Cameroon is broken: Who can fix it? 0

Cameroonians are sick and tired of seeing their country in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons and they are all blaming the country’s long-serving and sit-tight president, Paul Biya, who has run the country’s economy aground and made corruption the hallmark of his 42-year-long presidency.

Today, Cameroonians want to leave their country for greener pastures, including the old and sick who are not receiving any form of assistance from the state. The country’s pension plan is anything but effective and many retirees are dropping dead like flies just a few years after heading into retirement.

For the sick, they know they are on their way to a lonely and miserable grave as the country’s hospitals have been transformed into businesses where the sick must fund the luxurious lifestyles of the few medical doctors who have opted to live in Cameroon. There are more Cameroonian medical doctors out of the country than in Cameroon and many are not thinking of returning to their country anytime soon, except Mr. Biya dies and, from every indication, Paul Biya is not in a hurry to leave this planet. He is determined to die in power and the longer he stays in power, the more pain he inflicts on the people he is supposed to serve.

Mr. Biya’s incompetence is legendary and his management style has left the country in the throes of a long and painful economic disaster which has been around for 42 years. Biya is not in the mood to walk away from the Unity Palace, the presidential palace which he thinks belongs to him and his family although it was built by his predecessor.

Mr. Biya’s health has been failing for more than 15 years now, but he is not throwing in the towel and his Swiss doctors are doing their best to keep him alive given that he is their ATM. The Swiss medical experts spend most of their time praying for the corrupt and irresponsible Biya to be sick but stay alive so that they too can continue bilking the Cameroonian taxpayer.

Cameroonians are going through tough times. The economic disaster engineered by Biya and his collaborators is biting and this can be seen on many faces as many Cameroonians are aging prematurely. Mr. Biya seems to have put Cameroonians on a diet and many are losing weight at a disturbing pace. While the Swiss doctors are praying for Mr. Biya to be alive, Cameroonians are praying for him to die as his death might put them out of their economic sorrows and psychological torture.

Strangely, both parties are praying to the same God and, from every indication, God is listening more to the Swiss doctors and this has triggered a wave of prayers in Cameroon, with many Cameroonians praying aloud and crying as if God is deaf. Many Cameroonians hold that Biya has overstayed his welcome and should retire to his village, but his supporters are already calling for him to run again in the 2025 presidential election which he will win with a comfortable margin as the country’s constitution and electoral laws have been tailored to suit his intentions.

Though all the odds are stacked up in favor of Mr. Biya, there are some politicians who hold that they can legally and legitimately take the ailing and mentally disoriented Biya out of power. The Cameroon Concord News which is Cameroon Anglophone’s best and most popular news platform has decided to profile some of those who think they can take the bull by the horn even when they know that the 900-pound bull can send them to an early grave. This month, the Cameroon Concord News will profile Barrister Akere Muna who has opted to engage in a fight against Biya and his intentions are bringing some hope to the confused and desperate people of Cameroon. Cameroonians hope he understands the risk associated with taking the bull by the balls.

Akere Muna has his eyes set on next year’s presidential election and his intention is clear – unseat President Paul Biya, who has led the country since 1982. A lawyer by training, Akere has been active in the global arena, serving as an elected Vice-Chair for Transparency International where his involvement in rights issues resulted in the formation of the Transparency International Working Group which helped draft the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.

He has also served as the President of Transparency International Cameroon; Cameroon Bar Association President; President of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union and the President of the Pan African Lawyers Union. In January 2010, he was elected to the Panel of Eminent Persons which oversees the African Peer Review process.

After having served the world, he has turned his eye to his country, Cameroon, where he has been calling out the country’s government for its corrupt practices, especially recently following the condemnation of Glencoe, a global firm charged with corruption in the UK and the USA for is acts of corruption in several African countries, including Cameroon where millions of dollars were alleged to have been given to officials of the country’s oil refinery, SONARA, and SNH.

On paper, Barrister Muna has all what it takes to beat Mr. Biya in a free and fair election. His career is what many around the world would dream to have. However, having a brilliant international career is not synonymous with beating Mr. Biya in an election whose results are already known. The odds may be stacked up against Barrister Akere Muna, especially as the political landscape is crowded with small parties, many of which have been created by the ruling party, the CPDM, just to ensure that genuine opposition parties do not coalesce around one candidate against Mr. Biya, but he holds that if the people go out to vote and protect their votes, things might turn out differently. Barrister Muna knows that the system is built for purpose – to favour Mr. Biya and it is “tailored to be tweaked to make sure he wins,” but he is not giving up without trying.

Barrister Muna has already been talking to other political leaders like Cabral Libii and Maurice Kamto who is clearly a more popular political leader in Cameroon. He has a tough job convincing other political leaders that he is the right person to wrestle Biya out of Etoudi though the rules give Mr. Biya a massive advantage. Besides the tailored laws and constitution, Barrister Muna has an uphill task to persuade Cameroonians that he will be the right person to challenge Biya as the population has doubts about him.

He is loved as a human rights advocate and a critic of the system, but beyond that role, many Cameroonians believe that he has an elitist mindset, having grown up in Yaoundé where his father, the late Solomon Tandeng Muna, was once a vice president of Cameroon and before that, he was a first prime minister of West Cameroon. Barrister Akere Muna seems to be totally disconnected from the suffering masses in Cameroon as he has never lived their lives and does not know how it feels to go to bed without a meal.

His father has been part of the mess that has transformed the country into the land of the rich and he himself has been working with the same government on some legal issues which many think are anything but transparent. His sister was once a minister in the same regime and it is hard for the Muna family to clearly and honestly dissociate itself from a government which has weaponized poverty just to keep the people of Cameroon in check.

But it is in the Southwest region of Cameroon where it will be most challenging for him to win hearts and minds. Taking his political agenda to that part of the country will be like taking his eggs to the wrong market. South Westerners still hold that Solomon Tandeng Muna and John Ngu Foncha, both from the Northwest Region of the country, actually betrayed them when they took Southern Cameroons to East Cameroon.

That decision has never gone down well with the people of the South West Region. Southwest politicians who openly called on Southern Cameroonians to join Nigeria in a referendum which reunited the two Cameroons were cut out of politics and many were made to languish for the rest of their lives. EML Endeley, the man who openly opposed the stance Solomon Tandeng Muna and John Ngu Foncha took was impoverished and made to pay for his political views. N.N Mbile, Chief Nyenty and Chief Ayamba all from the Southwest Region of Cameroon paid a huge price for their political stance against Amadou Ahidjo, Cameroon’s first president who took Foncha and Muna to Yaoundé after the massive betrayal of South Westerners.

However, Barrister Muna is not his father. The crimes and sins of his father should not be his. He has time to demonstrate that he is different and his integrity should be seen as an asset in a country where corruption is widespread.

Barrister Muna should start building a huge political platform which should be inclusive and national in character. The presidential election may be eighteen months away, but there is a lot to be done. Barrister Muna must get in touch with the country’s Diaspora and must clearly make his stance known. He has to condemn the mistakes of his father in public to win hearts and minds in the country’s South West Region and he has to shed his elitist mindset to convince Cameroonians that he understands the country’s economic realities. In eighteen months, a lot can be done to make Barrister Muna marketable even to his worst opponents. The ball is in his court.

By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai

Cameroon Concord Group Chairman and Editor-in-Chief