Cameroon politics security 03 07 13 (1)


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Cameroon politics security 03 07 13 (1)

  1. 1. 03 July 2013 Cameroon Politics & Security Politics Will Senate secretary-general be Biya's invisible successor? On 18 June the new Senate leader, Marcel Niat Njifenji, surprised many observers by naming Michel Meva'a m'Eboutou as the new Senate secretary-general. This raises many questions about who President Paul Biya’s true successor will be in case he dies in office or quits the helm of the country. Because tribalism, used in the name of “regional balance” is the key ingredient in Cameroonian politics this analysis is based on tribal links. Biya's rule has always hinged on regional balance and critics accuse him of using this tactic as a strategy to place his own men in key positions of power or financial wealth. The role played so far by m'Eboutou is therefore key to understanding why he needs a major, albeit sublime portfolio, to sustain Mr Biya in power. The 74 year old M'Eboutou comes from Biya's own Beti tribe which is based in three regions or provinces - Centre, South and East – and is known to be a government kingpin since Biya (80) assumed power in 1982. The controversy arises in the ambiguity surrounding m'Eboutou’s appointment by Njifenji as the Senate’s second most important post. Njifenji is also no featherweight in Biya's political and administrative circles but he comes from the economically important Bamileke tribe who inhabit the savannah plateau in the West Region. As we reported in recent issues of Cameroon Politics & Security, the first-ever senatorial ballot was held in mid-April. But it took two months until mid-June before the Senate bureau was created and it's president elected by a crushing majority of President Biya’s ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM). According to a 2008 constitutional amendment the senate president has the constitutional right to succeed any current president of the republic in
  2. 2. Cameroon Politics & Security 2 case the latter becomes incapacitated or leaves the scene permanently. The country had never had a bicameral system of parliament despite the National Assembly, now the Lower House, having passed a law in December 1996 establishing a legal framework to establish the senate or Upper House. This has made the Senate president’s role vitally important and one that has been fiercely competed for by the CPDM kingpins as well as those in opposition. As we have noted the delay in choosing Biya’s eventual successor was meticulously researched and scouted for before Niat Njifenji was chosen. By comparison picking his secretary-general was very quick. Why? This answer could be found in the chemistry and time that enabled m'Eboutou to become secretary-general. Without going too deeply into the matter a closer look at both the senate president and his secretary-general are important in order to know who wields the real power behind the scenes. First of all no text and decision will enter or leave the Upper House without first being sifted through the hands of the secretary general and then the Senate president who is essentially there to oversee and append the activities. Niat Njifenji comes from the economically very powerful, but also feared, Bamileke tribe which has never featured in the good books of Cameroon's only two post-colonial leaders – first, Ahmadou Ahidjo and then Paul Biya. The former was a Fulani Muslim from the northern town of Garoua, while his successor Paul Biya is a catholic Christian from the south. Their religious backgrounds portray them differently but they are perceived to be two sides of the same coin because they have followed the administrative patterns of their colonial master -- France. Both Ahidjo and Biya continued a well- established French-style administration of "Divide and Rule". By ensuring that Njifenji was elected as senate president Biya gave the impression that he was unifying the country and thereby squashing the use of tribalism as a weapon against those outside of his own ethnic group. Observers are now convinced that Njifenji is just a geostrategic window dressing as senate president. This is buttressed by the fact that Njifenji himself appointed Meva'a m'Eboutou a few hours after his own first public encounter with Biya at the state house, or "Unity Palace" on 12 June. Although Meva'a m'Eboutou was appointed by Niat Njifenji the former instead turned around to express his gratitude to President Biya. The attitude, though quite routine in Cameroon did not leave spectators indifferent. Everyone is now asking why m'Eboutou should have thanked the head of state for an appointment made by the Senate president?. Njifenji had also thanked Biya for his own appointment although the bureau of the Upper House took two months to "elect" him president of the senate. Biya's invincible hand is therefore perceived behind the management and functioning of all the country's arms of power - Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary.
  3. 3. Cameroon Politics & Security 3 Meva'a m'Eboutou’s role during Biya's 30-year rule? A veteran civil administrator who, like Biya comes from the South Region, m'Eboutou has been in the corridors of power since Biya replaced Ahidjo more than 30 years ago. Chronologically he first served as secretary-general at the National Assembly in recent years, before taking up the job of Minister of Defence and later becoming Minister of Finance and Budget. He is therefore seen as a leading personality in Biya’s system whose power must be carefully preserved as one of the foundation stones to keep the flame of Beti tribal power alive. Meva'a m'Eboutou is certainly one of those crushing stones that President Biya uses to wipe out his perilous opponents. This came to the light on 26 April 2012 when he testified in the Yaounde court case against the former Minister of Interior Marafa Hamidou Yaya which catapulted him to a 25 year prison sentence. As we have often reported Marafa - the flamboyant Fulani Muslim from the same northern Cameroon town of Garoua a Ahidjo - would have been one of Biya’s most credible potential successors were he to have stood in the 2011 presidential ballot. Instead he was jailed on allegations of being part of a racket that allegedly embezzled around US$31 million earmarked for the 2004 purchase of a new presidential jet from Boeing. At his 26 April 2012 interrogation Marafa said that he was ordered by President Biya to ask the then Finance Minister m'Eboutou to disburse the money for the plane. But Mr m'Eboutou denied it and claimed that there was no documented proof and that it was Marafa who arrogated himself with the president's powers to request payment of the money. Observers have repeatedly asked why Mr M'Eboutou declined to answer several other questions in court and yet was set free. They interpret Marafa’s jailing as having been cooked up to eliminate a potential danger facing Biya who seems determined to rule even after the current term of office ends in October 2018. Several other former top government officials were thrown into jail in the case of the presidential jet. They include: former Secretary- General at the presidency Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara (15 years); his deputy and former premier Ephraim Inoni (still on trial); former Cameroon Ambassador to the USA Gérôme Mendouga (15 years); and Bamileke business magnate Yves-Michel Fotso (15 years). According to critics, the jailing of these former top personalities who had served in the Biya government could only have been successful through the collaboration of president allies like Meva'a m'Eboutou. Thus having him on the closest side of power could not only be seen as a strategy to give the Beti tribe continuity with Biya but also as compensation for a well-executed job. Biya schedules Mayoral and Legislative elections for September President Biya confused Cameroonians again on Tuesday 2 July but also cleared the doubts on when the legislative and municipal elections will be held. A decree he sent to the state radio announced
  4. 4. Cameroon Politics & Security 4 that the long-awaited twin polls will be held on Monday 30 September 2013. "Voting will start at 8:00 am and end at 18:00 pm [local time],” the statement said. Biya, as we have reported in various editions of Cameroon Politics & Security, holds the key to the country's electoral calendar. So, the announcement came as a surprise after earlier speculation and reports that the ballots would be held by October or even next year. This is after Biya had decreed another extension of the mayors' mandate on 26 June 2013, extending it by a further three months, as from 1 August 2013. Observers have therefore been pondering why the president would prolong the mayors’ mandate and yet, only a week later, schedule elections for the posts Announcing via radio that the twin elections will be held on 30 September was therefore not only seen as a way to confuse the opposition as usual, but also to ostensibly keep his mastery on any eventual political upheaval that could jeopardise his grip on power. When Cameroonians were going to the polls for the twin Municipal and Legislative elections in 2007 they knew at that time that the next ballot would be in 2012. The elections were, however, postponed following the extension of the period in office of both the Councillors and members of the National Assembly. As for the members of parliament, their term in office has been extended three times. First it was for six months - beginning from 21 August 2012, then came the second postponement starting on 22 February 2013, and then the third with effect from 23 May 2013. The reasons given for these repeated extensions of the terms of office for the mayors and legislators have always been the same -- the compilation or recompilation of biometric electoral lists by the Elections Cameroon (Elecam) which is charged with organising all the country’s elections. Elecam has had to introduce biometric registration of voters in the country for the first time in an effort to attract more potential voters. Because of the past indiscriminate registration of voters by the government or other electoral bodies, voter apathy had increased while turnout for both registration and voting has been very thin. Cameroon has never registered up to five million voters in the past. But Elecam is targeted to register at least 7.5 million of the expected 9-10 million eligible voters in the country of 20 million inhabitants. President Biya issued a decree on 26 June further extending the mayors’ mandate by three more months, beginning from 1 August. This meant that mayors still had to stay in office until October 2013 when pundits were speculating that both elections would be held. The very authoritative France-based weekly "Jeune Afrique" broke the news last week forecasting that Cameroon would hold the twin elections in October. The newspaper was citing government sources. The repeated postponement of the ballot suggests that the government is in a financial crisis and cannot hold the elections so shortly after it just held its first-ever senatorial poll in April this year.
  5. 5. Cameroon Politics & Security 5 Government insiders and those of Elecam hinted to Cameroon Politics & Security that about CFA100 billion (US$197 million) would be needed to organise the twin ballots. Yet the old question still looms. Why did Biya not organise the legislative and mayoral ballots before holding the senatorial elections? Observers believe that because of his age, longevity in power, and pressure from mostly potential Western investors and allies like France and the United States, the President had to quickly pick his successor by organising the senatorial poll before coming back to the other two elections. However, since it is only the president who has the magic wand to decide when any election is to be held, spectators already held that he could anticipate the elections even before October or push them further to next year. Now, with the announcement of the elections to be held in September, Elecam, which against all expectations resumed voter registration in June, will be obliged to halt the registration process as stipulated by the electoral code. The law also obliges political parties to field their candidates two weeks after the electorate is summoned for the polls. This may be a hard task for the opposition whose candidates may find it difficult to come up with the CFA3 million (US$1975) each contender is to pay as levy to become eligible. At Elecam there are worries about voter participation if the elections are scheduled in the weeks ahead. Elecam’s board chairman, Samuel Fonkam Azu'u, reported last week that only 15% of voters' cards have been withdrawn by the eligible voters. He called on political parties to mobilise their activists to collect cards. The reluctance being witnessed in picking up the electoral identification papers is reminiscent of the indifference that has characterised past electoral processes. This nonchalance, many observers say, should have been exacerbated by the outcome of the recent senate election which gave clues that President Biya had remotely controlled the process to give his party a comfortable majority as had been the case in past presidential, legislative and municipal elections. Just to recall Biya won the last October 2011 presidential election with a landslide victory. His ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) commands a crushing two-thirds majority in the Senate and the National Assembly, and still dominates in 300 of the country's 360 municipal councils. Economy Fight against cybercrime intensified in order to boost e-trade Cameroon seems repeatedly worried about cybercrime in the search to modernise its technology for business, political and social use to maintain international standards. In a country which is plagued by endemic corruption and nepotism, fiscal fraud apparently lurks over the live wire of every activity. Without proper control of its cyberspace to curtail the influence of cyber criminals, business and other
  6. 6. Cameroon Politics & Security 6 important data could fall into unscrupulous hands and cause the government or businessmen to lose huge sums of money. This explains why the National Agency for Communication and Information Technology (ANTIC) organised a two-week seminar which began on 2 July to update its personnel to prevent threats and curb cybercrimes. Participants will delve into four topics, ranging from: Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing; Web Application Security; Incident Handling and Cyber Forensic; as well as Malware Handling. ANTIC’s director general, Dr Ebot Ebot, boasted that, at the end of the seminar, the stakeholders will be a step ahead of cyber criminals. But he expressed the need for greater collaboration from government and the security services to effectively manage the impending threat, which he said, "has no boundaries". On a related development, the government's Steering Committee to Modernise External Trade met on 21 June under the auspices of its president Louis Paul Motaze. The latter, who doubles as the secretary-general at the Prime Minister's office, called for greater commitment to the project, which aims to digitise Cameroon’s foreign business portfolio by computerising or scanning documents using modern electronic methods. The project is strictly seeking to establish a suitable judicial platform, integrate the various systems used by partners, computerise the services of the government administrative units and train the actors to manage the system. "The end result is to reduce cost in foreign business transactions and improve Cameroon's place on the world "Doing Business" ranking," said Motaze during the deliberations. Meanwhile, the director of customs, Linette Libom Li Likeng, who is coordinator of the committee's technical secretariat, noted that Cameroon still has numerous challenges dragging down its efforts to modernise its foreign business. Li Likeng cited the absence of prepared space to receive and process goods destined for the Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad, the two landlocked countries of the sub-region depending on Cameroon for the transit of their goods, as well as goods heading to northern Congo-Brazzaville. The problem of prolonged delays of goods clearing, which is blamed on the bureaucratic chain of stops, and organised racketeering during goods clearance, was another obstacle. Parliament wants aviation sector to meet international standards Cameroon’s parliament began examining a government draft bill on Tuesday 2 July, which seeks to revise the country’s aviation sector in order to meet international standards and attract foreign investors. The bill, which will be defended by Transport Minister Robert Nkili, is expected to be adopted by the CPDM’s two-thirds ruling majority The document was prepared after an audit of the country’s civil aviation sector’s security systems was carried out in 2006 by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). It revealed lapses in numerous aspects of the functioning civil aviation sector and specifically in areas like the law governing the activity in Cameroon.
  7. 7. Cameroon Politics & Security 7 The audit’s findings revealed that the civil aviation sector is governed by two laws and recommended that they be merged into one to make it compatible with the country’s commitment with international regulations. If adopted the bill which will pass through the senate for approval will eventually become law when signed by President Biya. It will oblige Cameroon to comply with the management of airports under concessions, the provision of meteorological services to air transport, the empowerment of air security and safety of inspectors, and the alignment of national regulations with civil aviation’s standards. Divided into 195 sections the bill also provides for the establishment of a civil aviation fund to be used, among other things, in the financing of civil aviation activities. The CPDM’s Samuel Bokwe MP said “This bill, when promulgated into law, will provide Cameroon with a coherent framework that will assure the international aeronautical community of Cameroon’s capacity to supervise and ensure civil aviation safety”. But observers always say that texts are one thing and implementing them may hardly or never really comes. However, given the urgency expressed by Mr Biya to strengthen economic ties with its new business ally, Turkey, redressing the aviation sector is imperative, especially when one considers Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union (EU), which is partially dependent on aviation safety and security. Meanwhile a second bill is to be examined by parliament, which seeks to authorise Biya’s ratification of the air transport agreement recently reached between Cameroon and Turkey. South-West Regional Politics Tensions escalate as crisis at Buea University intensify The tensions rocking the University of Buea, one of the country’s only two English-speaking state run universities, have intensified in recent months leading to a spate of violence, which has led to destruction of school and private facilities within the vicinity. The crisis has affected the university and Buea town, which is located 320km southwest of Yaounde for nearly two years. Observers fear it could hamper or postpone the proposed forthcoming presidential visit to Buea although a planned date for the visit has not been officially made known. President Biya is expected to preside over an anniversary of the country’s reunification. As we reported in past Cameroon Politics & Security, the country was placed under United Nations mandate led by France and Britain before the French and British territories became independent in 1960 and 1961, respectively. They immediately became united in 1961 through a controversial referendum. The South-West Region is the country’s future backbone for crude oil production. Coupled with the university crisis and impending piracy in the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula, observers have repeatedly counselled for caution, and especially in a region where there have been repeated public demonstrations by English-speaking activists of the
  8. 8. Cameroon Politics & Security 8 separatist South Cameroons National Council (SCNC). The regional tensions have escalated as a result of the detention of former Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni who comes from the region and is a traditional ruler. Inoni is currently facing trial in Yaounde for alleged embezzlement of state funds. The most recent violence in the Buea University erupted in mid-May and lead to the arrest of 16 students of whom two were released on 26 June. The crisis at the university pits the school administration against the students’ union which is pressing for reforms. But the school’s authority does not agree with the demands and the saga is far from ending. Diplomacy & Security 13 ECCAS & ECOWAS presidents agree to fight regional piracy Host President Paul Biya and 12 other leaders from the twenty-five member states of the two West and Central African economic blocks - ECCAS and ECOWAS - agreed at a two-day summit held in Yaounde between 24-25 June to prevent and fight piracy within the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea. Whether or not they directly share the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, they all depend on it for the movement of goods and people. As we discussed in Cameroon Politics & Security - 21.06.2013 the wealth of the Gulf of Guinea is immense and ranges from crude oil reserves estimated around 24 billion tons, to fish and other aquatic resources. Because the area is vast, and the tactics employed by the pirates are both complex and deadly, it needs collective efforts to fight the impending danger of fortune seekers, who are said to have migrated from Latin America to the West African coast according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). In Yaounde the leaders from the Economic Community for Central States (ECCAS) and their peers from the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), who were joined by regional organisations and experts from around the globe, were unanimous that the threat was serious. So, they took a common step and strategy to tackle the scourge. As the first practical step, they agreed to work speedily, collectively and coherently to crush a common enemy – piracy. To ensure their diligence and focus, they agreed to create an anti-piracy centre in Yaounde. For this key unit to work fully and efficiently a code of conduct had to be framed for every stakeholder to follow a common operational process to curb, if not eliminate, the blight. If, however, the Yaounde summit was much needed it did not mean efforts were not put at individual levels or by neighbours within the two economic blocks. Nigeria and Benin were already working on it, while Angola, another major oil producer had already erected a formidable shield against piracy. But recent findings show that pirates operate in clusters. They use sophisticated equipment and migrate from one spot to another as a hibernating strategy to resource themselves and launch more assaults.
  9. 9. Cameroon Politics & Security 9 While the Yaounde conclave gives hope the routine political and security suspicion that hangs over their normal bilateral relations could become a bane that may render the efforts in Yaounde ineffective as has been the case in several big gatherings. “The security of a sub-region cannot be tackled through a simple circumstantial summit or meeting. It needs continuous contacts and conviviality among the leaders, who need to constantly share their common successes and troubles,” noted one Cameroonian expert on international relations, Shanda Tonme, who did not feel that the Yaounde gathering was all that rosy. © 2013 All rights reserved Produced by Menas Associates Limited, 31 Southampton Row, London WC1B 5HJ, UK. Tel: +44 (0)20 3585 1401 All information contained in this publication is copyrighted in the name of Menas Associates Ltd and as such no part of this publication may be reproduced, repackaged, redistributed, resold in whole or in any part, or used in any form or any means graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by information storage or retrieval, or by any other means, without the express written consent of the publisher. Disclaimer Menas Associates Ltd cannot ensure against or be held responsible for inaccuracies. To the full extent permissible by law Menas Associates Ltd shall have no liability for any damage or loss (including, without limitation, financial loss, loss of profits, loss of business or any indirect or consequential loss), however it arises, resulting from the use of any material appearing in this publication or from any action or decision taken as a result of using the publication.