments.
At the same time, after the failure of a mediation conducted by the labour inspectorate, the National Union of New Technology and Communication Workers (Syntic) referred the matter to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on May 29. In its referral file, it talked about "allegations of serious violations" of workers' rights at Nexttel.
Karen Curtis, head of the ILO's freedom of association Department, replied in a letter dated June 10, 2020, that "the ILO has contacted the government.” She added that she would keep the Syntic informed of "any observations that the government will transmit on this case."
On March 10, 2020, the European Union (EU) posted a message on its Twitter and Facebook pages strongly condemning “the attack on a peaceful women's march on 8 March 2020 in Bamenda." The diplomatic mission also "rigorously disapproved the attack on a gendarmerie post in Galim which claimed the lives of civilians and members of the defence and security forces."
The EU's disapprovals come 24 hours after that of French diplomacy. "The attack that took place yesterday (8 March, editor's note) in Bamenda during the International Women's Day parade is as criminal as it is unacceptable," French Ambassador to Cameroon Christophe Guilhou posted on his Twiter account. For the French diplomat, "using explosive devices to mutilate or kill is intolerable," he wrote before sending condolences to the victims.
Indeed, during the demonstration on 8 March (International Women's Day) in Bamenda, a soldier was killed by the explosion of an improvised explosive device. Seven people (four soldiers, two police officers, and a civilian) were also "seriously injured."
The day before that attack, in Galim, a town in the Bamboutos department, western Cameroon, a secessionist group from the north-western region attacked the Territorial Brigade of the Gendarmerie and the public security post. During the exchange of fire between the defence forces and the separatist fighters, eight people died, including two gendarmes, two police officers, and four civilians.
In a statement issued Sunday evening by Cameroon's Communication Minister, René Emmanuel Sadi, the government called on "Cameroon's international friends and partners" to condemn "with equal determination" these "terrorist" attacks.
The second phase of the labor-intensive operation (HIMO) implemented since 2016 in the Far North by the National Participatory Development Program (PNDP) is coming to an end next March 20.
Endowed with CFA6.5billion thanks to a financing agreement signed between the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Land Management, this phase has helped “reduce juvenile delinquency and theft in the villages thanks to the occupation of young people,” according to Marie Madeleine Nga, national coordinator of the PNDP.
Roger Saffo, the secretary-general of the Far North Governor’s Office, agrees, saying; “overall, I can say that this initiative has made a major contribution to the fight against poverty and unemployment. The HIMO approach has occupied the young people who were in the process of being recruited by the Boko Haram sect.”
The PNDP national coordination recalls that the HIMO operation was designed to act as a brake on the recruitment of young people by this terrorist sect, which has been operating in the Far North for nearly a decade.
Since the launch of the first phase in 2015, Marie Madeleine Nga points out, HIMO has led to the creation of more than 4,000 jobs in eleven municipalities in the Far North. She said the third phase, which will receive CFA10 billion from the AFD, will soon start.
Following a first game last March 5 in Yaoundé when they beat the Zambian team 3-2, Cameroon’s female football team did not get the same luck, losing 2-1 for the second round held March 10 in Lusaka. The only goal scored by the Cameroonian team during this last round of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games is not enough to qualify.
“It's difficult to lose the game 2-1, it's the goals scored away that eliminated us because, in both games, we are even with 4 goals,” reacted Alain Djeumfa, the coach of the women's national team, in a short video published by the Cameroonian Football Federation (Fécafoot) on its social media pages (Facebook and Twitter). Cameroon will, therefore, have to beat Chile, losers in the South American zone, in April for a final chance of qualification.
“We're going to work very hard to get out of it,” the coach promises. According to Alain Djeumfa, Zambia's victory, which qualifies for the Olympics, was achieved thanks to “boys whose presence was felt during the game due to their frame.” After the first match at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium last week, the coach of the Cameroonian team accused the Zambian team of having male players.
“The difference was also made with the boys who are in this team, let's admit it: number 11 (Barbara Banda) and number 20 (Rachel Nachula). It was hard to face them because they are more male than female,” he said.
Alain Djeumfa called on the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to look into the matter. A victory against Chile will mean Cameroon will be competing in the Olympics for the second time after the 2012 edition in London, England.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem