BY KIHKISHIY LAWRENCE
When men of goodwill meet you, it does not take long to notice them. PM, Dion Ngute, Northwest regional council, chair Fru Angwafor, Southwest regional council chair, Zacheus B. Elango, and reconstruction commission chair, Paul Tasong met businessmen in Douala to discuss the Paul Biya reconstruction plan for the destroyed Anglophone regions. In the frank discussions, we were served a good review of what we already know about the crisis and the “will” to end it. However, some issues came up which make nonsense of those good people and their good intentions.
Célestin Tawamba asked why the government is only available when they have to ask for funds from businessmen, adding that the lack of transparency in managing such funds has become an identity element of the government. He pointed that in other countries, the government has support programmes for companies that have suffered setbacks due to Covid-19, yet, in Cameroon, the reverse is the rule.
André Siaka on his part asked how the government could come to them empty-handed that is, without any guarantee and insurance plan to help companies in case they lose property or personnel in the crisis.
Meanwhile, Eric Njong was surprised that there is no fast track procedure to set up funded projects; in one year, the government raised FCFA 10 billion for the reconstruction and could only use FCFA 3.5 billion. To this, the reply was that some areas are not yet safe for investment. So, how shall businessmen develop interest in the area?
Of the 89 billion to be invested in ten years, only the FCFA 10 billion has been kept aside. The other friendly countries that promised to contribute have not done so. Although the officials say that Covid-19 delayed their negotiations with the donors, the fact remains that it is difficult to convince people to put money in a war torn area. Even then how does one invest in deserted villages? The irony is that every visit of the governors in those regions out of their offices must be approved by the military unit, BIR.
The problem of displaced people is not raised in the plan; the government is only talking about setting up enabling projects that will create jobs and sap the separatists from their troops. They forget that before arms came in, hearts were bitter. The so-called special status for Anglophones that was to manage the bitter issues raised, has been forgotten. The PM said nothing about it, making his hosts to doubt their sincerity in bringing back peace.
After four hours of discussion with the businessmen, the government went back promising to set up committees with the private sector to ride on a better road. The lesson they learnt, for the umpteenth time, is that the government is not all-knowing, and that they have neglected other views for too long. They were told to present an inventory of damaged companies in the crisis area and a government rescue plan.
The CDC dropped from the average FCFA 55 billion annual turnovers to less than FCFA 4 billion. Pamol and the UNVDA are other ‘sick’ companies. The government announced that they have been facilitating the importation of palm oil since 2017, of up to 100,000 tons, to reduce the impact of the crisis on palm oil production. In a country with enormous palm production potential!! I cry!!
Then this enthusiasm to build rehabilitation centers in crisis areas as if that is a newly found government project. Will the crisis be permanent?
Talking about transparency, the government is not saying where the FCFA 3.5 billion was used of the FCFA 10 billion set aside; for security reasons, they say. Is that not a fatal error at a time when they need to woo donors?
And so, in Douala, the government learnt that mismanagement has cost the credibility of a country, otherwise, how can Cameroon set up a reconstruction plan and the UNDP is the manager? Sure donor countries express doubts about Cameroon’s willingness to give account. A people’s sovereignty thrown to the dogs!!