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Yang, Muna In Tug Of War 

*Minister’s Powers Withdrawn…

*Authors Rights Company Annulled

By Yerima Kini Nsom

Prime Minister, Philemon Yang, May 22, issued an order prohibiting the Minister of Arts and Culture, Ama Tutu Muna, from granting licenses to authors’ rights companies.

According to the decision, such licenses will, henceforth, require the prior approval of the Prime Minister.
The decision, broadcast on state radio on Friday, May 23, was the culmination of the crisis that has been plaguing the musical author’s rights in Cameroon for years.

The PM equally signed another decision annulling the license the Minister of Arts and Culture issued to the Cameroon Civil Music Company, known by its French acronym as SOCACIM.
The Post learnt that SOCACIM was created in Mbengwi Northwest Region recently, in controversial circumstances.

SOCACIM which reportedly had no legal existence, The Post learnt, was created as an affront to the Ad hoc Committee the Prime Minister put in place recently to arrest the crisis rocking the author’s rights company.

The Prime Minister installed the Ad hoc Committee on April 21, 2015. It was tasked with the responsibility of examining all proposals made to solve the crisis and propose a final solution to the Prime Minister.

A senior official at the PM’s Office, M. Ndongo, is head of the Ad hoc Committee. The PM created the Committee on the instructions of the President of the Republic.

It is made up of the representatives of artistic syndicates, the Ministry of Arts and Culture, security forces and legal experts. The outfit had 15 days to deliver its report to the Prime Minister.
Ace musicians, Romeo Dika and Dieu Golfe, who represented two musical syndicates, boycotted the Committee.

They rather organised the sharing of guitars to musicians in Bamenda on April 28 with the blessings of the Minister of Arts and Culture.
The Post learnt that information leaked to the Prime Minister that the sharing of the guitars was just a subterfuge for a surreptitious general assembly by a handful of musicians to create another authors’ rights company. The Bamenda administration banned the meeting.

In reaction to this, the Minister of Arts and Culture, Ama Tutu Muna, took the musicians to her native Mbengwi town where SOCACIM is said to have been created. They equally claimed that SOCAM was liquidated.

According to Government sources, after SOCACIM was created, the PM issued a query to the Minister of Culture, asking her to explain such a surreptitious move, Ama Tutu Muna is said to have played Pontius Pilate saying she did not know about the outfit.

According to one of Cameroon’s artist, cum journalist, Ateh Bazore, “it is curious that the very Minister who denied having any knowledge of SOCACIM is the very one who issued a license to the controversial company on May 15.

After the Culture Minister issued the license to SOCACIM, the Prime Minister wrote instructing her to reverse the decision within 48 hours.

Last Friday’s Prime Ministerial decision cancelling the license to SOCACIM was a reaction to the Culture Minister’s refusal to annul her own decision.

Meanwhile, the ad hoc Committee the PM created has made a series of recommendations as a way out of the authors’ rights crisis. It has recommended an audit of the common account where all authors’ rights are paid into.

An audit of the special support fund for artistic creation that swallows FCFA 1 billion every year is one of the recommendations of the Ndongo-led Committee.

In tandem with the Prime Minister’s decision, the Minister of Labour and Social Security, The Post was told, will issue an order suspending the syndicates run by Romeo Dika and Dieu Golfe.
Going by sources at the PM’s Office, the Cameroon Music Corporation and SOCAM will be liquidated for a consensual company to be created to manage authors’ rights in Cameroon.

Genesis Of The Problem

The crisis rocking the management of authors’ rights in Cameroon dates back to July 2008.

It was sparked when ace musician, Sam Mbende, the then Board Chair of CMC, was arrested on the orders of the Minister on the day of the general assembly of the outfit.

In reaction, artists demonstrated in front of the judicial police headquarters at the Elig-Essono neighbourhood in Yaounde, where Sam Mbende was detained.
Sam Mbende went on with the general assembly when he was later released. Before he chaired the meeting, he sent away the representative of the Minister of Culture.

The Minister later declared the meeting and its decisions null and void. She rallied some artists to organise another meeting in which SOCAM, another authors’ rights company was created.

CMC led by Sam Mbende took the matter to the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court, which declared SOCAM illegal.
The Court ordered for the dissolution of SOCAM and upheld the CMC. The Minister appealed against the ruling, but on July 23, 2014, the court, presided at by Chief Justice Clement Atangana, rejected the Minister’s appeal and maintained its earlier ruling.

The Minister did not budge. SOCAM remained in business as usual with Odile Ngaska as Board Chair for three years. Allegations of embezzlement of huge sums of money filled the air as dues were never given to artists.

Despite these allegations, Odile Ngaska ran for elections in 2011 and still won. But in 2013, she was rejected by her board members.
A college of three board members was designated to manage SOCAM. In 2013, new elections were organised and Prince Ndedi Eyango triumphed as SOCAM Board Chair.

The Minister later cancelled the election on claims that the ace musician has American nationality.
On January 28, 2014, the Minister created a committee in a bid to bring some order. One of them was an ad hoc committee led by prominent artist, Sam Fan Thomas.

It was given a mandate of two months to redress the situation at SOCAM and organise new elections.
The second was a Normalisation Committee led by one legal expert in the Ministry of Culture, Dr. Christophe Seuna.

They were mandated to normalise all authors’ rights companies and make proposals for a harmonious management of all authors’ rights in the country.

Both committees did not deliver and the crisis persisted as the vacuum in the management of authors’ rights remained. It was at this moment that the President of the Republic waded in with instructions to the Prime Minister to create the ad hoc Committee.

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