Saturday, April 20, 2019

REVELATIONS: Owona Nguini's confidences to the CIA to hunt Biya

The revelation would seem unlikely if it did not emanate from the US intelligence services themselves. 

A confidential memo from the American services reveals that a secret meeting would have taken place on September 19th, 2008 between the American diplomatic representation and four Cameroonian intellectuals to evoke the succession of Paul Biya. Among these is Eric Owona Nguini. Extract…

The ambassador welcomed four eminent Cameroonian intellectuals and opinion makers (see biographical notes in paragraph 10) to her residence on 19 September for an informal discussion on socio-political trends in Cameroon. Asked about the prospects of political transition, political scientist Eric Mathias Owona Nguini said that Cameroon is "explosive" and has been in a state of volatility for at least a few years, arguing that it would take "a miracle" to avoid violence and instability in the post-Biya transition. Describing the Cameroonian government as a monarchy "under the skin of a democracy", Owona Nguini argued that Cameroon is still a feudal society because relations between elites (ministers, senior officials, traditional) and the people are closer to lords and serfs as citizens of equal rank.

Charles Ateba Eyene, an openly critical critic in the ruling CPDM party, approved Owona Nguini's basic diagnosis, saying that Cameroon is sitting on "a volcano". He said the crisis is largely generational, with older elites seeking to maintain their dominance.

Strongly centralized power structures and corrupt officials at all levels of government have created an elite favoritism system that fundamentally fails to provide services.This is the case in all parts of the country, including Central and South, the center of Biya's power base in Beti, he said. Ateba Eyene predicted that the population would revolt against Biya's candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections, causing violence that would overshadow the February unrest and force the US government to "close the US embassy" and evacuate our citizens.

Justine Diffo Tchunkam said that they shared the general vision of Owona Nguini and Ateba Eyene, but that they decided to focus their efforts on improving the standard of living of Cameroonians (Ottou) and strengthening the role of women in public life (Tchunkam) to facilitate political reforms.

The Role of the United States Government

When asked what impact the United States Government might hope to have, they clearly agreed that the solution should come from the Cameroonians themselves.Asked about the impact that US Government programs could have in Cameroon, Owona Nguini reiterated his analysis that the regime would resist any reform effort until its demise.

Ottou said that Cameroonians were aware - and resentful - of the manipulation of Cameroonian politics by the French government ("they choose our ministers," said Owona Nguini). As a result, they turn their attention from France to the United States, relying on the US government's open advocacy for democracy and anti-corruption efforts.

Comment: What is the next step?

The discussions we have had over the past year with intellectuals such as this distinguished group reflect a constant but growing sense that Cameroon is heading for a dangerous future. Apart from intellectual circles, the arguments are generally less categorical and politically formulated, but they generally lead to the same conclusion: that Biya is very unpopular; that his government is led by a cadre of disconnected and interested elites;that corruption has dried up the institutions of the country; that the average population is poorer and desperate; and that the future, after Biya, is fraught with uncertainty.

Despite all its shortcomings, Biya managed to maintain together the wobbly and unstable architecture that has been the stability of Cameroon. Nevertheless, this much-vaunted stability has been threatened in the long term by Biya's leadership for more than 25 years, a leadership that has systematically co-opted or undermined the independence of competing power poles (from the judiciary and the National Assembly to the media and opposition political parties). In a context of corrupt and dysfunctional institutions and widespread popular discontent and fear, the eventual departure of Biya - whether through the force of nature, her own choice, or popular demand - could lead to a period of violence and violence. 'instability.

Whether the post-Biya era is violent or Biya's maneuvers are increasingly enigmatic, Cameroonians expect the US Government to play a crucial role in strengthening institutions that have been weakened by the Biya regime, which could play a role in mitigating the impact of an uncertain or violent transition: the judiciary, the National Assembly, the armed forces, civil society organizations and the media.

Biographical notes

Eric Mathias Owona Nguini. Professor of Political Science at the University of Yaounde II, Owona Nguini is a highly respected political commentator. As an ethnic Beti and son of Joseph Owona, former cabinet member and Biya confidant, Owona Nguini is personally familiar with the methods of the Cameroonian ruling elite.

Charles Ateba Eyene. Best known as a candid and critical member of the ruling CPDM party and the Beti elite to which he belongs, Ateba Eyene recently published a highly controversial book entitled "The Paradoxes of the Organizing Country", a critique of the Biya system (inherited previous President Ahidjo) of cultivating national support by winning the favor of ethnic elites. Ateba Eyene worked as a civil servant.

Pius Ottou. Senior economist at the University of Yaounde II, Ottou is a prominent commentator on political economy in Cameroon.

Justine Diffo Tchunkam. Professor at the University of Yaounde II, Tchunkam is president of More Women in Politics, a non-partisan civil society organization that seeks to increase the role of women in national politics. Tchunkam criticizes the regime's failure to involve women in the nation's affairs, a failure that it says will further weaken the regime.