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The US Is Committed To Help Cameroon – US Embassy Press Officer 

You recently took over as the Information Officer at the US Embassy; what has been your experience so far?

For me, the first six months would just have been learning and now, I can begin to implement some of the ideas I have learnt. Cameroonians are extremely warm and welcoming and the country is so beautiful. I have been to nine of the ten Regions and I am still planning a long nice trip to the Northwest Region.

I looking forward to visit Bamenda and some of the beautiful places I have heard about. I have been to the Southwest a couple of times and I have very much enjoyed the sea food at Down Beach. Cameroon truly reflects Africa in miniature with each region having its own flair and style and culture and tradition. My job has also given the opportunity to interact with journalists.

As a Press Officer, what is your appreciation of the Cameroon media landscape?

I think it is a nascent but budging media landscape. I learned about the history of the private press, which is quite new in Cameroon. I see constant effort by journalists to improve themselves and to write better stories. What is important is that you see an organisation that exists and there is room for improvement and we are trying to be part of that improvement. The press is getting better.

One issue that has raised a lot of debate in the country is ELECAM. What is your Embassy’s position on ELECAM?

We have spoken once on that and I spoke to several reporters at the time of the swearing in ceremony. We have said what we were to say and I can only refer you to the declarations that were made then. What I spoke on at that time is that we were on regular communication with the government at the time that ELECAM was named. We expressed our concerns and what we are saying now is that the ball is in ELECAM’s camp. Right now, ELECAM exists and the burden of proof is for ELECAM members to show that they will act in respect of the view of all.

Do you think ELECAM is an instrument that can conduct credible elections in this country?

What we said was that, there were some concerns amongst many Cameroonians with whom we have spoken and members of the international community that, it was not perceived to be credible. It is now for ELECAM to show itself credible and independent. Recently, the Minister of External Relations overtly cautioned diplomats to steer clear on the issue of ELECAM and at the same time pleaded with them to support ELECAM financially and otherwise. How did you take it?

We received the information and we are looking at what the Government is asking of us. At this point in time, we don’t have any additional comments on that.

We have just witnessed power transition in the US where the out gone President, George Bush left what many termed ‘wounds’ in America, how much healing is President Obama doing?
We still have a lot of challenges but, one of the things other countries can, hopefully, learn from that process is that, we have term limits in our Constitution; the President lasts for maximum eight years and after that new elections were organised and the opposition won.The results were free, fair and transparent. The transition between the Republican George Bush and the Democrat Barrack Obama was very smooth.

The outgoing President made it easier for the incoming President. I think that is one of the key aspects of a democratic society. That, in itself, helped to heal the wounds of partisanship. We still have a lot of challenges and the new President has one of the greatest challenges you can think of any President ever. He has two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and he has the global economic crisis. He has similar challenges like Abraham Lincoln had.

What lessons can Cameroon, being a nascent democracy, learn from the American experience?

I think every country can look at the elections and learn from it despite the challenges and peculiarities of organising elections in each country. Good elections can be held if the appropriate authorities are committed to holding them and, if the people have faith in the organisation, then, the results would be respected even if they are very close.

Often times, when I am speaking to people, they point to the 200 elections and say, you see America is just as bad as everywhere else. And what I say is that, you see what the 2000 election shows is that every country has problems but the American people and the candidates respected the process. That is a sign of a more mature democracy.

Earlier, in this interview, gave the impression that Cameroon has enormous human and natural potentials; do you see opportunities for exchange and business between the two countries?

Yes, I hope so. We have a very robust exchange programme where we bring Americans to Cameroon and send Cameroonians to the US. I think at the end of the programme, each of them; the Americans and Cameroonians return home having their lives enriched. We constantly seek to increase the amount of American investment in Cameroon. Cameroon has a great deal of resources but the key is taking the potentials and realising it.

The US is committed to do whatever it can to help Cameroon. Part of the Cameroon-Chad Pipeline project was organised by a financial group which included a lot of American investors. Now, that company is going to increase its presence in Cameroon by setting up another company in Douala. We also have other organisations that are coming here and working in the mining sector. Americans realise the great potentials of Cameroon and they are helping Cameroon realise that potential.

By the time your mandate ends, how will you like to see the Cameroonian media landscape?

I think some of the hopes that I have for Cameroon are already in process. You recently signed a labour agreement and, so, now it is only the implementation. Much of what I would like to see has already been done. I would like to see the labour agreement implemented so that everybody can benefit from it; so that journalists can know what their rights and responsibilities are and what is expected of them. You have the Cameroon Union of Journalists, which the Embassy is trying to help to become a central organisation where issues the Cameroonian media encounters can be addressed. We are wor king closely with them; we have donated a computer for use in their work and we helped sponsor last year’s general assembly. We will find ways of working with them again in the future.
 

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