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« Tit Bits from the "War front" | Main | UB Students,Troops In Another Bloody Clash »

Saturday, 28 May 2005


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One thing Buea offers more than anyplace else on earth are stones, lots of hard, sizeable, throwable missiles to be had for nothing, literally everywhere. So, in this case, the geology of the place was a powerful player. This whole episode gives an insight into the mindset of the authorities, from the unelected Governor to the lowly gen d'arme. It is the mindset of the occupiers and usurper, fearful of the alien on whom they have imposed themselves. The ready choice of brutality as a solution is thus very telling. The lack of imagination, the need to impose one's will on those who have challenged one's power, the refusal and/or inability to seek alternate solutions has created a revolutionary situation. The use of propaganda to create and accentuate a "northwest-southwest" divide is pathetic and crude.

In a very real sense, nothing has changed since Governor von Puttkamer, who built the schloss or lodge that is now the icon of Buea by misusing his administrative budget, so that he could have fun with his friends, while brutalizing the local population. The new colonial occupiers extract wealth and brutalize. By using force, in this way, they created something that they cannot kill, that has no respect for their bully boy authority.

I had warned that we are on the precipice, and as the recent events show, we are still at the precipice. When the occupiers spread their repression and begin to give mud baths and snake beatings to innocent bystanders and people in the neigbourhood, resentment spreads. What is different this time in Buea, is that the fear has been overcome and transcended.

Meona Ama

Tear gas used by the police for crowd control, and by individuals for self defense is either CS (chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile) or CN (chloroacetophenone). CS is stronger than CN but wears off more quickly.

Tear gas is launched in the form of grenades or aerosol cans so that the liquid becomes an aerosol (droplets in air giving the appearance of a cloud). Both CN and CS irritate mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, and cause tearing, sneezing and coughing.

A wet hanker chief placed over the nose prevents intake of CS and CN. Rinse eyes with plenty of clean water. Keep mouth closed, hold your breath and move out of cloud quickly.

Never place an aerosaol canister in fire because the residual propellants can detonate canister and throw an explosive flame.

Be safe and do not riot. Information provided as first aid to affected citizens

Meona Ama
(Specialist - Combative Crowd Control Tactics)


The UB Crises
They could have done better
The cyber space has of late been dominated by postings about the UB crises which except for its gravity I would have considered it a spent topic. Therefore I have continued reading about it with the hope I might read something different. I have been disappointed so far. However despite the numerous childish, immature, and grammatically poorly written postings, there have been some commendable contributions from some Cameroonians who I think are trying to punctuate this insanity with some common sense even at the cost of their own reputations. Even then I have still been disappointed for not having come across any posting by even one of the architects of the famous 1983 GCE strike organised by the Anglophone students in Ngoa Ekele(Today referred to as University of Yaounde I). I read an article here sometime ago and one of the usual contributors referred to the 80s as “in those days” with the inference that it was a distant past with little or no relevance with what is happening today. Indeed talking to a University student recently she told me that “Oh you don’t know what is happening today. The university is not the same anymore - you can’t even understand what is going on anymore”. This sounded as if the 80s were the era of the dinosaurs and the kids today are a different breed - possibly better equipped to face today’s challenges. I doubt that.
First, the students who organised the 1983 strike in Ngoa Ekele were of the same school ages as the UB students today. Secondly and very important the government of Cameroon is still run by the same crooks and some have even been recycled many times over. How over used can someone be in Cameroon? Njeuma, Ze Nguele, Bouba Bello, Kodock, the list is long. If anything has changed it is merely the increase in population which would not have been the case if other institutions of learning were still operational - i.e. the middle level professional schools like the School of agriculture in Bambui, Schools of Sports in Dschang, Garoua, and many others. So the question of the 80s being a distant past has no bearing in today’s Cameroon and the university in particular. Indeed what has the government really changed in Cameroon since Mr.. Biya came to power? In my opinion what ever changes that have occurred have been through the forces of nature rather than a deliberate administrative policy machinery. The Cameroon government is inept. It is incapable to conceive, plan and execute any meaningful and positive action for Cameroonians. Just imagine the toll gate system. If road users have to pay this obnoxious charge why, should an eighteen wheel trailer pay the same with a compact Toyota Starlet? Also how difficult can it be to stop the massive corruption going on in that ill conceived racket if the government simply announces that road users can collect a certain percentage of their tolls if they present their tickets at any local treasury at end of any fiscal year?. This will immediately stop the practice where drivers ignore their paid tickets only for the toll gate attendant to resell them to the next driver and pocket the money. What is the use of the tickets anyway and what is the incentive for any driver to insist to collect what becomes trash as soon as the tollgate attendant gives it to you?
I came to some of these conclusions when I attended a university in Lowell, Massachusetts USA. For example when I was in Ngoa Ekele I was shocked by the chaotic organisation of classes, and more importantly The Restaurant (that is where one saw chaos and mayhem at their best). I felt the administration could have done better. But given the level of chaos in the institution I was also obliged to think that the authorities could not have deliberately let things go that way. Indeed I let myself to believe that they must have done everything possible to better the situation and that was the best they could do. In fact not being able to know better I even felt rowdiness and disorder was a natural part of University life and was like that the world over. But again in a small part of my mind I used to wonder why the restaurant could not be opened from about 07:00 to 22:00 seven days a week which would allow students to go there when ever they felt like doing so rather than waiting for it to open its doors at 11:00 only to close it at 14:00 and yet expect to serve about 5000 dishes. Again I dismissed my imagined solution as being unrealistic because if it wasn’t, the administration would have thought about that a long time ago. However the solution they later came up with was to build another huge restaurant.
So when I started school in Lowell, Massachusetts, I went to the restaurant and was surprised to see just about 100 students having their meals. As time went on I noticed that that number was just constant whenever I went there at any hour of the day. There were never any long lines and in most cases students picked up what they wanted to eat by themselves. They did not need waiters all the time. The students were not rowdy. They were disciplined. I too decided not to be rowdy and became disciplined. The only similarity with Ngoa Ekele was that after eating the student had to carry his/her plate to a designated area for collection by Restaurant staff. However again the difference in this small area of similarity was that Lowell displayed a sense of order while Ngoa Ekele did not. I almost forgot to mention that the Lowell Restaurant was about one fifth the size of that of Ngoa Ekele. The student population in Lowell was about 15000. while Ngoa Ekele at the time was at best estimates, 12000.
I have decided to use this restaurant issue as a perfect example to show the extent of the lack of vision of the government in Cameroon. That first University restaurant in Ngoa Ekele can feed the whole of Yaounde town. North Eastern University in Boston at the time could boast of an enrolment of over 30.000 students. Their entire campus infrastructure was not up to that of Ngoa Ekele yet there is never the issue of over crowding, lack of discipline and inability to provide adequate sanitation facilities because of high population density. After Lowell I went down to Washington DC and started attending UDC. In 1990 the UDC campus was at best about one third of that of Ngoa Ekele. As for student enrolment, I had never known how many students attended UDC at the time but given its affordability, proximity and accessibility it was the capital university for all minorities, national and immigrant who could express themselves in English. If one could count how many African, Caribbean, Latino, and Asian students were in the Washington Metro area and add in the huge American black population in the area, then you will have a great idea of how many students could have been attending UDC at the time. Yet even though I took one undergraduate course in that university I never felt the problem of over crowding. There were no “Amphi 700s, 300s, in UDC or Lowell” Did the authorities in these institutions use magic? No. They just took time and patience to plan and saw that everything worked with a clock work precision. The meticulous planning and execution is equally reflected in the day to day running of the American administration in general.
I have decided to describe the ineptness (or unwillingness?) of the Cameroon authorities to make sensible and necessary changes in our institutions and then the nation at large to make a point here. To the UB Students hate me if you want to, but from what is going on you decided to play into the hands of the Cameroon government and they have won this first round of the confrontation. You have the right to disagree with me but let me explain why I say so.
First please do not waste your time to think the GCE strike was in a distant past and have no relevance today. I am in my mid forties now but Mrs Njeuma signed my “O”Level slip just as I believe she signed most of yours. How old is she now? Don’t even start to think I went to primary school at the age of ten. I did not. I started school just at the ripe age of five as most of you did today. But even if I did start primary school at ten, when did Mrs Njeuma on her part start hers? What is she still doing there? Why should I or one of my classmates not be occupying that office today? When does the government expect us to gather experience and carry on with the work so as to pass the mantle over to you who should be leaving the University very soon? Here I am trying to tell you the government does not intend to improve on your situations and if you believe me then you should have been able to organise the strike and focus only on what would have meant something to the ruling establishment. I have described the horror in Ngoa Ekele above but if you people think very carefully you would notice that the key demand of the GCE strike in 1983 as it came to be known was not about the University by any stretch of the imagination. We chose an issue that was easy to handle but yet producing far reaching positive results. Typical of their twisted and diabolic mentality the authorities were wondering why we were striking on something that did not even concern us. But we hung on to it and it became a cause that threatened to rattle their hold on power and then any demands about our conditions in the university became secondary. It worked. We clung on that with our lives and then squeezed in what the silly conditions in Ngoa Ekele asked for. Now because none of you have cars when the government increases taxes on petrol you pretend it does not concern you. The GCE did not concern any of us anyway. All of us had had our advanced levels. But we understood we had to fight for others - and you have turned out to be those others. Now you limit your struggle to your campus and above all your tactics are dismal. You fail to understand the barbarity of your Cameroon government and choose to go on strike on issues they don’t relate to. Does the Cameroon government understand what it means by having toilets in a school environment? They don’t have it in their international airports and so who are you to have them in UB? Does the Cameroon government know the difference between one year and the other? What does it matter to them if you even loose ten years of your life? What, they mockingly ask you silently, are you rushing to graduate for? To start demanding for their positions? Then the issues of fees is like a shark tasting blood. That has become an official source to stuff their pockets and you want them to give it up. You guys must be kidding. How did it start in the first place? I wish some of us could go back to school. If the government was interested in improving learning and living conditions in the university they would have done so decades ago. We hear of University reforms. What the hell is that? Building houses in different towns and calling them universities because they want to reduce over crowding in Ngoa Ekele thereby avoiding a potential powder keg? Before and when we were in Ngoa Ekele there had been strikes organised by students. All ended up achieving little because the students wasted their energies on demands and tactics that the government could easily manipulate. First students unfortunately try to avoid the accusations that they were being manipulated by external political forces for selfish reasons. Why bother about that? What is wrong in that anyway? Is government policy on universities not motivated by political concerns also? Is politics a crime even if students get involved in it? During the Vietnam war students in most campuses in the US made their voices heard. Why are students allowed to vote and their votes counted? Politics becomes a good thing only when students use their numerical strength to put CPDM politicians in power but if they have to use this same politics to call for improved learning and living conditions it becomes a crime? Don’t be fooled about such accusations of being manipulated by politicians. Once any student action deliberately tries to avoid such accusations the action is doomed to fail. Why? Because there is nothing that is not political in Cameroon. If the university is not a political institution why not let those who control it use their intellectual know how to run it? A board of administrators selected or voted directly by citizens should be put in charge and let the chips fall were they may.
Secondly the question of allowing the law and order agents of the government to use force on you defeated the action from the start. I’ll tell you why.
Never count on the good behaviour of these agents. They have never been trained to manifest any good behaviour. You see , what we have as police force today which includes the gendarmes too, was a colonial conception aimed at repressing dissent. They have never been taught to police the nation. Our police is not a professional institution. It is a repressive organ whose only purpose is to keep the regime in power. Whenever they see a group of people who happen to be expressing an opinion they are not familiar with they pounce on them with deadly force and the consequences do not matter. So if any protest march, no matter how peaceful the intention is happens to play into their hands they use any possible means to stop it. In 1983 we took time to consider these issues and worked out a way to outsmart them. So at the beginning we decided to assemble inconspicuously at The Ministerial Buildings in Downtown Yaounde. Our purpose was to hand a petition and march back to our campus in Ngoa Ekele. Here I must add that Mrs Njeuma was the Vice Minister of Education at the time and our demands that she come to take the petition fell of deaf ears. I thought UB should have understood her modus operandi already and not wasting time asking her to come and talk to you. Any way we concluded rightly that no matter how brutish they were, these soldiers would never stop us from marching back into our campus. In their warped minds they also interpreted that they could even contain us better there. But even at the ministries they initially tried to provoke us into a confrontation with their usual method of dispersing us with every conceivable brutality. If we had responded even with one rock that would have given them the only excuse they can conceive - i.e. for the sake of maintaining peace and order. They are so good at it that when offered the chance you see in them the real beast of the human kind. First we ran away but later regrouped and sat on the street and even invited them to come and crush us all with their tanks. It was strongly agreed that NO student was to throw any stones, stand up against any law officer or try to disturb the other citizens. No touching of cars, buildings etc. Please, UB students, also recall how your parents in a follow up action passively stood up against these brutes when demanding for a GCE Board. They succeeded. So you see that if the leaders and organisers of the student action in Buea today emphasised on the total ban of rock throwing or any other methods of attacking the police or ordinary citizens I am in the opinion that the deaths would have been avoided. The availability of rocks everywhere in Buea should have been the more reason why extra effort should have been put in that area. By just hurling a single stone at them was just reason enough to unleash the mode of response they know best. Can you boys and girls imagine that in 1983 not a single rock was thrown at the police? Not a single car, building or any property for that matter was vandalised.? This sort of passive action practically disarmed them. Don’t start comparing the degree of provocation here. Ten years later if the SDF launchers allowed for any physical response by the population the party would not have been launched and the death toll would have been much higher and nothing would be done about it. The 1983 GCE strike was a text book success action. It is even documented by Dr. Francis Nyamnjoh in his Book The GCE Crises.
Don’t be afraid to address any political issue that you feel like.
Don’t be afraid to be accused of being manipulated by politicians
Do not mention as key demands issues the government can easily and convincingly dismiss like school fees or reinstatement of scholarships.
The simpler the issue the easier the success and issues at the top of your demands list or petition must not necessarily be those affecting every students before it is tabled. The student body as a whole is one big fraternity and if you don’t feel that way strike action will always fail. If any issue concerns one student it concerns you all. For example if a student’s exam papers cannot be found and he/she is asked to repeat an academic year, privately investigate and ,make sure that the decision has clearly been taken. That is a case that can easily be won. Under that seemingly minute problem hang all other demands. Decide on total suspension of classes until the student receives justice. But under this seemingly small issue logically connect all other problems of the university like lack of lecture rooms, adequate sanitation, library facilities - expenses security etc. etc. and the list goes on and on. It should be a graduating list of demands rather than otherwise. They will fulfil many because one issue will logically tie with another since your logic will establish that it is even the small issues that give rise to the bigger ones. The truth is that the government can solve all the problems you list. They simply do not want to. One needs to threaten or trick them into doing so. Any other issue could be tabled and it will work. The problem with student action is that when the major demand tabled by students becomes a complicated political problem a vicious administration like ours always goes to any length to make it look more complicated thereby avoiding the problem. The government of Cameroon is tactful in mystifying issues. For example students have been shot and killed by government armed agents and the president of the republic wakes up one morning and creates a commission of inquiry. That commission of inquiry into these shooting deaths of the students is a high sounding nothing. Does he remember he appointed a police chief for Buea or the Southwest province? Why is he trying to do the man’s job? When did the president graduate from police college? Is the policeman he chose for the job incompetent? Fire him and let his assistant carry on with the investigations and bring the culprits to justice. What is all the smoke screen about?
Ngoa Ekele Veteran

Manka Irene

"NOTE; Extremely long articles which are inappropriate for the Comments Section should be emailed directly to the Editorial team for publication in either the print or online editions of The Post."

Mr. Fon, please go to the "contact" section of this site and email your article, which is definitely NOT a comment.

Part of the discipline that you mention in your article is the ability to follow basic rules. You failed woefully here, even though your article is a great one.

Rose Odine

One can agree with Fon that UB students or those in other schools should riot for goals much greater than themselves, not merely to avoid fees, get cheaper food, get plenty of conveniences or sack appointed officials. Throwing stones antagonizes and attracts deadly reprisals from security forces. So far, two students and a taxi driver are dead – it could have been worse, regardless of the penal code. Security forces can get away with murder in any country, including the Developed Western World.

The deadly cancers in place are (a) the continuation of the Paul Biya regime and (b) the unbelievable passiveness of the Cameroonian citizen. While the head of state changes personal airplanes every two to three years, the administration, according to records, has miserably failed to fully fund budget requests from UB. Dr Njeuma acknowledges these deficits in official filings – she deserves credit.

The Biya administration has mismanaged the economy and developed deficits that remain unfunded by overseas donors. At that juncture, it is not surprising that UB like elsewhere in the public sector, faces severe budget shortfalls. How many UB students know about the colossal expansion in the overseas foreign debt of Cameroon between 1982 and 1988? These were Paul Biya’s years of disaster – his government spent and wasted money like drunken and liberated socialists. And worst still, the annual interest payments to foreign financial institutions on those loans in current years? That is where a good chunk of petro-dollars end up!

What the students should be after is removing Paul Biya from power and articulating an ideology for a more sovereign, fiscally responsible and progressive replacement. Without an economy, there shall be no free university education, no abundant conveniences and inexpensive rations. Somehow, someone has to pay these provisions. Paul Biya remains a disaster and embarrassment for Cameroon and Africa. He was OAU Chairman when French troops aided genocide in Rwanda. What did the Chairman do? The students should not forget. The rot at the top permeates right down through the whole system. That should be their focus – a cardinal issue much greater than themselves and at the heart of Cameroon’s internal instability.

Rose Odine

 M L Rene-Dibi

So far, I have not heard anything about the SDF crying with the students.I think the SDF as the leading opposition party in cameroon should have added her voice to the other voices.The SCNC cried,why not the SDF?

Dr A A Agbormbai

Rose Odine

While I see where you are coming from I disagree that the removal of Paul Biya is all that is required. You see, almost all Cameroonians are like Paul Biya - even many of those who pretend to be good citizens.

It is easy to appear to be good when you are not in power, but the moment you put these people in power they will forget all the good things that they preached. This principle is quite universal and it applies even to leaders of the developed world. If these leaders had their way they would all be dictators, regardless of how much they deny it.

However, there is one simple thing that puts in check the ambitions of developed world leaders - and this is lacking in Cameroon as well as other third world countries. This is the SYSTEM. The current system in Cameroon cannot guarantee democracy, not to talk of a long lasting one, in the way that you find in the West.

This is why I am for the system rather than the person. I do not so much care who rules Cameroon as I care about whether the political and administrative system in place is water-tight against the dictatorial ambitions of the ruler and his successors.

I would like to see a redesigned political and administrative system for Cameroon along the lines of Western countries, with all the checks and balances. This is achievable, but pressure must be put on Biya by Western countries.

Western countries must also change their attitudes towards the nature of aid provided to the country. The sort of aid that the country needs is not necessarily money but the following:

(1) Help in establishing a long lasting democracy with the same watch-dog organisations, checks, and balances that you find in the West. This should be allied to a readiness to defend democracy, using whatever means is reasonable, when it is challenged.

(2) Education and training in dealing with diversity, so that our various peoples can be made to rise above tribal boundaries and concentrate their energies on pushing the country forward.

(3) Professional training for our law enforcement machinery, particularly the police and gendarmes, along the lines of Western police forces so that they are able to handle trouble spots without inciting further trouble.

(4) Help with anti-corruption practices; for instance, use of plain-cloth anti-corruption officers to scare the hell out of corrupt Government officers. All those centres of corruption (in the form of road blocks) that frustrate tourism as well as decent citizens should be abolished.

(5) Greater control over the purposes for which the West is ready to give foreign debt to Cameroon. It seems that the West gives foreign debt to third world countries without thinking.

Finally, I shall like to see the West slash half of its foreign debt to Cameroon; as, after all, they are to blame as well as the Cameroon Government for giving out debt like hot cake. Or is it one of the strategies used by the West to continue to enslave Cameroon and other similar third world countries, so that when all the oil money comes it does not really belong to Cameroon?

I shall also like to see the West return all the money that Cameroonian officials have stolen and planted in Western banks. As far as I see it there are TWO BIG THIEVES here: the West, first, and then the Cameroon Gov't, second.

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