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Scandals That Shook Cameroon in 2011 

By Ze Ekanga

The year 2011 will be remembered as one replete with scandals involving public officials. But as has always been the case in Cameroon, the perpetrators of the unabashed acts went unpunished.

Wikileaks: Ahmadou Ali Says Anglophones, Bamilekes Cannot Succeed Biya

Tribally imprudent remarks made to a former U.S. diplomat by the former Justice Minister on the post-Biya succession struggle constitute, perhaps, the most outright political scandal of 2011. Yet the man at the epicenter of the unsavoury comments kept his job in government and even got re-appointed in the newly organized government.

According to diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks in the course of 2011, Ahmadou Ali told former U.S. Ambassador Janet Garvey that elite of the three, mostly Muslim north regions of the country are ready to support President Paul Biya for as long as he wants to stay in power. However, this same support will not be given to any other “southerner” should President leave office.

In fact, Ahmadou Ali intimated that the northerners will not let another person from the southern ethnic extraction of President Biya to succeed the latter, “not to talk of someone from Anglo-Bamileke” heritage. Upon release of this cable on Wikileaks, analysts went mad calling for Ahmadou Ali to apologize to all Cameroonians and tender his resignation from his powerful government position. 

However, the baron kept an annoying silence on the matter and didn’t come anywhere close to resignation from government. Public opinion remained stern on Ahmadou Ali’s xenophobic comments and his unwillingness to show humility and ask to be forgiven. The resignation of Maurice Kamto, Ali’s immediate subordinate from government did not help things either.

New ELECAM Member Campaigns for Biya

Barely 3 months after swearing before God and the people of Cameroon to remain neutral in her recently acquired responsibility as board member of Elections Cameroon, Pauline Biyong reneged on that pledge and boldly accepted to campaign for President Paul Biya for a colossal fee. Pauline Biyong was one of the 6 new members of ELECAM appointed following the modification of the text creating the organ.

Prior to her nomination to the board, Pauline Biyong was a business woman with ties in civil society. Biyong’s scandal stemmed from a business deal her private communication firm entered with the central committee of the ruling CPDM party a few weeks before elections last October to post campaign ads for candidate Paul Biya in most of the Mfoundi division of the Centre region.

Ignoring her obligation to stay neutral and to shun any thing that compromises such impartiality, Pauline Biyong received an advance fee and coordinated the raising of giant billboards in support of one of the candidates in the elections she swore to organize and protect. Amazingly, when the news broke in the media, a rather cocky Biyong snubbed the allegations leveled against her and went on to say she owns the business but doesn’t run the business.

Before the angry press could have time to raise more hell, other board members of ELECAM reacted with a unanimous decision recommending the dismissal of Pauline Biyong from the board. Within 24 hours of the proposal, candidate President Biya dismissed Biyong from the board.

Although very little was known of her civil society activities beyond her granting interviews to local and international media, Pauline Biyong was paraded in public media following her appointment to ELECAM as a veritable representative of civil society on the board. But when evidence of her business dealings erupted into public view, many contended that Pauline Biyong had only been window-dressing her views on democracy while paying lip-service to civil advocacy.

Gov’t Conceals Scam at SODECOTON and Lambasts House Speaker for Crying Out Loud

Strong evidence of the predominance of the executive over the legislative in Cameroon was publicly tendered in the course of 2011 following a dismal standoff between House Speaker Cavaye Yeguie Djibril on the one hand and former vice PM in charge of Agriculture and GM of SODECOTON Iya Mohammed on the other.

In the wake of a crisis that hit the cotton production sector in the northern regions of the country, House Speaker Cavaye Yeguie took to the rostrum during the June session of parliament to address the issue which had left many jobless in his northern constituency.

Cavaye derided the manner in which local cotton cultivators were maltreated and exploited by SODECOTON and slammed an excruciating blow on the incompetence of Iya Mohammed, who according to Cavaye, had “mixed priorities” (football and cotton) which he has publicly failed to manage. The Speaker enjoined government to do something and urgently, to “save Cameroon’s cotton”.

Almost immediately, government reacted adversely to the scathing comments issued by the senior statesman. While parliament was still in session, then vice Prime Minister in charge of Agriculture Jean Nkuete paid a working visit to SODECOTON headquarters in Garoua and cheerfully announced his happiness to see that the company was doing just fine having made huge profits over the past two years. To make matters worse, Jean Nkuete congratulated Iya Mohammed for his management savvy and promised him full support from government in his mission at SODECOTON.

Hon Cavaye could hardly hold back his disdain. A considerable lot of MPs, some even in the opposition, joined ranks promising to fight the matter to the very end expressing the resolve not stand firmly behind their Speaker whom they said could not be challenged in such manner. An unprecedented standoff ensued between government and the House. The atmosphere of détente that often characterizes work at Parliament vanished.

The press joined the fray. Having been at the centre of most of the public comments and evidence presented against the poor treatment meted out to cotton farmers, the media upheld the debate mixing the failures of Iya Mohammed’s management of football at the FA and the said “incompetence” at SODECOTON.

Despite all the wrangling in Parliament and the bashing in the press, Iya Mohammed survived. He kept both jobs proving to Cameroonians, annoyingly though, that government is the real force in town.

Baccalaureate Board Lowers Pass Mark to 6/20, Demotes Initially Successful Candidates

The entire nation was taken aback when authorities of the Baccalaureate Board, the Francophone equivalent of the Cameroon GCE Board, published a list demoting hundreds of students already attending school in a new form to the lower grade on account that they were not successful in certificate exams. The candidates involved included those who wrote exams organized by the board like the BEPC (O-Level) and the Probatoire (sort of lower Sixth promotion test).

Parents raised hell and students involved suffered psychological shocks. The public raised curses against the examination board that made a bold display of incompetence in the management of the very sensitive issues that go with the organization of exams. The main person indicted was Zacharie Mbatsogo, an ailing educationist who has been heading the board for almost half of its existence.

Voices were raised by teachers’ trade unions and other civil society organizations calling on the resignation of the board members but the call fell on deaf ears. Earlier in the course of the year, Zacharie Mbatsogo’s administration stirred public dissatisfaction when it emerged that the board had heeded to an order from an unknown hierarchy and lowered the pass-mark in some of its 2011 exams to 6/20 in a bid to increase the overall success rate above 19 percent.

These two incidents spur fears that unlike the English subsystem of education, the Francophone subsystem is still on a downward trend. Unlike the Cameroon GCE Board that is rapidly adapting to modern examination techniques with regularly revised syllabuses, the Baccalaureate Board is seemingly backpedalling in standards with outmoded examining methods to its name.

While the GCE Board sets on properly printed scripts and employs digital Optical Mark Reader technologies to in its registration of candidates and grading, its Francophone counter still uses shoddy photocopied spreadsheets with hand-written corrections on question papers leaving no one in doubt about the carelessness involved in the process.

The Baccalaureate Board was created in 1993 in an apparent bid to mock at Anglophone parents had defied police water canons to protest and call for the creation of an English exam board. Although the GCE board was reluctantly granted finally, it has clearly done exceedingly better than its Francophone equivalent which is today begging for reform.

Eto’o Suffers 15-match Ban for Exposing Poor Management of Football Money

 Indomitable Lions skipper Samuel Eto’o Fils was turned into an object of ridicule by the disciplinary council of FECAFOOT after the smart striker stoutly defied the FA’s poor management style of Cameroonian football.

Following proceedings on the boycott by the Indomitable Lions of an international friendly with Algeria, the disciplinary commission of the FA solely singled out players for sanctions deliberately ignoring the failures of FECAFOOT officials in the matter. Of the three players sanctioned, team captain Samuel Eto’o suffered a 15-match ban that could be likened to a dismissal from the team considering the long duration it would take for the sanction to elapse.

The incident brought FECAFOOT’s legendary browbeating on the spotlight. According to testimonies gathered on the Algeria match affair, Eto’o rallied his teammates to the boycott after officials of the FA failed to pay allowances to the players in good time. The skipper later said he wanted to use the opportunity to bring the failures of FECAFOOT to public view.

The consequence was nefarious. The Algerian FA pressed for the payment of damages by FECAFOOT while Cameroon’s poor management image abroad suffered another blow.

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