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New Gov 

By Ze Ekanga

At 50, this career diplomat is presented in public media as the ideal image of a youth at a strategic position of responsibility in the state machinery. Appointed to replace the much older regime grandee Laurent Esso as Secretary General at the Presidency, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh will have to sharpen his teeth to bite through the fabric of one of Africa’s most archaic and irresponsive public administrative outfits.

At first sight, his “youthfulness” could be seen as an asset to accelerate the chronically slow pace of administrative procedures at the presidency where very important files get buried for decades. But going by the fact that he will have to serve an absentee boss who often dodges administrative work preferring endless trips abroad, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh will have to reserve his dynamism to less important enterprise.

He will certainly have an even more Herculean task facing a stoutly entrenched corrupt influence-peddling conspiracy at the presidency which often serves as an ‘alternative government’ to “kill or censor” the real government. Holder of a doctorate in International Law from IRIC, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh has held teaching jobs at the University of Yaounde II in Soa. Until his recent appointment, he was secretary general at the Ministry of External Relations.

Laurent Esso: Old Soldier Never Dies

For decades now, this ENAM-trained magistrate does not know what it means to be out of government. He is the perfect incarnation of the Spartan gerontocratic elite that has taken public administration hostage in Cameroon. After he emerged hale and hearty early this year after rumours of his death made the rounds in local media, many Cameroonians surmised that natural causes would be the only reason for his departure from government.

Appointed last Friday to head the Justice ministry, Laurent Esso is coming to the same portfolio for a second time within a decade. The experience, legendary rigour and very orthodox conservative administrative style of the sexagenarian are seen as the reason why he was chosen to lead the Justice department at a time when a series of reforms are being undertaken in the judiciary.

He will have to see to the erection of the new Special Criminal Court to try corrupt officials in continuation of the anti-graft campaign dubbed Operation Sparrow Hawk. Also, Laurent Esso will be the brain behind the announced setting up of the Constitutional Council provided for in the 1996 Constitution.

Rene Emmanuel Sadi: On New Political Conquest for Regime

Moving from a fulltime political job as secretary general of the ruling CPDM, Rene Emmanuel Sadi takes over the powerful Territorial Administration and Decentralisation Ministry at a time when political stakes are enormous. As the man who coordinated the team which secured a victory for President Biya in the October 9 presidential election, Sadi knows where to twitch to get the administrative turbines at MINATD running to keep the regime in power.

With legislative and municipal elections expected in 2012, Sadi arrives in good time to influence the territorial administrative machinery of the state in a manner as to earn sweeping victories for the CPDM. Though not organising the elections, MINATD remains a key player, representing the interests of the state.

Beyond the scope of the legislative and municipal elections, and more strategically, MINATD (not ELECAM) will be responsible for the organisation of elections to select counsellors from “decentralised collectivities” who will in turn vote 70 out of the 100 future senators from regions. This key role appears to be the single most important mission Rene Sadi will have to achieve should President Biya decide to form the senate.

Born in Maroua in 1948, Sadi studied Law at the University of Yaounde before taking on diplomacy at IRIC. He had a brief diplomatic career in Egypt where he rose through hierarchy to become First Secretary. Upon return to Cameroon in 1984 he served variously as technical adviser at the presidency, deputy director of the civil cabinet, assistant secretary general and more recently minister in charge of special duties; a post held cumulatively with political job at CPDM until last Friday.

Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o: Iron-fist of the Regime

The excitement and fanfare exhibited at the residence of Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o shortly after the announcement of a new government gave reason to believe that the strongman from Zoétélé was not so sure he would hang-on as defence minister.

Reasonably so considering the media reports before and after the recent elections accusing Edgard of corrosive embezzlement of public funds while serving as national police boss. Besides, the recent mysterious death of a journalist barely days after wielding evidence of alleged multiple scams exacted by Mebe Ngo’o seemed to have dwindled the chances left for Mebe Ngo’o to stay.

To survive all these, Mebe Ngo’o must have depended on the immense contribution in organising the army to scare-off any popular uprisings during the recent presidential election. Known to be a very bossy figure with an intimidating approach to administration, Mebe Ngo’o will put his iron-fist to ensure discipline within an increasingly wayward army and to use the power of the gun, whenever necessary, to protect President Biya’s power.

Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo: Image Cleansing Agenda

Making a come-back to government in a more significant portfolio as External Relations minister could sufficiently explain the degree of self-confidence exuded by Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo last Friday night shortly after state radio announced the composition of President Paul Biya’s new team. Pierre Moukoko, 57, professor at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon, returns to government in a portfolio that ties better with his academic profile.

But for a man who left government in disgrace in 2007 after trying to further gag the press in Cameroon through a legislative clampdown in what was seen as sheer vengeance following unsavoury media reports, Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo will have to bring his temperament under control in order to succeed in his new job.

Cameroon currently has a battered image abroad after decades of democratic failure, bad governance and human rights abuses. Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo will have to work wonders to change this foreign perception which renders no good service to the nation.

Ngole Philip Ngwese: The Smartest Anglophone Mind Onboard

Of all the new government appointees, Ngole Philip Ngwese, the new minister of Forests and Wildlife, boasts of one of the richest backgrounds in Cameroon’s public administration. Unlike the childishly embarrassing sycophant attitude of his predecessor also from the Kupe Manenguba, Ngole Philip commands the personality of a learned technocrat who can afford to hold his head high in Francophone circles, having excelled in some of the best institutions of the establishment.

Upon his graduation from ENAM as the best administrative officer of his batch in the heart of the pro-democracy years, Ngole Philip Ngwese was immediately posted to work at the Territorial Administration ministry where he quickly rose through the ranks to head the judicial affairs department under the powerful Gilbert Andze Tsoungui. He earned enormous fame as the man who so brilliantly organised and defended the regime in court in electoral disputes at the Supreme Court in 1992.

The regime owes him more than a cabinet job for fearlessly, tirelessly and selflessly putting his intellect at the service of the nation. He later rose to serve as a director of legislative and regulatory affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office before returning to MINATD as secretary general. Until his appointment last Friday, Ngole Philip Ngwese was secretary general at the Public Service ministry.

His French is admired as a reference by most Francophones. Thanks to his unrivalled bilingualism, mark of intelligence, levelheadedness and humility despite the achievements, Ngole Philip Ngwese commands enormous respect inside powerful regime circles. An erudite scholar in French public law, he is the only Anglophone minister to have ever published a book that is used as a manual in Cameroon’s public administration.

He delivers lectures on administrative disputes at ENAM. He will use his savvy in solving administrative disputes to the forestry sector, where disputes among varied moneyed interests hold sway. Another brief is also to stamp out widespread corruption in the forestry sector.

Alamine Ousmane Mey: Modernising Financial System

The appointment of this banker from the north of the country to head the finance ministry is hailed as the single most reasonable act of President Paul Biya this year. Alamine Ousmane Mey, 45, comes into government straight from the corporate world where he worked as Chief Executive Officer at Cameroon’s most accomplished financial institution, AFRILAND First Bank.

Public suspicion that he would be considered for a strategic cabinet position grew when President Biya included him in his official delegation during a crucial state visit to China early this year. Alamine and AFRILAND were reportedly instrumental in sealing certain trade deals with China.

Armed with a rich experience in the banking sector and financing of the economy at large, Alamine Ousmane Mey is an advocate for more flexible credit schemes as the sole answer to the needs of a poor emerging economy. His years at AFRILAND First Bank are deemed the most remarkable in the history of the outfit which he joined when the outfit was yet a microfinance institution called CCEI. In 2010 AFRILAND was best bank in Cameroon with 335 billion FCFA worth loans to the economy.

As the most successful bank owned by Cameroonian shareholders, Alamine has used AFRILAND to offset the long tradition whereby commercial banks, with mostly foreign ownership, openly refused to take necessary risks to finance the economy. Under his supervision, AFRILAND was part of the consortium of banks that helped in the recovery of 200 billion FCFA in 2010 when the public treasury issued bonds.

At the time of his appointment, another internal borrowing operation through bonds is underway with 50 billion FCFA expected to be raised before the end of 2011. That will be Alamine’s first task. But beyond this, there is general public concern whether he will be given the fair chance to invest his experience and creativity to overhaul Cameroon’s sordid public finance system.

Son of a former governor of the North, Alamine trained as an electric engineer in Germany before receiving a calling to take up banking studies in Belgium. He is the youngest member of the current government.

Basile Atangana Kouna: In Search of More Water and Energy

Energy remains a key ingredient of every economy. Yet Cameroon has a long way to go in consolidating a stable energy-base from a wide array of potential natural sources.

If the widely publicised slogan of becoming an emerging economy by 2035 is to be realised, then new Water and Energy minister Basile Atangana Kouna must take his job very seriously. In addition to coordinating the public quest for solutions to Cameroon’s energy problems, Basile Atangana Kouna will have to see to the provision of potable drinking water to Cameroonian households.

In a country where cholera remains a threat to households even in major cities like Douala and Yaounde, the new minister who already has experience in the domain has to be more pragmatic than in the past. Before Friday’s appointment, Atangana Kouna worked as director general of the water utilities company, CAMWATER, with headquarters in Douala.

Economist by training, Basile Atangana Kouna, 54, graduated as an administrative officer from the National School of Administration and Magistracy, ENAM. He has held administrative positions at the Prime Minister’s Office. He became member of the CPDM Central Committee following the congress of the party in September.

Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi: Answer to an Ethnic Puzzle

With Jean Nkuete, a powerful baron from the West region kicked out of an influential position as Agriculture minister, the appointment of the Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi to head the ministry in charge of the economy seems more like an ethno-political step to make Bamileke investors comfortable.

Apart from managing giant energy and mining operations, Nganou Djoumessi will try to co-opt the business class to support the economic strategy of the government. Former deputy secretary general at the Prime Minister’s Office, Nganou Djoumessi replaces Louis Paul Motaze now serves as secretary general still at the PM’s Office.

Senior administrative officer trained at ENAM, Djoumessi has several years of experience working for the central coordination administration but, unlike his predecessors, lacks any direct previous experience with the economy. However, since cabinet appointments in Cameroon are often based on political affinities than competence, a proper evaluation of the new man piloting the economy can only be done on the job.

Nganou Djoumessi inherits a ministry which is coordinating vital structural projects contained within a long term plan to make Cameroon an emerging economy by 2035. He will have to scrupulously oversee the contracting of necessary foreign loans to complete the huge projects of a dam at Lom Pangar, a deep seaport at Kribi, a shipyard in Limbe and a host of other infrastructural investments.

Abba Sadou: Saving Public Contracts

The award and execution of public contracts is arguably the most fertile ground for corruption in Cameroon. It is often through this conduit that billions of taxpayers’ money gets embezzled by corrupt regime barons. 

The creation of a full ministry in charge of public contracts attests to the significance of such public engagement to the economy. Abba Sadou, 56, another senior administrative officer from ENAM, has worked long enough at the Prime Minister’s Office to understand this reality.

He served for 10 years, until his appointment, as special adviser to the Prime Minister. During this time, he also held responsibilities in the evaluation of projects in the Lake Chad basin. Serving as minister delegate at the presidency in charge of public contracts, Abba Sadou will report directly to the head of state.

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