Invisible One


Be in the crowd.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Everyone’s screened.

Be tallied and swell the tally.

Everyone’s counted.

A presence is the present presence.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           And a future’s presence: physical and spiritual.

Follow the footprints of time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Yet, be invisible.

Down the road it pays.

 

 

 

Mali Coup: Goodluck Jonathan and the French dukhi


Recent events over the last two years in Francophone Occidental Africa leave much to be desired in terms of Nigerian leadership in the region. From all intent and purposes and for the supreme interests of the peoples of this region,  I expected the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, to have steered ECOWAS to regional unity and total economic and political progress. Unfortunately, it seems what I call the ‘French dukhi‘ has thrown a spell on Goodluck. Dukhi is a Russian term, which means ghost. During Soviet adventure in Afghanistan, dukhi was used to describe the Mujaheddin guerrillas, who like ghosts, adroitly used guerrilla tactics and strategies to defeat the Red Army. The French dukhi is used here literally to underscore the covert influences that French government has over Nigeria in determining the outcome of political crises in their former West African colonies.

Most readers of this region have noted that Nigeria, one of the Great Powers in Africa that also seeks to be respected as such, has remained more or less a staunch follower and supporter of French policies in Ivory Coast and recently, Mali. Much ink has flowed and analyses carried out on how Nigeria failed Africa during the Ivorian Crisis. Except South Africa and some other smaller African nations that rejected the new Euro-American imperialism in (West) Africa and proposed African solutions to African problems (both vocally and practically), Goodluck and Nigeria seem through ECOWAS policies, to encourage the use of force in the recolonisation of Africa.

I use the coup in Mali to express my dismay on Nigerian leadership within ECOWAS. All fervent supporters of the democratisation processes in Africa agree that the era of military coups in the continent is over. And the Mali coup is not an exception. In this wise, I support ECOWAS’ decision calling on the re-establishment of democratic institutions in  Mali after the coup. I also support a large section of the decisions taken by ECOWAS to render the new military regime in Mali redundant. However, what I find surprising and difficult to understand is that the legitimate President of Mali, ATT, has not been reinstated as the effective President of Mali. How can one justify this treacherous act? I mean, how can one justify the fact that ATT’s constitutional successor is made a transitional PRESIDENT instead?

We all know ATT’s mandate is supposed to end in some weeks. What is wrong with him continuing as President to the end of his mandate in accordance Mali’s constitutional? It is here that I find the French dukhi at work. ATT had become irrelevant to French interests in Mali and had vocally opposed NATO’s activities in Libya; By making ATT irrelevant after the coup, it seems to me that the new transition in Mali under a Francophile former President of the Malian National Assembly, shall probably help France select the new President of Mali rather than the people of Mali themselves. The vexing question I ask, which others may help me answer is, why is Nigeria and Goodluck playing second fiddle to what is happening in her backyard? Is it that the French ghost lurks over the whole of the West and Central African subregion?Image 

World Corruption Barometer


This morning, I read with great interest the Norwegian development Quarterly, Bistandsaktuelt. On pages 10 and 11, there is a report on global corruption (cf. Transparency International). And I thought of sharing this information on my blog. 

Four areas within developed and developing societies were considered extremely corrupt (police, judicial systems, education departments, and political parties).

As we may expect, compared to Central and Western Europe and North America,  the police department, judicial systems, and education systems are very corrupt in Africa, Asia and SE Europe.

Amazingly, all political parties in the world are extremely corrupt. For detailed statistics on corruption in the world, you can visit the Transparency International website or have a look at Bistandsaktuelt website (for those of you understanding Norwegian): http://www.bistandsaktuelt.no.

 

Living in a Burrow: In Memory of Bibi Ngota


Streams of tears;
Lines of despair;
Create burrows of sorrow,
tortured feelings of pain,
and silence in our community
.

With nights and rodents in the belly of the burrow,
I stand strong and peaceful with hope and primitive spirituality.

I can’t be broken. I’m innocent.
I stand by the values of my people.
To tell truth and defend the powerless.

I can’t be broken.

I’ve a vision to make My People Whole.
So that our nations are made Nation.

Even if the burrow becomes my home,
I’ ll not flinch or die.
I’ll not complain
For it’s the prize I’ve to receive
To realise a vision shaped by truth and honesty,
For the people of our Nation.

Labour’s Pain


By Fotso Sackmen

Each morning’s dawn
Tells of plantation visits
And brings dizzy yawnings
That only planters understand.

Nay, ’tis a sign of labours’ pain
That engineer the Union’s plans
To make the Masters pay
For turning the plain into pain.

Meeting Bjorn


By Fotso D. Sackmen

I meet an old Norwegian this morning. He looks frail but has a soothing strong voice and a great presence. I suspect he looks like someone in his eighties. He tells me a few minutes later that he’s eighty-one. He has grey hair. I mean his hair is as white as Scandinavian winter snow. His skin has wrinkles. His walking pace, as I always observed him from afar some early mornings is slow. It seems age has effected his locomotion.  May be he is too immersed in his early morning walks. Probably, the way he walks is part of  his morning culture: to keep fit and mitigate the effects of time on his body. Each time I have the opportunity to meet him during his early morning walks, I realise his presence; his commanding physical standing and intellectual and philosophical insights on ideas and perspectives about life in general. Wearing his dandy hat, he usually walks a few metres and stops and folds his arms to observe the built-up East Oslo environment with minutest detail.

Bjørn as I call him is a retiree, widower, and grandfather.  After the passing away of his wife and the maturing of his two daughters and two sons, he lives alone. But he is not a hermit. All his children are married with children of theirs. He tells me that life is an experience, a school without classrooms and teachers. Life is a school where the main textbooks are crafted individually and collectively to produce a social library.

I was moved by this first street lecture of his. But I have never in the past come across the term social library, I said to him. To keep the conversation flowing, he tells me meanings are always contextual-to which I agreed.  He explains that by social library he refers to individual and collective memory of a people, which is replete with heroes/heroines  and villains, failures and successes, greed and altruism, and poverty and wealth.

Bjorn is an interesting man who has travelled widely. He can talk about any topic in life, bringing forth episodic memories of many of my childhood and student activities. When discussing with him, he invites you (without even realising) through his critical and insightful analyses, to visit his mind and appreciate his wonderful intellect.

Bjorn is life. He is happiness. He is memory. He has a wide experience in life. To Hampate  Ba, the great African scholar, Bjorn is a mobile library. When he dies, this huge library of great value is destroyed.

But Bjorn is a modern ‘living library’ not only because of his experience. He has documented his daily thoughts and ideas and events in volumes of diaries that he keeps jealously in his study’s cupboard. He once invited me into his apartment where I am greeted by many textbooks, littered all over his sitting room, kitchen, study and even living room.

We had not known each other for long but he seems to have trust and confidence in me. It seems to me as one of the reasons he ushered me into his privacy. On the other hand, he tells me he likes strangers because they bring new experiences and cultures into his, in my opinion, already enriched life. The walls of his flat is decorated with pictures of his youth, as well as, other memorabilia.

I have been fortunate to meet Bjorn because I am working for my employer, Aftenposten Distribution, distributing morning newspapers – Aftenposten, Dagsavisen, Vårtland, DagensNæringsliv etc – to subscribers of Aftenposten Distribution Routes 21253 and 21239 in Oslo. As Aftenposten is advertised on Norwegian television channels: Aftenposten knows best the streets of Oslo.

I met him when was partially tired after completing Route 21253 at about 5 am on the 06th of August 2009. This route is located along the following Oslo streets: Stjernemyrveien, Haugerudveien, Haugerudtunet, Haugerudsentret, and Tvetenveien. Actually, it is not a permanent route of mine. I began working on this route on the 31st July 2009, covering a Sri Lankan colleague on leave.

Morning newspaper distribution in the Scandinavia is a tough job, probably reserved for foreigners because to have a decent job, one has to speak the national language. The Norwegian labour legislations make this fact explicitly obvious and these laws are fairly applied to the letter by employers. Because this job is not only tough but starts at 2:oo, most Norwegians do not deem it worthwhile working in this industry. Those who do perceive  it as a means of improving their health (a paid physical exercise) or as income supplement. I would not here generally expound or elucidate on other social and legal issues that foreigns confront generally in Europe in their attempt to find decent jobs. However, Norway is an expensive but wonderful and enjoyable place to live in.

Though very cold especially during winter, I generally like the climate of Norway. As Norwegians generally say and geographers would agree, there is no bad weather or climate but poor dressing by individuals.

Talking about weather and climate, I reminisce about Tiko, a town in the South-Western Region of Cameroon. During the dry season, temperatures are very high in the day but sometimes they are moderated by onshore winds. I can still visualise my Tiko people and some Cameroon bureaucrats wearing three piece suits and complaining of the hotness of the environment.Yes, the town is hot during dry seasons. But it seems to me that the hotness we always complain about is partly the result of our poor choice of dressing.

I learnt about the relationship between climate and dress types from one of my high school geography teachers, Mr. Samba. White dresses reflect sunlight while black ones absorb it.  During times of low temperatures, sweaters and overcoats and hats are best because they conserve body heat.

However, before coming into direct contact with Bjørn, I suspected from afar that like most Norwegians, he was apprecating nature, especially, the early hours of that Norwegian summer morning. I know Bjørn because I work for him. He is my employer. Without subscribers like him, I would have been probably unemployed while studying for my International Master degree in Social Welfare and Health Policy at the Oslo University College. As the say: Customers are always the King. He is my ‘king’. I have to serve him  6 days a week as royalty. My kings keep me busy.

Some three months ago, I had met Bjorn sitting on a public seat, just close to his house, reading the morning papers I had placed at his door. He had greeted me and we discussed for a few minutes. Fortunately, I was not asked some questions Africans in Norway are familiar with: Where do you come from? What are you doing in Norway? Since when did you start living in Norway? And when will you go back to your ‘home’ country? Albeit most Norwegians are introverted beings, one can’t engage in a lengthy discussion with some without having to answer some of these questions.  Should I say Norwegians are racists because they ask these numerous questions? Or are they sellfish and nationalistic because of their newfound oil wealth? Probably. But in every country in the world, even those who pride themselves via infomercials for their reputable and legendary hospitality, there exists racist and selfish individuals. It all depends in each country, on the activities and ratio of racists compared to the entire population.

Understanding racism based on one’s colour is too simplistic. Racism like nationalism is not based entirely on the ideology of racial supremacy. It is a socially constructed tool used to protect one’s race and self or nationalistic interests against ‘encroachment’ by other races or governments. It involves weak and simplistic assumptions that does not take into consideration the particularities of each human being constituting a race. In fact, racism is abhorrent to human dignity and respect; an unenlightened project employed by some to realise individual and collective agenda.

Compared to other European societies, Norwegians are more or less hospitable, welcoming, warm and boisterous in social gatherings. They care about people they know and very fearful of strangers. They are also open when you initiate dialogue with them. But you may be surprised that you can travel 30 kilometres on a coach with a Norwegian without him/her talking to you throughout the journey. It is their social being; their culture; their way of life. (to be continued)

Ibrahimovic’s Deal is the Greatest Transfer this Football Transfer Season


By Fotso D. Sackmen

When ‘The Special One’, Jose Mourinho announced that the Ibrahimovic-Eto’o Deal is the greatest deal of the season, many persons cried foul. That he is a usual fellow of diatribes. That he is always self-seeking and self-promoting.

This time analysts of doom or Mourinho-phobic football analysts got it all wrong.

Yes, Ibrahimovic’s deal surpasses that of Ronaldo and even Kaka. It is worth 100million euros. The unveiling of Ibrahimovic as a Barca player this football season and the press conference that followed shows that Mourinho made a correct assessment about the transfer. As goal.com reported on its website at 18.20 British Standard Time:

‘Just to confirm the fees and particulars of the deal: the transfer cash payable is 43.5million euros, plus Samuel Eto’o, and plus the loan until summer 2010 of Aliaksandr Hleb. Barcelona will continue to pay 70% of the Belarussian [Hleb]wages’.

If this assertion by goal.com is confirmed true, then the following conclusions can be made from this deal:

1. In short term financial terms, the deal is favourable to Inter and not Barca.

2. In the long term, only Ibra’s performance would make the deal worthwhile for Barca.

3. Barca had other options like David Villa. They refused to pay and paid for Ibra more than what valencia demanded. Notwithstanding all the talk about David, Pep did not value him that much.

4. Eto’o held Barca to ransome, was really powerful and this forced Barca to pay more than the odds for Ibra.

5. Notwithstanding the shining accolades thanks to Eto’o and his teammates, Laporta will always regret signing Eto’o as a Barca player. 

6. Mourinho has the best scoop this season. Just wait the unveiling of Eto’o as a Milanese player and you will hear from the Special One.

Eto’o-frica


Fotso D. Sackmen

News analyses and rumours on this summer’s football transfer season has been dominated by one great African footballer, Samuel Eto’o Fils, playing for FC Barcelone in Spain. For starters, he began plying his trade as a gifted football minnow in the rough and tumble of the poverty-striken, yet, happy streets of New Bell, Douala-Cameroon. He made a name for himself in Cameroon while playing and training at the Kadji Sports Academy, Douala. From there, he was recruited by Real Madrid FC where he spent some years. He did not become a first team regular in this prestigious club due to many factors that cannot be analysed here exhaustively. My take is that during this period there well established names who had become football brands synonymous to the Madrid brand and  the managers trusted them. He went on loans to various clubs in Spain but finally signed for Real Majorca. By the time he left for Barca, he was the team captain of Real Majorca and had almost single-handedly, destroyed great teams like Real Madrid more than once. In fact, ask Papa Luis Aragones, Majorca coach at the time. He will tell you that Eto’o-frica is not only a wonderful footballer but also a great leader.

This great leadership quality of his has finally become a great weakness in the eyes of Barca management. Eto’o has and will never pocket his mouth. He may do so for sometime, basically for strategic reasons but will never pocket his mouth all the times. Basically, he has great ‘presence’, which is not appreciated by management who believes that authority comes from above. I love this quality and this boy greatly. One aspect of Eto’o which I like is that he appreciates his talent at the right value, knows what he wants and how to get it. He once said in an interview that had it been he were not a footballer, he would have worked hard to become a lawyer. Most people do not know that Eto’o does not have an agent. Contrary to reports, Jose Maria Mesalles, is not Eto’o’s agent but his lawyer. He negotiates on his behalf after receiving instructions from Sammu on what he wants and what he does not want. He pays him for that.

                                                                                              Samuel Eto'o

Sammu also recognises one fact. That as an African, his performances and attributes and not given the right value it deserves by neo-rascist european club owners. He fights to have that respected. Like Joseph Antoine Bell while at Olympique Marseille, Eto’o is big hearted and fights against all odds for the complete respect and emancipation of African footballers in the world.

Now, let’s turn to the present hulalala at Barcelona. Yes, Pep says he does not need him anymore. Accepted. But the argument he gave is hollow and to the best non-sensical. He said he wanted to make some slight changes in the team and Sammu is the one to be sacrificed. Why Sammu? Why does he think Sammu may be complacent this season because he has won two CL cups and three Spanish Football Championship? In my opinion, the answer stands somewhere tall: It’s an issue of personality clash. It seems both men are people of great hubris.

Is asking for parity in salary with Messi too much for Barca management? I don’t think so because their performances and outputs are glaring to all lovers of football. I am not in any way comaparing Etoo and Messi because both players have different playstyles. Yet, they complement each other.

In a sense, Barca is disrespectful of Etoo and think they can off-load him wherever they want. This not possible because Etoo has a great power: He has just one year left in his contract with this club. If he has to be off-loaded, this can only be possible if Barca is willing to pay the severance fee of the contract. Some say by asking for a severance fee, Eto is greedy. I don’t think so. Paying for the severance fee when contracts are abrogated is a major principle guiding contract law. If football managers are paid this fee when they are sacked, why not footballers who are off-loaded by their clubs?

Concerning the present transfer saga, Etoo go play for Inter Milan on his own terms: An improved salary and a better footballing project for Inter.

Biya’s June 30, 2009 Cabinet Reshufflement


Today, President Paul Biya reshuffled his cabinet in Cameroon. This, he has done many times in the past. The intention of any cabinet reshufflement is to improve the quality of public policies and service delivery for the purpose attaining governments’ objectives be it economic development, equitable re-distribtuion of national resources or full employment. In Cameroon, numerous evidences reveal that this is not the case. Since becoming President in Cameroon in 1982, Biya has reshuffled his cabinet more than 20 times but a large chunk of the populace still wallow in abject poverty, misery, and desperation.

Fil:Paul Biya at US Embassy 2006.JPG

In fact, cabinet reshufflement in Cameroon is a singular occasion for the president to place praise singers and cronies at strategic positions of State apparatus to ensure the perpetuation of neopatrimonial system of governanance and policies. It also an occasion for the various ministerial appointees to visit their areas of origin to sing ‘kumbaya’ to the natinal prince for his magnanimity. And so, our collective dilemma and suffering persist.

I just informed a male Cameroonian friend of mine about this reshufflement. Read his reaction: ‘Thanks D. But what next?’. His reaction and questioning of the reshuuflement is very interesting. With this system and government, nothing changes in Cameroon. Rising inflation and unemployment, poor roads, collapsing railway lines, dilapidated bridges, rising trend of bribery and corruption etc etc. In fact, with this government in place, almost nothing changes in Cameroon. 

Another female friend just responded now: ‘Great. He is from our [administrative] division. Hope things improve for our people.’ She is referring to the newly appointed Prime Minister, Yang Philemon.  She is talking here about the neopatrimonial system of governance operating in Cameroon: providing public contracts to clients (tribesmen and women), as well as, economic and social services and resources (such as employment opportunities, the building of health centres, schools, and hospitals etc) to her area of origin. 

Both reaction succintly depicts the dichotomy Cameroon faces today. While most Cameroonians would like a change in the system of governance with emphasis on checks and accountability, the respect of human rights, free and fair elections, economic development, equal opportunities for all, a few groups of entrenched self-interest would do all they can in their power to ensure that the present system persists.

It seems to me that the urgency of the present cabinet reshufflement is not rooted in the conviction of making Cameroon a better place to live, that is, to improve the lifestyle of its citizenry. It is a political calculation to divert the attention of most Cameroonians  from a recent embarassment the President and his family are confronting as a result of the publication ‘Biens Mal Acquis’ which accuses the president among other things, of possessing many castles in France, Germany and Switzerland; of borrowing 4 billion CFA francs to a French secret society to be reimboursed during 99 years; for crumbling banks by borrowing millions of CFA francs without honouring the terms of these loans etc. So far, this has created a large outcry in Cameroon with opposition politicians calling on him to legally declare his property etc. The report has been widely read in Cameroon because many newspapers published it in their pages.

Considering the ministerial appointments, others may view this reshufflement as Biya positioning himself for the 2011 presidential elections. This may be true. But considering past presidential election calenders, I suspect it will be held next year.

One serious political trend operating in Cameroon since the appointment of Inoni Ephraim is that to become Prime Minister in Cameroon, one must initially occupy the position of Assistant Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon. If we may go by this logic, then the next Prime Minister of Cameroon is Peter Agbor Tabi. I suspect he will be appointed Prime Minister before the presidential election. Considering his tenure as Chancellor at the University of Yaounde, this international relations specialist is bold, reformist and confrontational. I suspect he will probably be the ‘rigging architect’ for Biya’s re-election bid.

Cameroon Must Improve Governance to Fight Corruption-Janet E. Garvey, US Ambassador to Cameroon.


The US Ambassador to Cameroon has called on the government of Cameroon to implement good governance principles to fight the endemic corruption plaguing the country. She says that eradicating corruption in any society depends on involving and sensitizing all stakeholders operating in society. Read the speech she delivered during the Commonwealth Business Forum on the 16th June 2009.  

Skip Left Section NavigationHis Excellency, the Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals,
Members of the Commonwealth Business Council,
Friends,

Good afternoon.  Thank you for the invitation to address you this afternoon.  I am particularly honored to be your guest because, although my own government is not a member of the Commonwealth, the United States and Commonwealth members share common formative experiences, defining principles, and aspirations for the future, so I am confident I am among friends.

Last week, in Douala, I addressed the American Chamber of Commerce, or Amcham, which was formed a short time ago in recognition of the significant and growing interest that American companies have in Cameroon and the Central African Region.  In my remarks to the Amcham last week, I noted President Obama’s call for a “New Era of Responsibility” in America.  I suggested to the Amcham that their responsibility entailed a commitment to take concrete steps to help build a more prosperous Cameroon.  I predict that you will see the American Chamber of Commerce taking on a role of increasing leadership and engagement in the coming months and years.

I am pleased to note that the Commonwealth Business Council has taken its responsibility seriously for many years now.  The title of today’s forum is indicative: “Business Action Against Corruption”.  The title of today’s sessions is not “Business Complaining about Corruption” or “Businesses Hoping Someone Else Will Do Something About Corruption!”.  I appreciate the fact that you recognize that business can and should take action on this front.

I firmly believe that the fight against corruption, if it is to be won, will require action from all of us.  The government, of course, plays a central role, but so too do the National Assembly, the media, the business community, the churches and mosques, universities and other elements of Cameroonian society.

The international community, too, has a role to play.  Let me take a moment to tell you what the U.S. Government is doing to fulfill its responsibility, to take its own action against corruption.

Our single most important step is actually an old one, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  For more than 30 years, it has been illegal for American citizens or American companies to pay bribes in foreign countries.  We were the first to take this important step to reduce the demand for corruption, and there is no country in the world that enforces similar rules with the same level of aggressiveness as we do.
For example, in February of this year, Kellog, Brown and Root, a former U.S. subsidiary of Halliburton, plead guilty to bribing Nigerian officials and agreed to pay $400 million in fines.  Company officials face long sentences in jail for their crimes.  The U.S. Government is serious about ensuring that American citizens and American companies do not engage in corruption.  If anyone has evidence of such a crime, the U.S. Government will investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

In recent years, we have taken further steps to uphold our responsibility, to do our part to help fight corruption in Cameroon, and around the world.

In 2004, President Bush issued Proclamation 7750, which requires the U.S. Department of State to deny visas to foreign citizens and government officials who have engaged in serious corruption.  In the last several years, we have applied this provision against corrupt officials in Africa, including in Cameroon.  I believe Proclamation 7750 is an important indication that we will not allow our shores to become a safe haven for corrupt officials.  If we know someone is corrupt, we do not want their ill-gotten gains being washed into our economy, our banks, and our real estate.

In 2006, we ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, called UNCAC, which committed us to improving our own governance and to helping countries like Cameroon do the same.  The UNCAC includes provisions for mutual legal assistance on cases involving corruption, including political corruption.  The UNCAC is a tool that enables Cameroonian and American law enforcement and judicial officials to cooperate on corruption cases.

In the spirit of mutual legal assistance, we have welcomed Cameroonian officials who have visited Washington in recent years to meet with their colleagues in our Departments of Treasury, Justice, and Homeland Security, to see what we can do to help Cameroon track and recover stolen assets stashed abroad.

At this very moment, while I address you today, Cameroonian experts are meeting with their American counterparts at a conference that the United States Government has organized in order to help Cameroon and other African countries that have shown their determination to fight against financial crimes, including political corruption. 

This conference is just one example of the U.S. Government’s willingness to work with the Cameroonian Government in its efforts to recover stolen assets that might be found in foreign banks, including, perhaps, the United States. 

Let us remember, however, that it is not enough to find a few bank accounts, recover some funds, and congratulate ourselves for a success.

Recovering stolen assets is important, and it is a priority for the U.S. Government.

In my opinion, however, asset recovery is not the most important for Cameroon’s future.  In the same way that one does not go and put water back in a bucket that is filled with many holes, what would be the purpose of returning funds to Cameroon unless the system that allowed the funds to disappear in the first place has been reformed?

Each year the U.S. Embassy sends a number of government officials, civil society activists, journalists and parliamentarians to the U.S. for programs on the themes of accountability, transparency and good governance.  Our goal is to help you help your government and country.  In addition, we organize a number of programs with American experts who travel to Cameroon or via digital video conference to share their experience with Cameroonians to promote good governance.   In the past year alone, the U.S. Embassy has organized good governance training for local police officers, military personnel, journalists, prosecutors and officials involved in combating financial crime.

The campaign to fight corruption must continue, and let me be sure I give appropriate credit to the Minister of Justice Amadou Ali, to the judicial and police officials who have waged, in the last few years, one of the most aggressive anti-corruption campaigns on the continent.  But, in order to be successful, it must be accompanied by an equally rigorous campaign to improve governance.

It does not matter how many officials are put in prison as long as the government functions with a system that allows, and perhaps even encourages, government officials to handle sacks filled with millions of CFA in cash!

It does not matter how many millions of stolen assets are recovered and sent back from the banks of the United States, Europe and Asia, if officials are not pursued immediately, both under administrative sanctions and criminal sanctions and removed from their functions immediately if they are found guilty or if their actions cast doubt on their suitability to execute their functions.

The police and the judiciary are excellent tools to fight corruption, but the best way to improve governance is to increase transparency.

In 2008, the Open Budget Initiative surveyed the budgeting procedures of 85 countries around the world.  Out of a possible score of one hundred, Cameroon scored a 5, placing it in the bottom fifth of the list.  Botswana, by contrast, earned a 62.  Kenya a 57.  Tanzania 35.  Niger 26.  And Cameroon, 5.

One of the most effective ways to fight corruption is to make it harder for people to embezzle funds.  The current system makes it too easy, and makes it too hard for police investigators and prosecutors to pursue them and bring them to justice.

We have a common interest in transparency in public spending, because transparency is necessary for accountability.
We all know that corruption is not a Cameroonian problem, or an African problem.  It is a human problem, a scourge that threatens every government in every culture around the world.  We can no more end corruption, than we can end disease, but we can establish institutions, laws, regulations and norms to help ensure that corruption does not become too harmful.

In the United States, we have a number of institutions dedicated to strengthening accountability, such as the Government Accounting Office, a Congressional institution which investigates the use and misuse of public funds.  Every USG agency has its own internal Inspectorate General.  All government purchases and procedures must be published and available to the public and the media.  Procedures exist for government employees to alert those in responsible positions of wrong doing, malfeasance, and corrupt ethical behavior without fear of reprisal.  Like other senior officials in the U.S. Government, I am required to file an annual financial disclosure statement. 

The U.S. federal government requires that officials abide by 14 principles of conduct.   These include:  Federal employees shall not use public office for private gain; employees must avoid actions that create the appearance that they are violating the law or ethical standards; they must avoid conflicting financial interests and conflicting personal or business relationships.

We also have guidelines to follow when it comes to gifts from individuals, companies, our own employees, and foreign governments.  For example, I am not allowed to accept a gift worth over $25 from non-government sources, with strict limits also set on gifts from government officials.

The United States Congress has recognized the importance of transparent budgets in development and recently passed a law that prohibits the U.S. Government from providing development assistance to governments that do not manage their budgets with transparency and accountability.  Cameroon, like some other countries, will come under increasing scrutiny – as will our assistance programs – as a result of its poor performance on budget transparency. 

My hope is that Cameroonians will insist upon greater transparency and accountability in public spending, not because the U.S. Government says so, but because such a step is in Cameroon’s interest.

I would like to applaud the Government of Cameroon’s recent initiative to revise its system of tendering.  At the opening of the conference organized earlier this month by the Agence de Regulation des Marche Publiques or ARMP, Prime Minister Inoni stated clearly:  « The Government of Cameroon, under the orders of the President of the Republic, Head of State, is resolutely committed to improve the Cameroonian tender system, to make it more efficient and trustworthy.
The Government has also taken important steps to improve governance and revenue collection in the customs sector.  The Cameroon Tribune reports that the treasury is receiving billions of additional CFA as a result of a new committee to recover customs revenue.

These steps will help ensure that Cameroon’s resources are spent more effectively in the public interest.

I agree with those Cameroonians who say: “What Cameroon needs now is more roads, more schools, more energy.” I agree!  But how many billions of CFA have already been spent on roads that were never built?  How many billions of CFA were spent on medicines that never reached the sick?

Yes, Cameroon needs more roads, but the plan to build more roads will not succeed unless it is accompanied by a new manner of public spending.  I hope Cameroonians will insist upon greater transparency and accountability because it is what is needed in order to foster the economic growth and job creation that everyone agrees are sorely needed.

Of course, it is not enough for the Government simply to publish the detailed expenditures.  Civil society, including the business community, must engage to be sure funds are being spent in the right areas and effectively.

Returning to the theme of responsibility: who bears responsibility to lead the fight against corruption and for better governance in Cameroon?

It is not enough to say “the Minister of Justice” or “the police” or “the Head of State.”  Nor is it enough to say “civil society” or “the media” or the “international community.”  The truth is that we all play a role, we all have a responsibility.  When businesses collude in corruption, when individuals pay bribes, when journalists look for their “motivation” packets, you all are part of the problem.  And when business associations speak out and hold forums like today’s, when individuals say no and report corruption, when journalists investigate and expose graft, then you are all part of the solution. 

Each of us must be committed to do our part.  We must all together say: “No, I will not pay bribes.  NON, je ne donne pas. It is our shared responsibility.  NON, je ne donne pas.

I have laid out some of the steps the U.S. Government has taken in order to meet our own responsibility in the fight against corruption and for better governance.  Let me close with this question, “What are you doing, as a Cameroonian citizen, as a Cameroonian taxpayer, as a leader, as a member of Cameroon’s business community, what are you doing, to fight corruption and improve governance in Cameroon?”