Cameroon: President Biya, UNDP’s Wartime Reconstruction Plan Picks Spanner in the Wheel in Bamenda

Amidst the numerous suggestions presented to Minister Paul Tasong by stakeholders in Bamenda June 24 on how to carry out the government’s reconstruction programme in the war-torn once independent state of Southern Cameroons, Hon. Emmanuel Yoyo, former Member of Parliament on the ticket of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF), and Chairman of the Ngoketunjia Development and Cultural Association (NGODECA), said reconstruction in the present context was impossible. He added that reconstruction amidst violence was unrealistic.


He said government must reconcile with separatists for reconstruction to take place. He suggested that government could attempt solving the ongoing armed conflict by either returning to the old federal system or go to the negotiation table to discuss separation. Whichever the Yaounde administration opts for, Hon Yoyo said, it must take place before any form of reconstruction.


He stressed that the notion that reconstruction would bring about peace was a far-fetched dream which would not work. He cited cases like the Bamenda/ Babadjou road project where construction work was launched three years ago but could not take off because of insecurity.


Hon. Emmanuel Yoyo, former SDF Member of Parliament and Questor from Ngoketunjia, Southern Cameroons (C) Les Gens Du Cameroun


".....There are projects in my area- Ngoketunjia, some worth over CFA F 600 million (about USD 1,032 million) that cannot be executed because of insecurity....I think the Minister seemed to see with me on the seriousness of the situation and had even asked that he would want to talk with me one-on-one  on this," he emphasized. 


Hon. Yoyo cautioned that should the government insist on engaging the CFA F 90 billion (about USD 154,84 million) reconstruction plan, being a loan obtained from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) it might end in futility because either the separatist fighters or the Cameroon military would be burning and destroying from behind as the works would be proceeding.


The former MP warned that in the end it would not be surprising that instead of the evaluated 12,000 houses earmarked for reconstruction there would be over 15,000 houses destroyed, “rendering the situation more precarious than it is already”.


He also questioned the procedure and mechanism being used to evaluate losses and victims picked for compensation. He contended that as a cattle grazer who had lost a lot of animals, no one had come to ask him questions about the losses he had incurred as a result of the “genocidal war”, reason he could not understand how the evaluation team came about those to be compensated for losing their cattle.


Southern Cameroonians running away from the violence after the army burnt down their village settlements


On his part, the Bamenda City “Mayor” (he is seen by many as an impostor because the election that ushered him in on February 9, 2020 was boycotted at almost 98% by the population who saw the exercise as one provocation too much by a system painted in colonial coloration) Paul Achobang, himself a member of President Paul Biya’s ruling CPDM Party, said the present chaos especially in Bamenda was the result of a total disconnect between the governed and the governing.


To him, there was need to restructure the society and build confidence among the people, especially the youth. He reiterated the need for peace to return, adding that it was the only guarantor for any form of development. He recommended a holistic approach in the whole reconstruction project, insisting it was important to also consider teachers of the private sector who have been hard-hit by the armed conflict. 


Several other speakers rocked the tempo of the meeting to raucous rounds of applause when they asked Mr. Tasong whether the government and its partner, the UNDP were “…coming to rebuild the minds of the people being destroyed daily by a military that daily breaks into homes and loots from the people at gunpoint, breaks into homes when people are out and carts away their belongings with impunity, kidnap people daily and detains them abusively, and in the end demands heavy sums that we now see as ransoms from them in exchange for freedom else they would be tagged terrorists and parceled to the Yaounde Kondengui prison to face military judges?”


Some of the stakeholders cited key institutions of the once independent state of Southern Cameroons that were “destroyed, rendered bankrupt or simply shutdown” by the Yaounde regime in the early years of the federation. A lot of people in the English-speaking regions now see the closure of those once vibrant institutions was a deliberate plan to enforce poverty in the region and guarantee total dependence on the mainly French-speaking administration in Yaounde for survival.


It was within that framework that they wondered aloud if the Tasong-led Commission and the UNDP were “…coming to rebuild the Public Works Department (PWD), that ensured the timely maintenance of Southern Cameroons roads according to the seasons of the year, the Wum Area Development Authority (WADA), that took care of the development needs of Menchum Division, the National Produce Marketing Board (NPMB), that helped farmers market their cash crops at favourable prices, the Cameroon Bank (CamBank) that provided loans at cheap rates to grow businesses in the region, PowerCam in Yoke, that provided electricity in the former UN Trust territory, the Santa Coffee Estate that created myriad jobs for the youth, the Upper Noun Development Authority, UNVDA that promoted rice cultivation, or the Southern Cameroons House of Assembly that was dissolved by late President Ahmadou Ahidjo?”


Observers both in and out of Cameroon have described the move as “putting the cart before the horse”. This is not the first time the Biya government has taken moves contrary to well established conflict resolution norms. The creation of a commission for disarmament, demobilization, and re-integration (DDR) in 2019 faced the same backlash.


The armed conflict in the Cameroons that is in its fourth year has so far seen more than 12,000 people killed, over 1,5 million forced from their homes, with hundreds of thousands others pushed into exile, over 400 village settlements reduced to ashes according several local and international sources (among them the UNFPA, UNHCR, ICG, CHRADA and the Southern Cameroons pro-independence movements, groups and organizations).