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Wikileaks Cable 10: Hon. Rose Abunaw Makia and the Visa Scandal 

This short cable was wired in March 2009 during the tenure of Ambassador Janet Garvey. The cable lends credence to the allegations of visa fraud used to remove Hon. Rose Abunaw Makia, CPDM MP from Manyu, from the prestigious post of vice President of the National Assembly.

In a bid to reassure authorities at State Department that something was being done to call Cameroonian politicians involved in a U.S. immigrant visa scam to order, Ambassador Janet Garvey wrote this cable to announce the ejection of Hon. Rose Abunaw Makia from the bureau of the National Assembly.

The cable is essentially a nailing and shaming piece of writing that exposes the uncanny attitude of a politician who had previously enjoyed favourable working relations with the U.S. embassy in Yaounde and even received financial support from same for the Parliamentary Caucus on Environmental Protection – presented as Abunaw’s NGO!

The political context of the cable is set in early 2009, precisely March, three months after President Biya appointed a 12-member team to steer the affairs of ELECAM, the newly created election-organizing body. Apart from the wide condemnation suffered by the President’s list on account of the well-known CPDM heritage of its proponents, a leading personality on the team was poked in the media for alleged association in a fraudulent ordeal to secure visas for unqualified nationals.

Although Samuel Fonkam Azu’u survived the tempest, the scenario caused the U.S. embassy in Yaounde to press on and take regime authorities to task on a similar case concerning the U.S. immigrant visa masterminded by the small group of CPDM politicians at the National Assembly.

In a face-buying move likely meant to assuage the negative U.S. impression of the regime and secure some sympathy for the political agenda on course through ELECAM, President Paul Biya hurriedly dispatched Gregoire Owona, then minister in charge of relations with Assemblies, to brief Ambassador Janet Garvey on steps being taken by the administration to protect U.S. interests.

The move seemed to have worked as reflected in the Garvey’s observation that Biya “can at times muster enough outrage to take some action against such criminal activity”. Owona apparently touched the right spot when he left the ambassador thinking that the lifting of the immunity of Abunaw and the others could be a possibility Biya was considering to let the law take its course.

Continue reading below for full text of cable as published by Wikileaks:

Subject: Cameroon MP, Erstwhile US Partner, Demoted For Alien Smuggling
Classified: 03/12/2009
Classified By: Political Officer Tad Brown

Summary

President Paul Biya, enraged to learn that three senior members of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) were im

plicated in an alien smuggling operation, moved swiftly to remove them from their positions as Vice Presidents of the National Assembly, according to Gregoire Owona, the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in Charge of Relations with the National Assembly.

In a March 10 meeting with Poloff, Owona said Biya had still not decided whether the three should also be stripped of their parliamentary immunity to face criminal charges for their apparent involvement in an on-going scam to use the Caucus of Parliamentarians for Environmental Protection as cover for an extensive alien smuggling to the and other countries (reftel). End summary.

CPDM MPs Rose Makia Abunaw, Paul Dinata and Mathurin Wa had been prominent CPDM officials and held three of the National Assembly’s five Vice Presidency slots. Post’s investigations revealed that Abunaw was at the center of the alien smuggling operation (reftel) and that Wa and Danata played peripheral, if any, roles, but Owona made clear that all three were removed because of their association with the affair.  The CPDM has unchecked power in the National Assembly, and Biya is believed to exercise effectively absolute control over official CPDM decisions.

Ambassador sent a letter on January 20 to Prime Minister Inoni, urging the Government of Cameroon to investigate the allegations that Abunaw had conspired to commit document fraud for the purposes of alien smuggling. Inoni subsequently confided to Ambassador that he had immediately briefed Biya, who had been incensed to learn of the allegations.

Comment: Action, Any Action

We will continue to urge the GRC, through Inoni, Owona and our working-level contacts, to pursue those who are implicated in this blatant abuse of their official positions in the GRC, which reflects poorly on the GRC and has already caused us to exercise even more caution in our dealings–consular and otherwise–with it. 

Nonetheless, we are pleased that Abunaw was denied a chance to continue her position of leadership and encouraged to know that, despite pervasive corruption and fraud, Biya and the GRC can at times muster enough outrage to take some action against such criminal activity.  End comment.

Until this incident, Abunaw was "well and favorably" known to the Embassy and her NGO, the Caucus of Parliamentarians for Environmental Protection, received USG financial support from the Embassy and USAID as recently as 2006.  Post will report further detail on the activities of Abunaw’s NGO septel.
GARVEY
 

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