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Cameroon In Ruins, 55 Years After – Denis Kongso Lafon 

pa-denis-kongso-lafon-erstwhile-cameroon-tribune-staffer-and-retired-cdc-managerOn October 1, 1961, Denis Kongso Lafon, was still a student at St Joseph’s College, Sasse. At the time, he told The Post, they barely knew about what was happening.

They had learned that Southern Cameroonians (Northwest and Southwest counties) had voted to join their brothers of the east.

At that time, the historical happenings in the Southern Cameroons did not mean much to young Lafon; just as it meant nothing to many of his peers, and people born in later years.

But, what happen on October 1, 1961, started having more meaning to the life of Lafon, who graduated from Sasse and, then, joined Cameroon Radio in 1967 and left a few years after to ASMAC.

Upon graduation, he joined Cameroon Tribune in 1974 and later quit to join the Cameroon Development Corporation, where he served and retired 10 years ago as Manager in charge of Training Management Service.

Fifty-five years after the Fonchas, Juas, Munas, Endeleys, Ahidjos, Fonlons swore during the Foumban Conference to ensure that the union be governed on the bases of democracy and equity, Lafon, today, aged 71, feels a lot has gone too wrong; which, if not redressed, the majority of Cameroonians will continue to wallow in abject poverty, deprivation and political deceit as a selected few of the estimated 22 million continue to selfishly plunder the nation while singing praises to a gerontocracy bedecked by a leadership manned by a collection of the same frail-witted architects of Cameroon’s failed policies for the past 55 years.

Read Lafon:

On October 1, 1961

We are in college. But we know that there are going to be elections – a plebiscite – so, there are going to be campaigns and then there was going to be a vote for us to either join Nigeria or the French-speaking Cameroon.

And after the plebiscite, we know British Southern Cameroons will join the French Cameroun. But we are not involved in politics, then.
Were there Newspapers?

If there were newspapers at the time, we wouldn’t know, because, we were not introduced to reading newspapers; there were no newspapers in the Library. But I am sure that there might have been newspapers in the English-speaking part of Cameroon; maybe the Daily Times.

I don’t remember when the Outlook started. It might have been the Cameroon Times.

Coming of Age, Significance of Union

Of course, we came out of school and started working. We realised that there was the State of West Cameroon and that of East Cameroon – a Federal structure, then. West Cameroon was run on the English-system and the East was run on the French-system of governance.

We had a Federal Parliament and we knew that there were consultations at the level of Parliament.

This went on till 1972. We were already of age and we could vote then. We voted and became the United Republic of Cameroon.

Progressive Elimination

The system changed in 1972. That’s how the progressive elimination of the West Cameroon system started. Gradually, our English system of administration changed. They eliminated the West Cameroun House of Chiefs and Parliament. These were the structures for ‘Indirect Rule.’

The Chiefs, then, had a say in the political system. The Parliamentarians had a say and the local people could pass through the Chiefs or Parliamentarians. But, Parliamentarians, today, are no longer representatives of the people.

I don’t know how many Parliamentarians listen to the people today. Parliament is like a rubber stamp on the population. You just have to take what is vomited to you.

Our representatives don’t represent us, because, throughout the country, you find the same problems: lack of roads, water, health facilities, and so on. Brains are being washed away in alcohol. There is no employment.

Graduates have resorted to driving taxis and motorbikes. Lecturers and other intellectuals have mortgaged their intelligence and nobody is using his intelligence again for anything excerpt to serve his Master in Yaounde.

Multipartism – One Party – One Dominant Party In Multi-partism

We started off with a multiparty system, but in 1966, this was changed to a single party system where everyone had to belong to the CNU party from East Cameroon. CNU became CPDM in 1985. In 1990, we moved back to the system where there was multipartism.

But things are not the same as they were with the multiparty system of the days of West Cameroon and East Cameroon. Now, there are mushroom political parties which only flicker on during elections, after that, they disappear. Many more will be in the offing as 2018 draws near.

Because of the mundane political philosophy of ‘party discipline’ the system of Government has changed. Today, we have a system where bills get stalled in Parliament or are swiftly voted into law without a thorough examination of its merits and demerits to the country.

Such is the case of the new Penal Code that was just enacted into law. The ‘party discipline’ philosophy has come to override common sense.

In the last 10 years, have you heard any Minister go anywhere and say that ‘in my department, we have decided that this system of doing things must change, we have defined a system that will be more rapid and more serviceable to the people? No! It is always: “as the Head of State has said; blablaba…” Where are our values? Where are our talents?

Patriotism Gone! 5-year Development Plans Dead!

When you look at our roads in towns, they are not planned at all. We had a ‘Five-year Development Plan.’ But since 1982, we have not had any development plan, any more.

Today, we hear each morning of a new plan. Whether it is a one year, two year or three, one cannot tell.

Illusive 2035 Emergence

We are talking today of emergence in 2035. But, tell me, where is the master plan for this giant development dream. We have but a three-year emergency plan. How can these two be coordinated? Look at the development of Douala and Yaounde.

It is a shame that some of those plans had existed since 1972 and they are implementing them but today. So, what becomes of the plans that are made today for tomorrow? We cannot be developing but on slogans.

Way forward

We got to go back to the 5-year Development Plan where these plans will be evaluated on a yearly or quarterly basis. A project is supposed to be evaluated and supervised permanently and this is how Government Ministries are supposed to work or be supervised.

The Ministry of Finance is supposed to provide the money and the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development furnish the different ministries concerned with the plans and follows them up to ensure each ministry is keeping up with Government’s desired goals.

If we don’t do this, then, our development drive is futile.

Look at roads in next door Equatorial Guinea. We can’t compare with them. All these Ministers travel a lot. Why can’t they do things the way other countries are doing to progress?

Our own talents have been mortgaged for positions. Someone is director for 10 years and he is not audited. When he is gone, that is when auditors come to say he has embezzled 10, 15 million.

Why was he not audited when he was still one year, two years or three in office? They are stealing Government money in the billions and the poor are suffering without electricity, water or food.

Interviewed by Francis Tim Mbom

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