Pigeaud, Fanny. 2011. Au Cameroun de Paul Biya. Paris: Karthala. 276 p. [Available on Amazon.com]
A reading of Fanny Pigeaud’s well researched “Au Cameroun de Paul Biya” leaves one with the unmistakable impression that France will again handpick the next president of Cameroon, when Biya dies, and it may well be Frank Emmanuel Biya, his progeny, (from an incestuous relationship with his late wife’s relative and housemaid), as was the case with Eyadema of Togo, and Bongo of Gabon, and the United States will acquiesce to the choice.
Pigeaud traces the violent and checkered history of the birth of Cameroon, with the blood –splattered annals of Cameroonian nationalists who made the supreme sacrifice only to have their memories desecrated by Ahmadou Ahidjo, doing the bidding of the French, who have maintained a stranglehold on all aspects of the life of Cameroon, still perceived as a lucrative plantation whose resources are indispensible in contributing to the sustenance of the high standards of living of the French.
After the Second World War, the French, like the Germans before them, not only exploited the resources of the Cameron, but grossly abused its human resources through forced labor, for their benefit. In 1958, in furtherance of the policy of assimilating Cameroon into the larger French –African economy, Louis Paul Aujoulat, the Frenchman who represented Cameroon at the French national assembly, plotted a coup against Andre –Marie Mbida, the nationalistic Prime Minister, and installed the more malleable Ahidjo, to brutally wiped out the nationalists of the Union des Populations du Cameroun, in a punitive reign of terror that continued till 1972 when Ernest Ouadie was shot in the market square at Bafoussam, as had been the case earlier with Ruben Um Nyobe, Roland Felix Moumie and Osende Afana.
As Maurice Delauney and Maurice Robert, two agents of the “white sorcerer” Jacques Foccart have confirmed, that Louis Paul Aujoulat is the one who proposed Paul Biya for his first job in the Ahidjo cabinet , as “Charge de Mission” in 1962, upon graduation from neo-colonial indoctrination in France. Since then, he has remained the callous overseer of the French plantation in Cameroon not hesitating to crack the horse-whip on the back of his compatriots, to gratify his French masters. (He unapologetically conceded that he is the “best student” of the then French President Francois Mitterand, who had ousted his “illustrious predecessor” Ahidjo,).
In 1983, it soon became clear that Ahidjo who had been curiously elbowed out of power on the alibi that his health was failing, intended to make a comeback. After a tour of the provinces he granted an interview, opining that, as head of the single party, he defines the policies that (Biya) the government applies. He added that certain people would not like to see him in Yaoundé, but they should get used to his presence. Biya retorted by claiming that the Constitution gave the president the power to define the policies of the country, over and above the party. This latent rivalry erupted into the abortive coup of April 6, 1984, that eventually pushed Biya to recoil into a tribal shell, making his personal security and the consolidation of power his only priority. Ahidjo has created a fictitious class of Northern-Fulani businessmen “Aladjis” who took huge bank loans and then “legally died” only to resuscitate a year later to procure another loan or a no bid government contract, for which they submitted paperwork claiming to have completed a project that was never started.
For the Beti, Biya’s accession to power was their “time to eat”, and by 1986, the Cameroonian economy has slumbered into a serious crisis. After initially claiming that Cameroon will not seek the assistance of the IMF, it soon became apparent that the Biya regime did not appreciate the gravity of the crisis facing the country. Cameroon eventually sought the assistance of the Bretton Woods institutions in 1988, experiencing one of the most drastic depreciation of its finances and becoming “a poor highly indebted country” in a very short while. The country’s debt as a percentage of GDP which was 17% in 1975 grew to 53% in 1991 and 128% by 1997.
Pigeaud takes the reader through the meanderings of the labyrinth of CPDM neo-patriarchal society where loyalty and theatrical zeal to please the prince, are the sole criteria for appointments in the party and the government. In the innermost part of the concentric circle of influence peddlers who pollute Biya’s court, the sale of appointments is rampant. The finance minister Polycarpe Abah Abah who is now awaiting trial in the Kondengui maximum security prison, for the third year, is believed to have bought his ministerial post for 3million CFA francs.
A counterfeit market of fake influence peddlers has been thriving, with Biya’s tribal henchmen extorting huge sums of money from hapless civil servants yearning for political appointments. A well known Anglophone Judge and former minister was duped into borrowing 500 million CFA francs, on the false promise that he would be made Prime Minister. The fraudsters later absconded with the money leaving the heavily indebted victim on the verge of committing suicide.
In the internecine battle to upend other rivals for influence around president Biya, the press has been used as one of the weapons. Mendicant reporters have been paid by corrupt politicians to write false articles that disparage their adversaries. In one instance, a newspaper published a list of high ranking government officials who were alleged to be homosexuals- a practice that is reprehensible to a large cross section of the Cameroonian population and proscribed by law. Even the country’s police chief Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o – now Defense Minister- leaked the March 31, 2008 arrest of Abah Abah to the press describing in detail how it had taken place, when it had not yet occurred. (Wikileaks has since leaked claims by a minister of special duties at the presidency- Victor Mengot- that Mebe Ngo’o is scheduled to be fired and arrested after the election- let’s see the denouement of this allegation).
DIVIDE AND RULE.
Biya is depicted as a capricious schemer who methodically breeds discord in his entourage to reap dividends; he invariably fires a minister only to appoint his most implacable adversary, and encourages the new appointee, to layer allegations against his predecessor. He plays musical chairs with his ministers, elbowing out those who are competent, hardworking and ambitious- William Eteki Mboumoua and Professor Joseph Owona, became victims of their own positive attributes, when France and many Cameroonians thought of them as competent enough to replace Biya. He uses the alibi of “embezzlement” to clip the wings of his ministers who show overweening ambition. That is how Professor Titus Edzoa and Olangena Awono were framed and jailed.
BIYA – SUSTAINED BY WITCHCRAFT AND SORCERY?
Dr. Abel Eyinga an emblematic opposition leader, who hails from Biya’s tribe, claims that Fame Ndongo- the minister of higher education and Biya’s chief adviser on occultism has conceded that without the powers of the underworld, Biya could have lost power a longtime ago. In 1999, a French inquiry into the activities of the high priest of the Amorc Raymond Bernard, revealed that Biya had paid 3.6 million CFA francs to the cult from Cameroon’s oil revenues. Earlier in 1999 Paul Biya had given the leader of the French cult (l’Ordre du Temple Solaire) a painting worth 5,6 million CFA francs and another gift of 2 million CFA francs as well as a bank transfer of 20 million francs to the same cult. Biya again gave the aforementioned sect a 99 year –interest free loan of 40 million francs. Because Biya is completely beholden to cults, there is a popular saying in Yaoundé that one had to be a Rosicrucian to become a member of Biya’s government. These sects breed human sacrifices and demand human body parts like the heart, the brain and genitals for their esoteric practices.
It is understandable why Fanny Pigeaud’s acerbic critique of the Biya regime would be banned in Cameroon. The author quotes the most authoritative sources, to link the death and dismemberment of many prominent religious figures, like the late Engelbert Mveng – a classmate of Paul Biya-, the late Rev. Joseph Mbassi, Cardinal Yves Plumey and two religious sisters of the catholic mission at Djoum to opposition to satanic practices at the presidency. The satanic practices of the regime reached their paroxysm on August 21, 2006 when 30-year old Narcisse Olivier Djomo Pokam was sodomized, scorched with a pressing iron, killed and thrown out of the 8th floor of the Yaoundé Hilton Hotel in broad daylight. A police inquiry centered on the present Director of the President’s Civil Cabinet, Martin Belinga Eboutou who was then Cameroon’s Ambassador to the UN, and Claude Juimo Monte, who were guests in the hotel at the time of the incident. An exiled superintendent of police, Albert Leopold Ebene reveals in a 2010 book that his hierarchical superiors offered to sodomize him in exchange for a position at the presidency, but he refused. It is now strongly believed that in Cameroon, to accede to high government positions one is constrained to succumb to involuntary homosexual practices. A publication by Daniel Ebale Angounou entitled “Blood for Blood” claims that Paul Biya sealed a secret pact with the late Ahidjo, through a homosexual act. A newspaper edition who published the excerpt was jailed.
BIYA’S ETHNIC POLITICS.
The politicization of ethnicity that was introduced by the French in their fight against the Bassas, because of Um Nyobe’s leadership of the UPC, and later against the Bamileke, for their participation in the Maquis –armed struggle against the colonizers, was institutionalized by Ahidjo and exacerbated by Biya. After the 1984 abortive coup d’etat, the Beti were lionized, and created a tribal war council “Essingan” headed by Joseph Owona, which systematically positioned Beti clansmen in all strategic positions in the government, the security forces, the economy and in the clergy. In 1987 a flunky of the Biya regime Professor Hubert Mono Ndzana accused the Bamileke of “ethno fascism” for supposedly attempting to control all strategic areas of the country. As sacrilegious as it may appear, the Beti clergy waded into the ethnic battles when in 1987, 50 Beti priests in the Douala diocese sent a letter to the Vatican protesting against the appointment of a Bamilike Bishop in their diocese, alleging that Bamileke priests where encouraging their tribesmen to monopolize the Catholic church, and to increase their birth rate so that by 2020, half of the country should be made up of Bamileke tribesman. (Paradoxically, this is the same argument that Amadou Ali –the vice prime minister for justice –is using today against ceding power to the so-called “Anglo-Bamis”, and claiming that power must return to the North, and Biya is the last Southerner that the North would support).
In 1960, French colonel, Jean Lamberton, had described the Bamileke, in a much quoted report, as the prickly pebble in the French colonial shoe in Cameroon. The underlying impediment to democracy in Cameroon has been the refusal of the principle of one man, one vote; for fear that the Bamilike would be predominant. That, however, is a refusal of the reality of democracy, which is a game of numbers. Ferdinand Leopold Oyono, Biya’s roommate during college years in Paris, and Andre Mama Fouda – the Minister of Health as well as the Late Yaoundé Mayor, Emah Basile and the present Mayor, Ntsimi Evouna- have all tried to stymie the growth of the Bamileke population in Yaoundé, by refusing them land titles, and frustrating their perceived economic domination by encouraging the growth of Indo-Pakistani and Chinese business concerns. In Douala, long –stating member of the central committee of the ruling party, Mbella Mbappe and Douala Moutome were recruited in the euphemistic campaign of protecting the autochthonous minority “ Sawa” again the “hegemonic invasion of the Bamileke, when the SDF won 4 of the 5 municipal councils in the city. Of course, to thwart the growing power of the Bamileke, a government delegate from the ruling party was appointed to delegitimize the SDF mayors.
Pigeaud appreciates the depth of the disaffection of Anglophones and the extraordinary efforts the Biya government has made to sow discord in this section of the country. Oben Peter Ashu the governor of the South West during the early 1990s is particularly singled-out for his inordinately divisive rhetoric against North westerners living in the South west.
ENDEMIC CORRUPTION AND CRIME.
Cameroon has one of the worst records of budget execution on the African continent according to a team of international observers. Paul Biya is the fountain of corruption in the country because it is his example that his ministers follow. Those who have been arrested ostensibly for corruption are only those who have threatened his position. The fawning sychophants like Mendo Ze, Fame Ndongo, Biyiti Bi Essam, and many others who are perpetuating corruption have remained free. So long as there is no separation of powers, and the judiciary is beholden to the whims and caprices of the president corruption at the highest level will continue.
The American ambassador to Cameron says that Biya spends the country’s funds like a personal bank account. In September 2009, Biya and his entourage spent 600 million CFA francs, occupying 43 rooms during a three week vacation at La Baule,in France at the cost of 60.000 dollars per night. They are reported to have gone on shopping sprees, and reveling at nightclubs and casinos. In 1992 the then director of the SCB Bank Robert Messi Messi now on exile in Canada alleged the Biya and his late wife Jeanne Irene, had emptied the coffers of the bank to build a palace and a golf course in his village Mvomeka’a. Biya has never publicly disclaimed this allegation. During the 2006 trial of Ondo Ndong,-the Director of “ Feicom” it was revealed that the Chantal Biya foundation and ancillary organization received a total of about 200 million CFA francs.
During the Elf Aquitaine affair, the convicted director of the company Loik Le Flock-Prigent revealed that Biya, like most other leaders in oil producing Third world countries where Elf operates, receives a percentage of each barrel of oil exploited from Cameroon. Le Flock-Prigent explains that in 1992 Biya received him in audience and requested 45million CFA francs for his electoral campaign. He was along with Biya, and Biya demanded cash, because he did not trust anyone, and did not want the ministry of finance to be aware of the transaction. That is why, according to Le Flock-Prigent, Elf exploits and sells oil in the high seas, without the control or knowledge of Cameroonian authorities.
Pigeaud’s book is consummate in the granularity of details that it covers. There are statistics and figures to grade every matrix showing the unremitting failure of the Biya government; from the absence of roads, electricity, agro-industrial production, communication, health, education. The book reads like the account of a colossal shipwreck. She exposes a country where nothing works, everything is stolen, the culture of corruption is all pervasive, those who dare not to participate are blackmailed, resources are wasted and the common man suffers. That is why life expectancy is so low. The World Bank and transparency international describe the business climate in Cameroon as deleterious. In 2010, Cameroon did not take advantage of the substantial debt reduction that lowered its debt from 45% of GDP to 5%. Rather than investing these funds in building infrastructure in the telecommunication, roads, health and education, ports and agriculture, the funds have been squandered.
THE MUZZLING OF CRITICAL THOUGHT.
The Biya regime has subjected the university system to intense politicization, with the minster of higher education, Fame Ndongo, one of his advisers on witchcraft and sorcery, claiming on national television, that most university professors are creations of Paul Biya, if not his slaves! Since the arrest of Celestin Monga and late Pius Njawe, the regime has continued to stifle critical though with the arrest and intimidation of those who dare to criticize the regime, while presenting a semblance of press freedom.
Pigeaud’s excoriates the poor professional quality of the private press in Cameroon. She notes that the quality of French expression in the papers leaves much to be desired and articles are littered with grammatical and typographical errors. The publishers of the newspapers are easily susceptible to corruption and reporters are not paid, sometimes for more than six months as was the case with “Le Messager” in 2009, and “Mutations” in 2011. When the French industrial group “Bollore” which has a monopoly in the ports, railways and agro-industrial products in Cameroon, paid some journalists hundreds of euros for a trip, room and bord and a per diem in France for a few weeks, there was no mention of Bollore which had hitherto been involved in a huge corruption scandal in the Douala port for which a trial was taking place in Douala. Few Cameroonian journalists did mention a complaint that had been filed by a competitor of Bollore for fraudulent procurement practices in Cameroon. A type of yellow journalism where reporters are paid to publish or withhold information is rampant in Cameroon.
Corruption is endemic at all levels of society-from the justice system to the public service, doctors, lawyers and the security forces. Even non-governmental organizations that purport to be watchdogs against malfeasance are neck deep in corruption.
FRANCE PERPETUATES CORRUPTION IN CAMEROON.
France has shown its willingness to prop up the tottering Biya edifice with funds and its influence in the world. In 1992, even when Biya’s victory in the presidential election was hotly contested by Western democracies, President Chirac of France sent him a letter of congratulation, throwing the weight of France behind the regime. 1n 1993 France is reported to have taken care of Cameroon’s debts to the IMF, with a loan of 600 million French francs, which was paid directly to the Bretton Woods institution. With over 110 affiliates of French companies in Cameroon and 200 companies belong to french nationals, France perpetuates the culture of corruption that permeates Cameroon, because French companies have the means to pay some of the largest bribes and kickbacks to Biya’s cronies and they reap the largest benefit. They therefore pay lip service to the fight for corruption because without the corrupting environment that has been enshrined in Cameroon, they would not be making the exorbitant profits that they currently make.
POWER LEAVES A DYING KING.
Biya will be 85 by the end of this term of office, which many observers believe, neither his failing health, nor the growing opposition in his inner circle, will allow him to complete. Somehow Biya cannot safely dismount the tiger of ethnic and regional division on which he has been riding for the past 29years. As Joseph Owona once said, “a Bamileke will never enter “Etoudi”” (accede to the Presidency). This view echoes the long-standing French position of opposition to the Bamileke, because their economic dynamism is an undesirable challenge to french business interests in Cameroon. The Beti are determined to maintain power and may seek French support for the succession of Biya by his son. This position is unacceptable to the Northern Muslims, as has been stated by Amadou Ali, who claims that they have the military means to forestall any other candidate who is not from the north.