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The UK is to supply new emergency aid to help tackle a humanitarian crisis in Cameroon, as the Minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin calls for full humanitarian access to save thousands of children’s lives.

Fighting between Anglophone separatists and Cameroon security forces has displaced almost half a million people since tensions flared more than a year ago in the North-West and South-West regions of the country. The humanitarian situation on the ground is deteriorating, food supplies are critical and thousands of children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition.

The much-needed new UK aid funding, delivered through UNICEF, will:

  • treat 1,300 children who are most at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition
  • provide essential drugs to treat 5,700 children for deadly diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, and acute respiratory infections
  • deliver water and sanitation kits, non-food items and dignity kits to 10,000 people
  • provide 2,000 mosquito-nets to prevent malaria
  • vaccinate 3,500 children against measles
  • identify and support many unaccompanied children.

Minister of State for Africa, Harriett Baldwin said:

Hundreds of thousands of people are living in desperate conditions in Cameroon. We call on all parties to provide full humanitarian access to ensure more lives are not put at risk.

It is the most vulnerable, particularly young children, who find themselves on the front line of this humanitarian crisis.

UK aid will make sure the most vulnerable can get the medical treatment, food, water and support they so desperately need.

The new funding will go towards a $15 million (£11.9m) emergency appeal launched earlier this year by the UN.

Notes to editors

  • UK aid will be providing a £2.5m contribution to the UN’s response to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, with £2m to be disbursed immediately through UNICEF. The remainder will be allocated in 2019 to support the coordination of the international response through the Conflict Humanitarian and Security Department (CHASE).
  • The total number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) has now reached 437,000. 30,000 refugees have been registered by UNHCR in Nigeria and an unknown number of people have been forced to migrate to other regions of Cameroon. More than 10% of the population of the Anglophone regions has been uprooted.

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Source: gov.uk


The top U.S. diplomat in Africa says the Southern Cameroons could get much worse, saying “the last thing we need” is growing radicalization in response to the actions of security forces.

Tibor Nagy told reporters on Thursday that the situation in the Central African nation is worsening by the day and “worrying me greatly.”

He said the United States calls for dialogue between Cameroon’s government and the Anglophone separatists who sprang up from peaceful protests against the alleged marginalization of English-speakers in the largely Francophone country.

Nagy said he is reminded of neighboring Nigeria, where the government’s “brutal response” to extremism led to growing membership in Boko Haram.

The U.S. diplomat suggested “some form of decentralization” in Cameroon as mentioned in a proposed constitution for the country.

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Source: foxnews

 

A high power fact-finding delegation of legislators from the German Parliament otherwise known as the Bundestag is sojourning in Cameroon to meet stakeholders in the current Anglophone Crisis.

The mission which is made up of representatives from about six political parties in Germany is comprised of members of the Crisis and Conflict Committee of the Bundestag. Since their arrival in the country last Saturday, December 1, 2018, the committee members have been meeting with different stakeholders.

Our sources told us that it was the wish of the Parliamentarians that their stay in Cameroon remains low keyed. We are also told that on Sunday morning, they held their first meeting with some journalists, Church leaders and other persons at the Akwa Palace hotel Douala where these persons, mostly from the North West and South Regions x-rayed the deep-rooted causes of the conflict as well as a vivid picture of the current human rights abuses on the ground in the two restive Regions.

A similar meeting took place that same Sunday in the afternoon at the Yaoundé Hilton hotel with other stakeholders wherein a similar story was told these German representatives.

With the assistance of the German Ambassador to Cameroon, Dr. Hans-Dieter Stell, the Law makers were told of the inhuman suffering Anglophones are going through, the role of the various armed groups, the military as well as Government’s lacklustre attitude towards the much talked about dialogue, sources informed us.

These stakeholders also prayed the German Parliament to use its influence in the international relations of nations to put pressure on the Government of Cameroon and France, which is the major stakeholder to call for a negotiated dialogue with a third party.

Without promising a miraculous panacea to heal the wounds of Cameroonians in general and Anglophones in particular, the Parliamentarians promised to do their own best to shorten the lifespan of the current bloodshed.

However, they decried the heavy hand of France in matters concerning Cameroon which is blocking every international initiative.

This Monday, the German legislators met with some Government officials to read the story through their own lenses. Unfortunately, they were barred from going to the affected Regions because of the security embargo imposed by Western countries on their nationals.

Note that last month German Parliamentarians raised the Anglophone Conflict in their Parliament and challenged the Government to be proactive now to prevent a further escalation of the situation which to them would lead to a major humanitarian disaster.

It was based on this that the Bundestag sent members of the Crisis and Conflict Committee to Cameroon.

These members would then report to the Parliament in general for further actions to be taken.

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Source: natimesnews

 

Up to 50 Christian schools and hospitals have been affected, and the military has kidnapped four churches. “We need peace and the UN intervention”, a Cameroonian Christian says.

Last October, Paul Biya (86), the second longest serving president of Africa, won the elections in Cameroon with more than 70% of the votes.

The octogenarian, who has been in power for 36 years, will continue in office at least six more, despite the complaints of the opponent Maurice Kamto, who appealed the elections and unsuccessfully claimed their nullity.

THE CONFLICT IN AMBAZONIA

One of the most difficult scenarios for the president is the conflict with the self-proclaimed Republic of Ambazonia, in the West and English-speaking region, with three million people.

Up to now, the president’s policy has been based, above all, on military actions in favor of the defense of a unitary and centralized state in Yaoundé, against the groups in favor of independence that denounce what they consider to be privileges of the French-speaking part.

The conflict, which has its origins in the colonial division of the continent and the incorporation in 1961 of the former South Cameroon, occupied by the British, to Cameroon, of French exploitation, has caused the death of hundreds of people, including an American missionary killed in October, and the displacement of tens of thousands since 2016.

“WE NEED PEACE AND THE UN INTERVENTION”

Christians are not exempt from constant confrontations either. In fact, they have been the object of one of the last actions by the independence militias, which in early November kidnapped 80 students from the Presbyterian school in Bamenda.

Although the students have been released, “we need peace and the UN intervention”, says a Methodist Christian in Cameroon, who has agreed to speak with Spanish news website Protestant Digital, preferring to keep his identity anonymous.

“Many people die every day, homes and villages are burned, there are famished people and also those who take refuge in Nigeria. We do not have a voice in our country”, he adds.

PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

Up to 50 primary and secondary schools and Christian hospitals have been affected by the conflict, according to the secretary of communication and information of the Council of Protestant Churches of Cameroon, Gustav Ebai, who has lost four relatives in the clashes.

The military has also kidnapped four churches to turn them into barracks. “The government of Ambazonia, which controls most of the Northwest and Southwest, has placed a group of soldiers in the school until the crisis is resolved”.

“There are often shootings between different forces, and a stray bullet can kill a minor”, explains the Methodist believer. Because of this tension, the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC), published a statement last October, in the community bank holiday.

“Given what the English-speaking community is going through at this time, we cannot have a celebration while many of God’s children are being killed, suffering or living as internal or external refugees”, says the text signed by the Reverend Fonki Samuel Forba, of the PCC.

“The emphasis should be placed on supplying the Working Fund for the Mission, to allow the church to continue assisting our pastors and brothers displaced by the armed conflict that has brought pain and suffering to many”, the document adds.

CAMEROON RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY

53% of the population in Cameroon is considered Christian, according to the Joshua project. Of these, about 39% are Catholics, 22% Protestants and just over 33% belong to other denominations.

The sources consulted explain that “Cameroon is a country of religious tolerance. There is freedom of worship. Most of the Christians in the country are Catholics, Presbyterian, Baptists and Evangelicals, but there are also Pentecostal groups that are growing”.

In addition, “the main challenge is to meet, and this has made it difficult for the church to have a strong voice in the country”.

According to Central African missionary of Assemblies of God in Cameroon, Adongo Augustin Atilas, “believers are not united and live much more the syncretism and its ritual practices, especially when there is a birth or during the mourning after a funeral”.

Ethnic religions represent the third largest group of people in the country, with almost 22% of the population. The second group is Islam (24%), especially in the Northern part of the country, which lives in conflict because of the presence of Boko Haram and Fulani shepherds.

“Muslims and Christians have no problem in Cameroon. They live well and sometimes can share views on Jesus, although it is a taboo for some Muslims. They can visit you at night to pray and study the Bible, but they will never go to church”, Atilas says.

POLITICAL INTERFERENCES

The increasing conflict in recent years has mainly generated two political reactions to the religious fact: indifference and suspicion, depending on the point of view from which one looks.

“The government does not care about anything, it has no solution for the problems of the people, nor is it prepared to listen to the weeping of the masses”, explains the Christian Methodist.

Atilas believes that “Christians in Cameroon are not free to express their beliefs and are threatened by the bad government of the country”.

“We knew that there would be fraud in the elections since the beginning. Biya organized the vote, counted the ballots, registered them and proclaimed the results, despite being also a candidate. What can you expect?”

Lately, politics has also become part of “the prominent churches” of the country. In fact, according to the Catholic newspaper La Croix, Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Catholic leaders, have created an alliance with representatives of the Muslim community to mediate in the conflict.

It is estimated that about one hundred pastors of the PCC have fled from the southwest and Northwest regions, because of the conflict.

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Author: Jonatán Soriano

Source: evangelicalfocus.com

A senior Cameroon military officer has revealed that the Ambazonian Restoration Forces are not losing in the Southern Cameroons war and that the Unity Palace needs a new occupant to bring peace to the divided nation. Speaking on Monday to our undercover reporter in Yaoundé, the military baron who hails from the Far North region and whose name we are withholding noted that relatively speaking nothing changed ever since troops were deployed to crush the Anglophone uprising.

Citing former French President Jacques Chirac, the top military officer said “No one ever wins a war and I can sincerely tell you that there is no military solution to the crisis in Anglophone Cameroon.”

The Head of State should engage the leadership of the Anglophones in the Diaspora and convince them that it was time to come to the negotiation table,” he added. Without going into some military details, the French Cameroun soldier further pointed out that Biya is currently making the path to reconcile the nation rockier. “I believe and fervently too that the key to solving the crisis in Anglophone Cameroon is to bring in the United States government to incentivize the Ambazonian Interim government to negotiate.” He said.

The Francophone army commander said the Abuja action against the Anglophone leadership was a costly mistake and a diplomatic blunder that has made reconciliation between Francophones and Anglophones too far-fetched. He claimed that a majority of Francophone political elites sees no military solution to the Anglophone crisis.

Cameroon Intelligence Report gathered that Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo has placed a ban on media houses shedding fresh light on Cameroon military’s failure to contain the Ambazonian Liberation Forces and stabilize the territory. There are fears that with presidential elections just three months away in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, separatist fighters may gain strength as the Biya regime   in Yaounde struggles to monitor not only Southern Cameroonians but also the Bamilekes who are reportedly behind Prof Maurice Kamto.

We understand that the Southern Cameroons Interim Government decreed a county-by-county policing of the Ambazonian territory and this has cemented the position of fighters under the Ambazonia Security Council (ASC) who are now taking control over larger chunks of the rural areas while the Biya government had seen its control shrink. The Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) has failed to secure Southern Cameroons and have also suffered a high number of casualties in their battle against the Ambazonia Restoration Forces.

Author: Asu Vera Eyere and Sama Ernest

Source: cameroonintelligencereport

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Over 30,000 Cameroonian refugees fleeing violence are currently seeking refuge in Nigeria, UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has said.

According to Babar Baloch, a spokesperson for UNHCR, the needs on the ground to cater for the refugees in Nigeria were outpacing donor efforts.

He said the situation was particularly worrying for women and children, accounting for close to 80 percent of arrivals, saying most of the refugees are sheltering in Nigeria’s southeastern areas, hosted by local communities.

Baloch said reports indicated that scores of people had been killed in English-speaking areas of Cameroon and thousands forced from their homes, including many who have sought refuge in Nigeria.

According to Nigeria Politics, an online platform, the UNHCR boss said the refugee agency was facilitating voluntary relocation of refugees to settlements in Cross River and Benue provinces, which provide better security, shelter and access to essential services.

“Currently, more than 9,000 Cameroonian refugees have been moved to new settlements, where they receive food as well as essential items such as mattresses, mosquito nets, stoves and cooking utensils, as well as equipment to build shelters,” Baloch said.

The UNHCR spokesperson added that women and girls were also being provided with dignity kits, including among other items, buckets, soap and towels.

In some instances, cash assistance is provided to enable refugees buy food directly from the markets in host communities, helping facilitate the integration of those forced to flee and those welcoming them, he stated.

“However, despite the work of UNHCR and other aid organizations, the needs are far from being met and there are several challenges, including education opportunities for refugee children.

“The rainy season and harsh road conditions to remote areas make the assistance to the refugees outside of the newly-developed settlement very difficult, with acute needs for food, shelter, water and sanitation,” he said.

Baloch explained that discussions were ongoing with the Government for improved access to the displaced population.

Source: independent.ng

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World democracies, global organizations and the world’s biggest media outlets have either maintained criminal silence or opted for a shockingly high level of hypocrisy on the 36-year-old tyranny of Paul Biya, 85, in the Cameroons.

For instance, whereas the West has chased leaders of Biya’s ilk from power under similar conditions in Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, The Gambia and Zimbabwe, excuses are made to roll out the carpet for Biya.

On November 6, the 36th anniversary of Biya’s first inauguration as president in November 1982, the ruthless dictator was sworn in for yet another seven-year term. Biya’s longevity in power would have been impossible without the West, notably France, looking the other way.

Often seen, on account of its unpopularity, as being on political life support, Biya’s regime has survived on the back of brutish repression, state terrorism, constitutional coups, massive vote rigging and election hold-ups.

Biya is the civilian façade of a clan-based de facto military regime. It thrives on divide-and-rule and fuelling the many fractious factions of the opposition.

It is a regime that pays lip service to majority rule but survives on minority rule through its rejection of election run-offs.

It dismisses remedies that could be offered by vote recounts.

It professes faith in the infallibility of decisions handed down by Biya’s hand-picked Constitutional Council, the supreme authority on the bankrupt electoral system that the regime counts on to cling on to power.

But, if you arrived on earth today from Mars, you would be forgiven for concluding – based on global media coverage of the Cameroons recently- that the most important challenge facing this two-in-one failing or failed nation founded in 1961 is the kidnapping of 81 students and their teachers. It is not.

Yet, it is the only story that every single one of the world’s leading wire services (AP, Reuters, AFP, etc.) and broadcast outlets (CNN, BBC, VOA, RFI, DW, etc.) have bothered to cover extensively.

They have done so despite the shallow nature of the facts and holes in the story.

When the dust settles, world media may be able to admit that the Biya regime played political Drama Queen on this incident, leading the world and world media by the nose.

In a hurry to have the scoop on a story that they sensed has global appeal and front-page staying power, reporters created a storm in a teacup.

Their reporting embarrassed audiences around the globe with poorly sourced, hardly fact-checked, wildly distorted, misleading and inaccurate accounts of the kidnappings.

Western capitals took the bait, expressing concern and calling for the immediate release and safe return of the kidnapped students.

None expressed concern over why an officer of Cameroon’s army was unmasked in photos as the lead kidnapper.

Acting urgently, as Western capitals did is understandable.

There is, indeed, no higher priority than to seek resolution of a crisis.

However, on these kidnappings and even before all the details are known, one thing is clear.

The kidnapping of the 81 students and teachers looks increasingly like a sadistic prank by the Biya regime.

It was aimed, ostensibly, at reenacting the April 2014 kidnapping by Boko Haram Islamic extremists of 276 Chibok Girls in Nigeria’s Borno State.

It is the kind of fabrication the regime has been desperate to find to mobilize world support for listing the pro-independence campaign as a terrorist movement.

It is the kind of crisis every tyrant prays for when they need to divert world attention from real challenges.

Like a deer in the headlights, Western powers and Western media houses are caught in the regime’s self-incriminating web of lies, endless political spin, and pure propaganda. How else?

If Western democracies were not just going along with the regime’s poorly masked campaign of demonization of pro-independence campaigners in Ambazonia, one would have expected them to show the same level of concern for other vulnerable citizens.

For example, hundreds of thousands of Ambazonian children – most of them far younger and more vulnerable than the students kidnapped – now live in the wild (in bushes, farmlands and forests).

It is the only choice they have if they want to survive the brutish French-speaking troops whose occupation of Ambazonia has led, among others, to the looting and burning to the ground of over 140 villages.

As a result of scorched earth practices in blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, more than 100,000 people have fled into exile or refugee camps mostly in neighboring Nigeria

Victims of these horrendous abuses cannot be blamed for doubting that the West truly believes in the sanctity of life – for all.

The congratulatory messages to Biya after he staged another election theft in broad daylight has many doubting the commitment of the West for democracy, human rights and the rule of law for citizens of the Cameroons.

Especially because both London and Washington, DC, congratulated the “election thief” way ahead of countries like North Korea and China.

France’s ownership of the natural resources of the Cameroons in keeping with a pre-independence accord signed on 26 December 1959 and Britain’s preoccupation with sealing oil and gas deals suggest that the West cares more for pay-to-play deals than for the welfare of Ambazonians.

The hypocrisy is blatant.

France’s foreign minister played Pontus Pilatus when reporters asked whether or not Cameroon’s most recent presidential elections were free and fair.

Paris hid behind the very convenient, but utterly false, claim that France respects Cameroon’s so-called sovereignty.

Speaking of which – where else did the West evoke national sovereignty in a crisis they were interested in preventing or ending?

Under the “Responsibility to Protect” principle adopted by the United Nations in 2005, the West can – if it truly cares – intervene unilaterally in Ambazonia to put an end to an unjustified war against the English-speaking people of Ambazonia who, overwhelmingly, favor peaceful separation from recolonization by Cameroon.

While the world has looked away, thousands of pro-independence campaigners have been massacred, injured or “disappeared” in one of the world’s most under-reported war and humanitarian crisis.

The number of the internally displaced is probably north of a million people.

It is genocide – a crime of intention.

French-speaking troops are targeting and slaughtering English-speaking citizens simply for insisting to be who they like to be: Ambazonians.

No students – or anyone else for that matter – should suffer kidnappings.

The prank this week would have been avoided had Western democracies not shown the kind of indifference, criminal silence and outright failure that has been promoted as policy at global organizations like the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Their job, at all times, should have been to call out regimes like Biya’s. Sadly, the leaders of the United Nations and the Commonwealth have bothered more about being on good terms with a tyrant who lavishes them with gifts of gold than uphold resolutions adopted by and still pending full implementation by the institutions they lead – if such could be called leadership.

As with the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and the massacres in Bosnia in 1995, there is no excuse for Western democracies doing nothing to end the carnage in Ambazonia.

Especially because the Biya regime has telephoned their every move and has lived up to every one of those sadistic pledges.

For example, from the very beginning of the war against Ambazonia, the regime committed officially that its troops will target civilians indiscriminately – in other words, that their troops will commit war crimes.

The only adjustment that has been made to that policy has been the regime calling on its troops to stop documenting their atrocity crimes and crimes against humanity on video, posted on social media.

Biya’s minister of territorial administration promised, from the onset of the war, that their troops will treat – sorry, mistreat – Ambazonians worse than Boko Haram terrorists.

The regime has delivered on that promise.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the war against Ambazonia has been more deadly than the counter-terrorism campaign Cameroon is waging against Boko Haram in the northern regions of that country.

Facts don’t lie. Western democracies, global organizations and the Western media are proving, shamefully, that they held former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe to a different standard than they are willing to hold the Biya regime.

America readily approved support for rebels who formed a never-before-known state in Benghazi in defiance of the central authority of ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, but Washington is unwilling even to uphold America’s YES vote – along with 63 other countries on the floor of the United Nations on 21st April 1961 – in favor of independence for Ambazonia (then known as Southern Cameroons).

The West evoked Responsibility to Protect as soon as the Gaddafi regime promised “rivers of blood”.

Yet, the same Western democracies are sitting on their hands even as the Biya regime not only promises but is actually spilling “oceans of blood” in Ambazonia.

The same United Nations which deployed Peacekeepers to arrest further descent into violence in a far less bloody civil war in Cote d’Ivoire has mouthed platitudes tantamount to giving Biya a pass even as his regime has prevented the deployment of human rights and humanitarian missions.

The same France, which, with support from America’s former president, Barack Obama, did not hesitate to lead a military invasion.

They dragged out of the presidential palace the former leader of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, and installed the person the West believed was the rightful winner of the ballot in that country.

Now, they are burying their heads in the sands of so-called sovereignty of Cameroon.

Talk of hypocrisy!

Author: Boh Herbert Ntumfoyn Ntumfoyn

Source: taarifa.rw

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Paul Biya, one of the world’s longest-serving rulers, takes sustained Swiss vacations as his country grapples with crises

GENEVA—Blinds were drawn at a back office of the Intercontinental Hotel one day last year, as a man known to staff as The General emptied a white cloth bag stuffed with euros. It was time to pay for one of the world’s longest-serving leaders.

For weeks, several former hotel employees recalled, the five-star hotel had been locked in a secret routine serving its best two customers, the first couple of an impoverished oil-exporting Central African country. Paul Biya, president of Cameroon since 1982, and his wife, Chantal, clock so much time on private visits to Switzerland that staff in the Intercontinental’s gilded corridors refer to them by simple code names: Him and Her.

“It’s like they are at home. They live there,” said one of three former senior employees who regularly witnessed the bill-payment ritual.

As with other employees, this person recalled signing a nondisclosure agreement concerning the details of Mr. Biya’s monthlong stays: “If the Cameroonians are not coming, the hotel will close.”

The Intercontinental Hotel said it wouldn’t comment on guests for confidentiality reasons. “Our employees are fully trained not to disclose any information,” a representative said.

The Intercontinental Hotel, Geneva.
The Intercontinental Hotel, Geneva. PHOTO: FABRICE COFFRINI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

World leaders dropping top dollar at luxury hotels isn’t by itself unusual. What distinguishes Mr. Biya’s Geneva getaways is the abundant time and hard cash the 85-year-old and his dozens-strong entourage spend here. The president has passed a cumulative four years on personal travels since 1982, the vast majority in Switzerland, according to flight data collected by the website Geneva Dictator Alert, and Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an investigative group specializing in anticorruption and organized crime that has tracked his travels. In some years he spent a third of the year out of his home country.

“He always pays in cash,” said Herbert Schott, a retired Intercontinental manager who first hosted Mr. Biya in 1969. “Next year he will mark 50 consecutive years of patronage. It’s a record.”

Mr. Schott welcomed a quarter-century’s worth of American presidents and once gave Ronald Reagan a mattress to replace the White House bedroom’s harsher one. But he said Mr. Biya was his best client. “He prefers to come to Geneva and sit down and nobody would bother him.”

“Lion Man,” as Mr. Biya’s supporters call him, is currently the world’s longest serving elected leader, if counting from his June 1975 arrival as prime minister, the same week McDonald’s Corp. introduced its drive-through. Since 1982, he has served as president. He is Africa’s highest-paid leader, with a $610,000 official salary annually, according to Africa Review, a periodical.

In Mr. Biya’s fourth decade in power, armed separatists are battling soldiers in Cameroon’s southwest, while Islamist terror group Boko Haram seizes villages and kidnaps children en masse in the northeast. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in the past two years. Cameroonian migrants now represent the fourth largest nationality sailing into Greece.

Last month, Mr. Biya won another seven years in office, taking 71% of the vote in an election in which riot police dispersed protesters. In some areas, less than 5% of the population voted. No Western government sent observers.

“We love him, we voted for him and there is nothing new in his habits,” said Cameroon’s Communications Minister Issa Bakary Tchiroma in response to questions about Mr. Biya’s Geneva hotel stays. “We ask everyone, all foreigners, to respect the will of our sovereign people.”

Mr. Biya has rarely given interviews to foreign media in recent years.

In Geneva, the president reserves the entire Intercontinental’s 16th floor, with some 20 rooms and two corner suites overlooking the United Nations’ Europe headquarters and Mont Blanc, said ex-employees, former Cameroon officials, and hotel reservation records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The staff haul armfuls of white flowers for his wife and fresh fruit platters—never cut, per presidential orders—for Mr. Biya, according to former hotel staff.

Mr. Biya’s trips cost millions of dollars apiece, said Christian Penda Ekoka, a longtime chief adviser to the president, turned opposition activist.

Mr. Biya and his wife arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in 2014 for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
Mr. Biya and his wife arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in 2014 for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. PHOTO:CLIFF OWEN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“He gets the money from Cameroon’s treasury” and pays in cash to keep the trips off books, said Mr. Ekoka, who used to be chief adviser to Mr. Biya and had access to trip details. “They want to avoid any trace.”

The Biyas in Switzerland in 2010.
The Biyas in Switzerland in 2010. PHOTO: SEBASTIEN BOZON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

A hotel reservation receipt seen by the Journal shows the size of the president’s entourage. In one September 2017 stay, he booked at least 48 rooms. Other Cameroonians stayed in less expensive hotels, former employees said, depending on their standing with the president.

To the U.S. and Europe, Mr. Biya is a valuable if awkward ally against terrorism and migration. The U.S. keeps 200 troops and several predator drones at a base in north Cameroon. American and Israeli special forces train Mr. Biya’s troops.

The European Union has pledged 282 million euros in aid for Cameroon. The hope is the country will grow wealthier, creating jobs to lure Cameroonians back to Cameroon.

The first protests, violently repressed by the Cameroonian armed forces, broke out two years ago. Mr. Biya was at the Intercontinental. He stayed another three weeks after, according to publicly available flight data and Cameroonian state press.

In Geneva, Mr. Biya seldom leaves his corner suite, former hotel staff said. For privacy, the Cameroonian delegation installs its own internet connection and phone switchboard. He enters and exits through the service exit for daily jogs, according to former hotel employees.

Mr. Biya’s suite overlooks tranquil Lake Geneva and a boulevard with placards extolling the virtues of human rights, democracy, rule of law: Geneva is a global capital for humanitarian and pro-democracy institutions.

Then U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan with Mr. Biya in Geneva, 2004.
Then U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan with Mr. Biya in Geneva, 2004. PHOTO: PHILIPPE MERLE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

“I find there, each time, an excellent welcome,” wrote Mr. Biya in a 1998 letter to Intercontinental management.

His wife—38 years younger than him—is at times seen in the lobby, robed in fluorescent dresses, standing more than 6 feet tall thanks to a voluminous bouffant hairstyle nicknamed “The Banana.” A Cameroonian journalist recently called her “The Belle of the Banana Republic,” and was sentenced to two years imprisonment for insulting her.

Her aides and hairdressers tip doormen hundreds of euros to run errands. “Cameroon is like a cash machine for the hotel,” said one former employee.

“Everything we can sell them, we do,” said another.

Chantal Biya greets her husband’s supporters in Cameroon in September.
Chantal Biya greets her husband’s supporters in Cameroon in September. PHOTO: ALEXIS HUGUET/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Visits begin unannounced, said current and former hotel employees, when an advanced team arrives laden with oversize luggage. Hotel management ejects guests from the 16th floor and moves them to other rooms.

Next comes a kitchen team—the president’s personal chefs from Cameroon—hauling jugs of palm oil and equatorial spices. Housekeepers taking days off are called in.

An enforcer nicknamed The General roams the hallways on the president’s behalf, chastising hotel staff, former hotel employees said.

Last comes an uninvited member of the presidential ensemble, a factory worker from Birmingham, England, who makes YouTube videos of himself shouting at Mr. Biya from outside the hotel.

“Two months again? In Geneva? At the Intercontinental Hotel?” screamed Emmanuel Kemta, a Cameroonian-born dissident in one of his more popular videos. “What are you doing here all this time, Biya?”

Two days before last month’s election, Mr. Biya made his only campaign speech. “What we have to do now is ensure peace reigns,” he said in brief remarks.

Back at the Geneva Intercontinental, staff were watching the elections closely. “They were so afraid he wouldn’t get re-elected,” said one former employee. “They would have a heart attack.”

Author: wsj.com

Source: By Drew Hinshaw and  Joe Parkinson

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No fewer than 206 network transmission sites belonging to MTN have been destroyed as increasingly bold armed separatists battle with government troops in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.

As the secessionists – dubbed Amba Boys – pursue their mission to create an independent state they will call “Federal Republic of Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons)”, their actions have left the North West and South West Regions with intermittent network access – and in some parts, there is no longer any mobile telephone network coverage.

In an interview with NewsWatch, Massey Njiti Bongang, Corporate Communications Manager at MTN Cameroon, said, “A total of 206 MTN sites have been vandalized since April 2018 and/or down because of difficulties to access them for maintenance for reasons of insecurity, making the network coverage poor or almost inexistent in some areas in the North West and South West Regions.

Disgruntled residents have reportedly vandalized network installations because they believe telecoms operators, including MTN, had on at least two occasions in 2017 conspired with the government to disrupt the internet in their regions. MTN is the most popular network in the North West and South West Regions.

MTN has vowed to restore services soon and say they have already reinstated 33 sites with plans to get the other 173 sites up and running, “without putting human life in danger.”

The Cameroon Private-sector Investors and Employers Association (GICAM) said the telecommunication sector is one of the most hit in the long-drawn conflict, “with the systematic destruction of antennas, transmission sites and a geometric fall in turnover.”

In a July 2018 report, GICAM said that telcos in the North West and South West Regions experienced a FCFA 1 billion monthly deficit in turnover and FCFA 300 million worth of equipment destroyed. Out of a total of 618 antennas and transmission sites in the restive areas, 114 were fully or partially destroyed as of July 31, 2018, the report disclosed.

The poor network quality is also attributed to multiple cuts of the optical fibre owned and managed by state-owned Cameroon Telecommunications (Camtel).

Source: itwebafrica.com

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The International Rescue Committee is scaling up its response in the region to respond to protection concerns and ensure access to clean water and basic needs.

  • Cameroon’s North West and South West regions are experiencing high levels of insecurity and armed violence, in some cases forcing whole communities to flee.
  • A quarter of a million people have been displaced from their homes in the South West region alone, of which around two-thirds are women.
  • After being forced to flee, many people are sheltering in the bush and relying on local communities for support. They reported urgently needing food, housing, and healthcare.
  • A recent IRC assessment found that people are using extremely negative coping mechanisms including women who are using plant leaves in lieu of sanitary towels.

Since 2016, Cameroon’s predominantly English-speaking North West and South West regions have experienced increasing levels of instability and violence, leading to a socio-economic crisis. Since October 2017 this crisis has gradually turned into insecurity and armed violence. Escalated tensions and multiple conflict outbreaks between the area’s Separatist Militias (SM) and the country’s defense and Security Forces (SF) have affected civilians; forcing many to flee their homes in the two regions.

The International Rescue Committee, in collaboration with two local organizations, Authentique Memorial Empowerment Foundation (AMEF) and Reach Out, recently conducted an assessment in the South West region to understand the needs of the displaced and host communities.

Hannah Gibbin, Cameroon country director for the International Rescue Committee said:

“The escalating crisis in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon has long gone overlooked. A quarter of a million people have been displaced from their homes in the South West alone, of which around two-thirds are women. Access challenges across both regions mean we do not know the full extent of the needs.

After being forced to flee, people are relying on local communities for support and reported urgently needing food, housing, and healthcare. People have had to find shelter and safety in the bush where they have little access to food, clean water, or any other basic services. Others are being sheltered by villagers, where already limited facilities are being overstretched – compounding the crisis for both the displaced and the local villagers. Many people are unable to afford to buy food, leading to them undertaking desperate measures including only eating once a day.

Women are being forced to use plant leaves in lieu of sanitary towels. The IRC found that 13 of the 17 focus groups that asked women about menstrual hygiene materials reported that they do not have access. This was either because they are unable to pay for them, find them or are too afraid to move to do so.

On top of this six of the nine communities assessed do not have adequate latrines meaning people have to go to the toilet in the open, potentially exposing women and girls to exploitation and disease. Where they are available, toilets are unlit at night, have no door or locks and are not segregated by gender, once again putting women at risk.

Community leaders also told the IRC that they are concerned about health services available for pregnant women, including care during deliveries and antenatal care. Only two out of the eight health facilities surveyed have the ability to conduct cesarean sections. A number of others are missing midwives and gynecologists.”

In addition to the risks faced by women the wider displaced community is at risk from malaria and typhoid. The assessment found that health centers are serving up to 66,000 people and that some of the health facilities lack access to both the drugs and equipment needed to adequately support the community. In addition, many health facilities lack the trained staff and equipment to handle a cholera outbreak should one occur.

More than half of the locations assessed have broken water points. Where the water points are functioning, there is a concern of potential contamination and issues of overcrowding and reliability. In some communities, issues around access to water had been exacerbated by the arrival of newly displaced people as the infrastructure can not handle the number of people.

The IRC is working in the South-West region to support people displaced who have fled to areas outside of urban centers, who are most in need. Through local partners, the IRC has distributed 800 specialized kits for women, which include sanitary towels as well as 400 household kits that contain basic items needed for cooking, sleeping and staying clean. Providing safe access is secured, the IRC will scale-up its work to support displaced communities in the area in the coming weeks.

Since 2016, the IRC has been working in the Far North of Cameroon, supporting those affected by the Boko Haram crisis, to meet their basic needs and overcome the trauma they have experienced including through specialized services for women and girls as well as water and sanitation facilities.

The full assessment can be downloaded here.

Source:  rescue.org

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