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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Paul Biya Promises University in Bamenda

President Paul Biya has promised a University in Bamenda, during a speech made wednesday in the chief town of North West region. He also promised to construct a thermal plant as a short term solution to the region's acute energy shortage. He spoke of plans to construct a hydro-electric plant on the Menchum river. The president announced a study to construct a reference hospital.The head of state reiterated a promise made some 20 years ago to complete the ring-road a key project linking the seven divisions of the region.

Speaking during at the Golden Jubilee celebration of Cameroon's armed forces, Mr. Biya also promised a series of reforms within the armed forces intended to improve promotion within the ranks.

The head of state for a public appearance uncharacteristically made a long part of speech in English... watch an excerpt in my video below

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Historic town- Bamenda hosts military jubilee

The first chapter of the golden jubilee of Cameroon’s Defence forces will be played out on Bamenda’s Commercial Avenue, the city’s main business hub.
A grand stand with one thousand sitting places is now receiving its final coat of paint. A military parade to be watched by thousands in the chief town of the North-West region will give the kick-off of the 50th Anniversary celebrations. A joint military operation dubbed Operation Golden Lion will feature a hostage release, by commandos backed by an air support team on thursday at the Bafut airport, where a military exhibition will take place.

The Bamenda-Bafut airport is taking the shape of a carnival ground. All branches of the defence forces will exhibit their know-how in these tents.The Bamenda Congress hall that will host more than one state dinner during the celebrations has also been re-looked. The gutters outside cleaned by the city council and the fountain is set to jet out a fresh display of water for the pleasure of the guests awaited here.
Watch my video below...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Water Project for 52 Communities

Many localities in Cameroon have little or no access to potable water. Mbankomo, a locality situated 22km from Yaounde had no potable water until an EU-funded project created some water points in 2009.

Today most of the over 2.300 inhabitants of the town continue to harvest rainwater and fetch water from wells. Mbankomo like 52 other localities is to benefit from new water points to be developed by the Cameroon Water Utilities Corporation, CAMWATER.

Water and Energy minister, Michael Ngako Tomdio,launched a wide-scale project to rehabilitate and construct water points in 52 localities across Cameroon last Friday. The project of the Cameroon Water Utilities Corporation, CAMWATER, launched in Mbankomo and estimated at 400 billion CFAF has been partly funded by the Belgian bank Dexia.

The first phase of the project that will last 18 months will see water points constructed in Mbankomo, Douala, Bogo, Jikejem-Oku and Maroua.
In the following feature I show you the struggle of inhabitants of some rural areas to get potable water each day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Douala-Yaounde, The Highway of All Fears

In Cameroon the two most publicized road safety campaigns are done in September and in December. This year, the 2010 back to school road safety campaign ran through the month of September with embarrassing statistics for transport officials. By mid-September three accidents had killed close to 20 persons on our highways.

Two of the most deadly crashes occurred on this 231 km stretch that links the political capital Yaounde to the economic first city Douala. The causes of these road accidents vary, from intoxication, to human error to the poor state of the roads.
This week I was in one of the six thousand vehicles that ply the Douala- Yaounde stretch every day, terrified by the statistics that clearly make this highway one of the most feared in the country.
Watch my 5 minute video, that gives you a unique insight on this highway

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cameroon Police Pay and Go

In my beloved Cameroon, this is the real face of public administration. When the police pull you over, especially taxis, everyone in the cab is expecting the cab driver to 'settle' the officer.
That is give the traditional 500 CFAF coin or bill, and carry on, because thats the only way you'll save time.

They won't fine you. They'll keep you there for as long as it takes you to understand.
Last Saturday I was taking my 9 month old daughter to hospital, and this group of police officers with 4 female officers pulled us over for parking out of a taxi parking space.

The cab driver had to perform the ritual...with our no-nonsense police 'girls'

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yaounde Falling Buildings

Three multi-storey buildings have crumbled within the last four months in Cameroon’s capital city, Yaounde. The first of the series of failed constructions recorded last February killed 4 persons, and the latest on August 16 injured at least 7. The last two that occurred within 8 days in the same neighbourhood (Elig-Essono), less than 20 steps apart has left the residents terrified.
In the wake of these dramatic incidents, the Government Delegate to the Yaoundé City council Gilbert Tsimi Evouna, blamed the mishap on the owner of the construction project who continued building despite a stop-work order. He added that in both cases the owners either did not have a building permit, or constructed bigger facilities than they were authorized to.
An explanation which many observers have judged too simplistic, and a pale attempt by the city to transfer blame.

Rise in Sub-Standard Construction
As engineering consultant Jean-Baptiste Tchoffo of Gestor Technologies explains a couple of factors can be responsible for a failed construction. “These could range from poor studies, to the absence of control during the project or simply the wrong application of construction standards”.
A view shared by Tankoh George Nuga an experienced builder and civil engineer carrying out various construction projects in the city “You cannot do a building in Bamenda and try to do the same building in Yaounde without taking into consideration the soil characteristics of the two regions” he observed rubbing off the sand on his palms.
Contractor Puene Francoise whom I met by her sleek Mercedes supervising a construction facility in Bastos Yaounde says “It is true contractors must check the quality of materials in laboratories but the government must not allow that sub-standard materials be imported into the country.”

Construction Material
The General Manager of the National Civil Engineering Laboratory (LABOGENIE), Philippe Nouanga, on his part expressed regrets over the fact that his agency does not control building material produced locally or imported into the country.
Speaking behind his modest office table at the Ekounou neighbourhood he said “It is only LABOGENIE that has the lab equipments to test and assess the quality of construction material that go into the market.”
Importers themselves have disclosed that some importers trade in iron rods of diameters that are not authorized by the state. And other construction material dealers put cement on the market with no specifications on how to use them.
It is impossible at first glance to say how resistant an iron rod is, or the strength of a concrete mix. Even engineers need a bunch of equipments and standards to assess this. The National Civil Engineering Laboratory is the country’s best bet in the domain. By ignoring its best brains in the domain, the government of Cameroon cannot guarantee the quality of the construction materials used on the country’s construction facilities. Even the head of the committee tasked with assessing standards of building materials Mr. Tchoffo is convinced there are sub-standard products on the market.

The new Standards and Quality Agency has now promised that every bag of cement entering any of Cameroon’s ports will be checked first, as part of a wider control scheme to be set up. The only problem is the members of the standards agency, yet to have an office of its own, confess (off-the-record) that they don’t have the money to match the lofty promises it is making so far.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Memories of a holiday…

It was a long time ago… or so it seemed when I fell in love with the volcanic sandy beaches of Limbe. It has for its fond memories gathered since December 1998 become the perfect holiday getaway for me. I spent the last week of July 2010, idling on its black beaches praying for sunshine, as it became clear with the incessant rainfall that I had picked the wrong month for this holiday.

When I had a few hours of sunshine, I read Thomas Hardy’s The Return of The Native, in between swims, on a private beach in Bobende. A once small village on the outskirts of the oil-producing town. I had first been introduced to the Atlantic on these sands, and since I seem to have nurtured an intimate link with the place.

Twelve years later many more hotels seemed to have blossomed on the waterfront, adding to the beauty of the town where missionaries and colonialists had anchored in the 1800s. I had also spotted two new oil exploration rigs along the coast and heard word of others soon to be erected. However the radio talk shows of Ocean City Radio, a popular urban radio in Limbe, again reminded me that the plight of the people had for the most part remained unchanged. As I tried to film the national petroleum refinery that sat on the horizon, for my video archives, I came across a young man and a young woman who emptied their bowels in the refuge of the rocks along the shore. The young man even relished the moment in the breeze with a cigarette hanging in between his lips as he released his body waste for the waves to pick up.

On another day, I made the trip to Down Beach, Limbe’s reference point for grilled fish avec vue sur la mer. Across the road a good number of shacks lined the road, their weather-beaten roofs only held in place by old car tyres, and stones that left the on-looker wondering if the carabot houses (wooden houses) as they are called here, will not collapse under the weight of the patchwork. At the far end, some dug-out fishing boats returned from a seemingly unfruitful trip out in the high seas. As I relished the bar fish and brochette of shrimps, feeling lucky, I stared emptily into the horizon. The petroleum rig that sat less than a nautical mile away, again reminding me of the resource curse that had befallen most of Africa.

A few mouthfuls later, my thoughts were halted by a floating odour. Not the familiar smell of fish that haunted the place, but a different odour, fresh for the farmer’s nose…yet disturbing for a man dining by the sea. Horseshit. I thought aloud. The big curiosity of Down Beach, this time around had been the horse ride business. A host of teenagers of Fulani descent offered most of the tourists and locals a chance to get on horseback for 500 CFAF (about 1 USD). The scene became very comic as very few persons could even get on the horses, and others tried desperately to give their children the boost to take the challenge. Many just broke down in tears, while the bravest posed for a snapshot on the horses, and the less adventurous just stood next to the horses for their snapshot.

But I really began to get upset as the smell of horseshit wafted by again. The beach itself seemed to have amassed the entire city’s waste probably deposited into the sea by the runoffs. I started looking around for some answers to the questions that came tumbling. Why are those in the horse ride business not picking up the horseshit that now dotted the beach? Why does the beach look like the city’s trash? I could not meet any council worker but I tried to get a few answers. Watch my video below...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Green Treasure: Illegal logging in Cameroon

Environment groups like Friends of the Earth, Forest Monitor or the Cameroon-based Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement (CED) have in turn released reports showing that illegal logging remains a ‘serious threat’ to Cameroon’s forests.
“Illegal logging in Cameroon includes uncontrolled logging, notably without permits. Some companies log out of authorized logging areas, and cut trees that are smaller than 60cm in diameter, while some cut down protected tree species” explains Dr. Germain Djontu, a researcher with CED a Cameroon-based environment NGO.

A report released in 2009 claims that the state of Cameroon looses at least 50 billion US dollars each year due to illegal logging. I must observe that this is a great loss for local communities who are supposed to benefit from forest royalties across a community forest tax system “when this revenue is not collected by the state local communities loose the 10% community tax they are supposed to get” Dr. Djontu adds, after listing a string of environmental hazards caused to trees and the soil.
Cameroon’s 22.5 million hectares of forests is a green treasure for mostly European logging companies that hold the country’s biggest forest exploitation permits, in what officials call ‘production forests’. Production forests make up over 14 million hectares. Some of these European companies are blamed for allowing illegal logging in a widely inaccessible rainforest that is difficult for officials to control. But when I spoke to Cameroon’s Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Prof Elvis Ngolle Ngolle naturally downplayed the scope of illegal logging, blaming it on small holdings,
“In our production forests that are under management plans where more than 90% of Cameroon’s timber comes from, there is little or no illegal exploitation. Where we have observed the phenomenon of illegal exploitation is in the non-permanent forests which are really not in the production forest. These non-permanent forests are where they don’t have management plans yet, and those who exploit timber in these forests exploit timber under licenses which are sometimes short term licenses.”He explains.
Friends of the Earth notably urged the importing countries like Netherlands to join Cameroon to impose huge financial sanctions on companies seen to be involved in the practice. A move the Forestry minister says Cameroon adopted already.
“Statistics show that in the last four years or so, we have increased sanctions. We have dared to sanction companies who have fallen (what are some of those sanctions?) Those sanctions range from suspension of…withdrawal of their titles or their permits or certificates to payment of high sums of money. Some companies have paid here 50 million, 100 million and they continue to pay.”However green activists insist the problem is in fact the follow up of these sanctions. Dr Djontu says “There are sanctions that have never been imposed to companies that cut out of their exploitation zones, or cut down trees less than the 60 cm diameter, but as we speak, they have not paid these sums to the state.”
Like petroleum and the mining sector, forestry remains a ‘high-risk’ and ‘no-go’ territory for most Cameroonians. An environment activists (who refused to be cited), told me their offices had been broken into and thrashed, and their computers and files carried away, by unidentified men.
Most of the small holdings or non permanent forest licenses are owned by influential Cameroonians who will viciously defend their interests. Corruption is also rife in the sector and local officials are the direct preys.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Bendskin Chaos

As Cameroonian towns grow into cities, many more commuters depend on commercial motorcylists, known as 'bendskins' to go from one place to another.
But these bikers are blamed for killing at least one person each day in rampant road accidents, making them pass for a lawless gang of rough-riders.
A decision by the Prime Minister's office in 2008, sought to regulate their gross disregard of the Highway Code and other safety measures. However the bikers have stayed their course.

Bendskins employ a huge number of unemployed youths in the country, and they strongly resist any form of control.

fonka mutta beau-bernard tried to find out why they prefer to live dangerously.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pioneer newscasters Eric Chinje and Denise Epote host TV news as Cameroon celebrates 25 years of television.

It was a thrilling experience for Eric Chinje, and Denise Epote Durand, two pioneer newscasters of the Cameroon radio Television, returning after more than a decade, to host the primetime newscast.
This special newscast broadcast this night on the CRTV is part of commemorations marking 25 years since the first TV broadcast was beamed into Cameroonian homes.

Eric moved on to the World Bank, and UN, while Denise moved on to french television TV5.

However both have remained an immense inspiration for Cameroonian boys and girls of my generation who dream of a career in television.

Here is a video of bits of the newscast, as you may notice, I filmed with my private camera, sometimes from poor angles. But I guess I captured some of the magic of the moment.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Living in space: A Day With Fulani Mbororo Nomads

I spent a day with Fulani Mbororo nomads in Poli, an enclave in the North Province. I traveled 36kms from the highway in 2hours to get to the Poli. 36 kms in 2 hours!

This post has a thrilling video of a report I did for tv. Watch it, if you can.

The Mbororo Fulani represents a unique race of about 2.5 million nomadic herdsmen scattered across Cameroon. The Mbororo follow the traditions of their ancestors (the poulakou cult), and are considered the purist of all Fulani groups.
However the culture of these nomadic herdsmen is little known in Cameroon because they are always migrating from one place to another in search of pasture. They hardly own identification papers, birth certificates, marriage certificates or any other official documents. They move across state borders to rear their cattle, with little or no consideration for national frontiers.
The youngest males start grazing their herd of cattle and sheep at a very early age and hardly attend any formal school. While the women and girls prepare their food, mainly, milk cheese and butter. The women also build their huts and weave mats and blankets. They continue to scar their faces and tattoo themselves, as they believe beauty and wealth determine a person’s worth.
They still believe in consider the long-horned cattle to be a prized possession and have dedicated their lives to caring for their herds. Owning cattle is a symbol of health and well-being among all Fulani. This attachment to herding has however seriously undermined the literacy level of the community. Integrating this almost untenable tribe of herdsmen into mainstream life is a major challenge for the government of Cameroon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Yaounde and Douala, the two biggest towns of Cameroon are facing their worst water shortage ever. Pipe borne water has not flowed in some neighbourhoods for 6 months. The water shortage that has been affecting mostly areas on the fringes of the towns is now more widespread touching the heart of the administrative and economic chief towns.
In Yaounde over the past week, government has been rationing water, in an attempt to ensure an even distribution of the available water. Some neighbourhoods get a trickle of water twice every week, and often late at night.
Another stop gap measure is a daily distribution of water free of charge by water tanks of the police, fire brigade, and city council, to some of the worst-hit areas.
City-dwellers queue up day and night at streams, in most of the valleys of Yaounde to fetch water for drinking and home use. In other parts of town they queue up behind water distribution trucks, while some individuals have been re-selling water at more than twice the cost to desperate persons in need. A 20 litre jug of water can be sold at 100CFAF.
Statistics from Cameroon’s Water and Energy ministry indicate that only 30% of Cameroon’s 18.millions people have access to potable water.
According to Joseph Kenmogne, chief of Division for distribution of the Company in charge of the production and distribution of water in the country, la Camerounaise des Eaux, (CDE), the city of Yaoundé requires a daily water supply of 160.000cubic meters. But the Nkomnyala treatment station (which supplies the town), produces only 100.000cubic meters of water.
“This shortfall is not only explained by the fact for the past twenty years, no investments had been carried out in the water sector in Cameroon, but also by the fact that existing infrastructure had been abandoned”.
Cameroon’s Water and Energy minister, Michael Ngangko Tomdio explained Friday in a news conference that these setbacks came as a result of the economic crisis that hit the country in the 1980s. He said “the economic structural re-adjustment plans enforced upon Cameroon by the Bretton Woods institutions to achieve the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative, prevented the government of Cameroon from making any investments in the water sector for the past 20 years”.”

The forecasts
The Cameroon government now plans to step up national access to potable water from 29% to 60% by 2025. On Thursday January 21, 2010; the Cameroon government signed two conventions: one with the French Development agency, the other with the European Development Bank worth a total of 65billions CFAF ($130millions).
The money will be used to improve water supply to five townships in Cameroon: Yaounde, Douala, Bertoua, Ngaoundere and Edea.
According to the Director-General of the Cameroon Water Utilities (the state owned company that has to scout for finances), Basil Atangana Kouna, the fresh investments will take up supply in Douala from 105000 cubic metres per day to 280000cc/day; in Yaoundé from 100000ccm/day to 250000ccm/day; in Edea from 2000ccm/day to 5000ccm/day; in Bertoua from 2000ccm/day to 5000ccm/day and in Ngaoundere from 6000ccm/day to 12000ccm/day.
Mr. Atangana Kouna also reveals that CAMWATER has elaborated a 10-year investment programme worth over 400billions FCFA (approx. $800millions). Of this amount, 250billions FCFA (US$500.000.000)
Work begins in 10 localities in 2010.
Cameroon’s minister of Water and Energy, Michael Tomdio told the press that current efforts fall in line with the much trumped up ‘greater ambitions’ development program enunciated by Cameroon’s president Paul Biya.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yaounde recovers as Cameroon edges Zambia 3-2

They ached, cursed, and many actually walked away from their TV sets in the football crazy Yaounde, last night as Cameroon trailed Zambia for much of the game. The suspense could not have been more intense for millions of football loving fanatics who watched Cameroon edge Zambia 3-2 in an epic African Cup of Nations thriller.

Thousands of fans watching the game from Yaounde carried a bad gut feeling throughout the game, as the Indomitable Lions tried to level scores with the Chipolopolos of Zambia for most of the game. James Mulenga’s goal at the 7th minute again exposed the defensive weakness of Cameroon, led by ageing skipper Rigobert Song.
A goal that reminded many of the day one, painful loss to Gabon 1-0 after a first-half goal had sealed the game. This time thousands gathered at the fan park on the May 20 Avenue in Yaounde prayed and hoped this was not another defeat in the hands of another lowly-seeded side.

Frank Emmanuel, a supporter draped in Cameroon’s green, red, yellow spent most of the game on his knees, in prayer, and was in tears when at half time Cameroon seemed unlikely to keep pace with the fleet-footed and younger Zambians.

Midway into the second half, a fumble by the Zambian keeper on an early cross from Geremi Njitap, gave Cameroon the most unexpected come-back imaginable. Moments later it was Samuel Eto’o who benefitted from a cross by Samen a Tchoyi that caused panic in the Zambian defence to put Cameroon up 2-1. It was edge of the sit stuff for thousands of fans in Yaounde. Girls ran wild, waving flags they had for so long held down in shame. Boys pulled off their t-shirts in defiance, and whistle blowers called for more goals.
Moments later, the Zambian striker Mulenga came from behind to outrun veteran defender Rigobert Song again, forcing goal-keeper Idriss Carlos Kameni to the rescue. Penalty. Against Cameroon, and the joy suddenly turned to pain again. Zambian captain Christopher Katongo took the penalty coolly, beating Kameni, 2-2.

Cameroonians were again last of the undecided Group D, in which all bookmakers has put them favourites in front of Tunisia and Gabon, nut Cameroonians were staring at a likely first round exit in the face again. At the 85th minute another cross in the Zambian defense was met by the towering Idrissou Mohamadou who earned cult worship and a hero status as his header ended up in the Zambian goal. Cameroon 3, Zambia 2, Yaounde had seen it all in one night.